How much should you save before moving to London

Money is a touchy subject, but I know how much of a constant brain freeze this was when I moved over so I am going to put it all out there for you guys. As I said in my previous money post, what I write below is just my opinion and of course everyone does London in their own way; if you have your own thoughts and suggestions please leave them in the comments below for everyone to read.

Well, you want to move to London because you saw that Amanda Bynes movie and you have had The Clash stuck in your head each day as you trudge to work. But what do you actually need to save before you come over? Of course it is easier if you have friends over here, because crashing on their couch when you first arrive will save you some serious cash – but as long as you are prepared it will all be ok. I mean, cold and full of people who laugh at you when you say deck, but ok nonetheless.

When you are saving for London the temptation is to go for the best case scenario. Get a job in the first month, start earning pounds and then you can spend your remaining ‘move over’ savings on travel. Well I did the first part of that, but then managed to burn through my savings just surviving. What I hadn’t taken into account is that even if you manage to get the job in the first month (not guaranteed), then a lot of the time the person currently in the role still has a months’ notice to work out. So you don’t even start working for two months. And most annoyingly even once you have started work in most places it will take another month before you get paid. That is best case scenario three months without income.

To add to that shitstorm of no income, if you plan on getting a flat during that first three months you also need to take the bond into account (around 6 weeks rent) plus rent in advance. As well as feeding yourself, buying interview clothes if you didn’t bring any over, losing money when you transfer it from NZ to the UK and having enough money to sightsee a little to stop yourself falling into a vat of depression and anxiety during the job search.

The impossible figure I would recommend is $10,000, which at the current exchange rate works out to be £5,795. You can thank Brexit for that exchange rate, when I moved over I only got £4,900 for the pleasure. That is $10,000 when you leave NZ, so you will need to add your visa ($300-$800 at the moment), flights and leaving party costs on top.

How far will that £5,500ish get you? Let’s break it down like a bad 90’s rapper. The numbers below were my situation, so five years old and completely different to what you may end up doing.

Moving to London budget

*I was meant to stay with my sister for a full month, but we nearly killed each other after a few days so I did the next best thing. I found a short term let (the girl was going traveling for two months) so I could at least be stable while I tried to find a job. I seriously recommend short term lets, they help you get used to London life before you commit to a lease.

**Food is very expensive when you first arrive, you might not have a kitchen to cook from scratch and even if you do you get stuck shopping at the closest shop rather than the cheap ones.

***come on, you just arrived in London. You have to go to a show or a museum or something to prove that you are here, that you did it.

Just with the above you have chewed through half your savings. Want to do a trip or job search takes longer then it gets quite hard. Not impossible, just hard.

Should anything I have written in this post stop you from achieving you dream of living in London? Shiny fucktrumpets no. You just need to be more prepared or have a backup plan. If you can’t even dream of saving $10,000 then just make sure you find a job (even a temporary one) before you come over, or find a cheap form of accommodation for the first month or so. Don’t have a friends couch to crash on? Scour the Kiwis in London Facebook page to find a short term let from day 1. Nothing is impossible, it just pays to be realistic and prepared in case it doesn’t go your way.

How much did you save before moving to London?

Overthinking London

Early next year a new wave of Kiwis will invade the UK. In the expat sense, not in the Game of Thrones (this entire hemisphere is the North) sense. This means that right now hundreds of Kiwis are sitting at home stressing about if they have made the right decision and overthinking every little thing. To help you newbies out below are the top three that almost-expats overthink before the big move. I know it is slightly impossible but try not to worry, London is going to happen to you weather you like it or not. Just relax and enjoy the ride.

Where to live

This is the one people overthink the most, and it is the one that just completely resolves itself when you arrive. Kiwis in London tend to fall into an area to live in based on one of the following:

  1. Where they happen to get a job
  2. Where they happen to get a flat
  3. Where they get lost on a night out and think ‘oh this area could be fun’

If you are really worried about moving into the wrong place just make sure you either do a short term let when you first arrive (I got a flat for two months) so you can try it out, or make sure your flat has a 6 month break clause in the lease. The only thing that you really need to consider in terms of where you live are transport options; so how long will it take you to get into central and how much will it cost (download CityMapper to work it out). Other than that STOP OVERTHINKING IT.

