A Guide to Living in London

Compared to other African nations like Nigeria, the Zambian diaspora in the United Kingdom is quite small. Based on research conducted by the Office of the President of the Republic of Zambia, there are approximately 15,000 Zambians living in the UK.

While no official figures exist, it is estimated that the majority of these live in and around London. This is due to the high levels of diversity in the city, a large African population, and the economic dominance of the capital compared to other parts of the country.

So if you’re considering a move to London, whether to work, study, or something else, here is a guide to some important elements of living in the capital.

Traffic

Thankfully, traffic in Britain drives on the left, just like in Zambia. However, you probably won’t want to drive if you live in London.
Public Transport

Public transport is definitely the best way to get around the city. Apart from expensive parking charges (if you can even find somewhere), driving in London is time consuming due to the old, narrow, twisting roads and heavy traffic. You must also pay a congestion charge designed to discourage car use in the city.

Instead, Londoners use the good bus, tram, and train network. The metro system is called the London Underground (but it’s nicknamed “the Tube”), and covers most areas of the city. Fares depend on which zones you travel in and through, so the further you travel, the more you pay.

Buses are a flat fee of £1.50 per journey, and you can make as many bus journeys as you like in one hour for the same price.

Buses, trams and trains can all be paid for by an Oyster card (purchasable at Underground stations) or contactless card, meaning you don’t have to fumble for cash every time you want to travel.

Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account is important if you are planning to live in the UK for any extended period. Most jobs will require a bank account to pay you. It can be a little tricky though as opening a bank account is a chicken and egg scenario, as you need to have proof of address, but can’t get that without opening a bank account.

Fintech companies like Starling and Tide might be easier to open, as they don’t require a credit check. Failing that, try getting a prepaid debit card first. You may also be able to prove your address with a utility bill or council tax statement, but these can take a few weeks to get sorted.

Social Activities

Londoners are spoiled for choice when it comes to activities. You’ll find everything from an old Victorian toilet that’s been converted into a coffee shop, to pop-up art exhibitions that can happen just about anywhere. Other parts of the UK don’t have quite the variety of entertainment. Some key places to visit are:

  • The Hippodrome – A former theatre built in 1900, the Hippodrome is now a casino and entertainment centre with the Magic Mike Live currently being performed on most days. The casino is packed with many table games, slot machines, and poker rooms. Since poker is not particularly popular in Zambia, you’ll likely need to get up to speed with the different variations in the rules before you go if you plan to have a go.
  • West End – London is famous for its West End theatres. Some of the most popular shows include The Lion King, Wicked and Mary Poppins.
  • Music: There are several great live music venues in the city, including Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, KOKO (there venue where Madonna had her first UK gig, and The 100 Club where The Sex Pistols and Oasis have played
  • Namco Funscape – If you love classic arcade games, Namco Funscape in County Hall Westminster (next to the London Eye) is open until midnight. It’s a surprisingly cheap place to go for such a central location.

 

Meet the Locals

London is a very welcoming city, but it can be difficult to make friends without knowing anyone. The London Association of Zambians in the UK run regular events, and there are several other Facebook groups you may wish to join.

Where to Live

London has many different areas with very different communities. When you first move, it’s probably best to rent somewhere rather than buy (buying is prohibitively expensive any way), as you’ll have the opportunity to move to different areas to find the one that suits you best.

Central London has very high property prices, but they get much cheaper the further away from the city centre you get. Property near a tube station is also typically more expensive than those further away.

There are many things you will notice about the city and the UK, like the abundance of escalators, the bright red post boxes, the double decker buses, the 3-pin plug sockets, and the plastic bank notes.

You’ll spend months noticing something new every day, but every day you’ll love it even more.

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