Home Expat Life Advice for Moving to London from the US

Advice for Moving to London from the US

by Krista
Moving to London from the US? I've got advice for you!

Moving to London from the US? I’ve got so much advice for you!

Advice for Moving to London from the US

As an American who done the whole moving to London from the US thing not once but twice now, I have a lot of tips and advice on how to ease an expat international move, and especially an expat move to London. It kills me when I see people make the move and then struggle to do it all…numerous trips to John Lewis and Argos, packing and unpacking, missing out on great resources, discounts, and general savings in time and aggravation. So if you’re moving to London from the US, with family or on your own and whether you’re moving from NYC or Chicago or elsewhere, I hope this blog post and checklist will help! (But I can’t help with visas. I don’t provide any visa advice here because I came over on an inter-company transfer visa many years ago and that type of visa doesn’t even exist anymore! Which is actually something that’s important to mention — if I’ve learned anything about life in the UK it’s that laws can change OVERNIGHT so as soon as you qualify for anything like residency, lock that sh*t down. When I first arrived, it was four years for residency and five years for citizenship. Now it’s five years for residency and six years for citizenship and many visas don’t count towards residency anymore.)

How I Moved to London from the US…Twice

If you’re arriving to this blog post from Google, here’s my short story. I’m from the US — Long Island, New York originally — but after graduating from the University of Notre Dame many years ago, I got a job in Chicago. My US employer in Chicago then transferred me to London in 2004 — that’s when I started this blog! They transferred me back to Chicago in 2010. In 2014, I decided that I missed London tremendously — I find life here in London EXTREMELY amazing and convenient — so I decided to move back. I started this blog to chronicle my mostly culinary adventures — London food gets a really bad rap from Americans which upsets me greatly — although now my blog has morphed into something more travel-and-food oriented. (London is obviously a great base to explore from.)

Over the years, I have maintained an informal “Moving to London checklist” and list of resources for anyone moving to London from the US. I’ve decided to formalize this in a blog post– so please feel free to share this with any expat friends. While this blog post is slightly geared towards an American moving to London, 90% probably applies to just about anyone moving to London from another country.

If there is anything I’ve forgotten to include in this blog post or if you have other tips to share, please leave a comment! (And please read the comments too because there are some good gems in there.)

Read Watching the English before/during Your Move

Because the US and the UK are separated by a common language, I highly recommend any American moving to London buy and read Watching the English by Kate Fox. It will help you understand A LOT of British things like class consciousness and queuing and the unspoken rules it may take you a while to understand otherwise. Kate is a a highly engaging social anthropologist and she has done a great job of observing and critiquing her own people.

After moving to London from the US in 2004, I found my first flat in Shad Thames by Tower Bridge.

After moving to London from the US in 2004, I found my first flat in Shad Thames by Tower Bridge.

Advice for Americans Moving to London on Finding a Flat

OK, more practical stuff. Renting. London flats don’t operate on the New York City and Chicago schedule of “You must find your flat two to three months before you move in.” You just don’t see people searching that far in advance in London. When I moved from the US to the UK the first time, I arrived on March 31st. I looked at about five flats, picked an awesome one (seriously awesome), and moved in on April 23rd and that was mainly because my corporate housing went through April 23rd. When I moved from the US to the UK the second time in 2014, I arrived June 26th, looked at about five flats, picked an awesome one, and moved in on July 10th. The background check will take about 5 days (or at least it did in my latest case), which will affect the start date of your lease. (I was seriously ready to move in on July 5th, but had to wait for the background check to complete.)

Oddly for most Americans, most flats in London come furnished or some version thereof. This can work out though! My first London flat in Shad Thames came with all the things I didn’t have (a big dining table, sideboard, coffee table) and I brought my bedroom set and a sofabed. If you want unfurnished, you might find that you have a smaller number of flats to choose from.

Rents are (oddly) quoted by the week, although you will pay monthly. If you live alone, make sure you apply to your local council for your single occupancy discount on council tax! (Another thing I learned after a year of living here the first time.)

During my first and second flat hunt, I wandered around the neighborhood I wanted to live in and stopped in at every estate agent office and asked in person if they had any properties that met my criteria. That was pretty time-consuming. This time around, I used the website RightMove to call and email a bunch of agents in the neighborhoods I was keen on. Note that estate agent websites and aggregator sites are usually woefully out of date so it’s best to contact the agencies directly and go through your requirements. Also, be clear on what you will and won’t accept so no one wastes your time. For example, I MUST have a dishwasher. And I can’t do carpet in the living room.

