With just two days to move in before we needed to start working, we had no choice but to furnish a flat FAST in England! We landed in the UK to live for a third time recently. But, with one difference – we had a pet in tow. Unfortunately, in our experience we didn’t find that securing a place to live with a dog was as straightforward as we’d hoped.
But, eventually we scored the right place at the right time. It came unfurnished, and it’s the first time we’ve ever chosen to furnish from scratch!
Furnishing a flat fast in England
Since we had the opportunity to design our own space, we put together a checklist of key pieces we needed:
A double desk or two minimalist desks for working from home
Office chairs that prevent RSI and back problems
Some sort of compact dining table and chairs
Sofa, TV, coffee table and TV unit (could be inexpensive and compact)
Bed and [comfortable!] mattress
Microwave, kettle, toaster (as these were not already included in the kitchen)
We do not have transport so needed to rely on some conveniences of England in terms of furnishing a flat fast.
Walkable options e.g. cheap stores like Poundland or Primark
Next day delivery services – will share our favourites below
Vintage / second hand / outlet stores we can reach on foot, as well as Facebook Marketplace if we could access on foot.
Our UK flat walkthrough: the reveal!
Find out how we furnished our flat fast in 48 hours without transport:
Our top 7 resources for furnishing a flat quickly and on a budget
A few of the places we mentioned in the video included:
Argos – next day delivery available at a timeslot you choose
Amazon – next day delivery available but sometimes difficult to track
B&M – nice quality homewares at a great price
Primark – seems to have a renewed focus on ‘home’ since we last lived in the UK; nice items that are cheap
Poundland – an awesome resource for gathering all the usual cleaning and household products that we usually take for granted because things like detergent are usually ‘just there’!
Vintage or charity stores e.g. British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Oxfam, Marie Curie shops
How to rent in England: tips for first-timers
We’ve rented five properties in eight years (across three different stints) in England. Some of these were private rentals found on Gumtree. Others were via real estate agencies. I wouldn’t say the task of finding a flat ever gets easier. However, if you’re a foreigner (expat) and you haven’t got a lot of [recent] history in the destination, you may face an administrative nightmare.
My recommendation is that you prepare. Have as much of the following information to hand as possible. This will mean you can jump on applications quickly and successfully:
A UK phone number/SIM
Have a temporary address handy, as you’re usually asked where you’re staying ‘now’
Proof of who you are (e.g. passport, drivers licence, bank statements)
Reference information (either pre-prepared written references and/or details of recent rental property agents who can attest to you being a good tenant)
Evidence of employment, particularly recent payslips and/or a contract or something official validating your income will mean far less hassle trying to secure a rental agreement
Alternatively, details of a guarantor may also be accepted
A UK bank account* – particularly so you can have funds ready to transfer as your deposit and first few weeks’ rent. Waiting for funds to transfer internationally is possible, but will take extra days which may mean you are held up on your plans to sign a contract or move in.
If you are new to the country, this can be a sticky point. Many banks will ask for an address to set up a bank account, but you almost need a bank account to secure a residential address! HSBC is known to support expats in England, although it’s my understanding that they charge a hefty fee for the privilege. Barclays let us set up an account initially when we first arrived, but I believe Santander is ok too.
The best way to seek help is to jump on an expat page on Facebook (e.g. ‘Aussies in London’) and ask for recent experience and advice. It’s a resource we wish we had have had when we first arrived in 2010!
A final note on renting a flat: furnished or unfurnished
If you’re turning up to the UK to live and work but you don’t have a job yet, or a pet, I’d advise not rushing into the rental process. Book an Airbnb to stay in for a few weeks, or a non-committal flat share. Find your feet, get a job, discover an area or two you love; get your bank account sorted and then seek an official residence.
We LOVE the UK but you need to find “your place” otherwise your experience might be less than happy which would be a huge shame. You’re far better off if you can live within an easy commute of where you work, and designing your life to optimise your experience abroad.
If you can give yourself some space and time to do that, definitely take advantage of it. We’ve learnt the hard way, and this is what I’d do differently if we had our time over again. Also don’t buy into the scaremongering around not being able to find a place to live. You will be ok. Plan ahead, ask questions and keep your cool. You’ve got this :)
Do you have additional advice to add, or a question? Let us know in the comments below.
