London, United Kingdom Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from London, United Kingdom

London, United Kingdom 06/27/17

Background:

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

No, we've also lived in Scotland and Canada.

View All Answers


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?

Midwestern US. Lots of flights from London, with connections often going through Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, or Newark.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

View All Answers


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

Academic teaching.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a large attached house with garage, provided by the school where my husband works. The large, leafy campus is a playground for our kids, and a respite from big city life. It is significantly better housing than we could afford on the open market. American friends of ours live in a two-story freestanding house with a small garden. Most UK houses are smaller than what Americans are used to, and have far less storage.

View All Answers


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

Everything is available here, and if you can't find it in the shops (canned pumpkin, Bisquick), you can probably find it on Amazon UK. Coffee creamer isn't a thing, but single cream works fine. Like most things in the UK, food isn't cheap, but it depends what you buy. London is such an international city that there are loads of ethnic grocery stores, with lots of interesting spices and sauces to make simple foods more interesting. Also, grocery delivery is available and so convenient!

View All Answers


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

Nothing, it's all available here, somewhere.

View All Answers


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

You can get almost anything delivered and/or available for takeout. Kebabs are popular, and we've found Turkish and Thai restaurants we love. Pizza Express is a great place for Italian. Pubs are great and have everything from fish and chips to more gourmet fare.

View All Answers


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

There really aren't many insects here, in fact, the windows don't tend to have screens! We've had some ants and flies, but that's about it. Slugs can be annoying, but don't tend to get into the house.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Royal Mail is perfectly fine. Post offices here are often located in shops.

View All Answers


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

I have no idea, but I assume it's available and expensive.

View All Answers


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

Lots of gyms, and again, I assume they are expensive. But walking and running in the beautiful London parks is free, and there are likely local teams that are affordable (rugby, cricket, football, etc)

View All Answers


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?

Yes, and yes. Contactless debit cards are also popular, and make bus/tube travel especially easy in London.

View All Answers


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

Every religion is represented here, and I assume most have English-language services.

View All Answers


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

If you speak English, you're fine in London. You just have to get used to the accent and to the different words/phrases Brits use. You're not sick, you're 'poorly.' It's not the car trunk, it's the 'boot.' You're not going on vacation, you're going on 'holiday.'

View All Answers


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

The buses have ramps and spaces for wheelchairs. Some of the tube stations are wheelchair accessible and some aren't. The city does its best to accommodate people, but it's large and much of its infrastructure is old.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

London has a fantastic public transport network, but it's not super cheap. However, for us, it's cheaper than owning and driving a car, and certainly less hassle. The bus/tube/Thames river bus/ London overground are all integrated, so with an Oyster card or by using your contactless debit card, your journeys are kept track of and you won't be charged more than the 'cap' for that day and that week. Children under 11 are free on buses and tube, while children 11-15 are free on buses and get discounted tube fare. Taxis are safe, but not cheap, and so many people are using Uber. Trains around the UK are frustratingly expensive, but by booking advanced tickets, and making use of discount rail cards (we have the Family and Friends rail card), the price can be brought down.

View All Answers


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?

Given the cost of petrol, the difficulty with parking, and the narrow roads, I wouldn't recommend bringing anything big, especially if you live in central London. We have no car at all, and find it liberating. Public transport and walking work just fine for most things. It would be nice to have a car to get out of the city on weekends, but if a train won't get us there, we could always rent a car. Other options are Zipcar or Easy Car Club (like AirBnB but for cars). Most Americans we know who have cars bought them here, apparently used cars are not terribly expensive.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, it is available and good. We had to wait a month for BT to send an engineer out to hook up our house for broadband, but since all the companies use the same engineers, going with another provider wouldn't have helped.

View All Answers


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

We use BT for broadband. Giffgaff for phone and mobile data, which I like because we aren't locked into a contract and have a choice of how much to buy each month.

View All Answers


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?

There are qualified vets. I'm not sure about the rules regarding bringing pets into the UK.

View All Answers


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?

Most of the expat spouses I know are staying home with young children, but there are loads of Americans working in London, many in financial services in the city. My understanding is that salaries are often less than you'd expect in a comparable job in the US, depending, and the fact that London is so expensive can mean you will often need to accept a simpler lifestyle.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Sports, education, sustainability, charity shops, churches, etc.

View All Answers


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

Comparable to the US.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

London has had three terrorist attacks so far in 2017, and then there was the one in Manchester. The probability that any one individual will be caught up in a terrorist attack is still extremely low, but people are on edge. Some schools have canceled school trips to central London, or parents have decided not to let their children participate. But life goes on, tourists are still here, London is still amazing, and it doesn't affect us much overall.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The NHS is fine, although depending on what sort of healthcare you had in the states, you may have to wait longer here to see a specialist or get non-urgent care. Private insurance plans are available if you want to be able to access private medical care.

View All Answers


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?

London does have air pollution, although this isn't obvious to me when I'm walking around outside. Spring can be hard on hay fever sufferers.

View All Answers


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

You should be able to find products that will help you avoid any chemicals or foods you can't have contact with.

View All Answers


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

Winters are quite mild, in my opinion, but it can get dark quite early. Anxiety can be an issue for those who think about the possibility of terrorism a lot.

View All Answers


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

Quite temperate. It never seems extremely cold to me, but I suppose it's all relative. We had some hot days this summer (low 90s), and that was challenging, especially because AC is less common, and we spend more time walking to get places.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I know there are at least a couple American international schools, but I can't really comment on them. Our children are in British state schools (public schools) because they are free, local, and of high quality. We are here long-term, so we don't need to worry about them transitioning to another country's school system later on. I think this is why so many expat parents choose international schools, especially those with an International Baccalaureate degree option. That said, I don't think it would be a big deal to transition from a British primary school to an elementary school in the US, however, it would likely be more complicated at secondary level.

View All Answers


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

If you look at a state school's admissions criteria, children with special needs who have chosen that school, are always admitted first. Only after that, do they admit siblings, people who live close to the school, etc. There are also schools designed especially for children with special needs. If you have any questions about schooling, I would read the school websites, and visit the forums at Mumsnet. As for the international schools, I couldn't speak to their policies and services.

View All Answers


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?

All 3 to 4-year-olds in England can get 570 hours of free early education or childcare per year. It’s usually taken as 15 hours a week for 38 weeks of the year. Check www.gov.uk to find out current options and eligibility. Daycare is available, but expensive. Our son's primary school does provide before- and after-school care, and our daughter's secondary school is open early and stays open late, with the library available for use.

View All Answers


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

Anything you could want. Schools also have extracurricular activities, most for free, and some for a fee.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge. London is so large and spread out, that most expats will never meet each other. I understand there are some areas that have more Americans than others, perhaps around the American international schools. The American expats I know love it here, although finances can be tight.

View All Answers


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?

Pub nights, dinners at each other's houses, sightseeing, walks. I've heard good things about the American Women's Club. I would encourage expats to resist the temptation to build their social lives around other expats exclusively.

View All Answers


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

It's good for everyone. Families may find it challenging to find the right mix of neighborhood, school, and housing, because of the high costs. And buying a property may not be a possibility at all, depending.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

London is a very diverse city. Overall, people live harmoniously, but there can be tensions. I personally witnessed a British man berate an immigrant mother on a bus, and tell her she was in the wrong country. Muslims may feel anxious because the general public might associate them with the radicalized Muslims who committed the terrorist attacks.

View All Answers


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

Day trips to Cambridge and Oxford, a long weekend in Edinburgh, and feeling like we will never run out of things to explore in London. We are also on the doorstep of Europe, and there are cheap flights to so many wonderful destinations. Overall, what I love most is living daily life in such a beautiful place, and integrating into British life.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

British Museum, Covent Garden, theater, Natural History museum, Thames river cruises, Kew Gardens, Westminster Abbey, the National Gallery, Tate Modern, St. Paul's Cathedral. A good tip is just to ride some of the bus routes that go through central London, and get a grand tour for a cheap price.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tons to buy, most of it expensive. However, there are lots of charity shops and markets where you can find treasures for cheap.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's a world class city where you can find almost anything. The city alone has loads to do, but you're also on a fascinating island, where nothing is too far away (by American standards!). You have easy access to Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, and it's easy getting back to the US. London is diverse and you can experience any culture you choose as you travel around to different neighborhoods, theaters and restaurants.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I knew it would be expensive, but it has surprised me just how tight our budget is at times.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely!

View All Answers


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

American exceptionalism, car, and all your electric items (unless you want to go to the trouble of using a transformer).

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Openmindedness, raincoat, and sense of adventure.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behavior by Kate Fox.



The Crown, Netflix series about the life of Queen Elizabeth.

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

If you get a chance to live in London, go for it!

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 02/13/17

Background:

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

Yes, first experience.

View All Answers


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?

There are three direct flights a day on each of the all major airlines to/from DC. It's 6.5 hours to London and 8 hours back to DC.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


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

US Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live in a spacious high rise, south of the Thames in Putney. We're the first people to live in our flat, which is in a brand new building right next to the tube and approximately 1100 sq ft. We have three bedrooms, a skyline view of London, a built in wine fridge, Nespresso machine, a balcony that runs the length of the flat, and an abundance of closet space. This is standard for those embassy employees without children, as it is close to the new Embassy in the Battersea/Vauxhall area. Those with children will still be housed in flats and townhouse in the St. John's Wood area, which is close to the American school. Commute to the new Embassy from Putney is about 20 minutes, and about 40 minutes from SJW, all on public transport.

View All Answers


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

You can get everything in London very easily. Groceries south of the river are much cheaper than in central London, and we find many items, particularly produce, to be significantly cheaper than in DC. Amazon UK delivers everything within 1-2 days, even with no rush shipping, and packages arrive 7 days a week. Many people use grocery delivery services, but with the abundance of grocery stores within walking distance (there are three on our block, including one that we live above), it's not really necessary unless you have an unusually large order.

