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Moving to the United Kingdom

Your guide to expat life in the United Kingdom. A place to learn, no matter how old you are

Want to move to the United Kingdom?

Thanks to a capital city powered by international talent, the UK is a great place for motivated expats. Foreigners continue to be drawn to the UK by the attractive career prospects and the opportunity for personal development. Indeed, the home of both Cambridge and Oxford Universities is one of the very best places to pick up new skills, especially among younger professionals. It is also a top place for visitors to grow in confidence and there are plenty of opportunities to network.

The career benefits of the UK do come at the expense of higher living costs, but improved salaries make up the gap and many expats have money left over to explore the rest of Europe in their free time.

London remains the focal point for many expats looking to move to the UK. The city is a hub of multiculturalism which owes much of its cuisine, traditions and economy to generations of visitors from around the globe. Along with New York and Paris, it ranks as one of the most vibrant cultural hotspots in the world.

You should find it easy to adapt to life in the UK, but it may take a while to adjust to the congestion in bigger cities. The weather is infamously temperamental, making it a common talking point among locals and expats alike. And although there’s no language barrier for English speakers, some regional dialects can be difficult to understand.

Basic info about United Kingdom

  • Population: Around 68 million

  • Capital city: London (also the largest city)

  • Main languages: English

  • Major religion: Christianity

  • Political system: Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

  • Time: GMT (GMT+1 from late March to late October)

  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard

  • Currency: British pound (GBP), also known as sterling

  • International dialling code: +44

  • Internet domain: .co.uk

  • Emergency number: 999 and 112

  • Road traffic: Drives on the left

Weather in the UK

As an island off the coast of mainland Europe, where moist maritime and dry continental air currents meet, the UK’s weather is unpredictable. Southern regions are generally milder than northern areas and England is usually sunnier than the rest of the country. Scotland is the coldest and wettest of the four nations. Between December and February, winters are cold and wet with occasional snow. From June to August, summers are warm and balmy, although rain falls throughout the year.

Shipping to the UK

You should find it easy to ship your belongings to the UK. Shipping goods from EU countries now require import duties if exceeding a certain value. There are also limits on how much you can send free of charge from countries outside the EU.

Medicine

The UK doesn’t have a particularly strict policy for bringing medication into the country. If you need to take anything on the government’s list of controlled drugs, be sure to get a prescription letter from your doctor or, if necessary, apply for a personal licence before you travel.

Pets

You’ll have to meet some fairly strict requirements to take pets into the UK. If you’re travelling from an EU country, your pet will need a microchip, a rabies vaccination and a pet passport. Dogs must also have records of tapeworm treatment. If you’re from a non-EU country, your pet should have a blood test three months before travelling.

Top tips for the UK

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in the United Kingdom.

Be fully aware of the cost of living in the UK and specifically London, higher salaries may appear misleading once full cost of living has been accounted for.
Spend evenings by the fire in a local pub, sample the local brew and spin yarns with the locals. See a band, go to the theatre, visit ancient castles. Throw yourself into the local scene and enjoy this diverse and stimulating country.
Keep in contact with your family back home on a weekly basis. With technology nowadays, there are phone applications which make it easy. It will help you keep grounded and they know you the best!

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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