London Leavers: why one couple swapped a house share in Mile End for life in Amsterdam

Ruth Bloomfield
·2-min read

Last summer Emily Sharples and her boyfriend packed their bags and left not just London, but the UK.

Working from home has given many Londoners new-found freedoms, and the pair decided to make the very most of theirs by relocating to Amsterdam.

Pre-Covid Emily, 27, was having a great time living in a shared house in Mile End, close to the Regent’s Canal, with three friends. Her rent came in at £850pcm and she loved her job in product marketing for a firm which helps companies reduce their carbon footprint.

Then the pandemic hit. Her friends all moved out, and her boyfriend, a software engineer, moved in and they began to seriously discuss their options.

Then Emily’s boyfriend’s company announced it was closing its offices permanently and asked staff to work remotely.

Emily Sharples
Emily Sharples

“Everything was shut so we were not getting any of the advantages of living in a big, cosmopolitan city,” said Emily. “It just seemed like a great opportunity to move. My company has an office in Amsterdam, so it was an easy choice for us, and with Brexit we also thought we should take the opportunity to live in Europe while we can.”

They enlisted the help of relocation company Perchpeek to deal with all the red tape involved in an international move. The firm also found them a one bedroom apartment in the hip Oud West neighbourhood, just beyond Amsterdam’s famous canal ring.

The flat – which also has a small office and a roof terrace – costs E1,700pcm (£1,464) which means their accommodation is a little cheaper than in London. As are their transport costs. “Everybody just cycles everywhere,” said Emily. “And because it is a small city you can get everywhere in ten minutes. On the other hand, it is not as cosmopolitan as London, and there is not as much going on.”

Emily already knows the team she works with which means the couple had a ready-made friendship group to slot into, but the pandemic means they have not yet had the full Amsterdam experience. “We can go to friends’ houses but there is a 9pm curfew at the moment,” said Emily. “Bars and restaurants have been closed since October, and although non-essential shops have reopened you have to make an appointment to go in.”

Despite that they are enjoying hanging out with new friends and getting to know the city. But, in many ways, life in Amsterdam under lockdown sounds not unlike that in London. “We go for walks, meet friends for a coffee, and try not to watch TV every night,” said Emily.

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