Expat Tales is a Stuff Travel series featuring Kiwis who’ve made new lives for themselves overseas. If you’d like to take part, email us at [email protected]
Dominic McCann made the move to London for career prospects, and says, while it takes time to find your bearings in the city, the earning potential is better and travel is more accessible.
What inspired your move, and how long have you been there?
I always wanted to live in a big city and was born in Belfast so had always kind of planned to come back to the UK, specifically London, once I’d finished uni and done a couple of years’ work experience. My industry is a lot bigger over here so it just seemed like the natural progression career-wise – plus I was really keen to travel Europe. It’s now been 6.5 years, which is a bit hard to believe.
Did it take long to settle in?
I think it takes about six months to one year to fully get your bearings. London is such a big place so learning the different Tube lines and how to get around takes a bit of time. I was quite fortunate that my brother had already lived here for a number of years, which provided me with a base until I got on my feet. Most Kiwis that come over to London usually always know at least one person that can initially put them up on their couch while they get sorted.
What do you do there?
Work in pharmaceuticals. I’m a Portfolio Insights Manager, primarily in vaccines.
What are the biggest advantages of living there?
Being able to travel Europe (and further) super easily. You can finish work on a Friday and be in France or Spain that night for a long weekend. Its proximity to so many countries with such different cultures means that even after 6+ years of living here, I still have more to see.
How expensive it is. The mid-winter months. You go to work in the dark and come home in the dark (so ski trips in France are pretty key). How far it is from NZ – I’ve only been back once in 6.5 years so it sucks not being able to see some friends/family as much as I’d like.
How expensive is it compared to New Zealand?
London is definitely an expensive place to live and it seems to be getting worse every year. Saying that, I think the earning potential is better so getting paid a higher salary helps to offset the cost. At the end of the day, I would say most people are aware of the cost factor when they make the move over. The one thing that is a lot cheaper here vs NZ is food (everyone always complains about the price of cheese when they go home).
How do you spend your spare time?
Travelling. This is the best part about living in London so I try to get away as much as possible – although it’s not great for the bank account. The pub scene – London has the best pubs in the world so my mates and I would spend a fair bit of time there. And gigs/festivals – fortunately most bands and artists will come to London, so if you are into live music then it’s a great place to live.
What is the local delicacy and would you recommend it?
I guess most Brits would say fish and chips is the local delicacy or maybe a Sunday roast. Or a scotch egg…not for everyone but you should give them a go. Plus a Gregg’s sausage roll (a national favourite).
Easiest way to get around?
100% the Tube. London is the home of the underground and you can’t really beat it for efficiency and ease…the only downside is how hot it can be.
Best after-dark activity?
Probably the pub and/or a gig.
Best time of year to visit?
Summer, around June/July. The sun doesn’t set until super late so you get really long days and can catch up with mates after work. Everyone loves to get a few beers and head to the park for dinner.
What are the top three things you recommend visitors check out?
This is going to sound cliche but I guess they are the things that most people come for: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Hyde Park. I would recommend getting the Clipper boat along the Thames. You can start at the new Battersea Power Station and take it all the way out to Greenwich where you can get off and enjoy the park there or find a local pub.
Family and friends aside, what do you most miss about home?
Probably some of the food. There are certain things that NZ does really well, like pies, Lisa’s dips and Pineapple Lumps.