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A Quick Guide to... Living and Working in London, UK

Posted by: Kathie Higginson
28/04/17

The British capital London is also one of the world's centres for finance, fashion, arts and entertainment. It can be a bewildering place for your first visit. Even if you speak English fluently you can only learn how to pronounce place names like' Greenwich' 'Leicester Square' and 'Chomondeley Place' by example. Many visitors waste large amounts of money and time simply because they don't know the tips and wrinkles that Londoners have picked up intuitively. Follow our WRS guide to enjoy your trouble free relocation to London. 

Emergency Services: Police, Ambulance and Fire Service 999; Non-Emergency Police 101
Language: English
Currency: Pounds Sterling (£ 100 pence or p) 

Where to Live

Living in the City Centre (although ultra-convenient for work and leisure) can be prohibitively expensive with rents on a 1 bed flat starting at £1668.00 a month. Buying in London is typically only an option for those with very deep pockets, with prices upward of £ 1 million generally expected in central areas.  Extend your search along the tube lines and bus routes to the outlying Boroughs both North and South to achieve more reasonable rental or purchase prices. 

Vauxhall, Bermondsey and Crystal Palace have been named three of the best places to live in London. They feature alongside Hampstead, Fulham and trendy Islington. Fitzrovia has earned the title of best place to live in London. North London - although more expensive than the South - has much better transport links and amenities.

Schooling
The 2 systems are the State schools and the independent schools (public/private schools). The State schools are regulated by a Local Education Authority. Most of the State schools are either comprehensive, foundation or grammar schools and there are also Free Schools (set-up by local parents and run by organisations, like Foundation schools).

State: The English education system has an excellent reputation with students from the UK and around the world attending school here. The system is overseen by the Department for Education and the Department for Business - Innovation and Skills. Local authorities (LAs) are responsible for implementing policy for public education and state schools at a regional level.

Private: Private Schools can offer an elevated environment of learning for some students. Other schools offer a specialty focus that may be worth paying extra for. It's important to visit a school to determine the best fit for you and your child.

Getting Around

Tube (Underground), Train and Light Rail: Greater London is served by 12 Tube lines, along with the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and an interconnected local train network. Underground trains generally run between 5am and midnight, Monday to Saturday, with reduced operating hours on Sunday. Contactless cards or Oyster cards (which you top up) can be used on the Tube and several other transport schemes in the city. The TfL (Transport for London) app is excellent.

Bus: London’s red buses are frequent and crisscross all the areas of the city and its surrounding boroughs, however it's worth noting that you can't pay in cash. You can pay this fare by using an Oyster card, a Travel card or with a contactless payment card.

Cycle Hire: Boris Bikes (so called because they were introduced to the capital by the then major Boris Johnson) - now sponsored by Santander - can be found at strategic street locations across the city centre. There are more than 11,500 bikes at over 750 docking stations situated every 300 to 500 metres in London. These bikes are available for hire on a daily or hourly basis. You can hire a bike and return it to any docking station, there is no need to prebook. 

Walking: Walking within Central London can sometimes save you time as many districts and landmarks are closer to each other than you think.  You can take the tube between Covent Garden and Leicester Square and fight the crowds and congestion at peak time, however they are only five minutes-walk apart; London is one of the most foot-friendly major cities in the world.

Taxis: London is home to the famous ‘Hanson Black Cabs’, these cabs can be flagged down on the street and you can be confident that the Driver has the ‘Knowledge’ to take you to your destination safe and sound. Fares are regulated and displayed by meter. Uber and private hire taxis are also available (but must be pre-booked). 

Getting a Visa / Work Permit
EU nationals do not require a visa or work permit to enter or work in London. Nationals of other countries will need to make a sponsored application via their employer. There are several types of visas and permites available, but however regulations and applications can be complicated. Check the UK Government website and ask for assistance from your employer or an immigration lawyer if required. 
 
Healthcare
The National Health Service (NHS) is free at the point of use for the patient (though there are charges associated with eye tests, dental care, prescriptions, and many aspects of personal care for UK citizens). The NHS provides the majority of healthcare in England, including primary care, in-patient care and long term healthcare. Healthcare in the UK is of a very high standard, whether you receive NHS or private treatment.

As an expat you will receive emergency treatment on the NHS, however you will be expected to make a contribution towards the care provided so ensure that you have medical insurance cover in place. Private healthcare exists in the UK, however you may find yourself being treated in an NHS hospital. Routine and preventative healthcare such as dental, eye care etc. is typically provided by private practitioners and is payable at source.  

Food
Try British cuisine such as the full English breakfast, fish and chips, pie and mash and our traditional Sunday Roast. London, however, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world - you could go out for dinner every day of the week. Lots of pubs serve food too, and not necessarily just burgers and chips! You'll easily find all the American fast food outlets alongside Chinese, Indian and Kebab takeaways. There's definitely something for every taste and every budget. Try out some of the curry houses on Brick Lane, queue up for incredible tapas at Barrafina in Soho, or check out the much-publicised Temple of Seitan in Hackney - a vegan fried chicken shop which has been making waves online.

Drinking
London’s drinking scene is one of the best in the world, with boundary-breaking cocktail bars taking mixed drinks to the next level, while traditional pubs bring you back down to earth in the best possible way. You will find bars and pubs all over the city but Soho, Covent Garden and Fitzrovia are some of the best places to go. If you want to see a show, head to the West End and Leicester Square. 

Safety and Crime
London is considered relatively safer than comparable metropolitan areas in the U.S; crime in London, especially those targeting tourists, is as common as in any large European city. Violent criminal confrontations and the use of weapons are relatively rare, although serious incidents are possible and do occur. Although personal assaults are less common in the UK than other countries they do represent an area of concern. Personal possession of guns is outlawed except for the strictly regulated use of shotguns for hunting and other weapons for competition sports. As with living and travel in all major cities, avoid unlit areas especially at night and ensure that you take sensible personal precautions.

Language
Some of the most common languages spoken in London are Polish, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Cantonese and Mandarin; that being said, English is the city's primary and business language and it remains the mother tongue of the majority of residents.

Grocery Shopping
London has a wide range  of large British and international supermarkets, alongside artisan markets and specialty shops. You will find fresh fruit and veg in bulk as well as washed and prepared veg and fruit of all kinds at markets all over London, and you'll probably pay a better price than you would in a supermarket. Chinese and Indian supermarkets tend to be the best places to pick up unusual vegetables, spices and bulk items like rice. Most small shops sell a limited range of fresh fruit, veg and meat as well as tins and jars and snacks.

Organic, speciality and gluten free products are available at most shops and tend to be of high quality. Don't discount the kiosks you might see near stations or at street markets: fresh fruit and veg may be cheaper at a kiosk, and busy ones have a fast turnover.

Price Guide

3 course meal for 2, mid-range £54.82 $68.37
Draught beer £4.80 $5.98
Loaf of bread £1 $1.25
Mid range bottle of wine £7.97 $9.94
Gas/Petrol (1 litre) £1.11 $1.39
Taxi (1 km) £5.80 $7.23
Rent - 1 bed, city centre* £1667 $2097

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