London is the world city of opportunity in 2014 for the first time, ahead of New York, Singapore and Paris according to Price Waterhouse Cooper’s “cities of opportunities” index.
This reputation does not make London less intimidating and difficult for migrants to move to: the language, the cultural shock and pace at which daily life goes can unsettle many. Find out more below about what makes London a land of opportunity for migrants and how many chose to make it their home.
A City of Migrants
In 2011, a total of 471,648 people migrated to the UK for work, family or study reasons excluding tourism. London captures most of the traffic: in 2011, 35% of its total population was made of foreign born individuals. The recent conservative tone on immigration has not stopped foreigners from loving London. With 2,779,000 migrants settled and living in the capital, London is still keeping attractive and recognised worldwide for cultural diversity and tolerance (the UK beats all other countries in comparison in terms of diversity levels); Europeans are still moving in: the number of Greeks and Spaniards registered for a national insurance number has doubled in the last years.
This diversity is reflected in London’s vibrant migrant communities, a product of UK’s colonial past, current commonwealth ties and its geographical proximity to continental Europe. Indians, Poles and Bangladeshis are the three largest migrant community found in London, closely followed by Nigerians, Irish and Pakistanis (numbers are taken from the 2011 census and labour market survey). This official data roughly draws a picture of London’s diverse migrant population but, as many Londoners know, it cannot capture the reality of the many french, Americans, Australians or Indians that have come here and never registered officially living here via the Census; or just became British Citizens.
Migrant communities live by pockets widespread all over London with majors hubs around Brixton (settled Caribbean and Latino migrant communities), Hammersmith (recent Polish communities), Brick Lane (Bangladeshi and South Asian old migrant families) or Edgware road (Middle Eastern new and old migrants).
The pace at which neighbourhoods change identity and population is unpredictable in London. The favourite hangout of Frenchies and Americans has long been South Kensington but it is now challenged by a rapid migration of them to the trendy East London in the recent years. An interactive map tracking the tweets sent by Londoners and in which language is your best option to follow where migrants choose to live their lives. Too bad the polish language is not yet tracked on it: if it was the map would show how Polish has become the second most spoken language in the UK.
London’s Migrant Voices
If London offers plenty of solutions to live exactly like at home, life of a migrant in its first days is not that bright and blue. Newcomers to London often suffer from the lack of a supportive network of peers and access to trusted info. Luckily, the internet has made it easier today. There is a new app for newcomers to the city everyday offering to navigate the city or meet people, and many migrants have started blogging to share their experience of London.
Qatari Tahani Al-hajri is a famous arabic London blogger writing in arabic about her cultural experiences in London. She offers great help and advice to her readers on how to navigate the big and busy London.
Similarly, Tamarind and Thyme is a blog started by a Kuala Lumpur lady who decided to write about eating well “without going broke”. Her blog is full of reviews of restaurants and how to find the ingredients to cook foreign meals at home.
Talking about food, if you want to taste London like a local, there is no better blogger than Curious London to make you do it: the British lady behind it will break any rule and limit to truly report what London is about: opportunities and doing things you never thought you would(like getting up at 6am to have breakfast at the Duck & Wafle…).
Finally, some bloggers choose to share the less good parts of their migration experience. Read the funny six things indian students regret after coming to the UK or how to deal with stereotypes when you are from Nigeria which are worth reading before making the move to London!
Moving to London is never a simple move. At Migreat, we support the integration of new and old migrants in the London realm. Our online multi-language platform provides access to essential information about settling down and connect migrants with locals that made it here before.
Either you are new in town or have lived here for ages, we invite you to discover the multiple aspects of London and see it from a different perspective have a go at migreat.co.uk and meet with your community!
Follow our series of blog posts presenting the different migrant communities and their neighbourhoods in the next coming weeks from the Migrant Voice Section.