London is one of the most dynamic and fast-paced cities on the planet. But what it makes it such a unique place is that despite being a cultural, business and artistic hub, it is also a great place for setting up home and raising kids. It offers the best in schools, shopping and activities, whilst still being an exciting and vibrant “city on the go”. Australians moving to London will find the process easy and welcoming. Unlike many other places around the world, London has systems in place to deal with migratory matters that can provide information, advice and support that have been tried and tested.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the key points you need to know before your big move, and also point you in the right direction for getting settled in and starting your new life with the best possible chance of success.
The Basics at a Glance:
- Currency: GBP or Pound Sterling (two names for the same currency)
- London Population: London is split into two zones, London and Greater London. The combined population is around Nine million people (roughly 13% of the UK’s population).
- Main languages: English is the main language (spoken as a first language by almost 80% of people), but more than 300 languages are commonly spoken by London folk.
- Weather: London (and the rest of the UK) has four distinct seasons. Temperatures range from an average of 13 °C to 28 °C during summer and from 2 °C to 7 °C in winter,
- Time zone: London is set at GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) and changes to plus 1 during summer. About 10 hours behind Brisbane.
- Emergency number: 999. For all emergency services, you use the same number.
- Electricity: 220-240 Volts (three pin is the most common, but shavers tend to have two). These plugs are also one of the safest in the world as they have built in fuses to ensure against damage from power surges. You shouldn’t need to worry about voltage conversion, but the pin shapes are different, so you’ll need a plug adapter (these can be picked up at almost every appliance shop).
- Religions: Christianity is the main religion (C of E/Church of England), but almost every religion has some presence in London. It is an incredibly diverse place that caters for all.
Moving to London : The Things You Need to Know
As an Aussie, there are several immigration/visa routes you can take depending on your situation. You’ll likely either be on a sponsored skilled work visa (good for 3 years and easily renewable) or a work holiday visa (ages 18 to 30 and valid for 2 years). The good news is that after Jan 30, 2017, all paperwork can be done electronically in your home state.
Although immigration between the UK and Australia has always been a fairly standard procedure, don’t neglect checking out the UK Gov website for any changes.
Money and Banking
With such close cultural and historical ties, you’ll find that dealing with the financial side of things is pretty similar to home. The Currency is the GBP (Great British Pound) more commonly called Pound (1 Pound, 2 Pounds) or Quid (1 Quid, 2 Quid), and Pence (or pennies).
The GBP to AUD exchange rate has held pretty stable of the last year, $10 will get you between £5 and 6, check out CurrencyFair or OFX for an always up to date exchange rate. If you need to transfer money from Australia to the UK, OFX or CurrencyFair can provide you a much better deal than your bank, and in fact CurrencyFair provided the best overall deal in our study when converting British pounds to Australian dollars. You can read more about international money transfers in my article – Why I don’t use my bank for international money transfers.
You’ll be able to use your visa card at both ATMs and shops and there are plenty of affiliate banks in London. Banks are generally open Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, with a half day on Saturday. There are of course Public Holidays (Bank Holidays) when banks will be on reduced hours or fully closed. You can get up to date information on UK bank hours from this site.
Getting set up with a local London bank account will not only save you money on withdrawal fees, but also make it easier to get paid and deal with bills. Opening an account is pretty easy if you have the right paperwork. You’ll need your passport (with visa) and proof of address (preferably two forms). The proofs of address can be utility bills and/or rental agreements.
Getting a House
Renting in London can either be a breeze or a nightmare depending on what you need. Fortunately, there are a wealth of websites that can give you a great picture of what you’re likely to pay and what kind of places are available. Both houses and apartments in London can be rented furnished or unfurnished. The standard terms involve one month upfront, one month’s security deposit and a basic twelve month lease (although you can ask for longer) and some agents might charge a fee.
Before you move, check out Right Move and Zoopla for up to date property listings. They have great search filters to make sure you are only looking at the type of property you want. Or if you prefer to get a short term lease and spend some time checking out the different areas for schools and amenities, you can easily find some short-term letting options.
Because London is such a diverse place, you’ll find that Australians live in pretty much every area. Whether they’re business professionals or on working holidays, there are a number of Aussie bars and Aussie expat meet-ups to help you get the inside scoop and make connections.
