Hey guys, in this post, I’ll tell you about my view on whether it’s worth to live in London as well as the main pros and cons of living in London. I understand that everyone’s situation is different, however, when I was thinking of moving, I was looking for realistic opinions, so I would have definitely appreciated this post if I found it 3.5 years ago! I hope you find it useful as well.
If you’re new to this blog, hey, I’m Liza. Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, I have lived, studied and worked in Russia, Hong Kong and Scotland before settling down in London. Who knows how long for? While this blog is mainly about my (and my partner’s travels), I also write content about expat life and work. You can check my expat content via this link!
Here’s what you can expect to find in this post:
Alright, without further ado, let’s get started!
Is it worth to live in London in 2020? Pros and cons of living in London
Let’s start with the pros and cons of living in London and then talk about whether it’s worth to live in London. London is one of the world’s leading capitals, and it’s a stunning multicultural city that has everything you can think of (except for affordable housing). There is a saying that if you’re tired of London, that means, you’re tired of life. Well, it’s a joke, of course, but I think you get it – London has it all. However, as it’s a big city with a lot of big-city problems, life in London can be truly draining. I know of many people who left London for the suburbs and even different cities and countries. So many people love London, but there are also some who dislike it.
And you never know which one will you be until you spend enough time in the city, living in different neighbourhoods.
Why is neighbourhood so important for living in London
Because the neighbourhood can affect your entire relationship with the city! London is so diverse and so huge that living in different parts of London can feel like living in different cities (and even countries). When I lived in Elephant & Castle, I didn’t enjoy it. I was somewhat unhappy and was even thinking of moving out of London. Since I discovered North London and areas like Highgate, East Finchley, Hampstead and Muswell Hill, I had a completely different residential experience, and I absolutely loved it! That’s just an example of how different it could be.
Pros of living in London
Fantastic food from all around the world
London has restaurants and shops from all around the world. Do you want Ethiopian food today? Head to Camberwell! Fancy Brazilian cuisine – well, you can go to Kensal Rise or Wembley. Fancy a great kebab – East London got you covered. Are you looking for the best vegan burger? You can find them all around London.
If food is important to you, you will love London. Yes, the restaurants are expensive. But at the same time, London is home to some of the world’s best restaurants.
London has many job opportunities.
If you haven’t found a job in London, I don’t know where you will be able to find a job. London has a lot of jobs to offer, and while they are not always your dream jobs, they will allow you to have a roof over your head. If you’re interested in how to find a job in a startup in London, read my post.
London is a stunning city
London is charming! Despite losing a lot of its historical buildings in the Great Fire of 1666 and then during WWII, when German forces bombed London a lot, it still has plenty of things to offer. Moreover, every district of London is different. Sometimes you even feel like you’re in a different city! Take Spitalfields with its signature dark brick buildings and compare it with sparkling white terraces of Queensway and Paddington. However, London is way more than that! There is Richmond, Hampstead, Kensington, Notting Hill, Camden, Brixton and much much more! You can write detailed guides on what to do pretty much in any historic area of London.
Salaries are high
If you’re lucky enough to have a job that pays well (e.g. you’re in Finance, Law or Computer Science), you’ll have a very high salary that will allow you a comfortable lifestyle in London. Anything above 70K in London is great, especially if you live on your own! You can have a decent life with a 40K salary as well, but with 70K, you will be able to afford a couple of luxuries. There are, however, jobs that pay 90K, 120K and even 200K, but they are hard to get. Read my post about the salary needed to live in London here!
London is a transport hub
If you’re obsessed with travel, then you will be happy to live in London with its six airports and connections to pretty much every country you can think of!
London always has things to do
London pretty much never sleeps with 24h bus service every day and 24h underground services on certain days. There are plenty of restaurants that are open 24 hours, seven days a week and you can always find things to do in the city! It has so many interesting museums (and most of them are free), art galleries, workshops, excursions and more!
Cons of living in London
Transport costs and conditions
Commuting in London can be a nightmare. London underground is very expensive (you pay £160+ for a monthly travel card), yet it lacks Air Conditioning in most of its lines. It’s usually hot, cramped and generally very unpleasant. Many families are not able to afford a decent house in London, so they end up moving to various commuter towns and spending 3 hours in transport every day.
