I had lunch with some great friends of mine today who moved to the UK permanently two and half years ago. We were chatting about how long it takes to feel 'settled' and they reminded me that, in their early expat days, I had said to them that it took me somewhere between 18 months to two years before I'd started to feel like I had actually 'built' a life for myself versus the feeling of being a long staying tourist.
Did I really say that? I can't really remember...
But what I do remember is my initial shock at how expensive things were and a big part of feeling 'settled' for me was finding ways to do things cheaply - most expats in the UK can reel off a whole variety of discount 'opportunities' - and I soon learned that if you look hard enough, there are lots of ways to do this.
For example, today's lunch included a 50% discount off the food bill and was booked through toptable...and my travel to our fab foodie feast was courtesy of Oystercard (which almost halves the bus fare). I have also booked a 70min massage for a few weeks time through Groupon at a whopping 66% off and I have had countless 2-for-1 meals with friends using vouchers from newspapers like the Metro, email newsletters (Giraffe, gbk and Pizza Express are particular faves) and voucher websites like vouchercloud and vouchers.co.uk.
So the key to London 'on the cheap' is this - Sign up for as many things as you can. You may fill your inbox to overflowing but when it comes to getting the deals, it really is a numbers game.
And you can also rest assured in the knowledge that you'll never go hungry - if all else fails, supermarket-brand baked beans are only 19p a can!
ps...for you Londoners that might be interested in some terrific Turkish fare, get yourself down to Cirrik in Richmond...via toptable of course!