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What It’s Like Working in London as an American

What’s it like working in London as an American? Let’s dive in and find out!

Thinking of working overseas in the UK? As there are a lot of parallels culturally between the UK and the US, as well as the shared language, it’s a great option if you’re looking to move abroad.

Despite all these similarities, there are some differences that you’ll need to expect and some different processes that you’ll want to be aware of before you commit.

Why Work in London as an American?

London has a wealth of working opportunities with a mix of amazing start-ups, small businesses, and huge global conglomerates, all calling the city home.

A lot of major businesses have headquarters there or regional offices, so if you’re working for an international company in the US, there’s a fairly good chance that there’s a UK base of operations that you can be transferred to. 

As a city, London is also full of fun things to do, cultural institutions to explore, and great travel links if you want to explore wider Europe. With five airports around the London area, and four major rail stations, including the Eurostar which connects Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and London by train.

Living in London gives you a good base to explore Europe, and has plenty of affordable and frequent links across the US and the rest of the world.

Getting a Visa

If you want to work in London as an American you need a visa. Most of the time this will need to be sponsored by the company you’ll be working for, so that’s something you’ll need to consider when you’re applying for jobs.

Not every business will want to deal with sponsoring your visa, so you have to be prepared and ask the right questions when you’re applying or interviewing.

a passport with visa

Another way to work as an American is if you’re studying in the capital. With a student visa, you can work up to 20 hours per week without breaking any rules or risking deportation.

If you want to study on a part-time basis and work to support yourself while you’re in London, this is a great balance to strike. 

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Finding a Job

Okay, so if you’re looking for a job in London, there are a few things to think about. Obviously, if you’re looking for full-time work, you need to find a job that is willing to sponsor you.

There are expat sites, forums, and specialist searches that have ways to find the best opportunities that include visa sponsorship.

If you search for your job title or industry followed by the tier of visa you’ll need to stay and work in the UK, you should be able to find a good selection of options.

If you’re already in London, you can go a little more old school, especially if you’re looking for part-time work in bars, cafes, as a chef, or jobs like that. As you can stay in London as a tourist for up to six months, if you can afford it, you can come to London and chase job leads in person.

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This makes it a lot easier when it comes to interviews and starting dates, but you need to ensure that you have enough money to save to stay without working while you search for a job. London is not cheap, so you might only be able to afford a couple of weeks in which to find work. 

Living in London as an American

The great thing about London is that there are a ton of expats living and thriving throughout the city. It’s a melting pot of cultures which makes it a really exciting and vibrant place to live. There are plenty of different boroughs all with their own vibe, pros and cons, and price tag. 

Obviously, London is expensive. That shouldn’t come as news to anyone. With rooms averaging around $800 and a two-bed apartment averaging $1800 without utilities, some areas will be immediately out of reach.

You also need to balance affordable housing with transport costs into the office if you’re not working from home. It’s a big city and it can take over an hour to get to the other side of London, so plan accordingly. 

Socializing in London as an American

With so many cultures and companies calling London home, there are plenty of opportunities to socialize and enjoy everything the city has to offer. From secret bars to pop-up events to cultural festivals, you’ll always find something interesting and entertaining going on.

Even just walking through different areas of the city, you’ll discover something completely new from week to week.

If you want to get out of the city and explore more of the UK, it’s super easy on the train. You can be at the beach within an hour or two, head out to the mountains of North Wales in four hours, or be in the beautiful Cotswolds in a couple of hours.

The UK is so much more than just London, so you can get out and explore with ease.

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The Cost of Working in London as an American

If you’re planning to work in London as an American, you’re going to need to budget accordingly. Visas can be expensive, depending on the level of permanency that you’re applying for and the amount of paperwork that you need to complete. 

You’ll also need to account for moving and setting up your accommodation costs. Traditionally, you’ll need the first month’s rent, a deposit that’s either equal to or a little higher than a month’s rent, as well as any expenses that you’ll need to furnish and decorate your space.

Also in London, when traveling around the city, the Tube is king. Getting from A to B by road can take forever, so head below ground and jump on London’s version of the subway.

It’s a cost-effective way to get around London, but you need to factor in this as a cost, especially if you have to travel around for job interviews, meetings, or getting to the office during rush hour. 

Differences to Look Out For

Although London and the UK are similar to the US, and there’s a lot of overlap in culture, there are some differences that you’ll want to look out for. 

  • Stand to the right of the tube escalator unless you’re walking up or down. This is an unspoken law and a huge deal for locals. You also want to be ready with your ticket or contactless payment method at the ticket gates – do not hold people up and rummage through your bag at the last minute. 
  • Stay out of the tourist hotspots around major events. You’ll normally hear about them in advance, but it grinds a lot of London to a halt. If you know in advance, you can alter your plans. Same if you live near a football (soccer) stadium on game day, especially if it’s a local rivalry match (also called a derby game).
  • Yes, English is the common language here, but British and American English have a lot of differences, especially when it comes to spelling. When you’re applying for jobs, apply in British English, not American, otherwise, this could be a big red flag on your application. 
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Are You Now Starting to Think About Working in London?

Overall, living and working in London as an American can be pretty sweet. It’s an exciting city, in a great location, and there are enough cultural differences that it feels like you’re living abroad, but not so many that it feels alienating.

It’s a great option with so many amazing companies having offices there, and awesome social and cultural opportunities. If living in a large, vibrant city, full of young professionals sounds like your cup of tea, start thinking about ditching the US for London!

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