Moving to London from America? Our Guide Will Help You Settle In

Moving to London from America? Our Guide Will Help You Settle In

Moving to London from America? Our Guide Will Help You Settle In
18th August 2022

With countless shared traditions and a relationship spanning hundreds of years, the United States and the United Kingdom have a great deal in common. However, for Americans visiting the UK for the first time – especially if London is their destination – a slight period of cultural adjustment may be in order. There were over 630,000 business trips from North America to London in 2019, and those numbers are expected to return in the post-pandemic travel boom. So, if you will be joining the influx of American travellers heading to London this year – whether on a short business trip, or if you’re moving to London from America for good – our guide to London is a must read.

Get used to the sprawl

London map
London's sprawling road network is a far cry from most American city grid systems

Established by the Romans in the first century AD, London, or Londinium as it was then known, dates back almost 2,000 years. Consequently, the English capital is filled with ancient structures and is home to a historical legacy that predates most American cities by well over a thousand years. For context, the oldest city in the USA is St. Augustine, founded in 1565 (around 1,500 years after the Romans settled London).

As a result, American cities have a considerably more modern feel than London. In addition to the antiquated red telephone boxes that can be spotted around the city, London shows its age through its seemingly haphazard road system. Having developed from interconnected ancient fishing communities, small villages, farming settlements, and eventually larger boroughs, London’s network of roads and streets are nothing like the formalised grid systems found in metropolises like New York. Rather, London’s roads branch out from what was once the city’s main trade artery, the River Thames. It can therefore be more than a little disorientating trying to navigate London’s winding streets and numerous roundabouts – with the river’s serpentine twists further confounding travellers looking to locate their north and south. For those relocating to London, a city map is recommended! It's also well worth exploring the many different London districts for a grounded geographical overview of the city. 

Learn the London Lingo

The cultural contrast between the USA and UK is perhaps best demonstrated in the countries’ linguistic differences. To complicate matters, London is home to a myriad of different dialects and languages – making getting to grips with the local parlance that bit more difficult. For an American expat in London, being familiar with key London phraseology is essential. Here are some common phrases to listen out for:

London phrases

Budget for an expensive lifestyle

Tate Modern moving to London from America
While London living is costly, visits to attractions like Tate Modern are refreshingly inexpensive

London is notorious for being one of the most expensive places to live in the UK – so it’s worth bearing in mind when moving to London from America that being discerning about cost is a key part of London life. Indeed, a review in April 2020 found that London living costs around 58% more than the rest of the UK – with even the price of beer being highest in the country – costing around £8.00 a pint. Of course, if you're relocating to London and staying in a serviced apartment with SilverDoor, you can expect to save money on accommodation costs

However, London does have some tricks up its sleeve for the cost conscious. Soak up the culture for free when relocating to London by visiting the following attractions:

Tate Modern

Situated in the striking Bankside Power Station, Tate Modern is home to Britain’s national collection of modern and contemporary art – from 1900 to present day.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 10:00 – 18:00

Hyde Park

One of eight Royal Parks found in London, Hyde Park is a vast green space perfect for walks, cycling, picnics, dog walking, and even horse riding.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 05:00 – 00:00

Natural History Museum

Constructed in 1880, the Natural History Museum symbolises the advent of science eclipsing religion in the Western world. The museum’s cathedral-like proportions and intricate masonry are awe-inspiring, as are the incredible exhibitions and biological artefacts throughout.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 10:00 – 17:50

British Museum

Home to the largest collection in existence – eight million works – the British Museum is a must-visit. Documenting human existence from the earliest archaeological evidence to modern day artwork, there is a lifetime of exhibitions to peruse at your leisure.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 10:00 – 17:00 (20:30 on Fridays)

Be prepared to talk about the weather

London phone box rain moving to London from America
An obsession with the weather, good or bad, is just one British idiosyncrasy you can expect to observe in London

London residents, like all British residents, are filled with idiosyncrasies that can seem baffling to visitors. Anyone moving to London from America on business should be prepared for the weird and wonderful British habits they will likely encounter on a daily basis.

Weather obsessives

It’s no secret that talking about the weather is considered a British pastime. With one of the most changeable weather systems in the world, perhaps it’s a fair preoccupation. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the average American expat in London began making small talk about the weather within their first week of arrival.

Politeness is standard practice, except on the Tube

Brits are often maligned for being overly polite – and it is true that the British say ‘thank you’ more than any other nationality. But politeness is a forgotten commodity on the Tube (London subway) where travellers must fend for themselves to get onboard their connection and secure a seat! (Brits also enjoy moaning about their commute…)

Tipping isn’t mandatory

Somewhat at odds with the British tradition of politeness, tipping is a less common phenomenon in the UK than in the USA. While tipping is standard practice in restaurants, it isn’t expected in bars, cafes, or when travelling by taxi. If you’re feeling generous though, you’ll make someone’s day if you do decide to tip them – especially if they don’t work in the catering industry as it will probably come as a welcome surprise.

Londoners are unfairly regarded as ‘cold’

Thankfully, we’re not talking about the weather again, but rather the notion that Londoners are unfriendly and aloof. This generalisation likely stems from scenes of Londoners solemnly commuting to and from work but isn’t exactly accurate. Just don’t try to make conversation on the Tube…

And that concludes our guide for corporates moving to London from America. If you’re eager to learn more about London and its peculiarities, take a look at our other articles such as our guide to the Ultra Low Emission Zone and our choice of extended stay London apartments and begin your move from the USA to London with SilverDoor.  

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