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Hyde Park in London

Living in England

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Mar 14, 2023

Summary: People describe life in the UK as diverse, vibrant, and full of opportunity. Expats love the culture, the history, the architecture, the countryside, and the friendly people. The average cost of living for an expat in the UK is around $2,500 per month, depending on the city and lifestyle. The population of the UK is approximately 66 million people, and the largest cities are London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and Leeds. The cons of living in the UK include the high cost of living, the unpredictable weather, and the lack of privacy. Additionally, the UK is a densely populated country, so it can be difficult to find affordable housing in some areas.

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What do I need to know about living in England?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to England, they said:

"Before retiring in England, expats should research the local housing market, cost of living, exchange rate, annual income tax bracket, eligible pension schemes and healthcare options. It is also important to explore visa and residency requirements and investigate whether a UK bank account is necessary. When considering working after retirement, expats should familiarize themselves with the labor laws governing their employment and any other relevant regulations. Lastly, to ensure a smooth transition, expats should embrace the local culture, language and lifestyle," said one expat who made the move to UK.

"Not to expect people to be overly friendly. I moved from the south in the USA so had a bit of culture shock in this aspect. I would recommend living in Oxford itself if you can afford it. You will have a much better experience and more diversity," explained one expat living in Wantage, UK.

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How do I meet people in England?

When we asked people living in England about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:

"There is a BME Black & Minority Forum that meets every tue at lunch time in the Badger center.. it is a good place to start meeting more expats... they have free English classes if needed and have lots of excellent activities... Weston Super Mare is more multicultural than other parts in Somerset. There is an African Shop where I found out plantain and beans :) happy days!!!," wrote a member in Weston Super Mare.

"I would recommend finding a congenial neighborhood pub. It is a wonderful place to make friends and find out about local news. Join a class (I take dance with new friends), get involved in nature activities like hiking clubs, photography clubs or birding. Don't be afraid to talk to people and don't be nervous about not understanding every word the first time! Yorkshire accents are quite hard to decipher until one has lived with it for a while. Enjoy the differences instead of dreading them. Relax and people will enjoy your company and ask questions about where you are from," commented one expat who made the move to Driffield.

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What is life like in England?

When we asked people living in England what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:

"From what I've observed is either you're working very hard to make ends meet, or you're with the university as either a student or facilty member, again working very hard. The younger set does play a lot, especially on weekend nights. In fact, they almost take over the streets till about 2am," remarked one expat living in Cambridge, UK.

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Is there a lot of crime in England?

We asked people if there is a lot of crime. They answered:

"Crime in England is a major problem, with illegal activities ranging from theft and fraud to drug-related offences. The number of offences reported in England and Wales has increased in recent years, as has the severity of the punishments handed down for those found guilty. Despite the increasing cases of crime, police officers have worked hard to reduce levels of crime and are supported by neighbourhood policing teams and neighbourhood watch initiatives," explained one expat living in UK.

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Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in England accepting of differences?

"England is a multicultural and diverse nation, with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. In general, people in England are extremely accepting of differences and work to ensure that all members of society feel welcome and included," said one expat in UK.

"As you will find in many small village towns across England, there is not much ethnic diversity. The population in Wantage is almost all white and almost all indigenous British. There are a few small churches but not many people attend religious ceremonies. I was told when we struggled to meet people there that most people have lived there their whole lives, and they aren't very open to newcomers. They said it would take between 7-10 years before we would be seen as locals," said one expat who made the move to Wantage.

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What are the schools in England like?

"It is a small school that should be really good, but is owned by GEMS who do not understand what parents want or expect.. The curriculum is not appropriate, the 6th form facilities are a joke compared to what they were, and the pupils do not have the opportunities which similar schools elsewhere in the country have. The teachers are quite narrow-minded without a sense of the realities of a competitive environment, and pupils ill-prepared for the real world when they leave cosy Penzance. It is not really good enough, and school leadership is pretty non-existent. School comes high in the league tables because the competition is so poor," commented one expat when asked about Gems Bolitho School as of January 2011 in Penzance.

"It is slowly winding down. Reception and leadership in early years is non-existent. 6th form is now a rump. Truro is by far a better option," explained one expat in Penzance, UK with kids at Gems Bolitho School.

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Is the cost of living in England high?

We asked people how much they someone comfortably live on in England, they wrote:

"The cost of living in England depends on the city and region you live in, however, in the larger cities such as London and Manchester, the average costs are generally quite high. Living costs such as rent, food, and transportation may be more expensive than in other parts of the UK, however, wages and salaries also tend to be higher. Depending on the lifestyle you choose, England can be an expensive place to live, but with careful budgeting, it is possible to enjoy a comfortable life," remarked one expat living in UK.

