I moved abroad three years ago and I’ve learned A LOT.
After spending a bit over a year in the Bahamas I travelled to London and decided to make it home. I then moved back home to the US for some time to apply for my UK Visa and I’m relieved to have made London my home. Follow my London life on Instagram.
Related: 31 Things to Expect When Moving to the Bahamas
It’s easy to think that the US and the UK are pretty similar. Well, they both speak English so how different can it be? Believe you me there are many differences! Related: An Expat Guide to Working in the UK
At first, moving abroad can be fun, exciting and adventurous. Other times it can be frustrating when you’re met with hurdles in terms of employment or you just get homesick. Sometimes even going to the grocery store can be challenging when things go by different names. Many of the things on this list surprised me and some even angered me.
Related: What to Expect When Moving to London
Here are 23 Things Every American Should Know About Moving to the UK:
1. Higher Taxes
Taxes in the UK and EU are significantly higher than in the US. A lot of it is due to better social welfare programs and national health insurance.
See how we compare here.
This is one that baffles me. So in addition to paying your rent and mortgage each month, you are obligated to pay Council Tax to your council which is a version of a county in the states. It can run you around $80-$100 per month.
3. License is Only Valid for a Year
Americans are allowed to drive here for a year on our licence but after a year you will have to acquire a valid UK licence.
4. Can Take Time to Get Employment
It’s better to not come with the hopes of getting a job here right away.
I know being American makes it seem like our background and qualifications are pretty strong but as we aren’t European we are often at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to employment. One assumption is that employers may not think we know the English culture well enough and/or as Americans, we won’t be here long-term. Often times Americans will be overlooked for employment. Be prepared to explain what your plans are in the UK and what your long-term career plan is.
5. Significant Pay Differences
Wages in the UK are VERY different compared to home in California. What I really mean by this is that they are less. The median wage in the UK is around £22,044 which is extremely low for me as the average income in San Francisco is $50k.
6. Sometimes Career Credits Don’t Transfer Over
Depending on what your career is, your schooling and career credits may not transfer over completely.
7. Proof of Address for Bank Account
You will need to provide strict proof of address in order to apply for a bank account. This must come in the form of a bank statement, utility statement etc. Be prepared for this to become a huge circle as sometimes you won’t even be able to get a phone plan or apply for utilities without proof of address. The easiest thing to do to solve this issue is by changing the billing address on one of your credit cards and have the statement sent to you once it’s created with your new address.
8. National Insurance is not the same as Private
A national insurance is more like a social security number more than its an actual insurance of some sort.
9. Smaller Washing Machines
Laundry takes forever but I do feel like they wash better than our popular top loading. Things in Europe are just smaller
Be prepared to purchase UK plugs for chargers, laptops or even replace things such as hair dryers and straighteners. These items shouldn’t be used with a converter long-term.
11. Food Tastes Different
Mostly due to the fact that certain chemicals and ingredients are outlawed here, which is a positive thing. No high fructose corn syrup.
12. Train Travel Within the UK is Quite Expensive
But there are different railcards you may qualify for. As a couple, Sonny and I are eligible for a ‘Two Together’ railcard which gives us a 30 percent discount on train rides we take together.
13. People Rarely Have Dryers in Their Homes
I had a hard time understanding this but have found that it can be better for your clothes. However, crispy air dried towels are not for me and I have to have those dried.
14. No Plugs in the Bathrooms
Whoever thought of this was clearly not a woman! Say goodbye to blow drying and straightening your hair in the bathroom.
15. Forget About Closet Space
Wahhh…. : ( people actually expect me to fit all my clothes in a wardrobe?!
16. Clothes Sizes are Smaller
17. No Walmart or Target
Asda is the only thing that I found that’s similar to Wal Mart, which makes sense considering Asda is owned by Walmart, but it is NOT a Target replacement.
18. Dentist Cleanings are not as Thorough
The Brits are not known for their dental care. I would suggest seeing your dentist in America during your trips back home.
19. Don’t Expect Annual Check-ups
Or much preventative care. If you want medical exams done you may have to be on top of requesting or begging your GP for them.
20. When going to a bar people buy rounds
21. Tea Time is real
And multiple times everyday rain or shine.
22. If someone says ‘you alright?’, it does not mean “r u ok”
But more ‘How are you?’
23. Be prepared to convert Itunes, Amazon and Paypal to UK versions
Want more Info on Moving Abroad? Check out These Posts:
13 Helpful Tips for Moving Abroad
13 Important Things to Know About the UK Spouse Visa
What to Expect When Moving to London
An Expat Guide to Working in the United Kingdom