Moving to UK? 5 challenges to conquer during your adventure

Expat life
16 Nov 2023
12 mins read
Written by Team Instarem

Hey there! So, you’re thinking about making the move to the UK? That’s awesome! Whether you’re an expat ready for a new adventure or a student looking to explore new opportunities, it can be such an exciting journey.

But here’s the thing: there will be some challenges along the way that you need to be aware of before taking the plunge. Language barriers, cultural adjustments, and navigating unfamiliar systems can throw you for a loop.

But don’t worry, with some proper preparation and a positive mindset, you can totally overcome these hurdles. So, buckle up, get ready for the ride, and let the UK welcome you with open arms! 

1. High cost of living

We all know London is a top-notch city with tons to offer, but it’s no secret that everyday costs like groceries, electricity, and travel have been creeping up in recent years.

In fact, according to ECA International’s latest Cost of Living report, London proudly holds the title of the fourth most expensive place for expatriates to live!

Now, you might be wondering why on earth this is happening. Well, let me break it down for you. When the world went into lockdown, economic activity took a massive hit. Demand for things like oil and shipping plummeted, which forced the oil producers to decrease their production levels. They didn’t want to end up with an excess of products and nowhere to put them, you know?

Fast forward to post-lockdown times, when things started picking up again. Suddenly, everyone wanted oil and other goods like they used to before. The problem? The oil producers couldn’t just snap their fingers and magically ramp up production to meet the demand. It takes time, my friend. So now we’re stuck in a situation where there’s high demand but limited supply, and you know what that means – higher prices.

Of course, the rising cost of goods can be a challenge for many of us, especially when wages stay stubbornly the same. And if you’re coming from a foreign country, it’s worth keeping in mind that you may feel the pinch even more. However, with careful budgeting and planning, it’s still possible to enjoy all that London has to offer without breaking the bank.

Despite the challenges, living in this vibrant city can be incredibly rewarding, so don’t let the financial side of things get you down. With some savvy financial planning, you can make the most of your time in London and enjoy all the amazing experiences it has to offer.

You might be interested in: An expat’s guide to cost of living in London (2023)

2. Medical expenses

When it comes to medical care in the UK, you don’t have to stress about getting hit with outrageously high bills. That’s definitely a weight off your shoulders.

Now, let me give you the lowdown on how the system works. As an immigrant, you’ll need to pay a health surcharge to access the medical facilities here. But here’s the thing, actually getting to experience those facilities can sometimes feel like a never-ending process. Let me break it down for you.

First things first, you’ll need to register with a GP (that’s a General Practitioner). From there, you’ll have to book appointments. But be prepared, my friend, because the wait times can vary. It could take anywhere from a week to a couple of weeks just to get in to see your GP. And if you need to see a specialist, well, hold on tight. That could take months if luck isn’t on your side.

Now, let’s talk about the unfortunate scenario when medical professionals decide to go on a National Health Service (NHS) strike. Brace yourself, because that means even longer wait times. It’s not exactly ideal, but hey, it happens.

On the bright side, there is an alternative option available: private medical services. However, be aware that these services can come with a hefty price tag. So, it’s important to consider your budget before going down that route.

3. Adapting to the weather

Who doesn’t love waking up to a day where you have absolutely no idea what kind of weather awaits you?

But let’s talk about the real shocker here – It’s not the temperature that will freeze your bones or the rain that will drench you to the core. No, no, it’s the glorious lack of sunlight! And get this – UK’s annual hours of sunlight might as well be competing for the lowest in all of Europe, beating out even Finland and Sweden! Take that, land of the midnight sun!

Now, when it comes to dressing for the UK weather, forget about being trendy and embrace the warmth. Layers are your best friend. Don’t forget to cover those extremities with gloves, scarves, and earmuffs/headbands. We don’t want any frozen ears or frostbitten fingertips, now do we?

