I’m not sure if you guys know this but last year, I moved to Devon for six months because I decided to spend a bit of time outside of London to get the ‘real UK experience’. As much as I loved London and had settled in so well and made loads of friends, I thought it’d be a good idea to spread my wings and try a different place for a bit.
Even though I ended up coming back to London, I definitely don’t regret my decision to spend some time outside the capital.
So why did I choose Devon? I have family living in Exmouth and I spent a weekend there and really enjoyed it. I loved the small town feel to it and it helped that it was close to the sea as well. I also managed to get a job in Exeter quite easily and the commute was about 30-40 minutes so it was a no brainer!
A bit about Devon: it’s a county in the Southwest of England reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It’s right next to Cornwall in the west, Somerset in the northeast and Dorset to the east. Devon has a population of approximately 1.1 million with Exeter being its county town.
Exeter is a lovely cathedral city (not counting the rowdy students) with the River Exe going through it. It is rich in history, with remnants of the Roman Wall scattered along the city centre and you can still see the medieval foundations in the high street’s Guildhall.
So how did I find it? What was my life like? Well… I think I chose the wrong season to live there if I’m being completely honest. I moved at the start of autumn so I went through the dreary cold. Being in Exmouth and near one of the most popular beaches in the UK, I obviously couldn’t make the most of it. I’ve since been back to the beach in summer and the feeling of sadness of not living there at the right time seeps in because it’s brilliant in the heat. But again, I don’t regret my decision.
Devon has more of a chilled out vibe than London in terms of its life/work culture. I met some wonderful people and the biggest takeaway for me was definitely if someone greets you with “You alright?”, you simply respond with “Yeah, you?” and leave it at that. I struggled with this so much particularly because I thought they were asking me a legitimate question so I’d stop to tell them my life story and wondered why they kept walking away mid-conversation.
You’ll notice that there are a lot less foreigners around Devon, unless you’re in Exeter, because that’s where you’ll find one of the UK’s most prestigious universities. If you’re used to seeing a multicultural hub, prepare to be slightly shocked but it’s also important to remember that London is not a reflection of what the rest of the country is like. If anything, I think Devon is a better representation of England.
It’s a beautiful county. Aside from the beaches, the greenery is astounding. In fact, my commute from Exmouth to Exeter was one I thoroughly enjoyed and boy do I miss it. I’d stare out the window and get lost in the estuary, the hills and nature in general.
I think one of the things I realised most about Devon is how similar it is to New Zealand… with less farm animals but you can still find sheep and horses around!
Life moves a lot slower and it’s probably because it’s smaller and quieter. The people that live there choose to be there which makes me think of New Plymouth. In Exmouth, majority of the people that live there are either retired or young families.
The one thing I would say that’s a complete downside is public transport. I think since living in London and experiencing one of the most superior public transport links in the world, it’s hard to go to anything else. Unless you have a car, relying on public transportation is a pain because they don’t run often and the train is diesel powered so it’s either running late or not running at all and it feels like it takes a lifetime to get to your destination. Also, you’re on a strict timeline if you’re having ‘drinks in the city’ if you’re like me and live in Exmouth as the last train is at midnight. There are no underground trains so buses or taxis are your only options to getting around (and walking or cycling!).
Devon is great for outdoor activities. If you want to go hiking, you can visit Dartmoor which is about 40 minutes away or you could kayak or stand-up paddle board along the River Exe in Exeter or even rent some bikes and cycle from Exeter to Exmouth (which I’ve done twice and it was loads of fun!). If you feel like cuddling some farm animals, visit the World of Country Life in Exmouth! There are plenty of animals like llamas, sheep, bunnies, guinea pigs and even goats!
Exmouth is also part of the Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site on the English Channel coast that extends to Studland Bay in Dorset, a distance of approximately 96 miles. Feeling a bit adventurous? Why not try fossil hunting along the coast!
Would I recommend it as a place to live? Definitely. If you’re looking for a quieter, slower pace of life than it’s the place to be. Cost of living and rent is definitely cheaper but it also means that you get paid less than if you were in London.
To give you an idea – I was paying £400 a week including bills to live in a five bedroom flat in the centre of Exmouth town with the train station being less than a 5 minute walk and the place was incredible. My room was huge and even had a couch in it! However, I was only getting paid about £23k a year. In London, I’d pay £585 for a room in Zone 2 in a six bedroom flat with no lounge, a tiny kitchen and one bathroom but I was getting paid around £28k a year.
If you’re looking to go somewhere that’s a lot less lively than London but with a touch of hustle and bustle, I’d recommend somewhere like Bristol or Manchester. Both are beautiful places with a city vibe without being overbearing.
I definitely have no regrets about spending six months away from London and I’m glad I chose Devon. It’s beautiful, it’s peaceful and it was definitely an experience but it was a bit too close to being back in New Zealand. I’m glad to be back in London at the end of the day especially since London to me is home.
If you decide not live there, definitely go and visit! Exmouth beach is glorious and Exeter is well worth exploring!
Have you moved away from London? Where’d you choose to live and why? I’d love to hear about it!