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The Ultimate How to Move to the UK from America Guide

The Ultimate How to Move
to the UK from America
Guide

Moving to the UK from America? Our Ultimate How to Move to the United Kingdom from America Guide covers absolutely everything you need to know about moving from America to the UK.

With in-depth information and valuable resources, from how to apply for a visa to how to import common household items, from what the UK’s healthcare and education systems are like, to how to decide where to live, our Moving to the United Kingdom from America Guide will help you and your family have a safe, seamless, stress-free move to the UK.

Chock-full of important international moving tips, as well as insights into British customs and culture, including everything from table manners, commonly used words, holidays and food, to the sports the British like to play and watch, our Moving from America to the UK Guide will also assist you and your family assimilate into day-to-day life quickly and easily on arrival.

As the largest moving company in the world, with over 1,000 service centers across 180 countries, UniGroup Worldwide International Movers will help make your move to the UK as smooth and stress-free as possible.

With over 85 years' experience, successfully delivering 48,000 international shipments annually, our overseas move experts can help ensure your safe, seamless stress-free move to the UK from America.

UniGroup Worldwide International Movers moving Americans to the UK safely, seamlessly and stress-free

UniGroup Worldwide International Movers moving Americans to the UK safely, seamlessly and stress-free

For your convenience, you may:

  • Easily navigate through our Ultimate How to Move to the UK from America Guide by clicking the links within the Contents section below.
  • Read our accompanying step-by-step Complete How to Move to the UK from America Checklist, a full-proof list of easy-to-follow, chronologically ordered tasks designed to help ensure you and your family enjoy a smooth, stress-free move to the UK.

BASIC INFO TO KNOW WHEN MOVING TO THE UK

Nationality

British

National Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January 2nd January (Scotland Only), 2 January St Patrick's Day (Northern Ireland Only), 17 March Good Friday, 1 Easter Monday (not celebrated in Scotland), Date fluctuates Early May Bank Holiday, Date fluctuates Spring Bank Holiday, Date fluctuates Battle of the Boyne - Orangemen's Day (Northern Ireland Only), 12 July Summer Bank Holiday, 28 August St Andrew's Day (Scotland Only), 1 December Christmas Day, 25 December Boxing Day, 26 December

Financial Year

6 April - 5 April

Government Type

Parliamentary constitutional monarchy; a commonwealth realm

Currency

British pound (GBP)

International Dialling Code

44

Country Domain Code

.uk

Road Traffic

Drives on the left

Electricity

230V, 50Hz. Type G plugs

Emergency Numbers

112 or 999: General Emergencies 101: Non-emergency police 111: Non-emergency health issues 105: Report Power Cuts

Time Zone

GMT (GMT+1 from late March to late October)

HISTORY OF UK

The UK played an important role in the development of parliamentary democracy and the advancement of literature and science. During the 19th century, the British Empire resided in one-fourth of the earth’s surface. Two world wars affected the UK’s strength and power and later in the 20th century, the Empire was dismantled and the UK had to rebuild itself. In 1999, the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly were founded.

POPULATION

Population

64,430,428

Population Growth Rate

0.53%

Median Age

total: 40.5 years
male: 39.3 years
female: 41.7 years

Life Expectancy

80.7 years

GEOGRAPHY

Location

United Kingdom

Geographic Coordinates

54 00 N, 2 00 W

Area

total: 243,610km2
land: 241,930km2
water: 1,680km2

Geography

The United Kingdom is situated close to important sea lanes in the North Atlantic and is only 35kms from France. No location is more than 125km from tidal water due to the heavily indented coastline.

Capital

London geographic coordinates: 51 30 N, 0 05 W

Major Urban Areas and Population

London 10.313 Million; Manchester 2.646 Million; Birmingham 2.515 Million; Glasgow 1.223 Million; Southampton/Portsmouth 882,000; Liverpool 870,000

CLIMATE

The UK generally experiences mild conditions and most days are overcast.

ECONOMY

After France and Germany, the United Kingdom has the third largest economy in Europe. Their agricultural sector caters to around 60% of their food requirements. 2008’s financial crisis hit the UK’s economy quite hard, which resulted in high consumer debt, falling property prices and an overall slowdown of the economy. The country’s GDP grew 1.7% in 2013 and 3.1% in 2014 even though weak consumer spending weighed on the economy.

GDP Per Capita

$42,500 USD

Taxes and Other Revenues

37.6% of GDP

CULTURE

Languages Spoken

English Scots Welsh Cornish Irish

Major Ethnic Groups

White (White British) Asian African American Mixed

NATIONAL IDENTITY

National Flag

National Anthem

"God Save the Queen"

National Symbol(s)

Lion, Tudor rose, Oak (England); Lion, Unicorn, Thistle (Scotland); Dragon, Daffodil, Leek (Wales); Shamrock, Flax (Northern Ireland)

National Colours

Red, white, blue (Britain in general); red, white (England); blue, white (Scotland); red, white, green (Wales)

UK's COUNTRY RANKING

Quality of Life

Ranked 27th of 80 countries

Cost of Living

Ranked 11th of 104 countries

Education System

Ranked 14th of 187 countries

Healthcare System

Ranked 18th of 190 countries

Happiness of Residents

Ranked 19th of 155 countries

Crime Rate

Ranked 62nd of 117 countries

Suitability for Green Living

Ranked 12th of 180 countries

How Much Does It Cost to Move to the UK?

Calculating moving to the UK Calculating moving to the UK

The cost of moving to the UK from America comprises of a number of expenses, each with their own variables. The largest components will likely be the shipping of your household belongings and the relocation of your family. Beyond that, there are additional costs for storage, insurance and temporary accommodation upon arrival.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Household Goods to the UK?

The cost of shipping your belongings can vary dramatically depending on the volume you’re shipping, what you’re shipping, how and from where and to you ship it. For example, a sparsely furnished two to three-bedroom home shipped by LCL (Less than Container Load) or Groupage sea freight from Washington DC to London could cost US$1,000 to US$2,000, whereas a heavily furnished four-bedroom home shipped by FCL (Full Container Load) sea freight from and to the same ports may cost twice that. Furthermore, the cost would increase if you’re moving from an inland city or you’re shipping antiques, a piano, wine, and/or expensive or bulky items that may require custom crating or packing. And if you’re in hurry to ship your belongings to the UK, the same size homes could easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars to ship by air freight.

Given all these variables, it is strongly recommended that you obtain a detailed quote from an experienced, reputable international mover like UniGroup Worldwide International Movers.

For more information on the different types of sea and air freight, their respective advantages, disadvantages and how to calculate their costs, read our in-depth guide What is the Best Way to Move Overseas? Best Air & Sea Freight Options.

How Much Does It Cost to Relocate Your Family to the UK?

The average cost of an economy class ticket from the east coast of Washington DC or Portland ME to London is between US$300 to US$500 per person, with flights to cities in the north of the UK costing an additional US$200 to US$400 per person. So, relocating a family of four from America to the UK can be anywhere between US$1,500 to US$3,600 in airfares alone.

Additionally, if you are bringing any pets, there will be costs for their flight, any health checks or vaccinations required and possible quarantine charges on arrival. Roughly, a cat or medium-sized dog would cost between US$600 and US$1,200 to join you.

How Much Does a UK Visa Cost?

Everyone that applies for a UK visa must pay a non-refundable, non-transferable application fee. This application fee must be paid regardless of whether a visa is issued or not. The UK visa fees range considerably, from AU$151 right up to AU$2655, depending on the type of visa required.

For more information, visit How to Apply for a UK Visa.

What Other Costs are Involved in Moving to the UK?

There are several other costs involved in moving to the UK, including:

  • Storage: If you are not moving to the UK permanently and opt to leave some of your household goods in America, you may need to organize and pay for secure long-term storage
  • Insurances: When moving to the UK, you may need to invest in several different types of insurance, including moving insurance, international health insurance and travel insurance
  • Temporary accommodation: If you plan on searching for a new family home once you arrive in the UK, you will need some form of temporary accommodation for when you first arrive. On average, a hotel room in the UK costs between US$120 to US$170 per night, while a serviced apartment costs on average between US$800 to US$1,000 per week. So, if you need temporary accommodation for one month, the cost could exceed US$4,000.

How to Apply for a UK Visa

Applying for a UK visa Applying for a UK visa

American citizens can stay in the United Kingdom for up to six months without a visa if they don’t engage in employment. However, Americans need to obtain a visa before relocating to the UK for employment. Dependents will also require visas if they plan on staying in the UK for more than six months.

To apply for a UK visa, you will need to select the most appropriate visa category, compile the necessary documentation, complete and lodge all necessary forms and collect Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) within 10 days of your arrival in the UK. Follow each of the steps below to help ensure you receive your UK visa quickly and hassle free.

Select a UK Visa Category

To apply for a UK visa, you must first determine which UK visa category applies to you:

This short questionnaire is designed to help Americans determine the visa category that best applies to their situation.

Compile UK Visa Documentation

To apply for a UK visa, you need to supply a range of supporting documentation. Begin compiling this documentation as soon as possible to avoid delays:

  • Passport with validity for the entirety of the visa for which you’re applying
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Academic records
  • Police check report from any country in which you have lived for 12 months or more in the last 10 years
  • Previous passports
  • Recent passport photographs
  • Tax returns for the last three years
  • Bank statements for the last six months
  • Medical examination reports
  • Insurance
  • Records of any trusts, credits and investments
  • Current CV
  • A copy of your will
  • Evidence that you can support yourself during your stay
  • Proof that you meet the English language requirements
  • Professional qualifications, licenses, and memberships details
  • You may need to provide additional documents depending on your circumstances.

The required documentation varies depending on the visa category for which you are applying, so visit the UK Government’s visas and immigration webpage to check the necessary documents for your specific visa category.

Apply for a Tier 1 UK Visa

If you are applying under a Tier 1 visa category follow these steps for the smoothest, most stress-free application process possible:

Keep in mind that you cannot apply for a Tier 1 visa from within the UK; you can only extend the visa or switch from another visa there.

Apply for a Tier 2 UK Visa

If you are applying under a Tier 2 visa category follow these steps for the smoothest, most stress-free application process possible:

Keep in mind that you cannot apply for a Tier 2 visa from within the UK; you can only extend the visa or switch from another visa there.

Apply for a Tier 5 UK Visa

If you are applying under a Tier 5 visa category follow these steps for the smoothest, most stress-free application process possible:

Keep in mind that you cannot apply for a Tier 5 visa from within the UK; you can only extend the visa or switch from another visa there.

How to Apply for a National Insurance Number

Applying for a National Insurance Number Applying for a National Insurance Number

Applying for a National Insurance Number (NIN) gives you access to the National Health Service (NHS), which is like America?s Social Security System.

Your NIN should already be printed on the back of your Biometric Residence Permits (BRP). If this is the case, you won’t need to apply for one once you arrive in the UK.

If, however, your NIN is not printed on the back of your BRP, you will need to apply for one. You can apply via the National Insurance Number application phone line, which is open Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm:

  • Telephone: 0345 600 0643
  • Textphone: 0345 600 0644.

You may have to attend an interview at Jobcentre Plus and will be required to take documents that prove your identity, including:

  • Passport
  • Work visa
  • Birth or adoption certificate
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • Driver’s license.

For further information, visit the UK Government’s Guide to Applying for a National Insurance Number.

How to Decide Where to Live in the UK

Deciding where to live in the UK Deciding where to live in the UK

If you’re not moving from America to the UK to a specific location for work, you’ll need to decide where to live. From low crime rates to superior quality health and education systems, there are many variables to consider when choosing the perfect place for you and your family to call home. Geography, climate and weather can also play a part in your decision, just as unemployment rates, average salary and the cost living are likely to influence the location of your new home.

To help you decide where to live in the UK, the most important factors are outlined below.

What is the Unemployment Rate in the UK?

