The Millennial View – One Pricey Pint
by Nika Tomljenovic
LONDON — When somebody mentions they’ve lived abroad, I imagine a cute apartment with a view of the ocean, a farmers’ market across the street and rent a quarter of Toronto’s. When my friend lived in Thailand, it literally sounded like a savings plan with elephant rides and sunshine.
So when I received the news I’d be moving to London (yes, England) for my MA in playwriting and screenwriting, I was hit with the realization that London is an expensive city. And a wet one. Not like New York City expensive, but it definitely costs a substantial amount more to live here than Toronto. I see it as a halfway point between the two.
The average cost of a studio flat in London is about £1,100/month (depending on the area). That’s about $2,000 in Canadian dollars. So currently I live in student housing, or halls as they call them here, and it costs me the equivalent of a trendy one-bedroom-plus-den condo on King Street West. The neighborhood, Shoreditch, is in East London and is known as a hive for young artists and hipsters with its share of cool restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s like Queen Street West, but bigger.
The perks of my student housing includes having my own bathroom, mini kitchen and access to a gym for less than the cost of a flat. The not so ideal part is that I’m 23 and living the student life. I own a pair of earplugs I frequently use when I’m trying to sleep and my neighbors decide to throw a spontaneous Tuesday night party. Other than that, my accommodation has done its job, considering I moved here not knowing one thing about the city, or any of its neighborhoods.
Not only is rent more expensive, but food and clothing are too. The meals cooked at home in Toronto would cost nearly double to recreate here (and it’s not like I have the equipment; I own one pot and one pan). Though the shopping is amazing, I try to do most of it while visiting Toronto. Everything is suddenly a deal there. Even doing my laundry is a bit of an investment. I’ll add £10 to my laundry top-up card and it shows up as $18.50 on my PayPal account.
When I first moved here, I began teaching English online, which was amazing because I didn’t have to leave my room. But once payday came around, I’d see those earnings cut nearly in half because of the conversion rate into my U.K. bank account. Fortunately, I have enough savings to sustain myself for the time being and get a start in copywriting.
So, if you’re planning to move abroad (particularly across the pond), have enough saved up to sustain yourself for several months, know the average cost to live in that city (this includes food, having a social life, transportation costs, etc.,). And finally, Poundland is your new best friend. Yes, that’s their dollar store. I got a kick out of that when I first heard it.
Of course it’s not all cheap, fresh produce and beachside views, but at this point in my life, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, regardless of cost. There isn’t a more vibrant city with fine culture, breathtaking architecture, and friendly — if sometimes aloof — people. Yes, it rains but it’s also very entertaining when the entire city shuts down and everyone pulls out phones to film a centimetre snowfall. Ultimately, the experience has been worth much more than the $9 loss of every laundry card top-up.
Nika Tomljenovic is a copywriter working on her master’s degree in London. Before becoming a writer, she was a realtor and marketing professional (it runs in her family). Reach her at bulldogcopy.com.