One of the biggest challenges people moving to the UK face is finding housing. It is extremely important to find not only the right home to fit your situation, but also to find a great location that suits your work and schooling needs. Locate the best neighborhoods for your commute first, and then begin looking for housing you can afford in those areas. Keep in mind, however, that with the expansion of train services in and around London and other big cities, more areas are more easily accessible, and you can expand your search area beyond the city limits.
It is important to note, however, that moving further away from the city is not necessarily cheaper in the UK the way it often is in the United States and other countries. Many English folks actually prefer the countryside, and this has driven up prices comparable to those in the city. So don’t limit your search to countryside units if you’re working with a budget as many homes in town will actually be more affordable.
Also make sure that you’re clear on your UK housing terminology. A Flat is the equivalent of an apartment, a Terrace is similar to a row house, a Detached is your typical single family home, and a Bungalow is a small starter home ideal for young professionals or retirees. If you’re not clear on your terminology, you may find yourself frustrated during your housing search, continuously looking at properties that don’t meet your needs.
Getting around the UK is easy once you know what to expect. Public transportation is much more intuitive and efficient than it is in the US, and you can get almost anywhere you need just by using the trains, subways, and buses in and around the metropolitan areas. If you do feel that you need a car, note that your US driver’s license is only valid for one year after your move. After that first year, you will need a UK license, and to get it, you must take a driving exam. Note that the driver’s test here is much more difficult and complex than tests administered in the US, and you would be well advised to take a few driving lessons to get your bearings as well as advice from UK drivers. Practice on a manual shift if possible as most cars here are manual, but if you choose to take the test on an automatic, be aware that the license you receive is only valid for automatic cars.
When tackling London on foot, be sure to have a good map with you. A-Z maps can help you get around the city much more efficiently. You may also want to download a map app for your smartphone that can help you get around and help you locate points of interest, restaurants, and other important services you may need.
If you have kids, you may be worried about schooling them when moving to the UK. Children do not need to enroll in school until the age of five, although they are eligible to attend a reception class once they turn four years old. Public schooling does work somewhat differently in the UK than the US. The most important thing to look for is the schooling invitation. Local schools will send invitations to children that are age-eligible for school, and you must take the initiative and respond to get your child registered. Invitations can get competitive, so make sure to respond promptly to the school of your choice.
Once your child is enrolled, he or she will continue with that school. Once they reach the age of 16, they will prepare and take their GCSE exams that determine their eligibility for college. They then spend two years in college before they take A levels, and this stage is similar to community college programs in the US. Once the A levels have been completed, the student can then proceed to University. Grades are extremely important in the UK as the grades your child receives in University determines the level of degree they receive and can determine their future job prospects.
If you’re interested in home schooling, note that the UK government is much less regulated and involved than the US government is, and it can be quite easy to school your children at home.