Moving to London from the US: Finding an International Mover

I’ve used Interdean (now SantaFe), Allied, Britannia, and EuroUSA and had good experiences with all of them. Note that the company that picks you up on one side will not be the same company that delivers on the other side, even if they tell you it will be. Also, “The moving van broke down and the team will be late” is VERY common. If it’s not going to take them a whole day to pack you, they are always moving things around so they will use this ploy quite frequently. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. When moving to London from the US, make it very clear that you have a flight to get on or something else that’s equally immovable so that they arrive at the proper time. Maybe even tell them “None of this “The moving truck broke down shit.”” This is an important piece of advice for any American moving to London. The only time the movers showed up on time was when I did my UK=> US move in 2010 and I think that’s because I had a full container and kept them busy for two full days so they HAD TO block out the time.

In 2010, it cost about £8000 GBP to move my 20 foot container from London to Chicago. In 2014, when I got a quote for moving  about 75% of that container back to the UK, I was quoted $12,000 USD. I then decided to sell all my beautiful Danish furniture and a lot of other stuff and reduced my costs to $5000. (While my original move to London was sponsored by my company, my 2014 move was an independent move.)

The main cost of an international move is *not* in the labor. The cost is in the actual moving and container space, which is a commodity. The key is to get the estimate right on how much stuff you have. So when you’re moving to London from the US, don’t feel like you need umpteen quotes to make a decision. You’re fine with two quotes. Maybe three if you’re unsure, but having done this twice now, I really think that’s overkill. TWO IS FINE. Because the costs are not in the labor, have them pack you and unpack you to make life easier for you. (They will usually only unpack to a flat surface but keep reading.) Do not try to pack yourself. It will not save you a significant sum. In fact, most movers won’t even let you pack yourself now for insurance reasons. Also, nowadays, the moving companies don’t even have to come into your flat for an in-person evaluation. Instead, you can schedule a video chat with them and show them all your stuff.

Tracking Your Container When Moving to London from the US

Oh, one other cool thing: make sure you ask your movers for the name of your cargo ship!! You can use marinetraffic.com to track your belongings as they make their way across the Atlantic. Super cool!! (Warning though: if you are in a shared container, your ship could arrive but then your belongings could still sit in port for a few weeks waiting to clear customs.)

Unpacking and “De-Stuffication” for Your London Move

When I confirmed I’d be moving to London from the US for a 2nd time in 2014, I knew I would go crazy doing it myself. So on the Chicago side in America, I hired a personal assistant to help me. She was AWESOME. She took a bunch of boxes to Goodwill for me and she even returned my cable box, picked up my dry cleaning, and brought me lunch while I was hanging out with the movers! She did all the tasks in one day that I probably would have done over the course of a week. On the London side, I used both Quintessentially and Buy:Time to help me get situated. Quintessentially was probably a little expensive for what it was — unpacking my kitchen — but I was still grateful for their help. Buy:Time was much more cost effective and I was equally pleased with the help I received. I guess my point is…remember that you don’t have to do this all yourself. If you have the cash, hire someone to help you. Don’t be a martyr, as my mother would tell me. This is perhaps my biggest piece of moving to London advice! Don’t try to do everything yourself.

A note on storage: my American friends in London all joke about their storage lockers back in the US that haven’t been opened in years. Think twice about putting stuff in storage — four years from now, you’re probably going to need a new TV anyhow. It might be easier and cheaper to just get rid of stuff. (I can highly recommend Freecycle for giving away stuff that’s not worth selling. I’ve met a lot of nice people through Freecycle.)

Dryers: Why Don’t London Flats Have Them??

When flat-hunting, make sure you get a flat with a washer/dryer combo. I was unpleasantly surprised to find that my first London flat only came with a washer and I was expected to air dry everything. (Just a note for non-American readers…Americans love dryers. You will not change our minds on this. Americans don’t air dry.) It is very rare to find a separate dryer unit in a London flat, although you can buy them online. If you want your own dedicated dryer and your flat does not vent to the outside, look for dryers clearly labeled as “consdenser” units like these ones on Amazon UK. (Argos has condenser dryers here and John Lewis has them here.) Condenser units vent into a container that you then have to empty occasionally. When I moved to London from the US in 2004, I bought a condenser dryer and it made all my American friends jealous so if your flat is big enough, definitely consider this essential piece of moving to London advice. (I hid my dryer behind the door to the living room/lounge in my 2nd flat.)

