In the spirit of one of the reasons I started this blog, it's never too late to disclose my top 'hindsight 20/20' thoughts on the topic. So, in no particular order, if you're moving to London, here are my tips/thoughts-for what it's worth...
1. Furniture...Most flats in London come furnished-even down to the toaster & tea kettle & utensils. So, unless you simply have a piece of furniture you *can't live without*, I'd strongly encourage you to sell it/give it away/store it...something. Just don't bring it. Aside from possibly not needing it, it may be too big to even fit! :) An American Queen size bed=a British King size bed, and many flats are multi-level non-elevator. Think about how difficult it was just to get your Queen mattress into your 3rd floor apartment in the US-that accomodates larger things. Now, cut that hallway width in half, add a few turns up the stairs, and imagine trying to cut the corners. It can't be done.
If, for some crazy reaon you end up in a flat that isn't furnished, I have one simple word: Ikea.
2. Appliances...Regardles of what the label says it will accomodate-in terms of voltage-very few US appliances will properly function/charge here in the UK. The only thing I've been able to use without any problems (though I have had to use both a plug & voltage converter) is my Wii and my Blackberry charger (though again, I've had to use a plug converter). Leave everything else at home. Yes, especially the TV-voltage aside, US TVs will simply not receive a picture in the UK. Also...if you're keen on bringing your US DVDs, know that you will need to buy a DVD player here that is either 'multi-region' or can be programmed to play DVDs from just the UK.
3. Prams (Strollers)....People here seem to use prams for one of three reasons (sometimes all at the same time): to transport their children, to transport their shopping, or as a weapon. I somewhat joke about the last one. Only somewhat...
Nonetheless, unlike in the US, where it is expected that past just a few years, kids will toddle around when they're out with their parents, the reality in London is it's not possible. Sidewalks are too crowded/unstable, people are too agressive, and ultimately, children will be too slow. So, people here seem perfectly fine continuing to use a pram even when toting around a child of 4 or even 5 (at least, a few look this old). My point is, if you're moving here with children under the age of 5-and planning to live *in* London, you may seriously want to consider bringing your stroller.
4. One of the best information resources for financial, utility, shopping, coupons, deals...anything: Money Saving Expert. Find the website and save it as a favourite. You will want & need to refer to it often!
5. Shoes...Unless you will have a car here, or won't be walking 3+ miles a day...leave your heels at home. I'm not talking stilettos. I'm talking anything over a one-inch heel-perhaps two for special occasions. You will simply ruin your feet. I brought a pair of wedge shoes with me that were comfortable. Right. Comfortable in the US when I drive and park two blocks from the building I'm going in. Not when I'm in London and have 2 blocks to walk just to get to my nearest tube. Save the space in your closet-and your feet.
6. Mobile phones. Unless you're going to have a phone provided/paid for by your employer, don't bother getting a contract. 18 month contracts are the norm here-you can find some 12 month contracts, but it's rare, and more expensive. And really, as cheap as a pay as you go SIM card is, you'd be hard pressed to save any money by going on a contract. Also, you can't get a contract unless you have a UK debit card/bank account (more on that in a moment..).
5. Coffee. Sadly, it breaks my heart to say this: Starbucks in the UK is no bueno. On a normal day in the US, a drip coffee from Starbucks would do me just fine. But, flavour palates here are different, and as such, SBUX drip here is pretty awful. Save yourself and just pay a few pence more and get an Americano. Also, if you tend to like your coffee a bit strong-skip the Starbucks (oh, the pain...) and go to Nero. Nero is another coffee chain here who makes the best coffee-for a chain...
6. Banking...For the love of god: if you're transferring with your employer, DEMAND that they help you get sorted with your bank account-AND a credit card. If possible, even prior to your arrival here. You will simply not be able to funciton without a UK bank account-there are many things (mobile contract, montly gym membership, etc...) that you can't even get without a UK debit card. And credit cards?....Get one if you can at the time you're getting your banking sorted. It will help build up your credit rating here-should you decide to stay for any lenght of time.
If possible, work to have your bank applications started-and completed before your final deparure to the UK. And, most importantly: your first ATM/Debit card and Credit Card will have to be signed for upon delivery-not that you know when it's going to be delivered. So, unless you work at home every day: have the card either sent to your local bank branch or to your work address. Trust me on this one. I had to learn the hard way.
7. Banks...not to be confused with 'Banking'...I personally bank with NatWest. Wasn't my choice-it was who my employer had the relationship with. But, hindsight and choice allowed?...I would suggest Barclay or HSBC. They're a bit more 'global', and I think provide better features than NatWest. But, beggars can't be choosy.
8. Getting around...if you're not fortunate enough to have a phone that has either built in GPS or you've been able to download some type of GPS application, get yourself an AtoZ" (prounounced A to Zed). It's a tiny book of all London roads-indexed. It was invaluable for my first year here in being able to get around. You should be able to grab them in any book store-or online at Amazon.co.uk (hint, hint.. ;)).
OK. That's the brain dump. I'm sure that's not it. Likely a few more things will come to mind, and once I've save up, I'll post again.