Accepting a corporate relocation offer to work in a London-based branch of your company can seem like a dream come true. You'll get the incredible experience of living and working abroad, but in a city where you already speak the local language. You won't have any trouble reading the signs or conversing with people. How hard could it be to fit in?
If this is what you're thinking, you're partially right -- London is a terrific city to live in, and many expats love it once they've had some time to adjust. However, that adjustment period may not be as easy as you might expect. Following are a few things that you need to know to make the transition easier and help you settle in to expat life in London.
Get Familiar With Public Transportation
Traveling by Tube is more practical than driving in London.
If you're moving from the US, there's a good chance that you're used to driving to work every day, and driving for most other daily errands as well. Driving is part of the culture in most US cities, and in many areas, public transportation is less than ideal and walking isn't practical.
In London, you'll probably find it much more difficult to drive everywhere -- and not just because you'll be driving on the opposite side of the road. London roads are often congested. Many are narrow and difficult to drive on. Plus, driving is expensive in the city. It's more affordable and practical to walk or take public transportation if possible.
One of the first things that you should do is familiarize yourself with the public transportation options in London. You can find apps on your phone that will help you find the Tube or bus routes that you need. A city map app can also be a big help when you're on foot.
Say Goodbye to All-Night Shopping
If you're in the habit of doing the grocery shopping at 2:00AM to avoid lines, you're going to have to make some changes when you move to London. Supermarkets are usually closed by 9:00PM. This can come as a shock to many expats from the US, where you can shop for nearly anything at pretty much any time of the day or night.
Once you've adjusted to the routine in your new city, you probably won't mind the early hours. However, in the beginning it may require some planning ahead. Check to see if you need diapers for the baby or a prescription refilled before night time, because you may not be able to get what you need easily once it gets late.
You're Going to Spend More Money
London's many historic and iconic sites are part of what make the city great.
The cost of living in London is very high. One of the biggest expenses that you'll face is housing -- London has many positives, but it's not known for an abundance of affordable housing. Whether you're planning on renting or buying, you'll need a large down payment, and you'll probably need to plan on spending more of your income on housing than you did in the US.
You should start researching housing costs and other expenses in London as soon as you're offered the relocation, and before you accept. It's smart to get an idea of how your budget is going to change. Furthermore, if you know whether and how much your cost of living is going to increase, you can use that to negotiate a cost of living increase as part of your relocation package.
While some things about London may come as a shock, it's still one of the most famous, interesting, and beloved cities in the world, and it's well worth making the effort to adjust to the changes so that you can fully appreciate the experience of living there. For more useful corporate relocation tips, follow us on Facebook