Do I have enough money

I think this is the number one concern of everyone living in London, no matter how long they have been here. London has a way of sucking up all your money, leaving you gasping before payday. Pretty much the only way to escape this is if you are in a couple and your rent is halved (given the quality of the guys in London, I would choose poverty). The major consequence of not having saved enough when you first move over is that you have to lower your job standards to get through. It absolutely should not stop you moving, many a Kiwi has got a job washing dishes to tide them over until the dream office admin job came along.

I am going to be a totally different person

No, sadly you are not. You are still going to be ‘you’; the same wallflower with a love of sleep-ins and habit of eating the entire packet of biscuits when you intended to just have one. What does happen is that you are away from all your patterns, all those mindless easy ways of living. Thrown out of your comfort zone you have a chance to re-assess what is important to you, and try the things you have always wished you were brave enough to do – just don’t be surprised if you still end up eating the packet of biscuits after all your bravery.

Runawaykiwi gin collection

Apologies in advance for all the feelings in this one, thankfully you are reading this in electronic form otherwise you would see the tears on the page. I am writing this on the evening of moving into my new flat and I am overtired, hungry and cresting the rainbow of emotions about living by myself for the first time. I wrote last week about why I was moving and how damn excited I was for it, but the closer I got to M-Day there was just so much going through my head.

First up I should say I’m not an idiot, I am a spreadsheet loving queen who is entirely capable of paying bills, ordering furniture, changing lightbulbs*, negotiating a lease and ordering groceries. I know I got this, at least the analytical part of my brain knows this. Apparently my analytical brain and my heart don’t regularly catch up over coffee.

The week leading up to the move I had the stunning combination of being seriously busy at work and getting about three hours sleep a night because I had so much anxiety about the new flat. Of course none of it was rational worry, I was waking up at 3am to manically google how to attach a leaning shelf to the wall. Or where to buy the best succulent arrangement. Or if Ikea had changed their delivery terms since the last time I looked. Or if H&M home had any wooden trays because the metal ones just didn’t work for me.

Nothing rational, all silly things that were covering how nervous I was at doing this by myself.

If this was NZ my parents would have shown up bright and early with takeaway coffee and started loading stuff into a car. Any issues with the new flat they would have been there justifying the decisions I made (or telling me to not be quite such a bitch when John Lewis couldn’t find my new address). I know it is one of the sacrifices I made for living in London, but my god I wish Mum and Dad were here with their amazing combination of humour and practicality to help me through it. Not that anything would have been fundamentally different (as I said before, I know that I got this), but I might have had slightly more sleep. And I might not have accidentally put a screw through my foot**.

Kiwi movers London

I did have bright spots, bits that reminded me what I was missing in this emotional rainbow was other people to ground me. The first was that I had booked Kiwi Movers to cart all my boxes. The original deal was that they would move me and I would mention them on the blog as payment. But fuck me if I don’t get a little teary about these guys. It was just so much like living at home and having friends help with the move. Nothing was a drama for them, they just turned up with a familiar accent (one Kiwi and one Brit) said ‘sweet as’ and got to it. It was so damn chilled out, they just lifted and joked and it was easy. All my stressing about my mountain of boxes not fitting in the van were groundless, these guys were tetris masters.

I have now used a ‘man and van’ to move four times in London and every other time has been hard work. Normally it’s a driver who doesn’t actually want to lift anything, is hard to communicate with (either a language barrier or they were just a dickhead) and all up it was like they were doing me a favour. But these kiwi mover guys just smiled and got on with the job. Sorry I know that saying how much I love the movers and they remind me of home is not a normal ‘review’, but I warned you I was overtired at the start.

The second part of the move that I didn’t realise would have quite such an impact is Lex and Aaron. I may or may not have convinced them to move into the same building as me, the apartment one up and one across. Instead of thinking of it as advanced stalking, I choose to believe it is a mutually beneficial ‘access to the gin collection’ in exchange for ‘access to the nail polish collection’ arrangement.

Anyway we both moved in on the same day, and just as I got to the ‘if I have to face any more unpacking I might dissolve into a puddle of tears’ stage – Lex and I decamped onto the balcony for gin. Then once Aaron was home for work we headed up to their flat for takeaways and prosecco. Every other time I have moved flat in London the day has finished with me sleeping in a half made bed, focussing on all the shit I had to ask the landlord to fix and exhausted already at the thought of the boxes I had to face the next day. But this time? This time it was celebration with friends, it was a cheers and watching dogs on Youtube; it was what I would have had if I had been at home with my family.

