Moving from the graceful treelined suburbs and busy city of Atlanta to historic London can seem like a bit of culture shock for those not used to a much larger metropolis. Leaving a 200-year-old city for one that is thousands of years old can feel overwhelming, even to the seasoned global worker. However, there is much more to London than its immense history and tremendous population.
London is an enormous, bustling city that offers plenty of diversity in both attractions and accommodations. A major hub of commerce, London boasts a global metropolis of 8.5 million people, where over 300 languages are spoken.
London is made up of 33 boroughs, much like the many suburbs that make up the metro area outside Atlanta, and each London borough is at the very least just as distinct as those in Atlanta.
The food in London is just as varied and unique, with curried sauces being fairly popular. However, Londoners also eat plenty of meats and starches, fish and chips, bangers and mash, and bubble and squeak – an English version of leftovers.
There are American fast food offerings such as McDonald’s, Burger King, TGI Friday’s, and Pizza Hut; London offers its own fast food at Eat, Hamburger Union and Pret.
Comparing London to Atlanta
The London climate, with average highs in the 20s and lows generally remaining above freezing will make the hot Atlanta summers fade in memory. Although, known as a rainy city, London receives only about 29 inches of rainfall a year compared to Atlanta’s wetter 50 inches of annual rainfall.
The main areas of London -- Northeast, North, Northwest, Southwest and Southeast -- are divided by the Thames River, and they are more clearly delineated than the three main areas of Atlanta – Downtown, Midtown and Buckhead. Unlike Atlanta, each of the London boroughs is well connected by public transportation; getting from borough to borough is simple. London has devoted the same commitment as Atlanta in creating and maintaining green spaces throughout the metropolis.
It can be more expensive to live in London than in Atlanta. The average disposable salary for Londoners is slightly less than what residents of Atlanta earn – approximately $3267 compared to Atlanta’s $3480. However, London offers free healthcare and primary and secondary education as well as entertainment attractions, such as the British Museum, which houses the Magna Carta and the Rosetta Stone.
Opening a bank account in London requires a passport and proof of address, and the checking account in Atlanta is a “current account” in London. Banks offer regular and cash cards as well as cash machine (ATM) services. The major banks are HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, Barclays, and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The living costs in London are some of the highest in the world. With a Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 101.99, London outranks New York City at 100 and Atlanta at 74. Most expenses for utilities and food in London will be pricey, but it is possible to live within a budget.
Those looking to save on dining out and cook at home will find groceries tend to cost one-third more than the same items purchased in Atlanta, although some products such as fresh fruits and vegetables are slightly less expensive. Just like Atlanta, big supermarket names are usually cheaper than convenience stores or specialty shops, and include names like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl, M&S and Waitrose.
A move to London from Atlanta means abandoning lengthy traffic jams, searching for parking spaces, and maintaining costly vehicles. Londoners do not need personal vehicles for city transportation due to a well-planned, extensive and efficient public system that connects boroughs via the Underground, also known as the Tube, as well as a variety of coaches, buses, trams and even bicycles for rent. Most Londoners rely on public transportation, loading as much as $124 at a time on Oyster cards to get around town.
The good news is that cost of Internet service is significantly lower in London. Available phone service companies include O2, Vodafone or EE and Virgin Mobile. Staying healthy in London is easy. Gyms such as Virgin Active, Cannons Fitness, Fitness First and LA Fitness, offer a variety of memberships for every pocket.
Health care in London is first class, nationalized and free for many of the services, except parking at hospitals and minimal prescription charges -- about $10 for ages 17 – 59.
New residents take their passports and proof of address to register immediately with a general practitioner because waiting until ill and in need of a doctor will cause delays in obtaining medical attention. There is no charge for registration. Treatment of choice is available through private pay.
Renting an apartment in London is considerably more expensive than renting in Atlanta. A one-bedroom city center apartment averages $2,400 USD compared to $1,041 USD. Prices for an apartment in downtown London are four to five times what they would be in Atlanta.
However, London is no different than Atlanta in that the cost of living space depends largely on location. More affordable locations exist further from the city center.
The spaces indoors and outdoors will be smaller than what is available in Atlanta, and it makes good sense to live close to work and school locations in order to reduce transportation costs. Securing a place to live before arriving in London also will reduce temporary housing expenses.
In addition, some companies will pay for moving employees’ personal items. It is possible that shipping items to London is cheaper than buying new, once there.
The neighborhoods in London are every bit as unique and flavorful as those in Atlanta. The Thames River divides London into two distinct halves, with the area north of the river being the more affluent.
- Family-Friendly: South London is more affordable than many other neighborhoods, and many families with children prefer neighborhoods like Dulwich or even a bit to the southwest, such as Chiswick, Clapham Junction and Clapham South.
- Upmarket: London offers a variety of neighborhood options including the centrally located affluent neighborhoods of Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea. Marylebone in central London offers affluent living in a village setting. Like Buckhead in Atlanta, London’s lively West End is expensive, but can be an experience of a lifetime. It is located in the middle of all that is London and its business – theater, shopping, restaurants, bars, and historical landmarks.
- Hip & Trendy: There are less expensive areas in the West End, such as Soho, which is an up and coming area for nightlife. London offers thriving au courant neighborhoods for everyone: village life (Hampton), warehouse lofts (Shad Thames), modern city life (Covent Garden), and eclectic living (Brixton).
- Up & Coming: North of Soho, Bloomsbury offers quieter living, more trees, easy shopping and theater access. East London is where the hipsters and bankers live. West London offers Hyde Park (King Henry VIII’s old hunting grounds) and well-to-do green areas, as well as Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea. Earl’s Court and Fulham are less expensive alternatives to these neighborhoods.
Schools and Education
While Atlanta attracts the highly educated – over 40% its residents have college degrees, London too is an education powerhouse.
Children from the ages of 5-16 who are dependents of someone legally living in the UK may attend school for free, but in some cases there could be a waiting list.
Schools do not have to accept students who would be enrolled for less than six months or if enrollment is highly competitive. London schoolchildren have access to national and International Baccalaureate curriculum, depending on the school in which they are enrolled. In addition, international schools such as the American School in London (St. John’s Wood) and the International School of London (Chiswick Park) continue curriculum from the student’s home country. School schedules for holidays are comparable to those in Atlanta.
More information can be obtained from the OFSTED (Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) report. Parents with school aged children are encouraged to apply in advance once a neighborhood of residence has been established. Not all registration deadlines are the same; it is recommended to have multiple choices of school in the event that the first choice is unavailable, likely due to living outside a the “catchment area” or school zone.
There are 48 universities in London, and tuition is often cheaper than tuition in the U.S.
Moving from Atlanta to London can be a great adventure. Iced tea and mint juleps will give way to English Breakfast tea and warm beer; car ownership will be a thing of the past, and a vibrant future lies ahead.