It’s Not All Roses in the United Kingdom
As many British consider moving out of the United Kingdom, several hundred thousand more people consider moving in. With the United Kingdom part of the European Union, it’s relatively easy for Europeans to move there as well as citizens of the UK’s ex-colonies. As a British citizen, I’m one of the first to say the United Kingdom has a lot of positive things to offer. But, there are things every potential emigrant should consider before moving to the UK.
We spoke to an expert mortgage broker from getmemymortgage.co.uk’s network of advisors who told us ‘if you are looking to move to the uk and buy a property as soon as you arrive it is a good idea to start planning this well in advance of arriving in the UK to ensure you meet the UK requirements if you are looking to get a mortgage to purchase a property.
The Cost of Living
The cost of living in the United Kingdom is high. One of the highest cost of livings in Europe, many every day things are just about double the cost of similar items in the United States, yet salaries aren’t any higher. Clothing in particular is expensive, as well as many household items, gas (petrol), food and eating out. When you’re used to spending $15 to buy a t shirt in the US, then are suddenly faced with paying £15 (almost double the cost with the foreign currency exchange), moving to the UK can be a bit of a shock.
The Cost of Renting Accommodation
Accommodation in many European countries is high compared to the US, Asia and many other regions of the world. In Thailand, where I live, an average one bedroom apartment is around $250 a month; in the US around $750. Average rental price in the UK for a one-bedroom apartment in May, 2010, £709. With today’s currency exchange rate, that’s $1,052 – more than $300 a month more than in the US and $800 a month more than Thailand.
Median Income in the UK
Considering the price of so many things in the UK is high, you’d think the salaries would be the same. Surprising to some, particularly compared to the US, salaries are lower. The median income in the United States in 2007 (the latest statistics), according to the US Census Bureau, was $45,113 for a man who worked full-time, all year round. In the United Kingdom in 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics, men working full time made £531 per week or the equivalent of £27,612 or $40,870.
Now, considering many items in the UK (in particular, accommodation) is much more expensive than in the US, not only is the average man in the UK making around $4,500 a year less than in the US, he’s also paying more for almost everything he buys.
One thing many people don’t consider when thinking about moving to the UK is the weather. As a former British resident I can tell you, it is miserable. With temperatures often in the 40-60 degree farenheit range, even in the summer, anyone who’s spent any time in the US, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia and many other regions will find living in the UK incredibly cold. Add onto that the constant rain or drizzle (the last time I was in the UK, it rained every day for the two weeks I was there, and this was in June), and the weather gets old fast. Also, consider this. When many British who have moved out of the United Kingdom are asked for their reasons why, a high percentage say the terrible British weather was one of the reasons they left.
Buying Property in the United Kingdom
The cost of buying houses or apartments in the UK in the last 20 years has gone through the roof. The average price of property in the UK last year was £156,442 ($231,573). In the United States, the average price of property was $182,000. So, think again before moving to the UK and buying a house.. The average American man is making more money than the average Brit, yet buying property (on average) $50,000 less.
If after reading this article about things to consider before moving to the UK has made you depressed, don’t let it. The United Kingdom is a wonderful country. People are friendly, the culture is interesting, the history and architecture spectacular and opportunities, like anywhere, there if you look for them. Just make sure, before you move to the United Kingdom, you seriously consider these important factors. As it’s better to get there fully prepared than clueless and shocked.
Like many locations in London, the streets tell their own historic journeys to the present day. A walk down Whitehall, however, opens the door to the power and majesty that has ruled the British Empire for hundreds of years. Whitehall is the street of government. On this walk visitors will encounter not only the present center of power (the Houses of Parliament), but also some of the historic grit and determination (the Cabinet War Rooms) that kept the country safe and free for centuries.
This walk begins at the landmark most associated with London, Big Ben (tube: Westminster).
Few travelers know that the real name of this icon of British life is actually St. Stephen’s Clock Tower, with the bell being “Ben.” At 120 feet tall, with a 20-plus foot dial and clock hands as tall as a red, double-decker bus, St. Stephen’s Clock Tower got its nickname from Sir Benjamin Hall, who was Commissioner of Works and Forests during the time the bell was hung in 1856.
Before the Houses of Parliament were constructed, this area in the early 1800s was a series of dark and dingy streets. When Sir Charles Barry was selected to reconstruct a new Palace of Westminster, he designed this square to be open and welcoming. Today Parliament Square is best know for its statues, the most famous of which is no doubt Sir Winston Churchill, in a brooding pose looking in the direction of the House of Commons. In addition to the statue of Churchill, there are statues of Robert Peel, Benjamin Disraeli, Field-Marshall Smuts, Lords Canning and Derby, and (strangely enough) Abraham Lincoln.
Houses of Parliament
The correct name for the Houses of Parliament is actually the Palace of Westminster (the first Palace was built in the 11th century and occupied the land until it was destroyed by fire in 1512). Rebuilt but destroyed by a second, greater fire in 1834, the late-Gothic building that stands today was the design of Architect Sir Charles Barry during the time of Queen Victoria, who opened the first Parliament in that building in 1852.
