- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals United Kingdom Guide (PDF)
Moving to the United Kingdom, like moving anywhere, comes with both positives and negatives, and it is important for prospective expats to weigh up these before making the decision to relocate. Here is our list of pros and cons of moving to the UK.
Healthcare in the UK
+ PRO: Access to the NHS
Expats living in the UK will have access to a good standard of healthcare through the NHS (National Health Service) at little to no cost. The cost of medication is often subsidised and therefore likely to be cheaper than in many other countries.
- CON: Long NHS waiting lists
The downside of using the UK's publicly funded health service is that there are often long waiting lists for specialist treatments. It's possible to bypass these waiting lists by using private healthcare, but this comes at a significant cost. We advise that expats with chronic conditions invest in a good health insurance policy.
Education in the UK
+ PRO: Access to free education
Anyone who is legally resident in the UK has the right to send their child to a public school at no cost. This is an option worth exploring especially for expats with children who speak English or are young enough to pick up the language.
- CON: Standard of public schools is variable
While public schools in the UK are free, the standard of education varies considerably. Better public schools tend to be oversubscribed with priority given to students living locally. There are also lots of failing schools especially in inner-city areas. It’s worth investing time reading a school’s Ofsted report in order to make an informed decision.
Weather in the UK
- CON: Unpleasant weather
The UK is famous for its less-than-stellar weather. Winters are long, cold and dreary. During the winter months the days are short and it gets dark early. Basically, bring a coat, or six.
+ PRO: People make the most of the summer
The British summer may be nothing remarkable to expats from more exotic destinations, but Brits make the most of every little bit of sunshine. The country comes alive in the summer months when people can be seen enjoying topping up their tans in the local park or spending an afternoon in a beer garden.
Lifestyle in the UK
+ PRO: The UK is at the forefront of arts, culture and sporting events
Expats living in the UK will find that they'll have access to some of the world's leading arts, culture and sporting events. Many international events are held in UK's major cities such as London, Manchester, Liverpool or Edinburgh. Thanks to the UK being a relatively small country with an efficient transport network, travelling around to see one's favourite team play football, or to catch an international music act on tour isn't too much hassle.
- CON: Traditional British food is mediocre
The British don’t have much to boast about when it comes to their traditional cuisine. Beyond fish and chips, a full English breakfast and a lot of beer, there isn’t much to get excited about. That said, the beauty of living in a country with such a diverse population is that in almost every town or city expats are sure to find a wealth of international food offerings to keep things interesting.
Culture shock in the UK
+ PRO: Diversity
The UK has a long history of immigration which contributes to the diversity of its population. This is especially evident in the make-up of its major cities such as London, Manchester and Edinburgh. This means expats will be able to connect with many people who have similiar experiences of moving overseas.
+ PRO: Proximity to Europe
A huge advantage of living in the UK is how easy it is to access the rest of Europe. Thanks to the growth of budget airlines, it is possible to travel to a whole host of fantastic European destinations without breaking the bank.
- CON: Uncertainty following the Brexit referendum
The result of the Brexit referendum in 2016 has led to a lot of uncertainty with regards to the position of foreigners residing in the UK and how the UK’s decision to leave the EU will affect their rights. At present, Britain is in a transition period as the government negotiates the specific terms, so things are yet to change materially. That said, in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum tensions between different groups have surfaced more prominently.
Visas for the UK
- CON: Visa requirements are very stringent
The UK is a hugely popular expat destination but as a result of high levels of illegal immigration, as well as people overstaying or violating the terms of a visa, the country has become increasingly strict about who they allow into the country. Currently, those who are non-EU citizens have to meet a multitude of requirements before they are granted a work permit for the UK. Requirements for EU citizens are also likely to change as the terms of the Brexit deal take shape.
+ PRO: Opportunities for skilled workers
Despite visa restrictions, Britain has a history of sourcing skilled workers from abroad. Expats with sought-after skills should have no real difficulty moving to the UK. The visa processing system itself is fairly efficient as long as expats have all their paperwork in order.
Working in the UK
+ PRO: Strong labour laws and generous employee benefits
Anyone working full-time in the UK is entitled to a minimum of 20 days annual leave per year. Sick leave and parental leave benefits in the UK are also fairly generous.
- CON: Highly competitive job market
Many industries in the UK are highly competitive. While some companies provide excellent employment packages, these lucrative offers are often only made to those who are highly skilled and at the top of their field of work.
►Moving to the UK's capital? Read the Frequently Asked Questions about London page before making the move.
'The British (and the Europeans in general) are very big on taking holiday (vacation). The standard amount of vacation is five weeks. Also, they are not quite as bad as Americans when it comes to working all the hours God sends. So the work-life balance is a bit better here.' Read more about the benefits of expat life in the UK in our interview with Michael H.
'Whenever you move to another country, be prepared to take a while to settle and for things to feel like home. I’ve been in Scotland for 3 ½ years and I still don’t feel completely at home. I sometimes struggle with the differences in culture, but at least my husband and close friends understand where I’m coming from and support me.' Learn more about the highs and lows of expat life in the UK by reading this our interview with Danielle Sasaki.
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.
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