Moving to London: advice on moving to a new city

Written By, Joshua Marienfeld, MiM2024

Where did you live before moving to London?

Before starting LBS in September 2023, I was backpacking across Southeast Asia and New Zealand, and I remember calling my family from across the world in the middle of the night when I received my offer! Being on the other side of the planet, however, made searching for a flat in London more stressful (albeit exciting). Although my belongings remained in the UK, not being able to view flats in person and call agents in the same time zone definitely added to the challenge.

What was your biggest fear before moving?

During 4 years of undergraduate studies, I had moved a total of 9 times. Therefore, the idea of moving again didn’t faze me. However, my biggest fear was the sheer size of London. Up to this point, Munich was the largest city I had lived in (a fraction of the bustling metropolis that is London), so I was anxious I wouldn’t secure an affordable place at a reasonable distance to LBS’ city campus.

For that exact reason, many instinctively look for places as close as possible to LBS. But the truth is, there’s no need. While not perfect, London’s underground system is really world class, and you’ll be surprised how far you can get in a reasonably short amount of time. If you’re living on a line that stops at Baker Street (there’s many to choose from: Jubilee, Bakerloo, Metropolitan, Circle and District), you’ll find you can be quite flexible with your location (which means greater flexibility on price, space, and local amenities). For example, I live in the Willesden Green / Kilburn area. While Zone 2/3, my Zone-1-classmates’ jaws drop when I explain it takes only 30 minutes from flat to lecture theatre seat. (Up the ante even more and check out Wembley Park. Modern luxury flats only 15 minutes / 2 tube-stops away from LBS despite being Zone 4!). Many of my classmates who live a couple minutes’ walk from LBS admit in confidence they miss a mini commute. Don’t underestimate the power of a little journey to help unwind after class!

What surprised you after moving to London?

Unlike NYC with its unique and world-famous neighbourhoods such as Brooklyn and Manhattan, I had never considered the uniqueness of London’s areas. Even if you choose to live close to LBS, make sure to spend some of your time really exploring the city. London is a fantastic city, but it can take time to scratch beneath the cold exterior to find its true non-tourist charm. Something that is well worth the time investment.

What is your top tip for future students preparing a move?

Stay calm and carry on.

As with any major city, the London property market is hot. Listings come and go in a heartbeat so it can become disheartening as well as stressful when you haven’t secured anything (especially with a course start date breathing down your neck). Don’t panic. You will find something. Just as flats go lightning quick, so do new listings arrive. I viewed, signed, and moved only a couple weeks before the programme started. So, if you haven’t got a place with 1 month to go, keep your head up and don’t start panicking just yet.

Also, focus on the must-NOT-haves rather than the must-haves. You’ll never find that dream property that has everything, but at least make sure it doesn’t break any of your hard-nos.

What would you do differently if you could?

Travelling on the other side of the world, I spent two months searching online, calling agents in the middle of the night, and a copious amount of video viewings; all to no avail. It took one day in person in London to find a flat. If you can, I wholly recommend starting the process in person. In person you can see the properties for yourself, meet the agents/landlords face-to-face, scope the vibe of the area, and get the process moving. In a few days you’ll achieve more than what would take months online.

Favourite spot(s) in London?

A severely overlooked part of London is its quiet spaces. London, in many peoples’ minds, is a city of happening, but it also has spots for the slower days. Ideal in both sunny and atmospheric rainy days, London’s villages such as Highgate or Blackheath are well worth a visit, even if for nothing else but a seat outside an independent coffee shop.

TLDR (Too Long Didn’t Read):

  • Sorting housing from abroad adds to the challenge, it’s worth visiting London in person to get things done
  • When looking at places to live, prioritise avoiding your must-NOT-haves, rather than securing all your must-haves
  • Don’t worry about living as close as possible to LBS, it’s connected enough to open your horizons around London
  • London is an amazing place, give a little time to unlock its full charm (no matter where you live)
  • London is a busy place, but there are quiet hidden gems littered round for a different pace

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