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Moving to Scotland > 9 Things to Know Before Moving to Scotland

9 Things to Know Before Moving to Scotland

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on: May 08, 2019

Summary: Here are 9 things to know before moving to Scotland from expats who have already moved there. Their advice covers topics such as the NHS, expat health insurance, village vs. city life, the high cost of living in Scotland, visas and much more.

Moving to Scotland - 9 Things to Know Before Moving to Scotland

If you're moving to Scotland, expats already living have a lot of advice to share about village vs. city life, the high cost of living in Scotland, the NHS, private health insurance, meeting people and more.

Why Move to Scotland?

"I am British and have lived in Scotland for 10 years and have never once experienced any problems at all. (I have now lived in all 4 countries of the U.K.) Scotland is a great place to live. The population is 5.5 million compared with England which is 56m. The scenery is incredible and the travel throughout the country and the Isles is easy and well worth doing," wrote one expat.

An expat in Edinburgh described life in Scotland, "People seem to have a good work/life balance. Generally working hours are 35 - 40 per week; and people will go out during the week if they don't have kids. Sport is pretty big in Scotland. There are 2 football (soccer) teams in Edinburgh plus two 'major league' teams in Glasgow to follow. The Scotland rugby team plays at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. Church and religion are less popular than in the US. But the Scots are so polite, no one would ever ask you your religion anyway! Edinburgh is a truly cosmopolitan town."

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The Cost of Living in Scotland

"I always describe Edinburgh as: As Boston is to New York, so is Edinburgh to London. In other words, Edinburgh is London's smaller, more genteel cousin. Most Americans would call it quaint. It's a compact city and you can walk almost anywhere. For Americans, the UK can be quite expensive. This can be exaggerated in Scotland, as they tend to pay about 10 - 15% less in salaries than in London," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Scotland.

"Don't bring your US car over and be prepared for just how much it really costs to live over here. It is almost 60% higher than the States," said one expat who moved to Aberdeen, Scotland.

"They are equivalent to the condo fees I am paying. A three bedroom house, though, in Foggie is far more expensive than in Michigan and is more representative of East Coast US prices," said one expat who moved to Aberchirder, Scotland.

NHS and Private Health Insurance

According to the US State Department, "While medical services are widely available, free medical care under the National Health System (NHS) is allowed only for UK residents, certain EU nationals, and some visa holders. An NHS surcharge is assessed on certain visa applicants at the time of application. Tourists and short-term visitors will not be assessed the surcharge, but will be charged 150 percent of the cost of any medical treatment they receive from the NHS. Unpaid balances of £1,000 or more can result in being barred from return to the United Kingdom. Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments."

One expat commented, "The health system is socialized and at first it is confusing; but you just have to learn how to operate." While some expats are able to use the National Health Sytem, many expats and Brits choose to also purchase private health insurance in order to choose their doctors and make appointments in a more timely manner. Additionally, under the NHS people often have to wait months or even years for important medical tests, procedures and surgeries.

Expats living in Scotland interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA. Get a Quote

Expats living in Scotland interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Expat Health Insurance in Scotland

Expats interested in expat health insurance should take a minute to get a quote from our trusted expat health insurance partner, CIGNA.

Moving to Scotland Can be Challenging

"I've already bought a house on an island near Glasgow. It feels like returning home every time I go there. The beauty of Scotland is unbounded and the people are friendly and helpful. I'll give you advice but take it from a guy who's still learning. First and foremost: Fall in love with a place in Scotland and give it your unconditional love. Sounds crazy but this means you're willing to put up with the ups and downs and you're willing to make your life there. There will be challenges and you have to be mentally prepared for them similar to any operation in your career. You can buy a house in Scotland but staying there full-time is going to require time and effort. Whilst in your struggles, remember the journey to make it happen is as important as being there. Think about it. The things that were the most important were the ones that were challenging to accomplish," said one expat who moved to Scotland.

City vs. Village Live in Scotland

Expats seem to have differing views of where to live in Scotland. Some advise newcomers to choose city life because it's hard to be accepted by the locals in Scottish villages, while others seem to enjoy village life.

