As I’m approaching the milestone of living in London for 4,5 years (5 in February!) I thought I would write something about moving to a country that’s “not your own”. For some reason I’ve never really approached the subject before, and so I really wanted to share my thoughts!
I’ll divide the post into two different sections to make it a bit easier to read – maybe it will even help those considering taking the plunge! Also just let me know if you have any questions – this subject is understandably very close to my heart so I’ll happily share any advice or experiences!
I moved to London from my hometown of Helsinki, Finland, in February 2013 without any bigger reason other than I just really wanted to try out what it would be like to live in (what I considered to be) the best city on earth. I had already spent 5 months in London doing a work placement a year and a half earlier, but it never felt like I actually lived here – it was almost just like a very long holiday.
Before moving (back) to London in 2013 I saved money for one year as I had heard so many horror stories about how difficult it was to find a flat without having a job and vice versa (all true, though not impossible). So I saved about 1000 euros and then borrowed a bit more from my family, just in case me and my friends would had to pay 6 months rent in advance (which is the custom if you don’t have a job when signing a rental agreement).
Aside from saving money I had to figure out what to do with all my belongings (turned out I had a lot of those…) – what to get rid of, what to give to the storage rooms of my very helpful parents and what to squeeze into my two suitcases that I was moving out with. I lived in a quite a big studio apartment (I still fondly think about those times when I only paid 400 € rent and didn’t have to share with anyone…) so this process took about a month.
In the end I packed a few pieces of clothing for all seasons, make up and other bibs & bobs such as random pieces of cutlery and my teddy bears with me. Don’t underestimate how difficult it is to squeeze 24 years of life into two suitcases…
I also had to…
✅ inform the Finnish government I was moving
✅ book a hotel for the first week until we could find a flat
✅ cancel my phone contract and all other bills
✅ schedule “dates” with all my friends to say goodbye – this was the hardest part!
There was three of us moving, so we booked a hotel room for the first few nights as our base while we were looking for jobs and a house to live in. We had tried to look for flats from Finland, but securing a flat without being in the country turned out to be very difficult so we decided to leave it for when we moved over. We did end up finding something really quickly, but because we didn’t have jobs we had to commit to paying six months rent in advance.
In the end, however, we didn’t end up moving to that house, because due to unforeseen circumstances my friends had to go back to Finland (don’t worry, they’re ok!). At that point I had to make a tough decision: would I go back as well, even though I had planned this move for over a year, saved a lot of money and, most of all, dreamed about it for so long. In the end, I decided to stay on my own and it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
Having to go from being so excited about living with friends to suddenly being alone in this massive city with no idea what to do was a shock to the system and I remember sometimes being so devastated and lonely that I couldn’t stop crying. But I forced myself to look for work and in the end I got a part time job in a cafe, and then, three months in, a job as a receptionist in a hotel, which is what I wanted to do. After that, I started making friends, and a year after living here I met my boyfriend who I now live with.
Moving, and most of all, staying here, was the hardest thing I ever did, and if I’m proud of anything, I’m proud of myself for sticking to it even when I just wanted to go back home. It was my dream to live in London for so many years, so the fact that I’m now here, making a life for myself makes me very happy and, yes, even proud. Sometimes dreams do come true!
Practical things to do:
✅ Get a NI number (boring, but very important), as well as a new phone contract (3 is the cheapest)
✅ Use apps like VINA, Bumble BFF or Couchsurfing to find new friends if you don’t know anyone in the city
✅ When signing a rental contract, make sure that your rights are being protected (i.e. that your deposit is being protected and that you have a proper tenancy agreement)
✅ ENJOY and EXPLORE! Don’t spend all your time commuting and working – try to do as much as you can in your new city. There must have been a reason you wanted to move here, after all?
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