Moving to London from the US
Almost since it was founded by the Romans in 43 AD, London (or Londinium as it was called then) has been one of the largest settlements in the world. Today it is the largest city in the European Union and one of the most economically important cities in the world.
With over 480 overseas banks employing over 300,000 people and holding 4 times the UK GDP on their books, London is a financial centre like no other: the city’s skyline is dominated by the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City of London.
All this economic activity means that London is awash with employment opportunities for migrants with the right skills. They flock to London in their droves, making up 37% of the city’s inhabitants, and helping create a diversity of culture, language and cuisine that is unmatched anywhere in the world, with the possible exception of New York.
From high art to graffiti; haute cuisine to street meats; opera to hip hop; ballet to drum ‘n’ bass; narrow alleys to huge Royal Parks; restaurants at the top of skyscrapers to 17th Century pubs; Mayfair to Mile End; whatever your tastes demand they can be satisfied in London, a city where boredom is never on the menu.
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Adjusting to London life
Moving from the US to London can be a puzzling experience due to London’s many contradictions. A city that was never planned but grew from a small settlement, absorbing numerous towns and hamlets as it expanded, London’s geography can be incredibly confusing.
For a start, despite its compact size relative to many US cities, it isn’t a particularly easy city to get around. It’s much less friendly to the pedestrian than, say, New York with its grid pattern of streets, possibly more hostile to the motorist than even Los Angeles and is replete with a public transit system (the London Underground) that is as outdated as it is complicated. Most subway trains still lack air conditioning and, originally designed for the vertically challenged 19th Century Londoners, should be avoided by the claustrophobic.
On the positive side, the city is becoming increasingly bike-friendly and a congestion charge has eradicated the worst of the air pollution.
The welfare state, and social housing in particular, has turned London into a patchwork of rich and poor neighbourhoods – it’s not uncommon to see council housing blocks in the heart of the city where property prices are otherwise sky-high – which adds to the diversity as well as the difficulty of figuring out where exactly you are.
Rent and property prices in London are among the highest in the world and usually account for the lion’s share of a Londoner’s income. Property prices surged prior to the global financial crisis and have somewhat cooled off since whereas rents have soared due to huge demand.
Comparing London to New York
While London doesn’t reach the soaring highs of a New York City summer, stopping short at maximum temperatures in the mid-nineties, neither does it match NYC for the coldness of its winters, with temps in January and February rarely dropping a couple of degrees below freezing and snowfall far from guaranteed.
Despite some of the highest rents in the world, London’s are still lagging behind New York’s. Property prices though are much less affordable when compared to the average salary and you’ll also pay more to eat out, for utilities, for transport and for consumer goods.
London’s higher commute times are mitigated by lower pollution and the better healthcare available to its residents.
Much like New York, London’s list of cultural, culinary and entertainment offerings is much too large sum up in a single paragraph. Whether it’s historic locations like the Tower of London that float your boat or checking out the view from The Shard (the city’s highest building); eating at a three Michelin star restaurant (there are three) or grabbing a Brick Lane bagel at 3am; watching the Royal Ballet or Fulham at home to Stoke (soccer); boating on the Serpentine in Hyde Park or grinding at one the capital’s many skateparks; London has it all.