London is home to more than 3 million foreign-born residents, making it one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Between its rich history, diverse cuisine, and easy access to the Continent, moving to London from the US brought plenty of excitement to my life.
As an American living in London, I’ve found the city to be the perfect balance between the new and the familiar. But don’t let our countries’ shared history fool you.
There are plenty of ways that Americans will need to adjust to living in the UK, for better or worse.
If you’re deciding whether to move abroad and are considering The Big Smoke, here’s what you should know before moving to London from the US.
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RELATED: 24 Pros and Cons of Living in London
You can’t move to London from the US without a visa
When I first published this post, I never imagined I’d need to say this. But in case you didn’t know: a US citizen cannot live in the UK without a visa.
Any American moving to London will need to obtain a visa–usually from within the US–which can take weeks to months depending on the circumstances.
It’s illegal to work in the UK on a tourist visa (including as a digital nomad), or even go job hunting, and getting caught will likely result in both deportation and a permament ban.
The UK has become increasingly strict about immigration now that Brexit has passed. It’s a notoriously difficult country to move to as an American. But there are options if you’re willing to put in the effort.
How to move to London: the main pathways
From marriage to master’s degrees, Americans moving to London have a few pathways to get here. These are the most common ways to get a UK resident visa as an American:
- Marry a UK citizen
- Attend college or university in the UK
- Get hired and sponsored by a UK company
- Transfer to a UK office within your current company
- Possess exceptional talent or promise in a desirable field
This is not an exhaustive list of UK visa opportunities. I highly recommend reading the UK goverment page on visas and immigration to fully understand your options and the requirements for each visa type.
Some visas, like the Tier 4 Student Visa or Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer Visa, have no path to citizenship, so do your research.
Check out my in-depth guide on how to move to the UK for more information!
Your healthcare will be (sort of) free
Compared to the nightmare that is the American healthcare system, the UK’s National Health Insurance (NHS) is a dream.
I’d argue it’s one of the best things about living in Enland. The system isn’t perfect, but it does provide healthcare to all residents, regardless of their employment status.
Nearly all medical services and treatments are free, with the exception of certain things like prescriptions and dental procedures. And even those are far cheaper than what you’d typically pay in the US with an average employer insurance plan.
But as they say, nothing in life is truly free. Most people who move to the UK will need to pay the immigration health surcharge when making their visa application.
The amount you have to pay depends on your visa type and your length of stay. If you’re not coming to the UK as a student, you’ll pay £200 for every year of your visa.
This is a little more than what I would pay in a typical year in the US, but I had a pretty generous insurance plan and was in good health.
You’ll also be funding the NHS through your taxes. The amount of money you’ll pay in UK taxes will likely be much higher than what you paid in the US.
Despite the lower take-home pay, I’d rather live in a country where people aren’t filing for bankruptcy because their child was diagnosed with cancer.
That being said, many people (including myself) pay for private health insurance. This gives me access to faster appointments, a wider range of specialists, and even healthcare coverage when I’m back in the US.
How to Find the Best International Health Insurance for You
Even in countries with universal health care, buying an international health insurance plan makes sense for a lot of expats (especially Americans).
But between deductible rules and coverage areas, it’s hard to know which plan is right for you.
Luckily, the brokers at International Citizens Insurance can help you find the right plan for your specific situation. They will do the research, compare plans, and review options with you. A good broker will save you so much time, and best of all, there is no cost to you!
With International Citizens Insurance, you’ll have your pick of plans from the best international health insurance companies (Cigna, GeoBlue, Aetna, etc.). A dedicated agent will answer all of your questions, walk you through the terms and coverage, and make adjustments so that you end up with a plan and premium that works for you.
You’ll spend a lot less on your cell phone plan
According to Money Savings Pro, the average American’s cell phone bill is $80/month. Although I was paying closer to $45/month with my Project Fi plan, that’s still more than double what I’m paying in the UK!
Currently, I’m on an O2 pay-as-you-go tariff, which is £15/month for 1000 texts, 500 minutes, and 15GB of data with rollover. I can also use my mobile data in a number of European countries at no cost, unlike US carriers that charge daily fees.
With so much competition in the UK cellular market, prices are kept very low. And being on a month-to-month payment plan means I can easily switch carriers if I find there’s a better deal. The amount of money I save on my cell phone bill makes the cost of living increase less of a burden.