The unemployment rate in the area you’re seeking to move to will give you a good indication of whether the local job market is stable, growing or contracting. This is vital if you need to secure employment upon arrival. The UK Government’s Office for National Statistics publishes monthly unemployment rates by region.

What is the Average Salary in the UK?

According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, the average salary for full-time employees in the UK was £27,600 per annum in 2015. However, the average salary varies from region-to-region. The local average salary is a key indicator of your likely earning potential. The UK Government’s Office for National Statistics provides annual reports of average salaries throughout the various regions in the UK.

What is the Cost of Living in the UK?

Where you live has an enormous bearing on your cost of living in the UK. For example, living in London is more expensive than living in Liverpool and living in Glasgow is cheaper than living in Birmingham. Expatistan has published an informative article on the cost of living throughout the UK.

The following list provides an idea of average prices you can expect to pay for products and services in the UK (although keep in mind that these prices will vary based on both location and provider):

  • Monthly rent for an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment: £2,800
  • A dozen eggs: £3.40
  • A liter of milk: £0.90
  • A loaf of bread: £1.20
  • McDonald’s Big Mac Meal: £5.70
  • A cappuccino: £4
  • Three course meal for two (mid-range restaurant): £40
  • Monthly internet (uncapped ADSL or cable): £30
  • Electricity per month for an averaged sized home: £85
  • Petrol (per liter): £1.25.

What are Crime Rates in the UK?

Obviously, you want your family to live in a safe neighborhood. Just how safe a neighborhood is in the UK varies from city-to-city. So, before you decide where to live, it is worth investigating UK Crime Statistics, which allows you to check the crime rates for specific localities and neighborhoods.

What is the Quality and Availability of Health Care Like in the UK?

Having access to quality health care is essential in deciding where you’re going to live. The standard of healthcare varies throughout the UK. The BBC has provided a breakdown of how the four countries, which make up the UK, perform in healthcare.

What is the Quality of Schools Like in the UK?

If your children will be accompanying you on your relocation to the UK, it is vital you move to an area that guarantees them a quality education. Best Schools UK provides impartial advice, while the respected UK newspaper, The Telegraph, publishes an annual list of the Top 100 Secondary Schools.

For more information, visit What is the Education and Schooling System Like in the UK?

What is Population Wellbeing and the Standard of Living in the UK?

The UK Government’s Office for National Statistics provides detailed information on Personal Wellbeing in the UK. The wellbeing index takes into account how satisfied people are with their life, how worthwhile they feel, how happy they are, and how anxious they feel. This is a useful insight into the type of lifestyle you can expect in your new home.

What are Tolerance and Diversity Like in the UK?

If you or any member of your family belong to a minority group, general levels of societal tolerance and diversity are important factors. As in any country, some cities and regions of the UK are more accepting of cultural, racial, religious and sexual differences.

What is the Average Commute Time in the UK?

When deciding on where to live in the UK, the average commute time can be an important consideration, particularly if you plan to drive to and from work every day. Unfortunately, the commute time in the UK is quite high. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 3.7 million workers travel for two hours or longer every weekday, with an average daily commute time of 57 minutes. So, if you know where you’re going to work, try to choose a home that provides you with a reasonable commute time. The Independent newspaper has a range of resources dedicated to commuting to work in the UK.

What is the Climate in the UK?

The United Kingdom is notorious for its gloomy weather, with constant drizzle an all-pervasive issue. However, in the summer months, you can expect some sunshine, even if temperatures rarely reach above 30°C.

The southeast of England has the sunniest weather due to its proximity to Europe, while northern England and Scotland suffer harsh winters. Scotland is the coldest and wettest of the four nations that make up the UK. So, if you prefer milder temperatures, look for a home in the south. If you don’t mind a harsh winter, the north and highland areas of the UK are beautiful places to live, with stunning scenery.

What is the Geography of the UK?

The geography of the UK is mainly divided into two types of terrain: the highlands and the lowlands. The mountainous areas of northern England, Northern Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland are all highland areas.

The English Lake District is characterized by lakes and moors. Limestone cliffs, basins and long valleys dominate the lowlands, while sandy, rocky and shale beaches can be found around the coast. The coast is also full of dramatic cliffs, particularly the fjords of Scotland and the White Cliffs of Dover.

The UK contains an enormous amount of geographical diversity for such a small area and expats will be able to find a landscape that suits them. Be sure you know what sort of geography (and therefore outdoor recreational activities) is predominant in your new home before you decide to move there.

What is the Weather Like in the UK?

Expats seeking a milder climate should move to the south, as winters in the north can be long, wet, cold and icy.

Due to its location, the UK is subject to dry continental air currents and wet maritime currents. The meeting of these two currents makes for almost year-round unpredictable weather in England.

Despite its reputation for gloomy weather, the UK does experience some warm conditions during summer, although rain still frequently occurs. Snow can occasionally fall during winter, although this is usually confined to the highland areas.

What are the Most Popular Cities to Move to in the UK?

For information on the most popular UK cities to live, visit:

When is the Best Time to Move to the UK?

Deciding when to move to the UK Deciding when to move to the UK

To guarantee a stress-free and successful move, you need to plan your moving dates around several factors. The factors that have the biggest influence over the best time to move to the United Kingdom are the weather and the holiday seasons.

Consider the Weather

Due to its location, the UK is subject to dry continental air currents and wet maritime currents. The meeting of these two currents makes for almost year-round unpredictable weather in England.

Despite its reputation for gloomy weather, the UK does experience warm conditions during summer, although rain still occurs frequently. Snow can occasionally fall during winter, although this is usually confined to the highland areas.

If you’re moving to an area that receives frequent snow during the winter, you’ll need to move in Summer. If you’re moving to the northern or highland areas, you should also try to move in summer when it is drier.

If you’re moving to the southern parts of the UK, you have more freedom over when you move. However, you need to be aware that the sun goes down at 4pm at the height of winter, which dramatically shortens your moving hours.

Consider Holiday Seasons

Moving during holiday seasons in any country is generally more expensive. So, keep in mind that people in the UK usually take a six-week break over the summer period from around July to September, much like the summer break that noun.summer.

If possible, avoid the following holiday seasons in the United Kingdom:

  • All federal public holidays
  • Christmas holidays: One week, usually from late-December to early January
  • February half-term: One week, usually in mid-February
  • Easter holidays: Two weeks over the Easter period
  • Summer break: Long weekend, usually at the end of May
  • Summer holidays: Six weeks, usually from the end of July to the beginning of September
  • Fall break: Two weeks, usually from the middle to the end of October.

Keep in mind that different regions in the UK observe different school holidays. Check the UK Government’s website to confirm exact school holiday dates for your postcode.

What is the Education and Schooling System Like in the UK?

Types of schools in the UK, and how to choose one Types of schools in the UK, and how to choose one

The United Kingdom has an excellent secondary education system, as well as many world-class universities. So, it is no surprise that hundreds of thousands of international student’s study in the UK every year, second only to America in terms of the number of international students.

In the United Kingdom education and schooling system:

  • Education is compulsory between the ages of five and 16 in most places in the UK, apart from Northern Ireland, where education starts from four years of age
  • There are five stages of education in the UK:
    • Early Years Education: Provides education to all three and four-year-old children. Parents are entitled to 15 hours of free nursery education over 38 weeks. Early years education is held in a variety of settings, including state schools, private and public pre-schools and child-minding centers
    • Primary: This stage covers children under the age of five (nursery), from five to eight years old (infant) and up to 11 or 12 years old (junior). In Scotland and Northern Ireland, there is usually no difference between infant and junior school, while in England, primary schools provide education to children between the ages of four and 11
    • Secondary: Students usually enter secondary education at the age of 11 or 12 and remain in this form of education until the age of 16 to 18. At the end of this stage of schooling, students sit the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GSCE) exam. In Scotland, the equivalent of the GSCE exam is Standards Grades or Higher Grades
    • Further Education: Once a student finishes secondary education, they have the option to extend into further education to take their A-Levels, BTECs, or other equivalent qualifications. UK students planning to attend college or university must complete further education
    • Higher Education: The main levels of this type of education are postgraduate and undergraduate university degrees or vocational education courses.
  • Schools in the UK generally observe three school terms, with one longer summer holiday in the middle of the year. The terms are usually:
    • Fall term: Early September to mid-December
    • Spring term: Early January to Easter
    • Summer term: Easter to mid-July.

Keep in mind that different regions in the UK observe different school holidays. Check out the UK Government’s website to confirm exact school holiday dates for your postcode.

What Types of Schools are there in the UK?

In the UK, schools are essentially divided into two main types throughout all levels of education: public or state schools and private schools. There are also International Baccalaureate schools available, primarily in London. Detailed information on all types of schools available in the United Kingdom is outlined below.

Public or State Schools

In the UK, public schools are known as state schools. State schools teach according to the established National Curriculum. The National Curriculum is a set of subjects and lessons used by primary and secondary schools across the UK, so that children learn the same things. It covers what standards children should learn in each subject.

However, there is a noted discrepancy between the level of education that students receive at state schools in affluent areas as compared to inner city and economically depressed areas.

State schools are financed by a combination of local and state tax revenues. Free education at these schools is guaranteed to all UK citizens and certain types of foreign nationals.

Attendance at a state school is usually determined by where you live, which is why it is important that you choose to live in an area that gives your children access to a good education.

Private Schools

Private schools are often referred to as independent schools in the UK. Independent schools accept children between the ages of two and 19 years old, from a variety of backgrounds and aptitudes. Parents must pay fees to send their children to independent schools, although financial assistance in the form of scholarships is available.

Top independent schools often have lengthy waiting lists, so if you’d like your child to attend one, it is important to apply as soon as possible. Parents should also be aware that many independent schools providing secondary education have entrance exams, with aptitude cut-offs varying from school-to-school.

Types of independent schools include:

  • Boarding: Offer either weekly boarding, where students return home on the weekend, full-time boarding or attendance for the day
  • Single sex or coeducational: More and more private schools are offering coeducation as opposed to the segregation that was traditionally popular throughout the UK
  • City or country: There are advantages and disadvantages to sending your child to a private school in a busy urban setting or a quiet country setting, particularly in terms of the extra-curricular activities that might be available. So be sure to do your research before deciding which option will best suit your child
  • Religious affiliation: Many independent schools have a religious affiliation and parents will have to enquire about the need for students to be members of the affiliated religion to attend.

International Schools

There are several international schools in the UK, with the highest concentration found in London. International schools prepare students for the International Baccalaureate examination and diploma. Fees can be high, so it’s worth trying to negotiate the payment of fees into your contract if you are relocating for work. You can find a list of International Baccalaureate schools here.

What Types of Tertiary Education are there in the UK?

There are several tertiary education options in the UK, all with varying outcomes and entry requirements. The main types of tertiary education providers are universities and university colleges, Higher Education Institutions and Further Education Institutions.

If you’re relocating to the United Kingdom with older children, it is important to familiarize yourself with the UK tertiary education system, including the types of education available, to help narrow down your child’s choices and develop an education plan. Detailed information on the types of tertiary education institutions available in the UK is outlined below.

Higher Education Institutions

Higher Education Institutions are essentially the same as a University or University college except, by definition, these bodies are governed by a higher education corporation and are, therefore, eligible to receive funds from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. These institutions may be called colleges or universities and can award recognized UK degrees.

Further Education Institutions

Programs run by Further Education Institutions are normally designed by a higher education institution that has degree-awarding powers and are also funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. They specifically focus on preparing students for university by awarding A-Levels, BTECs or other similar qualifications.

Universities and University Colleges

Universities in the UK provide similar education to American universities, in that students take undergraduate studies and can then opt to take postgraduate studies, including masters and doctorates. Some institutions also offer foundational studies, which allows students to gain entry to specific subject areas, such as science and engineering, by completing Year 0 studies if they don’t have the necessary prerequisites.

