After a gauntlet of paperwork and a series of appointments which were mainly designed to determine if I knew how to follow instructions, we officially moved to London!
We have up to 6 weeks of temporary housing in a furnished flat in King’s Cross. Though it is generously sized and adequately furnished, the internet speed is slower than what I had in China (despite my near daily complaints to the property manager).
Shortly after we got the keys, someone knocked on the door and handed us 2 bags of random groceries, which included coffee & filters for a non-existent coffee maker, heat & serve meat lasagna, margarine, mayo, jam, mustard and a couple pieces of fruit. It seemed so haphazard, we are pretty sure we unintentionally stole someone’s food. (Grocery delivery is very popular here.)
Banking seems unnecessarily complex. You need a bank account in order to rent a flat, but you need a residential address in order to get a bank account. Once you find a bank willing to let you open an account as a foreigner, you have to wait for a series of documents to arrive in the mail. Over the course of 10 days I received various separate letters which included the ATM card, cheques, and several different PINs – one for telephone support, another for the ATM card, and another for mobile banking. And in order to access my account info online, I have to insert my ATM card into this calculator-looking device to verify my identity:
As one of our friends said, it’s almost as if the banks have forgotten that it’s your money.
Renting an apartment was the next task. 1-2 bedroom flats often come furnished, which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we don’t own any furniture so that saves us from having to buy a bunch of stuff. On the other hand, finding an apartment with furniture we didn’t detest felt like it narrowed the options significantly.
We saw a charming converted schoolhouse followed by a place which you accessed via the lobby of a TravelLodge, a converted warehouse loft which would have been perfect for hosting a Wild West theme party, and then there was this:
At viewing #29, we encountered a modern apartment in the hipster neighborhood of Shoreditch and rapidly made an offer. (Nice difference to SF: you can negotiate the rent down.) Though its barely larger than the place we had in the Castro, it has wood floors, all modern fixtures/furnishings, and is less than a 10 minute walk to our favorite Indian restaurant. If all goes well, we will be in there by the end of November. If all doesn’t go well, I blame Barclays.
While it doesn’t feel like we “live” here yet, it’s been long enough to note some major lifestyle differences:
- It’s amazing to live and work in the same city. My commute went from 90 mins each way down to 25, and there are so many great restaurants, pubs, and even theatre venues a short walk from my office door. I can even run errands during lunch! (And by “errands”, I mean “go to All Saints and check out their sale”.)
- Door handles are confusing. Unless there’s a sign, it’s impossible to know whether to push, pull, or hit a button in order to operate them. I am surprised I haven’t yet broken glass or my nose.
- It’s properly cold here and it’s barely November. I may not survive the winter… please send sun.
- While walking down the sidewalk is like some kind of advanced level of Frogger, I love hearing all the difference accents and languages being spoken – its such a diverse city.
- You need to plan things way in advance, which you wouldn’t think would be a problem for me, but it is taking some adjusting. Everything from restaurants to museums to cat cafes require several weeks planning (or more). It’s time to dust off my Cruise Director hat and start planning some fun!