And speaking of staying dry, it’s not just about avoiding the rain. Oh no, you need to avoid getting sweaty too. The last thing you want is to lose precious heat through evaporative cooling. So, make sure you’re nice and toasty, but also carry an umbrella because you never know when the heavens will open up.

Ah, footwear, my dear friend. This is where things get serious. Thick jackets are a must to combat the cold but don’t forget about the almighty waterproof shoes. Trust me, they are non-negotiable during the winter months. And I’m not talking about any old pair of shoes. We’re talking Altberg, Berghaus, Brasher, Merrell, Salomon – the crème de la crème of shoe brands. Some folks even swear by military-style boots because apparently, they are the real deal. Just make sure your feet aren’t suffocating in tight shoes.

Now, let’s address the trouser situation. Watch out for those sneaky hems that love to catch rain and drip it right into your precious boots. It’s a recipe for soggy socks and ultimate discomfort. So, double-check your trousers, and keep them hitched up, so your boots stay nice and dry.

4. House hunting

Finding a home in the UK? It’s not always a walk in the park. With so many people, including international students and newcomers, looking for a place to stay, it can feel a bit like a game of musical chairs. But here’s the silver lining: this situation adds a buzz and diversity to our neighbourhoods.

And hey, with everyone on the hunt, it could be the perfect chance to explore some new areas and stumble upon spots you’d never thought of before. Sometimes, challenges bring about the best adventures! Living a little further away from your university or workplace may be necessary, as the outskirts tend to be more affordable compared to the bustling city centre. It’s all about finding that balance between convenience and budget.

If you’re flying solo, here’s a tip: consider living with roommates in a shared apartment. It can be a great way to cut down on costs. Renting out an entire apartment or even just a room by yourself can really hit your wallet hard. So teaming up with others can be a smart move.

House hunting can be tough, no doubt about it. But with a little bit of creativity and flexibility, you’ll find a place that suits your needs and won’t break the bank.

5. Loneliness and homesickness

Let’s talk about something that many people can relate to – loneliness and homesickness. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies when you embark on new adventures, is it?

At first, the excitement of experiencing new things can be exhilarating. But soon enough, reality hits you like a ton of bricks. The time difference, the unfamiliar weather patterns, and even the limited amount of daylight can be overwhelming. It’s like navigating through a maze of unknowns.

And that’s not all – being surrounded by new faces, adjusting to a different work schedule, and trying to understand unfamiliar laws can really take a toll on your anxiety levels. And let’s not forget the loneliness that creeps in, especially if you’ve never lived alone before. It’s a real emotional rollercoaster.

Moving to a new city all on your own can be incredibly challenging for students and professionals. But when you throw culture shock into the mix, things can get really tough. Culture shock hits you hard when you find yourself in a foreign land, and unfortunately, it can sometimes result in feelings of depression or intense homesickness.

But fret not, there are ways to handle these feelings. If you find yourself in this situation as an expat, it’s important to recognise the symptoms of culture shock and learn how to navigate through them. Don’t be afraid to seek support if you need it.

In the UK, universities understand the challenges faced by international students and offer counselling services to lend a helping hand. And guess what? The UK’s medical system is also proactive in promoting positive mental health. They even have a helpline for people feeling depressed and anxious because they live far away from their families. It’s all about taking care of each other, and the UK is here to lend a helping hand.

So, if you’re feeling a little lost and overwhelmed, remember that you’re not alone. Reach out for support, connect with others who may be going through the same thing, and take advantage of the resources available to you. Remember, this too shall pass, and you’ll find your place in this new adventure. Hang in there!

6. Understanding taxation

Let’s talk about everyone’s favourite topic: taxes! Okay, maybe not everyone’s favourite, but it’s definitely an important one.