Alternative Providers

An increasing number of independent and private institutions, both for-profit and not-for-profit, are also providing tertiary education. These institutions do not receive funding from either the HEFCE or the state.

How to Choose a School in the UK

To assist you in finding the most appropriate school for your children, visit:

For more information about education and schooling in the UK, visit the UK Government’s Department for Education or Information on Further and Higher Education, Skills and Vocational Training.

How to Ship Household Goods to the UK

Shipping household goods to the UK Shipping household goods to the UK

If you’re moving to the UK, then a huge part of the process is going to involve shipping your household belongings to the UK and associated customs requirements. To ensure that your household items arrive in the UK safe and sound and clear customs as quickly and easily as possible, be sure to follow our advice on the documents required, customs prescriptions and other tips and suggestions below.

Keep the following considerations in mind when shipping your household items to the United Kingdom:

  • Used household and personal effects can be imported into the UK duty and tax free so long as:
    • You are moving your normal home to the UK
    • Your normal home has been outside the European Union for a continuous period of at least 12 months
    • You have possessed and used the items for at least six months outside the European Union before they are imported
    • You did not obtain them under a duty or tax-free scheme
    • You declare them correctly to UK Customs
    • You will retain them for your own personal use
    • You will not sell, lend, hire out or otherwise dispose of them in the UK or elsewhere in the European Union within 12 months of importation.
  • The shipment can arrive no more than six months before your own arrival date
  • The shipment can arrive no more than 12 months after your own arrival date
  • You must submit an online application to UK Customs to apply for relief from duty and tax when importing your household goods to the United Kingdom. Customs will process this application and, if successful, issue you with a Unique Reference Number, which you must pass onto your moving company
  • If you are a diplomat, you must supply Form C426, to be completed by the relevant Embassy or High Commission.

What Documents are Required for Shipping Household Goods to the UK?

For the safe shipment and smooth customs clearance of your household goods, you’ll need to ensure that the following documentation is completed as accurately as possible:

  • Packing list
  • Copy of Bill of Lading or Air Way Bill
  • A copy of your passport
  • Online customs clearance application form
  • Supporting documents as indicated on the online application form (such as passport, work permit, and tenancy agreement).

How to Ship Household Goods that Have Been Inherited

If you are shipping items to the United Kingdom that have been inherited:

  • You must complete online Form C1421 ‘Import and Export of Inherited Goods – Making a Claim for Relief from Duty and VAT’
  • You must supply:
    • A copy of the will showing that you are a named beneficiary. If the items involved are not individually specified in the will, a letter may be required from the executor to confirm the importer’s entitlement to these items as a beneficiary
    • A copy of the death certificate.

For further information, visit our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Vehicles into the UK

Importing vehicles into the UK Importing vehicles into the UK

Used vehicles can be imported into the UK duty and tax-free so long as:

  • You are moving your normal home to the UK
  • Your normal home has been outside the European Union for a continuous period of at least 12 months
  • You have possessed and used the items for at least six months outside the European Union before they are imported
  • You did not obtain them under a duty or tax-free scheme
  • You declare them correctly to UK Customs
  • You will retain them for your own personal use
  • You will not sell, lend, hire out or otherwise dispose of them in the UK or elsewhere in the European Union within 12 months of importation.

In addition, the vehicle cannot arrive any more than six months before your own arrival date, nor more than 12 months after your own arrival date.

The clearance procedure for cars is the same as for household and personal effects, as outlined above—you must apply online for permission to import your car duty free. You may also need to complete Moving to the United Kingdom Customs Form Importation of a Private Motor Vehicle into the United Kingdom on Transfer of Residence from Outside the European Community.

What is the Process for Importing Vehicles into the UK?

You must complete certain steps as soon as you bring a vehicle into the UK permanently. The following steps can be completed by you or by a nominated vehicle transportation company:

Keep in mind that driving a car before this process has been completed could result in serious prosecution.

What Safety and Environmental Standards Must be Met?

Before attempting to import any vehicle into the UK, you must ensure that the vehicle meets all safety and environmental standards. The following standards are currently in place (but may be subject to change following Brexit):

  • United Kingdom Vehicle Safety Standards, which set requirements for:
    • Aftermarket HID headlamps
    • Brakes and couplings on caravans and trailers
    • Bull bars
    • Daytime running lights
    • Diesel particulate filters
    • Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles
    • Mirrors
    • Seats belts
    • Airbags
    • Windscreen wipers and washers.
  • European Emission Standards:
    • Euro 1 (Cars registered after 31 December 1992):
      • Petrol: CO 2.72g/km, HC + NOx: 0.97g/km
      • Diesel: CO: 2.72g/km, HC + NOx: 0.97g/km, PM: 0.14g/km.
    • Euro 2 (Cars registered after 1 January 1997):
      • Petrol: CO: 2.2g/km, HC + NOx: 0.5g/km
      • Diesel: CO: 1.0g/km, HC + NOx: 0.7g/km, PM: 0.08g/km.
    • Euro 3 (Cars registered after 1 January 2001):
      • Petrol: CO: 2.3g/km, HC: 0.20g/km, NOx: 0.15g/km
      • Diesel: CO: 0.64g/km, HC + NOx: 0.56g/km, NOx: 0.50g/km, PM: 0.05g/km.
    • Euro 4 (Cars registered after 1 January 2006):
      • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.08g/km
      • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.30g/km, NOx: 0.25g/km, PM: 0.025g/km.
    • Euro 5 (Cars registered after 1 January 2011):
      • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.06g/km, PM: 0.005g/km (direct injection only)
      • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.23g/km, NOx: 0.18g/km, PM: 0.005g/km, PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km.
    • Euro 6 (Cars registered after 1 September 2015):
      • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.06g/km, PM: 0.005g/km (direct injection only), PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km (direct injection only)
      • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.17g/km, NOx: 0.08g/km, PM: 0.005g/km, PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km.

Your car’s manufacturer will be able to provide you with the necessary documentation to prove that your car is compliant with all emission and safety standards.

Once compliance is confirmed, you can have your car approved under the Individual Vehicle Approval scheme. This scheme allows you to prove compliance with standards by showing that your vehicle is the same as one of the approved master models.

Cars more than three years old will be issued with a Ministry Of Transport (MOT) certificate once approved. The MOT certificate is an annual test of vehicle safety, roadworthiness aspects and exhaust emissions. This certificate costs £54.85.

What are the Proof of Ownership Requirements?

To import your vehicle into the United Kingdom, you must prove that you are the owner of the vehicle by producing your:

  • Original bill of lading
  • Original bill of sale
  • Foreign registration documents
  • Original title of ownership, free of lien.

If a lien is listed on the original title, you’ll need:

  • An original lien release or notarized original letter from the lien holder
  • A letter giving you permission to take the vehicle out of the country. The letter should:
    • Be an original copy
    • Be on the financing company's letterhead
    • Be signed by someone in the lender's management
    • Include a name, phone number and email address for any questions.

What Taxes are Imposed on Vehicle Importation in the UK?

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs department will inform you of your tax and duty responsibilities. Most Americans will be exempt from paying VAT and duty on the import of their vehicle, as the vehicle is coming from outside the European Union.

To prove that you are exempt from paying any tax or duty on your imported vehicle, you must show:

  • That you have been living outside of the European Union for a continuous period of 12 months by providing documentation such as mortgage repayments, lease agreements and utility bills
  • That you have owned the imported vehicle for at least six months by providing documentation such as proof of insurance or a purchase invoice
  • That the vehicle will remain in your property for 12 months after import
  • The vehicle was not bought under any duty or tax-free schemes.

How to Register Your Vehicle with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

All vehicles imported into the UK need to be registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). You cannot complete this process until the HRMC has been informed of your car’s arrival and it has been approved for entry via the IVA scheme. Once you have completed these steps, follow the process below:

  • Order the DVLA registration forms. You will need to order either the ‘New Vehicle Import Pack’ or the ‘Used Vehicle Import Pack’
  • Order the ‘New Vehicle Import Pack’ if:
    • The car hasn’t been registered in any other country
    • It is a current model or a model that has been discontinued in the past two years
    • It is the first time it has been sold by the retailer you purchased it from
    • It only has the mileage needed for delivery.
  • Order the ‘Used Vehicle Import Pack’ for all other vehicles
  • Complete and return the relevant form, along with:
    • A copy of your driving licence or other appropriate form of identification, such as a passport or birth certificate
    • A copy of a document that confirms your address, such as a recent utility bill or bank statement
    • Payment of the £55 registration fee
    • A copy of the Ministry of Transport (MOT) certificate if the vehicle is over three years old or certificate of newness for a new vehicle
    • A note for insurance or cover if the vehicle is to be registered in Northern Ireland.

Further Resources on Importing Vehicles into the UK

For further information on importing a vehicle into the UK, visit the following regulatory agencies:

For further information, visit our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Pets into the UK

Importing pets into the UK Importing pets into the UK

You can take most pets to the UK, so long as they are free from infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and are not deemed harmful to the environment. As such, importing most cats, dogs, birds and reptiles is possible.

General laws and regulations for importing pets into the UK include:

There are also specific requirements for importing different types of pets, each of which is outlined in detail below.

How to Import Dogs, Cats and Ferrets into the UK

Dogs, cats and ferrets can be imported into the UK, so long as they are free from infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and are not deemed harmful to the environment. To import your dog, cat or ferret into the UK, keep in mind:

  • Dogs, cats and ferrets will need to be fitted with ISO-certified microchips by a vet or other professional. The number of your pet’s microchip will need to correspond with the number on the pet passport. If your pet doesn’t have an ISO-certified chip, you will need to bring your own chip reader or have your pet re-chipped
  • If you have to re-chip your pet, you will have to vaccinate your pet again, submit new blood tests, and have a new pet passport issued. Your vet can take care of all of this, but it is far easier to have an ISO-certified chip inserted the first time
  • If your pet has been tattooed before 3 July 2011 and the tattoo is legible, you don’t need to a microchip
  • Your local vet will issue pet passports or inform you as to closest place that does. The pet passport should include the description of your pet, identifying markings, details of vet issuing the passport, as well as all vaccinations, including rabies
  • Pets must be at least 12 weeks old before being vaccinated against rabies and all booster vaccinations need to be up-to-date before your pet travels
  • In addition to rabies vaccinations, dogs will also need to prove treatment against tapeworm and the details of this treatment need to be noted in the pet passport

How to Import Horses into the UK

To import your horse, donkey, pony or related animal into the UK, keep in mind:

  • You need a horse passport, which identifies the animal by height and species and lists if the horse can be used for human food upon death
  • This passport must be kept with the animal at all times, even at the stable after the horse has been imported
  • To import a horse from America, you need to notify the Animal and Plant Health Agencybefore the horse arrives
  • Once the horse has arrived, you have 30 days to contact a UK Passport Issuing organization and have your current horse passport updated or apply for a new one. The fine is unlimited for keeping a horse in the UK without a passport, so don’t forget this step.

How to Import Other Animals into the UK

You can import other animals into the UK. However, the rules, regulations and restrictions vary widely. In fact, the restrictions are so complex and specific that the UK Government recommends that people seeking to relocate pets (other than cats, dogs, ferrets and horses) contact the center for International Trade (Carlisle) to discuss your particular pet.

Expats looking to relocate non-UK native animals should be aware of the following:

  • Fines and prosecutions will be applied to anyone that allows a non-native animal to escape into the wild, releases a non-native animal without a permit or holds certain non-native animals without a permit
  • You need a licence to import non-native animals, but before applying for a licence, the UK Government recommends that you contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency to confirm that:
    • You are eligible for a licence
    • The animal you are seeking to import is not listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
  • Generally, mammals must be quarantined for four months or more before entering Wales or England and for four months or less before entering Scotland. Specific quarantine requirements vary from animal to animal.

