Moving to London is all about preparing for a new cultural environment and embracing it. With the grand four-day Diamond Jubilee celebration underway and culminating today, let’s clear our throats, drink some warm honeyed water, and otherwise prep those vocal chords for belting out a proper British tune—because moving to London means learning the words to a new soundtrack of your life.

Moving to London – Rule Britannia!

“Rule Britannia!” is the ultimate British theme that you hear associated with the UK time and again. Trust me, you’d know it if you heard it (just pop in your European Vacation VHS, fast-forward to when the Griswolds arrive in London, and you’ll know exactly what I’m talkin’ about). It’s a patriotic hymn that was born in 1740 when Thomas Arne set James Thomson’s poem “Rule, Britannia” to music for a masque about Alfred the Great, performed in commemoration of George II’s accession and Princess Augusta’s birthday. The lyrics go on at length, but here’s the chorus to this anthem of British pride:

Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!
Britons never, never, never shall be slaves.

A perfect tune to blast on your iPod as you’re moving to London from outside the UK and ready to rally your troops and conquer living in a new land!

Moving to London – God Save the Queen

If you’re an American moving to London, then you should know this next song, too…sort of. Let’s just say I first became aware of it in a pub in Bath, England; it was the day of a football (soccer) match that had drunken pub patrons singing jubilantly, and, my face contorting in confusion, I wondered, “Why are they singing ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee’ in England??” It wasn’t until I could finally parcel out the words “God Save the Queen” that I realized, oooohhh…right. This is Great Britain’s national anthem (as well as across its Commonwealth in supplement to regional anthems), brought to us by Thomas Arne once again and first sung in 1745. The lyrics are adapted as necessary to “King” and “him” in accordance with the reigning monarch’s gender, and that’s not all the changes they’ve seen over the years. History and geography has added, subtracted, and otherwise modified lyrics since the original, but the “standard” version sung in the UK is typically limited to the first two verses below:

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen

Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

And as you’ve probably deduced from my little anecdote above, yes, the tune is the same as the patriotic hymn “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” sung in the States. A nice—if not highly ironic—little familiarity of home for Americans moving to London and learning to straddle two nations. And you can bet these lyrics have carried on the winds a-plenty this Diamond Jubilee weekend. God save the Queen, indeed! Huzzah!

Moving to London – Sing

The pride and tradition of Britain’s past is certainly something that awes expats moving to London, but, let’s face it, we want to live in the now of the UK as well. Songs did not cease to be written after the 1740s, obviously, and neither is history reserved for the distant past. There is nothing like moving to London to make you realize how history is made every day—case in point: a monarch is celebrating 60 years on the throne this weekend (the second longest reign of a British sovereign). As part of the commemoration, Take That’s Gary Barlow was asked to write the official song of this year’s Jubilee. In his words, he was “shit scared” faced with this responsibility but undoubtedly honored. Says Gary (a little more eloquently this time):

“Meeting the Queen is…well, it’s not like meeting a normal person. She’s surrounded by this powerful aura, but it’s an aura that feels warm, good and nice. I’ve met some powerful people in my life and there’s often a darkness you get with power. Not with the Queen.”

Barlow worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber and over 200 singers and musicians from across the Commonwealth (oh, and Prince Harry on a tambourine) on this project, and thus the song “Sing” was born in 2012:

Some words they can’t be spoken only sung
So hear a thousand voices shouting love

There’s a place, there’s a time
In this life when you sing what you are feeling
Find your feet, stand your ground
Don’t you see
Right now the world is listening to what we say

Sing it louder, sing it clearer
Knowing everyone will hear you
Make some noise, find your voice tonight
Sing it stronger, sing together
Make this moment last forever
Old and young
Shouting love tonight

To sing we’ve had a lifetime to wait
And see a thousand faces celebrate

You brought hope, you brought light
Conquered fear, it wasn’t always easy
Stood your ground, kept your faith
Don’t you see
Right now the world is listening to what we say


Some words they can’t be spoken only sung
To hear a thousand voices shouting love
And light and hope

Now sing [x4]

Come all and sing


Hear a thousand voices shouting love.

Can you hear them? If you’re moving to London, you’re becoming a part of this proud nation, too, so join those voices and SING!!

You May Also Like