Moving from US to UK – Relocation Guide

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What’s more, also understands how finding your way in your new destination country can be a daunting task for many; in order to help you with this, we have included useful information that will help you with your relocation to England on our website. For any specific clarification that you require, free consultation via forums or email is provided by our international moving experts.

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It’s important for those who are reading this document to understand it is a compilation of information from a variety of sources. Some of it may be guess or assumption as well. If you have an extremely important technical questions or specific questions about specific locations this will probably not give you the most in depth answer. In addition some of this information is less than current so the exact costs or charges is not up to date and may be omitted entirely. This is still a very practical and useful document. Enjoy!

This is designed to help people who are moving or considering moving to UK from US. Tips about moving, packing, how to move, and general information tips as well as tips that might be some use for people traveling in the U.K. as well

Our experience was in Brighton which is a mid-sized UK city. Comparable cities might be, Plymouth, Southampton, Leicester, Bristol, Derby, Nottingham, Cardiff, Coventry and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Information you find here may or may not translate to other areas of the country. Brighton is a bit more open and gets many visitors from other countries. Unfortunately we have had no experience with life in London. London is a world class cosmopolitan city and will be far and away ahead of Brighton in myriads of ways. So although the general information is correct it really has varied bearing depending upon where you are planning to go. In addition this information may be a bit dated as it comes form 1995 and thereabouts. Certainly the financial items have changed over the years including the exchange rates and the cost of various items. Generally we suggest you simply increase the amounts given and estimate. For specific costs and prices you will have to do the research. All amounts are in U.S. dollars for ease of figuring.


Will my U.S. design electrical and electronic appliances work in the U.K.

(Remember we are not qualified, professional electricians so ask more questions from a professional). We will attempt to answer this question with lots of useful information but be careful. It’s only meant to be informative not electricity 101.

The U.K. has an entirely different electrical system than the U.S. This includes differences in plug design, current type and voltages. Keeping the information general and simple the answer is maybe. Ok that’s not really fair, so here. Whatever electronic items you are seeking information about if you don’t already have one don’t buy it until you get there. If you already have one, check with a store or a website that specializes in foreign electrical conversions regarding converters or transformers.

Although we want to be helpful, we think your wisest choice is to locate a store or website that deals specifically with foreign electrical and electronic products. If you ask nicely you are certain to be able to get truly informed information.

This is the short version of the major differences. There are four important items regarding using U.S. appliances in the U.K.

  • The voltage (US = 120V, UK = 240V)
  • The number of watts the product draws (different for each product)
  • The frequency (US = 60 Hz, UK = 50 Hz)
  • The plug on the power cord

What can I do about the differences?

The short version of the answer is that stores and websites that specialize in European electrical product can help you locate the converters and transformers you need. Transformers are large, bulky and costly and won’t fit into your luggage. Check prices if you can get them cheaper stateside (and the cost to ship doesn’t outweigh the savings, buy in the states. If the price difference is small the best thing to do is wait until you arrive at your final destination to purchase these items.

A more complete answer might be this. If you want U.S. products to work in the U.K. you will need a transformer. This is an item that changes the voltage from 240v (UK) to 120v (US). It has a UK plug on one end and a US plug on the other. The UK plug will go into the wall and the US plug should be attached to a regular US power strip with places for several pieces of equipment. Importantly you will need to know how many watts your transformer will be using for the equipment that you have plugged into it. The more wattage you need the larger the transformer must be. The watts you need will be listed on the individual pieces, add these up so that you have the total amount for all items to be used at once. Then add in a few extra watts say 25-30. That total will tell you what size transformer you will need. For example if you are bringing your stereo and you have 3 pieces that need 30 watts each then you will want a transformer that will give you 120 watts. Don’t get a transformer that is too small or underpowered or you will risk your electronic items.

Frequency is a subject that confuses just about everybody but it is important to this discussion. US electrical supply comes out of the wall at 60 Hertz (Hz) while UK electricity is 50Hz. This doesn’t sound like much, however it can be a big issue for certain appliances. In general anything with motors will be affected, some more than others. However, some motors will and some won’t be affected.

If you have an item with a synchronous motor, for example a hair dryer or power tools they will have problems. The biggest one seems to be that they will overheat and self destruct. In some cases these appliances might be illegal from electrical underwriting standards. On the other hand direct current (DC) motors don’t care about frequency matters since the motor runs on DC and that is supplied by the motor itself. If the equipment is plugged into a correct transformer the motor will work just fine.

Are there differences in power plugs/jacks between the US and UK?

Yes, the plugs are different. In the UK the plugs are a larger, three prong plug than in the US the spaces between the blades. If someone tries to sell you two different styles of plugs ignore them. The other style is no longer in use. In addition the UK electrical plugs contain a small fuse. Many of the electrical outlets have power switches right on the outlet for turning it on and off. The switches are reversed from the US switches so up is off while down is on.

If I decide to buy a transformer what do I need to look for?

