A couple of weeks back, I made my way to my first user group ever. As I had attended some more business-oriented user-groups in the past, I was hoping it wasn’t going to be the same kind of boring network-only type of event. I went there because I had some spare time and I had heard a lot about these user groups and wanted to check it out for myself, but didn’t expect much of it : I was wrong.
I was in a period where I was considering the best routes I could take to further my career development (the famous education vs experience debate) and really needed some external views to help me decide. From the organizers of the events to the actual users, everyone was completely available. I found that the value of the events depend on your own actions, daring to approach person XYZ to simply have a chat with them.
After having attended 3 events, I can surely say that I have already benefited a lot from everyone present, their advice and simply their company. I will definitely turn up to many of them in the coming years and invite all skeptics to try it out at least once rather sooner then later ! 🙂
As I moved to London three days ago, many things came up (and will continue to) in relation to moving to London or another country / city in General. I thought it might be a good idea to document this and let you know the little things that made my life a bit easier (or not) so that if anyone else is thinking of moving abroad, they will be a little more prepared then I was (to be honest, I was quite prepared, but some things still came as a surprise).
Here is a quick check-list of things I typically did not count with when I prepared to move to London :
Getting a cell-phone requires you have a UK bank account AND a credit check…
This is the thing that annoyed me the most by far. In Switzerland, I simply need my ID card and a copy of my permit in order to get a cell-phone. Here, I not only need a UK bank account, but on top of that, the company (Vodafone in my case) is required to do a credit check on me before I can actually get the phone… I was really hoping to get my phone the day I arrived, but now it seems I’ll have to wait till Monday (4 days later, as the weekend comes in-between…).
Cannot open a joint account (at least not with HSBC)
HSBC did not let us (me and my girlfriend) open a joint account for some reason. We could individually open an account, but that was it. Then we thought we could simply open a second account on one of our names and use it together, but even that was not possible as you’re only allowed 1 account per person (when you’re non-UK). This makes living together just that little bit harder (I mean, come on, we’re in the 21st century, this is a simple computer manipulation that should not be hard to accomplish)…
Proof of address over-seas attested by an official UK institution
To open up a bank account (and probably other things as well), you do not only need a proof of your UK address, but also proof of you’re last overseas address. This can be a letter of any official UK institution that has the address on it, but it has to be a UK institution. Luckily enough I had my King’s College confirmation letters with me, but this could be a hassle if you come unprepared.
Renting an apartment
I have no idea how apartments are rented elsewhere, but my experience was definitely different from what happens in Geneva. First of all, most apartments are rented on “per week” basis (the only thing this means is that you pay your rent weekly). This results in a situation that changes a lot faster. People come and go and 6 month contracts are very common (in Geneva, it’s 1 year minimum). We were lucky and new a real estate agent that showed us around a few properties. We chose the one we liked and sealed the deal the same day… We never thought it would be this easy.
Transportation costs are pretty high. As we found an apartment about 1h outside of London, I am paying about 3000 GBP a yera which includes trains (between Gravesend and London), buses and subways (inside London). Subways cost 5.60 GBP / day and you can get annual rates as well if you live inside London.
Although transport is quite expensive, I must say I really like the rapid pace at which you can move all around the city. The subway is good and trains go fairly frequently. It is, however, hard to find your way if you do not know london that well. For this, there is a very good solution : “London journey”. London Journey is an application for Android or iPhone that will tell you exactly how to get from A to B. It uses subways, buses, trains, boats and even does walking routes. This application has already saved me hours of looking up timetables and figuring out how to get where. I costs 2$ and is definitely worth it’s money.
Quality of new products bought
Something I had never experienced in Switzerland before has happened 3 times already in the UK : Buying a new product that has clearly been brought back (and thus used before). I have no problem with people bringing stuff back and the store selling it again, but at least take the time to wrap-it up correctly again… I have bought new items that were opened and quickly put back in the box without looking twice. The products are fine, but It’s not a nice feeling, especially if you just spent 200£ on a printer for example…
This is what we’ve found so far, but we’ve only been here 5 days now so I will probably come back and complete this list.
*Update : I have now been living here 2 months and hope this article is starting to get useful 🙂