This week we’re handing over the reins to a special guest blogger Aimee, who is celebrating her one year in London anniversary! She’s going to share a few London tips and lessons she’s learnt over the past twelve months.
London – the city that inspires songs and stories, paintings and poetry. It’s a city that inspired me too, with an inconceivable pull on my heart and soul since I was a kid.
I was always fascinated by the idea of a city with such hustle and bustle blending seamlessly with such insane history. I’m sure that being a massive Harry Potter fan also subconsciously helped. Growing up, I definitely craved the romanticised version of London. Then when I was about 18 I came to visit my aunt and uncle over New Years. It was rainy, cold and downright miserable, yet I still fell in love with the city and instantly felt at home.
So at 25 years old I decided to move. I packed up my life in Australia, had a tearful farewell with my parents at Perth airport and got on a direct 17 hour Qantas flight to London Heathrow.
Now one year has passed and I can honestly say that London has been the biggest and best adventure of my life. Don’t get me wrong – it hasn’t all been hot British boys with accents that make me melt, Sunday roasts in cosy pubs and relishing in the efficiency of a solid public transport system. Over my one year in London there have been a lot of ups and downs and life lessons along the way.
Here are some of the things I wish I’d known when I first moved to London.
WHAT I’VE LEARNT AFTER ONE YEAR IN LONDON
Get the life admin out of the way early
Try and call for a National Insurance number as soon as you land in London. This will make life admin a lot quicker and easier, especially since it takes a few weeks to sort out. You’ll need an address for this since your NI number will be mailed to you – so be sure to use an address where you can access your mail for the next 4 weeks or so.
The other ‘must have’ is to get a Transferwise/Monzo/Revolut online bankcard. These online bank accounts are easier to get than a more traditional bank. You don’t need proof of address and they’re great for using in other countries when travelling. Get one as soon as you can so you can use it on the Tube, to get paid from your employer, or to set up direct debits for any phone/rent/bills etc.
Skyscanner and Google Flights will inevitably become your most-searched sites. Try the ‘Can’t Decide’ options on SkyScanner and you never know where you might end up! Or take a day or two on either side of bank holidays to turn a 2-day weekend into a 4-day. Book early for these though, as flights will inevitably triple in price.
The £30 that you’ll spend on a Railcard (16-25/26-30) will 100% be worth it when you’re getting discounted rail tickets to explore the rest of the UK, and discounted trips to and from the airport. While you also get discounts on Oyster, unfortunately this does not apply to trips taken at peak hour. If you often travel with the same person, you can also apply for a Two Together Railcard and save 1/3 of the price when you travel together.
The NHS is an interesting beast, no matter how efficient/inefficient your health care system is at home. You need to learn to take the good with the bad – a system this big and with this many demands is never going to be perfect. Be patient but make sure you stand your ground if you think you’re not getting the care or attention that you need. I can tell you from personal experience that if there’s really something urgent, be kind and polite and things will happen quickly.
Your friendships with people back home are probably going to change. Everyone is busy with their own lives and it’s unfair on yourself, and on your friends, to expect that everything will stay exactly the same. You’ll have those sturdy friendships where you can have a great 2-hour chat once a month and respect that you’re both busy. But there will also be those friendships where you won’t hear from them, and they won’t hear from you. And that’s okay. Being so far away you’ll learn who you really value and who really values you.
Speaking of friendships – while you’re in London, you’ve got to make the effort to go out and meet new people. Go to meet-ups, talk to people at work or at the gym. You never know who might become your new London BFF, or where you’ll meet them!
It’s a rollercoaster so try to enjoy the ride
No matter where you’re coming from, London will be a ride. Things here are different. They’re busy and exciting and noisy and chaotic. If you’re not loving the ride, don’t immediately rush to get off. Just stop for a second. Relax. Take a breath. And then jump back in. But if you’re finding you’re repeatedly not enjoying yourself, it’s not giving up to get off. If anything, it’s an act of self-care.
After one year in London I’ve learnt that London isn’t for everyone and you can’t expect that it will automatically be for you. It’s a learning curve that will push you to the edge and test how well you bounce back. Most importantly, London is what you make of it. So be sure to make it the best experience you can have!
About the Author: Aimee Bricker
Aimee made the leap to the UK in September 2018. She was born in South Africa but is an Aussie at heart after migrating at age 5. She’s just as likely to suggest a wine and cheese night as she is a gruelling bootcamp, sneaky weekend European getaway or a lazy brunch (bottomless or otherwise). While her 9-5 is spent at an Ad Agency, Aimee loves maintaining a work-life balance so that she can enjoy all that London (and Europe) has to offer. You can read more of Aimee’s work on her blog AGB or find her on Instagram.
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