The United Kingdom has always been one of a kind. Maybe it’s because they’re isolated on their own bit of land- whatever it is, it means things work a little differently in Great Britain than they do in Europe (or, as you may still call it nowadays, the rest of Europe).
I’ve been living in England before (in the beautiful South, to be precise), and thought I’d be sufficiently prepared to move to Scotland. However, it turned out that being an adult, thus doing grown-up stuff such as working, renting a flat and studying, is a little more complicated than just going to High School, having an organisation handling most of the administrative queries.
In case you’re contemplating moving here for an extended period of time, I’ll share the main things to consider down below:
Not only is this a very popular conversation topic, it’s also quite different to many European countries- probably because it is further in the North, and more influenced by the ocean. In a few words: It rains. A lot. It’s often damp. And this holds true for any part- be it the South or the very North of the island (I lived in both extremes, so believe me). Bu honestly, it’s not as bad as it is commonly illustrated- just bring an umbrella and a pair of boots, and you’ll be fine.
2. Bank Account
Because I started working as a Barista, I naturally needed a bank account where my salary could be transferred to. Why I didn’t just use my original one, giving them the IBAN (after all, it’s the INTERNATIONAL Bank Account Number, right?!). Well, this might be quite an international standard, which I could even use in the distant countries of Singapore or Costa Rica- but Britain is just too cool for that. You need an account number. When you have that, they can surely provide you with an IBAN- but this doesn’t work the other way around. You cannot obtain an account number for an IBAN. So make sure to open an account when wanting to work here. For students, many banks have pretty good offers- my account at RBS was free.
Recently, I have been very ill. I had to learn the process you have to go through to see a doctor the very unpleasant way. You cannot just walk into a clinic and boook an appointment. First, you need to be registered with a General Practinioner (that’s basically the doctor for the common illnesses and little issues). Note that each clinic has a limited number of people who can register with them. Hence, I had quite a hard time finding one that was willing to let me undergo the application process. (But I made it, wohoo 😀 )
In order to get registered, you usually need the following:
- 2 forms of ID (passport, driving license…)
- a university enrolment confirmation (if you’re a student)
- a proof of residency (for example your rental agreement)
I find this quite reasonable, as prescribed medicine is free- hence, it is only fair that the state protects itself from covering costs for people only seeking to exploit their health system. BUT I strongly advise you to get registered before you actually are in need to see a doctor. It’s just not the nicest thing to run around getting all the documents together when all you want to doo is curl up in your bet.
4. Public Transport
Firstly, you might be happy to hear: Harry Potter buses are omnipresent! 😀 Most buses have to levels and it’s nice to enjoy the view from the upper level. One thing to keep in mind: There is no announcement of the next stop. So you better keep an eye on the road to see where you have to get off. Or you just ask the driver, maybe he’s kind enough to let you know when you’re approaching the desired destination.
Furthermore, at least in Edinburgh, bus drivers don’t give out any change. Either you have the correct amount to purchase a ticket, or you just have to pay extra. (eg. 2 pounds instead of 1.30).
The UK has a great train system. Trains are very reliable and take you almost everywhere. However, they tend to be quite pricy. For short distances, you might find amazing bargains when travelling by bus. For example, there is a bus driving from Edinburgh to Glasgow every hour, which only costs around 5 pounds 🙂
Also, I know this is widely-known anyway, but I find many of my foreign friends struggling with this anyway: Here, people drive on the left hand-side. This means, crossings work differently too! (So please avoid being run over by a car turning right 😀 ). Also, I made the experience that cars do never stop for humans. If there’s a crossing for pedestrians, they’d happily drive past you, no matter how long you’ve been standing there for. Hence, just use a crossing with a light, or (the British way) simply cross when there is no car in sight (cheeky you! :).
The British are an incredibely polite nation. Here are some examples:
- Queuing: They form a queue everywhere, for example when boarding a bus. Everybody adheres to this rule, so make sure to do the same, or you’ll get a LOT of evil looks.
- Say thank you, even when you helped the other person.
- The same holds true for apologies. You bumped into someone? Naturally, you say sorry. But what about someone bumped into YOU? Naturally, you say sorry! A good rule of thumb is: Apologise or say “thank you” whenever you can. You cannot go wrong. But dare you not doing it when it would have been appropriate! The reaction will not be too pleasant 😀
- Don’t be too direct! I still struggle with this. British never say anything bad directly. They are experts in creating the most amazing euphemisms. “I am not entirely sure about this” can mean exactlly that, or also “This is bullsh*t”. Be careful what you say, or you’ll be perceived as rude. A good example of the (exaggerated) politeness of the British nation:
The thing with the euphemisms also works the other way around: When you like something, DO NOT make the mistake and say “That alright”. Rather say “That’s wonderful/ perfect/ amazing” and do not forget to say thanks (or cheers, like many people do 🙂 )
A nice thing about this politeness is: They also say thanks and goodbye to the driver when getting off the bus. I find this to be -such a nice gesture and I am stubborn enough to not llet go of this habit whenever I am back in Germany.
- To all the girls: Get used to the words “darling, love and hun”. I get called that a lot, by men and women. With regards to men, there are even some who are roughly my age calling me that! Women tend to be a bit older, to be fair 🙂 It doesn’t have any deeper meaning- this is used for your doughter as well as for complete strangers
6. Tea with milk
British do like a cuppa tea. And they like it with milk (yes, indeed).
Pubs are THE place to be. Everybody goes there (well, above 18). Make sure to check some out when going to the UK. You can go there during the day for a hearty meal (some are even open for breakfast), for dinner, or at night for some drinks. Often, football games are shown because British do like their football- alternatively, darts, snooker and rugby are pretty popular 🙂
8. Don’t have an issue with the cold!
There are several reasons for that:
Firstly, it never gets as hot as it does in Europe. So people get out their fliflops, hotpants and mini dresses any time when the 10°C border is crossed and the sun is out (no joke!). if you wanna blend in, you better do the same!
Also, a very widely spread phenomenon is the persistent chilliness in all houses/ flats! It’s never totally warm in any flat. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose my current apartment is because it is actually very warm in here 😀 I don’t really have an explanation for this, but I am pretty sure it’s simply because the people don’t feel the cold as much as we do, so they just don’t put the heating on as much (example: My host in the Airbnb had set the radiators to 18°C and asked me whether it was ok to decrease it as he was too hot- I agreed under the condition that he’d get me a second blanket and a hot water bottle 😀 ).
9. Free Museums
Most museums in the UK are free! And, even better: Most of them are amazing. This country is so packed with history and culture, the musuems baiscally explode. Good examples include the Science Museum in London, the Art Gallery, or also the Scottish National Museum here in Edinburgh 🙂 Plus, they are usually located in the most amazing ancient buildings- I suppose it would even be worth visiting them just to see the architecture.
Oh and one last tip: DO NOT, under no circumstances, suggest to a Scot that Scotland is anywhere similar to England, let alone group them together as UK. They hate it. They are a separate country- full stop (Serious topic 😀 ). Oh, and in case you didn’t know: THEY voted for remaining in the EU (I am telling you know, but they’d tell you 5 minutes after getting to know you anyway 😛 ).
I hope this helps a little 🙂 Don’t be afraid of the bureaucracy though- it is bad (just as bad as in Germany), but people are incredibly helpful ( another good thing about the politeness)- you’ll always manage to find your way through the jungle of forms 🙂
I got to love the British humor and their warm attitude and I can only recommend trying it out yourself!