First and foremost you want to buy a quality transformer not an imposter, apparently some small transformer like appliances aren’t really transformers. These will blow themselves and your appliances to smithereens. You can recognize the imposters by size usually. If it says “1600 watts” and is about the size of an electric shaver weighing about 1 pound and no more than $20, don’t buy it that’s not a good deal. A real transformer will be larger, heavier and cost more. Your best bet is to locate a retailer that specializes in foreign electrical items either in you town or over the internet. Remember to make sure that your transformer has a three pronged, grounded plug for additional, necessary safety.

If I need a transformer, where can I get one and what will it cost me?

Your best bet would be to purchase your transformer when you arrive at your destination. They are heavy and bulky and difficult to locate over here in the U.S. You are likely to find a better variety, more easily once you get to the UK. Transformers even if only 4x4x4 could weigh up to 35 pounds and you would have to ship it rather than carry it with your luggage. However, you might find them for less money in the US.

You might be able to find transformers at these locations:

UK sources:

  • This is an electronic parts catalogue sales company in Britain, they handle transformers and mail order thorough a company called. Electromail, P.O. Box 33, Corby, Northants, NN1 79EL (telephone 0536 204555, fax 0536 405555).
  • Spenfields a company in Runcorn will design made to order transformers. To order Call 0928 572578. They take about 7 days fabricate one.
  • Maplins Electronics plc, PO Box 777, RAYLEIGH, Essex SS6 8LU, Tel. 01702 552961. Their catalogue can be obtained at the UK bookseller chain W.H.Smith.

US sources:

  • Magellons Essentials for the Traveler (Santa Barbara, CA), 1-800-962-4943 (they have an extensive catalog).
  • Appliances Overseas, New York City.
  • Rainco of Dallas, TX (800 779 0502) (fax 214 242 0243) sells transformers similar to those in the Magellon catalog.

What electrical appliances do I want to bring?

Our personal opinion is to have a yard sale and use the money to buy new items when you get there. Not only will this save you time and energy and hassle, it might just save you money. Although you have the cost of replacing items, it will be offset by the savings in moving costs and the cost of transformers and converters. Small battery operated items might be ok as long as you get a proper battery charger. If your stereo or computer has a label by the power cord that says AC 100-240, 50/60 Hz” you will need a plug converter but you can bring it. Otherwise think twice. But on the other hand if you must bring your own and you use correct transformers you can bring the following.

CD players, Personal Computers, stereo components, IPods; Most manufacturers make them so the motors are internally supplied with the correct frequency.

More products are being designed so that you can use them on either types of electrical service. If you look on your appliance at the spot where the power cord comes out there should be a plaque or label that says “AC 100-240, 50/60 Hz”, if it does, this item will be useable in the UK with simply a plug converter.

If you want to take multiple appliances it is possible to simply get a plug converter, plug a US power strip without a surge protector and have at it. However, if someone plugs in a product not meant to handle the conversion it will immediately lose its life.

What about my phone and answering machine?

Well, the answer is a qualified maybe. The answering machine will work if you have the right adapters. However, the phone equipment itself probably will not since the phone system and the wiring is entirely different. In addition, using anything except British Telephone standard equipment is actually illegal. In addition the way the British phones ring confuses US made answering machines. In the US the phone ring is “ring, pause, ring, pause however in the UK it goes ring, ring, pause and the machines don’t know what to do with that.

You really are better off buying an answering system from the UK although they may not be as fancy as you might be used to.

How do I ship my belongings to the U.K.?

Important: When seeking moving companies call around and compare prices, there can be huge differences in the costs. The least expensive way that we have found seems to be “freight forwarding”…

What is Freight Forwarding?

A freight forwarding company will come, pack up your items in a crate or container take it away, insure it and ship it overseas. They will arrange to have a company over there receive it. You will have to deal with both companies and arrange delivery to your final destination. The nice thing about this is they have a variety of sizes and charge by the size of crate you need. However it could take several months for your goods to catch up to you. The crates will be opened and inspected by customs when they arrive, the freight forwarding company should handle that. UPS will do some shipping their number is 800-325-0365. They will tell which items might have duy charges attached.

Air Freight

You can actually ship your items on the same plane you are going over on this can be expensive but not the worst of prices. You don’t want to ship huge quantities of goods this way but if you have done what we said and pared down to the essentials this might be the way for you. Generally airlines charge by the pound for this service. Fragile items and computers are not advised. But if you must ship your computer this way wrap it in its original packing or in molded plastic shipping wrap. You will have to by extra insurance as the airlines won’t insure your items.

Extra baggage on passenger flight

The rules have changed recently due to airline security. Check on the costs and advisability as well as how many extra items you are allowed.

Moving Companies

Hiring a moving company can be very expensive but it does reduce the hassle factor considerably. They will go through the whole process start to finish but what they do is use a freight forwarding company as mentioned above. Make sure you have signed estimates there are horror stories about moving companies holding belongings hostage in exchange for exorbitant prices. If you are being transferred by your company and they are footing the bill this is probably the best way, just not the cheapest. You can read more about moving tip and how to select moving company and more information on shipping and

What do I do with the stuff I leave behind?

