Are you thinking of living in England, but you haven’t made up your mind yet?
This article will help you decide whether the UK is the right place for you, the good things about the UK as well as the not so good, and essential information you need to know before moving.
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What is living in England like? Essential things you must know
Unlikely in other countries, England’s healthcare, known as the NHS, is public. This means you don’t have to worry about the costs of medical care such as frequent appointments with a GP, operations, etc.
The downside of the NHS, like any free service, there is a waiting list and you won’t be seen straight away. When you’re referred to see a specialist, you can end up waiting months and months depending on the urgency – I can tell you from experience too!
As soon as you move to the UK, I highly recommend looking for a GP near your home.
You never know when you may need to go to the doctor’s, and you won’t want to be filling in a big form about your medical history and personal details if you aren’t feeling great.
Also, you need to know that you’ll have to pay for a dentist unless you’re pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, or you’re under 19 and in full-time education.
Finding accommodation before moving to the UK isn’t a straightforward action.
Although you can have a look at rent for houses, flats or studios on popular websites such as Zoopla, Rightmove and SpareRoom, most landlords will want to meet you in person to see if you are the right tenant and sign the contract and other documents.
Some of the documents they will ask you for are bank statements, renting history, payslips from your job, etc. This can be tricky to collect if you’ve never lived in the UK before because you won’t have most of these.
So what can you do?
If you have a friend who lives in that city you can ask them to stay in their places for a short period of time until you get accommodation. If you don’t have any friends you can stay in a budget hotel for a short period of time.
Things you need to consider before renting in the UK
When you look at renting in the UK, you need to check:
- Tenancy agreement. Make sure you double read the tenancy agreement before you sign. Most landlords will ask for a minimum of a year, although you can still find shorter contracts.
- Bills. Are water, electricity, etc. cover in the monthly rent price?
- Location. Is the neighbourhood safe? Is it close to supermarkets? Is it easy to get to the city centre?
- Washing machine. Yes, some city-centre flats won’t include a washing machine. This can be a real pain because you will need to look for a laundry service which can be expensive or inconvenient as you need a big amount of clothes to do a washing.
- Shared accommodation. This is cheaper because you mainly pay for a room, however, this isn’t for you if you like your own space and your things organised in a particular way.
I have shared accommodation and really hated it because you’ll find out very quickly how untidy your housemates can be!
Last but not least, once you’re in your new accommodation I highly recommend checking everything works well, the house or room is clean and walls, bed, windows, etc. are in good condition.
Some landlords will provide you with a checklist to fill in and confirm everything is fine. Don’t ignore this checklist because you don’t want to be charged for damages that a previous tenant caused.
Although the pandemic and other global events have made things a bit more difficult, before this I felt like there are many jobs you can take in England.
If you’re still improving your English, you may find it easier to work in the hospitality sector as a waitress, cook or cleaner.
However, as you get more experience and your English gets better and better, you can look for other better-paid jobs.
The best way to get a job is by looking on websites like Indeed, Facebook groups and signing up for an agency so they can find job opportunities for you.
Most applications are online and if your application is successful, you’ll be contacted to follow up with a face to face interview.
If you always feel nervous before interviews, look online for possible interview questions. There is plenty of information out there and this will help you feel more prepared for the interview.
If you’re a non-English native speaker, like me, you’ll struggle with the language at the beginning no matter what level of English you have.
I studied English from primary school up to university, so my level was good, but I was discouraged when I moved to Leeds and I couldn’t understand many things, and yes, it was the accent.
You need to be aware that every city or region has its unique accent – some are easier than others.
When you study English in your home country, you’re most exposed to “standard British English” or “American English”, but there are so many varieties of English!
Be patient with yourself and mix up with the locals as much as you can to improve your listening and speaking skills.
If you haven’t studied much English before or you struggle, then I highly recommend taking lessons and making friends with the locals.
Unfortunately, you won’t go very far in the UK if you don’t have a good level of English.
From my own experience, many locals won’t be bothered to repeat something for you or won’t be patient as they expect you to speak their language.
Related post: Pros and Cons of Moving to London or Anywhere in the UK
Public transport is really good, and you won’t have to have a car to be able to travel to many places.
Cities and towns have good bus routes which make things easier if you don’t have a driving license or you don’t have to pay car expenses.
Travelling by train is actually one of my favourite ways to go to nearby towns, villages or big cities. Trains run very frequently and have plenty of routes too!
When travelling around the UK, it’s normally better to travel by train than the coach.
Coach is much cheaper but it takes way too long to get to places whereas getting a train will save you time.
I remember that time I regretted travelling from Leeds to London by coach. It took me six hours to get to London, instead of two and a half.
The cons of using public transport is having to travel at specific times or unexpected cancellations. Also, not having a car limits your chances to travel to more remote places like the countryside or villages.
As an expat, making friends with British people isn’t the easiest as they can be quite reserved. This can be a cultural shock for you if you come from a country where people are very outgoing and open.
However, I must admit that British people are generally very polite. Coming from Spain, I know that many people won’t say “thank you” or “sorry” or much less than a British person.
I always need to remind myself to say “thank you” and “sorry” even on weird occasions! What has surprised me the most is the fact that you still say these to your friends and family members. In Spain, speaking to others comes as informal and even more to people that are close to you.
I don’t imagine telling my mother to thank you for a nice meal. She’ll think “what’s wrong with her?”
So what’s the best way to meet British people?
Join a club (dance, yoga, sport, etc. whatever you enjoy doing), go to the pub (people are more open after a couple of drinks), ask a friend who may know some locals, share accommodation.
Once they open to you, they are really good and loyal friends.
The English weather isn’t famous for sunny days but cloudy and rainy days. I can confirm this is true!
Although the South of England normally has better weather than the North, expect frequent rain showers and cloudy days.
In terms of the temperature, England has mild winter temperatures (0 to 7°C) if compared to European countries such as Norway, Finland, Sweden or the Czech Republic.
However, if you’re from a Mediterranean country, like me, England is a cold place for you.
Winter in England seems to last long as it gets dark around 3 pm and the forecast is pretty predictable – rain, clouds, wind.
The best seasons in the UK are spring and summer for sure! Days are longer and you’ll enjoy sunnier and warmer days.
The UK is actually a really good country to experience different seasons. I love seeing the flowers blossom in spring, brown leaves falling in autumn, snow in winter and experiencing some unexpected “heatwaves” in summer.
If you work full-time (5 days a week), you’re entitled to receive at least 28 days of paid annual leave a year. This is a good amount of holidays in comparison to other countries like the US.
Some employers will count bank holidays as annual leave whereas other jobs won’t. The UK has eight bank holidays.
Bank holidays in the UK
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Monday
- Early May Bank Holiday
- Spring Bank Holiday
- Summer Bank Holiday
- Christmas Day
- Boxing Day
The bank holidays change every year, but if a bank holiday is on a weekend, a weekday becomes a bank holiday (normally the following Monday).
Living in England is a unique experience, and London isn’t the only city to move to. There are other great cities to live in the UK which are also more affordable and less chaotic. For example, Manchester, Leeds or Newcastle.
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