The reality of moving and living in the UK – it is not a holidayđŸ˜‰

I guess after living in the UK for over a year now, it qualifies me to tell a few things ;). I moved to Scotland based on my holidays here within the 3 years before my move. However, I knew the UK long before. I lived in Ireland for 8 months after I left school. I lived in Cardiff for 2.5 years for my studies. I then worked for UK companies throughout (except for 1 job for 6 months only) and I have been in and out the UK on a regular basis for business trips and visiting my friend Verena in London at least once a year. It was not an impulsive decision that I had not thought through.

I had a strong connection to the country and the people long before I decided to move to Scotland. And I knew what it was like to live in another country. Most people I know who moved to the UK and live here permanently now, either studied here before, work/ed for British or generally international companies with connections to the UK or have basically been to the UK 100 times before for different reasons. Only very few I know, like this is only me and my experience, have made an ad hoc decision to leave their home country behind and move to the UK or another country. And if they did they were young. Like beginning of or mid 20ies when you are still all excited for new adventures, not as settled maybe, not sure where you want to go in life, what you really want or just do not have much to loose yet.

However, lots of people all over the world make the decision every day to emigrate to a new country (I am leaving out refugees here, because that would be a completely different topic) – but from my experience, these people mostly have a concrete plan, speak the language of the country they are moving to, or at least speak English, and have a very strong connection or reason to make that step. Maybe they spent a lot of time over there before and met someone they fell in love with or found some kind of freedom or sense – whatever :). Those that move later in their life, because they thought it will be amazing just from a 2 weeks holiday a year they have spent in a particular country, or even never been to the country before, must be either mad, have massive balls or HAVE to leave their country for different reasons or actually would really have a better life here than in their home country. But I am writing this from a German point of view.

Because going on a holiday to another country is not the same as living there permanently.

Yes, I love my life here in Scotland and I am not regretting moving here for one minute. Like I cannot imagine to ever moving back to Germany. If hell breaks loose in the UK due to Brexit or the current economic crisis, I rather move to Ireland than back to Germany :p.

But! It is not all roses and sunshine and it takes a lot to make the decision in the first place, especially when you move alone (like without a partner or without a friend) and at a “certain age”. I am talking about the UK in this post now, for obvious reasons. So everything that follows now applies to moving to the UK and not to moving countries in general. And I am talking from my point of view, a 34 year old single woman from Germany, who had a career and a safety net.

I left a well paid job where I was recognised for my work. I had a big flat for myself and enough money to go on holidays 2 -3 times a year. I did not need to worry about health care at all because the system in Germany is f***ing awesome compared to the NHS. I had my parents living a 25 minute drive away from me who I saw almost every weekend. I had friends to go out with and ask for help if needed.

But I was not happy. This urge to venture out and about was only there when I was in Scotland. I felt free and I felt home. Back in Germany I was hardly going on any adventures not to mention any hill walking… I was a proper couch potato.

So obviously I glorified the times I spent in Scotland. Because I knew they were only short. I had to make the most out of the 6-8 days I was there for a trip.

However, it is very different if you go on a trip, where you stay in comfortable cosy B&B’s, hotels or your own nice camper-van, use the money you have specifically saved for this holiday so you just spend it on whatever you like, and when you come back home, you know you have your comfortable safe life and nice memories from your trip.

If you move to the UK and you want the same living standards you had in Germany, you either bring money or you have some well needed skills (fluent language skills and IT skills mainly) and find a job that pays almost the same salary as you had in your job in Germany. Which is rare… Salaries in the UK are a joke compared. You do not pay that much tax as you do in Germany but because the living costs are much higher and the salaries in general lower, you have to make sacrifices.

I was lucky I found a job, where my international recruitment experience and especially my German skills were needed. But I started looking for jobs in July 2018 and only got the job offer in November. You have to be patient and you have to be tenacious. There are other jobs as well like in administration or support but they pay like 18,000 to 20,000 pounds (or less, worst case) a year, so you better have some financial backup up your sleeves or make huge changes to your life-style or step back on your career. I could not pay for a flat on my own in Edinburgh and I am paid considerably more than 20k a year. Means, flat sharing it is or you need to move to the very outskirts of a city and commute – probably by public transport as getting a car would be another cost entity. Speaking at least some English is essential to find a job, too.

