Now that my last post probably sapped the spirit out of your relocation to London, here I come back with more. But never fear. As I said last time, it isn’t to put fear in you but awareness. I speak a lot from personal experience but not only mine, and if there’s anything my expat friends and I want, it’s to help others learn from our mistakes by not repeating them. My husband and I will be the first to admit we went into our relocation to London very naively, and though you’re surely smart, adaptable, and resourceful enough to roll with whatever punches come your way, here’s some more heads-up so you won’t have to.
No question about it, if you’re making a relocation to London with a spouse, partner, or other family member(s), it’s imperative you all act as a team and see each other through it. Some challenges will face both/all of you, some will be particular to your individual circumstances. My previous post was case in point of that, from the perspective of the accompanying spouse who does not move over with a job already secured. And mind you, not all of you need to have a job—if not, embrace and enjoy everything else your relocation to London brings. But whichever your situation, it’s terribly important that the spouse/partner who is initiating the relocation for a work opportunity offer emotional support and understanding. That must go vice-versa as well. I was very quick to blame my husband for everything, but how about me who obviously agreed to the move at some point, right? It wasn’t without concern of many of the challenges that indeed came to pass, but in ultimately choosing to support my husband, it took me a while to realize I needed to follow through on that support beyondthe move. He was undergoing a transition, too, and, in time (and to this day) felt very guilty about the ways our relocation negatively impacted me. It was only in finding this understanding of each other—and assuming accountability for our ourselves—that we truly made headway and bonded through what has since become an incredibly positive experience. Long story short: if you aren’t moving alone, then this relocation to London isn’t all about you. Step out of your head and consider the very real effects it will have on your partner and/or children.
Now step outside your little family circle to consider the third parties having great bearing on your relocation to London. Your employer, for one. Are you moving over on an expat package? If so, what all does it consist of? Are you receiving housing support, both in terms of selling/renting the home you’re moving out of and finding/renting the London apartment you’re moving into? Will your rent be covered by the company, or is it all out of your own pocket? Like a kid coming back home after trick-or-treating, empty your package of goodies out on the table and sort through and evaluate what expat support you’re getting and formulate realistic budgets in light of that. Allow for the unexpected, like extra furnishings, council tax, 6-week security deposits, and other recurring or one-off costs of settling in. Allow for the loss in household income if your spouse/partner won’t readily be earning a salary or won’t, in fact, at all. And very importantly, don’t expect expat support if you’re hired as a local. You might have a lot of expat friends and colleagues living large in London on the corporate budget, but that doesn’t mean you will. I’d love to pretend our own expectations weren’t warped in this respect, but it took a couple dozen apartments to drive home the fact that what we could afford wasn’t going to be on par with what our friends’ companies could. On that note, the best third-party you could bring into your life at this point is a relocation agent. I’m not sales-pitching you; it’s the earnest truth. You could live in (and pay through the nose for) a hotel for three weeks like we did while I pounded the pavement investigating lettings agencies on my own, taking a couple weeks to view 23 apartments (with #23 as the winner, so, yes, I did need to view that many!). Or you could hire London Relocation and see that same amount in one day and be moved in within the week. Because not having a UK address for a month not only meant a long, frustrating time living in a hotel for us. It meant having no address to give our movers, so by the time we had it, they’d already shipped off a full cargo and had to wait until the container holding our stuff was full. I lived in this country for going-on two months without more than a couple suitcases…added to the month before my relocation to London when I’d already shipped everything but had to live with my parents until our visas went through. Speaking of visas, as most expats these days are over here on corporate-sponsored ones, don’t be flaky about the job you’re moving for, that it would just “be fun” to try, and if you don’t like it, you can try something else. You can’t be guaranteed to find another employer that will sponsor you here, so consider the consequences not only for you but the others reliant on your decisions. Also, start preparing for visa renewal several months if not a year in advance. Friends of ours just went through the nightmare of last-minute 60-page applications, trying to retrieve a year’s worth of official paper bank statements (don’t underestimate how difficult this can be), making biometrics appointments, etc. If you delay, too, expediting can cost thousands of pounds, and your other option is getting deported—not exactly the aim of a relocation to London!