So, you’re moving to the UK? Congratulations. Moving to a new country is an exciting time but it can be confusing too. You’re likely to find things work differently to your home country and it can take some time to feel fully settled. Here are a few things you need to know about how to settle in to the UK, once you arrive.
The UK is multi-cultural
The UK is often referred to as a multicultural and multi-faith society. This means that people from different cultures and different faiths live side by side.
London especially prides itself on its rich cultural heritage, and a diversity that enables people from different backgrounds and communities, to share and experience each other’s cultures.
English is spoken across the UK, but it is not the only native official language. You may also occasionally hear Welsh in Wales, Gaelic and Scots in Scotland, or Irish and Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland. You’ll hear lots of other languages in the UK too as the country attracts expats from around the world as well as millions of students, tourists and business visitors from around the world each year.
Quick tips that may help you settle in your life in the UK
How to open a bank account
Some expats arriving in the UK find it tricky to open a bank account. It can make sense to try and sort this out before you come. Does your existing bank have a presence in the UK? Many major banks in other countries, have their presence and a number of branches in the UK, so you can open an account with one of these regional banks before you arrive.
In the UK, the banking industry is dominated by five big banks: HSBC, Santander, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and Lloyds.
For a more detailed understanding, read our detailed article on how to open a bank account in the UK.
Sending money home
If you need to send money home from the UK, Xpress Money has 350 agents conveniently located in corner shops and Travelex bureaus.
Once the cash has been deposited, the money can be collected from an overseas agent within minutes. The beneficiary can also have the cash delivered to their home or deposited into their bank account or mobile wallet.
Be wary of handing over cash to friends or acquaintances travelling back to your home country, promising to hand the cash to your friends or family. This method doesn’t keep your money safe – it’s always best to send money through licensed operators.
How living costs compare with what you’re used to depends on your home country but it’s important to understand that living costs vary enormously across the UK. London is the most expensive place to live, with the south of the UK generally having a higher cost of living than the north. However, depending on your profession, the south also tends to be where the most, and highest paying, jobs are.
When it comes to utilities such as gas, electricity and broadband, there’s quite a lot of competition so make sure you shop around before signing up with a supplier. It’s cheapest to pay your bills by “direct debit”, which is a recurring payment from your bank account.
The Great British pub is not just a place to eat or drink – it tends to be the focus of community life in villages, towns and cities across the UK.
It’s a strange quirk of the UK that travelling around the country can seem prohibitively expensive yet flying to Europe can often be a bargain. For example, unless you book tickets in advance, a train journey from London to Scotland can cost 10 times the cost of a flight to Spain.
Cash or card?
There are several ways to pay for things in the UK. Cash is popular, and straightforward. Denominations up to £2 are in coin format and higher values in notes. Brits use slang to discuss some common denominations – a “fiver” is a £5 note and a “tenner” is £10. Another common way to pay for things is using a debit card linked to your bank account. You can use this to make contactless payments up to £30, with higher value purchases requiring you to enter a PIN (personal identification number). Paying with a mobile phone using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay, is also becoming more common or even with a smartwatch using similar services.
The UK has a long sporting history which plays a huge part in its culture and is at the centre of many conversations. Whether it’s this year’s football tournament; “Super Saturday” at the London summer games of 2012; the only tennis major to be played on grass (Wimbledon), or one of many other championships, the UK is consumed by sport all year round.
You need to understand the tax system
The department of the UK government which deals with tax is called HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs). Tax laws for migrants and expats can be complicated but, in general, if you work in the UK you’ll need to pay income tax to HMRC.
In most cases, this is sorted out automatically if you’re employed by a company. PAYE (Pay As You Earn) means tax and National Insurance (which pays for the NHS) will automatically be deducted from your salary each month. Self-employed expats will need to register with HMRC, file a self-assessment tax return each year, and pay the tax bills on time (normally in January and July).
So, there you have it: a quick rundown about life in the UK. We hope you enjoy your stay and if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to ask! You can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and find more about us on Xpress Money