Top tips for people who are new to the UK and are looking to work and settle

If you’re coming to the UK to get a job and settle down, what do you need to know? First of all we’ll assume you have got the necessary visa so that you are allowed to work here – unless you’re from the EU, which pre-Brexit means no visa is needed, and post-Brexit is likely to see new rules introduced.

So apart from that, what are some of the things that surprise people when they are new to the UK? Here are our top tips when new to the UK, both for your working life and your leisure time.

Weather

The weather is one of the most famous characteristics of life in the UK, and you’ll notice that people love to talk about it.

Learn how to comment on how nice or nasty the day’s weather is, and you’ll find it much easier to talk to native Brits, but don’t be surprised if the weather in the afternoon is completely different than it was when you woke up, as things can change very quickly.

Clothes with hoods are a good investment, and on a cold day it’s sometimes best to wear lots of layers rather than one thick layer, so you can remove some clothing if it gets warmer later.

There’s a good reason why the stereotype of Brits includes hats and umbrellas – so if you leave the house with nothing at all to protect your head, don’t be surprised if you get rained on by the end of the day.

Getting the bus

Another iconic image of Britain is the red London bus, and most towns and cities have a pretty good bus network – you can even catch coaches over longer distances between cities at prices much lower than if you were to take the same journey by train.

If you’re in London and you want to pay for your bus ticket when you board the bus, that’s usually OK, but you should remember that these days on London buses you cannot pay for a bus fare with cash. When paying for the bus in London, you will require a contactless card. For contactless payment cards issued outside the UK, please check with your card issuer as transaction fess or bank charges may apply.

You can also prepare yourself when paying by using an Oyster card or a travel card.  Oyster cards are essentially prepaid travel cards that you top up and scan as you go.  A travel card is a paper card or ticket that is valid for a set period of time; usually 1 day or 7 days.

Outside London, most bus operators will accept cash payments. This can be difficult because the exact price is not always published online or displayed anywhere else until you inform the driver where you want to go, this can also be based on which bus stop you board at. Therefore, it’s always useful to have a handful of coins and smaller notes ready with you for whatever the price may be. Some of the smaller operators will not accept the contactless card as payment, so carrying small amounts of cash is always a sensible precaution.

There are often other ways to pay for transport that can help you save money. Also, checking the local transport website to see if there are any travel cards available or apps similar to London’s Oyster scheme is a great way to save money on transportation costs. If you are a student, a job seeker, disabled or elderly you may be entitled to some discounts, so it’s worth looking into to check if you are eligible.

North and south

London is not in the middle of the UK – in fact it is almost as far south-east as you can go – and it is also one of the most expensive places to live.

There are expensive locations up and down the country in places that are fashionable at the moment, but usually, the further north you go, the cheaper things get.

If you live and work in the south, and take a trip ‘up north’ for a few days, you might be surprised by how big of a difference in price you can find even on the exact same products.

A classic British example of this is fish and chips and a pint of beer – in the north you could easily find traditional fish and chips for around £4.50 and beer for £2 a pint, whereas in London even the lowest prices are likely to be at least twice as much as that.

This is also worth remembering if you decide to settle in the north of the country and then choose to go on vacation in the south, as the cost of even just eating and drinking during your holiday ‘down south’ is likely to be much much higher than you are used to paying in the north.

If you normally pay by debit card to avoid trying to count cash you are unfamiliar with, look out for how much you are charged – and make sure you have enough in your account to pay for everything you buy at southern prices.