In January 2015 I relocated from Australia to the UK at the age of 31. It was a move I had been dreaming of since I was four years old, boldly telling my mother that I wanted to go home to Scotland (which was a wee bit strange considering I had never been to Scotland, let alone been outside of my home state in Australia).
It both was and wasn’t an easy decision to make given I was giving up friends, family, my job and my lifestyle, however, given a move to Scotland was life goal how could I say no? How could I let myself not live my life because of just that? There’s always new friends to be made, Skype for those you’ve left behind, and new and exciting career and lifestyle opportunities!
Being a Personal Assistant in the real world means I am an incredibly organised person, and unnaturally adept at coordination. Having moved interstate several times between Sydney to Brisbane, I considered an international move was going to be as easy as something extraordinarily… easy. I made my lists, I checked them twice, and within a month I had everything ready to go, everything prepared, and I was on my flight home (well, home via 11 months in London, anyway!).
Although organising things can be easy for someone like myself who gets paid to organise things on a daily basis, moving is a complicated affair when you’re simply moving the next suburb over with services to be either cancelled or transferred, and countless organisations and accounts to be updated with your new postal address. Moving internationally is a whole other kettle of fish, with not only the above things to organise but countless other thing to coordinate, remember, and consider.
It’s a big move, a huge commitment, and sometimes a risk, and so having a definitive checklist to help you through the process is definitely handy.
I am not going to lie and say my move was stress free, I am still, after 20 months, settling into my new home and lifestyle, yet due to my careful planning it all went relatively smoothly. I have lived in the UK for almost 20 months and have always had a place to live, a place to work, and am making new friends every day.
There are countless lists online which detail international moves and things to think about, so below are the things you need to know about moving from Australia to the UK that no one else will tell you!
Before my move, I logged onto Accuweather and investigated the forward forecasts for London. Although we think of the UK as being bitterly cold it still gets very hot in Summer – my first summer in London it reached 37C! It’s also very humid in Summer, which no one ever tells you.
Being prepared and doing your research is essential, especially if you are moving from one hemisphere to another, as you will have to buy some appropriate attire before you even move – you can’t step off the plane from an Australian summer into an English winter without a coat or two: Singlets are not that warm!
Sunrise and Sunset
This one is probably not a question that crosses most minds, however it has the potential to cause a lot of discomfort after a move. When I first relocated from Sydney to Brisbane I was horrified when I realised that during summer, the sun rose at 4am! Sunrise and sunset varies depending on hemisphere and seasons, so make sure to research this unless you want a 4am wakeup call from good ol’ Sol.
During my first summer in London, and then my first summer in Glasgow I definitely was worn down by the extremely long days – long dusks, and early dawns. For example, here in Scotland at the peak of summer, the sun rises at 4am and then doesn’t set til 10pm– and dusk here lasts forever.
Investing in either an eyemask or blackout curtains is a must! At least until you get used to the longer days.
On the flip side, the long winter days can cause SAD, and also lower your exposure to sunlight and thus absorption of Vitamin D. Although in Australia I typically avoiding direct sunlight, I have found that over here I have to take Vitamin D supplements throughout both winter and summer.
Be prepared to learn, and learn fast a completely new vernacular when you move to the UK. Each region has it’s own dialect of English, and in Scotland they have the language called Scots, so you will hear words and phrases you’ve never heard before!
You will spend many hours explaining Australian words and terms also, whether you’re having to explain something you have said, or something they’ve read.
Each region also have their own accents (even within London!) and whereas some accents are easy to understand, others not so much. It’s just like learning a new language – it’s a lot of fun, can be a bit awkward (especially when you talk about Thongs!), but is a great conversation starter.
Although you would think every major city has a high functioning public transportation system, this isn’t always the case. Additionally, just because it’s a small city, doesn’t mean the public transport is cheap. Get online and investigate prices, travel times, and the options available prior to the move. Also look into the ticketing system – some cities use “travel cards” whereas others still use paper tickets, and not all travel cards are made equal (I’m looking at you Scotrail!).
Thankfully, the Oyster card covers all your public transport needs in London, but in Scotland? Every bus has it’s own ticketing system which is seperate to the trains and the subway. .
Scotrail does have smart cards for the subway which are PAYG, but the train smart cards are used for season tickets only between one station and another, rather than a PAYG system we’re all used to. However, trains are not that reliable and the timetables can be a bit sparse depending on the area you’re living in. Busses have apps for your phone so you can purchase tickets in advance, and the busses are pretty reliable.
Cost of Living – food, clothing, beauty, salaries
Yes, the UK is expensive. Yes, the salaries are lowe.
Checking these things out online will give you a far more accurate indication of how much things cost in your prospective new home, and means you will be better prepared with your budgets and allowances. Check out Tesco or Asda for groceries, and any online fashion retailer for how much you’ll be spending on fashion (i.e. a lot).
Now that I live here, I find the easiest way to tell the cost of living with fashion and the like is to think of how much it cost me in Australia, and then just assumed that AUD is GBP. For example, if I’d expect that dress to be AU$20, then it’ll likely cost £20. Yes, everything here is pretty much twice the price of the Australian equivalent, except, of course the salaries.
Expect a dramatic cut in your salary, approximately 50%.
In Australia most rental properties are unfurnished, meaning we have to move everything from one place to another which is always incredibly annoying! Here however, most rental properties are fully furnished. This is great if you’re just starting out here, as you don’t have to budget for furniture, however, it does mean you never truly feel as home as the furniture, and sometimes decor, isn’t yours.
One thing that came as a shock to me is Council Tax – aka rates. As a renter in Australia we pay the gas and electricity, but not the rates, whereas over here council tax is additional to the lease. So when you’re looking out for a place to rent, keep in mind you will be paying an additional £100 (+) per month on whatever the cost of the rental is.
Also, here in Glasgow it’s first in first served, so when checking out a rental make sure to have everything (ID, etc) ready to go so you can apply as soon as you decide you like the place.
Not everyone has the luck or luxury of being able to move internationally for work – I moved to London without a job to go t0. However, because I was prepared I had temporary office work within a week, and fulltime employment within two weeks.
Despite my planning paying off and getting office work quickly, I was prepared to work in casual, part time or contract roles which were not relevant to my field. It is better to be working and paying the bills, than going through your savings at an almost alarming rate, after all! If I hadn’t found office work within the first month, I was fully prepared to do bar work or retail work – whatever I needed to do to keep myself busy.
Even in Australia, salaries vary from country to country, state to state, city to city, and nothing is more evident here in the UK with London understandably paying more than Glasgow. However, there is even a discrepancy between salaries in Edinburgh and Glasgow, the former paying more than the latter.
As mentioned earlier though, be prepared to be earning less and paying more.
Moving to the UK isn’t easy, but it is worth it. I love my new home and couldn’t imagine moving back to Sydney. There may be long days and nights, it may be expensive, but the people, the culture, the lifestyle and the opportunities here in the UK are beyond compare.
Have you moved to the UK? What do you wish yu had known?