I’ve lived in London for over two months now and I’ve learned so much! I made sure to research as much about the city as possible before arriving, so that I wouldn’t be completely lost. London has no mercy and if you jump in head first, you might not have a good time as you hope to.
If you are on a Tier 5: Youth Mobility Visa like me, then these tips may help you and I only wish I knew of them earlier. Unfortunately, you’ve got to sometimes learn things the hard way! I read as many blogs as I could about moving to London, but most of the blogs were either out of date or did not have enough information. My experiences are simply my experiences, so I speak for myself alone and no one else.
I am not a British citizen, nor do I have any relationship with one. I’m not an EU citizen either, and I have no family here… so the only person who can help me is myself. Other bloggers might have dual citizenship, or they might already be experienced at travelling, or they might have lived in London before, or they have family and friends who they can stay with… I’ve got none of that! I’m definitely jealous that some people have grandparents who are British and can therefore apply for citizenship or have family and friends they can stay with for free, but if you’ve got no one other than yourself, you may find these tips useful.
In no particular order:
1. The system in London is ridiculous and is a never ending circle! To get a job, you need a bank account. But to get a bank account you need proof of address. But to find a flat you need a job! And to get a job you need a bank account…. Trying to set yourself up with these three things will be a pretty hard challenge, but don’t give up, because it’s possible… you just have to keep trying. You also need a National Insurance Number, but you can’t have it delivered just anywhere, because you don’t have a house for it to be sent to and it takes 4-6 weeks for it to arrive! Who knows where you’ll be in 4-6 weeks, right!? Thankfully, I received my national insurance number in 3.5 weeks, because I acted quickly and efficiently. I also managed to book accommodation for the first month, so that was handy.
How I managed was that I paid for a months accommodation and set myself a deadline to find a job and house within that one month. I managed to find a house in 15 days, and used some of my savings to pay the deposit/bond + 1 months rent in advance. My accommodation refunded me for the days I didn’t stay too, so that was really kind of them as it does not usually happen. The tenor/real-estate agent for my new house asked me to send them a letter of my employment… JUST LIE! Say, “Yes, I will do that!” Don’t say, “Oh, I don’t have a job.” And even if they ask you what sort of job you have, JUST LIE! You’re not going to make it if you don’t fake it. A tenor/real-estate agent might not find you reliable if you don’t have a job or a professional job, so sometimes you just have to lie so that they trust you. And then once you have a house, start trusting yourself to find a job!
Apply for jobs online such as Reed.com, Indeed.com, GumTree, London travel pages on FB, hand out resume’s… Exert your very best efforts in this matter, exercise all of your considerable ingenuity, leave no depth of cunning unplumbed in your search to find a job! At the end of the day, you only have yourself and if you can’t support yourself, then who else is going to! I applied for jobs to popular retail outlets and managed to get myself a job with Zara (after a group interview). Once I had a job at Zara, I used my employment letter as proof of address and my leasing contract as proof of address, to finally open up a proper bank account! I then told work to change my bank account details and voila, everything was finally set up. To find out more when setting up a bank account, I will write a blog post about that later, as it’s very lengthy and will be very comprehensive in order to help you with everything that people don’t tend to tell you.
I also cancelled my phone contract with Optus in Australia and bought me a new sim card from O2 providers. It was prepaid, so I have to keep topping up whenever I run out, but at least I had internet on my phone and could make text and calls. However, it’s not the best option, but was the only option until I get a bank account. Now that I finally do have a bank account, I was able to set up a plan with them so that I get 6GB and unlimited texts and calls for £15/month.
2. It’s always handy to have an Oyster card, but if you’re constantly travelling within zones 1 and 2 on a daily basis, DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AS ME! I was foolishly topping up my Oyster card every 2 days with £10, but it’s cheaper just to buy a weekly ticket! Or you can buy a monthly ticket and choose which zones you want it to apply for (such as zones 1-4 or zones 1-2, or zones 5-6, etc.), and then travel as many times as you like before your monthly ticket expires within the zones you selected. This will honestly save you a lot of money. Also, if you get on a bus with your Oyster card, you don’t need to tap off. You only tap once when you get on and that’s it. And another thing, you will be charged if you tap to go inside the barriers of the train station and then back out, regardless of whether you went on a train or not, even if the time between when you entered and left the barriers was only 10 seconds, you will be charged! I accidentally did this 4 times, and lost £6. In Australia, you don’t get charged for doing this, so I thought it would be the same. Unfortunately not.
