Last updated on Feb 05, 2023
Summary: London, UK is a vibrant, bustling city with a rich history and culture. Expats love the diversity of the city, the abundance of activities and attractions, and the easy access to the rest of Europe. The weather in London is generally mild, with temperatures ranging from the mid-30s to the mid-60s Fahrenheit (1-18 Celsius). The cost of living for an expat in London can vary greatly depending on lifestyle and location. Generally, the average cost of living for an expat in London is around $3,000-$4,000 USD per month. The cost of a one bedroom apartment in London can range from $1,500-$2,500 USD per month, while a two bedroom apartment can range from $2,000-$3,500 USD per month. The population of London is estimated to be around 8.9 million people.
What do I need to know about living in London?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to London, they said:
"When retiring in London, it is important to consider all aspects of life. The cost of living in London will be high and will require a budget to ensure one can sustain themselves after retirement. It is important to research the types of accommodation available and also to consider purchasing medical insurance for peace of mind. Pension and retirement income may differ from the UK national average, so it is important to be mindful of this when making your decision. It is also worth researching the different types of retirement communities and lifestyle options London has to offer. Furthermore, understanding the limitations and requirements of immigration and visas is important should you wish to relocate to London in the future. Lastly, it is key to investigate and understand the local taxes, public transportation and other public services to ensure everything runs smoothly when you arrive in the city," added another expat who made the move to London.
"London takes time to know and understand, as do Londoners. Do not take our common language for granted - it takes effort to make friends and to settle in, learning English rythms, ways of seeing the world. Do not mistake friendly responses for friendship; in most cases, it's simply their being polite. Be patient and you will eventually feel as though you're accepted," explained one expat living in London, UK.
What do I need to know before moving to London?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to London, they said:
"Before moving to London it is important to research the area you would like to live in. It is also a good idea to become familiar with the transport system and calculate the cost of travel to the places you will be frequenting, such as work and leisure activities. You will also need to make sure you have the required documentation needed to live in the UK and check what healthcare coverage is available to you. Know the cost of living, budgeting and taxes to prevent yourself from financial difficulties. Familiarize yourself with the culture, customs, traditions and language to ensure you feel comfortable in the city. Finally, make sure you have a good support system in place, friends and family can offer a great support network," remarked another expat living in London, UK.
"When you first move to London, you definitely want to live somewhere in the center, preferably the west end side of it, as this is where you will find the majority of other expats," added another expat in London.
How do I find a place to live in London?
We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:
"Finding a place to live in London can be a daunting task. You should start your search by researching the different areas in London so you can decide which one is right for you. Consider what your needs are, such as nearby amenities, transport links, and proximity to work or school. You should also research the different types of accommodation available, such as renting, shared housing, housing associations, or buying. Once you’ve established the type of accommodation that’s right for you, it’s time to start searching. You can look online - there are lots of websites that list properties - or use a local letting/estate agent. Open viewing days are a good way to view lots of properties at once, and to get a better feel for the area. Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider getting professional help from a specialist London estate agent," wrote a member in London.
"I have moved several times since first moving to London. I now live near Marble Arch, which is very central (right next to Hyde Park and to Oxford Street). I've used Loot several times. More recently, I've been using London Property Watch," commented one expat who made the move to London.
What is a typical expat home or apartment like in London?
"Typical expat homes and apartments in London range in size and style depending on the budget and preferences of the individual or family. Generally, apartments located in the city center tend to be smaller with fewer or no amenities than those located in the suburban areas. They often come fully furnished, with the basic white goods and appliances. Many buildings have high security, with secure entry systems, CCTV cameras, and residents usually have access to a communal garden or patio. On-street parking can be limited, with some residences offering off-street parking as well as storage facilities," wrote a member in London.
"I live in a flat, which is typical for the vast majority of expats who live in central London. I have also juts purchased a house, however it is in Zone 3, maybe 7 miles south of central London, where house prices are still somewhat affordable. The majority of expats however live in central London, and only the hedge fund manager and investment bankers among them can afford to buy property in central London," commented one expat who made the move to London.
What is the average cost of housing in London?