View All Answers


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

We shipped a Costco package of toilet paper, paper towel, dish soap, and trash bags and were glad we did so. These items are cheap in London, but much smaller than the US versions. Random grains can be expensive, because the portion sizes of everything is smaller in the UK (think popcorn, quinoa), but refrigerator and pantries are also smaller, so it's impractical to shop in bulk.

View All Answers


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

London has some of the best food in the world. You can find every fast food restaurant (there's a Five Guys on our main street), and every ethnic food imaginable. From kebab shops to Michelin three star restaurants, London has it all. We've rarely had a bad meal.

View All Answers


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

None that I'm aware of.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO is extremely fast, and even the pouch takes less than two weeks. I've ordered items off Amazon US that have arrived within three days. Royal Mail is very dependable, but the UK does this weird thing where they sometimes deliver your packages to your neighbor for safekeeping.

View All Answers


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

We pay about $30 to have a maid clean for four hours. We've heard that childcare can be extremely expensive.

View All Answers


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

Our local gym is about $30 a month, but pretty bare bones. London is still getting into the gym scene, but there are many yoga, pilates, spin, barre, and specialty studios all over the place.

View All Answers


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?

Every place takes cards, though AMEX acceptance can be spotty. It pays to have a credit card with contactless payment or a chip and pin. Cashiers are very confused by having to sign a credit card receipt, which is considered an outdated practice. Getting a UK credit card was one of the best decisions we made as it saved us on currency conversion fees, and time with the chip/pin option.

View All Answers


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

Everything.

View All Answers


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

You'll learn a lot of new words for produce, but otherwise everything is the same.

View All Answers


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

Yes. There are many tube stations and buildings that only offer stairs. It's getting better, but following foot surgery, I found it difficult to get around.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

All are extremely safe and affordable (for London). Uber is your best bet for taxis, as it is half the price of London black cabs. You can take public transport to any city or small town in the UK.

View All Answers


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?

Unless you have a large family, I'd leave the car at home. It's completely unneeded with London's excellent public transportation system, and parking is difficult to find.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, and much cheaper than the states, we pay about $120 a month for cable, internet, and two mobile phones with 20GB of data each month. However, dealing with UK internet/phone providers is a nightmare. You must have a UK bank account before you can start the process, and expect to provide a sizable downpayment for service. If you establish your bank account on your first day at the Embassy, you should have internet within a month of arrival.

View All Answers


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

We brought our own unlocked iPhones and signed up with British Telecom. It's 20 GBP per month per person for 20GB of data. BT owns all the cell towers, so it has the best coverage across the UK.

View All Answers


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?

Yup. We bought our cat in the UK and have had nothing but excellent vet care. You'll need to have your pet micro-chipped and fully vaccinated for it to be brought to the UK.

View All Answers


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?

There are many Embassy jobs, but most are menial. Some spouses work on the economy, but many opt not to work during their London tour. London's a big city, but skilled jobs can be quite competitive.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many.

View All Answers


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

London is a pretty formal post, expect men to be in suit and ties and women to be in dresses/skirts/suits. London proper is much more casual.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

I've never felt safer than in the time I've spent in London. It's a big city with lots of tourists, so you'll want to be smart about keeping an eye on your valuables, but I've never experienced a moment when I was concerned for my safety, even very late at night.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Best medical care in the world. With insurance you have access to the private medical system, which means same day appointments, fully covered, with the world's best doctors. I had surgery here and know many people who have given birth in the same hospitals as royalty.

View All Answers


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?

London is a major city with a major pollution problem. It can be gritty and sometimes your snot will be black. The mayor is trying to improve the air quality, but it is definitely a trade off. I've never had breathing problems, but I could see those with asthma having issues.

View All Answers


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

Expect all the seasonal allergies to exist here. Restaurants are very cognizant of food allergies and bend over backwards to account for food allergies.

View All Answers


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

Perhaps SAD, but London isn't as rainy or grey as its reputation would indicate. I don't know anyone who has had issues.

View All Answers


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

Winters are mild (40 degrees), summer will have a couple of weeks of 80 degree days spread over a few months, fall and spring are unpredictable and can be rainy or beautiful. It never torrentially pours and I've heard thunder twice in 18 months. Despite what it seems like in the movies, it never snows here.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I've heard great things about the private schools and American schools, but have no experience. I believe the Embassy starts paying for school at age 4.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

Day care is quite expensive, probably on par with DC.

View All Answers


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

Yes, all the embassy kids I know play soccer and other sports.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

It's massive, one of our largest missions. But, being in such an incredible, English speaking country, and pretty spread out in housing, there isn't much of an embassy community. Many people spend their free time outside the embassy community.

View All Answers


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?

We joined Meetup and made some wonderful friends that we expect to keep even after we leave post.

View All Answers


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

There's something to do for everyone, but it's a big city, so I'm glad I arrived as one of a couple.

View All Answers


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

Very LGBT friendly.

View All Answers


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

There's the usual ethnic tensions, but everyone's pretty much go along, get along.

View All Answers


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

London is one of the best cities of the world. There are a hundred sights and shows to see on a daily basis, and fun trendy events to experience. The food is incredible and the people quirky. There are also hundreds of dirt-cheap direct flights to every city in Europe, and beyond. We've found it so easy to take weekend trips throughout Europe with little hassle.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

We've really enjoyed exploring our neighborhood and taking day trips to Bath, Cambridge, the Lake District, Brighton, Cornwall, and the Lake District. There's wonderful hiking within a half hour train ride and some of the finest restaurants in the world. We've found some of our most entertaining nights out through TimeOut suggestions.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

All the best shops in the world have flagship stores in London.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy access to travel, excellent food, great shows and sights.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Brits can be extremely passive aggressive, and are uncomfortable with conflict and talking to strangers. However, they are really fun and friendly once you break through the cultural differences. Don't try to special order anything at a restaurant, they don't understand the concept of customization. Customer service can be extremely frustrating to deal with, as it is very friendly but ineffective.

View All Answers


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

In a heartbeat, I'd stay here forever if given the opportunity.

View All Answers


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

Sunscreen.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Wellies.

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Notes from a Small Island.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 02/28/16

Background:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

6 months

View All Answers


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

Government

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

None

View All Answers


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

All --- but pricey.

View All Answers


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

None

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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?

Safe.

View All Answers


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

All

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

The Tube is difficult to access for persons with physical disabilities.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes and yes.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

O2 or Vodafone.

View All Answers


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?

Yes. Good vet care.

View All Answers


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?

Varies.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

The usual issues in a large city.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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?

Good

View All Answers


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

Gardens and flowers = allergies.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Some.

View All Answers


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).

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

No.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely! London is a fascinating, world-class city.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Smile, good manners, and good cheer.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

BBC mysteries

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 11/19/15

Background:

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

No, lived in China before.

View All Answers


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?

East coast U.S., so about 7-8 hour flight (though on my way over I stopped in Iceland for three days, which broke up the flight time).

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Got here 2 months ago.

View All Answers


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

Grad student.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I live in student accommodation. It's hellishly expensive (think New York x 1.5), but my rent includes all my utilities, internet, plus use of a gym, so I figure that it evens out. I could have gotten accommodation closer to my university for a lower price, but it had fewer amenities and apparently there were problems with roaches and faulty appliances. I live about 30 minutes by Tube away from my school, which I actually prefer because it means I get to see less central, touristy parts of the city.

View All Answers


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

You can get pretty much whatever you need or want, though be prepared for a bit of sticker shock. Everything is more expensive here, though you can find good deals if you look in the right places.

View All Answers


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

More shoes and clothes. Everything here is so expensive!

View All Answers


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

Everything is available, though McDonald's tastes weird here. But why would you go to McDonald's when you're in a city with thousands of restaurants?

As for cost, I very rarely eat out, because even a simple meal at a cafe or a chicken/doner joint is going to run you at least 5-6 USD, and it only goes up from there. Doesn't seem like a lot, but still. Restaurants here can be very, very expensive.

View All Answers


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

None. But I keep my apartment very clean, so I don't really deal with bugs.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

I have a box on the ground floor of my complex where I receive mail.

View All Answers


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

No sure.

View All Answers


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

There's one in my apartment building, which is fine (though I'm annoyed that they have kinda limited freeweights and don't have barbells). It seems like gyms here are quite expensive, but plenty of people just lace up their trainers and go for runs in the parks or on school tracks.

View All Answers


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?

I use my US bank account/card (HSBC) here and haven't had any trouble. I only use HSBC ATMs attached to HSBC banks just to be on the safe side, though.

View All Answers


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

I'd imagine whatever sort of religion imaginable has services here.

View All Answers


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

It's England. They invented English. If you're living in a more immigrant-heavy area, it might be nice to know a few words in the languages spoken in the area, but you're totally fine with just English. Some accents may be difficult to understand, or if someone is using a lot of regional slang, that can be hard to follow, but if you politely say that you didn't understand, they'll gladly try to speak more clearly/slowly and clarify what they mean. People are used to different varieties of English being spoken here.

View All Answers


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

A lot of Tube stations have lots of stairs and steps, but there are plenty of curb cuts on the sidewalks and it seems like most newer buildings are designed to have disability access.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

A taxi ride across town will drain your child's college fund. I kid, but seriously, avoid taxis unless you're very drunk and there's no Night Tube or reliable bus service (time your night carefully), because they're horrendously expensive.

The Tube and buses are London affordable, which is to say expensive but not horribly so; if you're staying for longer than a few days, invest in an Oyster card to save time and some money. I have a student card, which gives me a 30% discount on all fares and travel cards, and I'm thinking of getting the 16-25 Railcard so I can get similar discounts on rail tickets.

Everything is very safe, clean, and convenient. I ride the Tube nearly every day and aside from one line I use getting shut down nearly every weekend for "track improvements" (ugh), I think it's very reliable.

View All Answers


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?

