Living and Working in London: A Guide

Moving to London to work is a big step, and it can be very intimidating. London’s far bigger, more expensive and more anonymous than the other UK capitals: Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast are all large and proud capital cities in their own right, but London dominates the economy of the whole Union. Living there is more expensive, and while jobs are often more financially rewarding, that’s not guaranteed. On top of that, the city has a huge population and people are famously closed off which can be a big shock to the system if you come from a more open, demonstratively friendly part of the country (or indeed world).

Today we’re taking a look at living and working in London to help you with a few tips for getting a good start.


Lots of people come to London to give their career a boost – not only are there more jobs there, there are more opportunities to gain experience, climb the ladder and build a reputation. It’s a pressure cooker of innovation whether you’re interested in the febrile start up sector, or more traditional corporate roles. Given the vast disparities in wealth across small areas even social work jobs in London offer more opportunities to gather experience, make connections and make real changes.

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The flipside of all this opportunity is the capacity for exhaustion. The pressure to excel and exceed can drive people into an extremely unhealthy work-life balance that burns them out, so you need to reorganise your head slightly to value your downtime as much as your worktime. If you’ve set a date to do something that helps to recharge your batteries then treat it as just as sacrosanct as a work appointment. Don’t be tempted to multitask – to answer a couple of emails on your way or take a call half way through a pub quiz, life drawing class or whatever it is you’re doing even if it’s as simple as cooking a lasagne. If you try and combine leisure with work you’ll produce substandard work won’t recharge.

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It’s no revelation to say that London can be an unfriendly city. People on public transport tend to be quiet, contained, with even eye contact a rare commodity.

This can feel intimidating, or even rude if you’re moving from somewhere more voluble and demonstrative. What you need to recognise is that this isn’t maligned meant: London, in common with other densely populated places, has what’s known as a negative politeness culture, where the avoidance of invading another’s personal space or thoughts is prized more highly than overt displays of fellowship like small talk.

What this means is you need to cultivate friends in order to feel anchored socially in the city. It’s difficult to spin friendships out of whole cloth, so you need to take steps to find people with shared interests to at least form a foundation of a friendship. Post-work drinks, sports teams or clubs are all opportunities to start putting together a group of peers which will, in time become friends to celebrate the good times with as well as commiserate in bad ones.

Mike W