Starting a new life in London is a challenge for expats, but it is worth persevering

Starting a new life in London is a challenge for expats, but it is worth persevering

THE EXPAT MIND: If you have come to London to develop your career and establish a new life, making progress socially or professionally can be tough at first. Living here is rarely boring, though.

There are lots of things to love about London and many reasons to live here – not least, the arts, the nightlife, the sense of history and tradition and the proximity to Europe. However, that said, living in London isn’t always easy.

It can be quite challenging when you first arrive from Australia and find yourself trying to settle into daily life here in London, particularly if you are looking to establish yourself here career wise, rather than working in any old job simply to fund your travels and have a good time.

If you are willing to work for minimum wage and do whatever it takes to experience London and Europe on a shoestring hanging out with other travellers in the same boat, chances are you will be able to find employment relatively easily and you will be able to scrape together enough money to go out, have a good a time and travel.

But if you are coming to the UK, maybe in your late 20s or early 30s, and want to progress your career things may be a bit more challenging. When I first arrived many years ago I had already registered with a number of recruitment agencies before I got here and formed relationships with some recruiters. As a result I was lucky enough to get some interviews lined up which led to me securing a job in the first few weeks. However, this is often not the case.

I know many people who, despite having plenty of experience, struggled to find work in their field for a long period of time after they arrived. This was not only financially difficult but it was really demoralising for them too, making life in London a lot more of a struggle and making them question whether it was worthwhile staying. However, although it was initially tough, when they did finally get work things turned around quickly for them and they began to feel more settled and at ease.

But aside from the practicalities, one of the most important aspects of life in the city is establishing a social life and developing friendships. If you decide to live in an area full of Aussies and Kiwis – or move into a share house with a bunch of them – you are likely to have somewhat of a ready-made social life, given how friendly and welcoming Aussies tend to be to their compatriots, particularly when overseas. This can be fun and enjoyable and will probably make you feel more settled in and at home, but it means that you may not experience London in the same way as people who grew up here. In fact, some might say that you are just transporting the Aussie culture and lifestyle to a different city, although I would say to each their own.

However, if you come over to the UK with a partner or you just decide to ‘go it alone’ and mix mainly with British and Europeans because you want to experience the London of Londoners, you may find it a bit more challenging getting settled in and making friends. It can be that people are less inclined to want to befriend you properly, even at work, because they assume that like many other Aussies you aren’t going to be around that long and they don’t want to invest their time and energy into becoming friends with someone who is going to leave in a year’s time. Also, as people get older and have a more established circle of friends, they don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to add to that circle. So depending what age you are, forming real friendships may at times be tough and you may find yourself missing your friends back home a lot.

That said, I realise it may feel hard to talk to friends and family back home about the struggles and challenges you are facing too, as if they have not been through it themselves they may not understand. Or they might encourage you to just come home. And spending too much time talking to friends back home may prevent you from fully committing to putting yourself out there and trying to establish real London friendships. In such instances, whether you are struggling with work, your personal life or just getting used to life in another country and culture, some people can find it helpful to talk to a counsellor who understands these challenges and is able to help support you in getting more settled here, as well as exploring ways of making progress – be that socially or professionally.

Realistically though, if you are here to develop your career and establish a new life for yourself for however long you decide to stay, I think for many people it probably takes about a year or more to feel properly settled and at home, and to form relationships that have the potential grow into real and lasting friendships. Therefore, I guess what I am saying is don’t necessarily expect everything to be easy when you arrive here in the UK. There are likely to be some obstacles, but if you persevere, at some point things will probably start to fall into place and it will hopefully seem worthwhile in the end – because despite the challenges it presents, London is also an engaging and exciting city with lots to offer, and life here is rarely boring.

Also by Saff Mitten

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The psychology of living overseas: Is home not your home anymore?

Saff Mitten is an Australian counsellor, psychotherapist and life coach living and working in London. She has a great understanding of the range of practical and emotional issues Australians can face when living in the UK. If you want to contact her, please email or call her on 07721872160. Also, if you want to find out more information about what Saff does, you can visit her website:

Saff Mitten

Saff Mitten

Saff Mitten is a an experienced counsellor, psychotherapist and life coach who sees clients in Central and North West London. An Australian herself, she has been based in London for the past 11 years and she has a good understanding of the range of practical and emotional issues Australians can face living in the UK. In addition she has experience of working with clients on a wide range of other issues including relationship problems, anxiety, depression, stress, problems at work and many more.