If you know you are returning to the same location and you have stuff to leave behind the best thing is to pack it carefully and store it. Take into account when doing this the replacement factors. Unless you have really excellent furniture or irreplaceable mementos really consider if it will be cheaper to replace it than to store. Also think about the possibility of staying longer or not returning to the same location and having to ship the items to wherever you do end up. If you have a ton of stuff, go through it and get rid of as much as is humanly possible, have yard sales, and donate to non-profits. Items of sentimental value can be boxed and stored. A friend of ours simply took pictures of items that meant a lot to her so that when she looked at the pictures she restored the memories, please use moving boxes only.

What about my car? What is the cost of international car shipping?

You may get tired of hearing this but your best bet is to sell it. For one thing the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car and this can make for serious complications when driving in the U.K. For another storing a car can be expensive and not necessarily healthy for the car. However, here is an important piece of information regarding car insurance, if you disappear for several years and then try to get new car insurance you might find yourself in a strange situation. Apparently most car insurance companies have no way to account for a customer who has been out of the country so you become an assigned or higher risk and harder to insure. It helps to have a relationship with your insurance company and discuss this issue with them and how they need it to be handled.

Which personal items should I take with me?

Oh oh here we go again, our personal opinion is to take as little as possible. Many people travel and relocate with far too many personal items and then regret having so much to carry around or find places for. Sort through your belongings have 3 boxes in front of you. One labeled save (“think can’t live without”), one labeled trash, and one labeled give away. Now have at it. Remember anything you donate to a non-profit agency can be claimed as charitable deductions, homeless shelters and safe houses are desperate for household goods that are in good condition and good repair.

What do I really need to take with me?

This depends on a number of factors that only you know but we can make a couple of suggestions.

  • Take your favorite cookware if you love to cook, you don’t need dishes and flatware.
  • Take measuring cups and spoons unless you are used to metric measuring.
  • Copy pages of your favorite recipes rather than taking the whole book
  • Take technical books, or specialty books that you absolutely need, books weigh a lot and cost much to ship.
  • Take your favorite clothing and shoes (but be reasonable) clothes may be cheaper stateside so check it out.
  • Take all your favorite music cds, they are small and don’t take up much space
  • If you are taking electrical items make sure to take power strips and adapters

What can I take through customs with out problems?

Custom rules have changed it is important to check these before leaving. If you state that you will be returning to the U.S. you might escape some of the problems. Custom inspectors are looking for items that might be taxable and they will tax you, so do your home work. Often items less than 6 months old will be the target bring receipts and explanations. They will give you grief if you bring in items for resale, or try to smuggle in duty free alcohol or cigarettes. Do not bring illegal substances.

What documents do I need?

This documentation can be extremely useful and necessary bring them and guard them carefully.

  • Birth certificate (in case you need to apply for a new passport)
  • Marriage certificate (especially if you and your spouse have different last names)
  • Last set of dental X-rays
  • Results of last medical exam
  • Photocopies of your university diplomas (might be needed when applying for jobs)
  • Your last few bank statements
  • A letter from your bank manager telling of your good history at their bank
  • A similar letter from your landlord
  • A utility bill proving the address of your residence in the US
  • Your US Driver’s license (and make sure it’s not due to expire while you’re abroad)
  • If you’re working on a degree back in the US and want to do research in a British
  • Library, get a letter from your adviser or department chair, and this will assist you in getting a library card.

What about health care?

Some general information:

Statistics comparing the UK and US

  • Infant mortality (deaths per 1000 live births):
    • UK: 8
    • US: 10
  • Life expectancy:
    • UK: 73 (M), 79 (F)
    • US: 72 (M), 79 (F)
  • Fertility rate (children born per woman):
    • US and UK: 1.8

(Source: 1992 CIA guide)

If you are working for a company in the U.K. or have a work visa you may be eligible for the NHS, National Health Service is the government health program. The cost will be taken from your paycheck. There is also private health care. As always especially if you have health issues, it is important to go obtain a medical practitioner as soon as possible after arrival. Bring doctors records and copies of legible prescription forms.

According to a 1990 source, you are entitled to NHS coverage if:

  1. you are from an EC country
  2. you are from a country with a reciprocal health agreement with the UK
  3. you are a student in a course lasting more than 6 months
  4. you came to the UK with a work permit
  5. you have refugee status or Exceptional Leave to Remain
  6. you are the wife or child of a person in 1-5.

The health care isn’t free, there is a monthly fee for services. However, other than a co-pay for prescriptions there is no other charge when you go to a hospital.

How is the quality of health coverage?

Generally speaking the health care is as good or better than the coverage from an HMO in the US. You get a specific doctor but if you suddenly get ill you might have to see another available doctor. When it comes to surgery or special medical treatment you get put on a waiting list that can last for years. In this arena you might want to go private to cut through the red tape or whatever it is that is clogging up their system. It is possible to wait 2 or more years for certain surgical procedures. This waiting list problem gets worse every year as the government makes bigger cuts, which is why many Brits complain loudly about their health care (or lack of it)

Is health and fitness as important to residents of the U.K.

One place where cultural differences are obvious is in the health and fitness arena. Smoking, drinking, and eating greasy food tops the list of fun things to do in the U.K. They tend to think that we have gone round the bend in this regard.