I don't have a car. And I'd be way too scared to drive here anyway, since I'm not used to right-hand drive cars.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, not sure because it's wrapped up in my rent.

View All Answers


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

Bring an unlocked phone and get a SIM. I have a pay-as-you-go plan from O2 that I'm generally satisfied with. It's nothing special or fancy, it just gets the job done. I just wish minutes and data would roll over, but other than that it's fine.

View All Answers


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?

I don't know. I know that there's a 6-month quarantine for dogs because the UK is rabies-free, but I don't know if that's changed since or if it's even accurate. I'm sure

View All Answers


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?

There are, but you're competing with Brits and the visa requirements have gotten much more stringent. I don't know if I'll stay once my degree is done; I would consider it if I found something that paid very well and would help me with the visa.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons of volunteer opportunities. My university offers a lot that I regrettably haven't participated in.

View All Answers


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

Work? Depends on what you do. Public? Anything goes, though people tend to dress up slightly more than in American cities.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Everyone's a little more on edge since the Paris attacks, but honestly, I feel very safe here. It's a big city, so don't be stupid or careless with your valuables, and I'm sure there are some parts of town that you wouldn't want to go to after dark, but those concerns are typical of any big city. People are very friendly and helpful here.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I get NHS as a student, though I've never had to use it. There are pharmacies on nearly every block and I don't think there are any major health concerns.

View All Answers


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?

Fine. Doesn't bother me.

View All Answers


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

Restaurants are very good about listing ingredients and warning allergy sufferers (I think there may be laws about this). I don't know about seasonal allergies, since I came in autumn when I don't really have them. We'll see what happens in spring.

View All Answers


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

The first month and a half I was here (September-beginning of November) was AMAZING. Sunny, not too warm or cold, and everyone was hanging out in the parks and eating at outdoor cafes. Now it's cloudy and drizzly nearly every day. I don't mind it, since this is London weather, but I miss when it was nice out!

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I'd imagine so.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

It's actually really hard to find Brits here sometimes! London is such an international city, so the expat population here is enormous. I don't really think there's any general morale trend, but I'd imagine your personal morale depends on what you're here to do, why you've come, how long you've been here, and your socioeconomic status.

View All Answers


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?

I'll say it again: it's London! People go to pubs, go to restaurants, go to shows/movies, just walk in the park, there's lots of options for socializing and entertaining.

View All Answers


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

Good for everyone! It's a massive city with so much to do!

View All Answers


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

I think so! There's a large Pride parade and there are plenty of gay/lesbian bars and LGBT events around the city. Marriage and civil unions are legal here, and generally people seem pretty accepting.

View All Answers


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

There are definitely racial divisions, though the divisions and tensions are very different from what I've known in the United States. I'm a white American, so I don't experience any sort of prejudice due to the color of my skin or my religion (I'm Jewish), but you do start to notice that there are some bad inequalities. Still, people seem to mix and mingle a lot more than in the States. I think there are also issues with xenophobia, though I mostly hang around with other international students/rather open-minded Brits, so again, I haven't really experienced it firsthand.

View All Answers


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

Making friends from all over the world, wandering around Shepherd's Bush Market and Portobello Road, going on hikes in Epping Forest, going to some fabulous museums, touring Kensington Palace...shall I continue?

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

I don't know how anyone could be bored in London! Just go wandering around! Or go shopping in Carnaby Street! Or go to the V&A/British Museum/palaces/Science Museum/Natural History Museum/Wellcome Collection/National Portrait Gallery! Or see a West End show! Or go to the many, many parks! Or go to the street markets in Shepherd's Bush or Portobello Road (preferably on Friday rather than Sunday)!

Seriously, it's London. What ISN'T there to do?

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Souvenirs are pretty expensive, but I did get my mom some kitschy royal memorabilia because she loves that kind of thing.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

It's London! It's a truly international city with tons to do, and travel to other places in Europe is easy and not horribly expensive.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

HA!

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I feel like I was pretty well-informed.

View All Answers


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

Yes, though only if I have a well-paying job.

View All Answers


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

Assumption that all of London/the UK is going to be like what you see on TV or in the movies.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Life savings and first born child to afford living here.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 08/02/15

Background:

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

No, but first working for State. I had previously lived in Spain

View All Answers


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?

Minnesota. Tons of flights, even a couple direct to Minneapolis.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

August 2012 to February 2014

View All Answers


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

Worked at the Embassy

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The housing pool is shifting. I was one of the first to move south of the river closer to the new Embassy (opening June 2017, last I heard). Southwest London was really lovely. Parks, grocery stores, pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants... I was 4 blocks from the river. Commute time was 45 minutes (yuck) on the Tube to the old building. It will be more like 25 minutes to the new building.

View All Answers


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

Available, but more expensive than the U.S. Many colleagues would travel out to the base. I never went, but I hear it was 45 minutes away and had U.S. groceries/prices.

View All Answers


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

I'm a single guy and had always lived in other peoples' furnished houses. Thank god I bought most of my kitchen supplies and consumables in the U.S. Bring whatever you can. London prices are probably 30% higher than DC prices.

View All Answers


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

Whatever your heart desires. Except In N Out.

View All Answers


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

None

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

The Embassy's DPO. I spent a lot of money on Amazon dodging the British mark ups. If you have an Amazon Prime account, your packages will arrive a week after you order them.

View All Answers


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

It's available. I think I paid 50 GBP for 4 hours/week? Ask around the embassy if you want to find someone trustworthy.

View All Answers


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

The gym in the old Embassy is just okay. London has plenty of gyms.

View All Answers


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?

If you give a vendor a card without chip-and-pin, they'll look at you like you're trying to pay with a check. ATMs all read my card, but paying vendors at, say bars or grocery stores, could be a bit of a pain.

View All Answers


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

Probably anything you'd want.

View All Answers


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

You'll be fine with American english.

View All Answers


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

Maybe. It's an old city, and I don't remember seeing a ton of handicapped accessible infrastructure, but I guess I wasn't looking for it.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes, yes, yes.

View All Answers


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?

My advice is "Don't bring a car." That said, many people had one. The Embassy paid for a parking spot at my apartment. Parking anywhere else in the city center is hard to find.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, and reasonably cheap. Brits use DSL, which is everywhere, and fiber, which isn't. I might have payed 60 GBP a month for 30 mbps? I might not have that right.

View All Answers


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

I ported my U.S. number to google voice, which I highly recommend. Texts went to my email and I could make calls on WiFi.

As for local plans, I had T-Mobile. Data wasnt cheap, but the service was fine.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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?

I think so, but I'm not sure how the visas work.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons

View All Answers


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

Fairly formal. The (old) Embassy is in one of the wealthiest parts of London and people are usually very well dressed. As for the Embassy, it depends on where you work. Suits are very common. In most offices, it's at least a shirt and tie.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

There were some honestly insane protests ("USA watch your back / mujahadeen are coming back", "Free all Muslims from US prisons", a "hunger strike" that lasted 80+ days with all participants plump- Brits remember very well that Bobby Sands died after 66 days back in the 1980s).

Aside from some of the protester lunacy, I never felt the least bit unsafe.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None. Medical care is excellent.

View All Answers


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?

Fine

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

London has a reputation for rain and, while it does rain often, it doesn't rain hard. I think I heard thunder 4 times in my tour. Most of the time, the rain is so light it's not even worth an umbrella. Honestly, my biggest climate issue was how dark it was during the winter. For 4 months out of the year, it was dark when I arrived at the Embassy in the morning, and dark when I left the Embassy after work. The summers are short, but glorious

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Massive in size. Morale really varies. I had a wonderful time, but I know others suffered. At many posts, people posted at the Embassy are sort of forced to hang out with one another and that builds community. That's not the case in London. If you rely on the summer camp vibe of small or remote posts, London will be an adjustment.

View All Answers


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?

Plays, bars, pubs, road trips, restaurants, concerts...

View All Answers


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

Certainly for singles and couples. I imagine daycare is expensive. I've heard people complain about being poor here, but COLA floated around 75% and housing was free. I was able to save some money.

View All Answers


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

Yes. London is liberal as any big city in the U.S.

View All Answers


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

Not that I know of. In fact, no one batted an eye when they heard my American accent. London is incredibly cosmopolitan, and the Brits pride themselves on it.

View All Answers


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

Nightlife, awesome travel to the continent, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Iceland.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Andrew Edmunds was probably my favorite restaurant. SoHo on the weekends. East London is great. If you're bored in London, shame on you!

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Theater, beer, museums.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There's nothing you can't find in London.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

Yes, but you could also not. There's a ton to do in the city, and cheap flights everywhere.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I had known how popular I would become by having a spare bedroom in London. My friends and family treated it like a hotel room!

View All Answers


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

Absolutely.

View All Answers


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

Sunscreen

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Wits. Brits have a dry, biting sense of humor. If you want to make friends, learn how to take and make a joke.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 06/22/15

Background:

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

No - also lived in Latin America, Spain and Australia.

View All Answers


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?

From DC, you can get a direct flight, which I think was about 7 hours.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

View All Answers


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

Government

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is all over the city, so commutes ranged from 10 minutes to an hour. I believe they're slowly moving housing closer to the location of the new embassy, but I imagine they'll keep some of the existing housing because of proximity to the international school. Housing ranges from very small to fairly large. Be really specific about your priorities when you fill out the housing survey.

View All Answers


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

Everything in London is expensive. Groceries were particularly expensive. You can find pretty much anything you need, but there's a heavy emphasis on pork products, so if you don't eat pork, be prepared for that.

View All Answers


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

The only things I would have shipped are foods that I love that just weren't available (e.g. turkey bacon, chicken sausage), but that would not have been possible, so in general, we wouldn't have shipped anything else. It was pretty easy to get whatever we needed either on the local economy or through Amazon UK or US. Also, there was almost no storage space in our flat, and we found that most of our friends had similar issues, so in the end we kind of wished we had brought even less than we did.

