London, United Kingdom Report of what it's like to live there - 08/18/14
Personal Experiences from London, United Kingdom
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, Algiers, Algeria & Ramstein, Germany.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Florida. About 14-16 hrs with a connection in TX which was awesome as we actually flew past FL on the way home. Thanks Fly Amefica Act. We'd wave while flying by.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Flats aka apartments, mostly. We lived in almost central London. Our flat was awesome. Had a garden behind that the block shared. We had a few celebs that lived on it too. It was surreal at times. I thought we'd live in a shoe box but was pleasantly surprised at the size of our flat. Hubby could get to work in 20 min by bus. We lived near a tube stop and could get anywhere in about 20 minutes. We were 1 mile from either of the large parks, Regents and Hyde.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
2-2L of milk was 3.50£. You can get pretty much anything here. There's a grocery store in St. John's Wood that sold velveeta and rotel. There's Whole Foods too. There are great weekends markets for fruit and veggies. To get the most affordable fruit and veggies go to the off brand markets. They had great produce and a fraction of the cost as the big grocery stores.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can find anything here, except Keurig cups.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything is available and then some. It's in pounds so there you go.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
No insect problems.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Easy to come by but hard to keep. About 10£ an hour, yikes!
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There are gyms everywhere. Costs range between 50-100£ a month. The neighborhood rec centers were the most affordable.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
They are everywhere. I suggest using the ATM inside banks as my debit card number was stolen a few days before Christmas.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
You name it they've got it.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Well, English is pretty easy.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Somewhat difficult as sidewalks can be crowded and uneven. Every bus is equipped to lift wheel chairs but the tube is not.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Fantastic transportation the tube and buses are awesome. We didn't have a car our whole tour.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Don't bring a huge SUV or you'll be sorry.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about 40£ a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We used O2. If you bring your own phone it way cheaper than getting one here. I used an unlocked iPhone and my bill was 15£ a month. Not joking. Cheapest thing in London. My friend got an iPhone through O2 plus the plan and it was 45£ a month.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None that I was aware.
2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Moderate air quality. It's a huge city but clean. I was amazed at how clean it was for such a huge city.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is rainy mostly. Bring wellies (rainboots) & a brawley (umbrella). We had one really bad winter and one mild winter. The summer was good both years but it never got really hot.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our daughter attended the American School of London. She absolutely loved it. I couldn't be more happy with the level of education she received. As a parent you could be as involved or uninvolved as you'd like to be. Your child has to interview and test into their grade and it's competitive. There are other great International schools too. I had friends whose children went to them and they seemed very happy.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Our son went to a Montessori school for a half day. You pretty much have to sell a kidney to pay for preschool in London. It was over US$1,000 a month for 3 hours a day and they took really long breaks each quarter. Ugh.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes through the American school and outside. My daughter did tennis and ballet.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community but most find each other through school.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Clubs, Movies, Concerts, Bowling, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great city for everybody.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
They flew rainbow flags at the Embassy for Gay Pride Month, which is awesome.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I was aware.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Museums, almost all are free
Theater shows, not free but worth it
Tons of restaurants
Palaces (these cost but you can join and visit a few)
Parks- I can't say enough about them. They are beautiful. Beware of purse thieves.
Schools- some of the best
Markets- Borough, Portobello, spitalfield, Columbia Riad Flower Market, etc
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
London is an awesome city for sight seeing. There is tons to see and do. Great museums, shows and food.
Good luck saving money, but you are also living in one of the coolest cities in the world and in the best areas.
8. Can you save money?
Good luck with that.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Wellies & brawley.