What to expect when moving to London from Scotland for work

We sat down with Nathan Macfie, Associate Director at Meraki Talent’s London office, and spoke to him about his personal experience of relocating from Scotland to London and the challenges and rewards that have come over the last two years with working and living in a new location.


Q: Why London?

A: Having worked in Edinburgh with Meraki Talent for a number of years, when the opportunity arose to work with a number of our existing clients who have a London presence, I jumped at the opportunity. It felt like a very natural progression, I was also very keen, never having worked outside of Scotland or had taken I gap year to work abroad.  I was excited by the new challenge and it was still close enough to be accessible for family and friends.


Q: What were the first few days like?

A: Even though I may have visited it several times, living in London felt completely new and had its own challenges and surprises. We went in blind, we rented a flat without viewing it, in an area we had never been to! You know London is big, we just didn’t realise the scale of things, everything is an hour away, everything, yet every 10 minutes of travel feels like you are in a new city.

I almost missed my very first meeting by getting on the circle in the wrong direction… what should have been 3 simple stops ended up being a 20 minute detour, finishing with me running in a full suit! The rest of our first few days were spent in the tourist spots, places we now avoid as much as possible.


Q: What is the best way to initiate yourself to a new city, so it starts to feel like home?

A: When my partner and I moved, we didn’t know anyone. What did surprise me is just how sociable and welcoming everyone was. People in London are more likely to casually invite you to go for a drink after work. You soon find out most of the people working in the city are not from the city either and you are all in the same boat.  You can also force yourself to do something touristy at least once a week, get out and explore, join a gym or club so you start to socialise and find activities outside of work. It is important to get into a new routine and also find something to help you switch off too.


Q: How is getting around London,

A: Well for a start when crossing the road, it’s not cars you need to be weary of it is bikes! You can actually walk out in the road and cars will stop for you, I wouldn’t try that too many times in Glasgow!

Initially I had no idea how to use the tube, everyone seemed to know exactly where they were going and how to get there. I did not know how to efficiently get around, I initially took taxis everywhere until I discovered uber and got into the swing of things. There are just so many ways to get around, you can even get a boat into the city! It can be pretty affordable, travelling in the city with the ‘City Mapper’ App, you can hop on and hop off transport relatively cheaply.


Q: London is often regarded with greater opportunities, but with this also comes more competition?

A: Well, yes the numbers are staggering with London having around 500,000 working in a square mile compared to Scotland which has close to 100,000 working in financial services spread out over the entire central belt. So, there is no doubt that there are challenges, just finding a seat in a coffee shop can be competitive at times!

However, recruitment is a lot more transactional in London, people move fast and often. At Meraki, we have made a USP out of how we handle clients, we meet in person and take the time to really understand their requirements. It shows we care and it has been really well received so far. Yes, it is true that there are more specialist recruiters in London but it is also true that there are a lot more clients to work with. 

On the candidate side, it is no surprise that people are keen to get ahead and CVs need to be looked at more closely. I think there is an expectation that a computer will do all the work and embellished experiences may go unnoticed. We try to go above and beyond so candidates don’t feel like just a number and can be honest about their aspirations and we can work to find them a perfect match.

Lockdown has brought its own changes and challenges, with a number of clients making the opposite move north of the border now tapping into the Scottish market.


Q: Being understood clearly can be a challenge in any role, what are some of the main differences you have noticed?

A: Well there are plenty of Scottish people in London, so the accent has never been a problem. Some of our sayings don’t seem to translate as well. In one particular motivational speech of mine I emphasised that we would all really have to “Knock our pans in this week!” which was met with some interesting looks and which was reused by one co-worker later in the week as “we will just have to get our pans knocked!”.

London isn’t all pin-stripe suites and long hours, offices are very casual and the working hours aren’t as bad a people think, candidates are looking for flexibility over salary and that is driving a real change in work cultures. In fact, people tend to leave early on Friday to travel home as most live outside the city, so Thursday is everyone’s Friday down here with after work drinks to finish off the week. Leaving a few sore heads come Friday morning!


Any final thoughts?

Just as small warning, if you do move to London, everyone will want to visit you! You will spend most of your weekends showing your friends and family round all the tourist spots! Acquaintances will demand to sleep on your couch for a concert happening in the city. But over all, I couldn’t recommend it more, it has been a fantastic experience so far and we’ve loved the last two years.



For more information or advice on any Financial Services recruitment opportunities in London please contact Nathan Macfie, Associate Director, directly on 0207 101 5361 or email nathan.macfie@merakitalent.com