On the whole, Brits seem less concerned about their personal health and fitness than Americans are. They generally view America as a nation full of “health nuts,” consumed by the pursuit of “clean living” and a having a fixation on perfect skin, body, legs, and so on.

The movement for banning smoking in public places is gaining ground, however, it continues to run behind the US. Pubs are smoky, but, smoking is not allowed in movie theatres. Britain makes some of the best ales in the world, people there drink quite a bit, even as much as 3 or 4 pints per evening is not considered particularly excessive here.

They seem to start very young. The institution of “The Pub” is an omnipresent, essential public facility. For example, universities have three or four pubs spread over the campus. It is the consummate meeting place especially for men.

Although there are quite a few workout clubs, they are mostly for women. Not many men will be found in aerobics classes. This seems to be regarded as a domain for women.

What about dental care?

As much American humor will attest the U.K. is not known for having the best dental care. NHS is a bit tight about paying dentists for services. It is most likely that you will go to a private practitioner for dental care.

What is the cost of living in the U.K.

This is a very difficult question it’s a little like making the switch to metric measurements. It’s difficult to measure and do but easy to accept. Some things are more expensive and others are less expensive. Currently the dollar is not all that strong in European countries which means the conversion rate favors the pound so switching might lose you money. However, if you are working over there and getting pain in pound you really won’t notice until you come home and exchange your savings. You may make less in a position in the U.K. than in the same position in the States but the cost of living in the U.K. is commensurate with the salaries. There are fees and taxes in the U.K. that take a chunk out of your income but you can’t get around them.

  • VAT (17.5%)
  • Council Tax (on rental)
  • National Insurance out of each paycheck;
  • Income Tax, possibly (20-27% of salary;
  • TV License…elsewhere (in order to have TV)
  • Charges for local telephone calls
  • Initial deposit paid for utilities services
  • One-time fee for registering with the local police station in your neighborhood

What about banking services?

Banking is generally the same in the U.K. as in the U.S. Having a check guarantee ATM card is imperative but difficult to get. The banks don’t want to give you one because you have no credit history in the U.K. no matter how great your credit limit was in the U.S. There are a couple of ways to get a leg up with this issue though:

  • bring a letter of reference from the bank you dealt with in the states
  • Get the company you work for to speak to the bank
  • Get a friend to speak to the bank
  • Bring a copy of your current U.S. credit report
  • Open a bank account with a fairly large balance

What sort of housing is available?

The variety of housing is much like that in the U.S. Generally referred to as “flats” apartments are commonly as old as 200 years, make sure they have adequate heating and cooking. Your best contact for real estate is of course real estate agents. The internet is a great place to start. Go online to the area where you are moving and locate the agents in that area and look for flats for rent in London. There may be some culture shock as to appliances and how they work as well as water pressure and hot water.

Flats often give the price on a per-week basis, although you actually pay monthly. In regards to appliances many British stoves, have an open broiler on the top, which is a real treat, they grill steak and fish much more effectively than the down-below broilers of US stoves. The kitchen cookware seems to only include enough items to cook basic meals. You’ll have to bring or buy your own if you tend to cook fancy meals.

Furnished flats are common in the UK. They will generally include a living room often called the “lounge”; furniture, a fridge and stove, a kitchen table, kitchen cookware and utensils, and sometimes even beds. You should try and bargain with the landlord regarding the items that are included as furnishings

Central heating is no longer considered a luxury however it is taking time for residences to catch up to this information. A flat with independent space heaters in every room rather than radiators fed from a central heating source would be considered fairly “low rent. The lounge area often has a small heater (usually gas) located where a fireplace used to be. These are a cherished, cozy item. In addition, the lounge often has a door to keep the heat in. These are sometimes made of an opaque glass rather than wood.

Clothes washers are often included in a flat and it’s not too demanding to include that as one of your requirements. UK clothes washing machines tend to be low-capacity and low-speed. They are smaller, usually kept underneath the kitchen counter, rather like a dishwasher. Many washers do not draw hot water from the household hot water supply but they take cold water and heat it electrically inside the unit. Because of this it can take each load can take an hour to wash. However, you can always buy a modern washer if you choose. Clothes driers and dishwashing machines not found in rentals as often as are washers.

UK home showers are a challenge and the last good shower you get might be when you leave the US. UK showers have little or no water pressure and barely trickle out of the faucet. Water pressure in the usual British household is gravity fed and the hot-water tank is frequently at a location below the shower head. An electric shower, which has some pumping action, costs more to purchase and few flats have them. You could, at your own expense, install a pumping system that will give you a good US-style shower (called a “power shower”).

When you move in to your new home be sure to have the landlord, his agent or a neighbor shows you how to turn on the central heating and water heater. The workings, appearance (a square box mounted on the side of the wall), and location (sometimes the kitchen) are entirely different than in the US. Also it includes a device with several switches for controlling fuel efficiency.

There is a property tax called the Council Tax, formerly known as the Poll Tax, which you are required to pay, even if you are only renting the property. The tax is paid 9 out of 12 months of the year. Good news for students however, there is a special provision that may make you exempt, depending on your living situation, so make sure you check it out before you pay it.

