The UK is a popular destination for expats from North America since there is not much of a language barrier. However, there are still enough cultural differences for it to feel like living in another country, and is interesting as a result. The food is mostly different, and the way people do things is different so there is still a learning curve even with the same language being spoken.
It is helpful to understand a few things before moving to the UK so you can make sure that you get the most out of it. For instance, some Americans are moving to the UK because finding an affordable college is difficult. They will need to understand how the university system works in the UK, however. Even if you aren’t moving there for school, you have to do a bit of research ahead of time to make a successful move. In this article, we will go over several of the essentials to get you started.
1 – Calculate the costs
The cost of living is much different in the UK than in other areas. You can’t make a budget based on your old expenses so you’ll need to make sure to understand how much things will cost you when living there. For instance, rent can be quite high as there is a housing crisis going on in the desirable areas of the UK.
Groceries tend to be cheaper than back in the US, however, so you may see some savings there but they likely won’t make up for some of the higher prices of the expenses you will face.
One expense that you will have there is health insurance. Although the UK has the NHS which is a free healthcare system paid for by taxes, you won’t be eligible to join for a while. It can take a few months to become eligible in which case you’ll need to be covered by health insurance for US citizens in the UK. You may already be paying for your employer-provided health insurance already so this could just be a parallel cost to you.
If you don’t have a job offer already, then you should look into what your salary is likely to be when you do find a job. This way you can create a workable budget that will keep you from running out of money before the end of the month.
2 – Figure out your visa situation
Americans don’t need a visa to be able to come to the UK for up to three months. To stay there indefinitely is another matter. You will need a visa to gain residency there and be able to live without the risk of having to suddenly leave. On a tourist visa, you can’t open a bank account, start working, or take advantage of the NHS.
One of the easiest ways to get a visa to be able to live there is to accept a transfer with your American company that has a branch in the UK. They would handle all the visa requirements on your behalf so you can rightfully live there. This is obviously only available as an option for those with that type of job.
Otherwise, you will need to apply for a visa to come and study at the university which has its own requirements. There are also work visas, but generally, you will need to have a job offer from a company first so that you can apply for it. People who are experts in their field will usually be able to find a company that will sponsor them as long as they can prove that they are not able to hire a local with the same skills.
3 – Try to fit in
The culture is going to be quite confusing for you at first especially since you likely assumed that things would be very similar. Make sure to observe how people do things and try to mimic that so you don’t cause faux pas.
For instance, work culture is much different than in the US. In the UK, people are more careful about how they ask for things to be done, and being polite is the name of the game. Americans are used to being more direct and blunt and this may end up rubbing people the wrong way.
People will expect you to make some mistakes, but the key is to learn from them so you don’t end up alienating people and end up feeling isolated there.