Things can happen unexpectedly. Little miracles, if you will – and that’s what I spotted this week when entirely out of the blue, I received an email inviting me to a Royal garden party in London in May! The Queen’s Garden Party, no less. I squealed (fortunately not aloud), and ran over to my colleague’s office from where the email had come.
‘Are you kidding, can I go to a Royal garden party?’ I squealed (this time).
‘Can you go?’ She smiled, ‘Are you free on the 21st?’
‘I’ll be free for the Queen, yup, absolutely!!!’
The Queen’s Garden party – are you kidding? I’m not going to pretend I don’t care about this – I love the Royals. We’ve been in London for the excitement that was William and Kate’s wedding and Harry and Meghan’s. We even covered that 2018 event for radio in Australia. It was divine!
Image courtesy royal.com
Royal Garden parties
Every year the Queen hosts three parties at Buckingham Palace and one in Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. These events are designed to recognise and reward public service.
Another truth, I’m a fan of Royal dramas – everything from The White Princess to The Tudors, Victoria and The Crown – count me in!
I’d spotted that Queen Victoria initiated a ‘breakfast’ (although also held in the afternoon, akin to the contemporary Royal garden party) in an effort to get more in touch with her people. Up until then as I understand it, most Royals kept themselves at quite a distance from, well, the rest of us.
With the world rapidly changing in the Victorian era (mid to late 1800s), the demand for our royalty to be more in touch with everyday life increased. And so the mingling began.
Events with the public have changed shape over the years though, and Queen Elizabeth’s summer garden parties as we know them today at Buckingham Palace have run since just after the second World War.
What to expect at a Royal Garden Party
Lots of people (thousands – like a very elegant festival!).
And a Royal garden party serves up loads of food. Think 27,000 cups of tea, 20,000 sandwiches and 20,000 slices of cake. Included on the menu are many of the Queen’s favourite treats.
There’s royalty too. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh accompanied by other members of the Royal family speak to a range of people throughout the afternoon.
The dress code is strict – women wear a day dress and hat or fascinator and men wear a lounge suit (or ‘morning dress’).
How to get on the invite list to a Royal or special event in London
While the Queen’s Garden Party is invite only and I was lucky to be randomly selected through work (I had no idea it was even possible to go to something like this!), I’ve discovered there are ways you can apply to try and get yourself on the guest list.
Do a quick Google for the authority that relates to you to see if there are any ties that give you the chance to apply in advance for an event like a Royal Garden Party with the Queen in summer at Buckingham Palace.
Be mindful of making the best of your opportunity though. I believe that you can only receive one invitation and/or only attend once. With demand being so high for such a special occasion, frequent chances to go along simply do not exist.
If you can’t make a Royal garden party though, you can tour Buckingham Palace. It’s usually open in the summer, and you can find out more by searching for it on Visit London’s website, among other sources.
We’ll report back in May on the event. Wish me luck … that I don’t trip over my feet or my words
Earlier this week an awful event took place in central London which has had me fielding queries and concerns about travel and terrorism and indeed about how safe our lovely London actually is.
You would have caught the news about a man who drove a car onto Westminster bridge and into a crowd of 50 people before stabbing others outside Parliament. He killed four people, including a police officer, and seriously injured numerous others.
As someone living and working in the city, I can attest to the fact that no matter where you are in the vicinity, it is unnerving to know what’s unfolding.
My work’s security team shared advice with staff and let us know that we were welcome to stay inside if fearful of travelling at the end of the work day.
During the afternoon we didn’t know if anything further would occur, and the insensitive, irresponsible Twitter users sharing photos of the dead from the scene in central London were not helping!
A number of my colleagues were also visibly shaken because memories of the 7/7 bombings of 2005 are still all too close-to-home – one of the bombs exploded on the no. 30 bus directly outside our building and with catastophic results.
Over the 24 hours to follow the events in Wesminster, Cooper and I received numerous calls, texts and messages on social media from apprehensive family and friends who were unsure of what to make of it all.
Now none of this is to diminish what has happened (and continues to) in places not too far from us in the UK, including France, Belgium, Tunisia, Syria… unforunately the list goes on.
But when things like this happen on your doorstep, there’s no escaping the truth about the nature of conflict and hate in today’s world.
That said, the next day, life continued.
