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Might be moving to London. Have few questions.

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by kserg, Mar 30, 2015.

  1. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Hey guys, I know I have not been posting for a while... been busy. But I had questions and thought that this place is international enough, someone might be able to help me.

    So, I might be moving to London for few years (from Bay Area (CA)). None of this is for sure, it depends on results of my moms health, my work, and what my work will offer me compare to cost of living in London.

    Obviously, you guys can't help me with first 2, but I need help understanding the 3rd part, that is, in regard to cost of living and to say "yes" or "no" to the relocation based on what they will offer me.

    My office is located around St. Paul's cathedral. So I am looking at zone 2, i believe? From what I can tell, if i want to have daily commute of 1 hour each way, the rent is pretty high. When looking at renting a 1 bedroom flat, and looking at cost of living. What do people normally believe is the "comfortable" cost of living in London.

    I understand that comfortable means different things for everyone, so let me explain.
    I am not big on going out to fancy places, I like my dive bars and if eating out, I am not big on fancy places. For example, I once chose a taqueria because the review from 3 years ago said "I found a cockroach in my food!" So i figure, if it has reviews like that and manages to stay in business, food must be great!" So, you get my lifestyle. :)

    One thing that I do spend a lot of money is travelling. In US i went camping a lot, driving to Utah in a month to go offroading... So I imagine I'll be renting cars, going places, flying or taking a train to random destinations on mainland (nature, historic places, etc)... For places to stay, probably using airbnb. Realistically, that's part of the reason I am thinking of relocating for few years.

    So based on that descriptions. What should I be looking at from my company to make it ok for me to relocate? I am looking probably around 50-55k GBP (I am guessing based on conversion and fact that the salaries are smaller outside bay area), but just in case, with that description, say they offer 45k GBP? Is that livable over there when considering taxes, average bills, rent? I am asking so when they do say exactly what they offer, to be able to say "No, i want this to relocate" or what they offer is ok.

    I might follow with few more questions.

    Thank you in advance.
  2. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    My part 2 is, what areas i should stay away from? :) Considering i want to be less then a hour away from St. Paul's cathedral (less is better.)

    Part 3 inside 2:
    Here are my list of expenses as i understand it and questions:
    Housing - account for.
    Council tax -- understand that i gotta pay em, no idea what they are.
    Mobile - accounted for
    Internet -- accounted for.
    Transit -- kinda accounted... I am guessing Oyster is the best way?

    Electricity/gas/etc - Not sure what I'll be paying...
    Taxes (how much should i expect to actually have?)

    What else am I missing?
  3. Long time ago I lived in Chiswick commuting to that part of town. It got old quickly. Underground train brake lining, mmmm mmmmm, tasty. Catch train in the dark, get back on underground as it's getting dark. Cool place to visit but living and working hand to mouth you can keep.
  4. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Doesn't that describe most of the cities? :)
  5. Most, if not all, of Zone 2 should fit that easily. I live in the Forest Hill area (SE23) & even the bus will get me into town in less than an hour (although personally I'd still factor in a safety net of 30 mins). That would be Plan B, in case the train is stuffed up. Local services from me to London Bridge take about 15-20 minutes; nearest main line station to St Pauls is City Thameslink, but Waterloo East is only a river's width away.

    First hit off Google for my area:

    1 bedroom flats to rent in SE23 - SE23 1 bed flats to rent - Zoopla

    Seem to be plenty for under GB£1k/month (likely to be unfurnished though) which is fairly typical for private sector rents in London.

    It's intended to cover essential services like rubbish collections & local improvements like resurfacing & street-lighting etc. There's also a slice that goes to the Police.
    How much you pay will depend on two things - which Local Council you're covered by & which Property Band your flat falls into. You get a 25% reduction if you're single. My Council Tax this year (Band A) is £903.57 = £657.35 with the discount, or £55/month. There are multiple ways to pay - Direct Debit/Bank Transfer, in person & there's even a facility at lots of local supermarkets/newsagents.

    Pretty much. Although depending where you end up, cycling might be an option if you're reasonably fearless & posessed of above-average spatial awareness.

    That'll vary according to the property (double glazing, insulation etc.) & whether you're paying by Direct Debit or on a pre-payment meter. The latter are more expensive. Irrespective of either, you can switch suppliers in the quest for a better deal (unless your lease says otherwise).

    I've always worked on the basis that I get 2/3rds & the Taxman 1/3rd and that's been good enough in my pay band, but that's a lot less than yours. For a more precise estimate there's a calculator here:

    UK Tax Calculator 2015 - Updated for the 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 Tax Year

    That gives a net figure of around £33k on a gross of £45k.
    There'll also be VAT @ 20% to pay on most goods & services except books/magazines & food (unless it's sold to be eaten on the premises).
  6. tl;dr - London is awesome.

