Samuel Johnson famously said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.” Indeed there is something uniquely unending about the possibilities of life in this city.
Whether due to the striking blend of medieval and modern, an ever-thriving creative culture, or just sheer size, tourists and residents alike find that there is always a new facet of London to discover.
Arlingtonians moving to London have already experienced their fair share of fast paced urban life and grand scale city experience, since the nation’s capitol is only a stone’s throw away.
Yet there is no equating the drastic difference in size and heritage that the mover will notice as they transition from a young county of roughly 300,000, to an ancient city of 8 million. While the greater DC area and London both carry a strong international and political presence, London has long led the world in culture, finance, fashion, and education.
It is hard to compare a city that boasts four UNESCO World Heritage sites, three of the top ten most visited museums in the world, and more than 300 languages spoken by its population.
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There is no doubt that you will be delighted by London’s eclectic atmosphere, however settling in on the practical side of life might prove more challenging.
Overall the transition from Arlington to London should be a smooth one. You won't find yourself out of place or missing familiar comforts, as England and the US share many of the same brands, restaurant chains, and entertainment culture. Also like Arlington and the DC area, London has a heavy international presence, and a newly settled American won’t be an anomaly to the locals.
Comparing Arlington to London
While the DC area experiences its fair share of rain, the first thing the mover will notice is the increased necessity of an umbrella. London is famous for its temperamental skies, with frequent rain following short bouts of sunshine. However, the London climate is less extreme, and rarely experiences the freezing temperatures or humid heat waves that characterize the greater DC area.
An exciting difference will be the new amount of cultural events and nightlife options. The recent development of DC’s Northwest U-Street Corridor, or the Clarendon neighborhood bar scene, is a small-scale taste of what a weekend in London has to offer.
With over 17,000 music performances a year, nightly live comic shows, and festivals year round the city, it is clear that the city has something for everyone. More specifically, the east side of London is well known for its independent art scene and cutting edge music scene, while West London is better known for its theater and traditional pubs.
Transportation is easier in London than in Arlington. It is generally impractical to live in Arlington without a car, but in London a car is by no means necessary. Bus, train, and underground stops are more accessible and frequent. Unlike the DC area, one can reach nearly any destination through greater public transport. Londoners also report spending less time in commute. Cost of living in London
On average, the cost of living in London is higher than that of Arlington and the greater DC area. According to numbeo.com, to maintain the same standard of living moving from Arlington to London requires roughly $700 more per month.
The main differences in costs pertain to rent and transportation. A monthly travel pass in London costs nearly double than in DC, and rent price are an estimated 21.38% higher than in Arlington.
A night out in London, while more expensive, is not too significantly different than an evening in finer DC areas. A cocktail in London is $3-4 more than the average Clarendon or U-Street bar, but a mid-level meal will cost roughly the same. Grocery costs in London are significantly lower, with fruit and vegetables nearly half the cost. However, the high costs of utilities and consumer goods make up for the difference in grocery savings.
London housing prices have increased in the past year by 13%, with an average price of $502,000 USD. The most expensive neighborhoods for property are Kensington, Chelsea, and Knightsbridge, where housing prices can reach beyond $30m. Moving into London’s zone 2 provides similar amenities of central London with more affordable housing prices. Neighborhoods like New Cross and Brockley offer two bedroom homes in the range of $300,000 USD, with quick connections to the rest of the city.
The majority of Londoners choose to rent, at an average $2,393 for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center. Moving away from the city center sees a decent drop in the average one bedroom price, at $1,565. Again, moving to zone 2 or 3 offers more affordable options, with some neighborhoods offering nearly half the rental price of a zone 1 neighborhood.
Budget is clearly the main factor in choosing a home in London, but each neighborhood has a distinct atmosphere and takes on its own unique personality. Taking time to research neighborhoods is necessary as you make the move, since each offers a distinct and inimitable character.
- Family-friendly: Dulwich and Richmond, both south of the river, have plenty of green park spaces with friendly cafes and restaurants. St John’s Wood, in Northwest London, has a quiet, residential feel with a reputation for good schools. Islington, in Northeast, is a good option for younger families who want a friendly feel without losing an urban edge.
- Upmarket: If you are looking for the more quintessential London experience, as represented by a Hollywood version of the city, Notting Hill, Kensington, and Chelsea are the up-market neighborhoods that embody classic London. These areas belong to the wealthier set and are characterized by beautiful white buildings and sprawling parks. Other upmarket neighborhoods further from central include Wimbledon and Kew, which are akin to Arlington’s Country Club Hills neighborhood.
- Hip and Trendy: East London is home to the hipper crowds, and is more affordable than West and Central London. Neighborhoods like Dalston and Shoreditch are home to a unique blend of bohemia and young professionals, with some of the hippest bars and galleries that the city has to offer. Any stop on the East London Line between Islington and Wapping, and you’ll notice a more hectic, but creative energy that invites an edgier crowd.
- Up and Coming: South London is on the up and coming list. With its affordable pricing that draws a younger population, cool cafes and independent, offbeat businesses are popping up in south neighborhoods like Brixton and Deptford. The recent development of South Arlington’s Columbia Pike area is a feasible comparison to the blend of minorities, younger people, and increasing urban cool that characterizes up and coming South London.
Schools and Education in London
According to former Mayor Boris Johnson’s 2014 Education Report, London is leading the UK at every stage of education, with young Londoner’s achieving some of the best results in the country.
An estimated 93% of the English population chooses to send their children to state-funded schools as opposed to independent or ‘public school’. Children are assigned schools based on addressed, so before moving it is best to research the local schools to ensure the offered programs are suited for your child.
State-funded schools are free with the exception of some resource fees for field trips.
London is also home to an array of independent and international schools, with tuition rates averaging $15,367 per year. The private American School in London and International School of London are options for American style of education for expats.
The UK educational system follows a different structure than that of the American three-tiered system. Children attend primary school from ages 5-11, and then transition to secondary school until age 16. While in secondary school, students will take GCSE examinations to determine the next phase of education or formal training.
Should a student decide to proceed with formal education they will attend ‘college’ or ‘sixth form’ till age 18, with a focus of fewer, specialized subjects, in contrast to the general studies approach of the US high school and university system.