Ohh London… where to even begin? Moving continents was the hardest thing I ever had to do but it was also so rewarding! Let me start off by saying that moving to London came with a lot of ups and downs. Setting up in a new country is never easy but it was an experience I will never forget!
Canada being a commonwealth country really helps for getting a visa. I fell into the category of a Tier 5 – Youth Mobility Scheme. This visa type lets you work for any company, with some limitations such as starting your own business or being a doctor. Other than that you are good to go! Depending on the visa type they may have different durations; mine was for two years. If you want to stay longer, you would have to look at other options such as sponsorship from an employer or other visa types.
The application process was surprisingly easy, and it included a short interview. The interview wasn’t really an interview per say, it was more like checking that all documents were in order. With expedited processing you can get your passport back within two weeks.
THE MOVING PROCESS
Closing things up in Canada took a lot more work than I thought. You first need to sort through your personal belongings and see what it is that you need to take with you, sell or donate. If you own properties in Canada you need to make sure that you have a third party dealing with it. As you live abroad you may become a non-resident and the property management company needs to collect taxes on rental income. I would suggest making a list of everything that you pay for on excel and start crossing them off. It is also a great idea to leave a power of attorney. Just in case something comes up and you can’t deal with it from overseas.
TRAVELLING WITH A PET
The UK is the hardest country to bring an animal into. After hearing a lot of different stories about bringing dogs into the country I hired a pet relocation service company. I strongly suggest it because if you miss one small thing on the application form your animal can be put in quarantine. One thing to note is that you have to be on the same flight as your pet. Depending on the airline options you might be limited to flying dates / availability for your pet. Unfortunately your pet needs to be flying in as cargo and that will cost more. Even if your pet fits under the seat in front of you they have to go through cargo. It sucks but just be ready for it.
The only airport that you can fly into with a pet is Heathrow Airport which is the closes to London. This is because the Heathrow Animal Reception Centre is close by which is where you pick up your pet from. All animals coming into the UK will have to pass by the animal reception centre. That includes animals that go into the London Zoo. Be prepared to wait several hours to get your pet cleared through customs. I waited just over two hours, which is reasonable but that was mainly due to the fact that all our documents were done correctly by the pet transportation agent.
Oh the thing we all just love… taxes. The good thing of living in the UK is that you don’t need to worry about submitting your taxes. It is all pre-calculated on your pay, deducted and filed by your employer. In Canada it is a different story! It doesn’t matter if you don’t have Canadian income you still have to submit your taxes. This is the case if you are working anywhere abroad. You must always submit your taxes by Canadian law. If you fail to do so and the Canadian government audits you, you will have to pay a fine.
SETTING UP YOUR NEW LIFE IN LONDON
I am going to be completely honest… the first six months will be super hard! Ask anyone that has moved to London… it is beyond painful to get started. Once that part all passes you can really enjoy living life!
PICKING UP YOUR BIO-METRIC CARD / GETTING YOUR N.I. NUMBER
This is by far the most important thing to do as soon as you can. Make sure that the letter they mailed you with pick-up details is with you during the move. If you misplace it or leave it behind you won’t be able to pick up your bio-metric card. This card is really your proof of residence and will be asked for while applying for jobs and when travelling. It’s your life really.
Setting up your N.I. Number is the next thing you have to do after you have your bio-metric card. This is really your national insurance number and will be asked for when opening up your bank account / new job. You can either call or do the application online.
WORKING IN LONDON
If you are coming from Canada and aren’t used to working with agencies they will become your best friend. Most of the UK postings are through agencies, don’t waste your time looking for a career section on company websites. Agencies will pre-screen you on the companies’ behalf making it easier on the company. In London alone there are over 9 million people… that is a lot! but there are also lots of jobs. My first job I found within two weeks, though that was fairly fast to be honest.
Right after I picked up my bio-metric card I spent hours just setting myself up with agencies and applying on Indeed and LinkedIn Jobs. It takes time but it must be done! When applying through agencies be prepared that you have to go meet with them so they can interview you.
Mind the gap
Getting to and from work on the London transportation can be a pain. You think because things look close on a map that it won’t take too long. If the tube lines don’t meet up nicely it can take a bit of time to get around. I was told that if you were around an hour of commuting each way that you were lucky.
