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Like many young Kiwis, London was calling when I was in my early twenties. Striking out on your own for the first time is a big deal but doing it on the other side of the planet can make things even harder. Here are the top five things I think any London-bound Kiwi needs to know:
1. Find a cheap place to stay before you arrive. You’re bound to know someone in London, right? Most Kiwis have a friend, cousin or former colleague that is living and working in London. See if they have a couch you can crash on for the first few weeks. It’s a common practice amongst Kiwi expats to let newbies stay for a bit and help them get on their feet in the big city. Remember to pitch in with the housework, chip in for power & internet bills and don’t outstay your welcome. Having someone to show you the ropes for your first few days can be a real lifesaver (and cash saver) but if this isn’t an option look for a cheap hostel or a room to sublet via Gumtree.com.
2. Sort out your banking early. Open a bank account online before you arrive if you can. If you’re planning on doing a lot of travel to Europe you might want to look into getting a credit card so you can book hotels and flights online although some sites will allow you to book travel with a debit card. (A debit card is what the Brits call an EFTPOS card… don’t say EFTPOS in the UK! Nobody knows what EFTPOS is outside of New Zealand!) Have a look at the options for basic bank accounts and see what would work best for you.
3. Read up on the suburbs of London. Postcode is everything in this city! It has a huge impact on the price you’ll pay in rent, groceries, parking and tube passes. There are parts on London you won’t want to set foot in let alone flat in or work in. Most of the Kiwi imports head for West London so you’re likely to start out there.
4. Don’t just flat with other Kiwis… or Aussies for that matter. It’s pretty easily to find a place to live in London. There are tonnes of flats for rent on Gumtree and, while it might be tempting to hook up with other Antipodeans, you’ll be better off in the long run if you push outside your confort zone and meet people from other countries… or an actual Englishman!
5. Factor in commuting time when job hunting. Look for a job no more than one hour away from home. You don’t want to have to change lines or modes of transport more than once (twice at the absolute max!) It’s much easier if you have a straight run through from home to work on one tube line. Much less can go wrong! If possible try to be within walking distance of another tube line so that if your regular line goes down you’ve still got an option for getting to work. Get to know the Transport for London (TFL) website and use it when searching for a job or flat.