Your taxes will get complicated when living in London as an American
Spoiler alert: all US citizens are obligated to file a US tax return no matter where they live. If you thought old Uncle Sam couldn’t reach into your wallet from across the pond, you were mistaken!
If you’re moving to London from the US, I have some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that the US and UK have a tax treaty that allows you to deduct your UK taxes from what you’d owe in the US.
There are exceptions to this of course, because nothing about US taxes is ever simple. US expats earning investment income, for example, will owe tax on the profits.
The bad news is that there are additional US tax forms for citizens living abroad, including the FBAR for foreign bank accounts. It can get very complicated very quickly.
Depending on your financial situation, you may end up paying several thousand dollars (yes, you read that right!) to a professional to ensure your taxes are done right. We hired a dual UK / US expat tax firm to handle our US returns, and it cost around $2,000.
Some day, I’ll write a detailed post on expat taxes. In the meantime, start saving for that tax preparation bill.
How to Easily Transfer Money Between US and UK Accounts
One of the most common questions I get asked is how to move money between US and UK bank accounts without paying a fortune in fees. Luckily, there’s an easy and cheap solution:
I first used Wise (formerly TransferWise) when we needed to pay our London flat deposit, and it was SO much simpler and cost-effective than doing an international wire transfer from my bank. Today, I regularly use Wise to send money from my UK bank account to my US accounts.
And because I wanted access to a UK bank account right away, I opened a Wise Multi Currency Account. It lets me send and receive money in over different 40 currencies, and even comes with a multi-currency debit card! You can start paying for things in pounds before you even arrive in the UK.
Open a Wise account today to get real exchange rates, speedy transfers, and ultra-low fees.
Save me for later!
You’ll need to learn new words for familiar things
Everyone knows about “chips”. But for Americans that haven’t traveled abroad, expect to encounter many different and sometimes confusing terms for familiar things.
I’ve even written an entire post on British vs American words and slang to help you overcome the language barrier.
Here are just a few to keep in mind at London’s grocery stores and in daily life:
- Chips are steak fries, but not all fries are chips. If you see “fries” on a menu, they’ll be thin-cut like what you’d get at McDonalds.
- Crisps are (American) chips, and you’ll find fun flavors like prawn and sweet chili on grocery store shelves.
- Courgettes are zucchini. Because French words sound fancy.
- Rocket is arugula, and you’ll find it in all sorts of salads and brunch dishes.
- Trousers are pants, but pants are underwear. Don’t embarrass yourself at the dry cleaner like I did my first week here.
- Cheers means thanks, but only in a casual way. You say “cheers” when someone brings you a beer, but not when you’re being served tea at The Aqua Shard. Unless you want the waiter to laugh at you. Not that I would know…
RELATED: Cheap Eats in London: A Budget Travel Guide
Your utilities will be billed very differently
Back to the serious stuff. In most US cities, you pay monthly bills for your water, gas, and electricity to the lone providers of those utilities in your area.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a choice in providers, the amount you’ll save on your bill rarely offsets the hassle of switching.
In London, there are tons of options for utility providers and payment schedules. There’s even a handy website called uSwitch that lets you compare prices and suppliers for your address.
For electric and gas, most providers let you pay monthly, quarterly, or annually. If you pay monthly or quarterly, the amount will be based on the estimated average for the year, divided by the number of payments.
Depending on how your house/flat is set up, you may need to submit a gas and electric meter reading every couple of months. Places equipped with a Smart Reader are billed by usage, like a typical US residence.
For water, you’ll likely be served by Thames Water. If your place has a water meter, you’ll be billed twice a year.
Flats/houses without water meters, like ours, are billed annually. However, you are not required to pay in a lump sum (though we chose to do so for convenience). Thames Water allows you to pay in installments, as frequently as once a week.
Although the price of gas and electricity is more expensive in the UK than the US, the milder weather means less energy goes towards heating and cooling. Overall, our utility bills are cheaper here than when we lived in a similar-sized flat in Philadelphia.
What about moving to London with pets?
Moving to the UK with pets was by far the most stressful part of our relocation. It’s also the topic I get asked about most frequently, which isn’t surprising!
