Thursday, November 5, 2009

Moving to London? Part 2

Well, as expected, after my first Moving to London post, I've had a few other things come to mind that I thought might be worth mentioning. I tried to wait until I had several more things to mention, so there wasn't a constant stream of blog posts entitled, 'oh. one more thing.' :). In no particular order of importance..
1. If you have the luxury/flexibility/budget-and assuming you won't drive, pick a place to live that doesn't force you to rely on *only* one tube line. Especially the Jubilee. With increasing frequency as I've lived here the past (almost) two years, parts of a tube line-or in some cases an entire line will be shut for part if not all of the weekend. Yes, there may be bus-replacement service, but seriously...what would normally be a 15 minute trip for you may be a 45 minute-plus trip. You won't want to deal with this on such an ongoing basis. I have a friend who signed an 18 month lease in Canary Wharf a few months ago. The Jubilee line is the only lie that serves that part of town. He's effectively without tube transport at all on the weekends. Every weekend. For 18 months. Avoid at all costs...
2. Say goodbye to your American clothes dryer and hello to your new best friend-a clothes rack. Most London flats don't have the space here as in the US. I realize that's stating the obvious that most people know already. But, what most people don't know (I didn't until I moved here...) was that that in the never-ending pursuit of space-saving appliances in Britain, the invention of the combo washer/dryer simply means that your clothes will never, ever get dried in the machine. Not unless you wish to dry a load of clothes for well over three hours. Which, let's face it: who has the time-or budget to run such an appliance? Instead, you'll end up buying one of those multi-tiered clothes racks, just like you used to have in college. Joy.
3. With that being said, what not having a proper dryer also means is that your jeans will never fit you tightly again (god, how I miss the miracle-jeans-shrinking my American dryer provided).
4. will become crucial to you knowing what tube lines are open at any given time during the week and on the weekend. You will save yourself endless amounts of frustration if you sign up to receive the weekly email that provides details on all the weekend line closures.
5. Customer service. I know this is one of the things I've talked about several times in this blog-especially early on, but I'm just going to come out and say it: The customer service is so bad-and there is so much to take care of when you first arrive-that the first three months you're in the UK, you will simply be perpetually pissed off. When I first moved here, I reached the point after having so many bad experiences, that I *started off* my calls to customer service already in a bad mood-and I'm definitely of the 'catch more flies with honey' belief. It simply couldn't be helped. Perpetually pissed off...
6. Timeout website. For me, it's an infinite source of information when trying to find a new place to eat, new pub to try, movie information...basically, all things entertainment. There are a ton of websites that go into more detail on individual topics, but for one-stop-shopping, Timeout is a great source of info.
7. I am soooo not a tax advisor, but I implore you: talk to a tax professional about something called the 'DDR.' It's a special (and somewhat unknown-though, I certainly don't understand why...) deduction that expatriates who *intend* to live in the UK for under two years-and who have been moved here by their employer-are allowed to take. The DDR effectively allows you to deduct all of your basic living expenses (rent, most utilities, council tax, food...), transportation to work costs, and transportation 'back home' costs. This is NOT an inconsequential deduction-most of your out of pocket expenses in the UK are for these very items. This can mean the difference between kissing 42% of your paycheck goodbye or keeping most of it. If there is one thing you do before moving to the UK, seek tax advice from someone who specializes in US Expatriate tax returns, and talk to them about this. DO IT.


  1. I don't know what I would do without my dryer! I use it EVERY day, if not for drying, then to quickly get the wrinkles out of clothes. I'm sooo sorry for your dryer loss! Great advice about the DDR, I'm sure most people don't know about this.

  2. I've been following your blog since December 2009 when my newleywed husband was offered a position in Chelsea. We arrived from Virginia earlier this month! Thank you for documenting your time here and providing so much helpful insight. We think we've settled on a flat in Chelsea (still having heart palpitations about the cost). Once we get our lease, and our UK bank account, next on the agenda is internet/phone. Unlike the States, there are so many options here, I don't know where to begin. We're pretty heavy users, so I know we'll need a Pro account. We had initially thought to wait on signing up for TV, but that may not make sense since so many places bundle packages. Any thoughts on the best value for the money? Thanks! Also, I've linked to you from our blog:

  3. thanks for the DDR post. will take a look. I wonder why my employers whom I am transferring with didn't mention, maybe its cuz it has to be a less than 2 yrs thing?

  4. Hi Manoj,
    It's the less than 2 year thing-and in particular the *intention* of staying less than 2 years. So...don't buy a house, invest in an ISA (like an IRA in the US), ...things like that. Anything that makes the UK government go: wait a minute! They're planning to stay for longer than 2 years.

  5. Hi Kristina,

    Sorry if this comes across as weird, but my name is Carly and I'm from Delaware. I met my current boyfriend, Peter, about a year and a half ago while studying abroad in London. I decided recently that I definitely want to move into his flat with him and have spent several weeks trying to get a job in the most amazing city in the world lol. I am very stressed about it and when I found your blog I thought I could maybe ask you a few questions about moving to London. My biggest question is, how did you get a work visa? I work in publishing and would like to continue along that route, but a lot of companies are not sponsored under the new tier system. I would really really appreciate hearing from you about the process since no one I know has ever done this kind of move before. If you don't reply, that's okay just thought I'd ask anyway. Thanks so much. :)

    Carly P.

  6. What does 'DDR' stand for? I'm thinking of transfering to our London office but need to get my ducks in a row first :-)

    btw - love your blog!!


  7. What does the DDR stand for? I have to speak to a tax professional before my move this month and would like to at least have some understanding of what i'm coming up against!

  8. @Anonymous, DDR stands for 'Detached Duty Relief.' Info on the HMRC website is slim, but if you Google 'detached duty relief', you should get a host of 3rd party sites that can provide a good level of information. Good luck with your chat-if your tax pro doesn't know anything about DDR, I'd suggest you find someone who does!