Though we share a language, things can feel pretty different when you move from the US to London. Many blogs and articles will offer you thoughtful and very practical tips on moving from America to London, I wanted to share some not-so-obvious tips for American expats moving to London that I discovered upon arriving here.
These tips will help ease the transition once you get to London and I hope you find them helpful!
My not-so-obvious moving tips for American expats moving to London
Put aside some money for new clothes.
There are several reasons you’re going to need new clothes in your first couple months in London. First, the food here is different and getting around is different. You’ll likely be walking more and eating smaller portions. Your body is going to change and your clothes are going to fit differently.
You’ll need new clothes for your new expat bod, but you’ll also want new clothes because you will be inspired by the style you seen on the street and in the windows of the high street. Style can be a further expression of your self and identity, and that will go through a transformation upon moving. You’ll want some new clothes to fit into your new surroundings.
Sure, some clothes are cheaper in the US. Still, you’re in a new place with new stores and fashions to explore. People dress different city to city and county to country, having some money put aside to help you start dressing like you’re a Londoner will go a long way in making you feel like you’re a part of this city and settling into your new home. Gotta look the part!
Bonus: your friends back home will be like, “Wow, look at this sophisticated Londoner!” when you share your new style on social! Muahahaha
Book a trip for the first month or so
It is good to get out of London. You won’t realize until you’re out of the city how good it feels to take a break from such an urban, huge, fast-paced environment. Try to go somewhere sunny and warm and the distance will lend itself to reflecting on your first few weeks as a Londoner.
This is an easy one to put off, but you will deserve a break after fighting with the bank again or getting your NI application rejected because you didn’t realize the letter had instructions on the back that tell you to send in your identification documents (we all do this, hopefully now that you read this you won’t)! Treat yourself. Especially if you have moved with your partner, some time away from the settling-in process exploring another new place together will be a great chance to reconnect away from the expat move stress.
We booked our first trip to Barcelona, but even one night out in the countryside would do. A step away from the city will be good for your move-weary soul.
Make some FaceTime dates (and keep them!)
Adjusting to the time difference away from home can be tough. You may find that you get out of sync with family and friends back home pretty quickly, despite the best of intentions. Setting aside some time to talk to the people you love will help you feel more connected to friends and family back home. After meeting so many new people once you arrive, having time to just shoot the breeze with an old friend is really nice.
It can be tough to find time that works for both time zones and both schedules, but it is definitely worth it and important to do when you’re still building up a network in your new home.
Getting involved in your new community immediately is so important to make a new place feel like home. This is particularly important for trailing spouses, who may not have a job as a starting point for this. There are lots of ways to do this, whether it’s joining a sports league, a MeetUp, an expat club or other social club, volunteering, taking a class… in London, the opportunities are seemingly endless!
I found that trying to keep up some of the activities I was used to doing regularly at home in London helped it feel like I was getting into a true routine. I made it my mission to find a weekly Pilates class, just like home, and started cooking for fun more since I had more time here to do that!
Getting involved can mean you have to put yourself out there – be brave! I think back on my first weeks here and I am still impressed that I asked new friends to exchange numbers and set up some activities. I was scared and wondered if they’d even really be enduring friendships, but having those outings to look forward to were so important. And spoiler alert: still friends with both lovely ladies!
At the very least, join some of the expat groups on Facebook specifically for Americans living in London. They are so helpful and you will feel less alone knowing that there are hundreds of people struggling with the same silly things you are (stiff towels, etc!).
Bring Over Your Favourite OTC Meds
Less exciting than a new wardrobe and new buddies, a new climate and country will take its toll on your immune system. Prepare to get sick soon upon moving, especially if you take the Tube regularly. Even Andrew got sick when we first moved! I had read that you can’t find DayQuil and NyQuil over here, so we brought a pack of the gel capsules with us. I also noticed that Boots does not carry Advil LiquiGels on our house hunting trip, so we brought a big old bottle of those over as well.
Of course you can find suitable substitutes here, but it’s nice to have something familiar to reach for if you’re under the weather. A trip to Boots to try and find a UK substitute while sick could be one of those culture shock disaster moments. It could also be totally fine.
Join a gym, ASAP
Speaking of health, joining our gym is one of the best things we did in the first few weeks we were here. Not only did it give me a place to go that’s out of the house before I started working, but also working out and staying healthy are so important when you’re in a new place going through a stressful move. The gym is a good way to productively work off that stress and it’s another place to meet people.
I found that the gyms in our area are more expensive than the ones back home, but that’s not a good excuse. We joined Virgin Active which has great classes and has locations all through the city, so I can get my gym on even when I’m out and about. In the year since we joined, I have been able to try so many great classes. I can’t recommend it enough!
I hope these will help! Fellow expats, what are your tips for American expats moving to London?