For so many Aussies with travel dreams London has become a rite of passage. You get your visa, book your flights to London and then backpack Europe while living in London for a while sampling everything it has to offer.
Sitting at home I would read Facebook updates and hear stories about friends that had headed to London to live abroad and were living the life. Wild parties in Europe with new friends and the never-ending joke about Fosters always bringing me to a chuckle.
What’s not to love right? So I made the leap and did the same. I travelled Europe and then landed in London ready to find a place to live and join in with all the fun. Only this is where you find out it’s not all fun, you see those fun-loving friends of your’s never informed you of just how hard it can be finding accommodation in London.
Unless you have a friend here to begin with your housing will consist of a hostel or a friends couch. Nothing wrong with that as I love hostels it’s just the small fact that London hostels are some of the worst I’ve ever stayed in. To escape the hostel you begin searching online at places like gumtree and other similar sites trying to track down that share house in the right place and with the right people to live out that dream you built up before leaving home.
The majority of people find a house and go on their way, for the rest London beats them down like it nearly did me and they head for home or a cheaper place like Asia. Maybe it takes a week, could be a month or even longer in my case. I spent 4 months living in a London hostel/pub all while working a full-time job which as you can imagine really made things difficult.
To clue you in on what it was like my living conditions consisted of a kitchen that included a microwave, oven, kettle and toaster all kept company by a handful of mismatched plates and cutlery. A VERY small common area big enough for two fridges that were never cleaned and a small table completed the upstairs area. For this reason the majority of us sat downstairs in the bar so that we could actually move around as the bedrooms were tiny as well.
The bathroom facilities were terrible at best and down right scary at their worst. Leaky showers caused 3 different rooms to have their ceilings collapse. Toilets were constantly blocked and at one point we had no toilets or showers working in the entire building. Oh and did I mention the place was nearly closed down because it was deemed a safety risk? You can see why I prefered to find a house to live in.
OK back on topic. Once you come to terms with searching for houses and sending off the right worded email you then wait to get contacted about when interviews will be taking place. If you hear back then it’s time to front up to your interview with your best pitch praying to the gods. I say this because most likely you are number 40 to have seen that house today and the housemates picked their favourite at number 5 and just saw everybody else to be polite.
I found getting interviewed for a house in London is much like going for a job interview… only a million times worse. You have until they finish showing you around the apartment before their mind is made up. I can see where they are coming from as well, some interviews I went to were seeing 30 people today and then another 30 the following day. It’s all about supply and demand and well there just isn’t enough supply my friends. As a result I spent a lot of time in the hostel bar drinking my frustrations away.
For weeks I would stop off for an interview on my way home from work. Sometimes even getting within 5 minutes from the house before getting a txt to say sorry we have found someone. Other times I’d have the most amazing chat with the people at the house and leave with a great feeling. The house was great, it was in the perfect area and most of all the people seemed really nice. Still an email would come the following day saying sorry but we picked someone else.
I was lucky and had a job waiting for me when I arrived but for people coming to find work and a house you can see how week after week it slowly beats you down as your money runs dry? You need an address to get a bank account but you can’t get one without a house and how do you get paid from work without a bank account?
Eventually after viewing 20-30 houses I got my break and found a nice little flat. Did it offer me everything I wanted? Not really but after so many people saying no you jump on the first offer you get. Now that I have been in it for over 6 months I can say it is actually what I wanted. I have a great housemate and I’m well connected with the rest of London should I have a big night out and need to get a night bus home (curse the tubes for stopping at midnight).
London is a great city to live in but you have to roll with it and some times it rolls in a direction that you really do not want to go. If you have a story on finding accommodation in London that can rival mine I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.