View All Answers


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

Lots of fast food options - McDonald's, KFC, Chipotle. Prices were a little higher than the U.S. because of the exchange rate at the time. Tons of amazing restaurants.

View All Answers


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

None. We saw maybe one or two spiders in our home, but that's about it.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO.

View All Answers


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

We had a housekeeper come once a week for 10 GBP/hour. Expensive, but helpful.

View All Answers


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

Yes, but quite expensive. We had a membership for LA Fitness, and it was about US$90/month.

View All Answers


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?

Generally safe. As recommended by RSO, we would use the ATM in the Embassy as much as possible, but we had no issues with ATMs attached to banks outside of the Embassy.

View All Answers


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

It's better equipped than most. Some of the tube lines have access for disabled, and many of the buses do as well.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Very safe.

View All Answers


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?

We did not have a car, and absolutely didn't feel that we needed one. I would suggest something small to mid-size at most.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed is available, however it took about 2 months for our internet to get setup, and not because there were any issues - that was just the first date available for a tech to come install the internet. I think cost was about US$50/month. We had Sky cable and internet.

View All Answers


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

We purchased unlocked iPhones from O2 when we arrived. Service was good. However, they required a 700 GBP deposit (total) when we purchased the two phones, which was...insane, but you need to have a UK bank account in order to get a post-paid cellphone plan, and since we opened the account when we got to post, there was no credit history for them to go off of, hence the massive deposit. The plan cost about US$55/month per phone.

View All Answers


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?

I don't believe quarantine is required, but rules always change. Very good pet care available.

View All Answers


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?

Yes, but it's a large city, so there's also plenty of competition.

View All Answers


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

Business to business casual at work. Whatever you want in public.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Nothing out of the ordinary for a large city. Know your surroundings and use common sense.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Amazing healthcare. London is a medevac point.

View All Answers


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?

Fine. No noticeable issues.

View All Answers


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

Ok, the weather is less than ideal. It didn't rain as much as I expected, but it was generally just..cool in temperature, including during "summer." If you like tropical weather and sunshine, this may not be the best place for you. But then, it's London...so it might (read: is!) still be worth it.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Didn't have personal experience with the international schools, but generally heard that they were great.

View All Answers


2. 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, but very expensive.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge and generally good.

View All Answers


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, restaurants, clubs, picnics in the park, markets (Borough Market, Camden Market). Anything and everything.

View All Answers


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

Good for all of the above. There's plenty to do for every type of person/family/lifestyle.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

I think the problems are similar to those in the U.S.. London is an extremely diverse city though, so as a minority myself, that made me feel comfortable and didn't make me feel as though I stood out, per-say.

View All Answers


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

Everything listed above. Having the opportunity to travel within the UK and see the countryside was one of the best parts. There are so many places that you wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity or time to visit if you weren't living there, that are wonderful (Edinburgh, Cardiff, the Cotswolds, etc.). Being able to take a cheap airline - e.g. easyjet, ryanair - to Spain, Germany, Morocco - basically everywhere - was great. And then London itself is amazing.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are all of the usual touristy things to do (Buckingham Palace, the British Museum, National Gallery, the list goes on and on). We loved the Churchill War Rooms especially, and just walking around the city is fun, easy, and one of the best ways to really explore. Hyde Park is nice and has a wonderful carnival during the holiday season, but our favorite park was Regent's Park, by far.

Travel outside of London as much as you can. Groupon or Living Social deals for little B&Bs in the countryside are a great way to both get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and explore quaint, beautiful towns. Go to Edinburgh, Scotland. The people were beyond friendly, and the city is amazing.

View All Answers


8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Very little culture shock. London is an amazing city, and is never boring. Amazing restaurants, free museums, theater, shopping, history - basically everything you could want. On top of that, you're able to travel to the continent very easily and see so much of what Europe has to offer, and the UK itself has a ton of amazing, beautiful places to visit.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

It's possible to save money if you don't travel or go out at all, but then you'd be missing out on the best that London and the area has to offer.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Just how truly expensive everything would be.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely. It's incredibly expensive, and the embassy community is so large and spread out that it can feel impersonal at times, but London is an amazing city. You're never bored, we found the locals to be generally really wonderful, and I can't say enough about how beautiful the rest of the UK is.

View All Answers


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

Ideas of saving any money.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella, UV light, and a small suitcase so you can travel on the budget airlines. :)

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 06/09/15

Background:

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

No. Fourth expat experience.

View All Answers


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?

DC is about an eight-hour direct flight from London.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Every housing type you can imagine...small apartments, large apartments, townhouses, regular houses.

View All Answers


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

Everything is available and more expensive than in the U.S. Tesco and Sainsbury's probably have cheaper brands while Whole Foods and Waitrose are more high end.

View All Answers


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

Even though we're in a huge shopping city, we still get a lot of our items from Amazon as it's so much cheaper...particularly clothing.

View All Answers


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

Everything. Except Taco Bell is hard to find.

View All Answers


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

A few gnats, ladybirds and house spiders. We leave our windows open a lot.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO at the Embassy.

View All Answers


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

No experience. The few people I know who have nannies bring them into the country as live-ins. Babysitters charge £10 per hour.

View All Answers


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

Yes, but they're very expensive. At least US$100 per month with a contract.

View All Answers


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?

Safe but practice common sense.

View All Answers


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

Any and all.

View All Answers


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

English!

View All Answers


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

Again, yes, and no. The buses are very handicap-friendly, but you can only have one or two wheelchairs or strollers on at a time, or they will make you wait for the next bus. And there are quite a few underground stations that do not have elevators. Sidewalks are wide but crowded. I imagine it would take some planning.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes, very.

View All Answers


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?

Unless you plan on doing a ton of driving outside of the city, I would not bother bringing a vehicle. We brought ours and thought we would see a lot of the country. But driving in and out of London is really stressful, and the public transportation routes are so good. Maintenance, parts and insurance are expensive, and there's very little parking available. We parked our car on the side of the road most of the time, and it has a few new scratches and dings.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, but it's not cheap with the exchange rate. We pay £70 per month for our internet/cable/phone bundle through Sky. Not a lot of competition in the market. So installation takes weeks for an appointment, and you're charged for technician visits unless you have their extra maintenance package.

View All Answers


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

Local plans are widely available.

View All Answers


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?

Quarantine is no longer required. But there is an extensive entry process. Pets must arrive as manifest cargo, which is very expensive.

View All Answers


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?

Yes.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Anything you can imagine.

View All Answers


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

Business casual at work. Anything goes in public.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

It's a big city, so keep an eye on your belongings. We have two friends who experienced break-ins on the ground floor.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No real health concerns other than year-round allergies and minor chest coughs from air pollution. London is a regional medevac center, so medical care is very good.

View All Answers


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?

It's worse than I was expecting. Quite a bit of pollution in central London that sits on the ground in the winter. It doesn't rain as much as I thought it would, so all the vehicle exhaust hangs in the air.

View All Answers


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

It's not seasonal, it's all year round due to the mild climate. I've embraced nasal sprays.

View All Answers


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

Moderate. We've had allergies all year round. It didn't snow at all the first year we were here, and barely snowed the last year. Highest temp was 80F.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

Several international schools. But the British education system is good. So people also put their kids into local schools, both public and private.

View All Answers


2. 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?

There are many preschools/daycares available. But they are ridiculously expensive and can become more so if the exchange rate is bad.

View All Answers


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

Yes, all kinds.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge. Morale varies depending on expectations.

View All Answers


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

It's a good city for anyone.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Yes, and no. London is one of the safer big cities. But the UK, like France, is having a problem with radical Muslims and illegal North African immigrants.

View All Answers


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

Trips to Europe, trips into the English countryside, trips to the beach. Pubs, castles, museums, restaurants, parks. London is a beautifully green city with a ton of flowers in the spring and summer.

View All Answers


6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Pubs, castles, museums, restaurants, parks. Lots of books out about "secret" London. There's something for everyone.

View All Answers


7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Where do I start? It's London! Local, regional and European travel, so much history and culture. Modern first-world amenities. At the center of world events.

View All Answers


8. Can you save money?

There are lots of free things to do in London. So you can save money if you try.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That bringing our car really was pointless.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely!

View All Answers


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

Budget and your diet.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Camera and your walking shoes!

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Bridget Jones's Diary, Love Actually, Pride & Prejudice, James Bond, Sherlock Holmes, Oliver, Austen Powers, the list goes on...

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 05/20/15

Background:

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

First tour in Arlington for 3 years. This is our first overseas post.

View All Answers


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?

Home base is Washington, DC. About an 8 hour direct flight.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2 year post. Have been here 1 year (5/2014-5/2015).

View All Answers


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

EFM of USG employee

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In transition...

Mostly flats and townhouses. Aside from our own, the flats seem to be much more spacious that I expected. Townhouses are tall and narrow with lots of stairs. Housing is a mix of USG owned and leased. A few families live in houses further from the city (Golder's Green, Putney). Housing is beginning to transition more to Putney (south of the river) in preparation of the new embassy.

View All Answers


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

Lots of options but expensive. Many people order online and have groceries delivered. There are also many options for shopping in person. Lots of local markets that sell fresh fruit and veggies. Food tends to go bad faster here, as there is less preservative use (pro and con). We spend much more money on groceries than expected.

View All Answers


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

You can get everything you need here. Though if you know you'll have the space, stock up on lots of household items to save money (toilet paper, paper towels, etc). Pickles! I can't find a decent dill pickle here.

View All Answers


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

We don't eat fast food, but there are many McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Papa Johns around. Lots of restaurants, but most things are very expensive. We've had difficulty finding good Mexican or Korean food here.

View All Answers


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

Lots of flowers around bring lots of bees. The are snails on the sidewalks that can cause health issues for dogs if eaten.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

There is a DPO/Pouch at the Embassy.