Between the paperwork requirements, logistics, and lack of pet-friendly landlords, it’s incredibly difficult to DIY. Not to mention that a single mistake can lead to an expensive quarantine or denied entry.
I highly recommend working with a pet relocation specialist like Pets Lets.
Their experienced agents know how to choose a good location and space for not only a pet, but also your other needs such as schooling and commuting. Plus, they can recommend amazing areas to live that non-locals rarely know about.
Pets Lets’ local UK agents are experts at finding pet-friendly rentals and negotiating contracts. They’ll also connect you with a transportation company to safely bring your beloved furry friends into the country.
Your place probably won’t have air conditioning or a dryer
The other reason you’ll likely save on gas and electric is the lack of air conditioning (a.k.a. “air con”) and dryers in the UK. The summers are generally mild, making air con unnecessary.
Unfortunately, every summer since 2018 has come with multiple heatwaves and 90+ degree days. I make several trips to Sainsbury’s just so I can stand in the frozen food aisle…
During those few hot days, I deeply regret moving to London from the US. But then things cool down and it’s right back to comfy and cool weather.
If you have seasonal allergies or other needs that call for AC, I recommend getting a portable unit.
Dryers are also a rarity in UK, especially in London where space is at a premium. Get yourself a good clothes drying rack and plan your washing accordingly. No one wants to put on wet socks because someone forgot about laundry day.
RELATED: The Essential Moving Abroad Packing Checklist
You’ll be hard-pressed to find drip coffee
Ah, coffee. Is there anything more American than going to a diner and getting unlimited refills of that steamy, watered-down goodness? My husband says of the few things he misses about the US, drip coffee is number one.
Finding drip coffee in London is nigh impossible.
If you walk into a cafe and ask for coffee, one of two things will happen. Either the person behind the counter will blankly stare at you for a moment before asking “…what kind?”. Or, they’ll hear your accent and assume you want an Americano.
For the uninitiated, an Americano is simply a watered down espresso. Allegedly, it was invented by American G.I.’s during World War II, because they wanted something that tasted closer to the coffee back home.
Unfortunately, the price of an Americano in most London cafes does not reflect that it’s 50% water.
Word on the street is that Nordic Bakery (near Piccadilly Circus) and TAP Coffee (multiple locations) serve great drip coffee, so consider giving them a try if you need that American coffee taste.
Thankfully, filter coffee is a rapidly growing trend, and the taste is pretty similar to old-fashioned drip coffee! Many independent cafes offer filter coffee brewed in a pour-over pot such as a Chemex.
RELATED: Moving to England From The USA: 10 Tips for Americans
Final Thoughts on Moving to London from the US
Expat life always has its challenges, and moving to London from the US is no exception. However, if you move here with a little advanced research and an open mind, you’ll be ready to tackle these differences.
If you haven’t visited the city (which you should absolutely do before you find a flat in London), my flexible London itineraryis a great resource for planning your trip.
I’ve also written a detailed moving to London checklist for expats that will help guide you through the whole process.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of everything you should know before moving to London. Stay tuned for more relocation and expat tips, and consider joining my Patreon group for more resources!
Want more travel + relocation tips?
Become a member of my Patreon group for exclusive access to my resource library, including:
- Printable packing lists for moving + travel
- Money-saving tips
- Insider travel guides
- And much more
Is it hard for an American to move to London? ›
Moving to London is difficult if you don't have any connections, and that's not to say that it can't be done, but that is to say that there's no way it's going to happen if you don't have an incredibly positive attitude about it and roll with the punches, including expat homesickness.Is it easy to live in London as an American? ›
London can be a great place to live as an American, but there are some things you should know before making the move. If you're looking for a big city with plenty of opportunities and a diverse population, London is definitely worth considering.What are the disadvantages of living in the UK? ›
- Long Doctor Visit Waiting Lists. The UK has inexpensive, decent-quality health care. ...
- Strict Visa Requirements. ...
- Competitive Job Market. ...
- The Brexit Politics Will Affect Travel. ...
- Damp, Cold, and Gray Days. ...
- Frequent Travel Delays. ...
- Not Enough Work-Life Balance. ...
- Propensity for Binge Drinking.
