Being an American expat in London, I get a lot of questions from other Americans about life abroad, tips and must-dos when visiting as well as what I miss most about living in the USA. I always answer everyone individually when I am asked, but thought I’d pop my most frequently asked questions into a single blog post for you guys! Here we go…
Do you ever think you will move back to the USA?
The answer right now is no, probably not. It was really difficult to pick up my whole life and move to a new country, make new friends and create a new life. I can’t imagine doing that again or putting my husband through it! I also love living in London and feel it’s my home now. We have a great circle of friends, wonderful jobs and are surrounded by a good support network. New York City is only a six-hour flight away, so it’s easy to see my family a few times a year.
Why did you move to London?
My husband is British – born and bred Londoner. Before we went through the visa process, we thought long and hard about where we wanted to live – if he wanted to move to the US or if I wanted to live in London and we chose the latter simply because I love London and it’s where we both wanted to live.
How long have you lived in London?
It will be four years this December.
What visa are you on?
A spousal visa. I will apply for my indefinite leave to remain in December 2019, followed by my British Citizenship!
Will you renounce your American Citizenship to become a British Citizen?
No way! Despite recent politics and certain things happening in the US, I am proud to be an American and excited to be a dual citizen of both great countries. Our children will also be both British and American.
I want to live in the UK. How can I move there?
This is probably my number one question from people who read my blog and unfortunately there is no easy answer because it’s incredibly difficult these days to move here! My best advice is to work for a big international company and explore the possibility of obtaining a Tier 2 Inter-Company Transfer visa, whereby you can live here and work. Another option is to study here and obtain a student visa, which allows you to study and work part-time. Other than that, it’s very difficult to move here and you can only stay in the country on a six-month tourist visa (you cannot work on this visa). For more information about visas and what you need to do in order to move here, please the official UK Government website. Of course you’d also need to find a home to live in throughout your time here. One of our friends recently told us about how her favourite housing company is 1. space station. They seem to have a lot of homes for sale and rent, so perhaps they might be worth looking at before you make the move to get some ideas of the sort of home you might get in London.
What is your day job?
I am a junior account director at a PR agency in London specialising in restaurants, bars and hotels.
What was the hardest part about leaving the USA?
I will never forget the day I left my home in the USA. It was the 1st of December 2014. I made Ciaran fly out to Kansas so that I wouldn’t have to make the journey across the pond alone. If I had to board the plane by myself, I don’t think I could have gone through with it. Leaving my mom and all that I knew, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. I had a panic attack in the morning before my flight, shed a lot of tears and was very emotionally drained. My mom and I have a tradition of having a glass of wine at the airport bar before we say our goodbyes and I remember being so upset, I couldn’t even drink my glass. It was heartbreaking saying goodbye to her because I knew that life would never be the same once I boarded that flight, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I was moving to London to be with the love of my life and was forced to grow up a little more. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss my mom and our fun times together going to happy hours after work or getting our nails done, but it makes the times we do see each other all the more precious.
What was the moving process like?
I had a lot of stuff when living in the US and I knew that I couldn’t take it all so I would say I spent a few months prior to moving sorting all of my belongings and keeping all of the things I actually needed. There were a few things I wasn’t sure what to do with so I donated them. I really struggled when deciding what to do with my car too! I consulted with the best car shipping company to see about shipping my car overseas because I really didn’t want to let it go but then I realised that living in London, I wouldn’t need a car most of the time so I decided against it. I just thought, if need a ride, I’ll order a cab for the time being and if I decide a car is crucial, I’ll just get another one. The UK also drives on the opposite side of the road to us which is pretty cool!
What do you love most about living in London?
The vast amount of things to do and see. They say that if you get tired of London, you’re tired of life. There is always SO much going on here – from new restaurant openings, exhibitions, pop-ups, theatre shows, festivals – you name it, and it’s probably going on in London. There’s never a dull moment. I also love the cultural diversity. Living here has opened my eyes to the world and I love how open London is to all walks of life, ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures. It’s a true melting pot!
What do you like least about living in London?
There are a few things, one of which is being away from my family. I’m very close with my them and it’s incredibly difficult not being able to see them as much as I want to. We have made it a tradition to see each other every Thanksgiving though in New York City, which is always a blast. Other than that, the pressure of living in London is intense. There’s a lot of competition to keep up with people your own age in terms of where you’re at with your job, how much you’re earning, and the overall pressure of performing well and juggling it all. It can be hard to sit back and smell the roses from time to time, but that’s just the fast-paced nature of this city.
What should I see while I am in London?
This is another question I am always asked by Americans visiting London. On your first day in London, see all of the touristy spots such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye etc. Here is a handy walking map I created that will help you see all of the iconic sites by foot:
Where should I eat in London?
