Things to Know Before Moving to the UK
Are you ready to move to the UK to start a new career adventure? There are plenty of opportunities just waiting for you all across this tiny island, in a variety of different fields.
Despite the close relationship between the US and Britain, however, there remain a number of key differences between our two nations. Check out this guide to avoid harming your Anglo-American relations before they even get started.
There is more to the UK than England
When people discuss Britain they often think of England, and London in particular – much to the distaste of residents of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (learn the difference between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland well – referring to the latter as a part of Britain will grossly offend an Irish national).
Don’t forget that there is much more to the UK than the south of England, and investigate some of the other thriving cities around such as Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. Opportunities for work and a fascinating new life abound in all of these destinations!
Everything is ripe for parody
The British love dry humor, and if you’re to successfully engage with the natives you’ll have to learn to appreciate sarcasm and irony. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your new British friends are cold and devoid of empathy because they have a tendency to crack wise in the face of adversity – gallows humor is just built into the national psyche.
This also feeds into how the British speak to each other – insults will fly between friends. This is all good-natured and done in jest, so don’t take offence if people begin calling you a variety of names upon meeting you – it’s actually a sign that the British people have taken you to their heart.
It’s a culture of modesty
Despite the above, you may find that the British are reluctant to blow their own trumpet about their achievements – they consider to do so to be an act of brashness, especially if it’s done by an American.
This also extends to excessive enthusiasm in the workplace. Try to tone down the cheerleading that you may be used to, as it’ll likely result in eye-rolling and muttering from your colleagues.
The cities do sleep
One thing you may have to prepare yourself for is that things close in the UK considerably earlier than you may be used to.
Most shops will pull down their shutters by 5.30pm unless it’s a major supermarket, pubs typically declare last orders at 11pm (though licensing laws to allow for flexibility in this sense), and Sunday trading hours are even more restricted, varying depending upon your location. Things are typically open every day, but you may need to adjust your schedule to be a little more organized.
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The weather is a big deal
Every rumor you’ve heard and comedy sketch you’ve seen is true – the British truly love to talk about the weather, and expect that to be an opening gambit every time you meet a stranger.
In the defense of our British brethren, the weather is hugely variable all over the UK, frequently shifting from one extreme to another within the space of a few hours. Leaving the house in the midst of a morning heatwave and being drenched by a rainy downpour in the afternoon is just something that you may have to get used to.
There are fewer public holidays
The British have comparatively few public holidays (referred to as Bank Holidays in the UK), and even then the dates vary between England, Wales and Scotland. There is no celebration of Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Labor Day or Columbus Day, and obviously the British have no real love for July 4th!
Aside from Christmas and New Years Day, the British will only granted leave from work as a public holiday on Good Friday, Easter Monday and three disparate Monday’s through May and August. Don’t despair though, as the trade off is that your new British employer will probably grant you considerably more days of personal leave to use whenever you wish.
Regional accents will vary
Forget what the movies and TV have tried to convince you – not everybody in the UK speaks like Hugh Grant or Dick van Dyke. For such a small territory, the UK has a vast (and potentially baffling) array of different accents and dialects, so it may pay to learn a little of the lingo of your new home before you try to engage too much with the locals!
Tea drinking is a national sport
Don’t worry, you won’t have to battle to find a cup of coffee in the UK – there’s a Starbucks on each corner of every town throughout the nation, as well as a host of other coffee chains.
This doesn’t change the fact that tea is the national beverage of choice, though – forget what you know about the drink, as British teabags are a very different experience to what you may be used to. And for you own sake, learn how your new friends and colleagues take their tea and ensure that you make it appropriately – handing somebody a poorly made cup of tea is taken as a personal slight.
Train travel is expensive
One thing that often surprises visitors to the UK is how expensive it can be to get from one destination to another via train, especially if you buy your ticket on the day of travel. If you book far enough in advance you’ll be able to save yourself a substantial amount of money, but it may actually be cheaper to book a domestic flight from one end of the island to the other.
Don’t worry too much about your transition from American life to British – transatlantic relations are such that you’ll find more similarities than differences. The UK is not the 51st State just yet, but you’ll find plenty of ways that our cultures cross over.