So you’ve arrived, Welcome! Hopefully now you’ve got your bearings between Big Ben and Hyde Park and maybe even managed to get a few things done from the first part of your Guide to London: Your First Few Weeks.
Now you’re ready to start flat hunting, finding your community and settling into your new life. Well you’ve come to the right place!
Finding a Flat
It’s hard to know where to start looking for a flat in London. Where are the cool areas to live? What tube line is it on? and most importantly where’s the nearest pub? Well of course the answers to your questions depend on many variables, but I can offer some of my own personal perspective to get you started.
Areas in London I can provide some insight on are:
- Clapham Common is a welcoming and open area about a half hour commute from the city by bike, bus or tube. It’s on the Northern line and also Cycle Superhighway 7. Clapham is quite well known for being where a lot of Kiwis and Australians settle when they first arrive. There is also a large park which people like to strip off and sunbath in when there’s any remote show of sunshine, plenty of cafes, bars and even a few nightclubs.
- Shoreditch is the sort of hipster, arty, night life centre. Also about a 25-30 min journey into the centre and connected to the underground network by the Northern line. There’s a little less green space around here, but certainly plenty of bars, restaurants and food markets to choose from. It’s one of the most popular areas to go out in at night.
- Brixton is famous for being home to the late David Bowie and is sometimes referred to as an up and coming neighbourhood, which is why you may find some slightly cheaper rooms here. Only about a 20-25 min journey to the centre as Brixton is on the relatively newer Victoria underground line (which now operates overnight on weekends too woohoo!). Even if you don’t end up living here, make sure to make a visit to Brixton Village Market for foods from around the globe.
Popular Flat Hunting Websites are Spareroom and Gumtree, and then there’s also the weekly flat post on the Kiwis in London Facebook Page. Spareroom also has a very useful tool which allows you to search based on the underground lines.
Most flats will require a deposit up front, usually equal to about one months rent, in addition to your first rent payment as well. This can be a lot of money to front up at once, so if you need some time to save up the cash, you could also look for short-term rentals. These usually pop up because a current flatmate is going on a long holiday and they want someone to cover their rent while they’re away. This can be a great way to try out living in different areas of London.
Finding Your Community
If you’ve moved here knowing noone, it will take a little while to build up a familiar community network again. So how can you speed up the process?
When we arrived in the UK we really knew noone, as we were the first of our friends to make the voyage over, so it really has been like starting all over again, building our life up from scratch.
The way we originally met and became friends with quite a few people was by staying in short term flat rentals. We did this about three or four times before we finally moved into a permanent flat of our own and though it wasn’t planned and seemed quite a lot of effort at the time, it turned out to be a really great way to get to know people in our local area. Now we are living in the same general area as where we stayed in those short term lets and even just knowing a few people in the area makes you feel like part of a community.
This is something I haven’t really tested out myself, but if you haven’t already heard, there is very active Facebook groups for Kiwis in London and Aussies in London, and equivalents for other countries, who host regular open invite events etc.
Finally, if you’re not here necessarily to make a name for yourself, career-wise that is, I would suggest looking for work with like-minded people, where you can meet and make friends. It might sound lame, but the truth is you spend eight hours a day with your colleagues so you might as well enjoy their company! The same is also very important when choosing your flat. These are the people you will get to know and network with, they will become your family, so choose good ones this time!
If you’re reading this cause you’re super insanely organised and you haven’t actually left home yet, then you might also like to know what it’s like to arrive in London for the first time…