For further information, visit our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Weapons into the UK

Importing weapons into the UK Importing weapons into the UK

With Border Force working in conjunction with other UK Government agencies to control the import of weapons into the United Kingdom, weapons and firearms are subject to complicated customs clearance procedures and can be difficult to import. Weapons can delay customs clearances and result in additional charges. It is worth considering whether to import weapons at all.

Americans seeking to import weapons into the UK should be aware of the following:

  • To import live ammunition and firearms, you need:
    • An import licence or certificate granted by the Department of International Trade (DIT)
    • Permission from the Home Office for pistols, revolvers, handguns and automatic and semi-automatic firearms
    • Permission from the UK regional police authority for other firearms, such as hunting guns.
  • Relevant import licences are also required for deactivated firearms
  • Imitation firearms that are realistic enough to look like real firearms can only be imported under certain circumstances, at the discretion of Border Force.

It is an offence to import the following weapons, under any circumstances:

  • Blowpipes or blow guns
  • Telescopic truncheons: These extend automatically by pressing a button or spring in the handle
  • Batons: Straight, side-handled or friction-lock truncheons
  • Hollow kubotans: A cylinder-shaped keychain holding spikes
  • Butterfly knives (also known as ‘balisongs’): These have a blade hidden inside a handle that splits in the middle
  • Disguised knives: Where a blade or sharp point is hidden inside what looks like everyday objects such as a buckle, phone, brush or lipstick
  • Flick knives (also known as ‘switchblades’ or ‘automatic knives’):
  • Blades hidden inside a handle which shoots out when a button is pressed
  • Gravity knives
  • Shurikens (also known as ‘shaken’, ‘death stars’ or ‘throwing stars’)
  • Kusari-gama: A sickle attached to a rope, cord or wire
  • Kyoketsu-shoge: A hook-knife attached to a rope, cord or wire
  • Kusari (or ‘manrikigusari’): A weight attached to a rope, cord or wire
  • Hand or foot claws
  • Knuckledusters
  • Zombie knives: A knife with a cutting edge, a serrated edge and images or words suggesting it is used for violence
  • Swords, including samurai swords: A curved blade over 50cm (20 inches) (with some exceptions, such as antiques and swords made to traditional methods before 1954)
  • Sword-sticks: A hollow walking stick or cane containing a blade
  • Push daggers.

In certain situations, restricted weapons can be imported:

  • Galleries, universities and museums can import weapons for the purposes of research, display and to interpret material of scientific, historic or artistic importance
  • For members of Her Majesty’s forces or visiting forces
  • Prison service and police forces members may import batons and truncheons People engaged in commercial imports for the onward supply of police or prison-use weapons
  • For the purposes of theatrical performances rehearsals, film productions and television production
  • Swords with a curved blade of 50cm (20 inches) or more can be imported if the sword was made before 1954, was crafted by traditional methods, is only used for religious ceremonies and martial arts, and is solely in use for the purposes of historical re-enactments or sporting activities, such as marital arts demonstrations
  • In all cases, the final decision rests with Border Force and the burden of proof is with the importer.

For further information, visit the UK Government’s Guidance on Importing Guns, Knives, Swords and Other Offensive Weapons or our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Alcohol into the UK

Importing alcohol into the UK Importing alcohol into the UK

You may import wines and other alcoholic beverages into the United Kingdom as part of your household goods shipment. However, as America is outside the European Union, alcohol imported into the United Kingdom is subject to UK excise duty upon arrival unless hand-carried by the importer. Rates of duty and tax are high (typically between 10% to 20% duty, plus 20% VAT). As such, in most cases, it is cheaper to buy the same product in the UK.

In certain cases, excise duty can be avoided:

  • If you limit what you bring to the following amounts:
    • Beer: 16 liters
    • Wine (non-sparkling): 4 liters
    • Spirits and liquors over 22% alcohol: 1 liter
    • Fortified wine, sparkling wine, and/or alcoholic products up to 22% alcohol: 2 liters
    • These allowances can also be split; for example, expats can bring half a liter of spirits and 1 liter of fortified wine.
  • If your alcohol is delivered to an excise warehouse that has been designed for that purpose
  • If your alcohol is delivered to a customs warehouse that also features an excise warehouse
  • You receive alcohol as a registered producer and it is delivered to your registered premises according to the entitlements of your registration
  • If you don’t qualify for any of the above exemptions, it is up to you to declare your alcohol to the HMRC and pay the appropriate duty excise and VAT.

If you decide to ship alcohol to the United Kingdom, you must declare it first, providing details of:

  • Type of drink
  • Brand
  • Strength
  • Bottle size
  • Value
  • Quantity remaining (if open).

For further information, visit the UK Government’s Guidance on Importing Alcohol into the UK or our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Plants into the UK

Importing plants into the UK Importing plants into the UK

Importing plants into the UK is difficult from America, due to America being outside the European Union. Many plants are either completely banned from importation or have significant weight and size restrictions.

If you have plants that you would particularly like to relocate, you will need to obtain a phytosanitary certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture, which proves your plants have been inspected, are free from dangerous pests and diseases and are suitable to enter the UK.

For further information, visit the UK Government’s Guidance on Importing Plants into the UK or our United Kingdom Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Find Employment in the UK

Finding employment in the UK Finding employment in the UK

If you’ve already secured a new role (or are moving to the UK for a specific employment opportunity), now is the time to investigate employment options for your partner. Or, if you haven’t secured a role, to investigate employment for yourself. Follow our tips for the easiest job search possible, from using the most popular employment websites and best recruitment agencies in the UK, through to how to establish a business in the United Kingdom.

What are the Best Employment Websites in the UK?

Some of the major employment websites in the UK are:

What are the Best Recruitment Agencies in the UK?

Alternatively, you may wish to register with a recruitment agency. Some of the major professional recruitment agencies in the UK include:

Some of the major executive recruitment agencies in the UK include:

Self-Employment and Establishing a Business in the UK

The following resources may be useful if you or your partner are considering self-employment or establishing your own business in the United Kingdom:

  • Set Up a Business: Published by the UK Government, this resource runs through the basics of starting a business
  • Great Business: A Government resource that provides fact sheets on everything from creating a business plan to securing finance
  • Business Tax: This resource outlines how to ensure you stay complaint with UK tax law while running your small business.

Further Resources on Employment

The UK Government provides a range of resources designed to make securing employment easier:

  • Finding a Job: Provides an A-to-Z list of resources that is aimed at people looking for employment
  • The National Careers Service: Provides a range of resources, including drafting a CV and determining types of employment for which you are suitable
  • Universal Jobmatch: The UK Government employment search engine, which is the perfect tool for seeking out job availabilities across the UK.

What is Working in the UK Like?

Working in the UK Working in the UK

The UK is a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural society and there is enormous variation from workplace-to-workplace. Making generalizations about working in the UK is difficult, but there are certain truths about communication style, dress code and office etiquette of which expats should be aware.

What is Business Communication Like in the UK?

Business in the UK is becoming less formal, but there is still a hierarchy in place and it is still respected. Conversation style in the UK is marked by subtlety and understatement. Conversations will be honest and forthright, but expats used to the American style of business may have to listen carefully to pick up on the important concerns of the conversation due to the lack of hyperbole in British communication.

Greetings

The most common form of greeting in the UK is a handshake. The usual method of introduction is to offer a ‘How do you do?’. This is similar to the American ‘How’s it going?’ in that it is more of a greeting than an inquiry. If someone asks, ‘How are you?’ it is expected that you give a response along the lines of, ‘Very well, thank you.’

In a business setting, it is important to use titles and last names until you are invited to do otherwise. You should also avoid using someone’s name too often in conversation, as this can seem rude.

Business Meetings

Business meetings in the UK are much the same as those in America:

  • They take place in an office or meeting room on company premises
  • A few pleasantries will be exchanged, but business is discussed quite quickly. It is important to have a few topics of conversation to turn to at the beginning and the end of business, as the British find it unpleasant to discuss nothing but business
  • Unless it is a formal meeting, seating arrangements are not important, so just sit at the most obvious seat
  • Sometimes, an agenda will be set ahead of time so that attendees know what is to be discussed and can prepare accordingly.

Email

Communication via email should be no different than any other form of business communication—it should remain professional at all times. Britons usually prefer for you to contact them by writing to begin with, rather than phoning. When first contacting a person via email, you should use some degree of formality. As your business relationship progresses, you can adopt a friendlier, more casual tone. Some tips for email communication:

  • Your subject line should be clear, succinct and in line with the content of your email
  • Keep your sentences short, clear and easily understood
  • Include a signature in your email with relevant contact information, such as your return email, cell phone number and landline phone number.

Text Messaging

Business communication via text message is becoming more common in the UK. However, the appropriateness of texting as a business communication method varies from company-to-company and industry-to-industry. You should check with company regulations before using this communication method.

For instance, a real estate agent and their client may regularly use text messages for communication, particularly as it is an easy communication method to use whilst on the go. However, a financial advisor may be prohibited from texting clients due to security and privacy concerns.

What are Business Hours in the UK?

Business hours can vary depending on the industry, location and even company, and members of the corporate sector will be expected to work overtime if necessary. General business hours in the United Kingdom include:

  • Banks:
    • Weekdays: Most banks are open from 9am or 10am to 2pm or 3pm, with late hours on one or more days
    • Saturdays: Most banks are open from 9am or 10am to 12 midday or 1pm
    • Sundays: Most banks are closed.
  • Corporate Offices: Working hours in the UK are similar to those in America– 8am or 9am to 5pm or 5.30pm, Monday to Friday with a half hour to an hour lunch break. Some offices will be open on a Saturday
  • Government: Typically open from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm
  • Retail Outlets:
    • Weekdays: Most shops open at 9am or 10am, closing at any time from 5pm to 6pm, with some stores staying open until 9pm to 10pm a couple of nights a week
    • Saturdays: Most shops open at 9am or 10am, closing at any time from 5pm to 10pm
    • Sundays: Large department stores and malls may be open on Sundays, especially in large cities.

What is the Usual Office Dress Code in the UK?

Dressing conservatively is the norm in the UK office environment. It is important to focus on purchasing good quality clothes rather than trying to be fashionable.

Men wear traditional-styled suits, in plain noun.grey, black or blue. Shoes need to be polished and plain or striped shirts of good quality cotton should be worn. Avoid wearing striped ties as these are often tied to particular schools, clubs and even military regiments.

Businesswomen should dress in conservative classic dresses, skirt suits or pant suits. It’s important to avoid flashy accessories, although a little color is welcomed.

Expats may find that in younger companies, particularly in cities like London, Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, the office dress code may be a little more relaxed. You should still dress formally on your first day and then take your cue from what the rest of the office is wearing.

What is Common Office Etiquette in the UK?

The key to successfully relocating to the UK is understanding the local office etiquette and living it out every day. You need to demonstrate the work ethic your new employer expects and you need to act appropriately in business situations.

Office etiquette in the UK is still very formal, but there is a change happening and the trend towards cooperation amongst all levels of management is growing stronger and stronger.

Work Ethic

Expectations around work ethic vary throughout the UK. The lasting impact of the labor unions throughout the 1970s and 1980s means some workplaces will operate strictly between the hours of 9am and 5pm. However, the increase in competition, particularly in the global city of London, means that more and more companies are moving away from fixed hours.

The rise of technology means that employees are often expected to work at home and while travelling, with the lines between work and leisure becoming more and more blurred. This is no different to the corporate environment in America, so expats shouldn’t find it too difficult to adjust.

Gifts

It is usually considered inappropriate to give a gift in a business setting. It can be regarded as a bribe and some companies have strict rules around gifts to avoid accusations of bribery. In place of a gift, it is acceptable to extend an invitation to an entertainment event, a sporting event, or a dinner.