    Right, epic answer coming up.

    OK, where to begin... well, council tax is analogous to property tax in the US, it pays for local services, refuse collection, local policing, local schools and various other things. As was previously mentioned, the rare you pay is based on the size of your property and the area (London is broken down into multiple local authorities - "boroughs"). Once you know the borough you'll be living in, you can look up the council tax rates for that area. And yes, you get a discount if you live on your own. Budget £50-60 per month for most London boroughs for a one-bedroom place.

    Transport - the most you'll pay for a monthly Travelcard on Oyster is £210-ish, so even if you end up living in Zone 5 (like I do) so it's still reasonably affordable. The closer to the centre of town you live the cheaper it gets as you have to pay for less zones. If you have to get to the St Paul's area (Zone 1), there's a Tube station right there on the Central Line, plus it's easy walking distance from City Thameslink or Blackfriars mainline stations - the Thameslink train goes through City Thameslink so that opens up a good number of somewhat more far-flung locations such as Brighton or Luton, all within around an hour's commute.

    Travelling - you can get trains almost everywhere in the UK. Considering we're not exactly a big island, we've got a lifetime's worth of stuff to see, and we've got history coming out of our eyeballs. Get up North if you can, go and see the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and Scotland. Plus Europe is on the doorstep, and you can get there for next to nothing if you're prepared to suffer the hardship of flying with Ryanair. You've got five airports within the London area (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City), all with fast rail connections to Central London. You can also be in Paris or Brussels within two hours on the Eurostar, via the Channel Tunnel. If you need to rent a car, we have all the usual suspects (Enterprise, Hertz, etc), as well as Zipcar.

    Utilities - hard to say, depends a lot on the size of the place you get, how it's equipped and whether it uses both electricity and gas, or just electricity (some places have electric heating, stoves, etc). Budget around £50-60 a month for a one-bedroom place.

    Taxes - you'll end up taking home somewhere around 70% of your gross after tax and NI is taken out. If you earn £45k you'll be paying nothing on the first £10k, 20% on the next £32k and 40% tax on the rest, and then a contribution to National Insurance on top (NI pays for unemployment benefit and state pensions). We don't have too many hidden taxes, other than the aforementioned 20% VAT (basically a transferrable sales tax) on most things, but that's always included in the price, unlike sales taxes in the US. You'll have no direct healthcare expenses - the NHS is free at the point of use, there's absolutely no doctor or hospital fees, and the most you'll pay for any prescription is £8. That'll make a nice change from the States. :)

    £45k isn't a terrible salary if you've only got yourself to support. You'll clear just shy of £2800 a month. Budget about half of that on rent and bills, and the rest is roughly what you'll have to play with.

    One other expense you'll have, assuming you want to watch TV, is the TV licence. It's about £12 per month and, basically, it pays for the BBC, since the BBC doesn't have any advertising. It's worth it - commercial-free, (mostly) high-quality TV and radio is great compared to what you'll be used to in the States.

    Areas to stay away from - these change all the time. Every town has 'bad' areas you'll want to avoid. Anywhere with a large council estate (think US housing project) nearby is usually somewhere to steer clear of, although some are much worse than others. Some formerly dodgy areas are now considered quite trendy - places like Hackney and Brixton used to be very rough but have become much more gentrified in recent years. Once you pick a general area, we can be a bit more specific about where to avoid. South and East London are cheaper than West and North London, but are less well connected to the transport system.

    Being an American in London won't be a problem. There's load of Americans here (including my wife!), Americans are generally well-liked unless they're the boorish, khaki-shorts-and-white-socks-wearing touristy types, although Brits are generally bewildered by American politics and apparent obsession with guns. We like your films, TV shows and celebrities though, and we like the current President, but don't think much of his predecessor.

    Regarding food and going out, there's plenty to make an American feel at home. You can get a decent burger in London. Byron are a great chain, and we have Five Guys now too. :) Mexican food is also getting increasingly common - there's quite a few branches of Chipotle in London now, Bar Burrito are very good, and there's all sorts of random burrito street food places around too. There's an American pizzeria in Bayswater called Mulberry Street who do authentic New York pizza with proper anal-retentive attention to detail, even down to the pH of the water used to make the dough being the same as Hudson water! We don't have the same chain restaurant culture as the US - the closest thing we have is probably the pub chains, like Wetherspoons, O'Neills, etc, who all do food, as well as places such as Harvester and Pizza Express. We do have TGI Friday's though.