As an American citizen, moving from the US to the UK to travel, study, and live is permitted for up to six months at a time. However, you cannot work during this period. If you want to hold down a job, you'll have to have a suitable visa. There are UK work visas for just about every possible profession.Is it cheaper to live in London than the US? ›
Although the latest statistics from the World Population Review rank the United States as a slightly more expensive country to live in than the UK, it is important to note that this is on average, and the cost of living varies widely across the USA.Which area in London is best to live? ›
1. Kensington. Having been voted the UK's best place to live, Kensington is an affluent part of west London. Along with world-class shopping facilities and beautiful green spaces, you'll be close to some of London's most popular attractions.What is the easiest country to move to from the US? ›
Which are the easiest countries to immigrate to from the US? Portugal, Malta and Spain are some of the easiest countries to relocate to from the United States. American citizens can either gain permanent residency or apply for citizenships via each country's Citizenship by Invest programs.How can I move to London with little money? ›
- Thoroughly Research Accommodation Options. ...
- WALK! ...
- Swap Out High End Supermarkets. ...
- Branded Goods Doesn't Always Mean it's 'Better' ...
- Reduce The Amount Of Money Spent On Takeaways. ...
- Stick To Free And Cheap Attractions. ...
- Make The Most Of Student Discounts. ...
- Keep Fit Outside.
The average rent in London (Q4 2022) is £935 pcm - up 22% year on year from an average of £768 in 2021.Is living in London stressful? ›
T he saying goes if you're bored of London, you're bored of life. However, according to a new study, this might not quite be the case. A new study has revealed that London is ranked in the top five most stressful capital cities in Europe to live in, but surprisingly it only came in fifth.
How long can an American stay in London? ›
You can visit the UK as a Standard Visitor for tourism, business, study (courses up to 6 months) and other permitted activities. You can usually stay in the UK for up to 6 months. You might be able to apply to stay for longer in certain circumstances, for example to get medical treatment.Is UK better than USA for living? ›
The UK is often considered a cheaper place to live. The cost of living in both countries is not the same and can vary depending on where people choose to live. It's also important to note that the average salary for someone in the US is significantly higher than what it would be in the UK due to taxes.Is it easy for Americans to live in the UK? ›
Is moving to the UK easy? Americans hoping to move to the UK will need to obtain a visa. The most common type of visas are the UK work visa and family visas. If neither applies in your case, unfortunately moving to UK from US can be difficult.Why would an American want to move to the UK? ›
American citizens move to the UK for many reasons, most commonly to join a partner or work. The UK appeals to expats because it's closer to other countries in Europe, it offers free health care to all residents (in addition to other state services), and there are plenty of job opportunities.Can you have dual citizenship in US and London? ›
Dual citizenship (also known as dual nationality) is allowed in the UK. This means you can be a British citizen and also a citizen of other countries. You do not need to apply for dual citizenship. You can apply for foreign citizenship and keep your British citizenship.How do I prepare to move to London? ›
- Arrange a place to stay when you first arrive. ...
- Find your own flat. ...
- Start settling into your new life. ...
- Find a job. ...
- Get an idea of what your salary could be. ...
- Understand the cost of living. ...
- Know how to get around. ...
- Make new friends.
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED: Not required for stays less than six months.Do you tip in London? ›
Typically, people tip around 10-15% in London, except for when using taxis or public transport, where a smaller tip is frequently accepted. Tour guides do not need to be tipped, but this is up to the customer to decide. Some restaurants add an automatic tip to your bill.Are houses cheaper in UK or USA? ›
Property & Housing
It's also on average more expensive to buy a house in the UK or London versus the US. It's worth considering that London is the second most expensive city in the world to buy property, so comparisons between the exact areas you are moving to & from will certainly help give you a better idea.
It may be hard for many to believe, but except for milk and cigarettes, New York has groceries at least 60% more expensive than in London. Read more on the cost of living in London to get a better understand of the cost of goods situation.
