A Londoner's guide to emigrating to Glasgow

Published on 2016-6-27

I've been asked a couple of times already about moving to Glasgow in Scotland from depressed folks in England knowing that

And part of this is the hope that

My own personal feelings? I voted no to independence because being part of the UK which was part of the EU was economically and globally sensible and given how things are now, I'd change my vote to yes and hope that whoever was in charge put in place incentives for the tech industry/etc to start hiring and building in Scotland as it's a relatively cheap place to do business already and we could do with the income if we're no longer relying on money from England. (Sorry Cybernats, you were always wrong about this).

Why Glasgow?

So step one on that plan, get the tech community to start moving up here anyway - here are some reasons for you to consider moving to Glasgow

It's not London

I moved to Glasgow because it wasn't London; okay I moved to Glasgow because I had a nasty break-up and needed a change of scenery and it made me very happy indeed. A metaphor perhaps? It worked for me and it could work for you too.

You don't want to move to Edinburgh because Edinburgh is like a mini-London and is full of the same kinds of people in London that you'd rather not hang out with. Not to mention that just like some parts of London it's impossible to move around because tourists are shuffling all over the place. Tourism is good for Scotland and thankfully they have a place to go and it's called Edinburgh.

Okay, so Edinburgh has better coffee, food and cocktails; c'est la vie, it's less than an hour away by train and the tourists haven't discovered that yet, long may it stay that way.

So yeah, Glasgow = Not London. It'd be nice to keep it that way too so keep your expectations to yourself and come and love Glasgow for what it is.

It's cheap

This is a hard one to wrestle with, telling everybody about Glasgow may increase rental and purchase prices and may damage those that already live here (not me, the indigineous Glaswegians). My hope is that the buy-to-invest nightmare that is London won't be repeated up here because since #brexit nobody wants to buy anything in GBP any more.

But you can't deny it, Glasgow is a cheap place to live - from the rent, the buses, the nights out and even the flights across to the continent; come up here and hire some of the locals and let's build a new tech hub eh?

The people are amazing

They can be scary at times the Glaswegians, but that's mostly because we've been indoctrinated by the media to view their accent as one step away from getting a "bottling" to the face (Pretty sure that the verbification of the word "bottle" was a Scottish thing too) but honestly it's not like that at all. I have found conversations in the most unlikely of places with the most unlikely of people and so long as you're not putting on airs or trying to be something you're not you'll get on well with everybody up here.

I'm often asked (especially since I started spending time in Japan) why I'd return to Glasgow and the answer is always the people. Doing my circuit of the coffee shops and bars when I get back is an absolute pleasure and it's amazing to see the hard work people are putting in to building sustainable business that doesn't alienate the local crowd.

So where do I move to?

You're sold? Excellent; my advice would be to get on a train up this way and get yourself in an AirBNB for a week, walk around and find an area that suits you. One of the great things about Glasgow not being London is that you don't need to sign the paperwork in blood before renting a house and pay up to six months in advance. Nae bother - sign your contract, pay a month's rent and deposit and that apartment is yours. This isn't the same level of commitment you have previously been used to.

One of the other great things about Glasgow is that no matter where you live, is that most places around the Subway are within 20 minutes of everywhere else around the Subway. There is only one Subway, it is a circle and it goes to most of the places you'd like to be.

Taxis are cheap too, so if you end up going for a night out in Finnieston and you want to get home to your apartment in East Glasgow you're not going to have to take out a new mortgage to afford one.

So location isn't actually that important and I'd probably encourage the tech community to think before clustering together in a single area and pricing everyone else out of it. That said, let's look at a few of the distinct areas and see what you're getting into if you hit them.

The West End

Ah the west end; this is where a lot of the more "posh" restaurants and bars are, Porter and Rye, The Finnieston, Ox & Finch, Kelvingrove Cafe etc. It can be a bit pricey to plonk yourself in the "nicer" looking parts of this because it's probably also one of the wealthiest parts of town. It's surprisingly unconnected to the Subway - the nearest stops being a 20 minute walk across Kelvingrove park or west across to Kelvinhall or Partick.

I'd probably not advise people to set up here, the extra cost isn't really worth it and you're better off being somewhere quieter nearby if you're wanting to hang out here a lot. If you're wanting to get the train regularly from Glasgow Central then you're best off between here and centre (The M8 is smack between the two locations, so somewhere near that) but if you're not fussed go further west around the Subway for cheaper digs and quieter evenings.