Here’s the good news: the UK’s taxation policies are actually pretty straightforward. But if you’ve recently made the move here, don’t worry if you need a little hand-holding at first. It’s completely normal.
If you have friends or family who have already gone through the process, lean on them for some guidance. And if you want to go the extra mile, consider getting a professional to step in and help you navigate the ins and outs of taxes. Trust me, having some expert assistance can be a game-changer.

It’s crucial to understand the taxes you’re paying from your hard-earned salary. Why? Well, it’s all about sensibly handling your finances. When you have a clear understanding of where your money is going, you can make smart financial decisions.

Now, here’s a little secret: paying your tax returns can actually pay off in more ways than one. Believe it or not, there have been cases where immigrants received a nice cashback from the government for paying more in taxes than they needed to. Talk about a pleasant surprise!

So, while taxes may not be the most exciting thing in the world, they’re definitely worth understanding and dealing with. Remember, you’re not alone in this journey. Seek support, stay informed, and who knows, you might even get a little something back from the government. Cheers to that!

7. Job hunting

Let’s talk about the exciting (yet sometimes challenging) world of job hunting. Get ready for some mixed responses, because the job market is a vast and diverse place.

Here’s the deal: your experience with job hunting can vary greatly depending on the industry, type of role, and level of experience you have. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation.

If you’re someone with a few years of experience in an industry that’s not going through major cutbacks, finding another job shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. In fact, if you hop on LinkedIn, you’ll probably see recruiters reaching out to people like you every single day. How awesome is that?

However, if you’re in the tech field and have been comfortably coasting along without actively seeking growth opportunities, you might be facing some struggles right now. The job market in tech can be competitive, with tons of people applying for the same positions. It’s a tough world out there.

And not to forget about our student friends who are on the hunt for part-time jobs. It can be quite a challenge for them too. You see, there’s a lot of competition. Just think about it: hundreds of thousands of 16-year-olds finishing their GCSEs, 17-year-olds finishing their AS levels, and 18-year-olds finishing their A levels. They’re all looking for part-time gigs to earn some extra cash. Now, the lack of experience can be a factor here.

Employers often want someone who can hit the ground running, and if you don’t have much experience, you may need a bit more training. Oh, and don’t forget, when applying for retail or hospitality roles, you’re not only competing with your peers but also with adults who have years of experience under their belts.

Now, if you are a student and up for the challenge, take note that you’re officially allowed to work a maximum of 20 hours per week. That’s the rule. But here’s the reality: in some cases, you may need to explore cash jobs that might pay less than the government-set hourly wage. Hey, it’s not ideal, but a little something is always better than nothing, right?

Job hunting can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It’s different for everyone, depending on their circumstances. Just remember to stay determined, keep honing your skills, and never give up. The perfect opportunity might just be around the corner. Good luck!

Before you go…

If you’re planning to study or work in the UK, it’s important to be aware of the expenses that can add up quickly. From tuition fees and accommodation costs to general living expenses, it can be a challenge to manage your finances while pursuing your goals. But don’t worry, because Instarem is here to help make your transition as smooth as possible.

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And the best part? You’ll save on those pesky transfer fees, leaving you with more funds to put towards your education, career, and of course, all the fish and chips and tea you can handle!

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Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. All details are accurate at the time of publishing. Instarem has no affiliation or relationship with products or vendors mentioned.

About Instarem

Instarem stands at the forefront of international money transfer services, facilitating fast and secure transactions for both individuals and businesses. Our platform offers competitive exchange rates for popular currency pairs like USD to INR, SGD to INR, and AUD to INR. If you're looking to send money to India or transfer funds to any of 60+ global destinations, Instarem makes it easy for you. We are dedicated to simplifying cross-border payments, providing cutting-edge technology that support individuals and businesses alike in overcoming traditional fiscal barriers normally associated with banks. As a trusted and regulated brand under the umbrella of the Fintech Unicorn Nium Pte. Ltd., and its international subsidiaries, Instarem is your go-to for reliable global financial exchanges. Learn more about Instarem.

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