Welcome to Tips & Tricks:
MOVING TO THE UK FROM THE US
We have been in a transition for a long time now and I’m happy to announce that we’ve arrived to the United Kingdom! This is my excuse for not posting my weekly Tips & Tricks for the last two Fridays! Or has it been longer than that?
Moving is always a frustrating thing, but in the process of moving, we’ve learned a lot and have actually adjusted our style of living in the last three months! I’ve read that English people make friends when they’re young and are not really interested in making new friends, but I haven’t found that to be the case. The people I’ve met are very friendly and have exchanged phone numbers to meet up and get to know each other! Anyway, here are some pointers that you might consider if you are planning on moving from the US to the UK:
1. A language barrier. Though both Americans and Brits speak English, there are a couple different words along the way. The highway or thruway is called the “motorway.” A stroller is called a “push-chair,” or “buggy.” Cribs are called “cots” and shopping carts are called “trolleys.” I have yet to learn all of them, but for the most part, people have no trouble understanding me and I don’t have much trouble understanding them. Thanks to the media, they are very used to the American accent and I am used to their accent from watching a lot of British television while we were in the States.
2. Driving. I consider myself a good driver. I learn to drive with a stick-shift when I was 16, and I’ve never been in any accidents (but one time I rear-ended someone). However, driving on the left side here with the small streets really got me nervous. Though it seems like you never see any speed limit signs, there are general guidelines that everyone knows about even if there are no signs! The neat thing is that they use the mph system and not kilometers here, so that’s something we have in common. The motorway speed limit is 70 mph and local speed limits are generally at 40 mph. When you get into the smaller local streets, it goes down to 30 mph. They’re upped their usage of speed cameras, so just watch out for those signs!
3. There’s a license or tax for EVERYTHING. There’s something called a TV license. This means that if you have the ability to watch broadcast television in your home, you must pay the TV license of £145 per year! If you don’t pay it and you get audited, then they’ll find you £1,000. Their council tax is also very high and must be paid yearly on top of the hefty 30% or so taxes that you pay from income, and about 12% taxes on purchases. We’re so grateful that we decided not to get a car and try living without one because we know there are probably fees for licenses, petrol, car registration, car insurance and the works!
4. There’s a process for everything. We’ve been attending a local parish church that needs a little more enthusiasm and life in it! We’ve made our willingness to help known, but like most of England, there is a process. Things take more time here to change. If you mention that you’d love to sing in the choir, people aren’t jumping in and inviting you to rehearsals. They seem to take their time, put that little note in their head and wait for another time to mention anything.
5. Everything is more expensive here. The exchange rate between dollars and pounds is the pound is worth about $1.50. That means if I want to buy a soda from a machine and it says £1, I’m really paying $1.50 for that soda can. However, things are priced seemingly exactly the same here as in the US, however, they are in pounds! For example, instead of the dollar store, you have the 99p store (99 pence), which means that toilet brush that goes for $1.00 in the States costs $1.50 here! Same thing with restaurants and everything. If you want to buy a $6 McDonald’s meal here, it’ll cost you £6–which means you’re paying $9 for it here! Get it?
6. Bring power adapters, converters or transformers. Even better, get rid of all of your electronic appliances and just buy them here! We didn’t realize how many converters we needed to be able to use our XBOX, blender, kettle, food processor, and phones. They also have different telephone line jacks, so you’ll have to buy them here.
7. Don’t expect you can continue streaming videos on your devices. Region codes for your electronic devices don’t allow you to stream videos from the US (we can’t even stream Amazon Instant Video using our XBOX 360 due to the region code that you can’t change). Also, your US DVDs aren’t playable on UK DVD players, so you’ll have to bring your own US DVD player if you want to keep watching them. There’s also a huge difference between Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Prime (amazon.com vs amazon.co.uk) in the cost and selection of items. The company also doesn’t seem to have experts who know how to handle when people move and what happens to your digital content. (You can’t watch your purchased digital content in another country unless you use a VPN that makes your device think it’s in another country). We were also very disappointed that our Roku doesn’t work here due to the same region code error.
8. Secondhand stores and Craigslist aren’t the same. Secondhand stores here are called “charity shops,” and are all over the place! The stores themselves are mostly small and mainly sell clothing. They all seem to be competing for the sake of their own charities and it is very common here for celebrities and networks to endorse certain charities. People don’t use Craigslist here, but Gumtree. That basically acts the same as Craigslist.
9. The Church of England seems old and tired. The local parish church we’ve attended is small and only elderly people attend. There’s not another ‘young’ couple with small children who attend regularly and the general approach to religion here seems hush-hush. It is not regular for people to speak openly about their faith, and even church members have been caught saying that their vicar (the church rector) is “too spiritual.” British history is so rich and long that the mentality we see here is that though society is becoming more and more secular, the church thinks it’s just a phase and society will come back around.
10. Life is more simple. It seems I’ve listed a whole bunch of negatives, but though these things I’ve listed were somewhat of a disappointment for me, life here has been wonderful. It is peaceful and simple. I’m able to get my groceries delivered to my house, since we don’t have a car, and many things are within walking distance: the water, many restaurants and pubs, co-operative food stores, a bank, the bus stop, the train station, the fire station, the local preschool, a large and lovely park, and more that I haven’t yet discovered!
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