Getting a Full-Size Refrigerator

Americans in London always complain about the size of British refrigerators. I have lived in three flats now and they have all had full-size fridges. (But no ice makers.) There are plenty of flats with full-size fridges. If you are moving to London from the US and you want a full-size refrigerator, keep looking at flats until you find one with a big fridge! (But also keep in mind that British food tends to have less preservatives than American food so things go bad faster so a smaller fridge it not necessarily a bad thing.)

Kitting Out Your New London Flat

JohnLewis.com has pretty much anything any American moving to London needs in terms of sheets, towels, small appliances, general housewares etc. Think Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. At this point, I’m comfortable with just ordering everything online and having it delivered. But if you’re not necessarily willing to buy sight-unseen, I recommend doing one reconnaissance trip to John Lewis to see things in person. While you’re shopping though, use your mobile phone and the John Lewis app and fill up your shopping cart on the app. Then, checkout on the app when you’re done shopping and get everything delivered! GENIUS! Also, John Lewis customer service is great!! I have always been pleasantly surprised by how nice they are to deal with.

Robert Dyas is great for electrical although I feel like I see them less and less around London now.

Argos is good for random stuff like plastic containers for food, cookware, small housewares and appliances…it’s a “catalog showroom” type of store, similar to the old Service Merchandise, if you remember them from the US. In short, when you need to buy a kettle or toaster or silverware, go to Argos.

Getting Anything Delivered When You Are Not Home

The UK has this AMAZING system called “Click & Collect.” I love it. If you know you won’t be home for a John Lewis delivery, for example, you can have the items delivered to your nearest Waitrose and pop in after work to pick up your stuff! So convenient!!! So much better than getting stuff delivered to work and schlepping it home. I wish the US had this. Do not be afraid to try Click & Collect!

Getting Groceries Delivered in London

Use Ocado for online grocery orders. While Peapod and other delivery services haven’t entirely caught on in the US outside places like NYC, here Ocado is life. They also have housewares. Do not use Waitrose.com directly. Use Ocado. Ocado’s delivery network is much stronger than Waitrose’s own network and they’ve really gotten things down to a science and can deliver to very small delivery time windows. (Ask me about my 36 hour Waitrose.com delivery nightmare. Never doing that again!) You can also try Amazon Prime Now/Amazon Fresh but I don’t have firsthand experience with that yet.

Restaurant Delivery in London

The two biggest restaurant delivery services in London are JustEat.co.uk and Deliveroo. I don’t think JustEat’s interface or functionality and service is as nice or as advanced as the US app, Grubhub (GRUBTRACKER!!), but it’s still pretty good. Use Deliveroo for restaurants that don’t do their own delivery.

Where to Get American Products in London 

At Thanksgiving time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that your local Waitrose will have a small display of Thanksgiving ingredients. Selfridge’s and Harrods both have American products and Partridge’s on the King’s Road in Chelsea and on Gloucester Road in South Ken will also have a good selection of US products. Also, the Whole Foods at Piccadilly Circus is AMAZING for Thanksgiving, as is the South Ken location. (This might be my top tip for any American moving to London — get the Whole Foods Thanksgiving catering menu!!!) Prices can be a little crazy though. Oh, and Ottolenghi in Islington and Notting Hill usually also does a Thanksgiving catering menu. Selfridges has a small US selection in their grocery area but it’s not that great, IMHO. Harrods has a decent selection but it’s also a bit gimmicky. (Poptarts anyone?) Amazon can be really helpful here but place your Thanksgiving order well in advance because they still ship most products from the US. Also, build a network of Americans in London and friends from the US who don’t mind schlepping green chilies, salsa verde and Ziploc bags over for you in their suitcase. (UK storage bags aren’t as good as Ziploc.)

Getting a Credit Card after Moving to London from the US

UK credit checks are  based on address, which is a bit weird. If you end up living in a flat that had a “runner” before you — that’s someone who has skipped out on all their bills — you’re kinda screwed and you will find it difficult to get a credit card or, in fact, any utilities without putting down a large deposit. The British Airways American Express Card is pretty much the only credit card I have had in the UK. I’m on my second one now. No problems in getting a card either time…they seem to make their decisions based more on income than address, but this is only a guess. If you are an American moving to London and plan on flying BA a lot, get the premium card for more miles. (I just checked and pretty much all my American friends who have moved to London have the BA Amex.)

