The next instalment in the Expat Interview Series! I’ve reached out to expats in different countries to hear why people might choose to move abroad, and how they do it. If you want to know more about moving to a particular country this is the place. If you’re interested in taking part, or want to see a certain place featured let me know!
I might have chosen to move to Edinburgh, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a bit in love with London. As a Kiwi, I’ve had a lot of friends move to London, but I was excited to get another perspective from a Brazilian expat! Like me, Alessandra is a bit of a perpetual expat, moving all over the world while she writes at An Expat Diary.
Tell us about yourself, and what made you decide to move to London
My name is Alessandra and I am a Brazilian expat living in London. I decided to move overseas about 10 years ago, when my desire to explore became much larger than the comforts of home. In fact, since I’ve known myself as a person, I have always loved traveling. I was born in the countryside of Brazil and always felt that there was much more to the world than just staying in that small town. My parents used to tell me this story about when I was a little kid that whenever we would go on a road trip and return home, I would turn away reluctantly and start crying, wanting to stay in the car and keep traveling.
At some point, I couldn’t resist the urge anymore and decided to move to Australia, which was half way across the globe for me then, with just a suitcase and university admission. From there I moved to California, USA, where I continued studying International Business. After graduating I got a job in New York City, which later brought me to London, where I am currently living. I also lived in China while doing a summer study abroad there.
And here I am in London, one of the greatest cities in the world. I have to say it hasn’t always been easy to adapt to different places but I wouldn’t be happier living any other way.
Tell us about the cost of living in London
One of the drawbacks of living here is the cost of living, which is quite high compared to many places I have been. Many of us “Londoners” spend almost half of our income with rent, and if you want to go out you always end up spending quite a bit as well. A pint of beer, for example, cost about GBP4.00, and this is probably the cheapest alcoholic drink you can get.
How do you make a living?
Another challenging aspect to it is finding jobs. In a city like London you are competing with many well educated and experienced professionals from all over the world, so if you don’t have much language skills, something unique to offer, or even have the right contacts, you may spend a long time trying to find the right one. I somehow have always been kind of good when it comes to interviews, and my spoken English is also not bad, so I have always gotten jobs relatively easily. However, at this time of my life, I decided to pursue a career that I am truly passionate about, which brought me to becoming a travel, expat and lifestyle blogger.
Do you need a visa to live in London?
If you are interested in moving here, you will definitely need a visa (study or working), or you need to be married to a British citizen or have family here in order to initially gain a family permit. In truth, things are very uncertain now concerning immigration after Brexit. As many of you are aware, if you had a European passport, you used to also be able to live and work here, but now that the UK has begun its journey towards leaving the EU, we don’t know how easy it will be for those nationals to move here in the foreseeable future.
What’s the social scene like? How easy is it to make friends?
Regarding the social scene in London, it can be quite hectic but also exciting. You can meet people from all over the world and the choices for entertainment are basically infinite. However, I also found that it is not that easy to make friends here compared to other places I’ve lived. People tend to be more closed and it does take time to develop friendships. On the other hand, there are many ways that you can actively meet people if you want to, which include apps or interest and meetup groups.What are best and hardest things about living in London?
The best things about living in London for me is having access to all these different choices, whether it being of food, entertainment, and even when it comes to traveling. London is a travel hub, so I can easily find flights to wherever I want to go, and sometimes for very reasonable prices. The hardest thing about living here must be the weather for me. As a Brazilian, it is hard to get used to the constant cold and rainy days. However, when the weather is nice, you get to experience some of the nicest surroundings.
If we had just one day in London what should we not miss?
If you had one day in London I think you shouldn’t miss walking along the River Thames on the south side. If you are up for a nice walk, you can start at London Bridge, check out the Borough Market, see the Shakespeare theatre, Millennium Bridge and St Pauls Cathedral, visit the Tate Modern Museum and Southbank, all the way to the London Eye and the Big Ben. And yes you can do all that in one go, stopping for some food and take some of the best pictures of London on the way.
What’s your home in London like?
I am located in Fulham very close to Chesea, which is on the West side of London. This area is a bit more traditional than the cool and trendy East London, but I love it here. On the weekends I get to jog along the river and have easy access to some of the nicest areas of London, but I still don’t pay as high of a rent like in those areas, where many very rich people live.
Can you share your best local/insider tip about where you live?
My biggest tip if you are thinking of moving to London is really researching and seeing what are the implications of Brexit and how it may affect your form of immigration, because this is going to have a big impact for many expats. I would also recommend checking all the areas where you can potentially live, as each has its own identity and crowd, and it would be easier if you would just move to a place and instantly feel more like you belong regarding your surroundings.