Even if you’re unskilled you’ll almost certainly find work in London, but you will have to be prepared to work long hours at menial jobs for low pay. Without skills it’s difficult to find a job that pays well enough to save money.
Traditionally, unskilled visitors have worked in pubs and restaurants and as nannies. A minimum wage (£5.52 per hour; £4.45 for those aged 18 to 21) exists, but if you’re working illegally no-one’s obliged to pay you even that.
Accountants, health professionals, journalists, computer programmers, lawyers, teachers, bankers and clerical workers with computer experience stand a better chance of finding well-paid work. Don’t forget copies of your qualifications, references (which will probably be checked) and a CV (résumé).
Teachers should contact the individual London borough councils, which have separate education departments, although some schools recruit directly.
To work as a trained nurse or midwife you have to apply (£140) to the UK Nursing & Midwifery Council; the registration process that follows can take up to nine months and it will cost another £160 to register. Write to the Overseas Registration Department, UKNMC, 23 Portland Pl, London W1N 4JT, or phone 7333 9333. If you aren’t registered then you can still work as an auxiliary nurse.
The free TNT Magazine is a good starting point for jobs and agencies aimed at travellers. For au pair and nanny work buy the quaintly titled The Lady. Also check the Evening Standard, the national newspapers and government-operated Jobcentres, which are scattered throughout London and listed under ‘Employment Services’ in the phone directory. It’s worth registering with a few temporary agencies.
If you play a musical instrument or have other artistic talents, busking will make you some pocket money. However, to perform in Underground stations, you have to go through a rigorous process taking several months. After signing up at www.tfl.gov.uk, you will have to go through an audition and get police security clearance (£10) before being granted a licence to perform and then getting yourself on a rota of marked pitches. Buskers also need to have a permit to work at top tourist attractions and popular areas such as Covent Garden and Leicester Sq. Contact the local borough council for details.
London is a world business hub, and doing business here (not including the media and new technology industries) is as formal as you would expect from the English. Looking smart at all times is still seen as a key indicator of professionalism, along with punctuality and politeness. Business cards are commonplace.
While the City of London continues to work a very traditional Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm routine (the Square Mile is deserted at weekends), business hours elsewhere in the city are extremely flexible. Larger shops and chain stores are usually open until 7pm Monday to Friday, as well as until at least 5pm Saturday and Sunday. Thursday, or sometimes Wednesday and more often Friday, there’s late-night shopping.
Banks in central London are open until 5pm, although counter transactions after 3.30pm are usually not processed until the next working day. Post offices vary in their opening times, but most are open from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Saturday.
Traditionally, pubs and bars have been open from 11am until 11pm. The licensing laws were changed in 2005 to allow pubs and bars to apply for licences to stay open 24 hours, which means that some pubs are now open until midnight or later on weeknights and until 1am or 2am on weekends.
Restaurants are usually open for lunch from noon until 2.30pm or 3pm, and dinner from 6pm or 7pm until 10pm.
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