Maintaining Your US Credit Score While You’re in the UK

If you are an American moving to London, before you leave the US, check your credit score! Your credit card company might let you do this for free so call and ask them or look online. Then, although certainly you don’t need all of your US cards anymore, keep a few open and maintain regular balances. This way, when you do move back to the US, you still have a decent credit rating. I made a conscious decision not to pay off my MBA loans and to instead make regular payments. (My interest rate was very very low though which is not the case with today’s MBA loans.) When I moved back to the US in 2010, I decided to buy a condo and my mortgage advisor told me I had the highest credit rating he’d ever seen.  To maintain your credit score, this means keeping your US bank account open so you can transfer money from the UK to the US to make payments.

Getting a Bank Account after Moving to London from the US

Such a chicken and egg problem. You can’t get a bank account until you have an address. You can’t get an address unless you have a bank account. If you’re lucky, your employer will be able to help you, especially if they are used to moving expats around. If you are not lucky, I recommend walking down your local high street early on say a Tuesday morning when bank traffic is at a minimum. Stop in each and every bank and see if they will give you an appointment without an address. Bring your employment contract and passport to prove who you are and that you have a good job with a decent income. A lot of banks require appointments to open bank accounts, which is why I suggest starting early some weekday morning so you can get in before everyone else in case you don’t want to go the appointment route. Alternatively, do the same walk and make appointments at all the banks for a day say three days in the future and then return and do all the appointments in one day.

Dealing with Your US Driver’s License

Renewing your driver’s license from the UK is a pain in the ass. I lived in Chicago during my first move to London from the US, so I had an Illinois license, but it was going to expire shortly after my arrival. So one Christmas, while I was back in the US visiting my family in Florida, I changed to a Florida license. (Had to take the eye test and written test again.) But then I moved back to Chicago! So I had to get an Illinois license again. (And take the eye test and written test again.) And then I moved back to London, and my Illinois license expired again! Arrgggggh. And now I am an idiot because I totally wasn’t paying attention and now my Illinois license has expired and when I go back to the US, no matter what state I move to, I will have to take the road test. (Total pain because now I can’t rent a car anywhere.) So in hindsight, one thing I may have tried before I left the US was renewing my Illinois driver’s license WAY in advance so that I had the full 7 years on it when I moved to the UK. My point is…do some research and know what you’re up against. If you don’t have an address in the US anymore, this could  be a pain.

Dealing with Taxes after Moving to London from the US

Expat taxes for US citizens are the bane of my existence. (The US and Japan are two of the only countries that tax on the basis of citizenship, not residency.) When I first was moving to London from the US, my company introduced me to PwC for my taxes. After my relocation package ran out, I asked PwC how much it would cost for them to do my taxes directly and they wanted £5000. That’s bullshit. I now use a small accounting firm right by Angel tube station that handles both my US and UK taxes. This year, it cost about £1000 to get my US taxes done and £750 to get my UK taxes done but it’s fair to say that I am complicated. I find my accountants very through and like them a lot. (Email me more more.) I had previously used Greenback and I do not recommend them — they really left me in the lurch and misled me about their ability to help me on the UK side. Oh, one other piece of moving to London advice…the UK tax year starts April 6th. DO NOT move to the UK in March like I did many years ago. If your move is somewhere around the tax year start date, wait to move to London until April 6th. (Otherwise, you get hit with two years of tax paperwork in your first year.)

One other tip…in the UK, the tax you pay on your income each month is based on how much the government thinks you will earn in a year. So if they think you will earn £120,000 in a year, that’s the amount of tax they take out of each paycheck. If you leave the UK for the US on October 6, you get money back because you’ve only made £60,000!!! But you have to ask for it. (In the UK, most people don’t “file” taxes as it’s all done automagically by HMRC. But if you are leaving, you need to file some official paperwork to tell the government that you are leaving and make sure you get money back.) I didn’t know this until I came back to the UK in 2014. Once I appeared again in HMRC records, they let me know that they owed me a lot of money from 2010 when I left!

Getting a Mobile Phone if You’re an American Moving to London

You can’t get a phone without a bank account unless you go pay-as-you-go. In my case, even though I had a bank account, I didn’t yet have the debit card, and they wouldn’t give me a phone without that. Also, because I had no recent UK credit history, they charged me a £500 deposit that they returned to me six months later. You may again find it helpful to bring your employment contract to prove income when you try to get a phone. And wait until you have your debit card!

