A Guide to Life in the UK

It has been over six months since I immigrated to the UK and I thought it was time to follow up from my Guide to Moving to the UK, with a guide to life in the UK.

I got here on 7th October 2018, just in time for the winter weather to begin. It’s now June and there is still no sign of summer – in fact, right now it’s pouring down outside and has been for the last few days. I haven’t had summer in over 12 months and I’m really starting to get withdrawals for the sun and the beach – which are pretty non-existent here!

Finding accommodation

When I first arrived here last October (2018), my husband was living in shared accommodation and while it was OK for me to stay there with him intially, it wasn’t a long-term option. Luckily for me, my husband was happy to go house hunting for us before I could get here and he found a cute little two-bedroom bungalow that would be perfect for the two of us and our cat, Pippa.

FYI – Finding a property that allows pets can be a little difficult and you need to be prepared to pay more to be able to have pets. We had to pay an extra £100 as a pet bond – not all landlords will charge this, but it’s something to be aware of.

The application process for renting a property is fairly similar around the world – you need to provide all your employment info, your previous address history and references. The letting agent will run a credit check on you as part of the application process but it doesn’t appear to be an issue even if you’ve just arrived in the country.

Most rental agencies require a month’s rent as a bond, the first month’s rent up front and you also have to pay to have the credit checks preformed and any administration fees that the letting agency charges. We found that most charge around £200 (though this may differ depending on the city) and it has to be paid before the credit checks are carried out and my understanding is this is a non-refundable charge, so if they decide not to go with you, you won’t get that money back.

Finally we were approved and ready to move in, only one problem – we had no furniture!

Trying to get finance

Getting finance for anything has been a complete nightmare! One of the main requirements is you need to have lived in the country for at least the last 3yrs which makes it difficult when you’ve just relocated to the country. There are a couple of places that are more lenient but they’re hard to find and trying to get finance can be quite a stressful and difficult time.

We didn’t bring any furniture with us as what we had in NZ was 2nd hand or old and crappy. We wanted new stuff that we’d picked out together and unfortunately for us, we didn’t have as much money saved as we would have liked to have had when we moved over.

I would definitely recommend either bringing your own stuff (this will of course cost more to ship) or have as much saved as you can specifically for setting up a home – seems like a no-brainer right??

Forunately (and unfortunately), we’ve both been able to get credit cards which has helped but then of course we have two lots of interest to repay. But, you have to have furniture so we didn’t have much choice in the matter!

We went straight to Ikea (we don’t have Ikea in NZ so I was super excited to go haha) and purchased the essentials and had it all delivered to our brand new home the day we took the keys.

Finding employment

Shane had secured a job before moving over here, something he had to do before we were able to even begin applying for my visa which meant there was no financial strain on us as I was still working.

Trying to find work myself, on the other hand, was a little more stressful as we were trying to survive on a single income which was a lot less than what we were used to in NZ!

I signed up with a number of recruitment agencies and went on only two interviews before being offered a permanent position and all up it took a month from when I first arrived in the country to when I was offered my first job. My advice – sign up with as many recruitment agencies as you can to enhance your chances of finding something quickly.

TIP: Do some research into your chosen profession over here and find out how much it pays on average over here. I was on a lot more money in NZ than I am over here and had I asked for the equivalent amount here, I would have been laughed at by any potential employer. London, on average, pays more than other areas in the UK but it balances out as living costs are more expensive in London.

Adjusting to life in the UK

New Zealand and England are fairly similar, but at the same time it feels quite different here. These are a few of the things that I’ve found quite different, or struggled to cope with.

Weather

The weather is the main thing I’ve struggled with here. It is a lot colder here than what I am used to back in NZ, though sadly very little snow in Nottingham.

While we had a dry winter, I don’t believe this is the norm and the weather gods appear to be making up for it now. It’s supposed to be summer here at the moment but so far all we’ve had is constant rain AND it’s still cold!!

Housing

Personally, I have found that the houses here are a lot smaller and have little to no storage space so owning stuff means having nowhere to put said stuff.

Our house literally has 5 cupboards – 4 of which are kitchen cupboards and 1 that is a half cupboard above the hot water cylinder in the lounge. There is no hallway cupboard or linen cupboard or closet space whatsoever!

This means we had to find a small, light vacuum cleaner that would easily fit in the narrow hot water cupboard coz that’s not something you want sitting in the corner of the room to trip over.

We’ve also had to buy a free standing wardrobe which then takes up more of the floor space in a room that is already small to begin with.

Thankfully, we do have a bathtub with a shower over it in the bathroom. We didn’t have a tub in NZ and I desperately wanted one as I love Lush and all things bath-bomb related and you can’t use bath-bombs without a bathtub!

Don’t expect to have much yard space either. It’s not uncommon to have a postage stamp size patch of grass out the back – this is handy if you don’t enjoy gardening or prefer to have something low maintenance but if you’re after more space, be prepared to move further away from the city.

Driving

Most non-GB licences are valid in the UK for up to 12 months after arriving in the country. However, there may be some restrictions so use this handy tool to see if you can use yours.

The UK is the same as NZ and Australia where we drive on the left side of the road and all vehicles are right-hand drive (steering-wheel is on the right hand side).

The road rules are almost exactly the same here as they are in NZ but if you’re coming from a country that drives on the opposite side I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the UK road rules before setting off. Roads here are busy and there are a lot of one-way systems in the cities – not a fun place to learn a new way of driving!