Do’s and Don’ts of Business in the UK

To help ensure that you’re successful in the UK world of business and to avoid any faux pas when you first arrive:

  • Do pick up on the subtleties of British conversation
  • Do start by addressing business associates formally using their title and surname. It is likely that business associates will ask to be referred to using their first name
  • Don't be late for meetings or appointments
  • Don't be ostentatious or over-the-top in the way you dress or speak
  • Don't use aggression in business; all your interaction should be polite, conservative and reserved
  • Don’t feel offended or worried if colleagues don’t socialize with you right away; the British are known for being more reserved than Americans
  • Don’t refer to Scottish, Irish or Welsh colleagues as English. If you’re unsure, use the term British, but it will always be appreciated if you refer to people by their nationality.

What are Common Customs and Social Norms in the UK?

Customs and social norms in the UK Customs and social norms in the UK

If you’re an American moving to the UK, you’ll need to investigate local UK customs and common cultural differences to help you and your family assimilate more quickly into the United Kingdom on arrival. Luckily, you can follow our in-depth guide below that takes you through everything from ‘British Reserve’ and table manners, to words commonly used in the United Kingdom (but not in America).

What is ‘British Reserve’?

The British are known for their stiff upper lip, something that manifested itself through the ‘blitz spirit’ during the Second World War. A remnant of this is that the British can seem to be a little reserved and distant, especially compared to people from the United States, Europe and Australia.

People in the UK appreciate their privacy and personal space. You shouldn’t ask personal questions and don’t expect to become close friends with someone until you’ve known them for some time.

There are, of course, regional differences. The people of northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland are famous for their hospitality and ability to strike up a conversation with a stranger.

What is Religion Like in the UK?

The UK is becoming more and more secular, with one of the lowest rates of religious worship in the world. However, as a multi-cultural society, most of the world’s major religions are represented and people of all faiths are free to worship.

Christianity is the main religion, with the Church of England the main denomination in England and the Presbyterian Church the main faith in Scotland. There is a split of Protestant and Catholic worshipers in Northern Ireland.

Cities like Birmingham and London also have large Hindu and Muslim populations.

What is Considered Good Manners in the UK?

Much like in America, good manners and politeness are important in the UK. To ensure that you exhibit good manners when you arrive in the UK, follow our comprehensive list of tips:

  • If someone does something nice for you, thank them
  • Hold the door open for people behind you; never let it slam in their face
  • Respect your elders
  • Always say “excuse me” if you’ve interrupted or bumped into someone
  • Try to help other people if they need it, such as a person carrying a pram up and down stairs on their own or someone picking up dropped shopping
  • Keep the volume of your voice down in public; try not to shout or argue
  • Punctuality is important in the UK, with many people finding it rude and disrespectful to arrive either late or too early to a social event or appointment
  • British people politely stand in line when appropriate, such as when waiting to purchase tickets. However, don’t be surprised if people push and shove their way onto the tube in London—they just don’t want to miss their train
  • Personal hygiene is very important in the UK so be sure to maintain good habits when it comes to showering and brushing your teeth
  • Do not greet everyone you meet, particularly in big cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham; you will come across as annoying
  • Do not stop in the middle of a busy street, particularly in big cities like London; you’re likely to get bumped into or knocked over
  • Do not stare at other people
  • Do not stand too close to other people; give them ample personal space
  • Do not ask personal questions (such as their age, religion, political stance or how much money they make) of someone you have only just met
  • Understanding that four nations make up the United Kingdom is essential. It is incredibly disrespectful to refer to someone as English if they are not from England. People from the UK should be referred to as British or if you know which of the four nations they come from, refer to them as such: Scottish, Irish, Welsh or English. People of the four nations are fiercely patriotic and may be offended if you fail to realize their nationality.

What is Considered Good Table Manners in the UK?

Table manners are important in the UK. So, to ensure you make a good impression at your first dinner party or your first meal out a restaurant, follow these handy tips and tricks on good table manners:

  • Eat politely and chew with your mouth closed
  • Never talk with your mouth full
  • Try not to make too much noise; do not slurp or loudly munch or crunch
  • If something on the table is out of reach, politely ask someone to pass it to you
  • Lift food up to your mouth, rather than bending over to eat it
  • Place a napkin on your lap when eating
  • If in a group, wait until everyone has been served before you start eating
  • Keep your elbows in when cutting food
  • Always use cutlery when eating; never pick up food in your hands, expect in rare exceptions to the rule, such as fried chicken and corn on the cob.

There are some behaviors that should be avoided when eating in the UK, including:

  • Burping at the table
  • Picking your teeth at the table
  • Licking your fingers at the table
  • Placing your elbows on the table
  • Smoking at the table
  • Speaking with your mouth full.

What is Communication and Conversation Like in the UK?

To help ensure you’re neither offended nor offend others when you first arrive in the UK, follow these rules around communication and conversation:

  • Remember to avoid personal topics or prying questions during conversation; the British prefer privacy, so keep the conversation general
  • Current affairs and the state of the world are always welcome topics, but avoid talking about anything controversial, especially Irish politics, which is associated with a lot of pain and suffering
  • Some topics of conversation, such as religion and politics, should be avoided at social gatherings, until you know the other guests well. You should also stay clear of discussing the royal family. Safe topics of conversation include sports, hobbies, travel and one’s children
  • British humor is very subtle and it can take some time to become accustomed to it. Self-deprecating jokes are the norm, but should only be directed at oneself.

Does the UK Use Metric or Imperial Units of Measurement?

A mixture of metric and imperial units of measurement are used in the UK. For example, road distance and speed are measured in imperial units (such as miles), but other measurements, such as temperature, use the metric system.

Units of Measurement

The various metric units of measurement are equivalent to:

  • 1 inch = 2.54 cm
  • 1 meter = 3.28 feet
  • 1 mile = 1.6 kilometers
  • 1 gallon = 3.78 liters
  • 1 kg = 2.2 lbs.

Some tips and tricks to help remember how to convert units of measurement include:

  • Converting miles to kilometers: Five miles is equivalent to 8 kilometers (this is an easier conversion to remember than 1 kilometer equals 0.62137119 miles). To convert miles to kilometers, the easiest formula to use is: divide the number of miles by five, subtract the answer from the number of miles, and then double the number left. For instance:
    • 100 miles ÷ 5 = 20
    • 100 – 20 = 80
    • 80 x 2 = 160km.
  • Converting pounds to kilograms: 2.2 pounds is equivalent to 1 kilogram (this is an easier conversion to remember than 1lb equals 0.45359237 kilograms). To convert pounds to kilograms, halve the number of pounds, and then subtract one tenth of the result. For instance:
    • 100lbs ÷ 2 = 50
    • 50 - 5 = 45kg.
  • Converting gallons to liters: One liter equals 1.8 imperial pints and there are eight pints in a gallon. Therefore, one gallon equals 4.55 liters. To convert gallons to liters, multiple the number of gallons by nine, and then halve the answer. For instance:
    • 100 gallons x 9 = 900
    • 900 ÷ 2 = 450 liters.
  • Converting inches to centimeters: Once inch is equivalent to 2.54cm. So, to convert inches to centimeters, you simply need to multiply by 2.45. For instance: 100 inches x 2.45 = 245 cm
  • Converting feet to meters: There are 3.28 feet in a meter. So, to convert feet to meters, take your measurement (in feet) and divide it by 3.28. For instance: 100 feet ÷ 3.28 = 30.48 meters.

Do the British Use Different Words to Americans?

There are many words that are specific to the American vernacular. As such, it is unlikely that the British will understand what you are trying to say. To avoid confusion in day-to-day conversation, try substituting the following American words for their British counterparts:

  • “eggplant” versus “aubergine”
  • “national or federal holiday” versus “bank holiday”
  • “trunk” versus “boot”
  • “bathrobe” versus “dressing gown”
  • “cell phone” versus “mobile phone”
  • “cotton candy” versus “candy floss”
  • “counterclockwise” versus “anticlockwise”
  • “cookie” versus “biscuit”
  • “beets” versus “beetroot”
  • “durgstore” versus “chemist”
  • “cornstarch” versus “cornflour”
  • “potato chips” versus “crisps”
  • “zucchini” versus “courgette”
  • “pacifier” versus “dummy”
  • “Santa Claus” versus “Father Christmas”
  • “apartment” versus “flat”
  • “soccer” versus “football”
  • “bangs” versus “fringe”
  • “period” versus “full stop”
  • “principal” versus “headmaster”
  • “vacation” versus “holiday”
  • “popsicle” versus “ice lolly”
  • “sweater” versus “jumper”
  • “elevator” versus “lift”
  • “truck” versus “lorry”
  • “highway” versus “motorway”
  • “sidewalk” versus “pavement”
  • “sneakers” versus “trainers”.

What is a Credit Rating?

Maintaining a good credit rating is important in the UK, influencing loan and credit card applications. There are three major credit bureaus in the UK (ClearScore, Experian and Call Credit), which collect credit rating information. Several factors affect your credit score, some of which include:

  • The number of credit accounts you hold
  • The amount owed on your credit accounts
  • Your total available credit limit
  • Your total debt
  • Your promptness in paying bills
  • Payment or credit issues, such as bankruptcy, loan defaults or foreclosures.

What are the Most Popular Sports to Play and Watch in the UK?

Most popular sports to play and watch in the UK Most popular sports to play and watch in the UK

The UK is sport mad, and understanding a little about the most popular sports is a great way to start conversations and make friends. The British may be famous for their reserve, but they are anything but when it comes to sport. Apart from watching sport, people in the UK also love playing sport.

The most popular sport in the UK is football (or soccer), while the national rugby union and cricket teams are also sources of immense national pride.

Football

Americans moving to the UK need to learn to call soccer, football. In the UK, football is a ‘religion’ and supporters are manic about their local and national teams. The English Premier League is one of the top football competitions in the world, consistently attracting the biggest names in the world game. Each of the four nations has their own national team, with the English team taking out the World Cup in 1966. The atmosphere at an English Premier League game is perhaps the best in the entire world, so make sure you get along and support your local team. The season runs from August to May.

Rugby Union

Like football, rugby was invented in England and it still enjoys an enormous following. The national team is the British and Irish Lions and features players from the four nations. The national team won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, beating America in the final.

Cricket

Cricket is another sport invented in the UK that has spread throughout the world. America and England compete in perhaps the most iconic cricket competition, The Ashes, which has been running since 1882. The England-Wales joint team is known as the Lions and Scotland and Northern Ireland each field their own national teams. The County Championship is the premier national league and all cricket matches in England are held over the summer, from June to August.

Other Sports in the UK

Apart from the three-main professional-level sports, there is also significant interest in sports such as tennis, car racing, boxing, wrestling, swimming, grass hockey, polo and horse racing.

Playing Sport in the UK

It won't be difficult to join a local sporting team. The best place to start is at a local YMCA or local private club. If you're interested in football, rugby or cricket, you may find that recreational groups have informal games at the local pitch. Five a side football is also a popular recreational sport.

Fitness in the UK

In addition to sports, physical fitness is a popular pastime and joining a gym is an excellent way to meet new people. Most cities and towns have local fitness facilities. YMCAs are a great option for exercising on a budget, while private gyms and clubs offer an incredible range of facilities at a higher price. Some of the larger private gyms include:

If you want to exercise for free, take advantage of jogging and bike paths. You can also use the sporting facilities of some local schools on weekends. Just remember to pack wet weather clothes—you can never rely on the weather in the UK.

What Holidays and Traditions are Celebrated in the UK?

Celebrating holidays and traditions in the UK Celebrating holidays and traditions in the UK

There are many different types of holidays and traditions celebrated in the UK, from religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter through to cultural celebrations such as Halloween, as well as more general school holidays. Read our guide below so that you understand the meaning behind each tradition, as well as exactly how and when they are celebrated.

When are School Holidays in the UK?

Most UK schools observe three school terms, each divided in half. The terms are usually:

  • Fall term: September to mid-December
  • Spring term: Early January to Easter
  • Summer term: Easter to late May or early June.

