Gifts for Someone Moving to London

Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash

Despite Brexit, London remains one of the world's great cities, full of life, love and of course, job opportunities. If you have a friend or loved one moving to London, then ease them into their new home with a well-chosen gift.

A few years ago, an Oyster card would have been useful - this is a prepaid card for travel on the underground (tube), buses and trains. But in the last decade, contactless was introduced on public transport so you can use your bank card to pay for travel directly by tapping in and out on the entry gates. Other once-useful-but-now-dated gifts include an A-Z of the city - Google Maps is so much more efficient for finding your way and can even tell you if your destination is open - can a map do that?

If you are just coming to London for a short break, you might want to check out our London packing list.

Umbrella

It is a stereotype, but Londoners do encounter more than their fair share of rain, and a downpour can surprise the unprepared traveller out of a deep blue sky at times. The solution is what used to be called a 'brolly'. We prefer a sturdy version that will not only withstand a decent breeze but also see off a mugger†. The alternative is a lightweight folding version that will fit in a handbag or coat pocket - but beware that this may well break just when you need it most!

†Bad taste joke, and also wildly misleading - unless you make a habit of taking walks late at night down lonely alleys, in specific areas, your chances of being mugged in London are tiny.

London umbrella reflection

Subscription to a meal preparation service

Hello Fresh delivery

In the olden days, friendly neighbours would welcome a newcomer with gifts of food, not only showing their hospitality but also helping with practical problem that the mover will not have their kitchen set up yet. Perhaps a worthy successor to this in the current world is a subscription to a meal preparation service like:

  • Gousto - choose from 40 recipes a week, all the ingredients delivered in pre-measured portions with recipe cards
  • Hello Fresh - similar offering to Gousto
  • Simply Cook - this one is a bit different, providing the flavourings and the recipes but not the fresh ingredients. However, it has the advantage that it is packaged in a postbox size box so you don't have to be in when it comes.

With all of these services you can choose the frequency of delivery and number of people you are feeding and you can stop and start the service at any time.

The London Novel

The London novel is a genre all of its own. With a history stretching back almost 2000 years, there is a wealth of material for authors to cover. As the seat of government there has always been political intrigue. As the home of monachy there is plenty of royal tales. At the other end of the social spectrum, the unwashed masses can also lead interesting lives.

  • Dickens towered over the London literary scene in the Victorian era, and he still casts a pretty long shadow. His descriptions of the squalor of London life are particularly vivid. Most of Dickens novels were serialised in monthly magazines, so he is superb at keeping the story moving along at a clip. Oliver Twist is set almost entirely in London, and explores the seedy, criminal underworld in all its glory. Little Dorrit is based in Borough (close to London Bridge) and is concerned with the debtors' prison Marshalsea, which was of particular importance to Dickens, as his father was imprisoned here for a time when the author was young.
  • Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography is still a classic. Published in 2000, it is far from being a dry guide to London, it has been described as reading 'like the loveliest of love letters' and a 'self-portrait projected on to the town'.
  • For a modern classic try Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. A fantastical magical world exists in parallel to the drab London streets. Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book) is a master of creating totally plausible alternate realities.

Reusable bag

The UK government made a welcome but long overdue attempt to reduce plastic waste in 2015 by requiring all supermarkets and large stores to charge 5p for plastic carriers. From 2020 the charge is due to go up to 10p. Now 5p or even 10p is hardly prohibitive but it has acted to reduce bag usage by 85%. So a great gift is a reusable bag - either a cloth tote bag or a super lightweight, foldable bag which can live in a handbag or pocket and be brought out with a flourish to save the planet.

Bach to Baby cloth tote bag

Bach to Baby cloth tote bag

Lightweight foldable shopping bag

Lightweight foldable shopping bag

Bus tour

A bus tour of London can be an amazing way of seeing lots of the city for a new resident, and even if you have lived here for ages. Most tours allow you to get off the bus at any point and jump back onto a later bus so you can have a really flexible day exploring the city. You can buy a ticket for two in a nice gift box here.

Gin selection

Gin - mothers ruin

Gin was the original drink of the poor in London. Known as 'mother's ruin', gut-searing gin was available for a few pennies at every street corner in the capital. London seems to be in the grip of another gin craze over the last few years, but fortunately the product is sophisticated, subtle and superb. You can get a wide range of lesser-known gins here.

Framed photo

Canvas Photos

So your friend has moved to a cold city where they know nobody? What could be better than a framed photo of their loved ones back home to make them feel at home?

There are lots of companies that let you upload a photo and turn it into a framed photo like Photobox. The number of options is overwhelming, ranging from prints to calendars, books, cups and coasters. If you want to make sure they absolutely never forget you there is even the option of your photo made into a phone case!