Similar to: The posher bits of Shoreditch

The East End

There is a lot of theatre around here and it's where the Barrowlands is. You can have a very good night out in this neck of the woods without spending anywhere near as much as you would in Finnieston. There is an occasional lost tourist looking for the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art or the Necropolis (both worth checking out by the way) but again you're better off being somewhere quieter nearby if you're wanting to hang out here a lot. Further east is lots of housing (and a good deli!) but the Subway doesn't reach out that far so you're either going to be looking at the mainline trains or buses to get back into town if you're in a hurry.

Similar to: North London, think zone 2/3 onwards if they had theatres

Southside

I'm starting to think that this is where it's all happening but it's only just kicking off. The best bakery in the world is down here (Bakery47) and down in Strathbungo there are some interesting restaurant happenings. It's cheap and it's not sexy and it's also (mostly) not on the Subway but there are so many trains both in and out of Glasogw (plus NextBike + Bus) that this isn't a big deal. If you're going out in the East/West ends then it's a definite taxi home but that's only going to be a tenner so it's probably worth it.

Similar to: I don't think we can really draw comparisons, London is far too busy to have a place like this - even in the outskirts.

The Centre

I wouldn't try and live here, you won't be spending that much time here anyway outside of the occasional coffee shop visit, to go shopping or to catch a train; it's not worth it for the lack of sleep all the noise would cost you.

Similar to: Probably that bit of scrub between Farringdon and City, er yeah.

The North

I'm sure I'll offend some people here but there is nothing there but housing, maybe if you're buying a house and don't mind a bit of a trek to get into town then I'm sure this is fine. Think Borehamwood, look it up - you have time.

Recommendation

I'd probably look at somewhere within 15 minutes walk of a Subway stop and call it a day. It's all good and Glasgow isn't that big. Location doesn't matter in the same way that it does in London because it doesn't take two hours to get everywhere. Read the info below and look at where all the things are on a map and work out what's going to work for you.

Getting out of the country

The extra flight from Glasgow when going international can be a bit of a burden although it rarely increases the price of the ticket all that much. A return flight to London can often be had for less than £90 which is less then the train ticket in most cases and can get you in before the first meeting of the day.

The main international hub is sadly Amsterdam which means going with KLM and Air France if you're wanting fast convenience, I usually stick with BA however and go via London because for the longer flights the overhead is worth it.

The train down to London is about six hours and there is little phone coverage on the way down (plus the line is as shakey AF), don't expect to get much work done even in first class if you're prone to feeling a bit sick when you're being jolted around all over the place.

I have found that I have fewer reasons to visit London than I expected however, you probably will too.

Where can I work?

Assuming you already have a job (if you don't then you're on your own, they do exist though) you probably want to find coffee shops and co-working spaces to hang in.

Let's start with coffee shops/etc. -

Laboratorio Espresso

Probably some of the best coffee in Glasgow, it isn't a large establishment but most of their custom comes from takeaway so nobody is going to worry if you're sat there with a laptop for an hour or two (especially if you share a table with somebody else). I usually perch on the bar so I can natter to the baristas/customers as they come by and can do this for an hour or two. No power but there is wifi.

Best: In the early morning when you still have battery left on the laptop.

Avenue GWR

A great place to work, plenty of space although they do get busy around lunchtime; I usually perch on the bar (this is a trend I know) but there are ample tables to set up shop on too and most people do just that.

Best: Either side of lunch is good, not lunch though

Spitfire Espresso

Amazing breakfasts, fun sound track (you'll get bored of it after a while though), wifi and lots of seating and tables and power. This is a good place to recharge for an hour with a bite to eat while you get some work done.

Best: Either at breakfast time or anytime in the afternoon; the lunchtime rush is strong here so don't be taking up those tables if you're not eating lunch.

All that is Coffee

Bright and airy artspace with a coffee shop on the ground floor. I usually tether to my phone for internet and I don't think there is power down here but there is a lot of space and it's a good place to hit up for a couple of hours when you're with other people because of the ample seating.

Across the road is Mono, a vegan restaurant/record shop where you can usually get a bit of work done with a beer or two for very little money but when it's busy it's very busy indeed and it's always worth bearing that in mind.

Stereo

Vegetarian bar near central station - banging tunes and food and nobody minds you sitting there in the afternoon plugging away at work with a plate of nachos and a beer to hand (or diet coke, whatever floats your boat).

The Old Hairdressers

Across the road from Stereo, often a good place to head if Stereo is too busy.