The next problem that occurs is, you can only rent a room or flat, when you have a bank account. If you happen to get a normal payroll job and you are not paid in cash, then you will need it too of course. To set up a bank account you need to have a UK address. Ha! Now there is the devil in the detail ;).

If you are coming as a student this is all no problem, because you can get a student account and support with finding student accommodation. And once you leave uni you can upgrade your account to a “normal” one and move out of a student accommodation.

I did a lot of research on how to open a bank account in the UK from Germany, without a UK address and found HSBC. But you have to provide proof of identity and proof of your home address (in Germany) in English. Now… how many German documents are also in English? Luckily I had my travel passport and my employment contract as proof.

Then the next problem is – Brexit! I was thinking very hard about moving to the UK with Brexit around the corner at that time. Thanks to the complete chaos they were creating on when and how to leave, I just took a lucky punch and moved before things got more concrete. BUT! I had to apply for an EU settlement agreement last year that allows me to stay in the UK until 2024 for now. Then I have to apply again. It was pages and pages long to fill out. If you do not have a permanent job, that pays enough money, you can now basically forget about coming here. Unless you are supported financially from someone in the UK or you bring money into the country.

Overall, moving to a new city is already not easy if you have never left “home” before, not to mention moving countries. You have to build yourself a completely new life, find new friends, find a community. This is not happening tomorrow. It needs time – and you need strength and resilience to get through a phase of feeling very lonely, alone and lost.

So what do you gain then after all? It was a fresh start for me. I was thinking about living in the UK for so long, that it was only logical that I finally took the step. And I was free. I had no commitments back in Germany and I kind of knew what was coming.

What I like about the UK is, that you can get somewhere with hard work and not because you studied business administration. If you are entrepreneurial, it is also easier to get your own business of the ground at some point.

My tips when you plan on moving to the UK:

  • ask yourself really why you want to move, what is your goal, what do you gain from it?
  • research locations you could or want to move to and live at
  • visit the place before you really move
  • houses and flats are very differently set up than in Germany, you should view the place before ending up in a hole
  • research the job market
  • adapt your CV according to the job market
  • improve your English skills if needed
  • find out where your skills can add value (German/language skills, skills that are rare in the UK)
  • you need a permanent job, that pays more than 20k a year to qualify for the EU settlement agreement to be able to live here permanently
  • make sure you apply for that asap once you are over – they will grant you 5 years maximum – then you have to apply again
  • make yourself familiar with what is needed to set up a life in the UK:
    • set up a bank account
    • apply for a National Insurance number
    • find a GP and get registered
  • If you would want to buy a car, you will probably need to pay it in total at once because you will not qualify for financing (same if you would want to buy a house)
  • to become qualified for financing, loans, mortgages etc you will need to build a credit score, which you can only do by possessing a credit card
  • you can only get a UK credit card after 1 year living in the UK
    • if possible keep a German account at the beginning and a German credit card for emergencies
  • at the beginning you will only be able to get a prepaid mobile phone, after 1 year you might be able to get a contract depending on your financial circumstances
  • cut back on your expectations regarding living standards, do not expect it to be the same as in Germany – at least not at the start if you are not wealthy af
  • you can be made redundant much easier than in Germany – most contracts have a 4 week notice period only and employment law is not as protecting
  • if you lose your job, you will not be supported as in Germany, you will get much less money – have a “nest egg”

Everything written here is about the experiences I made. They may have been slightly different for others depending how they moved to the UK, under which circumstances etc. But I can tell you from speaking to my colleagues, of which most of moved to the UK from other countries, experiences are similar.

In summary, it might have been easier in the past to emigrate to the UK but it certainly is not anymore today – especially now that they are about to leave the EU. It is another reason why you should think about it very carefully and prepare yourself for quite some hurdles along the way. If you really want something, you will find a way and you will find strength to achieve it – I am just pointing out what needs to be taken into consideration.

You can find more information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-points-based-immigration-system-employer-information/the-uks-points-based-immigration-system-an-introduction-for-employers

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