Most importantly though, check call and data rates for trips home to the US!! O2 was willing to give me a phone so I went with them. In hindsight, I wish I had done a bit more research as O2’s international options weren’t great for a long time. (They are much better now but still not great. I was with Vodafone before and generally liked them a lot.)

What to Do about iTunes and the App Store in the UK

If you are an Apple user, Keep your US account if you plan on moving back to the US someday. I opened a UK account when I moved here in 2004 and now I live in perpetual two-account hell. I’ve talked to Apple about this in the past (albeit not recently) and they say that there is no way to combine accounts. I’m not sure how Android phones work but I imagine you don’t want to open a separate UK account either.

Getting a VPN So You Can Watch US Television

If you are really wedded to a lot of your US TV viewing, consider getting a VPN. For example, a lot of times American baseball, basketball, and football games are blocked from online viewing in the UK. Additionally, sometimes you won’t be able to watch things like clips from recent Saturday Night Live episodes or Last Week Tonight episodes on YouTube — you’ll get a message that the program is not available in your region. Also, there are two different versions of Netflix…the UK version and the US version! The timings of releases on each are different, as are the offerings. (Go down a rabbit hole by google’ing the differences. It’s interesting. In short, the US version has more stuff.) So get a VPN and fake these services into thinking that you are in the US!! I use NordVPN and like it a lot.  This is now even more of an issue with GDPR, where many US news sites like the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and others are blocking traffic from Europe rather than comply with GDPR. I recommend just getting an annual subscription to a VPN…cheaper that way.

Choosing a Frequent Flyer Program When Moving to London from the US

For Americans who know they will be going back and forth to the US a few times a year, I highly recommend that you pick one airline and stick with it. Membership has its privileges!! Because my old job was headquartered in Chicago, I knew United had three flights a day so I was loyal to United for many years. I’ve since changed jobs, but now my parents are in Florida. British Airways covers all the places I need to be. (I have family in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale and BA flies to both, plus Orlando and Miami so I have plenty of options.)

Also, if you go with United, American, or Delta, apply for the frequent flyer mileage credit card for that airline before you leave the US — a few months before you leave, ideally. Register it to your current address in the US now for the credit check and then once you are over here, change the address to your parents or other family members. If you don’t do it this way, the credit card company may need you to prove that you live at your parents’ address, which can be difficult without a utility bill. In doing it this way, you may need to use the US version of the airline’s website to book your tickets. (Another reason why you might need a VPN.)

Note if you are planning to move to London from the US with a family, you should sign up for a BA Household Account!

Booking Your Christmas Plane Ticket Home to the US

If you don’t want to be screwed on price, I recommend booking your flights home to the US for Christmas by July 1. I am not joking. Especially if you are going to Florida when every British family in the UK decides to go to Disney World. Also note that flights back to the UK from the US after Christmas are very busy with returning expats, British holidaymakers returning to the UK, and every marching band in the US who has been invited to march in the London New Year’s Day parade. (Seriously!) Good tip though: If you’ve got money to burn, business class tickets to the US are usually relatively cheaper in December because there are fewer business travelers. I once flew Virgin Upper Class back from Orlando on an absolutely amazing deal.

Getting around London

In the old days, we all carted around A to Zs (pronounced A to Zed) to find our way around town. It’s a book of London street maps, cleverly organized. If you’re planning to move to London from the US, I still think it’s good to have one of these around but really, what you need is a couple of essential apps. I am totally obsessed with CityMapper…it has seriously changed the way I travel around London. Who knew about all the connections!! And of course, you will need Uber and Lyft. You should also get “Gett,” which is the app for black cabs. While you will probably rely mostly on the tube when you first move to London from the US, you’ll soon find that taking a bus can be the most direct route.

Funny Top Tip for London Navigation

If you are going to Covent Garden, it’s a super easy walk from Holborn. No need to change to the Piccadilly Line! I promise! Pretty much everything around Leicster Square, Piccadilly Circus, Covent Garden, Holborn, Tottenham Court, and Charring Cross is easily walkable once you know your way around. It takes some Americans who move to London from the US YEARS to figure this one out!!

