We’re sharing a different Expat Story Of The Month this month! Meet Sarah Latham, an Australian who moved from Tropical North Queensland to London in July 2021.
With a big love for travel and photography, Sarah has taken every opportunity to see plenty of bucket list nearby countries (13 and counting) to fit in around her job.
Make sure you follow Sarah’s Instagram page @_sarahlatham and her blog sarahadventuring.com . We’ve been following her for a long time, and she’s helped us loads with our own travels, even for our recent trips to Italy and Greece as well as tips for visiting Cairns.
Let’s find out what her first year of living in London has been like!
Table of Contents
Why I moved to UK
I moved to the UK on the 7 July 2021.
My mum is British, and she moved over to Australia over 30 years ago. By visiting my family in Cheshire in England throughout my childhood, I’ve been to the UK a lot and as a result it has always felt like a second home to me. Ever since I was a child I had the vague plan to one day live in England for a while – it was always something I could see myself doing.
I chose to move to London purely because I already had a number of friends (both British and Australian friends) in the city and knew it would be an easier move having a friendship base already there. Plus I have a British passport thanks to my mum being British too.
It took a good few years to actually move to London
I toyed with the idea of moving to London in both 2016 and 2017 – however, I felt I couldn’t financially justify it/wanted to do it enough for what I’d have to sacrifice for. I was only starting in my career and couldn’t see how I would enjoy myself/London life on first year salary + rental costs in London so shelved the idea for a few years.
In 2019 I stayed with an Australian friend in London when I visited, which really set off the idea of living in England again that stuck with me for the rest of the year. Near the start of 2020, I came very, very close to moving to London. I was interviewing for a job role in London but was also offered a role in Brisbane, Australia at the same time.
The Brisbane role was only 11 months contract and good move for my career so I thought ‘I’ll take this and move to London after it finishes.’
After pulling out of the London role, the world shut down due to the pandemic just a few weeks later. It still blows my mind a little bit how close I came to moving overseas in March 2020!
When my Brisbane contract was up in February 2021, unfortunately England was in a very strict lockdown due to the pandemic. I decided to wait it out a few months and eventually moved to London in July 2021 when I finally could!
Of course, due to this timing, I had to prepare exemption to leave Australia documents – which, at the time, was very stressful and I prepared a lot of paperwork for it. However, I was approved within two days of submitting and cleared to go!
I waited to buy winter clothes in London
I moved to the UK by myself but my mum actually joined me on the flight as she was coming over to see her mother.
I also didn’t ship anything over. I just came with a 30kg suitcase of clothes. I didn’t bring cold weather clothes as I knew these would be better to buy in the UK when winter came.
A lot of flats in London come furnished so I didn’t need to source much furniture (just bought a desk, bookcase etc.) which I’ll one day sell on.
There’s three types of friends when telling them I was moving
I found it quite amusing that I could separate my friends into three distinct categories when I told them I was moving.
1. The people who didn’t know me as well because they asked why I would want to move (especially during the time I went)
2. The people who knew me pretty well because their response was “Oh yeah I guess that makes sense, you’ve got a fair amount of family over there”
3. The people who knew me so well that when I told them I had news to tell them they said “You’re moving to England, aren’t you?”
So for some it was a surprise and for some it was a long time coming. I think overall everyone has been supportive.
My family were very supportive as they knew how long this had been my plan.
Finding work in London
I moved over in July, moved to London start of August and didn’t start at my job until the start of November. I was offered the role at the end of September though, there was just a fair amount of paperwork and process to get through before I could start.
I work in social media marketing/digital communications and I found my UK job on Indeed.com (which is the UK version of Seek.com). I had two interviews before I was offered the role.
Does work life in UK differ to work life back home?
One major plus about working in the UK compared to Australia is the additional annual leave. I find overall full time roles in the UK get six weeks of annual leave compared to Australian roles getting four weeks of annual leave (obviously doesn’t apply as a blanket rule to all).
I have only had one job in the UK, (and it’s probably a sign that the organisation I work for is very good as I’m not sure if this is normal in the UK or not) but I have a very good work life balance here (e.g. I get TOIL for any overtime I do rather than just having to do it).
I do know that my friends here don’t always feel the same way about their work so can’t really comment on whether it’s normal or if I just have a great team/work place.