View All Answers


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

Available and expensive. The going rate for cleaning and dog walking seems to be 10 pounds per hour. Many families with children sponsor live-in domestic help from the Philippines.

View All Answers


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

You could find pretty much anything you wanted but it is expensive. There is a small gym in the Embassy. Plenty of parks for running, walking, etc.

View All Answers


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?

Get a card with a chip. Be careful about the ATMs you use. We only use the ATM inside the Embassy or inside a bank.

View All Answers


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

Anything you could desire.

View All Answers


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

It is an English speaking country, but you will have to adjust to accents and local terminology.

View All Answers


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

The sidewalks here are very slippery when it rains. I think living here would be okay, but would probably present challenges due to small spaces, small elevators, etc if a wheelchair was involved.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

They are safe and so efficient. We joke that we have been spoiled by such amazing access to trains and busses. I think the most we've ever waited for either is 5 min and more often it is a 1-2 minute wait. As everything else, it is expensive to use public transportation here. Though, I believe students and seniors travel free.

View All Answers


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?

We don't have a car and have been fine without it. I honestly don't miss it, though we do have parking in our building. Anything too large would be a hassle here. There are many zipcars around. A lot of people use their cars to travel locally and to travel to the military base for cheaper groceries/household items.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Available and expensive.

View All Answers


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

We bought sim cards upon our arrival. We use giffgaff and haven't had any problems.

View All Answers


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?

We brought a dog and a cat. It is expensive to bring them but there is no longer a quarantine if you follow rules closely.

View All Answers


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?

I don't know anyone who works on the local economy.

View All Answers


2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I haven't looked, but I'm sure there are many!

View All Answers


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

Business to business casual depending on the job. It doesn't seem to be a very trendy city, but most people look nice/put-together when out. I don't often seen anyone out in sweatpants unless it's a designer jogging suit or they're obviously going to the gym.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Typical concerns of living in a large city. Be self-aware and avoid dodgy areas and you'll be fine. I feel very safe here.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No special concerns. Excellent medical care on the local economy.

View All Answers


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?

Allergies seem especially troublesome here. Lots of black mold. Otherwise, typical pollution of large cities.

View All Answers


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

Lots of black mold. Allergies and asthma seems to cause difficulties here.

View All Answers


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

Since we've been here, it doesn't rain nearly as much as expected. When it does rain it seems to either rain for a few days or pass very quickly. The summers are beautiful and mild 70s to low 80s F. The winters are mild, but the days are short and dark. It can be a bit depressing to deal with darkness at 3pm for long periods of time.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There is an American School that families seem pretty happy with. We don't have children in school here.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

Many daycare options, though most will not take a child until they are 6 months or older. They are all very expensive and, honestly, not that impressive. Most embassy families seem to sponsor live-in nannies, though there are many rules surrounding that. Childcare has been the most difficult part of being here for us. They do no require vaccines at schools/daycares on the local economy.

View All Answers


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

I'm sure you could find anything you desired. There are definitely sports at the American School.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large. Morale really varies here. People either seem to love it or hate it. I have seem quite a few curtailments. This is not a close embassy community, as there is so much to do on the local economy and housing it spread out.

View All Answers


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?

Spending time in parks, going to the theater, eating out, museums, travel. You name it and I bet you could find it.

View All Answers


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

This is a great city for everyone, but it could be lonely for singles. We really don't have embassy friends, as most people tend to do their own thing. The embassy does try to sponsor a lot of events, so attending those would be helpful for singles.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

None that I'm aware of.

View All Answers


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

Having our first child. Exploring different areas of the city. Interesting travel destinations.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Many free museums. Beautiful parks and gardens. Lots of theater options. We mostly just enjoy exploring different areas of the city without much agenda.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tea sets.

View All Answers


9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Easy access to European travel. Mild weather year round. Excellent healthcare available on local economy.

View All Answers


10. Can you save money?

No.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That childcare was so expensive that it makes EFM work nearly impossible.

View All Answers


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

Yes but not when expecting or while having small children, particularly if you're an EFM and want to work.

View All Answers


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

Swimsuit.

View All Answers


4. But don't forget your:

Passport.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 08/18/14

Background:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

View All Answers


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

U.S. Government.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

You can find anything here, except Keurig cups.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

No insect problems.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

USPS, DPO.

View All Answers


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!

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

You name it they've got it.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

None that I was aware.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Yes through the American school and outside. My daughter did tennis and ballet.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Great city for everybody.

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


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

Not that I was aware.

View All Answers


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

Highlights:
Museums, almost all are free
Theater shows, not free but worth it
Tons of restaurants
Afternoon tea
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

View All Answers


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.

View All Answers


8. Can you save money?

Good luck with that.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Bikini.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Wellies & brawley.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 09/27/12

Background:

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

View All Answers


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?

I am based in Western Canada. There are direct flights to Edmonton and Calgary (9 hours) and connections through Toronto for other cities.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

View All Answers


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

(The contributor recently finished a two-year assignment with the Canadian government, a first expat experience.)

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I was incredibly fortunate with my fifteen minute walk to work in Central London. The Canadian High Commission has a variety of housing in various locations through London for different family sizes.

View All Answers


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

Everything. There is a clear price and quality difference between stores, and some North American staples can be somewhat difficult to find, such as nacho chips and certain types of cooking ingredients. All the stores have websites, so if in doubt check online or ask a colleague about a specific food item.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

Everything. Cost is generally slightly more than in Canada, but cost conscious consumers can find good deals.

View All Answers


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

None. Insects were not really a problem at all for me in central London.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Employees at the Canadian High Commission have access to a military mail delivery service where packages can be sent to an address in Ontario and shipped for free from there.

View All Answers


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

Cost is about 6 pounds an hour, which is $9 - $10.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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 and generally the ATMs don't charge any transaction fees.

View All Answers


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

Yes, pretty much everything is available.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

View All Answers


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

Some of the regional accents can be difficult to understand for the first few weeks and a few words are different, but this is the home of the English language. Basic Spanish, Portugeuse, or Polish might be useful if you are hiring a cleaner.

View All Answers


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

Many older buildings are not easily accessible, though efforts are being made to improve this.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

They are safe, but they are pricey if used regularly compared to transport in Canada.

View All Answers


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?

The transit system is fantastic and I did not bring a vehicle. I never regretted this decision.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. It is a good idea to shop around a bit and find what is best for you.

View All Answers


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

I was not able to buy an iPhone on contract as I didn't have a credit rating in the UK, so the initial price may be greater if you have to buy the phone outright. There are a variety of companies who all offer good service.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, but it doesn't come cheap.

View All Answers


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?

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Some English men and women dress quite formally and certain events require specific dress. However generally business casual was sufficient at work. Some sections at the High Commission were more formal and business dress was the norm.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

No.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

The quality of medical care is fantastic. From access to the NHS to private medical clinics, there is a wide variety of options.

View All Answers


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?

Good. Somewhat hazy at times, but generally good.

View All Answers


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

Cloudy. The weather did really get me down sometimes.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Good, except for those who were expecting to be treated special or go to frequent social events. In London expats integrate into normal life and they don't get special treatment.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

A note of caution: I had a few colleagues who had really enjoyed their social status as diplomats on previous postings and the amount of networking that was set up for them and the tight-knit diplomatic community. In London, you will have to fend for yourself more and make your own friendships.

View All Answers


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

Yes, good for all.

View All Answers


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

I'm gay and I had a great time in London. Using the same discretion I would in Canada, I never felt uncomfortable. I would hold my partner's hand while walking in parks, etc., and never had any problems. There is a wide variety of social circles and nightclubs to be involved in.

View All Answers


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

No difference from North America.

View All Answers


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

Cheap and easy travel to Europe, ease of getting around the city and country on rail travel, friendly colleagues, walking and exploring the city.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There is pretty much something for everyone, and many newspapers, magazines, and websites focusing on specific interests people may have.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Flights to continental Europe or train tickets to Scotland or Wales and other parts of England.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

(The contributor recently finished a two-year assignment with the Canadian government, a first expat experience.)

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

The cost of living is similar to North America. If you can save money there, you can save money here.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. Other than the weather, I wish I was still there.

View All Answers


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

Car and expectation that you will be given preferential treatment as a diplomat.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and networking abilities, or your calendar to manage which houseguest is coming when.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Watching the English

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 01/19/12

Background:

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

Second.

View All Answers


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?

It takes about 6 hours to get to the East Coast and anywhere from 9-14 hours to get to the West Coast. There are direct flights to many cities, but the cost is high. We have found that flights on American Airlines seems to be a little cheaper. Make sure you enroll in a Frequent Flyer Miles program.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

View All Answers


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

U.S. Embassy assignment.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I've only heard one person complain about their housing. As long as you come knowing you aren't going to have a big space, you won't be disappointed. Most families live in the same area of town. My commute from my front door to the Embassy door is 30 minutes, using public transportation. It really isn't that bad!

View All Answers


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

We do 90% of our grocery shopping at RAF Lakenheath. You get American food and the prices are about the same as in D.C..If you shop on the market, you'll be paying a little bit more than you'd want to. A gallon of milk is about US$6-$7 right now. There are tons of grocery stores available and most of them deliver!That is one plus to shopping on the market.

View All Answers


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

Remember that everything is more expensive here. Yes, you can find anything you are looking for but at a price. I'd ship lots of facial and body lotions. You skin will dry out like crazy here. Bring a good pair or two of rainboots and several jackets for varying temperatures.

View All Answers


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

Almost everything you can imagine is here. The price is always higher than in the States. It's not uncommon to spend around $50 USD for lunch for two. McDonalds, KFC, Subway, etc. are just slightly more expensive than in the States, but be prepared for American fast food to taste differently.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

You can find everything here! We've noticed that some of the specialty foods taste better than the regular stuff.

View All Answers


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

None really. We've had the odd spider and sometimes bees will fly in during the summer, but nothing bad!