Getting to Heathrow and Gatwick

Another favorite app of mine is the Heathrow Express app. I am trying to beat my personal best of 1 hour and 6 minutes Heathrow to Farringdon door-to-door. (That was seriously a totally amazing morning…arrived at the A gates in T5 with only carry-on bags, got to the Heathrow Express just before it departed, ran up the back stairs at Paddington and hopped into a taxi in no time.) The first thing I do when I get to immigration is check when the next Heathrow Express train is. And then I start running! I also buy all my Heathrow Express tickets online through the app now — super quick and easy! Tip…also sign up for Heathrow Rewards so you get points for all your Heathrow Express tickets.

Note that Heathrow Express has a number of advance-purchase discounts and also discounts for groups and same day travel. Make sure you understand your options and that where possible, you book in advance. (Honestly, Heathrow Express can be relatively cheap if booked 30+ days in advance.)

Also…a quick note about getting to Gatwick. You don’t have to take Gatwick Express!! You can actually get to Gatwick from Kings Cross/Farringdon/London Bridge. It kills me when I see people schlepping to Victoria (there are a lot of stairs in Victoria) when they could have just taken a train from Kings Cross or London Bridge to Gatwick. (To be fair, it took me about a year to realize this myself after moving to London from the US.)

American Expat Community Groups and Boards

1. Before moving to London from the US, see if your university has a local alumni group. I am a member of the Notre Dame London Alumni Club (I’m also the former president) and I’m so lucky because the club is so active and is always doing fun things. I am also a member of the Chicago Booth London Alumni Club, but I feel that that’s much more about general business seminars than hanging out and giving back, like Notre Dame is.

2. As soon as you move to London from the US, join the US Alumni Club!!! They do a ton of fun events so you’ll get a chance to meet a lot of other Americans. They also have a master list of US alumni club contacts if you can’t figure out how to join your own university’s club.

3. UK Yankee is a great online forum if you need advice on anything. They are particularly helpful if you are trying to figure out where you can find a specific American product or hah — where to watch that critical US basketball or baseball game. Lots of moving to London from the US advice  and good stuff on taxes and visas too.

Making New Friends in London

Related to the above, it can be hard to make new friends in London — it’s a big city and people are always “busy” — but here are some of the things I’ve learned after moving to London from the US not once but twice:

  1. Start with who you know. Announce on Facebook that you are moving to London from the US! Chances are that a bunch of your friends will know people who already live here. Ask for introductions. Better yet, maybe throw yourself a moving in party when you first arrive and invite all these six degrees of separation people.
  2. Then move on to your closest networks. Per the above, find your college alumni club and ask them about people in London. Maybe you have a Master’s degree from somewhere and can leverage that network too. I’m not sure about your high school network but you never know.
  3. If you’re into sports, join a football/soccer league of some sort in the spring and summer.
  4. If you are a woman, check out the Junior League of London and the Hampstead Women’s Club.
  5. Check out Democrats Abroad or Republicans Abroad.
  6. If you’re into social media, find other Americans in London on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve met a lot of nice people that way!

London Expat Neighborhoods for an American Moving to London

I almost didn’t include this because I think it’s such a personal thing, but you’ll find that most Americans live in South Kensington, Chelsea or Hampstead. Islington is also popular, especially if you work in the The City. I do think this will all change once Crossrail is up and running in 2019 — it will be super easy to get to Canary Wharf from East London (7 minutes from Farringdon to Canary Wharf!) so I can see more people moving east to Shoreditch. Then again, Shoreditch maybe doesn’t have the amenities (or Whole Foods) that South Ken has. Personally, I started out in Shad Thames by Tower Bridge and walked over London Bridge to get to my old office by Cannon Street — such a gorgeous walk. Then, when my company moved up to Old Street, I moved to the southern part of Islington (technically Clerkenwell) and walked to work from there. Now I am in Clerkenwell proper and I LOVE IT because I am so central. My biggest piece of advice is to try to be close to a tube or overground station as possible. Makes life so much easier, cheaper, and enjoyable! (If you will be traveling frequently, you probably also want to be close to a tube station with an elevator so you don’t have to schlep your luggage up and down the stairs.)

Note if you are moving to London from the US with family, there are other things to consider like schools. My American friends with kids really like Blackheath so you may want to take a look at that area.

