London, United Kingdom Report of what it's like to live there - 01/05/24

Personal Experiences from London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom 01/05/24

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Lived in five countries as an expat with a private company, first post with State.

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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?

U.S., direct flights from all over the U.S.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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4. What years did you live here?

2022-2025

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5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Beautiful six bedroom home with yard in Wimbledon. We were pleasantly surprised with the size of our home. We are in a more upper working class area and not a wealthy one like many homes are but we enjoy it and have no complaints. Commute is about 45 min to one hr to work by underground. One hour drive to school for the kids.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you’re in central London expect to pay a lot more for groceries and dining out. We are further out and I’d say groceries and restaurants are cheaper than in DC.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can find everything here. Don’t forget to renew your Costco membership before coming because there are several and it’s difficult to get a membership here but your US card can be used.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Deliveroo is most popular. London has arguably the best food in the world so you can find any food you want.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Foxes can be a pain when they get into your garbage and tiny little spiders during summer months but nothing too crazy.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO or Royal Mail.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I hear it’s expensive but have to experience with it here.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

On every corner you can find a gym or leisure center.

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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?

Many places do not take cash. London is a cashless city. I have been here a year and a half and have yet to touch their currency.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

All are in English.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is the language of the land.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There are many businesses and tube stations that aren’t handicap accessible. I would say it would be difficult but not impossible.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Very safe, many young children 6+ use it independently. My teenagers love the independence it offers them.

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2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?

Any vehicle is fine. We have a large American SUV and have no issues getting around in it. If you leave anything in your car unattended you WILL come back to a smashed window and said item stolen.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available and reliable. We had it installed within a couple of days.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

We use a prepaid service through Smarty. Unlimited calls and texts and 125gb data for £12/mo.

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Pets:

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?

The best place in the world for pets. Dogs are allowed at most restaurants, on public transportation. They can run off leash at all the parks. We flew our pets into Paris then drove the 5 hours to London and it saved us about $10k in broker and shipping fees.

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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?

Not a lot of EFM jobs but you can work on the economy for decent wages.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many, just depends on your interests.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Polo and chinos unless there’s an important visitor or meeting.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Keep your car and house locked at all times. Windows closed. Many break-ins. We had a man jump our fence and come in our back door while we were home and getting ready for work. Luckily our 130 lb dog saw him and chased him out. Keep your car keys in a faraday box because people will come by and try to clone it. Skimming your credit card is rampant here also. Never use a cc insert at an ATM or gas pump before testing it first.

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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.

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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?

I can’t think of any other city outside the U.S. where life is as good and as easy as it is here. The winters are dark and dreary, if you have issues with that get a SAD lamp. They help.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

If you eat out all restaurants are required to ask you if you have any allergies. I would say it’s very safe.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Dark and long winters.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Beautiful summers, maybe a week of hot temps. Request an AC as soon as you get here.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Many great international and even local schools.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ACS Cobham has a lot of support staff for mild special needs but I wouldn’t say this is a good post for a child with a need that requires a lot of support.

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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?

Yes, many but expensive.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Anything and everything.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It’s huge. I think most are happy to be here.

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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?

Rugby/football/cricket clubs are an excellent place to meet people. They are usually very friendly and welcoming especially if you have kids playing.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Very easy. I find them very friendly and we socialize with local friends regularly.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Even the rugby and football teams have pride flags in their stadiums and on their uniforms. It seems to be a non issue here.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I have seen but I am not in any of those groups so I can’t reliably comment on that.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

It’s an incredible city and country and there are cheap and easy flights to all over Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes! Just know that you will not save any money and probably go into debt but totally worth it.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

budget.

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