So you’re upping sticks and moving to London? Congratulations on making one of the biggest (and best) decisions of your life – it’s a choice that’s echoed by hundreds of thousands of people every year.
But it’s not always easy making the move – research has found that moving house is more stressful than getting divorced – let alone when you’re trying to get to grips with life in one of the world’s biggest cities (with 8.8 million residents, it’s currently at an all-time high).
I talked to the experts, aka the people who have lived through it, for their tips on how to move to the Big Smoke with minimal stress. Here’s what I found out:.
Remember that you are moving to one of the most developed (and cutting-edge) cities in the world, so you can probably leave that seventh jumper at home, if only to make sure you’re staying on trend with the millennial obsession with minimalism. Katie, who moved to London from Canada a decade ago, says, ‘I wouldn’t have brought any more stuff than I had shoved in my two suitcases – which was actually more than I needed, because most of it was of no value whatsoever and I have hung onto very little of it.’ Less luggage equates to less stress. Instead, she says, she would have brought more money to help cushion her adjustment.
Get to grips with local transport
One of the best ways to experience London – and to understand how its streets really work – is to give the bus a try. ‘I wish I’d mastered buses sooner rather than relying on the failsafe outcomes of the Tube,’ Katie says. And even if you do opt for the Underground, bear in mind that the quickest route might not be the best for you. Ellie commutes from east to west London for her marketing job and has found it’s easier to take the slower District Line rather than a jam-packed Central Line – especially as it means she always gets a much coveted seat.
Locate green space
London is home to almost 11,000 acres of green space, which has been proven to help improve the lives of its residents and workers. As well as helping to combat the negative effects of pollution (trees soak up air pollution), exposure to urban green spaces has also been shown to help physical health (through space to exercise) and reduce stress and mental fatigue. If a park is out of reach, indoor greenery is said to work just as well, especially when it comes to boosting productivity. ‘My indoor garden brings me so much joy,’ says Helen. ‘I find tending to my plants to be very calming – and I love that they look so good too.’
Get a hold on your neighbourhood
One way to shrug off the initial unease that always comes with moving anywhere new is to set up your own structures. Find your nearest doctor. Check in with the bank. And why not set up an eye test while you’re at it? As well as being an easy way to help you find your feet, and put you at the centre of your new London universe, even the smallest social interactions are vital boosts for our mental health. It’s long been shown that humans draw comfort by interacting with others.
Make your new house feel like a home
There’s a lot to be said for putting some effort into your interior decoration – ensuring that residents or workers can minimise stress is now a top consideration for many architects and there’s plenty of ways you can ensure your new space is calming and rejuvenating, rather than making you want to rip your hair out, such as creating specific storage space or keeping everything as simple as possible. And if you can rent somewhere that has dedicated living space (at The Collective, there’s a TV room, terrace, cinema and games room), so much the better. Rachel’s first year in London was spent in a former lounge that had been converted into a bedroom. ‘I don’t think I realised quite how much I needed that social space,’ she remembers.
Find your community
If there’s anyone who’s going to make life a little easier, it’s the people who already live in the city. And even if you don’t know anyone, it’s worth reaching out to friends who might. Before he made his move to London, Australian Andy lined up ‘friend dates’ with friends of friends and old social media connections so that he had a go-to contact book of people who were happy to show him the city (as well as a packed social diary!). Whereas Katie wishes she’d had someone to tell her more about what each neighbourhood was *really* like when she first landed from Canada. “I wish I’d tried to assimilate sooner,” she says. “I would’ve asked for help.”
For Aden, who moved to The Collective after some time living in London, finding the community there has really helped to shape her experience. “It was a tumultuous time and The Collective was essentially my lifeline,” she remembers. “I’d recently broken up with my boyfriend and was having to face the reality of singlehood and sharing space with strangers. But the staff at The Collective were always available to help with the most trivial of issues – and always with a smile on their faces, which is rare in London! The weekly activities helped me to get out of my mental rut and pushed me to re-connect with people – and also to re-discover myself.”
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