What do I need to do to get utilities?

Probably the very best and easiest way is to have the company you will work for get you hooked up, then you can transfer everything over after you get settled and open a bank account. Mostly the utilities won’t let you open an account until you have a bank account and can provide proof of residency. You will need to pay deposits as you will not have a credit history.

The experience of getting water, gas and electricity for your house can relatively easy however; they might not let you if you do not have a bank account. So get your bank account first or take over the utilities from the previous tenant. You might need your employer to vouch for you as proof of where you live. Generally the utilities companies will want a deposit. While setting up your budget remember that utilities are generally billed quarterly.

What about telephone service?

All of your phone calls including using a modem to log on will cost you per minute. It is worthy to check with your cell phone company to see if it works and if you can use it at home. The BT discount rates start at 6p.m. and goes to 8a.m. Beware of your long distance calls to the US since the bills are only sent out quarterly you could be running up a huge bill and not know it until the bill comes.

Phone numbers start with an area code just like in the US, however, the length of the number is not consistent. As in the US, phone numbers consist of an area code (used only when dialing from outside the area) and a local number. For some reason phone numbers are not standardized in length in the UK: the area code may have 3-4 numbers, the local number 6-7 numbers.

Some important numbers:

  • For emergency, 999.
  • For operator, 100,
  • For directory information, 192,
  • for phone sales 150,
  • for operator, 100, for phone sales 150
  • Pay phones generally take prepaid phone cards only.

The BT (British Telecom) system phones seem to understand both ‘touch tone’ and ‘pulse’ style of dialing throughout most of the UK. The actual phone in your home may be one or the other and they will both work so will your modem and your pocket dialer. As far as the pay phones the standard BT pay phones are pulse dialers, but BT’s competitor Mercury are touch tone. Some British pay phones do not take coins at all; instead, they take a “money card” or “phone cards”. You can purchase these at stores all over and they are loaded with an amount of money that is removed as you use the cards.

Some businesses and universities have phone systems that are shut down after hours which can be very irritating if you stay late to study or work.

In regards to long distance there are European access numbers for US Sprint and MCI.

It was recently discovered direct dialing from home could be cheaper than long distance carriers; but when dialing from a pay phone you may need a long distance carrier. Apparently neither Sprint nor MCI can place calls to Canada from the UK this may have changed but we don’t really know.

What about television services?

If you want to watch TV you can either buy one or rent one. If you choose to rent one expect to pay a hefty deposit. If you shop around, you might find a TV/VCR combination a relatively low rent but as with utilities you will have to pay deposits.

Interestingly enough you have to have a license to watch TV. This is how they pay for the BBC. That’s right you pay an annual fee at the post office for the privilege of watching TV. They even have enforcement teams going around checking to make sure only the licensed are watching. Laugh if you like, but it’s true. In addition it costs more for a color TV than a B&W one. The license helps pay for the BBC.

How do I take care of my bills back home?

Generally you will still have bills and things you need to pay back in the states. You should keep an American banking account open and pay using that account. Probably the easiest way to pay is on line banking. Second to that an American Express card is very useful. Before you leave the U.S. it would be a good idea to get a couple of credit cards. You will find it difficult to get credit cards from the U.K. since you will have no credit history.

If you will be moving cash from the US to the UK, or if you will using your US bank account the best bet might be an American Express card. You set up your account so that the AMEX card acts like a debit card of your US bank account. AMEX cash stations can be found in every large town in Europe. You can even use your bank’s ATM card to do the same thing. Like Amex cash stations ATM are all over make sure your ATM is on a cirrus or Plus network. The card and bank make the conversion for you and uses the exchange rate of that day.

From either card, the conversion is done at that day’s exchange rate. Some money changing services charge a fee you can also cash ordinary American checks at any AMEX office. AMEX used to limit the amount of transactions to a total of $1000/month,

It’s a good idea to make sure your cards have a PIN (personal identification code); this is something you must ask for, at your bank, but is worth the added security.

Once you have a British bank account, you will also probably be able to draw US cash from US ATMs with funds from your UK bank account during your trips back to the US. Make sure you get cards that use the Cirrus and Plus network.

How do I handle taxes in both countries?

UK tax issues:

Tax liability changes every year. It would be a great idea to contact a CPA who has experience in Americans living overseas. The rules are constantly changing, however you might not have to pay taxes in the states under certain circumstances. In addition the U.K. tax rules change as well. Depending upon where you are working and how much you make and how long you will be staying you may or may not be exempt these rules change every year! Do not regard this information as current; the laws can change profoundly from year to year. Use it as an idea for what may be possible. It may be worth springing a $100 or so to get a qualified person to properly evaluate your situation. A British company that specializes in US/UK tax matters is Frank Hirth & Co., 8 Coldbath Square, Rosebery Avenue, London EC1R 5HL, Tel 071 833 5500.

If you are employed in the UK, drawing a salary, and you are going to be in the UK for two years or less, you may be exempted from paying the income tax. Request a “Claim for exemption from United Kingdom Income Tax” form from H.M. Inspector of Taxes, and submit it to your salaries department, and taxes will not be deducted from your salary. If you stay one minute into the third year in the UK, however, you will be expected to pay taxes for all two years of those back taxes.

