When we think London, we likely think of a lot of things. There is the historical aspect of this lovely city and its importance to European grandeur. There is the sense of pride like not other city in EU. And then there is the sheer size. Sporting a nickname like the Big Smoke hardly does London justice. It is a massive city of steel, glass, and stone but at the heart of it, she is a city of people. 9 million of them in fact.
When most non-Londoners consider that number, they obviously think ‘big city’ but what they likely fail to understand tis that of those 9 million people living in London, only 5 million of them were actually born in the UK. That’s right. Do the math. 36.7% of the population is foreign-born.
This shows an incredible level of diversity and makes the label ‘foreigner’ unnecessary. There are still lots of areas in the Big Smoke which are quite British but there are other areas of this great city where you might need a pinch to remind yourself that you are indeed still in the UK.
So, now that we have all that out of the way, which areas are best for expats and new Londoners? There are no bad places to live in London, but there are better places to live if you know what I mean.
While London is quite the unique city in so many ways, there are distinct go-to areas in which newly arrived Londoners seem to flock. In recent decades those areas are both to the west and south in the city limits. One of the main reasons for this is commuting. Here are a few areas from the West and the South for you to get the hang of what I am saying.
To be fair, most everyone has heard of Notting Hill thanks to more than a few big screen gems. (Thanks Hugh and Julia!) It is a wonderful location. It has become one of the most widely sought-after destinations from people of other countries. These people come with their own culture and a head of full dreams. Now, this lovely neighborhood is dotted with dozens of small business, cafes, and retail stores all brimming with various bits of unique cultures. This area is a burgeoning melting pot of many different histories, cultures, and backgrounds. While the prices might be a bit steep to live here, the diversity is worth every penny.
Mayfair is another beautiful place to live with incredible architecture and history. Centrally located, Mayfair offers the convenience of living in the center of the city where there are plenty of retailers and other exclusive establishments catered to every taste imaginable.
Soho is such a unique place. It is said her neon can be seen from the International Space Station. While this is not true, it doesn’t mean she isn’t brimming with all sorts of nightlife. Teeming with neon lights, thumping music, and a pride all her own, expats will not be disappointed coming here once the sun goes down. Now, don’t turn up your nose at the descriptions, after all, this is a central hub for expats. In fact, most of the local businesses were started by Russian, Italian, and French families.
And what hidden gems might be awaiting expats in West London? Well, read on to find out.
While the tennis tournament in Wimbledon eclipses most everything about this area, it is more than just a tennis hotspot. It is populated by many expats from South Africa who have brought with them their culture in the form of open-air festivals, jazz music, retail shops, and of course restaurants with their culinary flair. It is a relatively inexpensive area to live as well, which offers remarkable properties for a reasonable price.
Clapham is another wonderful neighborhood for young professionals and has become a hotspot for sports and concerts. Despite this, the area is considered quiet and peaceful and has a low crime rate as well. Without question, Clapham is one of the best places for those seeking quiet and relaxing areas in which to live.
While many would argue that not living in London is a mortal sin, the outlying areas of the suburbs offer a great compromise to the hustle and bustle of city life while coupling it with lower prices for living expenses and all the benefits of living close to a bustling metropolis.
I’m sure you’re wondering can I still work in London and live in the suburbs without spending a third of life commuting back and forth every day. The short answer is, yes. But that is only if you can find the right place.
Looking at Gerrards Cross, many balk at how expensive it is. But as with many things you get what you pay for. A trip to London is under thirty minutes by train and an hour by car. The exceptional schools are a big draw for many expats and the array of restaurants is just the cherry on top.
Hassocks is a great example of a quiet village within reach of the Big Smoke. It is a picturesque town that feels like it used on every Christmas Card. In nearby Brighton there is all the entertainment and noise, but in Hassocks it is quite and serene. The commute is generally more than an hour but it can be well worth it when weighed against all the positives.
Sevenoaks in Kent are the same distance from London as Hassocks if you travel by car but by taking the train expats can get there in under thirty minutes. The rolling countryside is alluring but what really draws expats to this lovely locale is the Sevenoaks School.
While these are merely a few examples of excellent places to live as an expat, there are certainly dozens more. Each offers a unique flavor of London’s great diverse culture. Why wait? Come and take a look, why don’t you?