Tips for People Of Colour moving out of London
Ashamedly I have not written on here since last month. Whilst that is very out of character for me, I hope that today’s info-packed post makes up for my absence. We finally did it guys, we finally left London! I am currently typing this at 6:30 am with nothing but singing birds as background noise. I cannot hear a car nor police siren and I’m pretty sure the milkman is due today. This doesn’t mean it’s been easy. I knew that when we were done I wanted to write an in-depth post for people and families of colour who perhaps wanted to make The Move. Having sat in actual seminars regarding leaving London (this project has consumed my life for a year) it became very telling that advice for POC wanting to do village life was very thin on the cobbled ground. In one seminar every woman on the panel was white and I was only one of two black women in perhaps a one hundred person audience. Instead of the council tax cost, I wanted to know if I’d ever be called a Nigger walking to the post box. Of course, I didn’t bother to ask. But I made note that there is a massive gap in the market for this kind of information. So this is my attempt at beginning to fill it.
Check the postcode
Keeping it as real as Kendall Jenner, as a black person one cannot just roll the dice outside of the M25, like the name of the town fate has chosen and decide to rock up there. Coming from London there is privilege regarding inclusion and diversity that is only highlighted when you find yourself being the #onlyblackinthevillage Prior to Mum Life I had never considered ever leaving London. Born at St Thomas’ hospital and raised on Brixton Hill, underneath the term ‘South London’ on your sat nav is a picture of my smiling mug. But as our family and goals grew, it became clear that Papa B and I were not down for the constant rat race the city has to offer. Months were dedicated to securing the right location. Many places we had stopped in for a few hours got less than glowing reviews from POC who actually lived there. For instance, one mate had his windows knocked out four times that year. He said he knew it was NF’s as they densely populated that area but he was financially too tied up to move from a situation which was less than safe. As a Londoner, you are no doubt going to want easy access into your hometown, so stay more south than north.
Review surrounding schools
If you’re moving because of the kids (I mean why else would you leave a place where you can McDonalds delivered to your door in ten minutes?) then the reputation of the schools within your new catchment area is going to be important to you. Where feasible attend open days, stalk prospectus pages for images that include children of ethnic minority or go one step further and investigate the racial population of the school (in 9/10 cases these records are public knowledge but I admit some of the results may be shocking) To put it in perspective, Esmé went from being the majority to now being the only black child in her nursery setting. The way we have raised her we will only ever allow her to see her adversity as an advantage. But as a mother, of course, I worry if being the only ‘raisin in the rice pudding’ will later affect her. Admittedly it seems her age or lack thereof has been a major help. At three, whilst she identifies as black and calls Caucasian children ‘white’ she has not yet developed any judgment or prejudice regarding race. Whilst we can’t say the same for her atmosphere we are content in knowing that she will be able to assert herself in situations where she may perhaps be the only one.
Bring your child/children on every visit
Speaking of the kids, I encourage that they’re present for every visit. Esmé’s glowing review of the area and constant harassment with regard to when we were returning to Emmerson Valley, (one of our top picks) let us know that she would be happy here. More often than not people leave London for a better quality of life for their children, so why not let them be a part of the decision-making?
Get out of the car and engage with the locals
Don’t just aimlessly drive around window shopping for properties. Set your tank of London oxygen aside and prepare to get out and mingle with the locals. Stopping in our nearest corner shop (I mean it’s so near that I would commit fashion crimes and pop out in my PJ’s!) I was comforted to find that the store owner was Indian. Does this misguided relief prey on my own judgment? Perhaps. But I knew if this man and his family could have a flourishing business the less likely I was to be awoken by the sight of white hoods and flaming torches in my driveway.
Visit your chosen area numerous times and at different times of the day
Speaking of locals, the same area can appear to have a different personality at 6 am and 6 pm. If the space you desire is near pubs and bars, the attitude of its current inhabitants is very telling when a black family pop in for late lunch. Of course where we have chosen welcomed both us and Esmé with open arms but we have found ourselves in situations where the establishment has fallen so quiet all one can hear is the commentator remarking on the match on the flat screen overhead. You don’t want to move to a place which seems kind by day but want to kill you come nightfall.
If possible speak to friends of similar backgrounds who have lived or are living there
We were lucky to have people living in the area which caught our attention. Whilst we settled on a quaint village (less than 2k inhabitants) five miles away, we still feel comforted by the fact that the surrounding area and its center is very diverse. Being able to break hard dough bread and pop Supermalt bottles with those who had already made the move was what helped encourage me across the finish line. As an African man born and raised in his majority Papa B has always struggled to accept my version of events when I tell him how even in London sometimes the feeling of being the minority can be stifling. He knew that to get my concrete backing on this idea, I would have to hear it from people like myself who were sure they had done the right thing. When we visited his friend I was alarmed to find his door wide open. ‘Don’t worry Candice!’ He laughed. ‘This ain’t Tottenham!’ A black man originally from North London, he admitted that adjusting was hard but he nor his wife regret the decision. It was important for me to hear that.
Use the latest census report!
I never much paid too much attention to Census reports. I always filled them out while cursing these ‘nosey government officials’ under my breath. But it turned out to be a great tool for when making this move. Much of the information you need pertaining to how you will fit into your new space can be found in the latest census data. And dependent upon your chosen platform for property picking you will even be able to tap into information revealing the kind of newspapers your new neighbors read.
Take your time!
From conception to birth our relocation took ten months. That’s almost a year dedicated to locking down chosen postcodes, taking weekend road trips, late nights spent reading crime reports and then let’s not talk about waiting for an offer to be accepted. It’s an arduous task but given that moving home is one of the most stressful tasks humans can undertake, its better to spend time getting it white - sorry I meant right. As a POC you need to understand that you are far heavily more invested in this move and that is going to take a lot of research. But anything worth doing is worth doing well.
With that said I do miss London. Not so much its congestion but more so it’s convenience. I now have to think ahead when popping in for an event or work meeting and when I do come in I have to buy Jollof Rice and Plantain in bulk as there is not an African or Caribbean eatery within a fifteen-mile radius of our new home. But we really do love it here. The space we’ve acquired would be nothing but a pipe dream had we stayed in London and as a chronic asthma sufferer, it makes me cry to report that in less than two weeks Esmé’s pump usage has reduced by half. And that’s the tradeoff you make. Personally, it’s been very worth it.