If you're planning on moving to the UK, whether as an international student, expat, or British citizen returning home, there are a few things you should know to make the transition as smooth as possible. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, from the more serious matters such as visa requirements and immigration, healthcare, housing, transportation, finances, to the day to day culture. Oh before we forgot, check our uni starter pack to get beddings, kitchen set, and bathroom essentials before you settle into your new home in the UK 😊
1. Visa Requirements and Immigration
If you're not a UK citizen, you'll need to navigate the visa application process before you can legally move to the country. The requirements vary depending on your country of origin and the reason for your move, but it's important to research and apply for the appropriate visa well in advance. The UK government website is a good place to start for information on the different visa options available. Or alternatively, international students can also check our article here.
2. Healthcare and Insurance
Accessing healthcare is crucial when moving to a new country. The National Healthcare Service (NHS) was established in 1948 to provide access to healthcare for everyone in the UK, regardless of their ability to pay. The NHS is now funded by income tax. While most NHS services are free, users still have to pay for most prescriptions and some specialist care. The NHS has been strained, particularly during the pandemic.
3. Housing and Accommodation
Finding a place to live in the UK can be a daunting task, especially if you're not familiar with the different regions and neighborhoods. Rental prices can vary widely depending on location and property type, so it's important to do your research and set a realistic budget. Online resources like Rightmove and Zoopla can be useful for browsing available properties, and it's also a good idea to work with a local real estate agent to find your perfect home.
4. Transportation and Getting Around
The UK has an extensive public transportation network, including trains, buses, and the iconic London Underground.One of the most common ways to access public transportation in London is by using an oyster card, where you can add money to pay for the public transport as you go. The oyster card allows you to access bus, tram, tube, bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground, most Elizabeth line, IFS Cloud Cable Car and Thames Clippers River Bus services.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to rely on public transportation alone, but many people also choose to own a car for greater flexibility. It's important to familiarize yourself with the different transportation options available in your area and plan accordingly.
5. Money and Banking
The UK uses the pound sterling (GBP) as its currency, and it's important to have a plan for managing your finances before you arrive. Consider opening a UK bank account, which can help you avoid international transaction fees and simplify your day-to-day finances. It's also important to research different banking options and fees to find the best fit for your needs. We have a separate article that will help you choose the best banking option in the UK here.
6. Culture and Lifestyle
Moving to the UK means immersing yourself in a new culture and way of life. The UK has a rich history and diverse culture, but it's important to be aware of some key cultural differences before you arrive. For example, the British tend to be more reserved in social situations, and there are many unspoken rules of etiquette to be aware of. It's also important to research local customs and traditions to better understand and appreciate your new home.
7. Traveling Europe is Easy
When it comes to travel, the UK has easy access to a plethora of destinations throughout Europe. Although Brexit has created some obstacles, travel to and from Europe remains relatively uncomplicated. Popular destinations such as Spain, France, and Italy are just a short flight or train ride away, making them an ideal weekend getaway.
8. Access to Air Conditioning
While the UK is known for its mild summers, recent years have seen temperatures rising and an increase in air conditioning sales. Although air conditioning is not yet commonplace in homes and businesses, this trend may change as heatwaves become more frequent.
9. Customer Service
Despite the UK's reputation for good manners and orderly queues, customer service in the UK does not match the US standard. While UK retailers are not necessarily rude, they are less enthusiastic compared to their US counterparts. This may be attributed to the lack of tipping culture in the UK, where it is not customary to tip employees.
10. Heavy Drinking Culture
Brits love their pubs and have a long-standing tradition of celebrating with a pint. Drinking is considered an integral part of the culture, with many events and occasions involving alcohol. However, it is worth noting that many Brits have their first taste of alcohol at a young age, with over half of adults trying it before the legal age of 18.
11. Avoid Talking about Brexit
Brexit has been a topic of political division in the UK since the 2016 referendum. The decision to leave the European Union has had a lasting impact on the country, and many people have strong opinions about it. For this reason, it is advisable to steer clear of the topic, especially when in a pub.
12. British Humor
Brits love dry humor, so Americans should be prepared for plenty of sarcasm and irony when meeting new people in the UK. It may seem like they are giving the cold shoulder, but it’s all in good fun. Friends also regularly exchange insults with each other.
13. Unpredictable Weather
The British love talking about the weather for good reason. The weather can be unpredictable, with all four seasons sometimes appearing in one day. The unpredictable weather can be attributed to Britain’s geography, which sees a mix of air masses and fronts.
14. Public Holidays
The UK has fewer public holidays than the US, and they differ. There is no Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day, or Columbus Day. Generally, there are eight bank holidays in England and Wales, nine in Scotland, and ten in Northern Ireland.
15. Work-Life Balance
To compensate for fewer public holidays, most employers in the UK provide plenty of paid time off to employees. Most office-based jobs have a standard schedule of nine-to-five hours, five days a week. Almost all full-time workers in the UK are legally entitled to at least 28 days of paid vacation a year, which is much more than the US standard of 10 days.
While most films would lead you to believe that Brits sound like the Queen or Colin Firth, the UK has a diverse range of accents. The further north you go, the stronger the accent. Some regional accents might be difficult to understand.
American citizens living in the UK still need to file US taxes. Although there are laws in place to prevent double taxation, the process is more complicated than a typical tax return. It’s important to seek financial advice before moving to the UK.
18. Language Differences
The English and American languages are similar, but there are some key differences. For example, in the UK, “pants” refers to underwear, while in the US it means trousers. An “apartment” in the US is a “flat” in the UK, and “college” in the US is “university” in the UK. “Chips” in the UK refers to what Americans call “French fries,” while “crisps” in the UK are what Americans call “chips.”
Moving to the UK can be a life-changing experience, but it's important to be prepared and informed. Hopefully, this article has helped to give you an overview of what you need to prepare before making the big bold move!