If you are thinking about moving to London, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:
"The cost of housing in London varies depending on the area and type of property. Generally, rental prices in the city tend to be higher than the UK average and can range from around £1,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in a cheaper area, to over £4,000 a month for a luxury apartment in a more affluent neighbourhood," remarked another expat who made the move to London.
"Housing costs are definitely higher here, significantly so. To rent a 2-bed apartment in a central location, you have to count with at least £400 per week," explained one expat living in London, UK.
How do I meet people in London?
When we asked people living in London about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:
"London is a great place to meet new people. Try joining a local sports team or recreational group. There are often fare exchange programmes that have been designed to help you meet people with similar interests. You can also try joining a student association or attending the local pub quiz night. Alternatively, try signing up to meetups, social clubs, volunteering programmes, and networking events. Checking out the local bar scene is always a great way to meet people, especially at places like Freedom, The Lifeboat, or Dirty Dicks. Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities, events, and activities that London has to offer," explained one expat living in London, UK.
"Become a member of something that interests you, whether a service organization, sport, art, or hobby. For instance, I joined the Royal Horticultural Society, which oversees several gardens in the UK, as well as organizing internationally regarded garden shows, as well as a community ceramics studio," said another expat in London.
What should I bring when moving to London?
People living in London were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:
"Clothing appropriate for the weather (warm layers, raincoat), cleaning supplies, basic kitchen items (dishware, pots and pans, kettle, toaster), bedding and linens, toiletries, documents (passport, visas, etc.), laptop and chargers, router, first aid kit, cash and credit cards, travelers insurance, medication, maps and guidebooks, umbrellas, and power adapters," explained one expat living in London, UK.
"Wish I had brought: 1) TV 2) Paintings Wish I had left at home: 1) School books 2) Valuables (I was burglared in first week in London)," said another expat in London.
Where should I setup a bank account in London?
We asked expats in London what banks they use and there advice about banking. They advised:
"There are many banks in London offering banking services, so you will have the opportunity to choose the institution that best fits your needs. Banks with a presence in London include, but are not limited to, Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, Santander, and Metro Bank. You may compare the features and benefits offered by each of these banks to determine which institution is best for you. Additionally, many of the major banks in the UK offer online services so you can open an account without visiting a branch," commented one expat who made the move to London.
Will I be able to find a job in London?
When we asked people about industries and career opportunities in London, they reponded:
"It is possible to find a job in London. There are a variety of job opportunities available across sectors such as finance and business, technology and media, healthcare, education, hospitality and more. It is recommended to research the job market in London and to network within the relevant industry to find job leads. Additionally, there are several online websites, such as job search engines, online job boards and classifieds, which can be used to search for jobs in London," added another expat who made the move to London.
"All major industries are represented. London is a major financial center and other industries, as well," explained one expat living in London, UK.
What is life like in London?
When we asked people living in London what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:
"Life as an expat in the area can be quite enjoyable. There are many job opportunities due to the high demand of workers, so it is easy to find work. The area enjoys a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a range of different cultures and nationalities all living together in harmony. There are plenty of activities to do such as fine dining, shopping, sightseeing and nightlife, which makes life as an expat a lot of fun. The climate is also fairly mild all year round, which makes it a great place to live and explore. Additionally, the cost of living is reasonable and transportation is convenient, with many public and private options available. Overall, it's an attractive place to be an expat and enjoy the local culture and lifestyle," added another expat who made the move to London.
"Life in London revolves around work. From my personal experience work is almost the only way to meet and become friends with people. This being if you find work at all, because is you are from overseas employers don't consider you competent enough despite of your flawless English and experience, so you start often at training level. However if you are a citizen of a common wealth country you are treated a little better. I find the English to be very funny, polite, organised and tolerant, but never embrasing. I find that different nationalitys and races live in harmony here but they often don't mix I feel people in London could be more open and friendly. I must say though, that as a gay man in my late 20's I could not ask for more entertainment alternatives and many are offered to the gay market, London is great like that. One last coment, my boyfriend is from New Zealand and our group of friends is formed only by expats, what a shame," explained one expat living in London, UK.
What do expats in London appreciate most about the local culture?