Making friends in London
Thanks to already knowing a few people when I moved over here, I have found it very easy to make friends. The Australian and Kiwi expat community in London is pretty outstanding.
When I arrived many Aussies I knew here reached out to welcome me to London (even people I hadn’t seen in 10 years!) and when I met an Aussie/Kiwi once at an event I would start to be invited to things they were doing in the future etc. so it’s a very good expat community in London.
My role in the UK is 100% remote so although my team is great I don’t socialise with them as the opportunity isn’t there due to the work structure.
The hardest thing about moving to London is missing my lifestyle in Australia. In Australia I spent a lot of time outdoors in natural environments like the rainforest, waterfalls, beach and the Great Barrier Reef. Swapping to a concrete city with heavy traffic has been a harder adjustment for long term living than I expected it to be.
I also found winter in the UK very difficult, not due to the temperature but due to the lack of light density in the day and I felt very low in winter.
Tackling homesickness and settling into London life
I’ve noticed when I’m very tired I miss home a lot more but on a day-to-day level I feel relatively settled.
I realised I felt more settled than not when I realised that it would be ‘more effort’ to go home rather than to stay in the UK. Having a routine definitely helps.
Despite saying I feel quite settled, I get homesick very frequently here – especially when tired.
It was very bad over the first part of winter last year, so I gave myself a time frame (over a year away) to move home. Having that time frame made me think of my time in London as temporary rather than ongoing and that I should take advantage of it while I’m here.
I don’t even have that time frame to go home anymore but it was a really good way to make me focus on where I am rather than on home when I was feeling low.
I’d say a big tip would be to take advantage of what you can do in your current location rather than back home.
In the UK it’s so close to so many different countries that are easy to travel to and I don’t have that back home – so I travelled a lot which made me excited to be here.
But if I was an expat in Australia for example, I would perhaps look at the incredible landscapes you can experience while there and try and see as much as possible.
Living costs in London are very high and I spend a lot more to live in London than I would back home. My rent in London is good for London standards but significantly higher than what I have rented for in Australia and the standard of housing just isn’t the same. I was prepared for this when I came over so it wasn’t a surprise but not that enjoyable!
Eating and drinking in London is also very expensive and as a result I find I don’t go out to eat and drink anywhere near as much as I would back home because I can’t justify the extra cost to myself. For example with pricing: I went to a pub that was advertising a Wednesday night deal of a pie + glass of wine for $45AUD.
Clothing on the other hand is a lot more affordable here than back home which is nice!
Ticking off those bucket list places in nearby countries
I’ve been really lucky to travel extensively since moving to the UK to 13 different countries in the last year. My favourite countries have been to are Jordan and Egypt, which were incredible.
I’ve always planned my money out well in advance to make sure it is possible to do what I want to do. I decided to spend this year prioritising travel, and have budgeted accordingly and have a big spreadsheet on how I can logistically make it happen.
How I’ve planned it with work – I have a different work roster than normal marketing roles. I work between 7am and 10pm 7 days a week – meaning I often give up weekday nights and weekends. However, due to this roster I get a lot of time off in return, which has enabled me to travel as much as I have – I wouldn’t have been able to fit in so many different places if it wasn’t for this type of working roster so feel very lucky to have it.
Three random tips you need to know before moving to London
If you need doctors notes for anything get them in Australia before you come to the UK (free and easy to get in Australia, 50 GBP + a longer process to get in the UK). You may need a doctors note for simple medication that you then want to take with you travelling to countries like Egypt that have strict rules on medicine for example.
Contraceptive pill is free in the UK! No need to stock up before you move over here (but bring enough to cover a little bit as it can take a while to get doctor’s appointments in the UK).
If you’re moving over from a hot country, buy your winter clothes in the UK they’ll be better quality/better suited to the environment. Spend up on a good winter coat (I bought mine from Uniqlo and love it).
That in addition to everything above, I am very happy to be in the UK. It’s great to have now been here for a year so I don’t feel so new and I love being able to see my British family more regularly now. I also love being able to go to so many places outside and within the UK. While I love living in London, Australia will always be home for me.
We’re looking to share stories from expats who are living in Australia, but also expats who have now moved back home. Being an expat can make many people feel totally unsettled. Your story could help inspire someone today.