Here you can find a lot more detail on renting a house or apartment in London.
As an Australian citizen moving to London, you’ll have to take care of your tax arrangements shortly after arriving. If you’re employed by a British company, then your British tax will be dealt with by PAYE (pay as you earn), which means that it will be deducted automatically from your salary.
You will need to determine whether or not you will be an Australian resident for tax purposes. In any case, if you have Australian sourced income (eg. business income, or rental income) you will still need to file a tax return in Australia.
Taxes in the UK are paid on a sliding scale on a tax year that runs from April 6th to April 5th:
Income Tax rates and bands
|Band||Taxable income||Tax rate|
|Personal Allowance||Up to £11,000||0%|
|Basic rate||£11,001 to £43,000||20%|
|Higher rate||£43,001 to £150,000||40%|
|Additional rate||over £150,000||45%|
Should you have kids, rights of residence in the UK (sponsored work visa), will entitle your children to state schooling. The school year is divided into three terms (with a break in the middle of each term). These are the dates for 2017-2018 school year:
|Term||Dates||Number of days|
|Autumn Term||4 September – 20 October 2017
(4 September is an INSET day)
|October holiday||23 October – 27 October 2017|
|Autumn Term||30 October – 19 December 2017||37|
|Christmas holiday||20 December 2017 – 3 January 2018|
|Spring Term||4 January – 9 February 2018||27|
|Spring half term||12 February – 16 February 2018|
|Spring Term||19 February – 29 March 2018||29|
|Easter holiday||30 March – 13 April 2018|
|Summer Term||16 April – 25 May 2018||29|
|Late Summer half term||28 May – 1 June 2018|
|Summer Term||4 June – 25 July 2018||38|
Private schooling is always available for those who want it. Some of the UK’s best schools are private (and quite pricey), and you’ll need to organise a placement at least six months in advance.
The UK Healthcare system (or NHS as it is more commonly referred to) is a famed institution. Australian expats are entitled to limited free access to the NHS through Australia’s reciprocal health care arrangement with the UK for the first six months following your arrival. Thereafter, you may be entitled to predominantly free access to the NHS.
Obviously with any public health care system, you may want to take out international health insurance to give you faster access to treatment and choice of doctors and hospital.
You can read more about medical treatment in the UK in our article on the UK healthcare system.
Shopping, Measurements & Language
One of the main differences you’ll find in language when moving to London will come from your shopping experiences. Whether going to the local market or pub, the weights and measures can come as a surprise. Despite EU rulings on weights and measures, most sellers (especially in London) still work in a mix of Imperial and Metric measurements. In the pubs you’ll be buying a pint, in the fruit shop you’ll be buying a pound of grapes, but on the other side your apartment or house will be in meters squared as will supermarket and deli purchases.
Day to Day Life When Moving to London
Your day to day life in London will be in many ways similar to your life in Australia. Shopping, schools, parks, nights out and so on, but there are a few areas where you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Unlike in Australia, the UK internet coverage (especially in London) is fantastic, cheap, and fast and has almost full coverage; you can get a good package that will fit your needs.
Getting around the city is easy enough as London has one of the best public transport systems in the world made up of an underground railway, buses, overland trains and plentiful taxis. If however you plan on driving through the city, be prepared for traffic and the dreaded “congestion charge”. Cycling is becoming more and more popular.
As with any big move, being prepared in advance will help make your move easier.
Additional Useful Websites When Moving To London
Share below your tips for moving to London? What would you recommend to other Australians who are considering moving to London?
This article was written by Mark Angelides. Mark has lived in seven major cities throughout the UK over a period of twenty years. He has lived for six years in China in a variety of cities (both big and small). He has also spent several years in both Germany and the Czech Republic.
Disclaimer : This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute financial or taxation advice. As this information is not advice and has been prepared without taking into account your objectives, financial situation or needs you should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness for your circumstances. Independent advice should be obtained from an Australian financial services licensee before making investment decisions, and a registered (tax) financial advisor/accountant in relation to taxation decisions. To the extent permitted by law, we exclude all liability for any loss or damage arising in any way. The Australian Expat Investor may receive referral commissions from companies referred in this article.