So You Want to Move to London

My advice: don’t!

Don’t get me wrong, London is wonderful place, it is the centre of the universe, it is the most cosmopolitan and interesting city in the world (sorry New York). It has the most things to do anywhere on the planet. You could live in London your entire life and never see or do everything there is to see or do.

It is the Silicon Valley of Europe. It’s also the banking capital of Europe. And it’s also the cultural capital of Europe.

In short, London is awesome.

So, why wouldn’t you move here? If this is the best city in the world, what possible reasons could you have for not packing your bags right now, giving the dogs away, selling the kids and moving to London?

There are a number of valid reasons not to move to London. Don’t give the dogs away just yet (sell the kids if they’re becoming a nuisance, you’ll thank me later).

London is tough. And I do mean tough as in sand in the vaseline tough! The pace in London is crazy. The competition is ferocious, almost literally. Look up the definition of ferocious in your favourite online dictionary. That’s what competition is like, they will eat you alive. If you’re coming from anywhere else in the world and you have a good standing in your community or your job or whatever it is you do, knock that down a couple of levels for London.

Allow me to illustrate.

I was living in Barcelona, working remotely for an American company. They paid me well, I worked from home, had my own schedule saw my kids every day, had time to spend with my wife, I was living the fantasy. I was working in iOS development. I was teaching programming with Swift, I knew my stuff. I was a mean developer, I was prepared, I had experience. I was ready for the next challenge.

Then I moved to London to find a job. In Barcelona I was at a mid to Senior iOS developer level. So, naturally, in London I started applying for Senior level jobs. Man, was I in for a big surprise. I got reamed. I got my arse handed to me. Remember that sand in the vaseline thing? That’s how I felt. London doesn’t mess around. I mean, I was teaching this shit and I was nowhere near the level I thought I was for the standards of London. Wow, what a wake up call.

But that’s not all, sure, you might have to lower your standards when moving to London and be ready to accept lower positions, but then there is the issue of money. London is expensive. And I don’t mean expensive as in Miami fashion burger prices, I mean expensive as in “Holy shit, £2.50 for the cheapest cup of coffee in town? You must be joking!” Now, for those of you mathematically challenged (like me), or those of you living in the USA (yes, I know, I’m being redundant), that’s about €3.50 and almost $5.00 for a fucking cup of coffee. A shitty salad in a fast-food place will set you back £5.00 if you’re lucky. That’s roughly €7.50 or around $9.00. For a shitty salad. In a fast-food joint. Take away Sushi for 2? £120, €150, $180.

“Fuck me, that’s a lot!”, I hear you say. Well, that’s nothing. Hold on to your panties, because now I’ll tell you about transport costs. London has one of the worst commutes in the world. Sure the transport system if fantastic, it has to be to move 8.5 million people around, but it’s also fucked and terribly expensive. Rush-hour commute will make you want to kill yourself. Have you seen those pictures of people hanging on outside the trains in India because there is no space inside? Well, London is like that. The only reason you can’t hang on outside the train is because it is forbidden. But the way things are going, this might change soon. There are times in the morning when the train arrives, the doors open and there is no physical way for you, or the other three thousand people on the platform to get on. I mean, there isn’t a centimetre of space on the train not taken up by human flesh and baggage. This happens every single, fucking day. Miss your train because, god damnit, you’re not a fucking sardine and you weren’t born to be packed like one. Or you simply couldn’t get on? You’re fucked. You have to wait 40 minutes for the next one. Which means you’ll be late for work, which means your boss will chew your arse and you will get the evil eye from everyone else at the office. Never mind that there is absolutely nothing you can do about this. it’s not like you slept late or missed the alarm or didn’t get to the station on time. In fact, you’ve been at the station for 20 minutes because the fucking train is late. Again. This doesn’t happen once in a while, it happens every morning, 5 days a week. And guess, what? Getting back home? Same shit. Only now you’re tired, you can’t wait to get home and have a Gin Tonic, put your feet up, kick the dog and yell at the kids to let off some steam. Well, too bad, fucker, you still have one hour of unbearable rush-hour battling to do with the 6.5 million other commuters who are trying to do the exact same thing. And how much do you pay for this privilege of getting total strangers rubbing off on you and coughing all over you? About £4. Each fucking way! So that’s around £8 a day that you pay to be tortured. Nice wok if you can get it.

Your only solace is that the British are polite. But politeness only goes so far when it comes to commuting.

Still not convinced? You still have those bags packed? Ok, let’s talk about housing in London. For half a house, and I do mean that literally, a house that has been divide in half, you get the top or the bottom of a regular house, some other poor bastards that you’ve never met get the other half. Expect to pay at least £1,400 if you’re lucky and live in one of the poorer areas of London. That’s for a 2 bedroom, one bath house. With a tiny kitchen and a tiny living room. This means you need to earn at least £60,000 a year to be able to survive. That’s not an easy feat in London. A good, non-specialised salary hovers around £35K. You’ll need two of those to be able to survive. Not thrive, not live, survive.

But wait, there’s more. Groceries are expensive as hell as well. And alcohol is outrageous, £2.50 for the cheapest bottled beer in a supermarket or convenience store. Want to drink it a the pub? At least £5 for a pint! So yes, London is very expensive.

Then there is the infamous London weather. Something that warrants a whole new rant to itself.

It’s not all fire an brimstone

But it’s not all bad news. Yes, London is very expensive, probably the most expensive city in Europe but it is also the most incredible city in Europe (that I’ve been to). London has everything, just the history alone is worth the price of admission. Anywhere you walk in London it is filled with history. And I’m not just talking about the most famous landmarks like the Tower of London or Westminster Abbey or Big Ben or House or Parliament, etc. Londinium was founded by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago and has been a center of power ever since. So many things have happened in this city, the plagues, the fires, the scientific innovations and discoveries, the wars, it’s unbelievable. And it’s all there for you to gawk at. Museums are free in London! Free! As in, no you don’t have to pay a cent to get in! How fantastic is that? Granted, there are certain exhibitions that you’ll have to pay for, but most of the museum will be completely free. This includes the British Museum and the National Gallery, two of the most fantastic places in the world.

On the other side of all that history are the technological advancements and opportunities in London. If you work in anything tech-related, this is a great place to be right now. But you have to be ready to work your arse off, London is not for the faint of heart.

Oh, and it’s got the most wonderful parks in the world. Even in the midst of urban chaos you can find a nice path of green solace to gaze peacefully at nature while it pisses on you; yes, it’s true, it rains a lot in London.

So come on over, but don’t say I didn’t warn you!