previously posted on my blog Abroad in London
as a weekly update for family and friends
As the countdown began aspects of this move came to life. Reality quickly descended upon me after attending orientation with my university’s international co-op department. It was their job to prepare us for the transition from American life to living in a new country.
Of course the cultural and linguistic differences between Boston and London could not compare to other destinations that students were travelling to, such as Portugal or India.
Orientation opened my eyes to the realities I would face. One of those realities involved living arrangements. Quickly I befriended two other students travelling to London, both of whom were business majors and working in similar fields as I would be. Becoming roommates seemed logistically intelligent as we began the search for an apartment in London.
When moving abroad where do you begin the apartment hunt? That was the first question I had to answer. But to answer that question I first had to establish the parameters of the move. We had to consider that the location would have to be centrally located to three different job sites with close proximity to the Tube. And finally, perhaps most importantly, the apartment had to be moderately priced. This was a fairly tall order in any city, never mind London which is known to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
Do you know how hard it is to find that kind of housing even in a city you know well?
The first thing I did was tap into the information I had available to me. I practically studied the guide I had purchased about moving to London. In the process I recalled that my cousins from Paris had once lived in London too and it occurred to me that they might have suggestions on viable locations.
The internet, as expected, also proved to be one of my greatest resources. And the first bit of information I learned? I discovered that google-ing ‘London apartments for rent’ was an ineffective search.
The first lesson learned: Londoners do not live in apartments, they live in flats.
So I was no longer searching for an apartment with my roommates but instead I was searching for a flat with my flatmates. And to the British there is a significant difference because a roommate is someone with whom you share a room; where as a flatmate is someone with whom you share a flat but not necessarily a room.
I actually prefer their terminology. I would say it’s far more descriptive and concise.
I tapped into the knowledge available to me. I used the book, Google and conveniently remembered that my cousins in Paris had once lived in London. An email to them helped narrow down the search based on my criteria- and based on their knowledge. I did what I considered to be extensive searches and had come up with several options, none of which were ideal or even satisfactory.
Then we had something of a breakthrough.
One of my future flatmates received an offer from a family friend to let us rent his flat in London. It must have been providence because the flat was everything we required: centrally located, three bedrooms, close to not one but two Tube lines, fully furnished and moderately priced.
In the end it wasn’t about what we knew but who we knew.