Food & Drink

For me, food and drink is on the whole cheaper here than what it is in NZ which is great for us! But I have a friend from South Africa who says food and drink here is way more expensive so it really depends on what you’re used to.

What I find fun here is that there is so much pre-packaged food. Don’t want to cut up onions? Then buy them already diced ready to go! Mashing potatoes too much effort?? Buy them already mashed! Don’t want to make a sandwich for lunch? Buy one from Tesco or Sainsbury’s and take advantage of their £3 meal deal while you’re there by adding a drink and fruit or crisps.

Alcohol is cheaper in the UK if you’re getting a drink in a pub but in store it’s about the same. Also, supermarkets here sell spirits which is handy, no having to traipse over to the liquor shop for that much needed bottle of gin!

Language

Every town has a different accent, sometimes more than one which means that everyone speaks differently no matter where you go in the UK – they will not sound the same!

It’s strange as the UK is not a large country, and towns right next to one another can have completely different accents.

Each region seems to have their own phrases too which are fun to learn and people are always shocked when you don’t know what they’re talking about.

One of my favourites from Nottingham is ‘ey up me duck which is a friendly greeting. They also use duck as a term of endearment in this area, so if you’re talking to someone don’t be upset if they call you duck! It originates from a Saxon word meaning dear or darling and has nothing to do with the quacking kind.

English people use different words than what I’m used to back home as well, this gives them a right laugh!

Here are a few that are different for me:
Sweets = Lollies (lollies here refer to lollipops)
Flip flops = Jandles
Trousers = Pants (if you use pants here, they assume you’re talking about your underwear!)
Crisps = Chips or chippies (you may know there as potato chips)
Fries = Chips (or hot chips if you’re being fancy in NZ)

These are just a couple of examples but if you’re interested in learning all about NZ Slang then check out How to Speak Kiwi by my good friend – That Kiwi Hiker.

Utilities

Power, internet, water and mobile phone. We all use them, therefore we have to pay for them!

It’s easy to get started with all utilities here so don’t worry if you’ve only just moved here. You won’t have any problems!

If possible, try and do some research before you arrive here to take away some of the stress as there are a number of different companies in each sector and they all offer multiple plans with different incentives.

Our current providers:

Bulb Energy – They are a green energy company meaning their energy is renewable and environmentally friendly, check out this review to find out more. They have one tariff and they deduct a fixed amount from your account every month which we find a lot easier to plan than varying amounts each month.

BT – Or British Telecom. They are our internet and landline provider, although we don’t have a landline – naked broadband doesn’t seem to be popular here. Their monthly plans vary depending on what speed you want and how much data you want each month but they do offer some nice incentives when joining.

EE Mobile – Our mobile phone provider. The coverage is good and the data doesn’t drop off on random occasions. We recently went in store to get a replacement sim card and ended walking out with a different data plan and a tablet. I would recommend talking to someone in store to get the best plan that works for you – they also offer broadband in partnership with BT so you might be able to get a bundle cheaper than having them separate.

You’ll also have to pay:

Water Usage – I believe water bills are handled by whichever company covers your area and the bills come every 3 months though I think you can set up a direct debit to come out monthly.

Council Tax – Everyone has to pay council tax, whether you rent or own. The annual figure is set by the council each year and is divided into tax bands from A – G (possibly more) with A being the lowest amount. You’ll pay the amount the amount that relates to the tax band you live in

TV Licence – This I do not agree with. I’ve never had to pay to use “freeview” before but if you want to watch TV you will have to pay it each month. The licence runs from April – March and regardless of when you move into your property, you’ll have to pay for the full year!!

Banking

There are a number of different banks over here to fund your life in the UK (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds) but honestly, I don’t like any of them! Our bank in NZ was excellent and none of the banks here have been able to live up to it. I think they’re all a bit outdated here.

Getting a bank account is not easy so if you’ve used a 3rd party company to help with your visa application, ask them if they can also assist with opening a bank account.

Otherwise, you will need proof of address in the form of a utility bill, your passport for photo ID and your BRP card. Expect to meet a few roadblocks on the way though coz the bank staff aren’t all that helpful and everything has to be sent off to head office before it can be approved.

The Good Things

This needs to be added so the rest of my post doesn’t seem like I’m just complaining about everything!

I honestly love living here! It has been difficult at times with being homesick but I’ve made a few friends here and I have my husband to fall back on when I need him.

There is so much history in the UK, so many castles, battle fields, stately homes and neolithic sites to visit. There is always something to do if you have the means to do it.

I highly recommend joining English Heritage or National Trust when you get here to visit the castles and historic sites. It has a monthly membership fee (we pay £8.25 a month for a joint membership) and it allows you to get in free to most sites covered by English Heritage.

It is easy to get to other countries from here as well and it’s a lot cheaper than flying to anywhere from NZ. We can pop over to Paris for a long weekend or catch a band in Vienna. The freedom to travel from here is absolutely fantastic and one of the main reasons we decided to move here.

The public transport is fantastic (though the locals won’t agree) so it’s easy to get to work or town or other towns on the bus and trains.

After 6 months here, I can without a doubt say life in the UK is awesome!

I hope this guide outlines everything you can expect when you make the leap and relocate to the UK. Please contact me if there is anything else you would like to know!

Chel xx

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