We get asked a lot of the same questions about our move to London. Here I have answered some of them and hopefully some of these answers might help you out too.
Why did you decide to move?
Andre was only doing contract work back home. When his contract ended we knew we’d probably need to move to another city for him to get a job anyway.
We visited Europe in 2012 and throughout my research for that trip I came across a lot of blogs belonging to ex-pats and people on working holidays. It planted a seed in my mind. When Andre’s contract ended we thought, why not go back to Europe and see some more? The UK is the obvious choice because we speak the same language. We both loved London when we visited and as a major travel hub it makes visiting other places easy.
How did you find your church (Grace Church Brockley)?
We first had a look online but were mainly coming up with the big mega-church type things like St Helen’s. While St Helen’s comes highly recommended and, by all accounts, is a very biblically-minded church, we are a bit averse to big churches. Our minister back in Australia, Jason Smart, told us that he had friends in London and that if we needed any help in finding a church to let him know. Once we found somewhere to live, we emailed him and he contacted his friends in London. None of them live or work in our area but they emailed their friends in the area and one of THEM knew our friend Helen. She sent back GCB’s details and they made their way back to Jason and on to us.
We looked up GCB’s website to get a feel for what kind of church it was. We were very interested in the fact they were advertising a retreat (Word Alive) which included speakers such as Don Carson and Mike Raiter, so decided to pay them a visit. The rest is history!
Did you have anywhere to live lined up before you arrived?
No. I had booked two weeks’ accommodation at the LSE Carr-Saunders Hall but that was it.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We used a few websites such as Zoopla and PrimeLocation – that was about it really. Be aware that if you do not have a job when applying for houses/flats you will probably be required to pay 6 months’ rent up front. We had to transfer more money from Australia for this.
Did you have jobs lined up before you arrived?
How did you get jobs?
Firstly we uploaded our CVs to 1st Contact. They are not an employment agency but they check your CV to make sure it is appropriate for the UK job market, then circulate it around the agencies they do work with. We also uploaded our CVs to job websites and applied for jobs online. We were contacted by agencies who saw our CVs and wanted to sign us on, and since then all our jobs have come through our agents. If you are coming from Australia and don’t think you need an agent because agencies are not used a lot in Australia, THINK AGAIN. A lot of contracts are never advertised and employers work with their regular agencies to fill them. You have access to far more potential contracts by being signed on with an agency (or several).
Was it hard to set up a bank account?
No. This was because we signed up with 1st Contact before we arrived in the UK. They act as a kind of reference for you when applying for a bank account. They work with about 4 different banks and you can pick which one you want to sign up with. It is notoriously difficult to get a UK bank account if you do not have a permanent address, it’s difficult to get a house if you don’t have a job and you can’t get a job without a bank account. But 2 (I think) of the banks who work with 1st Contact don’t require a home address if you come via 1st Contact. This breaks that vicious cycle. We were able to take our reference letter from 1st Contact, walk straight into Barclays and set up our accounts. If you are staying with a friend or family member then this helps too because you can use their address.
What was the hardest thing about setting up in a new country?
Applying for flats was a bit frustrating because some places would turn us down when they found out we didn’t have jobs. Others were ok with it as long as we could pay 6 months’ rent up front (which we could, fortunately). The most frustrating bit though was our total lack of credit history and how VERY SLOW everything moves. Everything in the UK requires a credit history, even something as trivial as a £15/month mobile phone plan. And the address on the card you use has to match the address you live at. When we moved into our flat we changed the address with our bank immediately, but it can take some time for that change to filter through to the credit agency. We were stuck with our prepaid sim cards on a crummy network and couldn’t get internet for ages until the credit agency finally recognised our new address. We also had dramas with the first internet company we tried using who took forever to install everything (it never happened and we switched providers – be warned, stay away from PlusNet!).