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From the iconic silhouette of London's Big Ben to the rolling green hills and craggy cliffs in the Highlands of Scotland, the beauty of the United Kingdom's culture and landscape has drawn people from around the world for centuries.
While the country’s diverse economy and liberal immigration policies once made it easy for expats to move to the UK, immigration requirements have become tighter over time. Now it's generally only expats with specialist skills that are in demand. Brexit has had big implications for both UK and EU nationals and free movement between regions, as well as trade, labour and services. See our visas page for more details on expat requirements.
Living in the UK as an expat
There are a number of strong sectors in the UK economy, including IT, engineering, finance, healthcare, energy, oil and gas, and construction. Expats with experience and sought-after skills in these sectors will find that there is plenty of scope for career progression in Britain.
The quality and affordability of housing in the United Kingdom varies widely. While expats may struggle to find spacious, high-quality accommodation that doesn't break the bank in notoriously expensive London, there are many areas of the UK where it's much easier to find appropriate housing at a decent price.
Public transport in the UK is generally of a high standard and the quality of road infrastructure is excellent.
Healthcare in the United Kingdom is by and large free and the National Health Service (NHS) is often said to be one of the country’s greatest assets. The standard of hospitals and medical facilities in the UK is good and expats will find that doctors and medical staff are well trained and knowledgeable.
Cost of living in the UK
As with any country, the cost of living in the United Kingdom varies depending on an expat's lifestyle choices and location. Major cities such as London have a well-earned reputation of being pricey to live in, and while life in the rest of the UK is by no means cheap, the cost of living is substantially lower outside of these big metros.
Expat families and children
Expats moving to the UK with children will find that there are plenty of schooling options available, but the standards of education and schooling facilities vary considerably. Foreigners living in the UK are eligible to send their children to state schools which are funded by the government. Those who opt to have children educated at a private or international school should budget accordingly or try to negotiate an allowance into their employment package as fees are often astronomical.
Expats moving to the UK will also have access to a wealth of historical and cultural attractions available in a relatively compact space. City nightlife venues are excellent and expats in the UK will be treated to an abundance of high-quality restaurants specialising in a variety of exotic cuisines. Furthermore, the country is host to a number of exciting international sporting events and music festivals.
Climate in the UK
Hardly known for its desirable climate, the United Kingdom is plagued by atmospheric instability and unpredictable weather due to its location. Many types of weather can be experienced in one day and rain is possible at any time of year, with gloomy conditions often the norm.
Ultimately, the UK is a fantastic option for skilled expats, and for raising a family. It is also well positioned for easy and affordable travel to Europe and beyond.
Population: Over 68 million
Capital city: London (also the largest city)
Other major cities: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Manchester
Neighbouring countries: The UK shares a land border with the Republic of Ireland. It is separated from France by the English Channel.
Geography: The UK is located off the northwestern coast of continental Europe. The majority of the UK is split across two islands – the island of Great Britain and the northeastern part of the island of Ireland. There are also a number of smaller surrounding islands that make up the British Isles archipelago.
Major religions: Christianity
Political system: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Main languages: English
Money: The currency of the UK is the British Pound Sterling (GBP) which is subdivided into 100 pence. In order to open a bank account in the UK, most banks require proof of a local address and a form of official identification, such as a passport.
Tipping: 10 to 15 percent of the bill if a service charge has not already been added.
Time: GMT (GMT+1 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard.
Internet domain: .uk
International dialling code: +44
Emergency contacts: 999 or 112
Transport and driving: Driving is on the left-hand side. There is a variety of public transport options available in the UK and the transportation network is generally well formed, both across the country and within most cities.
►For tips on finding the perfect new home, check out our guide to Accommodation in the UK.
"Join some type of group, whether it be a networking group, community group, baby and toddler group or church group or something else. Even if your first attempt is not successful, keep at it and stay positive, you will eventually meet some nice people and start to make friends." Meghan is an American expat who has been living in the UK for more than a decade. Read her interview.
Are you an expat living in The United Kingdom?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to The United Kingdom. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
If you’re thinking about taking out private health insurance, our trusted partner Cigna Global is very aware of all the difficulties that expats can face when it comes to healthcare in a new location, so they have created a range of international health insurance plans specifically designed for expats, which you can tailor exactly to the needs and ensure access to quality care for you and your family.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.