Today, the Palace of Westminster includes not only the House of Commons and House of Lords (the bicameral legislature of the UK), but also committee rooms, libraries, dining rooms, residences (for the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Sergeant at Arms), Westminster Hall, and the crypt of St. Stephen’s Chapel. At the north end of the complex is the clock tower and Big Ben.
Visitors can view open debates in Parliament (with tickets from an MP, or by lining up for admission on the day of the debate, although admission is by no means guaranteed with limited seating). Perhaps more common is for visitors to tour the Houses of Parliament when they are not in session (for two months during the summer). These spectacular buildings are certainly worth the tour.
Cabinet War Rooms
Just off Parliament Street (which eventually turns into Whitehall) is King Charles Street, and at the end of that street, visitors will encounter one of the most sobering museums in London. Created as a bunker, this area of the Treasury Department was the command and control center for the British government during World War II. Although the portion that today serves as a part of the Imperial War Museum is just a fraction of its original size, visitors still feel (via recordings, documents, and actual war rooms) what it was like for the government to be planning war while under siege.
No. 10 Downing Street
The security risks no long allow visitors to travel down Downing Street to No. 10, the residence of the Prime Minister (akin to the White House), but because this is a short street, visitors can still see the house well from the gates at the street’s end (look for the red door). Next door, No. 11 is the residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Both houses appear small from the front, but they are large homes that extend back a good distance.
Half way down Whitehall, visitors will encounter the Horse Guards, where every day, they can witness one of the most colorful ceremonies in London, a parade from along Hyde Park and The Mall to Whitehall. Each day at 11:00 am (10:00 am on Sunday), the Household Cavalry changes guard. Beyond the grand archway lies the largest parade grounds in London (once the site of King Henry VIII’s tournament grounds), where ceremonies, such as Trooping the Colors, are held.
By continuing down Whitehall, visitors will eventually reach Trafalgar Square, the largest pigeon gathering in London (beneath the statue of Lord Nelson). This is also the location of the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. Those museums, and many others in London, must be part of another walk, for this walk down Whitehall is done.
I took a trip a few years ago to Scotland and England. While I was there I was approached by a number of beggars and scam artists. Here are the most memorable ones on my trip.
Tourists have more beggars ask them for money because they don’t see the same bums, day in day out, asking for money. So naturally, anyone new is targeted, especially folks that aren’t really sure about the exchange rate.
London wasn’t as bad as Scotland in the bum department, but I did have one memorable experience.
Most of the time I ate ethnic food in England, trying out all the Indian and Pakistani restaurants. One night I decided to be a tourist and ate at a pretty horrible “British” Pub with a traveling companion I’d struck up a conversation with. As we finished the meal and the waitress brought us our change, we were approached by a pitiful waif walking with two arm brace canes.
She got in our space fairly quickly, despite her game leg and asked for money.
My companion refused curtly, so she hobbled away.
“I bet she’s not even crippled,” he said once she was out of ear shot.
“Look!” he said pointing.
The limping girl was no longer limping and she wasn’t using her canes. It was a Usual Suspects moment.
Then, a group of tourists rounded the corner and she instantly reverted to her painful limp.
Beggars in Scotland
As I waited at the theatre in the misting rain, I looked across the street. There squatted the grey side of the imposing Bank of Scotland. In a stone niche there was an ATM. What was surprising about the scene was the beggar sitting underneath the ATM, so that he could literally look up at the cash dispensed.
That takes balls, serious brass ones.
I watched him for about 20 minutes. No policeman came to wave him away and I haven’t any idea if he was successful. I didn’t see anyone give him any money while I was there.
On a cobblestone street with an archway, a woman with a struggling toddler implored me for cash. She was dressed like something out of Dickens, and she looked at home there, with a tragically placed bit of soot across her face. She was very impatient with the child, whose duty it was to still and serve as a prop.
“Please,” she said in a lilting accent “I need money for diapers.”
I didn’t have any money left, but I considered heading to a store and buying her diapers. Given my later experiences and the way she treated the child when she thought I wasn’t looking, I’m pretty sure it was a scam.
Widows and Orphans
We were in a small Irish city (that will remain unnamed) and our tour group descended upon the pub. About 25 mostly American girls under the age of 30 caused quite a stir with the local boys. Immediately, they began passing around a raggedy bit of paper and asking us for funds for the “Widows and Orphans of Ireland.”
They had a bit of a twinkle in their eyes as they asked us for what probably amounted to their beer money for the night. Some of the girls actually gave them money.
I got one of them alone and he admitted that they always solicit for the Widows and Orphans whenever tourists came into the bar. Whenever they met any widows or orphans, he said, they gave them a few dollars. Technically, he himself was an orphan, so if he bought a few pints to drown his sorrows with the funds, it would contribute to the happiness of an orphan. And he was never content to drink alone, so if the rest helped his friends to drink; it further contributed to his happiness.
Something about that accent lets a man get away with anything.