I moved to London from India around ~2.5 months ago to start a new job. A few people have asked me about my experience so far, so I thought it’d be a good idea to jot my thoughts on it down somewhere.
The short version is: I love living in London, I love my job and I feel more stable and happy than I’ve ever been and 10⁄10 would do it again.
It’d be useful to have some context about my situation and mindset before diving in. I started actively looking around ~June-July last year. I was determined about moving out of India, so I didn’t even apply for anything in India at all (bold move on my part, I know). By that time I had travelled quite a bit and I believe that really accelerated my desire to move. I’ve always wanted to move out, but my initial plan was to stick around in India for around 4-5 years. I didn’t apply for anything in the US because the visa process is a complete shit show for Indians and I knew it’d be a waste of everyone’s time. It’s important to understand this because I was knew I had a decent idea of the kind of position I was looking for and that I wanted to relocate to Europe (Canada was my second option). I wasn’t doing it as an experiment, I was very determined and knew exactly what I wanted and so I went all in.
At the end of my search, I ended up with 5 offers in 5 different countries (4 in Europe and 1 in Canada). I ended up choosing London because I really liked the company, my interview experience was positive and overall it seemed like a really good option for me. This was of course the primary reason but after thinking a bit more, there were lots of other secondary reasons:
- London is more culturally and ethnically diverse than any other European city
- English is the main language, one I speak already
- I already had a few friends here so it wouldn’t be walking into a voluntary social exile (it’s hard to make new friends as an adult)
- The easy availability of veggie (and Indian) food
- Having lived in small cities all my life, the idea of living in a big city fascinated me!
All of these things definitely helped me make a sound decision!
It’s a lengthy process
Applying for a visa sucks universally. To give you an idea of timelines, I got my offer in late October and I accepted in early November. After waiting to get a few approvals, we started gathering the paperwork to apply for my visa. We were able to finally apply for my visa around mid-December after getting everything in order and I got my visa right after the holidays. It’s a lengthy and tiring process, no doubt. It really helped that my employer put me in touch with an immigration agency who knew what they were doing and took care of everything without me having to worry too much.
Culture shock (but not really)
A lot of people ask me if it was a culture shock to move to the “west” from India. I think the answer to that depends on what you were expecting from the move. I haven’t really had any culture shocks so far that were jarring and something that I didn’t expect. (Except for using toilet paper — how have y’all not moved to bidets/hand showers is beyond me.)
Some things I really appreciate are people being polite, people being mindful of others’ personal space, and people actually have a vibrant and exciting life outside of their jobs. I think I had a fair idea of what to expect when moving which made adjusting easier. In fact, some of the very reasons I wanted to move would probably classify as a “culture shock” for a lot of people. 🤷🏻♀️
Life outside of work
Ease of getting around
This one was probably a huge motivation for me. I can’t begin to put in words how much I appreciate having footpaths and pedestrian crossings everywhere. I know a lot of people take that kinda stuff for granted, but having not grown up with them, I’ve come to appreciate them a lot more. I enjoy walking a lot and I absolutely love how walkable London is. Slightly related to that is public transport. Again, having never lived in a city with a functional transport system, I constantly felt trapped in the house because my only option was to take an Uber — something I didn’t feel comfortable doing at night. I don’t have to make plans thinking “oh, I need to get back by 11pm in an Uber and that’s not particularly safe or fun”. I don’t feel completely terrified of walking at after 9pm and depending on the neighbourhood, it’s usually fine too. This something I couldn’t even imagine doing ever in India.
So many things to do!
When I was living in Hyderabad and was absolutely miserable, a lot of it could be attributed to having absolutely nothing to do outside of work unless you wanted to go and spend all your money on booze every weekend or you were willing to travel 1-1.5hr each way and deal with traffic jams. I didn’t like doing that. I face the exact opposite problem here: I love how much London has to offer to you outside of work — more than you’ll ever have time and money to do. It’s a good problem for me to have right now. I can do so many things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the option before: watch classical music performances, ballet, go to spoken word nights, stand up comedy shows, music concerts and what not.
Ample availability of public spaces
Something else in the same vain: the easy availability of well-maintained and well-functional public spaces. I love parks, waterfronts, ferries. They make me super happy. I love that I’ve the option to just have lunch in a park if I feel like it or go read there for fun on a sunny day.
All of the above things might seem trivial to some people, but they’ve made a huge difference in the quality of my life. 😊
The day-to-day life
This was probably one of the main reasons I wanted to move out of India ASAP. I wanted to get an idea of what self-sufficiency looks like in practice: being able to cook a decent meal for yourself and clean your own mess. When I started talking about moving out, the most common retort was: life is too difficult without a maid and/or cleaner and that I won’t be able to adjust. I’ve strong opinions about it but that’s a controversial topic and a different blogpost altogether, so we’ll leave it out of this one. But guess what, it’s not fun to do those things every time, but I’m glad that I’ve had to pick up essential life skills that’ll serve me well in the long run. I actually enjoy cooking for myself more than I thought I would and I’m getting better at it with time. 💪🏼 I’d pick cooking for myself and cleaning any day if I get to live the life I have right now.
Everything isn’t rosy
Of course I miss home from time to time. I miss my family being ~2hr away instead of 15hr and the food. I miss Indian food so much even tho London is probably the best place for Indian food outside of India. 😂
The biggest adjustment for me has come in the form of getting used to spending money and paying so much more for literally the same goods and services. This basically meant being forced to define my relationship with money and the value of work (which is a good thing!). It’s been a journey and I’m still learning to get comfortable.
It’s not all rosy, but I like it. I think it comes down to what you value in your life. I value access to the things I have now a lot. My job also plays a big role in this: my work is super important to me and I genuinely love my job. I’ve been learning so much ever since I joined and I get to work with and learn from some incredibly smart, kind and nice people. ✨
To wrap up, being able to move to another country is a huge privilege — something a lot of people don’t have the option to do at all. I’m lucky that I was able to find an employer than was willing to sponsor me, that I’m regarded as a skilled worker, I had a relevant degree which made getting a visa way easier, I didn’t have dependents I had to take care of and had the freedom to move my entire life halfway across the world. A recurring theme in my daily gratitude journal since I moved has been “I am very grateful for being able to live the kind of life I’ve always wanted” and that would be a great way to sum up London so far for me. ✨