We were all on the buses, tube and trains in order to show up at work on time. My friend Jackie and I even ran into this young hero from the day before in the lift in our workplace.
‘Keep calm and carry on’ was a slogan developed by the British government back in 1939 as World War II loomed.
The famous phrase was intended to raise morale in those dark days, and has found meaning and international fame in our contemporary landscape too.
Back in 2005 after the transport system – the beating heart of this metropolis – was attacked, people came back outside and stepped onto public transport in record numbers. They went on determined, just as they did after the many devastating air raids during the war.
Londoners will not be held to ransom by crazy people. None of us should be. I’m inspired by this tenacity.
The topic of travel and terrorism is raised in our circles quite a bit. People worry about us being in a city where terrorism a real threat.
But actually, terrible things happen every day, even in sublime and seemingly unsuspecting locations like Queensland, Australia, from where we hail.
It does upset me that the media makes a real meal out of influencing people towards a fear mindset.
Even before any details were available on the Westminster attack this week, the news had labelled it a ‘terrorist act’.
Can you tell me they are not trying to sell papers and seek ratings by inciting fear across the globe?
I’m seeing the same on this very day about a cyclone striking the eastern coast of Queensland and am trying not to worry too much myself, but it’s hard not to when the images, language and stories being shared are drumming up worst-case scenarios.
As for travelling here to Europe?
London is one of the safest places we’ve travelled to. We feel entirely safe living here, walking around and getting about.
Sure, there’s the risk of terrorism but that’s everywhere these days, especially with misguided individuals taking it upon themselves to wreak havoc on behalf of organisations they’ve often only seen represented online or in the news.
My point is, don’t let a disillusioned few stop you from being curious and getting out there to travel and explore.
Be mindful, sensible and don’t take unnecesssary risks, certainly. But whatever you do, do not choose to stay at home if adventure beckons. That’s letting the bastards win.
Responding and contributing to fear energy only magnifies it around the world.
I’ve read helpful advice on this that encourages us to acknowledge what’s gone on, reflect or meditate on it in our own way and send kind thoughts to those who have been affected.
You can do something positive to counteract the fear by showing up to your own life with determination and light, and inspiring your family, friends, kids and colleagues with that spirit.
Let’s not feed the beast.
And if you’re finding news or social media reports too much or too upsetting – turn them off! There’s never any urgent new updates you need; the reports are merely the same dire tales told in different ways.
Caring makes you human. Focusing on traumatic media stories though, only breeds fear and certainly does not help anyone.
Keep calm, carry on… and travel, I say.
If more of us appreciate first-hand the world and its many different perspectives we might eventually conquer the small-mindedness that leads to ignorant and evil deeds.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.
I’m super excited that my visa finally came through, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Is it your dream to live the expat life in the UK too? Here are five lessons I learned applying for a visa to live and work in the UK.
Live in the UK visa application tips
Use an agent – unless you’re applying for a very straightforward visa like the two year working/youth mobility visa, engage assistance from someone on the ground because it really isn’t as easy as you might first assume, especially when technical errors arise during the application process as they did for me.
Keep your filing and documents in order. I’ve been so busy over the past year that my filing isn’t as organised as it used to be (read: paperwork was all over the shop). I swear I’ll never be disorganised on that front again!
Save your dollars – visas aren’t cheap, but you also need to demonstrate you can fund your own way.
Get things moving in good time, and follow up – these processes tend to be slow, and the longer it drags on the more stressful it becomes, so don’t be behind the door at following up and asking questions.
Work out a rough time frame before you apply for your visa – most visas require that you enter the country within 6 to 12 months of approval, and you’ll need to put an estimated date of departure on your application. The benefits of planning however, mean you can budget accordingly for not only your visa, but flights, rent deposit (sometimes six weeks is required in London now), general rent and expenses until you find a job.
Do you have other tips, or maybe a question? Please drop me a line in the comments below -Sarah :-)
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Once the pressure of finding a place to live (a stressful experience where you compete with other foreigners for days, while you wander all over London viewing properties, I had to open a bank account (hint: you need to have a place of residence before you can achieve this), organise a sim card etc only then did I feel less stressed. This anxiety was made all the more easier thanks to the professionalism of Smart Teachers the recruitment agency I consulted to find employment in the UK.