3. We all love food, and sometimes most of our pay actually goes towards spending unnecessary amounts of money on food. If you have not found a job yet or you don not have a well paid job, then I heavily suggest you cut back on spending your money on food. DO NOT BUY TAKE-AWAY! It might only be £5 for a meal, which doesn’t sound like much, but you can buy enough ingredients to buy you a meal with £5 that will last you two or three days! Treat yourself every now and then, so that you don’t do something stupid and spend a lot all at once on food, as this will help balance your spending and cravings for that amazing piece of chocolate that you don’t really need haha. Until you have a job, try not to go out! A night out in town will see you spend around £50-100! The drinks add up. If you do plan to go out, just buy some drug that’s £25 – this will last much longer than alcohol and is a lot cheaper. Just take it before you head out, in case you get caught wearing it. I’m vegetarian, which isn’t as cheap as being able to buy pre-made packaged meals that have meat for only £2 or less! Especially when you need to buy a lot of different ingredients to make one meal, whereas meat-eaters can just buy mince, sauce and spaghetti. Vegetarians will have to buy a whole lot more in order to receive the necessary amounts of calories, vitamins and minerals, and TASTE! No point eating if your food isn’t tasty, right!? And the lame thing about the produce in the supermarkets is their freshness! Most of the food will expire in 2-3 days, so you’re constantly having to eat all your food quickly and then going out to spend money on groceries again… it’s ridiculous. Ensure you try to preserve your food as much as possible, so that you can continue to eat it after its ‘best before’ label. If it says ‘use-by’ instead of ‘best before’, then I personally wouldn’t eat it anymore, even if you preserved its freshness as much as possible… I just don’t want to risk getting sick, even if the risk is low. Sure the NHS can cover you, but that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t like risking my health, even if the milk is expired by 2 hrs.
4. This might sound silly, but try to go to the toilet before you leave the house. London does not have many public toilets like Australia does. The amount of times I’ve had to run home or find the nearest McDonalds, just so I can go to the toilet is ridiculous. And even if you do manage to find a public toilet, chances are you need to pay for its use! Nothing is worse than exploring London with your friends, only to feel ‘funny’ and then all you want to do is sit down, because if you keep walking around it’ll only make the feeling of needing to go to the toilet worse. So best way to avoid this problem is to go to the toilet before leaving the house.
5. Sign the back of your bank card, because if you ever need to sign when making purchases, your signature will be checked. If your signature does not match very well, you may need to provide other evidence that the card is yours, such as ID that has your name and face on it. If you don’t have your signature on the back of your card, then ensure you have some other form of ID, just in case. It happened to me once at WHSmith in Elephant and Castle. I told the lady that I have other ID to prove that the card is mine, as the name matches with all my other cards, but she was being a racist bitch and wouldn’t allow me to make my purchase. So I had to find an ATM and withdraw cash, and then she checked my cash to see if it was real – when she didn’t check the cash for the person who paid before me! Some people are like that – because you’re foreign or ‘not white’, they will try to find a reason to claim that the card is not yours, making your life more difficult than it needs to be.
As I said before, at the end of the day, the only person that can help you is yourself! Even if you make friends or find a friend from back home, that doesn’t mean they will help you… most likely they won’t! Don’t be offended by this, because they are looking after their own necks too, but if they tell you to do something you feel like it’s not right due to money situations or whatever, then simply say ‘No, I can’t at the moment’. They might find you boring and be upset, but they will completely understand as they’ve likely been through that situation as well. You need to focus on you, this is your travel experience, no one else’s, so don’t get caught up in their travels! Do what you want to do, isn’t that the whole reason why you decided to travel to the other side of the world alone!
I hope these tips are helpful for you, I’ve got so much to say on so many things, but I don’t want to make my blogposts too long, so I’ve got to split everything up into topics! If there’s anything you want to know, as I will try to cover as many of the things that I went through.