Small fish, big pond: a country dweller's guide to taking the city-life plunge
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
It's a big step for us country dwellers to pack up our bundles and head for the big smoke; hopefully this guide should cushion the corporate blow slightly.
So you've made the decision to leave the comfort of your small hometown (comparable to Broadchurch size), for the promise-land of the bright lights, big city. You've been tempted by the lucrative lure that the country's capital has to offer and you are determined to make something of yourself. Your family are supportive but wary, and your friends find you brave and admirable for venturing six hours by train out of your comfort zone. You have a place to stay for a few weeks while you find your feet and a vague idea of how to pursue your dreams, but the anxiety of the unknown is threatening to consume you. This is the big leagues, and the fear of getting chewed up and spat out is looming, how will you survive?
1 - Make sure you've saved
It may seem like an obvious one, but moving to London without a fair amount of expendable cash is a foolish move. Flat deposits, cost of living; these are all factors some country kids wouldn't have necessarily had to take into consideration before, but in the city, it all quickly becomes very real and very expensive. Make sure you have enough to support yourself whilst on the job hunt as well because the fast-paced way of life depletes your funds rapidly. Try and bring at least £700 if you can. Also for those recent graduates, your overdraft will be a God-send.
2 - Be wary of recruiters
These are the companies that put up job descriptions with buzz words that draw you in.
The job hunt can be a daunting prospect; you're new, you're vulnerable and you're the perfect prey for certain sales recruitment agencies. Before you know it the "media sales" job you originally applied for is nowhere to be found and you're getting swept up in financial and tech sales that you know nothing about, even being sent on the odd interview to become a recruiter yourself. Also, job ads that are asking for graduates for "sales and marketing" roles that say in the fine print that they are "commission only" are ones to watch out for. They usually consist of door to door sales or leaflet distribution, which funnily enough is not in the job description. Look out for sites like Give a Grad a Go, as they are reliable and do what they say on the tin.
3 - Use and abuse Groupon and Wowcher
These sites mean you can live the Champagne lifestyle on a Lambrini budget. Afternoon tea for two at the prestigious Millennium Hotel in Mayfair will only set you back roughly £30 on Groupon, and Wowcher offers luxury spa deals from around £39. You can even find deals on haircuts and manicures for a fraction of the normal price.
4 - Be transport savvy
For city newbies, the public transport situation can be extremely daunting. The app City Mapper will become your new best friend as it maps out your entire journey for you, giving you ETAs and even factoring in traffic. Try and either cycle (with the Santander cycles or your own if possible) or get the bus, as it's only £1.50 per journey no matter where you go, and you only have to pay once if you're getting multiple buses within the hour. The tube can be more convenient but you pay for the commodity and during peak times it can add up, so travel off-peak whenever possible (from 06:30 to 09:29 and from 16:00 to 18:59 Monday to Friday). Nowadays you can use your contactless bank card to pay for travel so you don't have to worry about the hassle of an Oyster.
5 - Eat, drink and live cheap
Eating and drinking out can quickly chip away at your budget if you're not careful, although it doesn't have to if you know where to look. Lots of cheap and cheerful cafes line the outskirts of Hammersmith and Brixton where you can get a panini and a hot drink for around £5, and El Camion in Soho does reasonably priced Mexican until 3am. The Redback (formally known as the beloved Slug) nightclub in Fulham does £2 Jager bombs and various other reasonably priced refreshments, and Heaven Nightclub in Soho only charges £5 for a double vodka energy drink (be sure to specify 'energy drink' as opposed to Red Bull to keep it cheap). If all else fails there is still a Wetherspoons on almost every corner, which remains a country dwellers best friend. In terms of finding reasonable accommodation, Spareroom is probably your best bet, with shared housing being your cheapest option. Be prepared to settle for houses on the outskirts of the boroughs i.e. SW16 if you want to get more bang for your buck.