Moving to a new city can be daunting especially if you don't have a job or house lined up.
Australian Kamila Zawadzka moved from Melbourne to London without either. She started 'London New Girl', a blog to document her experience settling in a new city. Since then London New Girl has evolved into an expat community. The Facebook Group has 21,000 people sharing how to find a place to rent, which neighbourhood to move to and how to establish a social circle.
Fronted chatted to Kamila about her experience and what the majority of people find difficult when moving to a new city.
Fronted: What made you move from Australia to London?
Kamila: I moved to London as I wanted to be closer to Europe for travel and there was a lot more opportunity for work. I had been planning it for a while, trying to research all the things I didn’t know how to do: how to find a house, how to line up all this information, talking to anyone I could and even going to a weird dodgy seminar on how to move to London.
After you had made the decision to move to London, did you prioritise finding a job or a house first?
For me, I find it really hard to settle or look for a job before I have somewhere to call home. The tricky part of moving as an expat without a job is that agencies can’t run employment checks as you usually don’t have one. If you don’t have three or six months rent to pay upfront I recommend going to room listing sites or Facebook groups where the checks are easier.
If you are going through these groups you should still be on a rental contract. For me, I have always been on a contract because the deposit thing freaks me out. It’s a huge amount of money and I’ve had a friend who was scammed in London and you don’t want to get into that situation.
Who is in your community and what do they find the most stressful part of moving to London?
I started the Facebook group in 2014 and that is when the community kicked off. They are mostly expats living in London and around the UK who need advice or a chat so they don’t feel isolated. It can be hard to get out of your home/work bubble. Now some of the most common questions are ‘where is a good hairdresser?’ or ‘how do live-in landlords work?’.
One of the most stressful times for an expat is finding a place in London.
The London housing market can be really last minute: a lot of the places only appear on listings a month before. It’s hard to find a place that lines up with your timings and budget if you need to give your landlord three months notice to leave or save up for a new deposit. Often you are relying on luck to find a new property.
What are your tips on finding a place in London?
Sign up to every single email notification, Facebook group or property newsletter and as soon as something comes up, arrange a viewing. The most likely way to get a place is if you are the first one to see it and you have your finances organised. If you like it, say you want it. London is not like Paris or Melbourne where they collect applicants, London is quick and dirty. You have to make yourself available.
How do you pick the area you want to live in?
London is a funny place. You move to an area and that’s where your life is. If you live North, venturing South is very rare and vice versa. Dedicate time to go to the neighbourhood, get coffee from the local coffee shop and get a vibe for the area.
What is your advice to those who move because of other circumstances?
I recently moved to Paris after my husband got a job offer. When I moved to London I had been preparing for it for so long. However this move to Paris was sudden. It made me a lot more aware of the experiences of those in the London New Girl group who have moved to a new city because of partners or other due to job opportunities. It can be hard at first but you need to put yourself out there. Make the effort to attend events or message people, as it makes all the difference. The best way is to connect with expat community as they tend to be open about meeting new people and making new connections, otherwise it can be hard breaking into a circle of people who already have their network.
What do you like most about being an expat?
Living in a city is different to visiting a city. You appreciate getting to know a city as opposed to being a tourist in it. I like being able to call a new city home and finding a new point of view. But I also like putting myself out of my comfort zone.
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