When are the Public Holidays in the UK?

The United Kingdom observes several public holidays, referred to as bank holidays, each of which is outlined below. If a bank holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is moved to the first available weekday.

New Year’s Day (1 January)

New Year’s Day celebrates the beginning of the new calendar year. Generally, people attend large parties on the night of 31 December, ringing in the New Year at midnight.

St Patrick’s Day (17 March)

This is a bank holiday in Northern Ireland but is celebrated all over the UK. This day celebrates Irish culture and the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick. It is a religious day, which is also marked by wearing green and attending parades and parties.

Good Friday and the Easter weekend (March to April: First Sunday After the First Full Moon After the Vernal Equinox)

A national bank holiday, it celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. An important holiday in the Christian calendar, as it marks the moment that Jesus Christ was recognized as the Son of God and ascended to divinity. All the UK (except for Scotland) also has Easter Monday as a bank holiday.

May Day (First Monday of May)

Held as a celebration of the coming of the warmer months of spring and of new life. The day is marked by lots of fun and festivities, including maypole dancing, Morris Dancers and the Crowning of the Queen of May. As the UK doesn’t have a dedicated Labor Day, May Day has traditionally been used by workers to hold rallies and protests and forward their grievances.

Late May Holiday (Last Monday of May)

This is a secular replacement for the Whit Sunday Holiday, which was held to celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to the church on the Day of Pentecost. As a secular holiday, this day usually consists of relaxing and spending time with family and friends.

Battle of the Boyne (12 July)

This holiday celebrates the victory of William of Orange over King James the Second, which marked the Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. Bonfires are usually lit the night before and the day is marked by parades throughout Northern Ireland. This is only a bank holiday in Northern Ireland.

August Bank Holiday (Last Monday of August)

Originally created to give bankers a day off so they could attend cricket matches, it is now a chance for all workers to enjoy the last remnants of summer before the colder months set in and children have to go back to school. The Notting Hill Carnival in London and the August Festival in Edinburgh are two famous events held over this long weekend.

St Andrews Day (30 November)

Held in honor of the Feast of Saint Andrew, this is also Scotland’s national day. People fly the Scottish flag and don the Scottish colors of the diagonal cross on a dark blue background. Traditional dishes such as Highland Venison casseroles and haddock and potato soup are traditionally served on this day.

Christmas Day (25 December)

Just as in America, Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It is the biggest holiday of the year and most businesses are closed on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve as well.

Most people decorate their homes with Christmas lights and Christmas trees and children believe that Santa Claus will visit their home and bring them gifts, so long as they have been well-behaved. As in America, the holiday has become secularized and Christians and non-Christians alike both use this time to hold family gatherings.

Boxing Day (26 December)

This is similar to America in that Boxing Day is a continuation of Christmas celebrations and the beginning of huge sales. If you want to make the most of the discounts, you need to get in early as shoppers begin to line up outside shops at 5am.

Other UK Holidays and Festivals

In addition to public holidays, there are various other holidays, festivals and celebrations observed by the UK population, each of which is outlined below.

Valentine’s Day (14 February)

Much the same as Valentine’s Day in America, this festival is celebrated in memory of St Valentine. Lovers exchange gifts and cards, often anonymously.

Passover (14th Day of the First Month of the Jewish Year)

Passover is a Jewish tradition, which lasts for eight days and celebrates the survivals of the Jews in Egypt. The tradition is marked with ritual dinners called Seder. While Passover is not a federal public holiday, most Jewish companies close during this period.

Mother’s Day (Fourth Sunday of Lent)

Just like Mother’s Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their mother, often buying presents and gifts. It is held exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or early April.

Father’s Day (Third Sunday in June)

Once again, just like Father’s Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their father, often buying presents and gifts.

Halloween (31 October)

Halloween began in European cultures, which believe that on this day magic is at its most potent, with ghosts and spirits able to contact the physical world. Halloween was first celebrated to keep the evil spirits at bay.

On this festival, children dress up in their Favorite costume (often scary creatures, like ghosts, vampires and witches or the latest movie character) and go Trick-or-Treating. At each house, children ask for candy and if they don’t receive any, then they threaten the occupants with a trick—usually something like egging or toilet-papering their house.

While Halloween in the UK is not as significant as in America, it is gaining popularity.

What is Food and Drink Culture Like in the UK?

The eating and drinking culture of the UK The eating and drinking culture of the UK

A key way to experience the culture of a new country is through their food and beverages, and the United Kingdom is no different. Not only does the UK have its own unique foods and drinks, it also offers a range of culturally diverse options due to its rich cultural heritage. You’ll also need to be aware of some cultural norms when it comes to food and drink in the United Kingdom, such as expectations around tipping and the legal drinking age.

Does the UK Have a National Dish?

The United Kingdom has become a diverse place, thanks to the influx of immigration. This has given it one of the most diverse cuisines on the planet. However, the following foods are unmistakably British:

  • Fish and chips
  • Bangers and mash
  • Meat pies
  • Mushy peas
  • Devonshire tea
  • British breakfast
  • Roast dinner
  • Yorkshire pudding
  • Eccles cake
  • Black pudding
  • Haggis
  • Laverbread
  • Scotch egg
  • Toad in the hole.

Ales, stouts, mead and ciders are all classic British drinks. Whiskies from Northern Ireland and Scotch Whiskey from Scotland are some of the finest whiskies in the world. And, of course, there is nothing more British than a cup of tea.

What are Restaurants in the UK Like?

The UK enjoys one of the finest dining scenes in the world, from Michelin-starred restaurants in London to traditional eateries in the British countryside. You’ll never be short of options when it comes to sourcing out quality dining options.

More and more British chefs are taking traditional ingredients and dishes and giving them a modern spin. The huge international population in the UK means expats will be treated to cuisines from all around the world.

The carvery is a British institution, where you can enjoy roast meats and vegetables for a set price.

In Britain, it is customary for the person who initiated the dinner to pay the bill. If someone invites you out for a meal, you should return the favor and pay the bill the next time.

Standard dining etiquette is observed in the UK; don't speak too loudly, don't place your elbows on the table, don't burp and don't speak with your mouth full.

How to Find a Restaurant

There is no standard restaurant rating system in the UK, although newspapers and magazine regularly print reviews. The easiest way to find restaurants and view their ratings is by visiting review websites:

How to Tip in the UK

Tipping isn’t required in the UK. Sometimes a service charge will be added to the bill, but if there is no service charge and you’d like to reward good service, a tip of between 10% and 15% is adequate.

There is no need to tip in fast food restaurants or in bars, and bar and wait staff don’t rely on tips for their income.

What is the Legal Drinking Age in the UK?

The legal drinking age in the UK is 18.

UK laws require that you eat a meal if you’re drinking in a restaurant. However, you can drink in a pub or a wine bar without eating.

Shopping for Food

The quality of food is excellent in the UK and you’ll always be able to find what you need. Residential areas will have large supermarkets selling all food requirements, as well as other household necessities, such as newspapers and beauty and cleaning products. Most cities will also have greengrocers, bakeries, butchers and fishmongers, where the products will be of higher quality and you’ll get excellent service. Farmers markets are also becoming popular, especially in rural areas and they are a fantastic place to pickup fresh local produce.

The major supermarket chains include:

A rising trend in the UK is home delivered meal-kit options, with the major suppliers being:

What is Housing Like in the UK?

Housing in the UK Housing in the UK

If you’re not moving to the UK from America for work or your employer hasn’t secured housing for you, you’ll need to investigate potential properties to buy or rent in the UK. Before you start your house search, you’ll need to understand what renting and buying property is like, as well as what types of houses and apartments are available in the UK.

What are the Best Real Estate Websites in the UK?

A good place to start your property search is with some of the most popular real estate websites. These will give you an idea of the average cost of housing in specific areas, as well as the type of housing available. Try:

What is Renting Property in the UK Like?

If you’re planning on renting property, keep in mind:

  • Some landlords will need a security deposit prior to a tenant moving in. Security deposits are usually equal to one month's rent
  • Landlords may also require written references from employers, as well as evidence of earnings
  • Your security deposit will be returned to you when you leave, if there has been no damage to the property and all other conditions of your lease are met
  • In some areas, you may be able to inspect multiple properties over the course of a few weeks before committing. However, in busier cities with a competitive rental market like London, you may have to decide immediately
  • You can usually negotiate a six-month break clause for leases of a year. It is always best to have this clause in the contract in case your situation changes.
  • Leases usually include a sub-let clause, which outlines whether the property can be let by the renter to a third party
  • If the property is furnished, then you should receive a detailed inventory report of all items, including their condition.

What is Buying Property in the UK Like?

If you’re planning on buying property, keep in mind:

  • You may be asked to provide 40% of the property’s value as a deposit to secure a mortgage and interest rates vary between 3% and 5%
  • Engage the services of a local, reputable real estate agent. Some of the largest estate agents, which have offices in most cities, include:
  • Organize inspections of properties that meet your criteria for when you arrive.

What Types of Houses are there in the UK?

Housing types, styles, and even availability vary from region-to-region and even city-to-city. However, some general facts you can expect about housing in the UK include:

  • Housing prices and rent are more expensive in major metropolitan regions
  • Houses will generally be a lot smaller than the typical American house and areas like kitchens may not have the amount of space and storage you’re accustomed to
  • Houses do not usually come furnished
  • Kitchens in UK houses usually include a space for a fridge, microwave, dishwasher and all other appliances. Although again, the spaces will be smaller, so it may be easier to sell your kitchen appliances in America and purchase new, smaller appliances upon arriving in the UK
  • Laundries in the UK are typically euro-style laundries, which means they may just consist of a tucked away space with a front loader washing machine and dryer. If you have a large washing machine and dryer, you may need to purchase new, smaller appliances upon arriving in the UK
  • Houses in the UK are well insulated and usually have central heating. Due to mild conditions in the summer, it’s rare for houses to have cooling systems
  • Houses in metropolitan areas don’t usually have garages, so only relocate your car if you’re prepared to park it on the street.

What are Houses Like in the UK?

There are several housing types in the UK:

  • Conversion: An urban row or townhouse that has been turned into separate apartments that share a street entrance
  • Detached house: Stand-alone home, surrounded by a private garden
  • Full-service flat: A large apartment or multi-dwelling that features amenities and 24-hour doormen
  • Garden flat: Ground level flat with exclusive access to a garden
  • Housing estate: Planned community or subdivision
  • Maisonette: An apartment in a building, where each unit is placed on top of each other
  • Mansion flat: Sometimes a conversion, usually large, old-fashioned apartment
  • Mews: Charming converted carriage house with small rooms
  • Purpose-built: Apartment complex designed to be lived in by families. Usually share common areas, such as harden and courtyards. Individual apartments can feature as many as five bedrooms and are usually quite modern
  • Semi-detached: Housing sharing a common wall
  • Terraced house: Also called a row house or a town house, where a number of houses are joined side-by-side, often sharing a party wall.

What Architectural Styles are there in the UK?

Houses in the UK may be any one of several different architectural styles:

  • Georgian: Dating back to the 1700s, Georgian-style homes feature double-hung windows, transom lighting and a pedimented crown
  • Victorian: Usually featuring steep-pitched rooves, which has made this style popular for loft-conversions. This style can range from being highly detailed to featuring more simplistic designs, depending on when the house was built
  • Edwardian: Built during the early 20th century, homes were given a larger frontage and colors became lighter. The design features of Edwardian houses are also less elaborate and complex than previous styles
  • 1930s: As people moved into the countryside, this modern style of housing became more popular. Taking cues form Victorian housing, this style is marked by gentle curves, uncomplicated designs, and the use of steel and cement for building materials
  • Post-Second World War: This period covers a range of styles. Victorian and Edwardian revivals were popular, but modernism also paved the way for Brutalist and Internationalist style housing, which was marked by function, coldness and the exposure of building materials.

