Moving to London from the US isn’t by any means going to cause the same culture shock as moving to a country with a vastly different language and culture, but it isn’t exactly in your backyard either. There will be changes to adjust to, and you must remain open-minded and accepting of those changes. Otherwise, there’s no real point in travelling any further than that backyard of yours. Honestly.
But speaking as an American expat living in London, I wasn’t overwhelmed so much as annoyed by the differences to which I had to adapt, including figuring out the London property market, where to shop in London for our necessities, how to get our US appliances to work with UK voltage, and so on and so forth. You notice such differences after first relocating to London, but you really notice them when you visit home after living in London for a while. I’d mentioned last week that I’m presently in the States for a family DisneyWorld vacation; I’ve also gotten to spend a little time in Chicago and a lot of time on the road driving through Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. This vacation has accentuated the differences in landscape and climate within the US and between the US and UK—the UK is fairly uniform with its rolling green hills and relatively cooler, damper weather, whereas on this trip a couple days’ drive took us from fields of corn to pecans to cotton to orange groves, and then onward into the warm swampland of Florida. And, being October, it was also a journey from brittle leaves burning red and orange to their exotic, lush and green counterparts.
It’s wide open land that you do see so much of in the UK as well, yet, since moving to London, it never ceases to surprise me how much of England’s population still squeezes into the small living spaces of its cities and villages. A small home is typically expected of urban living, but even when you travel outside, London’s suburbs are still filled with little duplexes and its countryside with small-scale cottages. Clearly, the mentality there has not been to take up space just because it’s there, whereas in the US, Manifest Destiny has not only expanded our nation’s territory, but enlarged its homes, autos, and stores as well. Seeing the superstores of the US like Target and Walmart, I can’t help but salivate over the extensive inventories and selection to be had. The one-stop shopping was always something I looked on with disdain as part of our country’s excesses, and yet, my God, is it convenient! I could do without the enormous portions of food served here, but, make no mistake about it, when you’re moving from the US to London, you are venturing where your dollar doesn’t stretch nearly as far…bid adieu to free refills, wide lanes, huge vehicles, large parking lots, drive-thrus, stores that carry everything you’re looking for, etc., etc….Nonetheless, you certainly see what you can live without and begin to live a more streamlined, efficient way of life that is less about the stuff and more about the experience.
At our Tennessee hotel last night, I watched a couple episodes of Househunters International, and I had to laugh at how the realtors in the respective countries said the same thing our London Relocation agents tell our clients in order to manage expectations appropriately. I watched how a Dallas, Texas woman’s face fell when told her $1,000/month budget wasn’t going to go far in Paris, particularly not in the district where she wanted to live just because it was located near the Eiffel Tower. An Iowa woman with two dogs was likewise daunted by the small (or nonexistent) yards, stairs, and narrow and slanting spaces of homes in central Amsterdam. Well, if you’re relocating to London or another popular world city and looking to live in the heart of it, obviously you’re going to have to pay more for less—these places are in demand! As your London Relocation agent will explain, if you want more for your money, you have to live less central and commute. Contrary to what you see on TV and in the movies, London apartment rentals don’t all have a view of Big Ben, not any more than all Parisians live near the Eiffel Tower! And even the typical middle-class American home is huge compared to the houses Europeans are accustomed to living in both in the city and out in the country, so even venturing out of London won’t necessarily deliver you the equivalent of your existing home.
As these ladies of Househunters International had to remind themselves repeatedly, the sacrifices in property they were about to make were all part of the trade-off of having an enriching international experience. It takes work assimilating to a new lifestyle, but weigh your reasons for relocating and accept that you can’t have it all, yet keep faith that what you’ll gain from what you’ll lose will be worth it. We expats all come into the international relocation situation quite naive—like the aforementioned individuals, I was no exception, and trust me, you won’t be either. But this is how we grow, and it’s healthy to be kept on our toes. A little moaning and groaning is inevitable, but those are growing pains that will subside. Just have a good chat with your London Relocation agent, and you’ll be educated on the optimal options for a London apartment and neighbourhood that’ll become the home-base of your new London life.