Interview with Wendy M - London expat entrepeneur

Wendy McCooey is a southern Tennessee girl with a sales and marketing background who recently started "London in a Day", a private tour guide company. She loves to travel, cook, craft, read, take pictures, blog and do just about anything if it’s fun. She is now seeing what Notting Hill and the rest of London (if not the world) has to offer.

For more information about the United Kingdom read the Expat Arrivals country guide or read more about expat experiences in the United Kingdom.

About you

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Nashville, TN (USA)

Q: Where are you living now?
A:  London, UK (Notting Hill)

Q: How long you have you lived in London?
A:  Since October 2009

Q: Did you move with a spouse or children?
A:  Moved with my husband

Q: Why did you move to the UK; what do you do?
A:  We moved for my husband’s job… I quit my job in the States and now I have started my own private tour guide company “London in a Day”.

About expat life in London

Q: What do you enjoy most about London, how’s the quality of life?
A:  Quality of life is terrific in London it offers so much history, architecture, culture and energy that I don’t think a lifetime is long enough to explore it all.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A:  The overcrowded sidewalks can be challenging at times.  I also, miss driving from time to time.

Q: Is London safe?
A:  Yes or at least I think so

Q: Describe an ideal way to spend a weekend in London?
A:  Waking up going to have brunch at a new place, then looking at the tube map and just picking somewhere that you’ve never been before, go there without a plan and just wander around all day.

About living in Britain

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in London as an expat?
A:  My favorites are Notting Hill, Chelsea and Primrose Hill

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A:  In general, flats are small with little closet space, but getting use to not having a dryer has been the hardest

Q: What’s the cost of living in Britain compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A:  Cost of living in Nashville compared to London is like comparing a tiny studio apartment to a mansion. Yes, that much of a difference. Nashville is a VERY affordable city. Our London rent is 5 times more expensive than our mortgage in Nashville.  Our house in Nashville was also 4 times bigger.  Eating out in London is also VERY expensive. We usually only eat out on the weekends.  It’s basically twice the price compared to Nashville.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:  Locals can be standoffish at times.  I mostly hang with other expats.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in London?
A:  It was easy to meet people when I put in some effort. You have to put yourself out there or you will never meet anyone.

About working in the UK

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A:  No

Q: What’s the economic climate like in London, is there plenty of work?
A:  There is work, but they pay a lot less here than what I was use to in Nashville. For  a similar job I was offered less than 1/3 of my former salary.

Q: How does the work culture differ in Britain from home?
A:  From what I’ve noticed its about the same with a few exceptions, the British actually use their holiday time, they usually are required to give a 2 to 3 month termination notice and they start later in the day.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A:  Yes, but they were awful.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A:  He adjusted right away. I did not, it took me a few months and now I actually think I’m happier here than he is.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in the UK?
A:  I’ve only had to go to the doctor once and it was fine.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A:  3 things:
  1. Always make time for your friends and family you moved away from so that you don’t lose those connections. A call once a month or a regular email/skype conversation
  2. Find ways to make new friends in your new city as soon as possible either through local clubs, charities, or through  once you have a solid group of friends in your new city your quality of life in your new city will be so much better for you and your family. Get involved!
  3. Make sure you keep the lines of communication open with your spouse the move can be tough and feelings about the move and your new situation can change. Make sure you keep talking and making sure that you are both happy.

~ interviewed April 2011
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