Cost of housing
Properties in London are ridiculously expensive and don’t reflect the salaries of ordinary people. With the recent mortgage products reduction, you can only get 85% of the property price in a mortgage, and you need to have 15% of the property ready as a deposit. Add to that massive stamp duty fee, and you realise that buying a property in London is hard. Even if your combined family income is above £100K per year, you will be only able to afford a 2-bedroom flat in zones 3 or 4 or a house in a suburb, very far from London. With the deposit of £75K, you can only buy a property worth around 50000K in London, and while it sounds like a lot, trust me, it isn’t. Especially if you want a share of freehold property (not a leasehold nightmare) or a freehold house. And, preferably, in a safe and pretty neighbourhood. If we were to stay in East Finchley / Highgate where we currently rent, we would need a deposit of £150,000 to buy a decent property.
Most people have hard times saving in London.
It’s a fact. Most people have hard times saving in London. This city has so many amazing restaurants, shops and activities that young people really find it hard to save! In the first 1.5 years in London, I’ve saved nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had literally 0 in my savings account.
After three years, it’s still hard to save money. Although both of us had pay rises, the higher the salary, the higher the spending. Imagine that yours and your partner’s combined yearly income is £100000 (imagine both of you make £50K). In total, you bring home around £6K per month after taxes.
Rent is very expensive, so imagine paying £1800 for a 1-bedroom flat including all the bills (council tax, electricity etc.). Then, another £300 per month you both spend on lunches and another £300 you spend on transport. With groceries and other costs, you will end up spending £3000 per month just on basic necessities. If you add restaurants, travel and clothes, you could easily spend all that money. But realistically, you can save around £1500 every month. You would need 50 months to save 75K for a deposit – that’s over 4 years.
However, very few people make £100K combined, as the average salary in London is around 35K. In this case, you will only have £4400 after taxes and after basic expenses, that leaves you with only £1500 left, which you can either spend on going out, travelling or shopping and save for your future property. In this case, even if you save £700 per month, you would need 107 months to save 75K – that’s almost 9 years!
As with any large capital, London can be pretty unsafe. Unfortunately, if your income is low, you will probably end up renting in an up and coming or even a bad area. Otherwise, you would need to share with multiple flatmates. Some areas of London are just not great. They have problems with violence, vandalism, burglaries, drugs and even trash collection. You won’t be able to find many good shops in the area and some of your neighbours might be involved in criminal activities. You will hear police sirens all night long, and if you dress nicely and wear brands, you will definitely stand out. But you wouldn’t want to stand out.
There are some areas of London that I wouldn’t recommend: Barking, Upton Park, Plaistow, West Ham, Ilford, Dagenham, East Ham, Tottenham, Wembley, Southall, Harlesden, Woolwich, Deptford, parts of Croydon, Camberwell, Thamesmead, Hounslow and some other areas with large council estates.
If you want to see the full list of places I’d avoid in London, check this post about the worst districts in London.
You might feel frustrated
Another one of the cons of living in London is probably a feeling of frustration. Yes, London can really make you feel miserable if you want to eat out in fancy places, live in a beautiful property in a good area and buy food from fancy supermarkets, but you can’t afford it.
There are so many rich people living in London. According to recent surveys, over 100,000 of people in London have a salary of over £130,000 (which is a super-high salary compared to the average wage of about £35,000). There are also millionaires and billionaires, who own houses and go out in London.
There are places specifically designed for rich people, from ultra-expensive restaurants to private clubs, and you realise that you probably will never be part of that lifestyle.
However, luckily, not everyone wants that kind of lifestyle!
Alright, now it’s time to wrap it up and summarise whether it’s worth to live in London or not.
Is it worth living in London? Pros and cons of living in London. The summary
Alright, I hope that now you are more aware of the pros and cons of living in London. I know it’s tough to say whether it’s worth living in London or not, as everyone is different. To me, personally, it’s 100% worth it, I love the city, and I love living in London. However, for many people, London, with its crazy high property prices and mediocre salaries as well as safety problems, might not be the first choice. Which one are you? Have you decided?