Life in the UK


Life in the UK

The United Kingdom is an increasingly diverse country. A move to the UK presents you with a wide variety of locations to choose from, from large, vibrant urban centres with access to world-class culture and heritage, cuisine and sports, to rural and coastal locations where you can appreciate daily the vast natural beauty of the UK. Countryside doesn't get much better than the Scottish Highlands, Brecon Beacons, Lake District or Mourne Mountains.

Britain is one of the most visited countries in the world. VisitBritain provides a wealth of information about UK attractions, region by region.

The UK is also regularly ranked as one of the world's best places to live. With a population of 64.6million and the world's fifth largest economy, it has considerable international economic, political, scientific and cultural influence.

The UK government has produced a guide on moving to the UK. You can also view guides on moving to specific parts of the UK:

These guides include information on aspects of British life including education, housing and healthcare.

Cost of living

Living costs vary across countries and regions, with the highest costs generally found in London. This is often taken into account in salaries by including an allowance known as London weighting. 

You can find an overview of the cost of living in the UK on Numbeo.

Housing

The UK offers a wide range of housing options. Renting and buying is normally done through estate agents. Property prices vary widely across countries and regions.

Guides to buying and renting property in the UK can be found on property website Rightmove which will also give you an idea of the housing options available across the UK, and associated costs.

Education 

In the UK, schools are either state schools funded by government and are free for all pupils, or they are independent schools and charge fees to the parents of the pupils.

Education in the UK is devolved, with each of the four nations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland having separate systems. As an overview, across the UK there are five stages of education: 

  • early years
  • primary
  • secondary
  • further education
  • higher education

Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of five (four in Northern Ireland) and 16. 

Children usually attend primary and secondary schools closest to where they live if there are places available. In England, you must apply through the local council for a school place. 

Each school has regular inspections and you can view the reports on the Ofsted website to find out how well a school has performed. 

Further education and higher education are not compulsory. Further education covers education which can be taken at colleges and higher education institutions. Higher education is study beyond GCSE, A levels and their equivalent which, for most full-time students, takes place in universities and other higher education institutions, and colleges. 

The UK has some of the best universities in the world. Britain has seven universities in the top 50 of the Times Higher Education 2016 to 2017 World University Rankings including the number one rated in university in the world.

Childcare 

There are several childcare options available including nurseries, childminders and creches. 

In England, all three and four-year-olds are entitled to 570 hours of free early education of childcare a year. As with schooling, nurseries and childcare providers are regularly inspected by Ofsted, and you can view the reports of how they are performing on the Ofsted website.

Find out more about childcare in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland 

Opening a UK bank account

Setting up a new bank account can be challenging. The British Banking Association has guidance on opening a bank account for non UK residents. It is worth checking with your existing bank to see if they have a relationship with a bank that has a presence in the UK. 

Your home bank may be able to set up an account for you if it has a banking relationship with a British bank. Many major UK banks also have international accounts. These are designed specifically for non-residents, so they're a good option if you don’t have the documents to prove your UK address. You may be able to apply for an international account online. Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, NatWest all offer international bank accounts.

You can get advice on opening a UK bank account without proof of address from Money Facts.

Driving in the UK 

You may be able to drive in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland) for up to 12 months on your foreign licence. You can check eligibility on GOV UK as well as get information on exchanging your foreign licence for a UK licence. The process in Northern Ireland is different.

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