If you’re considering a job offer from the UK, or are thinking of actively seeking to live and work or study there, you need to do your homework. On the surface, everything is perfect for an English-speaker seeking new experiences and a change of scene. You don’t need to learn a new language, for one thing, and since it’s the birthplace of English, you’ll feel the pull of historical ties. However, being practical means digging a little deeper, evaluating what your life in the UK would be like, and doing a lot of planning if you decide to go ahead. Here are some thoughts to get you started.
1. You May Need Extra Health Insurance
You might be wondering whether you need UK private health insurance. You probably do! The NHS is well-known for the comprehensive, free healthcare it offers. But to benefit from the full suite of NHS services, you will need to be recognized as a permanent resident with “indefinite leave to remain” or a citizen. You can pay for partial access to NHS services on arrival, but it leaves huge gaps in your cover. For instance, hospital care isn’t covered, and since that’s the scenario when you most need help, you do need to close the gap.
2. Your Visa Must Match What You Want to Do and How Long You Mean to Stay
If you are from the USA, you can stay in the UK for up to six months without any formal visa. But if you want to work, you will need one, and after your six months are up, you’ll need a visa to extend your stay. There are different types of UK visas. You can invest a couple of million pounds in the UK to get a Tier 1 visa, but since most of us don’t have millions floating around, we’ll need a UK Skilled Worker Visa or a family visa . For the former, you must already have a firm job offer, and for the latter, you’ll need close family in the UK.
3. The Cost of Living is Rather High
London is the fourth most expensive city in the world to live in – and the rest of the country is only marginally cheaper. Rentals and property prices account for much of this. They are extremely high and will take a huge bite out of your earnings. That can be sobering when you’re offered what looks like a fantastic salary only to find that after paying for housing, you’re no better off, or even worse off, than you were at home.
Fun fact: London is home to what may be the world’s most expensive penthouse apartment. So even if you’re rather affluent, research living costs in the area where you hope to reside, and remember that the availability of housing is often also a problem.
4. Public Transport is Mostly OK But You May Still Want a Car
Using public transport in the UK can be frustrating. Just ask the locals. When travelling from place to place within the larger cities, the rail networks are quite good, but the longer routes are somewhat prone to breakdowns and delays. The cost isn’t low either, leading many Brits to place their reliance on cars instead. If you decide to follow suit, your stay in the UK may turn out much more expensive than you’d initially thought it would be.
5. You Should Like a Rainy Climate
You probably know this already, but it’s worth thinking it through. If you’re a big sun-lover, the UK is not for you. Those lush, green landscapes are there because it rains a lot. London is actually one of the drier places, and it only gets about 1481 hours of sunshine a year. If drizzly days depress you, you’ll be depressed in the UK.
Advantages of UK Living
So far, we’ve looked at some of the potential drawbacks an expat might face, so let’s balance that with some advantages. The UK is a great place to do business and if you’re a student, a UK education is highly rated around the world, making it a popular destination for students seeking a prestigious education.
On the whole it’s a tolerant society that is open to people from other cultural backgrounds, and there’ll be plenty to do, see and enjoy during your leisure time. Plus, it’s a hop and a skip from the UK to Europe, making it a good home base with relatively easy access to a wide range of countries you might like to visit.
Whether you’ll do well as an expat in the UK will depend on you. If you know what to expect and are sure that you can live comfortably after covering your costs, you should do just fine.