If for some reason you do wish to pay income tax, the monthly deductions will be between 20-27% of your salary. National Insurance is a different affair. No-one is exempt from this fee.

US tax.

Again it is important to contact a professional for the proper information. The IRS rules change each year, and depend heavily on what properties you own, what investments you might have, and so on. When we were there if you spent at least 330 days of that fiscal year outside of the US and the total amount of income you earned that year (combined from all sources of income, regardless of country) was less than $70,000, that income is termed “foreign earned” and was not considered taxable by the US. Please remember times have changes check with a CPA who specializes in foreign earnings, preferably before you leave the US.

Can I buy my usual food or do I have to change my diet?

The selection of food at the local grocery store in the U.K. should rival your local grocery store in the U.S. Fresh produce is available in large quantities and good selection. The meat is not as nice and neither is the fish. However the bacon can be fabulous and doesn’t even resemble what they sell here. Many American brand names can be found in U.K. stores or the comparable brands can be very similar. If you have a strong brand loyalty or items that you just won’t substitute then you will need to stateside friends ship them to you. There are some things that are truly “American” foods and the U.K. version doesn’t come close.

Is food in the U.K. really as awful as I hear?

Well there are the incredible amounts of grease and deep frying in their foods. The worst might be the “English Breakfast” that you will find served at every restaurant and Bed & Breakfast around the country. This consists of greasy fried egg (although on alternate days, tolerable scrambled eggs), greasy sausage, greasy bacon, slices of bread fried in grease, hash browns fried in grease, plus the piece de resistance, the small half-tomato fried in grease. Consider yourself warned.

In reality it is after all a foreign culture and even though they speak the same language the foods have not evolved in the same way as American food has. There will be food that you just won’t like based upon the ingredients or the style of cooking. If prepared well some of what you might call British cuisine is quite tasty. They do use a lot of meat and potatoes and quite a bit of grease and oil.

If you are trying to grab a quick bite for lunch avoid the caffs (pronounced caf?). For some generally unknown reason the food there can be awful. Possibly due to the nature of the British as they can be quite “thrifty” and use parts of food that we barely deem edible. These food items, like blood pudding, bubble and squeak, steak and kidney pie and others are very popular with the locals, however you might not enjoy the food. Moderately priced restaurants seem to have a way of preparing food that leaves it tasteless. If you want to eat out you may be better served by going to foreign restaurants, especially Indian, and Italian which are run by the real thing.

Are there any good restaurants?

Of course there are. You just need to know how to find them. If you are in a large city you will have a much easier time than out in the country. The best thing to do is quiz your American friends and working partners for recommendations.

Here are a few hints and tips:

  • Italian restaurants they seem to do well for fabulous food, probably because they are owned and operated by “real” Italians.
  • Indian restaurants one of the few spicy foods found in the U.K. probably for the same reason.
  • You can find fish & chips to rival the U.S. but not in just any place so ask for recommendations.
  • French food is available in area at reasonable prices.
  • In addition you will generally find Burger King, MacDonald’s, and Pizza Hut if you have a craving for a taste from home.

What do I do for transportation?

The U.K. and Europe continue to have the best rail transportation around. It works for commuting to work as well as long travel trips. It’s entirely possible to function very well without a car. Busses do well but a long ride can be uncomfortable.

What about a driver’s license?

Your US drivers license will work for you over in the UK, however just for less hassle you might also want to get an “International License” which translates the information on your current license into 19 different languages.

Will I ever get used to driving on the left side?

Yes you will, but don’t try it without first having someone teach you the rules of the road. Roundabouts or traffic circles are common and the rules for right of way are difficult. It is a good idea to drive around with a local to learn the tricks. It is good to find a book of traffic rules and signs to study before you go. Try to find the UK “Highway Code” or “Coping with England” they have great information in them.

Driving on the left is different but not a major challenge to an experienced US driver. Make sure that before you try it you get someone to explain the rules of a UK roundabout” or “traffic circle”. These things are quite confusing and they involve specific rules of who-goes-first (right of way) which will not be intuitive to you (although there are traffic circles in some parts of the US. It’s even a better idea to, take a drive with someone and have them explain what they are doing in a traffic circle. The book “Coping with England” shows how it’s done. Also the UK “Highway Code” is available at most bookstores. Reading it is advised, since many signs and road markings are completely unknown to the US driver. A US license allows you to drive in the UK. And, many (but not all) car rental companies will rent you a car only a US license. If you plan on staying in the UK for a lengthy period of time you must get a UK drivers license. To get a UK license you must take the drivers test. Since the rules and signs are different we suggest that you take some driving lessons Once you have a UK license it is good until you are 70 years old.

What is it like to walk about in the U.K.?

It is exactly like taking your life into your own hands and dropping it in the street. Generally speaking drivers in the U.K. look at pedestrians as moving targets and try harder to hit them. In the U.S. the pedestrian usually have the right of way in the U.K. the drivers have the right of way and they take it unyieldingly. Be very careful if walking in the U.K.