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO. The mail system is a little slow. Sometimes you will get things that were sent to you 3 months earlier and sometimes you get things immediately. It's been very unreliable and I know they are working on fixing the issues.

View All Answers


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

It varies here. There is availability, but it's pricey. Every person charges something different.

View All Answers


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

The embassy has a gym, which is reasonably priced. There are tons of gyms in London, but be prepared to pay a high price for membership.

View All Answers


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 prefer that you use ATMs that are located inside a bank because of possible fraud. Using a credit card is easy here.

View All Answers


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

Everything you can imagine.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Everything is in English. You can use BT, Sky or Virgin for cable. We use Sky because they have more American channels. With an internet and satelite package, we pay about US$150 a month.

View All Answers


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

English!You'll hear every language known to man here, but almost everyone speaks English. You'll get to know all the different accents too.

View All Answers


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

There won't be a lot of difficulties here. They are very conscious of everyone's needs and try to accommodate. The sidewalks are sometimes unlevel so you'll notice a lot of people looking down, just to make sure they don't trip. But otherwise, they are very good with helping people with disabilities.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

They are very safe. The bus is cheaper than the tube (subway), but the tube is faster. Taxis are a little expensive, but reliable. I've been very impressed with the public transportation and use it every day. The prices change every year. Right now it costs about US$2.50 for a one-way trip on the bus. The Tube varies but tends to be around US$5 for a one-way trip. Expect to pay around US$5-10 a day to get to work and back. Parking at the embassy is not always available and they discourage it.

View All Answers


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?

Smaller is better because the roads are narrow and gas is expensive. I'd recommend buying a car once you arrive. It's easier to navigate in a car that was made for driving on the other side of the road. Parking is a nightmare in London.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

You can get packages for high-speed internet from many companies. Do your research first so you get the best deal. Some packages only allow you a certain amount of usage before you get charged more. We have the unlimited package. With internet and satelite TV we pay around US$150 a month.

View All Answers


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

We got a pay-as-you-go plan and it's been great. You can get a free iPhone if you sign a 2-year contract with several companies. Shop around before making your decision. The main providers are Orangea and Vodaphone, but there are many "off brand" companies that also have good plans.

View All Answers


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?

Not anymore...there is a form you can fill out and submit with certain records they require. I don't have any specifics on it.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I don't have pets, but the English are animal lovers.

View All Answers


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?

There are quite a few jobs available both in the Embassy and on the economy. The Embassy jobs are posted on the website by HR.

View All Answers


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

Men wear suits every day and women wear slacks/skirts. It is faily formal. You won't see a lot of people wearing shorts around here because it just doesn't get that warm.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Pick-pocketing is the main thing you have to worry about. As long as you are smart about zipping up your purse and keeping items in your front pocket, you'll be fine. We have the normal threats that D.C. has.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Health care here is great. If you have a diplomatic passport, you are entitled to register for NHS which is the local, free healthcare. It isn't the most ideal, but it's not bad. They even offer free fertility treatments, surgeries, etc. We prefer to use the Embassy med unit and then get referred out to a private doctor. The private doctors are much better, but crazy expensive. You'll have to pay the bill in full, then submit to your insurance.

View All Answers


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?

Depends on the season. There is normal pollution as you would find in any major city. The allergies here are terrible. We've been sicker here than anywhere else we've lived. If you didn't have allergies before, don't be surprised if you develop them.

View All Answers


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

It doesn't rain here as much as everyone thinks. And when it rains, it's not for long periods of time. The winters aren't fun, but it's mainly because of the constant grey clouds. When it snows here, which isn't often or a lot, the entire city shuts down. My kids have actually had snow days for 2 inches of snow on the ground. Summers are incredible!You keep your windows open (because most houses don't have A/C) and it's perfect! During the spring you need to walk around the city and admire all the flowers. It's so beautiful!!

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

My kids go to ACS Hillingdon and love it. ACS is about a 45-minute drive away from our house, but only 12 miles. There is a van that picks them up and drops them off at our house. ASL is another school that Embassy people look into, because it's located a few miles away from where most of us live. ASL is harder on the kids academically and the Embassy children are seen as the "poor kids" of the school. I've heard good and bad about both, but my children (elementary and middle school ages) have loved it. There were some issues with bullying and the school took care of it immediately.

View All Answers


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

My son has special needs and ACS did all the evaluations for him and then set up the help he needed. I have been highly impressed with how they handled the situation and how quickly they adjusted things for him. I've heard ASL isn't as accommodating.

View All Answers


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?

I don't have personal experience with it, but have heard there are a lot of options...for a price!

View All Answers


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

Tons, both through the schools and through the different Boroughs.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge!

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

It varies by department. Moral is usally good. If you are coming from a smaller post, you might find it hard to adjust in the beginning. This is a post where you only see your colleagues at work. Everyone does their own thing and it's very rare to see people outside of work. This is not a "family" type of Embassy like you get at smaller posts. It can be good and bad, depending on your preference.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Everyone tends to do their own thing. There are tons of pubs and dance clubs around.

View All Answers


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

This city is great for everyone!If you are bored here, it's your own fault.

View All Answers


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

Very accepting.

View All Answers


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

There are the normal stereotypes you have to deal with, but nothing out of the ordinary. On public transport, it's a rare occasion to see a man giving up his place for a woman. I've even seen a guy push a girl out of the way for a seat.

View All Answers


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

Touring the different castles and ruins around the country. It is truly magnificent. Weekend trips to other parts of Europe are so easy and well worth it.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Travel, travel, travel! You can do all the normal London touristy things, but it's so much fun to get out of the city. Almost everything is accessible through trains, buses and airplanes. Look into getting yearly passes to something like English Heritage, which allows you to tour different castles and ruins as many times as you want, for a flat fee.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Everything!It's an easy transition into the Foreign Service for kids. It's different than the States, yet similar enough to not be a huge shock. The tourism alone is amazing!You can get fairly cheap flights to anywhere in Europe, or take a train.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't travel around and enjoy the area you are in. I HIGHLY recommend you travel as much as you can and see this great country and every part of Europe possible.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. I do wish we could come when my kids are older because they'd appreciate all the history around them.

View All Answers


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

Beach attire and regular-sized cookie sheets (European-sized ovens).

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Rain boots, lotions, coats/jackets for every type of weather and any beauty products you don't want to pay double for.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 08/14/11

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Athens, Greece; Bridgetown, Barbados; Rome, Italy; Lima, Peru and Tel Aviv, Israel.

View All Answers


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?

East Coast United States. It takes about 7 hours ... an easy trip but getting expensive!

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

3 years, with one to go.

View All Answers


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

Spouse is posted to US Embassy.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Typically small flats, but convenient to central London. Transport is pretty good. Embassy housing is decent.

View All Answers


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

Just about anything you want is available, but at about 30% more than in the States. If you're lucky enough to be with the embassy, you can go to the commissary about 1 1/2 hours away and pay US prices for US products, which helps.

View All Answers


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

Chocolate chips.

View All Answers


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

All the usual US fast foods - Subway, Burger King, MacDonald's, Pizza Hut, etc. Pub food is pretty good and affordable. There is some nice but expensive fine dining. We wouldn't come to London for the food, though. Things are expensive, particularly as the dollar is so weak now.

View All Answers


5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Very big on organic, vegan, gluten-free, etc. Readily available anywhere.

View All Answers


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

None in the city that I'm aware of.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Embassy diplomatic post.

View All Answers


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

Expensive, from what I understand, but available.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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?

No problem, taking the usual care.

View All Answers


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

Many and varied.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes. TV satellite is available, but more expensive than in the States. Poor programming choices, but this may be universal! Great BBC programming.

View All Answers


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

Its english!

View All Answers


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

Not too bad. Most places will accommodate wheelchairs, but there are lots of cobblestones and stairs, as well.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Safe and reasonable. Taxis are not cheap, but buses and the tube are very convenient and safe.

View All Answers


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?

Parking is difficult, insurance is high, driving in the city a pain, transport good ... it is easier to rent a car once in a while. A small car is better, unless you are bringing it specifically to make runs to the RAF Base in Lakenheath for shopping!

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes. About 2x as much as in the States, maybe?

View All Answers


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

Lots of plans available. Just shop around.

View All Answers


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?

Not if you get a 'health passport' and they travel with you. You have to jump through some hoops before you leave, so check early. Otherwise, yes, a long quarantine.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Everywhere ... they love pets! Dogs can run free in most parks, as well.

View All Answers


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?

Yes.

View All Answers


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

Professional at work, formal for many occasions. London casual has its own style. Accepting fo all types.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

About the same in the US for terrorism. Pickpockets abound in the heavily trafficked tourist areas.

View All Answers


2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

NHS is available to all, but I would NOT recommend it! Private care is also readily available and excellent, but expensive.

View All Answers


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?

Moderate ... allergies can be rampant, and you have all of the normal pollution you find in a city.

View All Answers


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

It is grey much of the winter, which is tough. You'll get to know the meaning of 'sun break'. Summers are usually nice. The plus side is not too much snow or ice, but it rains a lot and you walk everywhere, so bring wellies!

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

ASL: I never understood why the hype for this school. It treats embassy children like lower-class citizens unless they excel at sports. It claims to be academically challenging, by which they mean they grade harshly and discourage independent thought or creativity. Some high school staff members are awesome, but the overall climate is very debilitating. (This borne out by discussions with embassy families, the psychiatrist, and therapists on the local economy.) Our daughter went from being an A/B student with healthy self-esteem to having panic attacks at ASL. We switched to a British school after 2 years, and she is now happy, healthy, getting all A's, and going to Oxford or UCL next year. (Proving it wasn't the child, but the school.) Very elitist. Have been a parent and on boards of International Schools in various countries, and have been accepting of the inevitable issues, but this school is dangerous, at least at the high-school level. British schools are good, and there are plenty of international choices available as well.