"I found most of the Scots are not very welcoming. Many live in small villages where their families have lived for generations and they do not want outsiders moving in. If you are prepared to travel into the larger cities you may find some clubs or activies. There is not much going on in either Leven or Kirkcaldy, other than some sports clubs. There are lots of communtiy centers and pubs but it really depends on the locals and how you will be accepted. If you don't mind driving 40 minutes to an hour or more to some of the larger cities like St Andrews, Dundee or Edinburgh you will find them more open and accomadating. However, one must remember it gets dark here very early most of the year (like 4pm) and is raining most of the time. (not ideal traveling conditions)," advised one expat living in Leven, Scotland.

"Be sure to move into the city proper. Life in the smaller villages may sound charming but is vastly different. You will be considered an outsider as well as your children. Bullying is a BIG problem in the school systems here and not always handled appropriately," commented one expat who made the move to Scotland.

The countryside is beautiful and filled with places to see and go and enjoy. It will be a joy to learn how to shop in small villages and how to use their public transport. My wife and I would move back quick if the opportunity arose. We made friends that we stay in touch with today. A final thought: You will actually learn to enjoy the benefits of walking. The countryside is so varied and beautiful and completely safe that you will enjoy walking," commented one expat who moved to Scotland.

Typical Housing for Expats

When we asked expats in Scotland about the type of home or apartment they live in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:

"Be ready for smaller domicicles than you're used to, and major differences in appliances such as the shower, toilet, and washer/dryers," said one expat who moved to Glasgow, Scotland.

"I live in a two-bedroom letting company-rented flat. I don't think there's any 'typical' living situation for expats in the UK - people live in anything from flats (council, private, or letting company-rented), houses (semi-detached or detached), country manors, etc," said one expat who moved to Glasgow, Scotland.

"We reside in council housing, and no, an expat does not qualify unless they are a citizen," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Scotland.

You'll Need a TV License

"In the UK there is a television permit fee that must be paid if you have a TV in your home. I thought it was a scam when I received the notice in the mail. Luckily I had a neighbor that I was able to ask about the legitimacy. If you don't have a TV, they will make an appointment to come out to your residence to verify. Also, before you move, change your address to reflect your new Scotland address on at least one of your credit card statements. When you arrive, you will need to provide a statement with your Scotland address on it in order to open a bank account. If your spouse will also be on the account, he/she will need to have a statement that reflects the new address too. It took about a month after we arrived to open an account because we did not know this small detail," remarked another expat in Banchory, Scotland.

Meeting People in Scotland

Expats living in Scotland talked about meeting people in Scotland and local clubs and organizations:

"American Women Of Aberdeen. The organization started out just for Americans, but the group has grown to members from France, Norway, Germany and quite a few other countries. The group has individual groups that meet for stichery, scrapbooking, hiking, side trips, and more," said one expat who moved to Aberdeen, Scotland.

"There's the American Women's Club, but generally you meet people through work/volunteering or if you're a mom, at the gym or creche (day care)," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Scotland.

"If you have children, the local primary & secondary school is a great place to meet other parents. Just as in the states, there is a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) that meets regularly. American Women in Aberdeen is also a social/support club that meets in Aberdeen. Aberdeen is approximately 20 minutes from Banchory. Aberdeenshire Council has also been very helpful in providing information on extracurricular activities for children living in the area. Banchory is home to many expats & the locals are very friendly & welcoming," said another expat in Scotland.

Visa & Residency

"Find a way to stay in Scotland full time. Without a full-time visa, you can only stay in Scotland for 6 months. This is probably going to be the most difficult and frustrating part of the move and possibly expensive. Visit this site: https://www.gov.uk/browse/visas-immigration and decide on your visa. Currently, there is no retirement visa in the UK but things might change with Brexit. I've chosen Tier 1 Entrepreneur Visa and I will find or make a business that will be as much fun and consume as little time as I can. Expect to take months to research to decide and be careful which visa you take. For example, student visas do not let you stay in Scotland full-time after you completed school," advised one expat.

Moving to Scotland

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Some of Betsy's more popular articles include 6 Best Places to Live in Costa Rica, 12 Things to Know Before Moving to The Dominican Republic and 7 Tips for Obtaining Residence in Italy. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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Updated On: May 08, 2019

First Published: May 08, 2019

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