We’ve now been living in our new home in London for a little over a month; the time has flown! It’s been a whirlwind unpacking, getting kids settled in school, getting (almost all used!) furniture, and lots of little things (that somehow take sooo long) like setting up Internet and bank accounts.
Now that we’re mostly settled, I thought it would be fun to share a few things that have been surprising as we settle into our lives here. I’m curious if you’ve experienced any of these things!
I’d regularly heard London is one of the most expensive cities in the world – and it is! Well, for some things. Housing is definitely expensive, which we anticipated. The Tube feels pricey compared to public transportation in other big cities.
But things like food is actually less expensive than it was for us in California. Staples are easy to find and feel very reasonably priced. Good theater feels much less expensive. Many museums and activities are either free for kids or have family discounts. It’s been really nice!
Schooling has been, by far, one of the most complicated parts of moving here. We knew it would be tricky, but whew, we had no idea!
Secondary school is especially complex – there’s a whole application and ranking process that begins at the start of the final year of primary school (year 6, aka 5th grade in the US). That meant it was very complicated to get our oldest, who is in Year 8, into school, and he finally started near the beginning of October. It also means we’re already starting the process for our Year 6 daughter for next fall!
Still, as complicated as the school entry process has been, we’ve been really pleased with the quality of the schools, teachers, and overall education. The education system seems much more diverse in terms of providing. a varied and interesting curriculum and piquing curiosity. I love all the different opportunities my kids have! Plus, childcare for 3 & 4 year olds is partially covered for all families, and M has loved her nursery school, as well. It’s really nice that FIVE of our kids are all having wonderful and enriching educational experiences!
Although we live in London itself, most things that impact our day-to-day are actually managed by our borough, and that seems to be true for many places in the city. Libraries, schools, parks, etc., are all under the jurisdiction of the borough.
That means that while we’re in a very large city, it feels much smaller because our borough feels like our community. There are so many intersections of experiences, from school to neighborhoods to music classes and more. Our community really has been incredibly welcoming! Our primary school community has been absolutely lovely, with many other families chatting with us and our kids, and inviting us to birthday parties, play dates, and dinner. It’s been the best part of living here.
It also means our little area has most of what we need, from grocery stores to hair shops to restaurants to lots of other amenities.
I feel like British food is sort of infamous for not being very good, and not being very vegetarian-friendly. But though really traditional foods may fall under that category (although it still depends), there are SO MANY really good vegetarian options basically everywhere you go.
Pubs basically always seem to have something delicious and veggie-friendly, every restaurant we’ve seen has the same, afternoon tea almost always caters a vegetarian menu, and even specialty set menus almost always have an option available. Our schools have also been incredible with this (and have way higher quality food than our kids did at school in the States). It seems many Brits, too, have been trying to eat more meatless meals, especially for environmental reasons, which has been great for us!
Kids Are Welcomed
One of my favorite parts of living in London, which I’ve experienced in lots of other parts of Europe and Asia, as well (but is less common in the US), is that children tend to be very welcomed in daily activities and visitor sites. For instance, places like Buckingham Palace and the Parliament building have family-friendly multimedia tours that my kids LOVED. There are lots of ways and opportunities to engage little ones, which is so fun.
I’m sure I’ll experience lots more compare & contrast scenarios as we continue to live life here. It’s been fun seeing some of those everyday differences (and similarities!) that we wouldn’t necessarily see on holiday!
Have you ever moved to a new city/state/country before? Did any differences really stand out to you? I’d love. to hear!