When I went for my first interview it took me about an hour to get to the office. On the other hand I was like well this is taking a lot out of my time. The thing that I didn’t think about when I accepted the role was that when I went for the interview it was not during peak hours. It was a Tuesday at 2 pm, so there weren’t many people around, and everything was moving smoothly. The reality was that when I started working it would take about an hour-and-a-half each way to get to work. When there was an accident or a tube strike it would be even more.
Coming from Canada it was a HUGE adjustment to the working environment in Europe. I was used to working in cubicles in Canada. In London it is all open space… so it’s just desk and you seat next to each other. I felt like I was in a call centre, to be honest, but that is how they work. It took me a while to adjust mainly because I found it so distracting. With people meeting at a desk in front of you, to listening to their private conversations… It was a lot to take in but then afterwards I saw the value of it. It is really easy to jump into a conversation about work. You hear things that are going on and learn that way. It might also take you time to adjust but, as they say, when in Rome!
OPENING UP A BANK ACCOUNT
Opening up a bank account was probably the hardest part of it all… it was so beyond painful! All I wanted was to be able to put my money somewhere… that was all. I understand security has to be a concern but it was hard when all you want is to open up a bank account and they make it difficult. One huge tip I can tell you is that you need to open up the account in a branch near your work. It seems strange to me, as I want a branch that is close to where I live. But nope… it has to be near your first job. This is because that way the branch knows that your job is in the surrounding area and they know the company. This is mainly due to fraud stuff.
When you are ready to open your bank account you need to make sure you have all your documents. Bio-metric card, N.I. Number, passport and letter of employment (original documents). The UK loves paper… they believe in original copies of everything so be papered to receive a lot of paper in the mail.
FINDING A FLAT
Home sweet home… or a nightmare of a task to do! When looking for a flat the easiest way to see what is around is by looking at Right Move. The site shows you what is “available” by the property management agencies. The reality of it is that finding a flat will be draining… what you see being advertised isn’t always the truth. Sometimes the advertised flat isn’t even available and instead they just show you different ones that still are. At times the pictures were taken YEARS ago and the flat looks nothing like it. The majority of the flats will be super tiny, so be ready for that.
Make sure that you do your homework and have enough saved for the security deposit, which can be anywhere between 6-8 weeks of rent. Most of the flats already come furnished and if you required a flat that is pet friendly be prepared to pay a higher security deposit. Try and stick to an area that you can afford and like. Make sure that it is within walking distance to a tube station and grocery store. You will see so many flats and find it overwhelming, but it is part of the process. I would suggest negotiating the break clause of your lease. My first flat was signed for a year, and loved the flat, but because it was a garden flat it was a magnet for spiders (which I can’t stand). Thanks to the break clause at 6 months, I was able to move out smoothly halfway through the contract.
A few days after arriving in London I needed to get some groceries… eating out in London adds up really quick! In the area I was able to find a few tiny grocery stores, almost convenience stores! And I thought that’s what they had in London. I remember calling my mom and saying that they only have like 4 aisles of food (LOL). A few weeks after I learned that those stores that I was finding were the express or local shops. Which means just the bare essentials of what you need really. There is big (what I would call normal size) grocery stores around London, but they tend to be in the outskirts. I then discovered online grocery shopping… and that changed my life! So beyond easy to do your groceries from the comfort of your home (or on-the-go!) and have them delivered in a set one-hour window.
Just when you think things are settling, prepare for extra bills! When renting a place in Calgary you usually just pay the set rent and maybe a utility or two. That is not the case in London! Not only are you paying for the rent, but you also have to pay the council tax, tv tax (this is actually a thing), gas, electricity, water, cable, internet and landline. If you were thinking… hmm I don’t really need a landline, you do in London, this is need for most internet providers. Depending on where you live and work, you might have to get a more expensive travel card to get around London.
Just because they speak English in the UK it doesn’t mean you will understand what people are saying (lol). Depending on where the person is from, their accent might be stronger or will seem like they speak a completely different language. Another thing to remember is that they have different words and meanings. Below are examples of the British word for common American words.
If you want more additional information about moving to London my babe Deyana from @immovingtolondon has a few blog post about it. Moving to London – what to expect, really and Fighting your anxiety about moving to London which are amazing reads!
Disclaimer: The paragraphs above share my story and should not be taken as advice in immigration, career, tax, banking, or any other type of advice.