London Life: Taking Care of Business – A Travel Blog (#4)

Hello again from Sunny London!

Although we have had some rubbish weather here the last couple of days, I must admit that the assumption that London is always cloudy and rainy is somewhat of a misnomer. We’ve had some beautiful, crisp autumn mornings, which is just the kind of weather you need when adjusting to a new city.

Anyways – I digress. Two weeks since I arrived, and I am learning a lot quite quickly. Overall, I’m positive about the experience so far, but that’s not to say that I haven’t felt negative at times.

Firstly – Job and Flat Hunting. Flat hunting isn’t easy in any other city of course, but I don’t think I was fully prepared for the amount of time input required simply to get a room in a shared flat. Job hunting is actually a little easier; if you are in a skilled industry like technology, recruiters generally find work for you, and it’s just up to you, to ensure you make it to interviews and impress. I’ve been lucky enough to find some pretty good recruitment agents, who have pushed me through to a number of interviews. Good news on that front: I go for a third interview tomorrow, which I’m hoping will lead to a job offer before the end of the week. Fingers crossed on that front.

As far as the search for somewhere to live is concerned, I am going to keep chipping away. For anyone stressing about temporary accommodation, the good news is that websites such as Air BnB make finding short term rentals easy, even if they are a little pricey. I’ll be using it over the next week or so while I find something more permanent. The tough part of flat hunting so far has been the level of competition involved. You have a city with 8.3 million people living in it, and you aren’t always going to be the best fit or first pick for every flat. The other issue is a chicken-egg equation: You can’t find a flat without a job, and you can’t search for a job without a flat. The search for a room continues…

Meanwhile, I am learning some valuable lessons around life in London. After two weeks here, I finally have a good grasp on the tube system, and how to get around the city. It’s actually very straight forward once you get used to it, and is miles ahead of anything NZ has public transport wise (And that’s despite the tube system being well over 100 years old).

A few things to remember for first time tube users:

  • Get an Oyster Card (Tap and Go style NFC Card) and top it up with a Zone pass. It’s the easiest way to get on and off the tube system, and takes a lot of the hassle out of paying for your trips.
  • Don’t make eye contact with other tube users. Londoners don’t like making awkward eye contact with other passengers. Such is life in a big city. Grab a daily copy of Metro instead – they are free!
  • Stand on the right, walk on the left: This applies for escalators. Essentially, if you are going up or down an escalator, and are intending to stand on one of the steps and enjoy the ride, stand to the right hand side, so that users who wish to walk the escalator steps can bypass you on the left hand side. Failure to follow this rule will result in you getting pushed out of the way, or yelled at (I’ve seen this occur, it’s hilarious). Pretty straight forward.
  • The tube is a dirty place. Take hand sanitizer.

Outside of that, I would recommend downloading CityMapper to plot your journeys, and always have a physical tube map in your pocket, just in case. One more thing: Always add at least ten minutes to any journey time. Ensures that if there are any hiccups, you’ll have a time buffer to get to your location on time.

Everything here is still quite foreign. After living in NZ for my entire life, everything from the shops, to the people, to the stuff on TV feels weird and unusual. I’m adjusting of course, but culture shock – something I figured wouldn’t happen to me here – has well and truly set in.

“Just going to jump on the tube and pop into Tesco’s on the way back to the flat, and then we can head down to the spoons for a pint and some crisps”. Again, I’m adjusting.

If you are wondering what the cost of living here is, the answer is that yes, it is expensive, but no more so than many other cities. Accommodation I have looked at so far is pricey, sure, but a loaf of bread and a litre of milk is at least a dollar cheaper here than back in NZ. A cup of coffee (the generally accepted metric for cost of living around the world) varies in price, but I’ve found its around 2 and a half pounds (Or roughly the same price as NZ). Not hard to get a cup of coffee around here either – there are either Starbucks or Nero’s on every other street corner.


One of the things you have to do when working in London is to get an NIN. NIN stands for National Insurance Number and is the equivalent to an IRD number in New Zealand, or say, a Social Security number in the U.S. In order to get an NIN, you have to book an appointment at a “Job Center Plus”, which is kind of like a CYFS or Work and Income office.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting one such Job Center today, and it’s quite an experience. Despite having “appointment times”, its all really just organised chaos. The staff appear overworked, and there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to when people are called up to be interviewed. In any case, my 9:25am appointment didn’t get seen to until 10:00am. I got to deal with a lovely lady who took down my passport and address details, and assisted in applying for my NIN.

Waiting in the office, you get to see all sorts coming through the doors, a number of whom have obviously come from mainland Europe to work. Lots of them don’t speak English, instead choosing to bring friends along to assist in applying. It must be frustrating for the agents dealing with these folks, and I did note one agent in particular who was “sick of dealing with people who can’t speak English”. Again, overworked, and I assume, underpayed.

Still, it’s all part of the unique London experience.

One last thing before I sign off for this blog, and it’s a top tip. If you are intending to stay in the UK for any length of time, there are some fantastic mobile phone deals here. Yesterday I switched onto the “3” network, from what was an already good experience with the slightly more expensive “O2” network.

3 Offers what I could describe as a “incredibly competitive” deal: 200 minutes, unlimited text messaging – and get this – UNLIMITED DATA – for 20 pounds a month. Can’t imagine I’ll ever need another mobile provider after this, and it certainly puts a lot of what is available in NZ to shame.

The All Blacks play tomorrow in their second RWC game, and I’m excited for that. More soon from me, but until then, it is goodbye for now.


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