What about riding my bike?

The roads are narrow the drivers are intense and riding on the sidewalk is illegal. You can do it, we have done it, but boy can it be scary. June, July and August are the only months when it isn’t raining and the paths aren’t muddy. Country lanes are narrower even than city streets. There is gentle terrain and enough vertical to tire you out. It isn’t awful just challenging.

Because of the narrowness of the roads, described above, you will often find that there are no bike lanes and not even safe margins on the road to keep you out of traffic. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk but people do it if they feel that their lives are endangered otherwise. If you are considering taking bicycling trips, with camping gear, and everything you might want to reconsider. The fact is that the roads are even narrower in the countryside, only one extremely narrow lane and you can go for months without ever seeing a dry day.

How hard is it to go on-line?

Hopefully it is much easier than it used to be. Dial up and wireless is available in most cities. Our experience was that at universities they have a system called JANET (the one that brought you backwards email addresses, such as edu.berkeley.garnet). This used to be the major network carrier. This has changed and most universities have become members of the internet. Most computers have IP addresses and can be telnetted and ftp’d to and from. Unfortunately snippets of JANET remain, and network communications can be a bit backward and outdated. USENET news feeds are available at many universities, but not all the groups generally available in the US are available in the UK. Most of the entire “alt.” hierarchy is not available. There are internet providers which can be reached by dialup for a monthly charge. The prices are very reasonable, but if your area doesn’t have a local access number your phone bills will be awful. We don’t know the availability of wireless or satellite services. The company that seems to be the most popular is Demon Internet Services, phone 0845 272 2666, email You can probably find the names other companies by looking it up on-line at soc.culture.british or uk.misc.

Are dogs and cats welcome travelers?

The U.K. like Hawaii apparently does not have rabies and they really want to keep it that way so restrictions on importation of domestic animals are fairly rigid. Dogs and cats must be kept in quarantine at authorized locations for 6 months. The animals can be visited during this time but it is expensive and hard on them. The rules have been changing lately so it is a good idea to double check the information.

Because of this pets are screened with extreme care. According to information “All pets (dogs, cats, etc) must undergo 6 month quarantine. Just shipping an animal can be a chore then you, check it into an approved quarantine kennel, where you can visit. If all goes well you pick it up after the six months quarantine period. It can be very difficult for the animals and it is very expensive. These policies may have changed so please check it out further updates. Apparently there is a free guide which you can get from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food (Whitehall Place, LONDON SW1A, U.K., tel. 011 44 171 270 8080). If you bring a cat it must be quarantined in a registered cattery, one which is approved by the Ministry for quarantine purposes. A list of reregistered catteries is included with the guide. The cost was approximately $1500 per cat. Most of this covers the cattery fees for the six months quarantine.

Do I need a visa or travel permit?

If you are going to the UK for some kind of legitimate employment lasting for six months or more, your UK employer should have gotten (or is currently getting for you) a Work Permit or Work Visa. If not, any time you spend over the six months you’re allowed as a traveler will be technically illegal, and you’ll be thrown out as soon as Immigrations catches you.

If you are traveling through you do not need a visa, just keep your passport handy. If you are going to the U.K. for work, your employer should get you a work permit. If you don’t have a work permit any time after 6 months you are fair game for immigration authorities. Your spouse is eligible for a work permit because they are there with you. These rules also change so be prepared to check ahead.

A married spouse is automatically given a work permit if the other partner comes to the UK on one. You may find some sexism in this area as we discovered. If the female spouse is the one coming in to work the male doesn’t always get a visa without a struggle. However this could have changed recently. The work permit allows unlimited in and outs of the UK. If a job wants you to stay for a longer period of time then the employer must renew the visa with the Home Office. This process has not been streamlined and can take quite awhile, during which time they keep your passport and your spouse’s as well. If you need the passports back for an important trip they will give it back temporarily. Because these rules change regularly it would be a good idea to call the British Consulate and find out what the rules are currently.

If you happen to have a child while in the UK There is some information you might want to know. If both parents are US citizens the child is automatically an American citizen. They are not given dual citizenship just because they were born in the UK. These laws were changed in 1981-1983. You might want to check if they have possibly been changed again. It would be a good idea to call the Immigration and Nationality Department of the Home Office in the UK at 081-686-0688 for up to date information.

Do I want to move to the UK?

This is such a personal question and only you know the answer, but here is some help. If you like adventure, are comfortable with change, can eat weird food, don’t mind lumpy beds and new situations, travel well then you probably would enjoy the move. Yes you will be homesick and occasionally try to figure out why in the world you did it but you will have the opportunity to see new places, meet new people and have great new experiences to tell your children and grand children. You will experience culture shock moving in and out of country expect it and enjoy everything else.

No doubt at some point you’ll be forced to decide whether you really want to take this.

What’s it like living in the UK?

This is a rather difficult question. It would be impossible to really answer it. We can give information of interest but you will have to decide what its like for you.