Taking Advantage of Your Local Council & Police

It took me a long time to figure out that hey, your local council and local police can be quite helpful! (Uh, I sorta lived upstairs from a brothel in 2008.) Have a question about recycling? Ask your council. Need help with a neighborhood issue? Ask your council or your local neighborhood ward police! Both organize events and publish local news and do all sorts of helpful things. So once you rent your flat and set up your council tax, make sure you pay attention to anything else going on with your local council. It can be a great way to get more embedded in your neighborhood. You can often follow your council on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Related to this, follow your local Metropolitan Police on Facebook and Twitter where available. They’ll post updates about crimes and neighborhood incidents and meetings which can be quite helpful. (Try to figure out what police ward you are in. For example, although I lived in Islington, I lived in Bunhill Ward and there is a police unit specifically for Bunhill Ward.) Some neighborhoods have local newspapers too. For example, I follow the Islington Gazette on Facebook.

Getting Your Teeth Cleaned in London

Hah. So American! So firstly, keep your relationship with your dentist at home and always go for a cleaning when you are home for Christmas. If you like me like to get your teeth cleaned twice a year, I can highly recommend the friendly team at Elleven Dental close to Harley Street. To be fair, I only use them for cleanings and Invisalign so I can’t comment on getting a filling or any other work done so do your own research there but if you just need a cleaning, Elleven is very “American style.”

Blogs with Moving to London Advice

After writing up my moving to London advice, I read through more than 25 other blog posts with moving to London tips and picked the ones I thought were the most useful and specific. They are not specific to Americans or the US but still helpful.

Blogs from Americans in London

Here are some of my favorite blogs from other Americans in London:

  • Tiki Chris: Chris has been in London about as long as I have been! He writes about a variety of topics…food, events, travel.
  • A Lady in London: Another long-time Londoner, Julie writes a very popular blog about London and exploring the UK and the 100+ other countries shes’s been to. (AMAZING.)
  • Sunny in London: A fellow Floridian who married a Brit a number of years ago, “Sunny” writes about fun things to do in London.
  • Girl Gone London: Kalyn is another Floridian who writes about her travels in the UK and beyond.
  • American Girl in Chelsea: Christy has a style-focused blog on life in London as an American expat.
  • New Yorker Meets London: In this beautiful blog, Laurie shares her experiences in dining out in London and traveling the world.

Do You Have Any Other Advice for Moving to London from the US?

I am sure I am forgetting some things. Please let me know your moving to London advice — especially if you are an American — and I will add your tips to this blog post as time goes on! Also, check out these posts for more tips and advice:

Pin My Advice for Moving to London from the US!

Book a London Tour

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16 comments

Mark April 5, 2016 - 6:30 pm

This brings me back to the heady days before the banking crisis. This may have changed over the last ten years, but Citibank offered me a joint US and UK bank account structure, which eased the burden of getting cash in and out of the country.

Great write up though! I remember clearly walking to the Argos near the Old Street Roundabout to purchase yet another need – hair dryer, coffee pot, etc.

Olly April 5, 2016 - 6:49 pm

This is a terrific cheat sheet – I’ve forwarded the taxes bit to my OH.

And the warning about Gatwick Express is good. Avoid this service. As you say, one can get to Gatwick from lots of stations other than Victoria.

But if you are going from or to Victoria, here’s how Gatwick Express compares with the standard service, run on the same track by Southern Trains.

The cheapest walk-up fare for a journey from Victoria to Gatwick with Southern costs £15.40 for a paper ticket – but the same journey using an Oyster card is £8 off-peak and £14 peak. The journey is about 35 minutes, often less.

A Gatwick Express single journey paid for with Oyster is £19.80, which is 10p less than the paper ticket. The journey time is 30 minutes, from Victoria only.

Many trains from London Bridge to Gatwick (a route run by Thameslink) are £10.30 and can take as little as 29 minutes.

Almost three in 10 (28.3%) Gatwick Express services arrived at their destinations at least five minutes late during the four-week period up to 14 November 2015.

Whole Foods in Piccadilly Circus, High Street Kensington and elsewhere is also good for Thanksgiving fare (pecan pie, etc) but you’d be forgiven for thinking the prices are in USD.

Patrick April 6, 2016 - 10:07 am

I remember talking to an American once who couldn’t believe I didn’t have a drier.

Question about this: Do your clothes not shrink in a drier?

