Monday, 17 March 2014

Sponsored post: Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Moved to London

From time to time a familiar email lands in my inbox. It goes something like this..."Hi, Accidental Londoner! I'm moving to London from Krakow/Brisbane/Manchester/[insert other place here], and was wondering if you had any advice you would pass on to someone moving to the city?"  I usually email back, and make a few suggestions about useful resources for finding a flatshare, or fun blogs to read up on cool things to do.  But then after I hit 'send' I always remember other things I could have suggested and wish I'd written more. Maybe I should have a stock reply - a do's and don't's for life in London? Kind of like a Mary Schmich-esque commencement speech that the Accidental Londoner would share with an assembly of future citizens of this great place. (Mary Schmich? She wrote this, which Baz Luhrmann later repackaged as this. You know it.) So I've had a go at bundling up some advice for future Londoners...Oh, but a caveat first. Like Mary Schmich's essay, what appears below has "no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience". Take it with a pinch of salt. 

Find a decent place to live. East, West, wherever you like. Even South of the river if you must. Just make sure you share it with nice people. If your housemates turn out to be psychos, move.
Don't live anywhere you feel scared to get home after dark. Don't live anywhere where you can see or smell evidence of damp/rats/mice/previous owners. Avoid living near drug-dealers - they keep supremely antisocial hours.
When choosing a decent location for your new home, apply 'The pint test'; if you can buy a pint of milk and a pint of beer (not necessarily in the same place) somewhere within easy walking distance, you're golden.
Accept that all estate agents are out to shaft you, but don't let them. Try and live somewhere where you can see green space and sky, whatever colour it may be.
Always carry an umbrella. Invest in a utilitarian range of footwear. Buy a big winter coat.
Resist the urge to take all your clothes off on the first sunny day of the year. Be patient and wait for the summer - it will come. Eventually. Drink ro on the pavements after work when it does.
Respectfully share the buses and tube trains with your fellow Londoners. Do not begrudge them their elbow room and they won't complain about being able to hear whatever you're listening to through your headphones.
Do not read other peoples' newspapers on the Tube. Get your own. Just not The Sun.
It's pretty hard not to Mind the Gap, but don't run for closing train doors - it just scares everyone who's already on the train and who thinks you're about to have your head removed from your body.
If you must use Boris Bikes, buy a helmet and use it. If you ride on the DLR, sit at the front of the train and pretend you are driving.
Be open to meeting new people everywhere. Don't reject the possibility that this may take place online. Today, it's really not that strange.
Learn to rebuff unwanted attention. Learn to entertain yourself. Learn how to stare down and trample meandering tourists in the West End.
Don't let London's exterior unfriendliness get you down - there are good, fun, kind people here; seek them out.
Never shop on Oxford Street. Don't regularly frequent bars where a round of drinks costs your weekly pay-cheque. Shop local, and learn your newsagent's name.
Know who your neighbours are, and say hi to them when you pass in the street. 
Embrace opportunity. Say yes to the jobs that don't sound like a dream role, but which offer you something you want. Sometimes good is good enough.
Never work for free unless you truly want to.
Don't worry about a fixed career path - doing something is better than doing nothing at all. Whatever anyone says, no one else's job is perfect either.
Use your holiday allowance. Don't eat lunch at your desk. 
Make life easier for yourself. Buy an Oystercard. Set up auto top-up. (Don't be the person who has to wait in line at every station, whilst your friends tap their feet on the other side of the barrier.)
Keep the number of a reliable taxi firm in your phone for dark, rainy nights when you find yourself miles from home on the other side of the city after the last Tube.
Pay your council tax bill, however eye-wateringly expensive - that's what pays for the streetlights that get you home after a night out.  
Don't be scared of the city, but stay alert. Guard your bags and your pockets.
Don't get lazy - London will call you on it. The city constantly changes, and you may have to too. Change is good; embrace it.
Learn what to do if you lose your wallet or your phone is stolen. In all honesty, it may well happen. But it's not the end of the world.
Nothing here is permanent. This can be both good and bad. You may miss familiar things, but you can also discover wonderful new ones.
Look down every alleyway, particularly the dodgy ones. Walk a different way each time. Explore, and build your own unique mental map of the city. 
Don't think about it too much. Either the decision to moving here initially, or the choices you'll have to make once you get here. If I had truly sat down and thought about some of the biggest things I've done since moving here, I wouldn't have a Masters degree. Or a flat. I would probably also have had the same job for the past six years. 
Oh, and once you're here, living and working, you're a Londoner. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

This post has been written in collaboration with Urbanest. Although I was remunerated for this post, any opinions expressed in the above post are those of The Accidental Londoner alone.


  1. Haha great post, I'm hoping to become a Londoner at some point so when that day finally comes, I'll be sure to check this list out! xxx
    La Lingua : Food, Life, Love, Travel, Friends, Italy

    1. Thanks, Lucy! Hope you do make it down here at some stage...!

  2. And another one...Remember, everyone has their own London... it's remarkable how different it seems to different people.

    1. Yes, very true, Jenny. I hinted at it with my suggestion to "build your own unique mental map of the city", but experiencing any city is so very personal. You're spot on!

  3. "Don't eat lunch at your desk"

    * read whilst.... eating lunch at my desk *


    In all seriousness though, loved this post. Was a brilliant read!

    1. Ha ha! Oh, I'm so guilty of that too - I can dole out the advice but I'm not so good at following it myself. It's all too easy to get a bit lazy. Maybe the sunshine (if it reappears) will tempt us out of the office again, Lucy...!

  4. I shall be sure to take your advice Flora next time I'm on the DLR! I loved reading this post, nothing new there though, it has some great tips/pointers. I do feel a little old however at the reminder of that Baz Luhrmann song. X

    1. Gosh, I know, it came out when I was about 13 - it makes me feel ancient to realise that now! Time flies eh? But I definitely still listen once in a while when it appears on my iPod. And I think I like it more now, the words from that original essay have a greater resonance now, than they did for my teenage self.

  5. Great advice. Expect one thing: I love reading someone else's paper. I don't know why. It is always more interesting than mine. Another thing that I love about London is trying a new coffee shop from time to time. As you say, being open to change is part of being a Londoner, right?

    1. Well quite. And that is a serious London commuter habit...I totally do it to without noticing I am; but then if someone does it to me I do find it annoying so I try to be stealthy.

      Trying London coffee shops has to be one of the best things about this place - I love how you can find good independent places all over the city and you don't have to get stuck with Starbucks!

  6. 'Always carry an umbrella.' hahaha ;) ok. It's not only an useful piece of advice for future Londoners but also for tourists. I've been to London for a couple of times and I've always forgotten to take my umbrella :)

    1. Good point - maybe I should have titled it 'Advice for visitors and locals' too then, Jane?

  7. This is great!! Everyone moving to London should read it!

    Rosie xx


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