I thought this was a post worth writing about as many people have asked me about the who, what, when, where and how’s of moving to London.
The first thing you will most likely be thinking of is what area to live in. There are many nice areas to choose from. A lot of South Africans or Saffas as we are called here, live in the South or SW of London in places such as Wimbledon, Wandsworth, Richmond, Raynes Park, Putney, Colliers Wood, Morden. I live on the opposite side of London in the NE and I’m very happy here. A few nice areas on this side that I know of are Highbury & Islington, South Woodford, Snaresbrook, Buckhurst Hill, Loughton and Epping. Friends of mine mentioned to me that it was easier for them to find a place in the SW because it’s renowned for South Africans. The estate agent was more inclined to help them even though they had just moved to London and didn’t yet have jobs.
The average rent for your own place could be anything from £800+ depending on the area. If you are open to house sharing then it could be anything from £450+. You’ll most likely be expected to put down at least a month’s rent as a deposit. These are websites that you can use to check out property rentals:
Opening a UK Bank account: When I arrived years ago, I used a company called 1stContact to help me with opening a bank account. Previously I heard some people had issues trying to open a bank account on their own. I’m not sure how difficult it is now but this could be a company worth looking into. You will also need to apply for a National Insurance number. It’s basically a number on a card for tax purposes and also allows you to use the government health services for free.
Job hunting: The average UK salary is about £25000 whilst the average salary in London is about £31000. Initially your biggest expenses will probably be rent and transport. Food is fairly affordable and a lot cheaper in comparison to SA. Whilst job hunting, it would be useful to set up a LinkedIn profile to start forming your professional network. Many employment agents also use this site for job advertisements. If you’re unsure of how LinkedIn works, it’s basically a professional networking site similar to Facebook. You would create a profile however detailed or summarized you’d like it to be similar to your CV. You then connect to people that you’ve worked with in the past gradually forming your professional network. These are a few other job websites:
Transport: If you use the tube or bus daily for commuting to work, it’s worth getting an Oyster card. This can be purchased from the ticket machines at tube stations.This is a plastic travel card that looks like a debit card which you use to store your travel card and cash. Travel in London is charged by zones. Zone 1 starts in the middle of London going outwards up to Zone 9. So you would purchase a travel card to commute from the zone that you live in to the zone that you work in. Travel cards are available for 7 days, monthly or annually. If you don’t commute daily you could also use the pay as you go option where you can top up your Oyster card with cash. TFL now also allows you to use your debit or credit contactless card for pay as you go. The pay as you go rates can work out a little more expensive than purchasing a monthly travel card if you commute often.
If you are staying further outside of London, the National Rail website will be able to help you with your journey planning: www.nationalrail.co.uk
If you’re working and living in London you’ll most likely be walking everywhere. Using Google Maps or CityMapper is fantastic for finding your way around and even better if you have a smartphone with these apps on it. I personally haven’t used CityMapper but a few people have mentioned it to me. Searching for an address in the UK works by using the postcode of the address. This takes you to the exact street of your destination. As a South African I think this is brilliant as you don’t need to type the full address for your start and end destination 🙂
SIM cards: You can get a free sim card online which offers good rates for calls to South Africa. At the time of writing, Vectone Mobile offers landline calls at 1p per min and mobile calls at 5p per min.
Health services: Once you’ve settled into your new area, you may want to register at your local doctor. You can find your local GP on the NHS site by entering the postcode in the search box to find the local services. The process usually works by contacting your local doctor to find out if they are accepting new patients. You will then need to complete a registration form which you can either collect from the doctor or download one from the NHS site. When you drop off your completed form, you will also need to provide your passport and proof of residence. A council tax bill or utility bill can be used to prove your address. An appointment is then made with the nurse to check your current state of health. Thereafter you will then be registered with your new doctor.
South African shops: There is a chain of South African shops in London called The Savanna where you can stock up on biltong, boerewors, Nik Naks, jelly tots, cream soda and all things Saffa 🙂 I know you can find these stores in London Liverpool Street station, Victoria station and London Bridge station. I’ve also been told that you can find the best biltong at Snoggys Butchery in Upper Richmond Road, Putney and Snoggys Wimbledon Station.
Hopefully you will find some of this information helpful. Good luck on this new journey and make the most of the opportunities that may come your way.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” – Samuel Johnson