View All Answers


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

Limited. ASL says they accommodate, but I know of at least 3 families who ended up pulling their children from ASL who needed more support/nurturing than ASL was able to provide.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

High.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Just about anything is available, from theater groups to sports clubs. Everyone has a local pub where you are sure to meet most of your neighbors.

View All Answers


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

Great for anyone!

View All Answers


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

Very accepting of gay and lesbian lifestyles.

View All Answers


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

Nothing overt ... racial issues in the outlying impoverished areas, but not aware of any issues with professionals/embassy employees.

View All Answers


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

Getting to know the people, great pubs, great music, great parks. My teenager has never been happier.

View All Answers


8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Movies, shows, bowling, sports, markets, museums, music everywhere, travel, parks, castles ... so much.

View All Answers


9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Entertainment.

View All Answers


10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

They speak English! Its wonderful to be able to communicate freely. You can really become part of the community here. Great countryside, lots to do, and plenty of travel opportunities.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

We get a COLA, which is very helpful. We are saving A LITTLE, and have put a lot into the college fund, but we don't travel as much as some.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

View All Answers


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

Warm weather clothing!

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Raincoats, rain boots.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Great city, although the work isn't as challenging, and the embassy community not as cohesive as at more 'hardship' posts. I love London, but my favorite postings were Tel Aviv and Lima.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 11/10/09

Background:

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

No, have also lived in Taipei.

View All Answers


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?

There are direct flights from most major cities, which are about 7 hours from the East Coast, depending on winds.

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

One year, from 2008-2009.

View All Answers


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

Graduate student.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Small and very expensive - if you stay in the outskirts of the city you'll have more space and lower rent but longer commute times. My flat was about a quarter the size of one I had in DC, and nearly double the rent.

View All Answers


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

You can get anything you want here, though many things won't be branded the same way as in the US. Tesco is the cheapest grocery store, but their quality and availability varies. Sainsbury's and Waitrose are very good, but a bit pricier. With the exchange rate, everything is more expensive in London, but you can live on a budget if you know where to look.

View All Answers


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

Nothing, you can get it all here.

View All Answers


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

Anything you want! They have all the American chains, as well as some local or European deli-style fast food, which are all relatively cheap. Dining can be reasonable if you pick the right places, and there is delicious food at all price ranges. Especially Indian!

View All Answers


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

None, though on the odd weeks it gets hot in summer, and if you open your windows you'll get a few mosquitoes and a bunch of gnats inside.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Royal post is fine when they aren't on strike.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

Yes, everywhere. Prices are comparable to US prices.

View All Answers


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, and are perfectly safe. The major banks in the UK have a cooperative agreement, so you can use your card in most any ATM without any fees. Credit cards will be accepted most places, but the country has mostly switched to a chip-and-pin card system, so your American swipe-and-sign card may not be accepted sometimes, and it will definitely cause you glares for the delays you create using it.

View All Answers


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

Yes, anything you want.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Of course, and at the same prices as in the US. There's a TV tax of some sort, though. I think it was about 100 pounds a year, but I didn't get a TV while I was there, so I don't know.

View All Answers


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

Well it's English, but knowing what 'quid' and 'loo' and 'bangers' are wouldn't hurt.

View All Answers


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

Well it's becoming more disability-friendly, but most of the streets, buildings, tube stations, etc. are very old and don't have adequate facilities for anyone who can't do steps or cobblestones. You can get around, but you may have to out of your way to do it.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Definitely safe and clean, but not exactly cheap. Buses are the most economical option, and they can generally get you where you want to go. Sometimes the Tube workers go on strike... and trains/stations are frequently out of service, especially on weekends -- so always check TFL before you travel. Get an Oyster card as soon as you get there! And don't take the Tube in the summer, you'll suffocate. Taxis are great, but a bit pricey.

View All Answers


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?

As small a vehicle as you can find! I wouldn't recommend bringing a car to London at all - driving is a nightmare and is ridiculously costly with the price of petrol and the congestion tax. Public transport is ubiquitous.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, about the same as US prices. Some limit your weekly bandwidth, though, so be careful of that.

View All Answers


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

There are plenty of good options for phone plans, whether contract or pay as you go. I had 3 pay as you go, and it worked out very well at about 15 pounds per month. Orange, O2, and T-mobile are also good.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

View All Answers


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?

Yes, but they just changed the work permit rules to make it more difficult to get one. I don't know how those rules work for EFMs, but for everyone else you basically have to be a skilled worker to get a permit.

View All Answers


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

Pretty casual, unless you're in the financial district. Jeans at work aren't uncommon, as long as they're paired with dress shoes and a nice shirt.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate. Some days you can see the particles in the air, which is uncomfortable both to breathe and open your eyes in. My allergies worsened here but were fine with OTC medications.

View All Answers


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

None, it's one of the safest cities I've ever been in. Just stay out of Peckham after dark and you'll be fine.

View All Answers


3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No health concerns, and the medical care is fantastic. I was covered under NHS while I was there, and it was always great care (and all free!) I've heard private care is even better. Despite the stereotypical bad teeth of Brits, the dentists there are great (just not free).

View All Answers


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

Not as bad as you've probably heard! It was a relatively dry year when I was there, so I found it to be very pleasant. It's usually a bit above freezing in the winters, and dark from about 4pm to 8am. It warms up very gradually through Spring, with usually a week or two of absolutely beautiful sunny weather in May. June and July are warm, but usually rainy. Autumn is very nice, until it starts getting dark again.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Very high - London rocks!

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Fantastic! Pubs, clubs, plays, concerts, food, sports... anything you want, pretty much. Not much entertaining is done in the home, though, partly because Brits are very private people and partly because the flats there are generally just too small to have people over.

View All Answers


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

It's great for anyone.

View All Answers


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

Yes!

View All Answers


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

Only if you're Polish... but in general no.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Everything! It's London! All the touristy things are fun, even if you've seen them before. And there are tons of little towns and sites within easy distance by train or bus of the city.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Tea! And traveling around and sightseeing.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

Probably not, unless you never go out or travel.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely! I miss it all the time. I'm more homesick for London now than I was for the US when I was there.

View All Answers


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

bathing suit, idea that the office runs from 9-5 (they are very flexible on schedules, so 10-6 is more common), and any aversion to strikes.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

umbrella, galoshes, and a dry and sarcastic sense of humor.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Any classic Brit Lit, John le Carré.

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Monty Python, Happy Go Lucky, Bridget Jones/Notting Hill/Love Actually

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Other than it is pretty expensive, I have nothing bad to say about London. It's absolutely fantastic - the weather isn't that bad, the food is actually really good if you know where to go and what to buy, and the health care is fabulous. You'll learn to whine about the Tube just like a native Londoner, but really, compared to anything you'll find in the US it is amazing.

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 03/17/09

Background:

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

Lived in Moscow.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

View All Answers


3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

6 hours from Washington, DC or New York.2 hours from Frankfurt.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

It completely varies. There are embassy-owned buildings, and various leased housing around the city. Single people and couples without children general get the smaller flats. There are larger houses out in Golders Green and smaller flats in Marylebone and Swiss Cottage. Some folks completely luck out and get gorgeous townhomes in envious locations. Its really all luck of the draw with the housing board. Locations are: Marylebone, Maida Vale, Bayswater, Knightbridge, Swiss Cottage, St. John's Wood, Hampstead Heath and Golders Green. I'm sure there are other smatterings of places, but mostly on the Central to West areas of the city. Commute times vary from 15 minute walk to 1.5 hours by bus and tube. The British housing also has little to no storage space. Most to not have decent closets to store items, including closet space in the bedrooms.

View All Answers


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

Expensive. Most folks drive 2 hours to Lakenheath military base to stock up on American food supplies. Everything can be found on the local economy though

View All Answers


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

I would actually bring LESS stuff.

View All Answers


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

Plenty. It depends on the exchange rate at the time for the cost. McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, are all available here. Most people go out for the excellent Indian food here. Tex-Mex is harder to find, but Bodeans is a great American style BBQ restaurant.

View All Answers


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

Slugs in the gardens.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO - its SLOW!!!! Surprisingly slow. Mail arrives back in the U.S. faster if you send it via Royal Mail.

View All Answers


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

Don't use it, too expensive.

View All Answers


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

Yes. The Embassy has one, but there are plenty around the city.

View All Answers


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?

I've had my credit cards frauded 3 times since arriving in London. Just be careful.

View All Answers


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

Yes, plenty of all types.

View All Answers


6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Oh yes. There is a wide variety of TV types to chose from, like Sky and Virgin media. No AFN available in the city though.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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

No - I don't think so. Many buses are equiped to handle wheelchairs, and some tube stops have designated wheelchair access.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

Yes - great public transportation. Cost is better than Washington DC metro.

View All Answers


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?

Anything. Check with the housing board for the parking around your house though. People drive both U.K. and U.S. spec cars here. Driving on the other side of the road isn't hard. Buy a GPS unit though to navigate.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Lots of choices, yet again. Sky, Virgin, BT. Price varies.

View All Answers


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

If the Embassy doesn't provide you one, there is a WIDE range of pay as you go cell phone shops all over.

View All Answers


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?

Only if they don't meet the Pets Scheme. Bloodwork is required 6 months in advance, otherwise they must be quaratined for 6 months. Average cost of quarantine is US$2,000-4,000 per pet for the 6 months.

View All Answers


2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Not sure, didn't bring in pets.

View All Answers


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?

Yes, plenty.

View All Answers


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

Business casual to business dress.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate.

View All Answers


2. What immunizations are required each year?

Nope.

View All Answers


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

None. Just practice general safety awareness. Don't act or behave like a tourist, and you'll be fine.

View All Answers


4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

None. You can join NHS as a diplomat. Otherwise, local care is just fine. Non-NHS dental care is fantastic!You just have to pay for it out of pocket.

