Moving to Birmingham from the US
Ah, Birmingham – the second largest city in the UK after London and home to famous Cadbury’s Chocolate. Need we say more? Okay, maybe you need just a few more reasons to move to Birmingham.
The city has the 10th highest quality of life in the UK and the 52nd in the world making it a very nice place to be.
Over the last two decades the city has undergone a constant wave of modernisation and rejuvenation – with the city centre itself transformed into a business and retail hub.
Birmingham continues to improve and the rapid strides it is making in terms of rejuvenation and industry investment make it a highly popular place to live and work, with the unemployment rate just above the national average at the time of writing.
The city itself is sleek and modern – though it retains some of its 18th century market town charms. The bullring shopping centre is the largest inner city shopping mall in the country and the famous National Exhibition Centre hosts some of the country’s most spectacular celebrations, festivals and exhibitions.
Birmingham’s leviathan of an economy is largely driven by production, manufacturing, logistics, finance and business services but there is also a strong focus on scientific research and many other niche industries. Though the economy suffered heavily throughout the recession the city still enjoys high GVA and reasonable salaries – with the average salary being $37,255.
Though the city has a very diverse economic make up there are some key industries that are particularly strong in Birmingham.
Business services – Birmingham’s modern economy hinges on the business service sector with hundreds of companies covering every business service imaginable – from marketing and PR to finance and consultancy. The sector employs over 100,000 people and makes up 12% of the local economy and employment. The city is home to some of the top marketing agencies and consultancy firms in the UK. The city is also often referred to as Europe’s meeting place and the conference trade here is better than anywhere in the country outside of London.
Distribution and logistics – Birmingham’s location has made it a top distribution hub for the UK and consequently this sector remains very competitive and strong. The industry accounts for 16% of all employment in the region and encompasses haulage, delivery and a variety of logistical operations. Major employers include Europa Worldwide, PGS Global Logistics and RGF Logistics.
Production and manufacturing – Making up 13% of the local economy production and manufacturing is still very dominant in Birmingham accounting for over 20% of the cities GVA. Production and manufacturing is spread across many industries with a focus more towards manufacturing. Key companies include Jaguar Land Rover and the ADI Group.
Financial and insurance sectors – Making up 11.5% of the employment in the city the finance and insurance sectors in Birmingham are very strong. Though not as large as London, Glasgow and Edinburgh the industries are gaining traction. The insurance and banking sectors are particularly strong in the area with major employers including Lloyds, RBD, HSBC, Wesleyan Assurance Society, Barclays, Zurich Financial Services, Marsh and McLennan Companies and Axa all having major offices here. This provides a wide gamut of potential employers and career progression avenues.
Public sector and health – Given the city’s size it is perhaps unsurprising that public administration and the NHS account for a vast amount of employment in the region. Birmingham city council and the hospitals account for 24% of all employment in the region and cover a wide range of different public health and administration roles.
Outside of the core areas there is a booming retail and hospitality sector and a plethora of other jobs in most major trades and industries within the UK.
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Cost of living
Despite its large size Birmingham is not a particularly inexpensive city to live in. There are some areas which are noticeably cheaper than others and some areas that are more sought after and expensive.
In terms of rent the average one bedroomed city centre apartment will cost $800 per month while outside of the centre you can expect to pay $590 per month.
To rent a 3 bedroom house or apartment is significantly more expensive with a city centre location costing $1,304 per month on average and a house outside of the city centre costing $853 per month.
This is comparatively high to other major cities like Bristol or Manchester but less expensive than London or Edinburgh.
In terms of other living expenses the city is cheaper than many for everything apart from transport. Local transport costs around $69 per month and is very regular. Most people commute to work and the roads do get heavily congested.
Dining and entertainment
Eating out and drinking is cheaper than most major cities with cheap meals averaging $9.31 and expensive meals averaging $52.75. Beer and wine are inexpensive as well at an average of $3.75 each.
Entertainment, nightlife and culture are abundant in Birmingham. The NEC is a particular favourite and you’ll never be short of a cheap exhibition or event to go to – making the city a haven for anyone who enjoys a good spectacle!
Birmingham has a large catchment area encompassing city centre living, suburbs and commuting communities. Average prices in the city are $189,270 with the majority of properties being traditional Victorian terrace houses. The average apartment costs just $143,080 which is inexpensive compared to most other major UK cities.