Krista April 6, 2016 - 10:13 am

Hah I had this same conversation with my British friend that I grew up with in NY until she moved back to the UK when she was 14. She too is afraid of driers shrinking clothing. No, I do not have this problem. Of course, I have a few nicer things where I pay for dry cleaning instead, and then I have a few dresses that I take out of the drier before it dries, but everything else…I dry!

kaszeta April 7, 2016 - 3:51 pm

Laughing, since I continue to taunt my expat brother about his lack of a dryer, and how nice, warm and dry everything is when he comes to visit. And taunt him by bringing him dryer sheets (which baffled my UK SIL)

Krista April 8, 2016 - 9:44 am

Sounds like he needs a condenser dryer!!

Chris April 8, 2016 - 11:32 am

Great write-up, Krista! I’ll second the suggestion about Citibank. It made the process a piece of cake for me. Perhaps if one is relocating to the UK from the US, it’s a good idea to open a basic US account at Citi or HSBC a few months beforehand solely for the purpose of speeding account opening in London. There are also #fintech startups like Monese, but so far they only speed the process for EEU migrants, not Americans.
Also, for mobile phones, for me it was worth re-wiring my brain about mobile carriers and pay-as-you-go. Most PAYG deals in the US are back-burner options that the carriers put out there for low-income customers that wouldn’t pass a credit check, perhaps only because they have to. The plans suffer from neglect and features deprecate frequently. However, Europeans have been conditioned to demand the PAYG model so much that it predominates consumer choice: you’ll get a good deal! Plus, the EU long ago passed regulation requiring no roaming charges by 2015…but good old-fashioned corporate greed and lobbying managed to permanently stall it. So there may be travel pack deals here and there, but the best way to save (a lot of) money when spending time in different EU countries is to have an unlocked phone and get local PAYG SIM cards – even for just a week or a few days at a time.
As for iTunes – ditch it! And go with Spotify. 🙂

Krista April 9, 2016 - 4:09 pm

I do love Spotify, but I think I may listen to it too much because I feel like I often get the same songs. Or maybe I just listen to too many similar stations? It’s weird!! I have mostly ditched iTunes but you know…if you’re on a plane without wifi and want to listen to music and don’t like the in-flight entertainment stations, you need your own tunes!

Laura @ Me & Mr Jones April 9, 2016 - 3:53 pm

REALLY great tips! I moved back to England 15 years ago from the States (I was born in England but lived in the US for 10 years) and wish I had these tips to hand!

Krista April 9, 2016 - 4:07 pm

Thanks for the kind words!!

LJ April 9, 2016 - 10:22 pm

More tips!

1. You can negotiate the rent in London, which I have never been able to do in the U.S. successfully. Offer at least 15% below the asking price.

2. You forgot that you can order form John Lewis online and they will deliver to your local Waitrose and you can pick it up there, if you don’t have a doorman or an office to ship things to. I find the Click n Collect options in the Uk to be far superior to the U.S.

3. The Professional Declutters & Organisers will come to your house and unpack you and sort you out: http://www.apdo-uk.co.uk/

Thomas Mulrooney (Hilden) May 18, 2016 - 9:07 am

Great guide! There’s definitely lots of useful information here. However, I do need to point something out.

“UK credit checks are based on address, which is a bit weird. If you end up living in a flat that had a “runner” before you — that’s someone who has skipped out on all their bills — you’re kinda screwed and you will find it difficult to get a credit card or, in fact, any utilities without putting down a large deposit.”

This is actually a myth, and lenders shouldn’t take previous occupants into account when it comes to credit decisions. You are only financially connected if the previous occupant had a joint account or joint credit with you. It may have been the case in the past, but it’s not something you need to worry about anymore. Lenders are now only concerned with your financial history and that of anyone you are financially linked to (through joint accounts/joint credit). If you get post for a previous occupant, just write ‘no longer at this address – return to sender’ on the post and pop it back in the postbox.

Hope that helps!

Krista May 20, 2016 - 10:04 am

Interesting! Granted my info is a few years old, but I had a few American friends who moved into flats where the previous tenants hadn’t paid their BT bills and electricity bills and thus my friends had to pay huge deposits upfront in order to get service, even though they had nothing to do with the previous occupants!

Thomas Mulrooney May 20, 2016 - 10:42 am

Very strange! It may be the internal policy of companies like BT, I’m not sure. Legally, it may be something they’re not supposed to be doing, I’ll have to look into that. Obviously, we shouldn’t be held responsible for another person’s debts, and if they are doing that then it’s not really fair. But I do wonder if companies are doing this because the landlord hasn’t informed them of a change in tenancy and provided meter readings at the end of the previous tenancy.

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Palo Alto Movers December 24, 2018 - 9:02 am

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