London is a culinary metropolis! You can try cuisine from every single country and immerse yourself in new cultures through food. For a street food market experience, visit Borough Market. For pasta, I recommend Padella in Borough Market as well. For modern Indian cuisine, visit Cinnamon Bazaar in Covent Garden or for more traditional Indian, visit Brick Lane and go to Aladin’s. It’s BYOB and the food is awesome. For Neopolitan style pizza, visit Pizza Pilgrims.
For a traditional afternoon tea, I recommend The Dorchester or the Capital Hotel, both are lovely. For a special dinner, I just went to Bob Bob Ricard in Soho with a few friends from NYC and it was so fun to “press for champagne!” I also love Ormer in the Fleming’s Hotel. For an amazing rooftop experience, visit the Oxo Tower for drinks and bar snacks on the South Bank and revel in the gorgeous views of St. Paul’s Cathedral or for an amazing dinner with 360-degree views of London, go to B?kan in Canary Wharf. My other personal favourite sky high restaurant is the iconic Duck & Waffle.
There are SO many pubs in London, but if you want to get a pint from a real traditional one (as well as Instagrammable) visit the Churchill Arms in Notting Hill and marvel at all of the incredible flower facades. For brunch, visit the Dalloway Terrace, a beautiful al fresco oasis serving up French Toast and waffles. For cocktails, visit Cahoots, a London underground-themed bar that will transport you back to the 1940s. For wine, visit Vinoteca (various location around London).
For a taste of the USA, visit Passyunk Avenue on Cleveland Street in Fitzrovia, where you will indulge in the most incredibly Philly Cheesesteaks this side of the pond and they serve PBR! For more recommendations on where to eat and drink, check out my restaurants guide!
Where should I stay in London?
This all depends on your budget but convenient areas to book a hotel at include: King’s Cross – it’s super central and has the best transport links. Fitzrovia, again very central and you can walk to a lot of places from here. Notting Hill, it’s the most charming area of London.
Best day trip outside of London?
Jump on a train from Paddington and head to Windsor Castle for the day. OR, jump on the train and head to beautiful Richmond. Go early, have a wander around, then catch the river cruise with some drinks and snacks and float on down until you hit Hampton Court Palace. Buy a day pass and walk around the majestic palace of King Henry VIII.
What should I pack?
What’s the best time of year to visit London?
Spring! After we have turned the clocks forward and the flowers are in bloom. April and May aren’t usually boiling hot and everyone is in great spirits this time of year. Autumn is also a beautiful time to visit before we turn the clocks back. October is stunning when all of the foliage turns fiery red and orange. Walking through Green Park during this time of year is gorgeous and the weather has cooled down a bit.
What does your typical weekend look like?
It varies! Every weekend is different but to be honest, there is so much going on this summer with weddings, birthday parties and events, that I relish two days of doing absolutely nothing but sit on my balcony and read or binge watch Netflix, as boring as that may seem! Sometimes, if Ciaran and I have a free weekend, we will sleep in, make breakfast, go out for a walk around London – usually near Southbank. Grab a bite to eat for lunch at a local market, see a movie, come home, make dinner and either go out with friends or enjoy a quiet one at home! We’re pretty laid back.
Have you ever seen the Queen?
Yes, riding in the carriage at Ascot.
Do you like the Royal Family?
I love them, and not ashamed one bit to admit it!
What do you miss the most about the USA?
My family and friends, going to happy hours with my mom after work, Kansas City BBQ, sitting by the pool in the summertime, having wine on the porch in the evenings, grilling out, the slower pace of life, trips to Target, driving, J-Crew in USD prices, huge grocery stores, tailgating at Chief’s games, University of Kansas basketball, game days at the Wagon Wheel in Lawrence, Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas full stop, sunflowers on the side of the roads and spending time with my mom and sisters.
What’s your best advice for an American moving to London?
Stick it out! Packing up your life into a suitcase and moving halfway around the world is the hardest thing you will ever do and there will be times at the beginning where you want to raise the white flag and move back. Yes, it will be hard to find a job. Yes, it will be difficult to adjust to a new way of life. Yes, it will be difficult to make friends. But if you go into it with a positive mindset, surround yourself with a positive support system and put yourself out there, things will fall in to place and you will learn to love it. Don’t put pressure on yourself to learn everything straight away, you’ll get there and luckily, there are tons of American meet up groups and support organisations in London that you can join to feel a little bit more at home 🙂 Enjoy this exciting new chapter in your life and explore as much as you can. Travel to different parts of Europe, visit different cities in the UK, it’s a beautiful place. Take advantage of as much as you can. You will find that despite how homesick you are, your whole world will open up. It’s worth it.