Stravaigin

This is a restaurant with two floors, the ground floor is a less formal bar area and you can happily sit here with a glass of wine and a laptop and not get bothered for a couple of hours. Again lunchtime is busy and you know the drill - the lunch is great though so perhaps an hour of work before lunch and an hour or two after lunch and you're golden.

Alston Bar & Beef

It's a gin bar underneath Glasgow Central that has power and wifi and gin - you'll find me here towards the end of a day working in town when I need to recharge both mentally and electrically.

Co-working spaces -

There are a few that I know of and they're fairly decent..

The Whisky Bond

£200 a month for a fixed desk, £20 day rate, fast wifi etc. This is a place that advertised heavily and is pretty commercial. It's in "the north", but is actually only 10 minutes from Cowcaddens Subway so isn't so bad to get to. There is little nearby but thankfully there is a cafe in the building and while their coffee isn't to my taste they do some great sandwiches. Convenient.

Rookie Oven

Younger and fresher and at a cool location at the Fairfield Shipyard Offices just south of the river, this is also 10 minutes walk from a Subway station (Govan) and again there isn't that much around here. It's cheaper than the Whisky Bond (£175 monthly fixed desk) and for better or for worse they advertise as having a Sonos playing the very best 80s tunes but hey - did I mention it's at the Fairfield Shipyard Offices? They have a museum to visit! This is where the Glasgow Elixir/Erlang meet-up takes place so it's not a bad place to be.

Thinktank

Super professional city-centre co-working at £300 a desk. This is quieter and more serious than Rookie Oven and comes with free tea/coffee. Advantage of being in the centre is there are no shortage of lunch spots nearby and all the amenities (post offices/etc) are there so those little things can get done that need doing during the day.

What Rob Does -

I personally choose to work from home at home - I know it's a novel idea but I make some of the best coffee in Glasgow and with far more interesting beans than you'll find in most shops. That said, occasionally I'll have a day out and I'll just hop between the various locations listed above as I see fit/when I get bored. It'll cost me about £30 to spend the whole day out of the house including lunch and coffee and it's generally worth it.

I'll often grab lunch at Riverhill while I'm down there, Glasgow isn't big and it doesn't take long to get around it.

The basics (Coffee and Brunch)

I get it, you're coming from London where you have a gazillion options for brunching around and coming to Glasgow can be a bit of a culture shock on that front. Nowhere serves booze before 11am/12pm and that 9am bloody mary just ain't gonna happen.

That said there are some great options for some really good breakfasts with coffee at the start of the day and your liver will thank you for not killing it with the London drinking culture. Some of these were covered above for 'working spaces' but I'll cover them again with more detail here.

Papercup GWR

Tiny shop, small menu but AMAZING EATS. This is my favourite breakfast in Glasgow and I love coming here. Some of the filter coffee is great - get here early if you don't want an awkward wait for a table. No booze.

Papercup High Street

Bigger version of the above with a slightly different menu and a different coffee set-up. I've not had the espresso here yet as they only opened recently but they're rocking an EK43 so it's probably quite good. No booze.

Avenue Byres Road

Weekends will see you a good fry up here alongside some pretty decent coffee, gerronit. No Booze.

Riverhill West Nile Street

Brunchy lunchy, they do a bone marrow bloody mary and some damned good breakfasts to boot. Coffee is from the local roastery Dear Green and while the espresso isn't usually to my tastes you can order a flat white and be happy with what you get. But you're here for the bloody mary anyway aren't you?

Spitfire Espresso

Eggs and eggs and fry ups and eggs, this is the stuff of dreams when you just need some stodge to get over that hangover. Espresso is a very safe medium roast and I prefer it in milk. OH GOD THOSE FRY UPS. No Booze.

Hutchesons Glasgow

Posh breakfast or brunch - the latter comes with bubbles and this is definitely a place to head to when you want something a bit more special.

Thirteenth Note

Vegetarian breakfast :) Booze once the law allows it..

Cafe Gandolfi

I've been here for a dinner date and it was reeet good. Holy crap though if the breakfast doesn't completely blow the socks off the East End; huge variety including vegetarian options and I assume given they have a license that at some point towards lunchtime the booze will start flowing.

Date night - Eating/Boozing

Okay most of these are in the West End, like I said above that's just where this stuff is clustered. Some of these places are owned by larger companies or by the same people - you can look this up yourself if you're bothered. The G1 group own a lot of things in Glasgow and we try to avoid anything they have their grubby mitts on.

Ox and Finch

Some of the best foods; classic western stuff with an occasional twist. Large vegetarian menu as well as a non-patronising children's menu make this a pretty great place to bring an inclusive party.

