What are the aspects to consider if you are thinking to move to London with a family?
Visiting London as a tourist and living this city with a family are very different things. London is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, full of things to do, with plenty of opportunities for those who want to emerge, but it also has a high cost of living. If you are a family, there are many aspects that you need to consider before moving.
LONDON AFTER BREXIT, WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Many things haven’t changed since the 23rd of June 2016, when the English people chose to divorce from Europe. But I am going to update this post in mid 2019, when the Brexit will be effective. However, the economy is currently thriving, meritocracy wins and if you are thinking about a professional growth, London is still one of the metropolis to consider.
It is likely that in the future it will be necessary to have a residence and a work permit to enter England. There is still lot of uncertainty around the Brexit deal, and for this reason I think that if you are thinking to move to London, this is the right time to do it. Otherwise you might not be able to get here and look for a job while having a temporary accommodation.
HOW TO MOVE TO LONDON WITH A FAMILY: LIVING
Currently, in order to live and work in England, you need an ID (for European people) and the NIN, the National Insurance Number. For people outside the EU passport is still required.
My advice is to look for a house as far as you arrive in order to have a permanent address, because a proof of address is necessary for almost everything.
In order to open a bank account you have to provide two proof of address (which may be the electricity or water utilities, the TV licence or the Council tax, (that is the only one to pay to the Council where you leave) or the National Insurance Number.
In order to apply for the GP, which is a clinic with many different doctors, you need to show the bank account or one of the above mentioned proofs of address.
If you are interested in understanding how the English healthcare system works, you can read this post.
You need to have a precise idea of your monthly income will be, in order to choose where to live. Renting a flat or a house in London can be very expensive and it absorbs most of your monthly budget.
HOW TO MOVE TO LONDON WITH A FAMILY: WORKING
We moved here with a job offer. I suggest not to come here without it. If you have a degree and you are looking for a good position, it’s not so easy to find the dream job. It takes time, as your English must be very good and you have to be very skilled in your field. In the UK there’s a high competition.
In order to work, it is essential to have the National Insurance number (NI) – a sort of English tax code. However, you can have access to the national health care even if you don’t have it yet.
You can only apply for it once you’re in the UK. You must have the right to work or study in the UK to get a National Insurance number.
You can start work before your National Insurance number arrives if you can prove you can work in the UK (you are from the EU and prove you can work in the UK (check on this website for all the information). You should tell your employer that you’ve applied for one, and give it to them when you have it.
You can only get the NI with an interview through one of the Jobcentres where you’ll be asked about your circumstances and why you need a National Insurance number.
The letter will also tell you which documents to bring to prove your identity, such as:
- passport or identity card
- residence permit
British Citizenship: you can apply only if you have been living in the UK for at least 5 years and you need to pass an exam that evaluates your knowledge of English history and culture.
HOW TO MOVE TO LONDON WITH A FAMILY: SEARCHING HOME
The first thing to do before moving with a family to London is to understand in which area (borough) to live. London is massive. I lived in Milan (which is not exactly small…) but it is nothing compared to the largeness of London. You mostly live in your borough, so it is essential to choose it well and consider the commuting to work.
Choosing the borough is not easy: once you have established your budget and the area considering the commuting, you can take into account schools, safety and parks. If you are an expat, you might also consider the transfer to the airports.
What are the most family-friendly areas of London?
Generally, West London is the most recommended if you are looking for quiet life, with good parks. In this area, I can mention Kensington, Chiswick, Hammersmith and Ealing.
In South London, the most recommended boroughs for families are Sutton, Richmond, Dulwich and Wandsworth. In North London, West Hampstead and Muswell Hill.
Besides, I suggest to consider the schools. Each school is given a score from Ofsted, and it is public. Once identified a property, I recommend also to check if you are in the catchment area of a good school.
But how much does it cost to rent a two-bedrooms flat in London?
In the borough of Kensington you can’t find anything decent under £600 per week. Up to Zone 3 it is difficult to find something below £400 per week, unless you can accept a second floor without a lift (with narrow stairs and high steps as all the London houses). It’ important to specify if you need the dishwasher because it’s a plus or if you want a family fridge (because it is common to find the mini fridge).
It makes the difference also if you look for an unfurnished flat, in this case you can find something cheaper.
HOW TO MOVE TO LONDON WITH A FAMILY: THE COST OF CHILDCARE
In England there are no public nurseries. Up to three years there are only private nurseries and the cost for a full time is very high: around 1200-1300 £ a month are the cheapest solutions. The UK Government supports families with low incomes (but really low ones!), granting 15 hours’ free childcare per week for two years old.
In the best case, you will pay the whole amount till the age of three.
When your child will be three, you are eligible to have 15 hours per week by the Government.
However, you don’t pay 15 hours less, you have actually a discount on your monthly fee.
What are the alternatives?
Many moms don’t work or have part-time solutions or arrange with grandparents. Other options are the childminders, that are usually less expensive than a nursery, and the babysitters, that cost £10 per hour excluding taxes.
When a child is three years old, he can go to the preschool, but generally they have reduced time (9-12.30), and if you are an expat without grandparents, it is a little difficult to consider, unless you have a babysitter.
So till the beginning of the school with the Reception, the costs of childcare is expensive.
HOW TO MOVE TO LONDON WITH A FAMILY: A RECAP
- I can easily say that the cost of life in London is the double than in Italy. Rent, childcare and transport are all onerous.
- The less you spend to live far from the centre, the more you spend in transport.
- The food does not cost much more than Italy, but the quality of fruit and vegetables is mediocre. You can get an idea of the main items of cost of living from Numbeo.
- Healthcare is a basic but efficient service. Everything is free, prescriptions included.
- The dentist is free until the age of 18 but there isn’t the public pediatrician.
- An agile bureaucracy, is another plus.
- London is a city full of parks, with an admirable attention to the green.
- When looking for a home, always consider the proximity to a park, a good escape when you have young children.
- Schools in the UK are a special chapter. I’ll write a post soon, because even for us it’s time to document.
You may be interested to read the experience of another italian expat in Living abroad: Cristina, a mom and psychoterapist in London.
I hope to have answered to most of the questions and doubts if you plan to move to London with a family. If you want to deepen some points, you can write me an email.
And to those who like me live in London, do you have any other suggestions to give?
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