It’s been a whole one year living in London (the second time around). So, here’s what we’ve experienced so far as an Australian couple living on the other side of the world.
- Home Life
- Work Life
- Will we come back to Australia?
Houses: We’ve lived in 3 different suburbs:
- Battersea (south) 3 months – short term arrangement
- West Hampstead (north) 4 months – lease ending, 1 month to move out!
- Kentish Town (north) currently living here
All have been share houses and an upgrade on one another in terms of living space and cost. I can now walk to work in 25 minutes!
To give you an idea of rental costs, we pay around 800 – 900GBP per month including bills (which is around $1576 to $1775 AUD per month with the current exchange rates). We were renting a whole 3 bedroom house to ourselves in Melbourne for the same price!
Exercise: Harry bought me a BorrowMyDoggy subscription (it’s a real website!) and we now regularly take Ned the cockapoo for a walk in one of the many local parks.
I have a local yoga studio with a great mix of yoga, pilates and meditation, perfect to unwind from London life. Cost is around 10 pounds per class. And I might start running again if we get a summer!
Health: as an Aussie expat I avoid GPs and hospitals unless absolutely necessary. Why? The system is different compared to Australia. The main differences are:
- NHS covers more costs including doctor visits and prescription medication but GPs seem to be more stringent on prescribed medication (almost always a recommendation to take paracetamol)
- You can only book a GP appointment 2 weeks in advance
- You have to register for the medical practice closest to your location based on your home address (if they have room for new patients!) and that becomes the only doctor you can go to
- The registration process for those on a visa is simple enough but time consuming and inconvenient if you haven’t yet registered and urgently need to see a Doctor
There is a lot of strain on hospitals in London (probably no different to Australia!) which I experienced first hand after my GP recommended I get some tests done. I was having a sharp pain in the left side of my chest which turned out to be nothing more than muscular but worth getting checked out! We stood around for hours in Emergency with a full house of very sick and injured people.
Transport: you don’t need a car in London. Actually my Australian driving licence expired not long after we moved here! Lucky Harry has one! I can walk to and from work, to the grocery store etc, and catch the tube, overground train or bus as and when I need to! And there’s always a rental car if you need one.
Public transport in London costs more than Australia. A weekly travel card in London for Zone 1 only is around 30GBP (around $60). In Melbourne, we were spending around $39 a week.
Eating: rent and transport is more expensive in London compared to Australia, but food is mostly cheaper. We do a weekly shop at a large local grocery store and cook basic healthy meals at least 5 nights of the week. Total cost 30GBP between us. Can you imagine spending $60 on 5 decent sized meals and other bits and pieces like milk, bread and fruit for 2 people in Australia? I’m sure it’s possible but despite regularly changing our choice of meals, it consistently costs around 30GBP. Including steak and salmon!
Where you end up spending your money is on the large range of cuisines in London and mouth watering quality. You just HAVE to try a new restaurant every week or two. Ceviche in Soho is still my favourite.
If you visit or live in London, our favourite restaurants discovered in our home suburbs are:
- Battersea – Fish in a Tie
- West Hampstead – Banana Tree
- Kentish Town – ooh this is a tough one! Lalibela because it’s different (Ethiopian), Abbey Tavern because their Sunday roast is THE BEST
Entertainment: gigs, food and exploring London are our favourite after work activities. London has so much to offer including Free Things to Do in London and you’d be amazed how many big and beautiful lush green parks there are here! We are really excited about summer after a cold winter but even then we found lots of things to do.
Gigs are cheaper in London compared to Australia. You can see heaps of talented solo artists or bands for around 10 – 20 GBP (that’s about $20 – $40). The same ones you’d pay around $100 to see in Australia. Even comedy gigs are cheaper here. An example is Milton Jones. We saw him at Melbourne Comedy Festival for a ticket price of around $50 and saw him perform in a central London venue for free.
I’ve had 2 jobs in the past year.
Temp HR at a bank for 7 weeks: While travelling in Frejus, France, I was offered a 3 month contract in a HR role at a bank on Fleet Street, 2 hours after an over the phone interview! If it seems too easy, it’s because I was still registered with this particular recruitment agency from when I lived in London in 2013 and just had to tell my contact there I was back and he was onto the search!
This got me started from Day 1 of London living after our initial 2 weeks of travel after the big move.
Perm HR at a drinks company: while at the bank I secured a permanent HR role at a drinks company. I’m still there today!
Main differences of working life in London compared to Australia:
- less unions in the UK
- more terminations in the UK
- redundancies are common in the UK
- there’s less time to enjoy a coffee and conversation with someone outside your team unless it’s absolutely necessary due to time constraints (maybe I worked in Government in Australia for too long!)
- bonuses are common in the UK regardless of role seniority
- if you’re in Finance, you’re sorted! There are so many banks here in London!
- Minimum wage is around 6.50GBP, that’s about $13 for an adult wage. The Australian minimum wage is at least $17
- less income in the UK for similar roles in Australia however can vary depending on exchange rates
- standard holiday per year in Australia is 20 days versus 25 days in the UK
- more people are trying to ‘make it’ in London in their area of talent or profession
- London work experience on a CV is considered essential for some careers and therefore those people are often willing to work unpaid to get the experience
- there is more competition for jobs in the UK compared to Australia
Overall, in my experience to date, it’s tougher in London!
Thirteen destinations in 1 year! 62 days travel! Can you imagine doing that many 24 hour flights from Australia!?
Listed below are our travel destinations for the past year, how long we spent there and whether it was a group tour, travel as a couple or with friends or family.
- Morocco – 10 days Intrepid
- South of France – 8 days as a couple
- Amsterdam – 2 days as a couple
- Turkey – 9 days TravelTalk
- Dublin – 2 days as a couple
- Cornwall – 3 days with family
- Worcester – 3 days with family
- Russia – 6 days TravelTalk
- Faro – 2 days as a couple
- Liverpool – 2 days as a couple
- Wales – 4 days with friends
- Gothenburg – 2 days as a couple
- Egypt – 9 days TravelTalk
Wondering how we afford to live overseas and travel? I wrote a blog about it if you’re keen to find out more!
Will we come back to Australia?
Yes. It’s only a matter of time. One, maybe two more years? My ancestry visa runs out in 2018 and I have no plans to apply for leave to remain. London is the perfect adventure for right now in our lives without any commitments and so many places on our travel list! But, Australia is home and when we come back we will, believe it or not, settle down for our next life adventure!