The Finnieston

Seafood focused restaurant with a fairly decent cocktail bar which you can go to even if you're not dining (and a lot of people do!). It gets crowded in the evenings but don't let that put you off ordering a couple of good drinks to stand around and natter with.

Porter & Rye

Sometimes the steak here is better than some of the best I've had from Hawksmoor, it's all dry-aged in-house and they do some stonking rye-based cocktails (as well as other classics). I love this place and I love their menu and I often treat myself to a solo-dinner here when I'm feeling blue.

Kelvingrove Cafe

Probably the best cocktails in Glasgow, nice long bar to sit on if you're by yourself. Best off reserving a table if you're coming with a party - they do food too.

Alston Bar & Beef

Second best steak in Glasgow and SO MUCH GIN TO CHOOSE FROM. A few barrel aged cocktails too, definitely a great place to come if you're in the area.

Stravaigin

Posh food downstairs in the basement, more rustic food upstairs and it's all great and all local. I'd say it has an Indian/Asian theme going for it as most of the good stuff is curry-based but it's hard to pin it down as the ingredients are locally sourced and black pudding and haggis aren't exactly asian fare...

Some other cool stuff

Bakery47

Mostly baking for catering, the owners Sam and Anna open some days of the week (and usually post a picture of their opening hours on Instagram each week).

Usually they'll open shop on Sunday morning at 9am with a rotating guest barista (All Started Here/Back to Black/Fun in a cup/Dear Green) serving coffee and stay open until they're sold out; a process that usually takes about three hours.

Get there at 9am for the best croissants you're going to get probably in the UK, and grab a loaf of bread to take home for the week ahead. Weep because it's going to be another week until you get to come here again.

Ranjit's Kitchen

Homemade punjabi food, super busy, super affordable, south of the river. I don't need to say anything else about this.

Getting around

The Subway will do 90% of the job for you, it runs in a circle through most of the neighbourhoods that you'll need access to on a day to day basis and is affordable as it's a flat day rate (£3.4 at time of writing) once you've used it twice in one day.

That said, it's not open on Sunday mornings or evenings, public holidays tend to be an issue as well and if you want to get somewhere it doesn't go you'll need to find other options.

Nextbike is our equivalent to the Boris Bike - they're lighter and more balanced, cheaper and you can download an app to your phone that lets you pay by the bike (you can press the right buttons on your walk to the bike stand and know which bike is yours before you even get there). There is an annual rate available if this is something you're going to use a lot. This is how I get to the Bakery on Sunday mornings.

The buses are frustration incarnate, exact change required, ran by various different companies and who even knows how much it's going to cost in advance without being the kind of person who looks that up and counts out the right money in advance. One day they'll upgrade to contactless payment but until then I'm going to cary on relying on the bikes and subway.

Taxis are cheap and plentiful from the town centre, but I mostly only use them once it gets late and I can't be bothered walking home. It's cheaper if you call private hire

You only need a car if you're going to be doing your large weekly shop at one of the large out of town supermarkets or wanting to do tourism outside of Glasgow without relying on public transport.

The Music

Scottish music is amazing, it must be the weather. Frightened Rabbit, Twilight Sad, Belle and Sebastien, James Yorkston, Glasvegas, Mogwai, etc. (Also did you know Mark Knopfler was born in Glasgow? He was! Look it up!

Anyway we have some great music venues (some of them are already listed) and there is always something on - I don't need to list them out, just go look at a gig guide already..

The Arts

I have a friend who is well into theatre and I've been to quite a few of the productions in the east end, there is some fantastic and weird stuff happening in the art scene in Glasgow and it's fun to play lucky dip with the theatre productions that are on here.

My favourite experience so far has been in the (sadly now closed) Arches, lying in bed with a complete stranger and being asked to share some very intimate things as part of a performance on sexuality; did I mention fantastic and weird?

Getting out of Glasgow

One of the greatest things until last then;

This is what awaits you a mere 30 minute train ride out of Glasgow

This is what awaits you 30 minutes train + 30 minutes boat out of Glasgow

This is what awaits you in Autumn

And over in Edinburgh

Summary

Sod England, it's all down hill from here; come and make Scotland great again, it's a cheaper place to do business, full of really great people and amazing ways to relax the brain (whisky!). It's going to take a lot less effort to make this the kind of open and liberal place we want to live in because we're already 90% of the way there; let's do this together.

I'll make you some coffee at Cafe Ashton once you're in town. It's a promise.

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