What Living as an Expat in London is Really Like

What living in London as an expat is really like

Welcome back to Living Abroad, a series that shows you what expat life is like in cities around the world. Our latest interview features Micaela, an elementary school teacher living in London with her British husband.

Here, she shares about moving to London, what living in London as an American is like, and what tips she has for future expats in London.

Quick facts about living in London:

  • Language: English
  • Currency: £ Pound Sterling (GBP)
  • Level of crime in London: Moderate
  • Cost of living in London: Moderate
  • Quality of life in London: High
What living in London as an expat is really like

Micaela’s background: 

I’m originally from Houston, Texas, where I’d lived my whole life until moving to London last year. I ended up in London because my husband is originally from here. We met while he was on a work trip in Houston, and ended up doing long distance for two years. Then we got married and I moved across the pond!

In London, I work as an elementary school teacher. I currently teach Year 3 (7-8 year olds) and adore my class. Kids are kids in every country!

On making friends in London: I only knew my husband and a handful of his friends when I moved here. I find that most people that I meet in London are transplants, which makes it easier to make new friends. Finding local friends has been a major focus for me!

What living in London as an expat is really like
Dark chocolate digestives

On British sweets: I love dark chocolate digestives and the Cadbury’s Oreo chocolate bar. Typically Americans do sweets much better than the Brits, but they’ve got these two things figured out.

On the Tube: The Tube [the London Underground] is definitely the best way to get around London. They run every few minutes and hardly have delays! I take the train [the London Overground] to work and it’s ALWAYS running late or will have last-minute cancellations.

Living in London: An American expat's experience

On the lackluster coffee: London definitely has more of a tea culture. The coffee here is bitter and awful — I have my family send me coffee from home.

On the cost of living: I’m from Houston, one of the cheapest cities to buy a home — and London is one of the most expensive! We are in the process of buying a two-bedroom flat, and for the equivalent price in Houston, we could live in a detached five-bedroom house. Property prices in London are outrageous, but I’ve found that grocery shopping and eating out are similar to American prices.

Living in London: An American expat's experience

On the edgy local fashion: London fashion is a lot more adventurous than southern fashion. In London, I feel comfortable wearing a lot of things that would feel like “too much'” back home. I love it!

What living in London as an expat is really like

On living in Balham: We live in an area called Balham. We joke that it’s “yummy mummy” central! Everyone except us seems to have children and be at lunch with the latest baby gadgets, dressed in Lululemon.

All joking aside, I love the area! It’s got great local restaurants, shops, and pubs, and is only a few stops from Central London. Considering Balham’s so centrally located, it’s a surprisingly quiet neighborhood and has a much slower pace of life than other parts of London. It’s really the best of both worlds! 

On the best London neighborhoods for expats: London is HUGE! I’d be a fool to say I know all the best places. We live in South London so here are my favorite neighborhoods…

  • Richmond/Kingston – This is probably my favorite area of London. There’s loads to do and don’t even get me started on the park, it’s so large my mom thought we’d left London and gone to the countryside!
  • Clapham – If you’re fresh from university or living the single life I’d recommend Clapham. It’s easy to join in on a house or flatshare to keep costs down as well as meet new people! It’s only a few stops from Central London, and there are loads of great bars and restaurants.
  • Clapham Junction/Battersea – We have friends that live in a flat in Clapham Junction overlooking the river, it’s amazing! It’s also just across the bridge from Chelsea which has tons to do.
What living in London as an expat is really like

On the most surprising thing about living in London: People are really friendly. Before moving, I’d heard that people overseas, particularly in London, are a bit weary of interacting with foreigners and not always the friendliest. I must say I’ve been pleasantly surprised that the opposite is true.

On living in London long-term: I love London as a city but the winter weather is awful! Our plan is to move somewhere warm and come back to London during the summer months. Our ideal place would be an island in the Mediterranean.

Living in London: An American expat's experience

On what NOT to do in London: Just don’t stop in the middle of the sidewalk. And for God’s sake, stand on the right when using the escalator.

Thank you so much, Micaela! 


Read more:

What Living as an Expat in Norway is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in Madrid is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in France is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in Scotland is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in Hamburg is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in Stockholm is Really Like

What Living as an Expat in the Czech Republic is Really Like

The Truth About Dating as an Expat

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