    If you're going to go for a night out, we Brits like to drink. A lot. We get quite 'spirited' when drunk. We even drink at lunchtime. A UK pint is bigger than a US pint. We like to 'take the pi$$', but it's all in good humour. If you get a few 'yank'-type jibes from drunk Brits they don't mean anything by it. :) Watch the (soccer) football and rugby at the pub and pay attention. We're starting to get more into American football too, there's even a few homegrown teams around the place, plus the NFL is going to be doing 3 games a year over here at Wembley Stadium. Plus, if you go out drinking, expect to end the evening in an Indian restaurant or a kebab shop, so make sure to pick your preferred late-night foodstuff.

    Since this is a bass site, it'd be remiss of me to leave out the bass-related attractions in London. So make time to go to The Gallery in Camden Town - high-end heaven. There's not much left in Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley) any more, alas (they're knocking a load of it down, including the old 12 Bar Club), but Wunjos have a decent bass shop there. There's live music everywhere. Pick up a copy of Time Out (people usually give it out for free every Tuesday outside Tube stations) and see what's on.

    I say go for it. Britain is a great place. If you need to go home you can be there in half a day. But we'll do our best to make you at home. :)
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
  7. One other thing that just occurred to me - even if you're an American that has permanently relocated to the UK, as long as you still have US citizenship you still have to file your annual tax return.

    On the salary you're expecting to earn you won't have to pay anything, you'll just have to declare your earnings, but once you get over around the £65k mark, the IRS will want their cut. It might be worth finding an accountant with knowledge of US taxation law who can help you with this. You can file your tax forms in person at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square.
  8. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I think the important thing is what you make now (and where) to determine how much of a hit you'll need to make in terms of lifestyle. If you make $45K in Omaha, you're in for a real surprise going to London for 45K GBP (unless you are on an expat assignment where they provide housing, tax equalization, etc). A few other tips:

    The tax info provided above is good, although I would say you should investigate the tax schemes available for an American living abroad. You are still required to file US taxes each year and pay US taxes if owed. There is an agreement between the two countries, though and typically (since taxes are higher in the UK) you won't owe much, if anything here. But you should understand the schemes, since they each have their pros and cons. You also might want to explore the pros/cons of keeping your bank account offshore when it comes to taxation.

    Be careful if you find yourself in the situation where you need to send GBP back to the US to pay for a house (or whatever else) - given the strength of the USD vs. GBP, you'll take a beating in the exchange rate. I was in this situation when I was in the UK and it sucked. I was renting my house out here in the US, but not for what I owed in terms of expenses. This, along with the higher tax rates was a double whammy.

    Yes, you'll have access to the NHC, but many employers offer private insurance as well. In fact, there was a "mandatory" set of benefits I was required to take (and pay for) and then the rest was optional. The cost of benefits was high relative to the benefits themselves. At the end of the day, it meant less take-home pay than I thought going in. Another thing to ask about and watch for.

    Cost of owning a vehicle is also extremely high. Not sure what petrol/diesel are going for now, but it was about the equivalent of $8 USD/gallon when I was there. Then again - my car got 52 miles to the gallon, so it evened out a bit. Parking in the city is also brutally expensive. Most of my Londoner friends didn't keep a car for these very reasons - public transport is easy, safe and (for the most part) reliable.

    And, no offense to my UK friends... the eating out scene is pretty atrocious. You can get a decent meal, but the overall quality at all levels (fast food, chains, etc) is pretty bad relative to the US. Service in many places isn't what you get in the US either. And the meals are expensive. Poor food, bad service, high prices. Not a good combination. I find the grocery stores tend to have decent quality and decent prices, so I went out to eat very rarely while I was there. But there are crappy grocery stores (Iceland!) and good, but high priced ones (Waitrose). The middle of the road ones provide good value, though. Again, this is all IMHO/IME...

    Overall, I would say I loved the experience and it was good for me professionally and personally. Good for my kids too. You can certainly maintain a higher quality of life in the US - just a matter of how much the experience means to you...
  9. Got to disagree with this. The food scene in London has come on leaps and bounds over the past few years. It's now gastronomically on a par with anywhere in the world, including the likes of NYC. It's also entirely possible to eat out cheaply - places like Wetherspoon's don't make the best food in the world, but it's decent enough and you can feed two people for less than £10. Quality of service is subjective - I prefer the restaurant experience in the UK, as I"m not being bothered by some over-eager server all the time like I always was in the US, desperate to be seen as attentive so they get a good tip. Waiting staff get paid a proper wage here so tipping is, at best, optional. Also, in the UK you're eating far less additives in your food. Genetically-modified crap like HFCS is nowhere to be found, and we have wholeheartedly jumped on the 'organic' bandwagon, even in shops like Iceland. :)

    Also, quality of life is entirely subjective. If you're assuming quality of life to be "stuff", then yes, you can certainly live in a bigger house and have more and larger cars in the US. Land and fuel are cheap and roads are big. But if you assume quality of life to mean easy access to loads of interesting, beautiful places, less stress in the workplace, more family time, more local facilities and more financial security, you're better off in the UK.