What are Apartments Like in the UK?

Apartments in the UK may be:

  • Occupant-owned
  • Leased from the building owner (or their appointed representative, such as a real estate agent)
  • Cooperatively-owned (referred to as a co-op), where owners become shareholders in a company that owns the entire building and its grounds. Members of a co-op pay a monthly fee to cover the cost of gardening, maintenance, the mortgage, insurance and taxes. As members have voting rights when new owners seek to rent or buy a property within the building, they can be difficult to rent or buy
  • Full-service flat, where the apartment is purchased, but the building and grounds remain the property of the building owner. Full-service flat owners (or renters) are charged maintenance fees, but must pay their own taxes, mortgage and insurance. Full-service flats often include additional facilities such as a gym, pool, sauna and tennis courts.

What is the Best Way to Get Around in the UK?

Getting around in the UK Getting around in the UK

There are many modes of transport in the UK, from the convenience of your own car right through to public transport. Your preferred mode of transport will likely depend upon your location, budget and commute times. For instance, you may not need a car if you live in the middle of a major city like London, Manchester or Liverpool—you’ll be able to rely on public transport and taxis. However, if you live in a small town or a regional area, you may need a car.

What are the Road Rules when Driving in the UK?

If you plan to drive once you arrive in the UK, there are several different road rules of which you should make yourself aware:

  • The British drive on the left-hand side of the road. This means that:
    • You’ll need to take extra care when pulling out of intersections, roundabouts and one-way streets
    • The gear stick will be in your left hand
    • The indicators and windscreen wipers will be operated by your left-hand
    • When crossing the street, you need to look left for on-coming traffic.
  • Road speed and distance are measured in miles
  • White lines separate lanes of traffic moving in the same direction
  • Road signs are designed differently in the UK. For example, warning signs are triangular with red borders, while circular signs with a red border are prohibitive
  • Pedestrians always have the legal right of way. If a pedestrian is crossing the road, you must come to a full stop
  • Seatbelts must be worn at all times
  • It is illegal to drive whilst intoxicated in the UK. The limit is 0.08BAC
  • It is illegal to text whilst driving in the UK.

For more information about driving in the UK and road rules, visit the highway code, road safety and road rules.

Can You Drive in the UK with a Foreign Drivers’ Licence?

When moving to the UK from America, your American drivers’ licence will be valid for 12 months; after that point you’ll need to convert to a UK drivers’ licence.

  • The best way to understand the process of converting your American licence to a UK licence is to complete the UK Government’s Questionnaire on Exchanging a Foreign Driving Licence
  • The process of converting to a UK licence is different in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will convert American licences but expats will need to fill out application form DL1, which is available from the Ministry of Transport test centers and post offices
  • When applying for a UK licence, you need to provide:
    • A clear, passport-sized photograph
    • Full valid current passport in your current name or
    • A valid UK Biometric Residence Permit
    • The licence fee of £50, which is payable by check to the Driver and Vehicle Agency.

It may also be useful to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to a valid American drivers’ licence. If you intend on obtaining an IDP, you must do so in advance. IDPs are issued by the motor vehicle department of your home country, NOT by the United Kingdom Government.

For citizens of the United States, the US Government requires that you apply for an IDP through either the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

To apply for an IDP, you must:

  • Complete the appropriate IDP application form
  • Present your valid US driver's license
  • Provide two passport photos of yourself
  • Make the applicable payment. The fees vary depending on the shipping method, destination and processing time and are listed on the application forms
  • Submitting your application either in person or via mail.

What is Public Transport Like in the UK?

The UK has an extensive public transport network, including trains, buses, railways and subways. All these modes of public transport make it easy for people without cars to move throughout the UK with relative ease.

Trains

The National Rail is a passenger rail network of more than 20 independent rail companies, providing trains throughout Great Britain. You can plan your journey and book tickets online.

There are fast inter-city connections between major cities, which are also integrated with local commuter lines. Trains run frequently and this form of transport is practical and cost-effective compared to air travel. There are first and second-class cars available, with a significant price difference between the two classes.

The Eurostar provides a high-speed rail connection between the UK, Paris and Brussels. Commuters can also travel directly to Disneyland Paris.

ScotRail runs rail transportation around Scotland, while train transportation is limited in Northern Ireland.

Buses

Most cities have a bus service that transports passengers around the city and links up with inter-city services. Buses consist of traditional double-decker buses (such as London’s iconic red double-decker buses), as well as modern single-level services.

City bus services are regular and reliable, but you need exact change to pay for your fare.

The National Express and Scottish Citylink provide inter-city services, with most coaches having on-board bathroom facilities. Eurolines also offers bus connections to Europe.

Railways, Subways and Trams

The Tube or London Underground is one of the most famous subways in the world. Expats can travel round London quickly and conveniently, and if you purchase a researchable Oyster Card, the cost of travel can be affordable.

Birmingham, Manchester and Croydon (in south-east London) all have tram services. The tram service in Croydon connects with important suburbs such as Wimbledon, New Addington, Elmers End and Beckenham Junction.

Taxis and Uber

Taxis (or ‘cabs’) are common in inner city and suburban areas, as well as within smaller towns. Taxis can be hailed from the side of the street with the wave of a hand or a whistle, at taxi ranks, or booked over the phone. While taxis are convenient for travelling short distances, they can be expensive. Most cities throughout the UK feature the famous Black Cabs, as well as conventional forms of taxis. Black cab drivers are famous for their knowledge of local areas, as to obtain a licence all drivers must pass an extremely detailed knowledge test.

A relatively new company, Uber is an app-based ride share cab company. It currently operates out of most major cities in the UK and depending on surge pricing, it can be a more affordable option than a taxi. Using Uber, you can hire a driver to pick you up in their private car and take you to your desired destination. The nearest driver will be at your pickup location within minutes.

What is Air Travel Like in the UK?

The growth of low-cost airlines, such as EasyJet and Ryan Air, mean that it is possible to travel cheaply throughout the UK by plane. Major airports are in Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Inverness, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Newcastle and Manchester.

While it is a convenient way to travel, it should be noted that most airports are located outside the major city-centers. This means that you need to factor additional commuting time into your travel plans. You will also have to arrive 90 minutes before departure to check-in. As such, travelling by train may be faster for some journeys.

Major international and national airlines offer domestic travel throughout the UK, including:

Smaller regional carriers also provide services on specialized routes.

What Items are Prohibited When Shipping Goods to the UK?

Prohibited items when shipping goods to the UK Prohibited items when shipping goods to the UK

Many dangerous or prohibited goods cannot be shipped to the UK. People attempting to import prohibited items into the UK may be subject to a penalty and the items may be seized by customs officials.

What Items are Prohibited Entry to the UK?

General items prohibited from entry into the UK include:

  • Controlled drugs such as heroin, MDMA, cannabis, barbiturates, amphetamine, methamphetamine and so on
  • Offensive weapons
  • Self-defense spays and electric shock devices, including stun guns
  • Indecent and obscene material, such as books, DVDs, software, films and videos
  • Counterfeit and pirated goods
  • Meat and dairy products from outside the European Union.

What Wildlife Products are Prohibited Entry to the UK?

Wildlife products prohibited from entry into the UK include:

  • Ivory products
  • Skins, hides, feathers, bones, horns, caviar and tusks
  • Sea turtle products, including tortoiseshell items
  • Items made from endangered or threatened animals and fish such as cheetahs, jaguars and tigers
  • Endangered animal and plant species
  • Any products made from endangered or threatened wildlife as defined by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

For more information, download our Guide to Moving Dangerous, Prohibited and Restricted Items.

What Items are Restricted When Shipping Goods to the UK?

Restricted items when shipping goods to the UK Restricted items when shipping goods to the UK

When shipping items to the United Kingdom, some items are subject to restrictions and will require additional precautions. People attempting to import restricted items into the UK may be subject to a penalty, and the items may be seized by customs officials. To help ensure that your goods are not seized and that your entire shipment is not delayed, follow our guide on restricted items.

Rough Diamonds

Anyone bringing rough (uncut or unpolished) diamonds into the UK must have a valid Kimberley Process Certificate.

Money

You must alert Border Force authorities if you are importing more than €10,000 or equivalent in foreign coins, currency, traveler's checks, money orders, negotiables or investment securities.

Trademarked Items

Imitation products represented by a registered trademark are restricted. The items most frequently identified as having false trademarks are perfume, jewelry (including watches), cameras, tape recorders and musical instruments. Pirated copies of copyrighted books are also restricted. If you attempt to bring copies or pirated material into the UK, the items may be seized and you will be forced to pay copyright fines.

Food (including Herbs and Spices)

Food can cause delays in customs clearances, so it is recommended not to include food in a general household goods shipment. Meat and dairy products are completely banned from import. For more information about importing food products, visit Bringing Food into the UK.

What is the Healthcare System Like in the UK?

The healthcare system in the UK The healthcare system in the UK

The National Health Service (NHS) is universally recognized as one of the world’s leading public healthcare systems.

However, expats should be aware that waitlists for NHS appointments are lengthy and appointments can be hard to come by.

Private hospitals usually specialize in a particular treatment and while the standard of care is considered to be higher than at public providers, costs can be high and private health insurance is a must.

What is Health Insurance Like in the UK?

UK employers are not required to provide private health care to employers, so it is your responsibility to source and pay for private health care. Private health care gives you access to the highest quality providers and allows you to avoid the long waiting lists that are associated with the NHS system.

organizing private health care insurance involves the same process as in America, in that your premium is tied to the amount of cover you receive. There is strong competition amongst providers, so do your research to get the best value for money.

What are the Major Health Insurance Providers?

Some of the major health insurance providers in the UK include:

What are Emergency Medical Services Like in the UK?

Emergency medical services for acute injuries and illness are free to all. Immediate care will be provided and emergency calls should be directed to ‘999’. As in America, you will be passed on to an operator who will dispatch an ambulance to the location you have provided.

It is important that this service is only used in emergencies. For less critical situations, expats should make their way to the nearest hospital, where the emergency unit will organize treatment.

The National Health Service also provides a 24-hour advice hotline for medical emergencies.

How Do Pharmacies and Prescription Medication Work in the UK?

Pharmacies or chemists are well stocked in the UK and can be found in all major streets and shopping centers. If a certain type of medication is unavailable, a chemist can usually order the medication within 24 to 48 hours or direct you to a pharmacy that stocks that medicine.

Upon arriving in the UK, you’ll need to get all your prescriptions filled by a UK doctor, as chemists won’t accept American prescriptions.

Many pharmacies stay open until midnight and large chains such as Superdrug and Boots are becoming more common than independent stores.

The most common pharmacies are:

How Do Electricity, Water and Gas Utilities Work in the UK?

Electricity, water and gas utilities in the UK Electricity, water and gas utilities in the UK

When moving to the United Kingdom, you’ll need to understand how electricity, water and gas utilities work, from the biggest utility companies in the market, to connecting your services, as well as whether your American appliances and electronics will work in the UK.

How to Connect Your Utilities in the UK

Once you’ve found a property to rent or buy, you’ll need to organize the connection of your electricity, water and gas utilities. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Utility service provider costs and plans vary, so it’s best to do some research into providers in your local area. Use MoneySupermarket and USwitch to compare offers
  • In some instances, utility companies will require a deposit (because you won’t have a credit history). This will be returned to you after an agreed period of no late or missed payments and is usually enough to cover one month’s bill
  • In some cases, you may be asked to produce official documentation showing that you occupy the property, such as a mortgage or lease agreement
  • You will receive a monthly bill, on a date determined by when your utility was first switched on
  • If you’re renting:
    • Your landlord should be able to tell you who your local utility suppliers are and how to have them connected
    • The cost of water should be included in your rent.
  • The biggest electricity and gas utility companies in the UK include:
  • Water utility companies are region-specific in the UK, so it’s best to contact your landlord or realtor to find out which company provides a water utility service in your area.

