International students: What I wish I had known before moving to London

What’s a quid?

Whether you’re just moving from across the channel or from a country thousands of miles across the globe, relocating to London is daunting either way.

Even after two years of living here, I still find myself discovering new museums and having to translate some slang. But don't fear, because I'm here to help: here are the tips and tricks I wish I had known before I moved to this buzzing – but very confusing – city.

Forget everything you thought you knew about British English.

Before I moved here I was convinced that the only accents in the UK were British, Scottish and Irish and that Londoners sounded like the Queen or Benedict Cumberbatch. Boy, was that stupid.

Not only are there differences between northerners and southerners but even within London, accents change.

My boss at an internship was shocked when I didn’t recognise the existence of the country of “Chunishia”; it took me a week to realise he was saying Tunisia.

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The slang alone will leave you confused

A quid? Knackered? What does it all mean?! At the beginning it will sound confusing. Fear not though! The longer you’re here the clearer it will all become and if not, there will definitely be some kind British soul that takes you under their wing and translates everything for you.

Here are some helpful basics to start you off:

Quid = another way to say pounds.

Knackered = dead tired

Chuffed = very pleased

Dodgy = questionable, not very safe

Tosser/wanker = an idiot

Off-license = a small liquor store (a crucial term to know!)

Taking the piss = making fun of someone

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Chuffed over my good english beer


If you’re missing your local cuisine or just made a new friend from another country that wants to show you their national dish, London will satisfy all your cravings!
From Sri Lankan to Brazilian, Jamaican to Italian, and Indian to Malaysian: you’ll find it all!

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An Italian tries Sri Lankan food

It will take a little bit of research and trial-and-error to find a restaurant you prefer and afford (i.e. fit your tiny student budget) but you are bound to find something that comes close to what you eat at home. And you can always try new dishes from other cultures and countries; the options are endless and delicious!

Collect all the loyalty cards!

You might feel like you’ve aged 60 years and become your grandmother but trust me, loyalty cards are worth it. If you’re an international student you’re probably already paying a lot of money to study and/or live in London and loyalty cards will give you those little discounts and perks that warm your heart when you’re broke at the end of the month.

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One year of owning a nectar card woohoo!

Take advantage of all the FREE museums and exhibits!

Every other event or item in London is so expensive so take advantage of all the free museums, exhibits and cultural events!

Unlike many capitals in Europe, in London you can visit most permanent exhibitions at museums for free.

Similarly there will be a lot of pop-up events and temporary displays that can also be just as interesting so keep an eye out!
Time Out Magazine is especially good at keeping you in the loop.

Not everything about London is great though – watch out for moped thieves

On large busy streets it is relatively common for thieves on mopeds to whizz by and steal your phone straight out of your unsuspecting hand as you wait at a red light and are busy texting your flatmates about the fresher events tonight.

Be careful especially if you go to UCL or other London unis in the center of the city – the area around the UCL Malet Place entrance is notorious for these thieves. It's one of the few down sides of living in a big city.

The weather is 100 per cent as bad as everyone says

Sad but true. The grey skies and rainy days will make you grateful that you’re warm studying in the library, but on the bright side, you’ll learn to appreciate a sunny day with a cloudless blue sky so much more.

Also, if you’re lucky the harsh winters might delight you with snow and then you’ll get to see a white London, which is quite the sight.

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We don't see snow very often

In the end, the best advice that I can give is just to make the most of it. There will be times where you’ll feel lonely or homesick but that’s normal and it’ll pass.

Enjoy it while you can – it’s all a learning experience that will shape you forever!