If you are looking for a less expensive home, then the city centre itself offers cheaper property, as do the areas of Sparkhill and Small Heath. The rejuvenation of the city centre has driven property prices up with a number of luxury apartment complexes available. The commuting belt has higher prices still with the average home costing in excess of $248,360.
The nicer areas in the city include Harborne, Kings Heath, Selly Oak, Solihull and Edgbaston. Further outside the city you can find small village commuting towns – but be aware that traffic is very heavy!
Birmingham is a culturally diverse city with a number of appealing areas, especially in the south of the city. The second largest city in the United Kingdom, Birmingham has a lot to offer in terms of great schools, affordable housing and job prospects.
Family-friendly: An area not far from the city centre itself, and with good public transport links in and out of the city is Harborne. It is a good mix of young professionals and families with a nice and eclectic selection of restaurants, shops and independent bars.
Upmarket: Bournville, famous for its dark chocolate bar and connection with Cadbury (you can visit Cadbury World in Bournville), it is also an area with a large number of great schools, as well as Bournville Centre for Visual Arts. Edgbaston is home to Warwickshire cricket and England internationals but as a residential area it is one of the most beautiful areas of Birmingham, with the reservoir, Canon Hill Park and large Victorian properties. Close proximity to the city centre, too.
Hip & trendy: Historically the area where the industrialists lived, Moseley is home to some stunning architectural delights and is also home to a regular artisan market, farmers market and an astounding annual Christmas market. It is also home to a folk festival. With good bus routes and a private park for residents, it is the place to be.
Up & coming: Broad, tree-lined streets and large Victorian houses fill up Kings Heath. Billed as a slightly cheaper alternative to Moseley, the area has good schools and lovely parks alongside a bohemian side with the Hare & Hounds a particularly popular live music spot.
Cost of moving to Birmingham
Moving to Birmingham is relatively inexpensive thanks to the major Airport located just outside of the city. The average shipping cost of moving for a family of four from the following cities will cost approximately:
Schools and education
Education is very important to Birmingham and this is reflected in the overabundance of schools. Secondary schools number over 100 but they range from below average to exceptional. As with any area ,the independent schools regularly top the league tables with Al-Burhan Grammar School, Bishop Vessey’s Grammar School, Edgbastion High School for Girls, Highclare School, and the five separate King Edward VI schools regularly topping the league tables nationally and locally.
That said, Birmingham also has some strong public schools including The Arthur Terry School, Bishop Challoner Catholic College, Fairfax, Kings Norton Girls' School, Lordswood Girls' School, and Sixth Form Centre, Perry Beeches School and Plantsbrook School. In terms of secondary education, few cities have as much diversity a Birmingham.
Finally Birmingham also has exceptional universities and is consistently rated one of the top cities for student life in the country. Many students from London often end up in Birmingham to do their degrees.
Ranking against the world
Birmingham tells a tale of a city that lost its way in recent years, unable to live up to its glorious past as one of the centres of enlightenment and industry. In recent years, as with many other cities in the UK, Birmingham has begun to find itself again with regeneration taking place and it’s culturally diverse population has a wide range of activities to explore and enjoy.
Comparing any city to London is favourable in terms of rental and buying power for both accommodation and commodities but Birmingham also compares favourably to other large cities. With Manchester for instance, you’ll find lower rents and properties for sale than in the Northern Powerhouse, whilst public transport is also relatively good value.
A day in the life
For shopping and restaurants Birmingham is well catered, with the famous Bullring shopping centre the main attraction in the city centre. If you fancy a trip to some live music or entertainment after you’ve finished shopping there are a number of well renowned venues, from the large Arena and Conference space at the NEC, to the city centre Hippodrome and O2 Academy and the thriving smaller venues such as the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath.
Let’s not forget that Birmingham is home to the curry as we’ve come to know it in the UK, even trying to attain protected rights to the Birmingham Balti from the EU. To gain a real taste for the authentic Birmingham Balit, head to the Balti Triangle, which is the centre of Asian cuisine and fashion in the city.
If you’re into sport the city boasts two football clubs, former European Champions Aston Villa and Championship side Birmingham. Not too far away from the city you’ll also find Premier League West Bromwich Albion and Championship Wolverhampton Wanderers, prestigious clubs all. On top of that Edgbaston is home to Warwickshire and England cricket for the summer months.