Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in London? As someone who lived there for over 6 years, I can tell you what it’s really like living in London as an American.
While it may seem like a dream come true for some, it can also be a bit of a culture shock. From the food to the weather, there are certainly some things that are different about living in London than anywhere else.
But overall, it is an incredible experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.
Let’s get into the main things that make living in London so different as an American.
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14 Differences to Show What It’s Like Living in London as an American
1. The Work Culture is Very Different
When you first move to London, you may feel a bit of culture shock from your work environment.
In London, there is a lot more protection for workers than in America. This means that the law is more on your side than on your employer’s side. It’s not as easy to fire you as it would be in the States.
You also have 25 days off per year that is mandated by the government. In case you didn’t know, the USA doesn’t that at all.
Those days are required for you to take off each year. You also are only allowed to work a maximum of 48 hours per week unless you have special permission from your employer.
One rule that is a bit more strict is that your notice period is anywhere from 30 days to 6 months and that could be a requirement depending on your employer.
Another culture shock that you may experience in London is how to balance your American working personality with a European one.
In the workplace, your American go-getter personality might not mesh well with others since some people may think you’re trying to out-do them and you may cause problems with your team.
By 5:30, all the laptops are closed and everyone is at the pub. It’s not common at all to see people pulling late nights at work, so in London, you can enjoy a much more balanced work life.
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2. British People Tend to Avoid Confrontation
It doesn’t matter whether it’s email or in person, the best way to make a Brit feel uncomfortable is by trying to address a conflict directly with someone.
Make sure to ask how their day is going or how they are in general.
Sometimes passive aggressiveness is what ends up happening when things aren’t addressed directly in order to avoid confrontation.
3. It Won’t Be as Common to Strike Up Conversations with Strangers
In America, it’s super common to strike up a conversation with someone at the grocery store or at the gym, but in London it’s much less common.
4. The British Love to Talk About the Weather
Get ready to have a ton of riveting conversations about the weather! You’ll never wonder how anyone feels about how the weather is in London.
5. They Can Be Less Neighborly Than in America
Although this isn’t true in all cases, you should prepare for a little less neighborliness in London than you might have experienced in America.
You aren’t going to be baking for your neighbors or asking for a cup of sugar.
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6. Get Used to Drinking More Tea, It Solves All Your Problems
All problems can be solved by a good cup of tea. Your stomach’s hurting? Have a cup of tea! Having a bad day? Tea will fix it!
7. Certain Work Industries Do Better in London
Baking, tech, real estate, and education tend to do better in London from what I’ve observed. These industries make up most of the higher-paying jobs, so if you’re transferring a skill set from America in one of those categories, it will make your life a lot easier.
In order to make your resume/CV more competitive in London, I definitely recommend earning a few certifications on Coursera.
My favorite certifications that are guaranteed to make your CV look great to employers are Graphic Design, Software Development, Project Management, and Brand Management.
I used courses and certifications in Software Development to help me land the position I have today!
8. The Pay is Lower, But the Benefits are Amazing
You will receive an annual salary that is, on average, 30% less than what you would make in the USA with the same job. However, the benefits that come with that job are a lot better.
For example, you will become part of the national health system thanks to paying into the tax system.
This means you can visit a general practitioner (or GP) whenever you want and for whatever you want without any co-pay or additional costs required.
Since it gets pretty complicated tax-wise, I recommend MyExpatTaxes to keep it all straight between filing taxes abroad and in the USA.
9. Getting a Doctor’s Appointment is a Bit Different
In order to get an appointment in London, you have to call the morning of and try to get an appointment that same day.
It’s a bit like a race to get into the queue.
I’ve always been able to get a same-day appointment though!
You can also choose to make an appointment 1 to 2 weeks out if you have symptoms that allow you to wait a bit longer.
10. The Cost of Living in London
When it comes to the cost of living in London, it’s split between rent and living expenses.
Rent in London is usually ranked as one of the most expensive in the world and it definitely doesn’t match the salaries that the average person makes.
The average income in London is 40,000 pounds per year, whereas in the UK the average is about 31,000 pounds.
There isn’t much left over to pay rent with wages that low.
11. Signing a Lease in London is like Signing a Lease in New York City
Signing to rent an apartment in London is very similar to signing a lease in NYC. Everyone will treat you as if you are just lucky to get an apartment for whatever price they are willing to give you.
And of course, there is a line of other people waiting to get that exact same apartment, so that can be super disheartening during your apartment search.
12. Food Costs in London Compared to America
In general, food in London is cheaper than in America, especially if you buy groceries and cook for yourself most of the time.
There are lots of fresh markets that you can buy from.
My budget while living in London was 100 pounds per week, whereas in America that would only get you a handful of things from Trader Joe’s.
13. The Cost of Transportation in London Compared to America
London is known for its expensive public transportation. In fact, London has the most expensive monthly public transport card in the world.
Every day and week there’s only so much you can spend on the tube until it’s capped (usually about 8 to 14 pounds). I would usually max out my tube allowance for the day with the Victoria line and 1 bus.
Those caps change yearly and completely depend on where you’ve traveled through and the times you use your Oyster card or contactless card.
However, in order to get the caps, you have to always use the same card for travel.
Even though London is more expensive than other cities in Europe, it may be cheaper transportation-wise than living in America.
You don’t need a car to get around, so you save on the costs of buying a car, gas, registration, insurance, etc.
You can also fly to basically anywhere in Europe for around $20-$30 while traveling around America costs you an arm and a leg for just a 2-hour flight.
I highly recommend comparing flight prices around Europe using Skyscanner. If you want to compare the prices of going by train, bus, or plane around Europe, Omio is an absolute lifesaver.
14. Phone Bills in London
My phone bill was 20 pounds per month for 30G of data. For me, this seemed like a fair price and that data would easily last me the whole month.
You’ll Need to Learn a Few New Words in London
Most people know a lot of these words by now thanks to Tiktok, but here are a few phrases and vocab words to get you ready to live in London:
- Chips = French Fries
- To be fit = To be hot or attractive
- Petrol = Gasoline
- What do you want for pudding? = What do you want for dessert?
- A Jumper = A Sweater
- Gherkin = A Pickle
Making Friends in London as an American
Making friends in London is difficult because you have to compete with people who have known each other their entire lives and went to school together.
Brits often want to go out and drink at the pub after work so if you aren’t into that, you’ll be left behind.
The easiest way to make friends in London is to search for other foreigners in the city via your hobbies, your school, or the MeetUp app.
You can search “London” on Facebook Groups as well to find groups that are specific to your interests. For example, “Language exchanges in London” or “Expats in London.”
So, Are You Ready to Live in London as an American?
London can be a great place to live as an American, but there are some things you should know before making the move.
If you’re looking for a big city with plenty of opportunities and a diverse population, London is definitely worth considering.
Just be prepared for some culture shock in the beginning and make sure you have a solid support system in place.
Have you ever lived in London? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below.