Having lived in London for the last two years, people often ask me for advice on moving abroad and the differences between living in Australia versus the UK.
While people will always give you the standard moving abroad advice, there's so much more to living in a city like London that people don’t tell you. The things that immediately turn you from Carrie Bradshaw into Bridget Jones. If you get my drift?
Sure, I could sit here all day and write down the millions of tips and tricks for moving to London. Go to EE, Three or Vodaphone for your SIM card. Lloyds Bank is the easiest to get set up with, but you’ll need a proof of address to set up an account. Don’t bother with an Oyster card if you’ve got a contactless bank card (it’s the same thing).
But if you’re reading this article you want the real stuff. The juicy goodness. The harsh realities. But most importantly, you want to know how to remain ‘cool’ in a new city and not look/sound like a total, ‘knobhead’, as the Brits would say.
So here it is, a guide to living in London, the uncut version.
Words and phrases to be aware of
1. ‘Alright?' This one word will confuse the f*ck out of you. Asking if you’re alright is the English way of greeting. And no, they’re not asking if you feel ok or if something is wrong. This phrase is used in replacement of the much more sensible, ‘How are you going?’
2. The word 'root' means to look around (“go and have a root around in that cupboard”), not to have sex.
3. If you’re discussing your ‘thongs', people will assume you want to tell them about your lingerie and will likely give you a look of total fear and discomfort.
4. By the same token, when you talk about wearing 'pants' the Brits will assume you’re talking about your underwear. Also, a singlet is referred to as a vest, and a vest is a waistcoat. Don’t ask.
5. When it comes to food, things get weirder. A capsicum is known as a red pepper; a zucchini is called a courgette, and your standard eggplant an aubergine.
While we’re on the topic of food
6. There’s no such thing as a ‘pot’ of beer in the UK, everyone works in pints (order a half pint at your peril)
7. Marmite is actually something people buy here and don’t even get me started on HP ‘Brown’ sauce. You will spend many a night stressing about where your next jar of Vegemite is coming from.
8. You will mourn the loss of fish and chips. Not only do they not serve flake here, but they also don't offer a grilled fish alternative. There's no chicken salt, and don’t even tell me you don’t know what a potato cake is!?
9. Yes, you were a lazy slob in Australia and driving is now a luxury. You can no longer drive the two minutes up the road to order your soy latte; you must walk. Hungover or otherwise.
10. You will NEVER run for the tube or the bus – this is considered social suicide.
11. You will never stand on the left-hand side of the escalator. Or you’ll stand there and wait for the stampede of commuters to run you down.
12. You'll learn that experienced tube riders have a competitive advantage when it comes to knowing exactly where to stand at the tube station to ensure you’re first on. It’s a skill that'll take years to perfect, but once learnt, will save you hours in the rat race that is the daily commute.
13. The British are surprisingly non-confrontational and patient. Whether it's a car pulling out into traffic or hundreds of people lining up to 'tap on' to the underground, there's no yelling of profanities, swearing and abuse, not even the hitting of a car horn. People just get on with life. Weird right?
But for all its shortcomings, this city has so much to offer
14. Your Australian friends will want to block you on Instagram as travel will become your middle name. A flight to Amsterdam from London will take you three-quarters of an hour, or you may fancy a trip to Greece and be there in three. When you compare this to how far you can get in that time from Melbourne, you’ll find yourself in Mildura or perhaps halfway to Perth.
15. Public transport in the UK will change your life. You’ll be blown away at how efficient and easy the tube system is – the longest you'll ever have to wait for a train is four minutes. During peak hour, services run every 60 seconds. *Mind blown*
16. Alcohol will never be more accessible with your local grocery (of which there are perhaps 50) serving your favourite drop every night of the week.
17. On the topic of alcohol, mid-week drinking is now completely acceptable and is in most cases encouraged. The Brits LOVE a drink.
18. You’ll acquire a newfound appreciation for history. There's nothing more English than going for Sunday Roast in a centuries-old pub.
19. Soccer is life now. Note: NEVER refer to the sacred game as soccer or risk instant relegation from the group. Attending a major football game will open your mind to a new level of die-hard fans – but my god, the chants are catchy.
20. You’ll be forced into loving Christmas (if you didn’t already). London puts Australia to shame when December comes around; taking those pathetic plastic street decorations in Bourke Street Mall to a whole new level. From entire streets lit up with fairy lights and Christmas trees, to pop-up ice skating rinks, mulled wine, Christmas markets and the sacred Christmas jumper – London comes to life at Christmas time.
There’s no denying it’s a huge risk moving across the globe with little money, no job security and in most cases no family support, but the pros definitely outweigh the cons. So what are you waiting for? YOLO.
Illustration by Twylamae.