    I know the difference, I lived in the US for 6 years. I miss my big house and my Dodge Charger from when I lived in the US. But I far prefer living here and I feel I have a much higher quality of life, despite living in a smaller house and driving a smaller car.
    One Drop, odin70 and bmc like this.
  10. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I guess we can agree to disagree on the eating out points. :) You can definitely get a good meal in and around London - but to say it's on par with NYC? Not sure about that... ;)

    Agree with you totally regarding quality of life. I was thinking in terms of disposable income - to do whatever you want with (bigger house, more stuff, land, cars, retirement). I found it to be a big adjustment - a house 1/3rd the size, one small car instead of two luxury cars, simple vacations vs. more exotic ones, more eating at home than eating out. You are totally right - the amount of easily accessible (and relatively cheap) amazing things to do in the UK was absolutely well worth it. I didn't find less stress in the workplace frankly (but I worked for a US based technology company). Also didn't find more financial security, given much more of my income went to sustaining the basics of life - not much to save/invest on top of that. And I made around 3x what the OP is talking about...

    Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? Absolutely - in a heartbeat. When I was going overseas, the company gave me the option of Paris, Munich or London. I chose them in that order - they said, "good... you're going to London!". It's now probably my favorite city in the world...
  11. stevensivak

    stevensivak Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2014
    so at the end of the day would it be fair to say that the cost of living in the bay area is on par with life
    in london? the bay has to be either the most expensive region or the second most expensive region in the usa
  12. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Oh wow, thank you all, let me go through all this info!
  13. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Yes - roughly the same as either San Francisco or New York
  14. "Yes - roughly the same as either San Francisco or New York."

    According to the googles higher than both.
  15. Fiset

    Fiset I do a good impression of myself

    Jan 13, 2007
    New York
    Never been but want to go. Great stuff in this thread.
  16. slobake

    slobake resident ... something Supporting Member

    I commute to work via bicycle in San Franscico. I did some cycling in London, once I got used to the traffic being on the other side of the road it wasn't too bad.
    I was only there for a few days but I loved London. The transit is great just don't forget to "mind the gap."
    I enjoyed pub food. It was decent food and the prices were reasonable. I did notice the selection of fresh fruit and vegetables was lacking compared to what we have here in California. Of course I notice that at most places I go here in the U.S. as well.
    I was there in May. It rained a lot.
    JMacBass65 likes this.
  17. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Well, you can't trust everything you read on the internet. I'm in executive recruiting and do a lot of international assignments and transfers. We've got pretty detailed sets of research that shows it's roughly a .5-1.0% difference between all three (at yesterday's exchange rate, anyway)
    PortlandBass77 and GregC like this.
  18. GregC

    GregC Johnny and Joe Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 19, 2007
    I largely agree with this. I spent 2 weeks in London for work in 2008 and about 10 days in 2013 for my honeymoon. I wouldn't quite say it's on par with NYC or Chicago, but that may be due to my culinary preferences as an American. And on the honeymoon in particular, we found very good food everywhere--the pub down the street from our rented flat in Kensington, a nearby Moroccan restaurant, excellent Italian food on Portobello Road, and very good Indian and dim sum places in the East End. The only letdown was in Chinatown; maybe we chose the wrong spot.

    I really enjoy visiting London, and can't wait to go back and check more items off of our to-do list.
  19. Chinatown's a tourist trap and most of the food there isn't great. Their market is the tourists passing through Leicester Square and Shaftesbury Ave. Like any ethnic cuisine, to find the best places you need to find out where Chinese people go to eat. There's a good list on Time Out:
    Chinese restaurants in London - Time Out London
    ... only a few of these are actually in Chinatown, and not on its main drag. There's supposed to be a great one up in The Shard (the huge, pointy new building sitting on top of London Bridge station) , but it's going to be pricey.

    On the same note, most of the Indian restaurants on Brick Lane aren't great, although there are a few really good ones. There's some great Turkish, Iranian and Lebanese places on the Edgware Road, not far from Paddington Station, and quite a few great Italian and French places in Soho and Fitzrovia.
    One Drop and GregC like this.
  20. kserg


    Feb 20, 2004
    San Jose, CA
    Sorry i havent replied yet, family health issues came up that kinda put whole thing on hold. Won't know if this is possible until i know the results of family issues (4-6 weeks).

    Btw, will People give me dirty looks for wearing sweater/hoodie and shorts? Is that dead giveaway that i am from the States? Its seriously most comfortable thing to wear. I own more basketball shorts then pants.

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