Often people claim that if a given election doesn’t come out the way they prefer, they’ll lose all faith in their fellow citizens and leave the country. If you’re an American, say, and aghast that a doctrinaire socialist, Kenyan, secret Muslim could be elected President, or alternatively that a few billionaires and their corporations could manipulate millions of dim witted folks into calling themselves tea partiers and voting against their own interests, you may be looking for greener pastures abroad. As a matter of convenience, it would be nice if it could be a country where the people speak English. One such possibility is England itself.
If you’re moving, or considering moving, to England, you’ll want to know what to expect. No list of such information can be comprehensive, but here are a few tips about living in England that might help you out:
1. First, let’s get clear on the geography of where you’re going. The actual country is called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. So the country as a whole consists of a large island called Great Britain, and the northeast corner of another island-Ireland. The island of Great Britain, in turn, consists of England, Scotland, and Wales. England is the largest of the three, and the closest to continental Europe. Scotland, which occupies the northern portion of the island, is the next biggest. Wales is a smaller chunk to the west.
So England is not a country; it is but one component of the country of the United Kingdom.
2. You’ll need a visa to live in England, and it has become increasingly difficult to obtain one. A student visa is the easiest to get. Otherwise you’ll have to prove you already have a job lined up (in an industry that has made a good faith effort to hire locals and failed), or that your education, work experience, and available funds are sufficient to ensure you’ll be able to support yourself once you get there.
3. You know this one already, but the folks in England drive on the “wrong” side of the road.
4. Speaking of cars, England is less of a car culture than the United States. Most places in England are more “walkable” than American cities, and public transportation tends to be more developed. If you’re going to be using public transportation regularly, inquire about a Young Person’s Railcard, a Senior Railcard, or an Oyster Card for the subway (“tube”).
5. The English language in England and the English language in America overlap well over 90% (less for slang). So while you will need to be alert to the fact that here and there you’ll come across words that are unfamiliar, it’s not remotely like dealing with a foreign language. But for example, gasoline is “petrol,” and an elevator is a “lift.”
There are also minor spelling variations, e.g., color is “colour,” and center is “centre,” as well as pronunciation differences, e.g., “schedule” is pronounced as if it were “shedule” rather than “skedule.”
6. Be aware that London can be a quite expensive city, especially for housing, which is scarce. Plus much of the housing will strike Americans as cramped and primitive. In terms of sticker shock, a tiny London flat is more like a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan than it is like most housing Americans are used to.
As you move away from London, housing costs will be much more reasonable, including in good sized cities like Manchester, Birmingham, or Liverpool.
7. Electrical outlets in England have a voltage of 240, compared to the American 120. Either leave all your electronics behind, or educate yourself on what you’ll need as far as adaptors, converters, or transformers to get your electronics to work.
8. Compared to most place in the United States, English weather is chilly, cloudy, and rainy. More so the farther you go north. Expect plenty of dark, dreary, wet days.
9. If you’re just going to be living in England temporarily, you won’t be covered by the National Health Service, though certainly you won’t be turned away from an NHS hospital in an emergency. If you are moving to England more permanently, inquire how you will go about eventually being covered by the NHS. (You can learn more at the NHS website here.)
If anything else comes up (and plenty will), just ask. The English people sometimes have a reputation as a bit aloof or even anti-American, but like most such things, that’s overblown. If you’re friendly and polite with people, you’ll be fine and most English people will be happy to help you out.
Jonathan, “Top 10 Things Americans Should Consider When Moving to London.” Anglotopia.
“How to Move to England.” Wikihow.