Tens of thousands of people move to London from all over the world every year. With an urban economy bigger than that of some European countries, the city attracts vast numbers of entrepreneurs and job seekers moving to the UK. For expats moving to London, the incentives are manifold and diverse, ranging from cultural to professional reasons.
Indeed, the capital looks back on a 2000-year history of growth and prosperity. Anglo-Saxons started moving to London and its surroundings as early as the 5th century, reviving the town after the Romans had left the British settlement.
Over the centuries, the city would move from being an early center of manufacturing to spearheading the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. No longer governing an empire, London is now one of the world's leading locations for business and finance.
London is governed by a vast administrative body including the Greater London Authority and 33 boroughs. These reach from Hillingdon in the West to Havering in the East, from Barnet in the North to Bromley in the South.
However, these names probably mean nothing to foreigners moving to London. It is impossible to recommend a certain borough as a particularly popular destination for newcomers to the city. Almost every borough is home to a wide range of people from different cultural and financial backgrounds. When you move to London, you should therefore base your choice of neighborhood on practical considerations: the proximity to your work place, to child care facilities or schools, to the city center or the countryside.
If you are worried about safety and crime in your prospective neighborhood, you ought to check the Metropolitan Police website for the latest local crime statistics before moving to London. Generally speaking, it is possible to find nice residential areas in all boroughs. However, the high rental values in the central boroughs might tempt some expats to move to London’s suburbs.
Despite the relatively even spread of foreigners all across the city, certain areas tend to be preferred by expats of certain nationalities moving to London. There is a relatively high concentration of Australian, New Zealand and South African expats in London’s western / southwestern boroughs, especially Hammersmith & Fulham. Richmond and Ealing, also in the west, have a large German and Polish community, respectively.
Safety is a big issue when you are choosing your new home abroad. Read up on Safety and Crime in the UK in our article on the topic.
Increasing numbers of people are now moving to the East End. Historically home to London´s textile industry, dock workers, and Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, the East End has become the capital´s creative and artistic hub.
When the British Empire disintegrated, people from former Asian colonies started moving to London´s East End. While Halal butchers and curry houses still dominate the area, the first artists, musicians and designers started moving to London’s East End in the 1970s, followed by students and, more recently, high-earning bankers working in the nearby City. This influx of people moving to London’s east has resulted in higher property prices and numerous new building projects.
East London is now an interesting mix of old Victorian townhouses, brand-new high-rise buildings with expensive designer apartments, and the red-brick warehouses and factories so characteristic of the area. Now defunct, they are often converted into art galleries and studios, party locations, market halls for cutting-edge designer fashion or very unusual flats.
The London Docklands, for example, formerly home to shipping wharves, are now a desirable business location for financial service providers surrounded by expensive waterside flats.
The 2012 London Olympics unquestionably transformed some parts of the East End, but the extent of that transformation doesn’t seem to have been enough. Therefore, the verdict is still out regarding the exact legacy that the London Olympics will have on the East End.
The city invested in developing new public transport links and green spaces to make the area, home to the Olympic stadium, more pleasing to the eye and feet. Beyond parks and transit, the city of London pinned other expectations onto the Olympics. The Olympics did bring jobs to neighborhoods with relatively high unemployment; however, the number of jobs didn't match the 20,000 that were promised.
Beyond the trendy streets with art galleries and cozy cafes, a lot of residents in East London struggle with unemployment and poverty. In Bethnal Green and Bow a shocking 51% of children are living in poverty. Although the Olympics brought 9,700 jobs to locals, long-term unemployment continues to be rampant in parts of the East End. Long-term unemployment in Bethnal Green and Bow rose by 26% in 2012. For the same period long-term youth employment went up by 55%.
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