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Living in the UK?

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Jan-Peter van Tijk

Living in Great Britain, from Netherlands

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Living in Great Britain, from Ghana

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The UK at a Glance

Life in the UK

Are you preparing for expatriate life in the UK? There are lots of famous clichés about living in the UK, concerning, for instance, the weather. InterNations has some tips beyond these stereotypes to help you get the best out of your time in the UK, with info on accommodation, healthcare, and more.

Let’s begin by refuting a common stereotype: the weather isn’t all that bad. Depending on the area you’ve chosen, you might have to suffer through above average rainfall. In general, though, the climate is moderate. The south of England gets a lot of sunshine in the summer, and temperatures can easily reach 27°C. In northern parts of the UK, however, you’ll have to put up with more rain and much lower temperatures.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining to the high humidity, namely a lush countryside with green meadows, rolling hills, and woods. The UK has plenty of national parks and locals make avid use of them. Life in the UK includes a wide array of outdoor sports and leisure activities, e.g. hiking, cycling, rock-climbing, or kayaking. You can even go on a beach holiday. The British love their beach huts, and there are some stunning beaches on the south coast, particularly in the southwest.

Hunting in the UK — For a House, That Is…

If you are planning on living in the UK due to an expat assignment, you will probably be looking to rent a studio apartment, a flat, or a small house. You might even get help from your employer. However, if you’re sorting out your own accommodation, here are a few house-hunting tips to get you started.

While using an estate agent can save you a lot of hassle, it doesn’t always ensure you get the best deal as they tend to charge various administrative fees. Another way to find accommodation when living in the UK is via Loot, a classified ads newspaper, which also has its own website and regularly advertises property. The internet is in general a good source, with websites like Gumtree, Rightmove, and Home catering to all tastes and budgets. If you are planning to live in London, Moveflat is highly recommended, especially for younger people happy to stay in shared accommodation.

Unless you stay in up-market accommodation, you might find some buildings lacking in modern comforts. A lot of British houses date back to the Victorian period. While they are beautiful to look at, they are not always the most comfortable places to live. If your flat has any gas appliances, ask your landlord or estate agent for proof of a recent safety check.

Are you planning on renting an apartment or maybe even buying a house? The articles in the Housing and Accommodation section of the InterNations UK Extended Guide can provide some insight into the process.

Clockwise onto the Roundabout — Driving in the UK

Every aspect of life in the UK contains at least one element of surprise, but for many driving takes the cake. While in most countries, people drive on the right-hand side of the road, residents of the UK do things differently. You drive on the left side, and the steering wheel of British cars is on the right. You might want to take this into account if you consider bringing along your own car to accommodate your life in the UK.

While driving on a foreign license, you must be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. If you are unsure about using your driver’s license while living in the UK, use the driving in Great Britain interactive tool. A similar tool exists for checking to see if and when you need to exchange your foreign license. Exchanging your license is a matter of filling out the D1 form and sending it, along with any additional documentation and 43 GBP, to the address on the form. Other than that, there are no obstacles to driving in the UK as long as you are over 17 years of age and have a valid (provisional) driver’s license. While living in the UK, a driver’s license issued in your former country of residence only remains valid for up to three years (EU/EEA countries) or twelve months (other countries). At the end of this period, you’ll need to exchange it for a British license (EU/EEA countries) or get a provisional license and pass a driving test (other countries).

Public Transportation in the UK — More Familiar than Driving

Public transportation in the UK is usually fairly good, albeit not cheap. The entire UK is covered by a vast network of rail and coach services. They make even remote parts of the country readily accessible (if you don’t mind occasional delays due to ongoing maintenance). Most cities will have an extensive network of bus and light rail services, such as trams or the underground.

Since the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003, public transportation is usually the quickest and cheapest way of getting around the central areas of London. This road charge — 11.50 GBP daily, excluding weekends — covers a considerable area of inner London and is levied to help reduce and control inner-city traffic. The quickest means of transportation in London is the London Underground, which is notorious for being hopelessly overcrowded during peak hours.

Check out our Transport and Driving articles for further information on driving in the UK, getting a driving license, owning a car, public transportation, and more.


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InterNations Expat Magazine