Will My American Appliances and Electronics Work in the UK?

Your American appliances and other household electronics may not work in the United Kingdom due to three potential compatibility issues: the plug, the voltage and the frequency.

The different power plug is easy to overcome with a plug adapter. However, the difference in electricity voltage and frequency can be more challenging. In the US, electricity is 100 to 110 volts, at a frequency of 60 Hz. In the UK, electricity is 230 volts and 50 Hz

Generally, many electronic items nowadays (like computers and peripherals) can run on both voltages and frequencies. You just need to check their power labels or manuals for ‘110-240v 50/60Hz’ before plugging them in for the first time in the UK. And if they can’t run on both voltages, there is still a chance they’ll work by purchasing ‘step-down’ voltage transformers. However, these transformers can be costly, bulky, unsightly and inconvenient.

Unfortunately, many American appliances, especially those with motors like washing machines and dryers, will not work in the UK. Their motors will struggle with the frequency difference, and there’s no practical solution to change electrical frequency. Furthermore, televisions and video and DVD recorders operate in different digital formats and standards, which may also make them incompatible in the UK.

You should therefore thoroughly check the manuals of all your appliances and electronics to ensure they are compatible with UK voltages and frequencies before incurring the cost of shipping over items that might be useless upon arrival. Buying new or secondhand appliances and electronics once you arrive may not only be more cost-effective, but your only solution.

How Do Cell Phones and the Internet Work in the UK?

Mobile phones and the internet in the UK Mobile phones and the internet in the UK

There is enormous competition amongst cell phone and internet providers in the UK, which means you can shop around and compare to find a deal that suits your budget.

The UK enjoys a high-quality Internet service. DSL is the most popular option, but cable and ADSL connections are also available. Many companies offer phone and Internet bundle packages that can save you a lot of money, with the ease of just one bill to pay.

The main cell phone providers are:

The main internet providers are:

Keep in mind that in the UK, you also have to pay a TV licence. A TV licence costs £147 for a basic color phone television service. You can pay your TV licence online.

How to Keep in Touch with Family and Friends Back Home While in the UK

Keeping in touch with family and friends from the UK Keeping in touch with family and friends from the UK

The thought of leaving family and friends behind while you relocate to the UK can be difficult, but thanks to modern technology, staying connected is easy. There are plenty of ways for you to keep in touch, from cell phone and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) apps like Skype and WhatsApp, through to the UK Postal Service.

Phone

To make an international call from the UK, you'll need to dial:

  • The UK international access code, which is ‘00'
  • The international country code for the country you wish to call (this is '1' for America)
  • The area code. For example:
    • ‘907’ for Alaska
    • ‘302’ for Delaware
    • ‘808’ for Hawaii
    • ‘208’ for Idaho
    • ‘207’ for Maine
    • ‘406’ for Montant
    • ‘605’ for South Dakota
    • ‘802’ for Vermont
    • ‘307’ for Wyoming.
  • The number of the person you wish to call.

Different carriers will have different international call rates, so make sure you confirm these rates early on.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Apps

One of the cheapest ways to make an international call from your cell is to take advantage of a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) app, such as:

If you use any of these apps while you're connected to Wi-Fi, you'll save a lot of money. You also won't have to worry about international country codes—just click on the contact and press call. You also have the option of making video calls over Skype, Facebook Messenger and FaceTime, helping you feel more connected to your friends and family.

Internet

Connecting to the internet is easy in the UK and Cloud services provide public connections. The internet offers you round-the-clock access to the people you miss back home. Email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all allow you to stay connected and you can also use your computer to make international calls via Facebook and Skype.

Postal Service

The Royal Mail is owned by the Government and provides the UK with an efficient postal service.

Keep in mind that prices and delivery times vary according to weight, destination and the type of postal service you opt for. Approximate delivery times include:

What Tax Do I Pay in the UK?

Paying tax in the UK Paying tax in the UK

As a developed economy, the UK Government taxes all people that work in the UK. These include income tax, sales tax and National Healthcare System tax. So that you understand your personal taxation obligations, be sure to read through the in-depth resources below.

What is Income Tax?

If you are an employee, income tax is taken directly from your paycheck, so you won’t need to set aside money each month. This system is known as PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn). If you are self-employed or have your own company, you will be responsible for paying your own income tax. There are different rates of income tax, depending on how much you earn:

  • £11,501 to £45,000: 20% tax
  • £45,001 to £150,000: 40% tax
  • Over £150,000: 45% tax.

Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, each year you will need to complete a tax return, which declares how much money you’ve earnt, how much tax you’ve paid, and therefore whether you’re owed a refund (or if you owe more tax).

For more information on filing a tax return and paying taxes, please visit the UK Government’s Guidance on Income Tax.

What is Sales Tax?

The sales tax in the UK is referred to as Value-Added Tax or VAT. For most goods and services, VAT is taxed at 20% of the item’s value. For certain goods and services (such as child car seats and energy-saving devices), this tax is reduced to 5%. For essential items (such as most food), this tax does not apply.

What is National Insurance (NHS) Tax?

The National Insurance Tax funds the National Healthcare Service (NHS). If you are an employee, this tax is deducted from your pay as part of your income tax. The rate of this tax is means tested, so the rates vary depending on your income level.

What to See and Do in the UK?

Things to see and do in the UK Things to see and do in the UK

The UK may be spread over two relatively small islands but it manages to fit a lot of geographical and cultural diversity into that space. The UK has been a dominant force in world culture for over 1,000 years. It is a place of incredible history, beautiful landscapes, regional population diversity, and a testament to the success of multi-culturalism. This means there is an unlimited list of things to see, do, and experience when you move to the UK. It would be almost impossible to list every sight to see, so the list below should be viewed as a starting point. Make your own discoveries about the natural and cultural wonders that the UK has to offer.

Bath

Bath is a hotspot for all visitors to the UK and with its Roman baths, incredible Georgian architecture and preservation of a genteel Britain, it’s no wonder why. Jane Austen fans will also not want to miss the chance to visit the Jane Austen center, built in recognition of its famous resident.

Beatlemania in Liverpool

The most famous band of all time begun in the northern English city of Liverpool and you’ll hear the sounds of The Beatles on every corner of the city. There’s a museum dedicated to the Fab Four and you can even listen to live music at the place where they got their start – The Cavern. Once a drab industrial city, Liverpool is now a thriving hub of culture and one of the truly iconic British cities.

British Museum

Entrance to the British Museum is free, and it is so big that you could spend weeks wandering around and still not take everything in. You’ll see everything from the sarcophagi of Ancient Egyptian royals to Roman antiques and everything in between.

Brighton Pier

The setting of the famous Graham Greene novel, Brighton Rock, this bohemian seaside village is a treat for people of all ages. The scenery is beautiful, the pier brims with life, and you can even visit the ornate gardens of the former seaside home of George IV.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral is the most famous religious building in England after Westminster Abbey. Whilst here, visitors will be treated to tombs of medieval kings, marvel at 12th century stained glass windows, and visit the spot where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170.

Edinburgh Festival

The medieval streets of Edinburgh come alive every July when the Edinburgh Festival comes to town. It has been in operation for 70 years and it continues to draw world-class performances from a variety of genres. There is no better time to visit this beautiful city than at festival time.

Giant’s Causeway

After you’ve sampled a tumbler of whisky, why not continue your tour of Northern Ireland and experience the natural marvel that is the Giant’s Causeway. The natural, hexagonal formations of basalt seem as if they were crafted by hand and no matter what time of year it is, this World Heritage Site is a must-see.

London

Just the mention of the name is enough. London Town is one of the world’s greatest cities. From the Tower of London to the River Thames, to Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, there are so many sights to see that you could spend your life in London and never see it all.

Manchester

It is the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the ‘Manchester Sound’ that dominated the 80s and 90s music world. Think of bands like The Stone Roses, Oasis, Blur, The Happy Mondays and you think of Manchester. England’s second biggest city and a place not to be missed for lovers of history, music and great cities. Manchester is also home to the most famous football team in the world, Manchester United.

North Devon Coast

Where else could you take in one of the most beautiful coastlines on the planet and sample the culinary marvel that is Devonshire Tea. Scones, jam, cream and tea go perfectly together and it will be a treat to cozy up inside and sample these delicacies after you’ve taken in the wild and blustery coastline.

Old Bushmills Distillery

Bushmills produces some of the finest whisky in the world and what better place to sample it than at its birthplace. Located in Bushmills, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland, Old Bushmills Distillery has been active for 400 years.

Orkney

Orkney is an archipelago of islands off the coast of Scotland that is home to a 5,000-year-old village. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was discovered when a sand dune was disturbed and a Neolithic village emerged.

Oxford and Cambridge

Visiting two of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities—Oxford and Cambridge—is a treat for the eyes. You can wander under ancient archways, relax in century old pubs, and imagine all the brilliant and talented people that have walked the very same streets.

Pembroke Coast

Wales is blessed by three sides of beautiful coastline, and the Pembroke Coast may be the pick of them all. It’s littered with historic sites like Pembroke Castle, St. David’s Cathedral and Laugharne, where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas was born and lived for much of his life.

Snowdonia

Snowdonia is perhaps the most majestic mountain range in the UK and the jewel in Wales’ crown. The 3,546ft peak of Snowdon Mountain is accessible by train and visitors will be treated to vista after vista of incredible scenery.

St Andrew’s Golf Course

St Andrews Beach is the most famous golf course in the world and a place of pilgrimage for lovers of golf.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge is undoubtedly one of the most famous and mysterious structures from the ancient world. Built between 3000 and 1600BC, this giant stone circle on the Salisbury plain is something that you must experience in person. The interactive museum posits some of the popular theories about the reason for its construction, while also displaying over 250 prehistoric treasures.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is the home of The Bard and there’s no better place to catch a performance of one of Shakespeare’s famous plays than at the Royal Shakespeare Company. The town itself is also incredibly beautiful with its setting on the River Avon.

The Isle of Mann

There’s no better way to see the Isle of Mann than by train. You can even take the train to the top of the island’s highest peak on the Snaefell Mountain Railway.

The Isle of Skye

At the Isle of Skye, you can take in the rugged natural beauty of this Scottish outpost and walk amongst the waterfalls and fairy pools. This site provides you with the most popular walking routes.

The Lake District

A muse for romantic poets from Wordsworth to Coleridge and Keats, this is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the UK. There are plenty of walking trails and you can even explore the area from England’s largest lake, Lake Windermere.

The Shambles

The northern English town of York is picturesque and full of amazing history. It is surrounded by a medieval wall and the street known as The Shambles is lined with houses that lean towards each other to the point of almost meeting in the middle of the street.

Warwick Castle

Built by the first king of England, William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle has been perfectly preserved. History buffs will love the re-enactments and tours of the dungeon.

West Highland Route

Lovers of trekking and unspoiled wilderness will love the West Highland Route. You’ll walk 154km (96 miles) from just outside of Glasgow to the heart of the Scottish Highlands in Fort William, taking in sights like Loch Lamond, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe along the way.

Wimbledon

Wimbledon is the most famous tennis event in the world. You can’t buy tickets online; instead you have to camp out and hope you get a ticket. Once inside you’ll be treated to one of the most glamorous sporting events in the world and bucket loads of strawberries and cream and Pimms. Just pray the rain stays away.

Windsor Castle

Home of Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world and the resting place of some of England’s most famous and notorious kings, including Henry VIII, Charles I and George IV.

Further Resources on What to See and Do in the UK

For further information on what to see and do in the UK visit:

Disclaimer

We have been furnished with the above information, however, UniGroup Worldwide Moving gives no guarantees or undertakings concerning the accuracy, completeness, or up-to-date nature of the information provided. It is essential that users verify all information contained here before taking any action or relying upon it. UniGroup Worldwide Moving cannot be held liable for any actions taken based on the information contained within this Guide.