Where is the happiest place to live in London? ›
It comes as little surprise that the happiest place to live in London, and the 11th happiest place overall in the UK, is the leafy borough of Richmond upon Thames. The area offers riverside restaurants, spectacular deer-filled parks, and some of the cosiest pubs around – all within easy reach of central London.Where do wealthy Americans live in London? ›
The richest and most expensive neighbourhoods in London are definitely Chelsea, Kensington, Mayfair, and Knightsbridge! These neighbourhoods are known for their fashionable and expensive shops and restaurants, as well as being home to many of the richest people in the world.What country are most Americans moving to? ›
Mexico is the top destination for Americans moving abroad, followed by the U.K., Canada and Australia. So far in 2022, ~75% more Americans have moved to Mexico than Canada. Portugal has seen the biggest percentage increase in Americans moving in (+122% from 2019-2021)What is the safest country for Americans to live? ›
- Australia: Safe, Beautiful and Secure. ...
- Japan: Safety in Cities and Beyond. ...
- Portugal: Culture, Lower Cost of Living, and Safety. ...
- Why Canada is So Safe. ...
- Denmark: A Safe Country in Europe. ...
- Singapore: Safety, With Restrictions. ...
- New Zealand: Safety for All.
- Vietnam. Vietnam has one of the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia, with a rising middle-class, low crime rates, and a way, way low cost of living. ...
- Spain. ...
- Ghana. ...
- Argentina. ...
- Bermuda. ...
- Germany. ...
- South Korea. ...
- New Zealand.
Workers now say they need a salary of £49,300 to live comfortably. For those in London, a £65,000 wage is needed to combat the rising cost of living, a survey by recruitment firm Reed found.What is the minimum wage to live in London? ›
The London Living Wage is an hourly rate of pay, currently set at £11.95. It is calculated independently to reflect the high cost of living in the capital, giving a worker in London and their family enough to afford the essentials and to save.What salary do you need to live alone in London? ›
We show how a salary of £24,000 would be required just to cover essential living expenses, a salary of £39,000 to cover discretionary living expenses and a salary of £48,000 to cover savings.Where is the nicest cheapest place to live in London? ›
- Barking and Dagenham.
Rent: The average rent that you will pay in UK varies depending on where you live and the type of accommodation you have. A one-bedroom flat averages at £758 (~$1000 USD) per month if you're in the city; £614 (~$810 USD) if you're outside of the city.
Is it easy to rent in London? ›
The London rental market moves fast and there can be a great deal of competition for the best properties. Be fully prepared with the right paperwork, and take your passport and references with you on a viewing. This gives you the best chance of being able to secure the property straight away.What are the disadvantages of living in London? ›
- Expensive Rent. ...
- London is Not the Cleanest. ...
- It Can Get Crowded. ...
- Bad Air Quality. ...
- Safety is an Issue. ...
- Super Touristy. ...
- Hard to Get Reservations. ...
But among almost every other age group, the capital sees more people leaving than arriving. This is most pronounced for very young children, people aged 18-20 and people in their 30s. A look at where people move to after leaving the capital offers an insight into why this happens.Is living in London lonely? ›
While overall 8% of Londoners experience severe loneliness, this is 12% for young Londoners; 18% for low-income Londoners; 15% for LGBTQ+ Londoners; 12% for Single Parents; 18% for Deaf and Disabled Londoners, and as high as 14% for some ethnic minority groups.How much bank balance is required for UK visa? ›
You'll need either: £1,334 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses in London. £1,023 per month (for up to 9 months) for courses outside London.Can I retire in the UK as a US citizen? ›
Although the UK government recently closed its retirement visa program, it's still possible to retire in the UK through other visa types. Here's how to do so and how to weigh the financial implications of retiring outside the United States. A financial advisor can help you plan for retirement, wherever it may take you.How much bank balance is required for UK visit visa? ›
The law does not set any minimum amount you must have in your account.Is UK friendly with USA? ›
The United States has no closer ally than the United Kingdom, and British foreign policy emphasizes close coordination with the United States. Bilateral cooperation reflects the common language, ideals, and democratic practices of the two nations.Why are salaries higher in US than UK? ›
The average salary in the U.K. versus the U.S. is lower for all demographic groups, and the reasons why vary. The key difference is that the social welfare benefits in the U.K. are not the same as those in the U.S. The U.K. also has more protections for employees than the U.S., which impacts pay rates.Is it better to work in UK or USA? ›
If you are looking for opportunities, you may want to consider the UK, because the opportunities are more plentiful. In America, people are encouraged to work hard and achieve success. In the UK, people are expected to work long hours and be dedicated to their jobs but not attain a high level of personal success.
