London, United Kingdom Report of what it's like to live there - 02/28/16
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. I have lived overseas in Europe, Asia, and Mexico.
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?
US. 8-hour direct flight to Washington DC.
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?
USG housing is spread out throughout many neighborhoods, and this will change further when the new embassy opens in Jan 2017.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Waitrose is excellent in quality; Tesco is good for odds and ends.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All --- but pricey.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
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?
Expensive, 10-20 GBP per hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, there are many. Prices vary, as much as 50-100 GBP per month.
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?
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is used by all. But the city is full of foreigners from Europe, Africa, Russia, China, south Asia, and the Middle East.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
The Tube is difficult to access for persons with physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes and yes.
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?
One doesn't need a car in London. Traffic and parking are a challenge.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
O2 or Vodafone.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Yes. Good vet care.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal at work, more casual in public.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The usual issues in a large city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Excellent medical care. The US Embassy is a medical evacuation center for Europe, Africa, and central Asia.
3. 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?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Gardens and flowers = allergies.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nice summers, pleasant spring and fall, mild winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
From what I have heard, they are excellent.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Some of the local schools can accommodate children with mild to moderate special needs, but parents should research options carefully before coming here.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge expat community. Morale tends to be good, but expats who prefer compounds or suburban living need to quickly adapt and temper their expectations, or unhappiness can result.
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?
Pubs! The Brits take their drinking very seriously!
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring museums, Hyde Park, Regents Park, Buckingham palace, Whitehall, the Thames, Bloomsbury, Kensington, the Shard, and Mayfair. London has lots of nice restaurants and pubs. It also has fantastic bookstores (Daunt's; Foyle's; Waterstone's).
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Parks, museums, historical places, shopping. The whole city is a gem.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Expensive items on Regent Street, books, etc. Savile Row.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
London is a vibrant, HUGE, dynamic, multi-cultural, 21st-century international city. It is steeped in history and culture. There are wonderful museums, venues for music and drama, and tons of shopping (expensive!). It is easy to get around the city and the UK. One can take the Eurostar to western Europe or cheap flights throughout Europe. It's like living in NYC. London is a world-class city.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I knew it was expensive, but I couldn't imagine it.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely! London is a fascinating, world-class city.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
American sense of entitlement. The Brits will politely ignore you, and the other immigrants will look askance at you.
4. But don't forget your:
Smile, good manners, and good cheer.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History,
City Secrets London: The Essential Insider's Guide,
Ben Judah's London, and histories of Britain during WW2 to understand their amazing character and resilience as a people.