Living in London as an American? (or soon to be?) Here’s 10 tips for navigating life across the pond, from you guessed it — an American in London!
Whether you’re a soon-to-be an American living in London or already made your way across the pond, there’s tons of things you’ll soon realize no one tells you about living in the UK.
Before I moved to London, I was borderline clueless (okay, completely clueless) on everything moving and living in London. But that was in 2016 — fast forward six years and I’ve finally become the Londoner I’ve always wanted to be (and yes, I still get lost on the tube).
From me to you, here’s all I wish knew about being an living in London as an American, before I became an American living in London. Enjoy!
10 Tips for Living in London as an American (from an American)
1. Know the Visa Options for Living in London as an American
If you’re one of those Americans living in London that’s kind of obsessed with London (i.e..me) you might not want to leave.
When it comes to visas, you always want time to be on your side. So if you’re considering staying in London long-term, it’s best to start the research process as soon as possible and decide what visa route would work best for you.
I won’t sugarcoat it, staying in the UK long term isn’t necessarily easy (unless you’ve got a Prince Harry situation going on) but it is doable, especially with all the new visas popping up.
In my blog on how to move to London as an American, I break down all the visa options for moving and staying in the UK long-term (minus the new ‘High Potential Visa’ referenced in the reel above).
Have a look and if you’re already head over heels in love with the city, start cooking up your plan to stay for good.
2. Get Ready for American in England Culture Shock (yes, it exists)
It’s a common misconception to think US and UK culture are the same given our history, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
From different greetings (like knowing that when a British person asks ‘are you alright?’ they don’t actually think something is wrong with you…) to trading your American positivity for dashes of British dry humour and pessimism, everyday you’ll learn just how different our cultures truly are.
Personally, I think learning about a new culture through experience is the best way to go. So don’t worry about ‘mastering British culture’ before you get here or in your first few weeks. Trust me, it’s a constant learning process.
3. Say Goodbye to Dryers, Air Conditioners (and more)
When you’re living in London as an American, you don’t realize how many little luxuries America has…until you leave America. From dryers to air conditioners (even big cups of ice) you’ll notice there are some things that are either considered abnormal, or simply don’t exist in the UK. Here are a few:
- No outlets in bathrooms (except for razors)
- No coffee creamer
- No sink disposals
Of course, there’s always exceptions (like if you’re in a posh or American-style home) but prepare to say goodbye to all of the above, at least for a little while!
4. If You’re Moving to London Alone, Create a Facetime Routine
No matter how you slice it, living 3,000 miles away from everyone you know and love is tough.
But with all the new experiences you’ll be having living in London, it’s far too easy to let your relationships back home slip to the wayside.
The best thing I’ve found is setting up a weekly Facetime routine with the closest people to me back in the states.
This will not only help you deal with any time zone differences head on (instead of — ‘why’d you call me at 3am??’) but it’ll help keep any homesickness at bay as video calls really do make you feel someone’s presence (even if they can’t be in London with you).
5. Choose Your London Neighbourhood Wisely
Whenever you move somewhere new, figuring out what neighbourhood to live in is never easy. Especially in the case of London, where you’ve got 32 boroughs to choose from!
I’ve written a whole guide on what neighbourhood to live in London and the best places to live in London in your 20’s — but if you’re still lost, just stick to staying within a 20-30 minute commute to your work or school (even better if it’s walking distance) and spend a day in the neighbourhood pretending to be a local for the day to see if you like the feel of the area before you go all in on a place.
Moving to London? Check out my Ebook!
6. Sort Out Your UK SIM Card (you can still keep your US number)
If you’re living in London as an American, you may still be holding onto your US number and WhatsApp with a tight grip (don’t worry, we’ve all been there) but sooner or later you’ll need to get a UK number.
As long as your phone is unlocked, it’s super easy to switch to a UK SIM (and hold on to your US number).
Just order a SIM off Amazon (here’s the one I got) and activate a pay-as-you-go plan for the same month you’re moving to London. You’ll have data as soon as you land in the UK.
7. Pack for London Weather
Whether you’re coming from Florida, New York or anywhere in between, I can guarantee you’re probably making some London packing mistakes.
Outside of being stereotypically rainy, the weather also fluctuates A LOT throughout the day. This calls for always being prepared wardrobe wise, a tip that everyone living in London as an American seems to forget from time to time (me very much included).
If you ever need a reminder, here’s my guide on what to wear in London for every season.
8. Create a London Budget
It’s no secret that London is expensive, but if you’re living in London as an American, converting the pound to the dollar (i.e realizing things are a lot more expensive than they seem) won’t always come naturally.
To convert day-to-day costs I like to use XE, this helps me gain some perspective on how much things are in USD, especially when it comes to budgeting spending dollars in London.
Although you will save on things like healthcare in the UK, you’ll still need to keep things like council tax in mind, and an overall a rough budget of how much living here will cost you month on month if you don’t want London’s cost of living to surprise you (and your wallet).
No matter what budget you’re on living in London as an American, I’ve always been of the belief that a good lifestyle is available for everyone here, if you know how to be savvy with your pounds. Check out 27 effortless ways to save money in London and how to spend a day in London for under £25 as a good starting point.
9. And Don’t Forget to File Your Taxes
No matter where you go, if you’re American — Uncle Sam will always want to know what you’re up to.
As America runs its tax laws based on citizenship, if you’re living in London as an American (and the UK in general) you’ll have to file US taxes wherever you are, every year. There’s no exception for this even if you’re making your income in GBP.
It’s important to note, you won’t necessarily need to pay taxes to the US every year while you’re living in the UK. However I highly suggest reading this article on everything US and UK taxes to make sure you’re doing everything by the books.
10. Don’t Get Stuck in the American Expat Bubble
Something every American living in London will have to face when moving to UK is avoiding the expat bubble.
These are the other Americans you meet when you first move abroad that make you feel more at home. But inevitably you’ll realize (as all Americans living in London do) you’re doing yourself a disservice by only sticking to what you know when you move to a new country.
London is one of the most diverse cities in the world, so embrace using your time to make friends with people from across the world!
Final Thoughts for Tips on Living in London as an American
In my opinion, nothing is as life-changing as moving to London from America (then again I’m extremely biased). And whether you follow these tips or not, you’re sure to have an amazing time across the pond.
Wishing you the best of luck on your London journey. Cheers!