"Expats living in London appreciate the multicultural nature of the city, with a vibrant and diverse population. They also enjoy the local cuisine, which is a mix of traditional English dishes, as well as international options, allowing for a range of different culinary experiences. Expats can often be found taking advantage of the wide range of museums and galleries, enjoying theatre shows or live music performances in one of the city's many venues, and wandering the beautiful parks scattered throughout London. They also enjoy the numerous events and festivals, providing a great chance to experience the culture and atmosphere of the city," wrote a member in London.
What do expats find most challenging?
"Expats often find the process of adjusting to a new culture, language, and lifestyle to be greatly challenging. Establishing a support network to help cope with the difficult transition can often times be difficult for a newcomer. Additionally, grappling with bureaucracy, navigating unfamiliar customs and navigating a new lifestyle can feel daunting and disorienting to expats. Even something as simple as finding decent and affordable housing in an unfamiliar environment can be a huge challenge. These issues, along with feelings of loneliness, homesickness and culture shock, can cause stress and anxiety and negatively affect the experience of an expat," remarked another expat living in London, UK.
Is there a lot of crime in London?
We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:
"No, while London is a large city, it is also one of the safest global cities in the world. London has one of the lowest murder rates compared to other major cities, and it also has a low rate of reported crimes compared to other cities of its size," remarked another expat who made the move to London.
Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in London accepting of differences?
"Yes, London is a very diverse and multicultural city in which people from all backgrounds and cultures coexist peacefully. Differences are not just tolerated, but celebrated, and there are numerous initiatives to help foster acceptance and integration, such as London's diverse range of food festivals and street markets, showcasing international cuisine and culture. The city also has a vibrant nightlife, where different cultures meet and celebrate, and a broad range of social venues and organisations that bring people together," remarked another expat living in London, UK.
"London is a very integrated and accepting city. People who come here should expect a level playing field as far as race is concerned," added another expat in London.
What are the schools in London like?
"Schools in London generally offer a wide variety of educational choices. The majority of state schools in London provide a high quality education, rated often as ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ by Ofsted, the UK independent schools inspectorate. London also offers a huge selection of private and international schools, providing different curriculums and tailored services to meet the needs of a diverse range of students. Many schools in London have strong international connections and provide opportunities to study abroad," remarked another parent with kids at in London.
"Consider ACS if you are not up to challenging your children to take on the British system, which will demand more at an early age. Hillingdon is located in the wonderful, family friendly county of Buckinghamshire (Bucks) and it has 2 other affiliate campuses. Talk to the admin people to get best advice on where other expats live so you don't feel so isolated and can be in a neighborhood where your child may more likely have a friend right away," explained one expat living in London, UK.
What are the pros and cons of living in London?
Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in London responded:
"London is a very international city with many opportunities, however it can be expensive. You can make friends and date, however you need to make an effort. Unfortunately the British are quite insular and Brexit has not helped this and will not help the country economically in future. The National Health Service is overall quite good, however you sometimes need to be assertive to get what you need as they're always trying to save money. The cost of housing can be quite high, but that doesn't mean the quality or cleanliness is good. Renting a nice, clean flat at a reasonable price can be problematic," said an expat in London.
"London is one of the great cities of the world - its way of life, diverse population, great public transport, choice of entertainment and great food are huge pluses. I love to cook, so the access to the highest quality ingredients is a huge attraction (think Borough Market and great online grocery ordering) as are it's wonderful 'city of villages' feel. From one end to the other, the River Thames is its lifeblood and we have lived overlooking it, as well as literally on it in a converted Dutch barge. The NHS healthcare system is good for basic coverage but, like all socialized services, access to specialists, testing, imaging and so forth are all rationed and, as such, you wait. And wait. That said, we plan to purchase a pied-a-terre here. It's a great place to invest and having this world at our doorstep and Europe across the Channel is what we want as we grow older. ," remarked another expat in London.
What type of social life can someone expect in London?
When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in London, they replied:
"London is very international and if you make an effort you can have friends from a variety of countries," mentioned an expat living in London.
"Londoners are very polite, in general. That said, this politeness can be mistaken for an openness to new friendships and this is seldom the case," said an expat in London.
What are medical services in London like?
When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in London, they replied:
"NHS is okay for minor healthcare - check ups, vaccines, etc. that said, the women's check up (PAP smea) is archaic! Facilities don't have the proper examination table-stirrups to do a thorough screen," added one expat living in London.
About the Author
Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.