A lot of our clients state that moving from the US to London was one of the best decisions of their life. They are happy in the Big Smoke. They love their new home. But they still don’t get all of it.
You see, life in the UK is very similar to life in the US and it is sensationally different at the same time. The majority of the Americans simply can’t put their finger on many little nuances. Not in a week of living in London. Not in a year. Not in a decade.
What are these bizarre things that are unique to London and the UK that often shock or amuse Americans? I have dedicated this blog posts to find the answers together. Shall we begin?
While not entirely a “British” problem, the issue of taxation is unique to Americans, thus it deserves a mention on this list.
Weirdly enough, Americans have to pay two sets of taxes. One in Britain and one in the US. Say that to a European and he will lose his mind.
Don’t worry about overspending though, as financially this news aren’t all that bad. The Foreign Tax Credit allows for US residents to deduct any and all taxes that they’ve paid in a different country from the taxable income. Or, in simpler words, you won’t pay as much to the US government as you would have on American soil.
From the bureaucratic point of view though, there is still a lot of paperwork involved. I’d suggest hiring a tax professional before diving heads deep into the tons of papers.
The first thing you’ll notice when moving to London are housing prices. And if you are not from NY or LA where the same price tags are common, some of the local commodities may blow your mind. Not through quality, but rather through a thought like “how could someone in the same mind charge this much for this flat (apartment}?”
Square meters come at the price of gold in the Big Smoke.
This truthful impression is only enhanced by the fact that most Americans choose to live in Chelsea, Mayfair, and Kensington, neighborhoods where housing is particularly expensive, even by London standards. A flat there can easily cost £3-4 thousand or $4-5K.
Pro tip: when researching housing, don’t cheer too much when you see prices much lower than what was just stated. Those are probably ads of apartments rented per week, not on a monthly basis.
If you are not willing to pay a small fortune for just living in London (the price doesn’t include utilities, broadband, phone, TV and the council tax. Those areas you like to say it in America – sold separately), go for a less popular area.
Neighborhoods like Wandsworth, Lambeth, and Camden are significantly cheaper. A flat there will only cost you £2K.
Free healthcare is one of the advantages of being a Londoner. We have the NHS here or the National Health Service. All you need to do to receive medical services is a swoop by your nearest surgery (this is how we call a doctor’s office in London) to sign a few papers.
Register in a surgery and you will be allowed to see the doctor there… But not in case of an emergency.
Healthcare is free in the UK, but this also brings a series of inconveniences. For once, you must always have an appointment to see a doctor and last minute calls don’t usually work well. The odds are that you will rush into the office only to be told to return tomorrow at a more suitable time.
That noted, we have the A&E and Urgent Care Centers. You will have to visit them for emergency treatment. There a doctor will see you… if your condition is severe enough. Grave and urgent cases are treated first in the Urgent Care Centers and anything above that goes in the order of a line.
On the bright side, all of the meds come at a fixed price and they are also free for everyone younger than 16 and older than 60.
You also have the option to go outside the system and work with a private doctor. This option is fairly expensive but is often covered by 80/20 insurance where you only have to pay 20% of the charges.
Banks are tough in the UK. They are nowhere near being as simple (or careless, as we like to call it) as in the US.
With all of the security checks and ID business, you won’t even be able to open an account in a bank within one day. On the bright side – you will be safer and the system prevents credit card theft.
Here are a few other cool facts about the banking system in the UK:
- You will get a whole new credit rating after you move.
- A transfer between bank accounts in the UK and the US is the most convenient way of transferring money. Others are too long and formal. Do note that this is not the cheapest option.
- You are obligated to inform the IRS if you happen to have more than 10,000 pounds on your account.
Do you have an experience of living in London? Perhaps there were any other things that have boggled your mind or kept you awake at night? Don’t be shy, share them in the comments section. This way you will be able to help many of your fellow Americans with their first steps on British soil.