I’m not quite sure what the point of this blog is. To be fair that statement could apply to this post or to Runawaykiwi in general. I think it is that I want to remember that people make the difference. Weather it is a friendly mover or friends to commemorate the day with, the people can make you feel like it is not all on you. I love my flat, love it. And as predicted I am entirely capable of any random house things that have been thrown my way. Moving is always stressful no matter where you are, but you don’t have to do it alone.

 

*Dad if you are reading this I know you had to skype me through the last lightbulb change I did, but I swear I learned from it and I am 99% sure I won’t buy the wrong lightbulbs and electrocute myself this time.

** Nope I didn’t screw too far when putting the leaning shelf together, that would be far too normal. I was looking at a framed picture of Gandalf the Grey, trying to decide if he should live next to my gin, tripped on my Moroccan poof and landed on a screw that I had left on the floor. A painful reminder that Gandalf is one of the most powerful wizards around and should be respected as such.

Packing boxes from hell

I am currently sitting on the pillow sized bit of my bed that is not covered in stuff. Apparently I own four backpacks even though I have never knowingly purchased one. I also have precisely eight pairs of running shoes, EIGHT. I have not been to the gym this year, and the last time I ran was to get the last filled croissant at White Mullberries. This surprising amount of stuff has colonised my bed because I am moving flats this week, I am moving into my own place for the very first time.

I know that back home most of my friends are contemplating buying their own house right about now, but living in London makes the thought of saving for a deposit laughable. So instead I am beyond excited to be renting my very own studio apartment. Not having to be considerate about using the washing machine, making smoothies at 7am or freaking out someone with the size of my morning hair; its the dream. Since moving to London I have only lived with one other person, big flats were never going to be my thing. And the ‘one persons’ that I have lived with worked really well. Four years, two people and 0 arguments. Not even a tiff.

But I just have reached a point where I can’t do it anymore. I don’t want to live with a flatmate. I am meant to be a fucking adult, and I can’t make the breakfast that I want because I am worried about waking up my flatmate. I just want to live entirely on my terms, and living by myself is the key.

I also don’t really like my current flat. When we moved in I thought it was everything we were looking for, but in the last 14 months I have never felt good vibes here. The hocus pocus side of me wonders if the building used to be a workhouse or Jack the Ripper once lived here. But in reality I think me not loving living here is because it is a basement flat with no light and a dank smell that no amount of Anthropologie candles can get rid of.  Also my flatmate at the moment has a lot of furniture, art and knick knacks so all of the flat apart from my bedroom doesn’t feel like mine. Other things I am not going to miss about my current flat?

  • The boiler being in my room that hums loudly every single time water is used
  • The light switch in my room being hidden behind a wardrobe so I ruin my nail polish at least once a week
  • That basement smell (I know I already mentioned it, but I just hate it that much)
  • My ‘view’ being a brick wall
  • Mold waging war on in bedroom
  • Having a bathroom with no windows and no fan
  • Having a lounge that gets no natural light and lighbulbs that blow once a month

Hidden light switch behind a wardrobe

I am pretty sure you are all wondering how affordable living by yourself in London is. Its not, not at all. But I have pretty much taken anything close to a travel budget and am spending it on the flat that will make me happy. I travel so much for work anyway that the thought of getting on a plane to go on holiday is abhorrent. Seriously, all I want to do is take annual leave to have lazy days in London. It is a pretty cool city after all.

So I am packing. I hate packing. I seem to have a personality where I am 100% ok making big decisions (ah la deciding to move to London over brunch), but anticipation absolutely ruins me. Having four more days to anticipate all of the different things that could go right or wrong in the move is simply exhausting. If I could move tomorrow in a whirlwind I would be a happy camper. To get through the next four days I will complain to anyone that will listen and procrastinate packing by watching Firefly and Gilmore Girls to my hearts content. And before I know it I will be nesting in my new flat. It will be all mine.

Yes this blog post is me procrastinating those dreaded brown boxes. Sigh, I should get back to it. I can’t even tell you how happy I am to be moving, and to have the chance to create my own space (I have already ordered a pillow with my three favourite swearwords on it). I will keep you posted!