After cleaning (I mean sterilising) my studio flat, I finally had a place to call home, at least for the next six months anyway. I could at last call my principal and organise a meet and greet. So far, all correspondence had been through emails and a 90 minute phone interview several months prior. Now I can meet my principal and check out my new school instead viewing via Google.
I’ll be honest, I’m a little anxious as to what I can expect from my new class of 30 year five students. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to who have worked in the UK all echo the same horror stories of the behaviour they encountered in the classroom. Now I’ve had my fair share of challenging (some naughty) children in the classroom, but some of the stories are quite horrifying.
Much to my relief, my headmaster set my mind at ease, as I was given the guided tour around my school in Dollis Hill overlooking London in the distance. To get to my school, Transport I have to catch the tube from Queensway on the Central line, swap to the Jubilee line (24 minutes) and then jump on a bus from Willesden Green (stop B) to my school (14 minutes), followed by a 150 metre walk. I enjoy catching the red double decker bus as I pass through the suburbs of north west London. My £25 Oyster Card covers all travel expenses.
The following Wednesday, I thought It would be wise to practice heading to work, to allow for any problems. Smart move, I ended up on the wrong bus at a shopping centre in Crickelwood. I arrived at work an hour later to set up my classroom. Note to self don’t catch the 302. After several attempts I had mastered the trip.
One more week before school starts, and that excited feeling of anxiety returns.
Along our path of discovery as ‘Londoners’ we’re slowly picking up some tips and tricks to life as an ex-pat. The aim of this blog is to help others crazy enough to follow in our footsteps, so we are learning the lessons and letting readers know what to avoid or what to pursue. Firstly, we’re really warming to the area we live in – Notting Hill/Bayswater is safe and brimming with convenient amenities like shopping, laundries, pubs, internet cafes, transport and Kensington Gardens just down the road. We had a brilliant sunny day here yesterday so I went for a wander around our neighbourhood. Some images HERE. London is so vast, unless you have a suburb aim due to work it’s hard to know where to start looking for a reasonable address, but this area is a good place to start, at least in our experience.
Be wary of so-called Real Estate Agent fees – am still trying to determine whether a random GBP99.00 fee is legitimate, and have been advised to contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for information. Same goes for anyone who needs some advice here.Emergency number is 999!
There is a popular online directory here called Gumtree. It’s useful for sourcing for all kinds of things from flats to computers and TVs. However, there are quite a few dodgy operators advertising on here, or utilising its services. We were definitely linked up in a too-good-to-be-true accommodation scam which others could have quite easily fallen for if desperate or not overly internet savvy. It doesn’t mean you’re stupid… just be careful and don’t be too naive. A friend warned us the other day of another mate who was selling a computer on this site. Someone registered interest and dropped around to this guy’s place to check it out – turned out the ‘buyer’ was just a psycho who turned up, beat the man senseless then went to the police to let them know he thought he’d killed someone. This person (not made up – known by friends of ours) is still paralyzed. Another friend bought a TV and DVD set and made the mistake of having the goods delivered to her flat – she was jipped out of part of the deal, then threatened because she wouldn’t pay the whole fee. Use these sites but ensure transactions take place in public, and your whereabouts remain unknown.
On a bright a note, we want to recommend a few fab places we’ve discovered: Bar Soho for half price drinks and food 6 to 8pm! Westbourne House for fabulous tapas – 3 dishes for GBP10.00 Sunday to Wednesday. Kahn’s Indian Restaurant in Bayswater – dine in and take-away yummy, and the delicious Banana Tree Canteen (our nearest outlet is 21 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater W2) which offers a quality array of Asian inspired cuisine and an Express lunchtime menu which runs all afternoon, not just during strict hours of say 12-2pm. Finally, we love love love Loco Mexicano, 107 Westbourne Grove, Bayswater.
For film buffs, a trip to the cinema in London can be quite expensive, if not totally out of the budget. However, if you’re signed up with Orange for a phone deal, look out for their weekly 2 for 1 cinema tickets, issued by text message. Simply present at most box offices around town and enjoy!
Welcome! We are Sarah + Cooper, Aussie expats living in the UK with our Westie dog, London. We like to inspire on how to travel for longer and to live and work from anywhere. Our most popular content here is about seeing the world with your pet, remote working & digital nomadism, and house + pet sitting. Create a global life of your dreams at any age! Subscribe to find out more :)
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