Expat Life in South Kensington
The green and stately Central London district of South Kensington has been popular with French and Belgian expats since the interwar period. So strong is the Francophone presence that the area is affectionately called “Paris’s twenty-first arrondissement”. And Francophiles will find all kinds of wonderful things to enjoy here, from bistros and bakeries to bilingual schools, bookshops, and great cultural institutions such as the Ciné Lumière.
But South Kensington is a truly cosmopolitan place. Expats from all over the globe come here for a warm welcome and a sophisticated, vibrant atmosphere. In this post, we’ll look at just a few of South Kensington’s international highlights and explore how to make your transition to London a little easier.
The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle is a stalwart South Kensington institution. It offers a fully accredited French education at both primary and secondary level – GCSEs and A-levels are also an option. The Lycée has a multinational, multicultural and high-achieving student body; a major attraction for expat families.
South Kensington is also home to one of the UK’s highest-ranking public universities: Imperial College London. Founded by royal charter in 1907, Imperial has a historic – and current – reputation as a first-class teaching and research institution in science, technology, engineering and medicine. It also has an excellent business school. Imperial’s strong international student and researcher community really enriches the global feel of this beautiful district.
Another local jewel is the Royal College of Music. Drawing talented students from all over the world, this outstanding conservatoire stands opposite the Royal Albert Hall. This is one of the UK’s greatest historic concert venues, with a lively international programme. It’s also right next to the South Kensington campus of the Royal College of Art.
If you’re looking for language classes, there’s plenty of choice. The Frances King School of English has been in business since 1973 and offers immersive group and individual courses for learners of all ages and stages. Imperial College London’s Centre for Languages, Culture and Communication offers a range of evening classes for adult learners. You’ll also find a number of smaller private schools and individual tutors throughout the district and beyond.
In a city rich in cultural resources, South Kensington still manages to stand out. In addition to the Royal Albert Hall, it’s famously home to some of London’s great museums. You’ll find the Victoria and Albert, the Science Museum and the Natural History Museum clustered together along Exhibition Road, right next to the Imperial College library.
South Kensington’s international feel is also reflected in its cultural institutions. In nearby Cromwell Gardens you’ll find the Ismaili Centre – one of the six cultural and religious centres for Ismaili Muslims worldwide – as well as the Institut Français. The Austrian Cultural Forum can be found at Rutland Gate, just south of Hyde Park. And if you walk up to Kensington High Street you’ll get to Japan House, the home of Japanese culture in London.
Literature lovers will find a vast and ever-changing selection of foreign-language books at The European Bookshop on Gloucester Road. You can see what they have in stock here. There’s also Librairie la Page in Harrington Road: a hotspot for the Francophone community.
The district’s cosmopolitan makeup is also reflected in its culinary scene. The French and Italian options locally are both excellent and plentiful. But you’ll find a host of different international cuisines both within Kensington itself, and throughout Central London. Whether you’re looking for home comforts or a culinary adventure, you’ll have plenty of choices close at hand.
Finding a property
By now, it should be obvious that South Kensington is a wonderful destination for expats moving to London. However, house hunting in the metropolis can be challenging for those already based in the UK. If you’re coming from abroad, it can be even more of a challenge. Fortunately, there are several Central London estate agents who specialise in working with expat clients.
One example is French Touch Properties in South Kensington, a real estate and property search agency that works with some of France’s most prestigious corporations. Hastings International is another popular choice for expats, with offices in Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore in addition to central London.
Of course, finding a property is only the first step to feeling at home. Whether you’re moving alone, with a partner or with family, you are bound to encounter situations that are new or even frustrating. The key to overcoming these initial difficulties is to find a network of friends and contacts who understand your situation, and can help you out with local tips and knowledge.
Wherever you come from and whatever your interests, you can probably find a club or association in London. This list from AngloInfo gives you an idea of the diversity of expat life in the city. But you can also find an informal network of your own. The various cultural institutes are an obvious place to start, but you could also sign up for Meetup to keep in touch with local expat interest groups. InterNations is another great source of support, providing direct networking as well as advice, classifieds and local forums for London-based expats.
Cadogan Tate: at your side, all the way
At premier London removals firm Cadogan Tate, expat relocations are our speciality. If you’re moving to South Kensington from overseas, you’ll be amazed at just how much we can do to make your transition as smooth and worry-free as possible.
With local expertise and an international reach, we’ll take care of your possessions – and you – at every stage of the process. And we’re always happy to share our knowledge. Why not contact our team for a free, personalised quote for your London relocation?