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"The cost of living in England is relatively high compared to other countries in Europe. The bigger cities such as London tend to have much higher prices than the rest of the country, with bigger price tags on rent, utilities and food. A nice 1 bedroom apartment in England would cost around $1,600 – $2,000 USD per month, while a nice 2 bedroom apartment will cost around $2,000 – $2,500 USD per month. The cost of dinner at a moderately priced restaurant is also relatively expensive, on average costing around $30 USD for two people," said one expat.

"Rents vary depending on the area, with places notorious for drugs offering lower house costs," commented one expat living in Sheffield, UK.

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What type of recreational facilities are in England?

When we asked people living in England about recreational activities, they mentioned:

"In England, residents enjoy access to a variety of recreational facilities including sports, parks and outdoor areas, libraries, museums, theatres, galleries, and indoor and outdoor pools. Football and cricket are popular sports and many communities boast pitch-and-putt and golf courses. Parks, forests, and countryside areas offer open spaces for walking, cycling, horse riding, and family picnics. For those seeking indoor activities, libraries offer a range of books, magazines, and computer facilities, while museums and galleries provide educational opportunities. Theaters and cinemas are great for a night out and swimming pools can be found all over the country, with many local authority pools boasting spa or leisure facilities," commented one expat who moved to UK.

"There are lots of parks that have tennis courts, fields, table tennis and facilities for the whole family. There are a couple of swimming pool/ leisure centers throughout the city," said one expat.

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What is the weather like in England?

"The weather in England can be unpredictable and can vary greatly within a short space of time. Generally, the weather is mild with temperatures ranging from cool to warm and it can rain often. In the summertime, temperatures can reach up to 25 degrees Celsius, while during winter it can drop to as low as 0 degrees Celsius. On the whole, the climate in England is generally quite pleasant," commented one expat who moved to UK.

"One never knows what the weather in England will bring! Sheffield is hilly, windy and it rains a lot," said one expat.

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Are there good restaurants in England?

"The Tyrone Arms in Kendal, Cumbria is a fan favourite for its classic pub fare, warm welcome and relaxed atmosphere. It has been serving traditional English food for over twenty years and is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. St John's Restaurant in London is a favourite for foodies. The constantly changing menu, which is sourced from a variety of pasture-raised, organic and locally sourced ingredients, has won the restaurant numerous awards over the years. The Real Eating Company in Brighton is a popular spot for visitors and locals, alike. The restaurant serves up authentic Mediterranean food and has a laid-back, beach-house feeling. The Rockfish in Exmouth is one of the most celebrated seafood restaurants in England. It serves up an interesting selection of locally sourced seafood with a focus on environmental and sustainability, making it a hit with environmentally conscious diners," mentioned an expat living in UK.

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Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in England?

"People living in England typically buy groceries and other shopping items from popular supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda, Morrisons, Iceland and Aldi. They also often shop at local convenience stores, farmers markets, corner shops, greengrocers and butchers. Additionally, many people in England purchase goods and services from department stores, such as John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges, as well as independent retailers and online marketplaces," said one expat.

"Supermarkets in Sheffield offer excellent service and standards with big names such as: Morrisons, Sainsbury's, Asda, Tescos etc," commented one expat living in Sheffield, UK.

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What are the visa & residency requirements in England?

"Visa requirements for England differ depending on the individual’s nationality, the purpose of travel and the length of stay. When planning a visit to the UK, the first step is to check the visa requirements and make sure that you have the right visa by the time of entry. There are several types of visas available, including visitor visas and student visas, which must be obtained before arrival. The application process involves completing an online application and providing the necessary documentation, such as a valid passport, past travel documents and a current photo, to verify the purpose of travel. The process for applying for permanent residency in England varies depending on the individual’s particular circumstances. In general, an applicant is usually required to have lived and worked in the country for at least five years before applying. The process begins with the submission of a permanent residence application alongside supporting documents, such as a valid passport and documents that prove an employment history in the UK. Further evidence to support an individual’s long-term commitments and intentions to remain in the UK ,Such as property ownership, may also be requested," said an expat in UK.

"E.U. residents have no problem staying in England, and Commonwealth countries have an easier time getting a visa, but a huge crackdown on many nationalities have made visa applications difficult for them," remarked one expat in Sheffield.

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Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in England?

"Healthcare in England is considered fairly expensive, especially compared to other countries in Europe. The National Health Service (NHS) provides free healthcare to everyone, however there are some additional costs associated with it, such as prescription fees and hospital car parking. Private health insurance can also be expensive, however with it you are often able to access faster and more advanced treatments. Those with a higher disposable income are more likely to opt for private health insurance," remarked one expat in UK.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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