Where do most Americans live in UK? ›
A recent study in 2021 found that there are approximately 6 million people with non-British nationality living in the UK. And of that migrant population, around 35% live in the capital city of London.Can Americans live in UK permanently? ›
You can apply for indefinite leave to remain (permanent residence) after five years residence, as long as you have not been absent from the UK for more than a 180 days in each of the five years. We provide a full service to support Investors moving to the UK, including tax advice.How hard is it to move to London from the US? ›
Living in London is not easy, but it also doesn't have to be hard—if you're dedicated and willing to work towards getting what you want. Just remember that there are plenty of opportunities for people who are looking for them, although they might take time before coming around. Don't give up!What should an American know before moving to the UK? ›
- Has the pandemic got you craving a change of scenery? ...
- The jokes might go over your head. ...
- Expect all four seasons in one day. ...
- Public healthcare is mostly free. ...
- The public holidays are different. ...
- The work-life balance is great. ...
- Not everyone speaks like the Queen.
Migrants' reasons for moving to the UK are usually classified into four main categories: work, study, family, and asylum or refugee resettlement.What salary do you need to move to London? ›
Salary needed to live in London in 2023:
That would be around £40K a year before taxes.
With its thriving job market and low unemployment rate, London is an attractive destination for those looking to advance their careers. Despite the high cost of living, many people choose to live and work in London due to the abundance of job opportunities and potential for career growth.What Americans should know about London? ›
- They drive on the left. ...
- Some words are pronounced differently. ...
- Order beer and cider by the pint. ...
- Tipping in London restaurants. ...
- Figure out public transportation with CityMapper. ...
- The UK uses £££ ...
- Use an Oyster Card on public transporation. ...
- Take a double-decker bus when you can.
Skilled Worker Visa:
80% of people I know from America that come to the UK specifically to work have come under the Skilled Worker Visa. This is when a government-approved UK company hires you to work from them. You must be paid a minimum salary and be offered a job on the eligible occupations list.
1. Kensington. Having been voted the UK's best place to live, Kensington is an affluent part of west London. Along with world-class shopping facilities and beautiful green spaces, you'll be close to some of London's most popular attractions.
What is a comfortable salary London? ›
Workers now say they need a salary of £49,300 to live comfortably. For those in London, a £65,000 wage is needed to combat the rising cost of living, a survey by recruitment firm Reed found.How much is 40K salary in London? ›
On a £40,000 salary, your take home pay will be £30,523 after tax and National Insurance. This equates to £2,544 per month and £587 per week. If you work 5 days per week, this is £117 per day, or £15 per hour at 40 hours per week.What are the challenges of living in London? ›
London has an urbanisation rate of around 1%. Some urban problems London experiences are urban inequality, affordable housing, urban sprawl, and urban pollution.What city in the US is most like London? ›
While Boston fought hard to separate itself from British rule in the 18th century, the city undeniably reflects the charm and culture of London. Brick colonial homes along cobblestone streets, unique cuisine, and host of some of the world's greatest educational institutions offer a little taste of the city from home.How do Americans live in London? ›
In order to live in the UK, you'll need to have a valid visa. The type of visa you need will depend on your reason for relocating. There are several categories of visas, including work visas, student visas, and family visas. Moving to the UK to work from outside of Europe will usually need a work visa.What are basic British manners? ›
It is often considered impolite to ask a direct question about someone's salary, wealth, weight or age. Spitting in public is considered rude. If there is a line for something, always queue and wait for your turn. Do not wave or yell to call over a waiter or person of service.
- Medical Director – £103,637 per year.
- Neurosurgeon – £94,434 per year.
- Anaesthetist – £93,923 per year.
- Plastic Surgeon – £91,826 per year.
- Psychiatrist – £87,760 per year.
- Cardiologist – £79,421 per year.
- Director of Nursing – £72,243 per year.
- Clinical Director – £66,932 per year.
Tier 2 general work visas can be granted up to five years and 14 days. Your visa will entitle you to: work for your sponsor in the job described in your certificate of sponsorship.Is it difficult to find a job in London? ›
London may be rife with jobs, but competition is stiff. If you are looking for a role in technology, East London's Tech City might have suitable vacancies. Some of London's major technology companies are based at Tech City, also known as “Silicon Roundabout”.