View All Answers


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

Typical 'British' weather, rainy and overcast quite a lot of the time, but there are nice sunny spells in the Spring and Fall. Winter it rarely gets cold enough to snow.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


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

At the schools, yes.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Not so good. Life would be much better if the GSO would actually work. It makes life harder when they refuse to fix things in your flat because 'its just not that important'. GSO excels at making our home life harder than the average Brit. The work day is also longer than most places and the Embassy supports a high quantity of visits.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

If you want, lots.

View All Answers


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

Yes. I found loads to do as a single here. I know families are always busy with after school activities, and its easy to hop on a train and visit around London.

View All Answers


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

I would say so judging by the Soho area alone.

View All Answers


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

No.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Loads. Just pick up a guidebook, I've found something to do just about every weekend.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Wedgwood, Waterford, assorted British pottery.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

No way!

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

No. As a visitor, yes. To work, no.

View All Answers


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

Extra 'items' and stuff. It won't fit in the house or storage anyhow.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Rain gear, car, and travel books.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Anything BBC.

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 09/07/08

Background:

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

No, Kuala Lumpur.

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

View All Answers


3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Travel time from East Coast, USA is about 8 hours.

View All Answers


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

Government.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is small for the most part, but the further you are from central London the bigger the homes get. Commute times vary. Embassy personnel commute times can be anything from a few minutes walk to an hour using public transportation and walking.

View All Answers


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

Expensive!!

View All Answers


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

Everything is available but it's twice as much.

View All Answers


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

Many American chains are here but don't be shocked by the costs. Restaurants are very expensive and not very good.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

I have APO.

View All Answers


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

Very expensive, help starts at 8 pounds per hour which is about US$16 per hour.

View All Answers


3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Widely available, just check with your bank about charges for using a foreign bank.

View All Answers


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

They are available.

View All Answers


5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Absolutely.

View All Answers


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

Although English is the local language, you may want to find out what a fort night is and how much a stone weighs.

View All Answers


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

Getting around will be a problem as many of the tube stations are not accessible. The buses seem to have ramps and are not a problem. Also the sidewalks are not level and may cause a problem. It is also very difficult to get disabled parking.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Driving is on the left side of the road in the UK.

View All Answers


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

The black cabs are safe and expensive. Local trains and buses are every where because this is a pedestrian city.

View All Answers


3. 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?

Small, many of the roads are quite small. If you are not government, perhaps a hybrid would be suitable to avoid additional charges in the city.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

Yes about US$50 a month.

View All Answers


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

They are a must have!

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

There are many options. We have a Voice over IP.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good I believe.

View All Answers


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?

Unsure.

View All Answers


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

Business.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

There is a lot of pollution in London because of all the traffic and buses.

View All Answers


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

Not more than you would expect from a major city.

View All Answers


3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I'm not impressed by the quality of the hospitals. The first time I went in a hospital I was surprised at the lack of cleanliness. You also have to deal with National Health care and the pluses and minuses of it. Private health care is available but it is very expensive. American insurance companies will reimburse but many only at American rates so your out of pocket may be huge.

View All Answers


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

Rain and cool most of the year. In the winter there are very, very few hours of sunlight.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

There are many International Schools in London. My children attended the American School in London (ASL) is excellent but not very diverse. My children loved the school and were challenged academically. Make sure that you start the admissions process early because many of the schools have waiting lists.

View All Answers


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

ASL make accommodations.

View All Answers


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?

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Very big.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Varies, some are very happy because of the access to Europe and the ease of travel. Others are stressed by the expense because of the slump of the greenback.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There is plenty to do.

View All Answers


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

It can be - just be prepared to use the public transportation system.

View All Answers


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

There seem to be a huge population.

View All Answers


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

Not any more than any other major city.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

The sky is the limit. There are museums, parks, theater, films, movies, sporting and cultural events. I'm sure if you dream it up, you'll be able to find it here.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Pottery.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

No way!

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Maybe.

View All Answers


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

Big car/SUV because gas is about US$10 a gallon.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience because although this is 1st world many things move at 3rd world speed.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

View All Answers


London, United Kingdom 02/03/08

Background:

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

No. I have lived in Harare (Zimbabwe), Calgary (Canada), and Nairobi (Kenya).

View All Answers


2. How long have you lived here?

2 years from 2004 - 2006.

View All Answers


3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From New York it's about 5 1/2 hours. Almost every airline has flights to London from the East Coast. My preferred airline is Virgin Atlantic.

View All Answers


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

I am in London for corporate work.

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Apartments. I had a gorgeous, large apartment in the recently gentrified area of Wapping. Housing in London is EXPENSIVE. Many locals live in houses outside London and commute in. Those who do live within London often have TINY apartments or share with a number of people in order to afford it. Make sure the bathroom has a shower (Brits love baths) and if it has a shower, test the water pressure (it's usually quite poor).

View All Answers


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

EXPENSIVE. I experienced shell shock when I went on my first grocery trip. Pretty much everything is available but the prices are at least double the price of the most expensive areas of the USA.

View All Answers


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

Favorite American snack foods, new clothes and shoes(very expensive in the UK).

View All Answers


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

Almost all American chains are there, as is Nando's (from South Africa), lots of fish & chips places, kebab places, Indian curry places. The big train stations offer a shmorgasboard of little sandwich and croissant places. Definitely try a cornish pasty.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

Royal Mail. I think their service is great.

View All Answers


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

Expensive. I had someone who came in for a couple of hours twice a week. I paid US$100/week. You could probably get a non-professional cleaner to come in for cheaper, but you would really need to know people in the community well to find those people.

View All Answers


3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use them the same way you would in the USA. Use the same precautions that you would in any big city.

View All Answers


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

The English aren't as religious as Americans but there are lots of beautiful churches of all denominations. Try and attend a church service in the countryside. There you will see the real England and the services are lovely.

View All Answers


5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

People love their newspapers - here and you can find several for all political inclinations.

View All Answers


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

English is pretty handy; after all it is England! The hardest thing to get used to is the different accents. Brits love teaching you their slang and hearing you say it with an American accent.

View All Answers


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

Facilities are improving but it is still a rough city for people with disabilities to get around.

View All Answers


Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Drive on the left (steering wheel is on the right).

View All Answers


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

Public transport is perfectly safe and more available than any U.S. city. It is getting increasingly expensive though.

View All Answers


3. 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?

You don't need a car in London, but if you were to bring one, bring as small a car as you can. The streets are really narrow and gas is really expensive.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

It is available everywhere. It costs about $40/month.

View All Answers


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

If you aren't sure how long you are going to be there, get a pay as you go SIM card. Otherwise, sign a contract with any of the companies. Incoming calls are free so pay as you go works out quite well. Networks in the U.K. are much better than the ones in the USA.

View All Answers


3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage & Skype. Phone cards are also available at all news agents and convenience stores. The phone cards in the U.K. offer much better rates than those in the USA. You could also just pick up your phone and dial but the rates will be higher than Vonage, Skype or phone cards.

View All Answers


Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I assume so since Brits really love their pets.

View All Answers


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?

Yes, but work permits might be hard to get.

View All Answers


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

At my office it was business casual but many places still insist on formal business attire.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

The same as it would be in any East Coast city as far as I could tell. I have mild asthma but did not suffer any more difficulty than I did in New York.

View All Answers


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

My office building was right next to the first train station to be hit on the attacks in 7/7/2005. The U.K. and U.S. face similar terror threats but they don't impact everyday living. There is a LOT of petty crime in London: muggings, pickpockets, car break-ins, etc. Teenagers are usually the culprits, so be street smart.

View All Answers


3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I was admitted into a private hospital while I was there and it was like being in a spa. The service was outstanding (and expensive). I also went to a doctor on the NHS. The NHS facilities were really run-down and crowded, but the care was good.

View All Answers


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

It's rainy all year. You will learn to cherish the sunshine.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I don't know much about the international schools but I do know that there are some excellent British schools. I would highly recommend sending kids to local schools; they are a little more demanding than U.S. schools, but it will look good when they head off to U.S. colleges.

View All Answers


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

Special needs kids are not as well accommodated as they are in the USA, but it's getting better.

View All Answers


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?

I know there is plenty of care available, but I do not have preschool age children and therefore cannot comment on the quality.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Large.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Generally high, but everyone complains about the cost of living.

View All Answers


3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

One could ostensibly go out EVERY night if one wanted to or you could be a home body. It is entirely up to you.

View All Answers


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

Yes, for everybody. Families with children will find it especially expensive. Couples will LOVE it. Singles will love the opportunity, but Brits don't immediately warm up to you so making friends might take longer than it would in other parts of the world.

View All Answers


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

Absolutely! Mayor Ken Livingston wants London to be the gay mecca of the world.

View All Answers


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

There are growing tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims. In other aspects, the U.K. is far more progressive than the USA: the U.K. has more inter-racial relationships than any place I've ever seen.

View All Answers


7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Too many to mention. Dining out is fantastic. Gone is the reputation of bad food in England. People like to entertain at home which is a great way to see how Brits live. Mini-breaks around Europe are cheap and easy from London. Train rides to different parts of the UK are really fun to do. Besides travel and dining, there is lots of arts & culture, and if you aren't a reader, you will become one; Brits read a lot more than Americans do although old timers in the U.K. lament the loss of the reading culture.

View All Answers


8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Travel around Europe and dining out.

View All Answers


9. Can you save money?

NO WAY.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes... especially if someone else was paying for housing.

View All Answers


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

Ideas that life can be cheap. Forget customizing your morning latte, it's either whole milk or semi-skimmed, don't ask for light foam, more foam, etc.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience. Customer service is poor, service is inefficient and slow.

View All Answers


4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

View All Answers


6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

East Enders.

View All Answers


7. Do you have any other comments?

I loved living in London. Try to socialize beyond the American expat community in order to get the full experience. London is a true melting pot. The weather can get depressing so try and travel as much as possible.

View All Answers


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More