The sadness of going home

Before my Mum cracks open the champagne I have to be super clear that I am not moving back to New Zealand any time soon (well actually my visa is up at the end of the year so who knows what the hell will happen, fingers crossed for staying a lot longer!). No, this post is about those whose decision gets made for them, the moment when the visa runs out. Moving to London is part of the cultural identity for Kiwis, but for all that we mythologize the move over we seem to gloss over the eventually moving back home part. After all, surely moving back to the comfort zone is far less of a scary step?

The funny thing about London is that those who love it instantly and unconditionally are in the minority. Most expats arrive at that opinion that while London is pretty damn awesome, its also hard, lonely, expensive and literally a world away from people that you love. Over time things become a lot easier (or you just become more at ease with your choices) but those first few months can be a real struggle. I mean, exciting as hell and one of the bravest steps you have ever taken, but still a struggle.

After the first couple of tricky months most people start to feel a little more comfortable. You know what supermarket to go to, remember to always have an umbrella in your handbag and start seeing the shape of Africa in the mould in your room. But things still aren’t exactly peachy with your new friend London. Even while you are on a sunny pub rooftop it just seems that everyone is doing it better, you feel like no matter how hard you try you are failing at London. ‘Everyone’ else is travelling, dream jobs and Tindering every night. I mean, they’re totally not, but that is how it felt to you.

Then something weird happened, London started becoming a little more like home. A few friends, some cool trip and ice-skating in the moat of the Tower of London made all the big scary bits of expat life a little more friendly. You started falling for bits of your new city, it started to become part of you. At this point the lucky few with convenient dead grandmothers get to let their guards down with London. After the two year point you make more friends, put down roots and find out how to transfer at Bank Station; its like a comfortable sigh after holding your breath for 730days. You become that obnoxious Londoner who can’t shut up about it, like a hipster who just got an Instagram-worthy puppy.

Problem is not everyone gets that extra time to become BFF with London, and that just sucks the big one. For the two year visa squad just as you are starting to make your mind up about the big L the decision gets made for you. You get an end date and short of marrying a Scottish bloke or convincing a company to sponsor you, it’s time to book a ticket home.

As millennials & Kiwis we are not used to having people stand in our way, particularly something that is as big of a blockade as Her Majesty’s Government. Being told no is almost more important than your true feelings about London. With deportation looming suddenly this city that was unconvincing, that stole all your money and made you fat seems like the holy grail, London being taken away from you is the only thing you can focus on.

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Some cool kids move to London for a whale of a good time, travel plus booze for them is essentially the entire equation. For the rest of us London is that first bite at real and isolated independence. We move over just at the point where we are trying to figure out careers, love, intentions, which battles to fight and how to fix a fuse box. The two year squad gets ripped out of London in the middle of this ‘growing up’ process.

As well as the pain in the arse of packing and moving, there is also the fear of stepping back into an old life. What if you become the person you were? What if you don’t know who you are yet? What if you have changed so much you don’t fit there anymore? And after seeing how big the world is, what if NZ is bat-shit boring?

If London taught you anything in your two years here it has to be fuck what other people think. Once you have seen a girl vomit into the sleeves of her trench coat on the tube your life choices look pretty sweet indeed (side note: I once saw a man with a parrot on his shoulder on the Metropolitan line, I feel this is a good if a little piratey life choice). The worst thing you can do right now is focus on what you can’t have, namely: London. It is time to focus on the possibilities, this is an incredible chance to change your life for a second time.

Before you moved to London you probably had a million possibilities running round in your head about the things you would see and the person you would become. Why the hell are you not doing the same thing at the moment?

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Chances are pre-London you went to the same places, hung out with the same people and didn’t really do anything that scared you. Be the brave person you are in London just on the other side of the world. Fuck buying a house; live in town and spend all your money on rent like you did in London. Travel as much as you did in Europe but this time see the Southern Lights, the Milky Way and every single set of the Hobbit. Be creative, take chances and stop for fucks sake stop thinking that London is the only place you can find out who you are meant to be.

If you think going home means being stuck in a certain pattern/life you need to use the flight to shove those thoughts in an overhead locker and leave them there. You are far too valuable to waste on normal.

And if New Zealand really sucks, there is always Australia.

 

Brunch spots that I love