You have a chance to live in another country for a while, what a great opportunity! Would you really want to miss this chance? In the same way that you wouldn’t want to live just anywhere in the US, the UK has nicer parts. Just what is nicer is really a personal opinion. One of the best things to dodo is ask around to other people as to what they regard as good places to live. Personally, if you are planning to go to Bristol, Sheffield, Brighton, Bath, Cambridge, and Edinburgh you will do well. All of theses areas fall under the category of “very nice to fabulous. Cornwall and Devon are very lovely, and living there would be enjoyable. However they do not have big universities. Descriptions of South Wales and Liverpool make them look less interesting. They appear to be industrial, economically hard hit, and dirty. As far as the weather in the northern cities, the “northern industrial cities” (Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester, more properly called the midlands cities) is said by many to get pretty grey and depressing in the winter.

Before moving to London, try talking to some local residents to find out the many complications of living there. London has many historical and cultural wonders, but the residents complain about the crowds and traffic. Going with a partner can be a great advantage, even if you’re working full time, living in a foreign country can be like being on a vacation. It’s fun to share with someone who you feel comfortable with.

You must be legally married if you want the Consulate to issue your spouse a work permit. However, if you are unattached when you go and decide to stay marrying a local gives you instant European Community citizenship.

How out of place will I feel?

Because it is English speaking country with mixed racial features Americans don’t usually feel very foreign. Although where in the U.S. you come from will make a difference in your comfort levels. Please be advised that British English and American English do have very different idioms and colloquialisms it is advisable to do a little studying so you don’t put your foot in your mouth too often. Music, TV and movies are fairly similar if not identical. Your “accent” will set you apart just like someone with a British accent would be set apart in the states. Brits have a stereotypical American model be careful not to fit it too well. They see us as loud, rude overly emotional, lacking in judgment, braggadocios, bold, and offensive, but they don’t dislike us as some countries do.

It is important that you know the difference between the terminology of Great Britain, British Isles, Europe, England, and the United Kingdom. Some people will get offended if you make a mistake.

In a certain sense all the English-speaking countries of the world comprise one vast extended culture. We’re all aware of current events in each other’s countries. However everyone else is more aware of us than we are of them. We tend to listen to each other’s music and watch each other’s movies. If Clint Eastwood or Emma Thompson make a new movie, it’s a media sensation in both countries. If you want a vastly different cultural experience, you need to go to a non-English speaking country. Unlike some countries the Brits don’t seem to have a built in dislike for Americans. We have experienced only good will from people in the UK. They don’t particularly want Britain to become “like America,” but they want to know what’s going on in the US. News coverage of US events is usually in a concerned, empathetic manner, as though they regard Americans as country cousins living “over there.” There are people from all over Europe in Britain and you hear a lot of foreign languages, as such, being a native English speaker makes you only a semi-foreigner. There’s little to worry about “sticking out like a sore thumb” as an American. However, if you have one of those expressionless, unmodulated, military-style voices (which Brits find irritating to listen to), or an extreme southern accent (which they find fascinating and charming), your accent will even give you a number of advantages. Your friends will recognize you on the phone long before you get two words out. People will talk to you to find out what you think of their country and why you came. In addition Brits tend to size each other up by the way they speak, you will be completely classless to them and they’ll show you respect by default.

How foreign you feel in the UK may depend on what part of the US you are from and where you are going. It seems that there are greater cultural differences within the US than there are between certain parts of the US and certain parts of the UK. As an example of that, I found the experience of moving from west coast US to northeast US to be more of a culture shock than my move to the UK was. For example, someone from the Deep South will find the UK more “foreign” than someone from Boston would. Also take into account socio-economic and educational issues, not just regional issues, in deciding if you will feel comfortable in the UK. There’s a lot of commonality that you share with someone who comes from a similar background, even though it may be from a different country.

On the other hand, it will still be a foreign culture to you in many ways. There are British many words you may have never heard before (dodgy, pillock, punter, nappy), and different meanings of words you may have never encountered (suspenders, pants, braces, grass), learning it is part of the adventure. People grew up with completely different radio and TV shows, so there are a million cultural references that people make in conversation and TV that will have to be explained to you. Plus there are all the words and phrase whose usage that have a subtle, but definite difference.

The government is run differently from the US so attitudes towards government will be different. People have different expectations of, and attitudes toward the government. The UK also has a completely different history of problems and national events that have shaped the way they view things happening around them. You will be amazed as you discover how unique your American point of view is. This cannot be explained to you, there’s nothing that will prepare you, and you’ll just have to experience it once you come here.

Brits consider certain things to be “typically American” traits. Most of these they regard with benign amusement, however they will seldom let on that they are having a laugh at your expense. However a few will be met with more annoyance. Here are a few American stereotypes as seen through British eyes.

  • Bragging, or lacking modesty: proudly proclaiming one’s accomplishments at work or school, or the fabulous vacation they’ve had
  • Blundering into a situation without studying it first, making unwarranted snap judgments, being a “gunslinger”.
  • Talking with your guard down, blurting out personal things to strangers (Debra Winger’s character in “Shadowlands” was a good example of this)
  • Talking loudly in public places to your friends so that everyone around can hear your private remarks.

Will you acquire an accent? If you acquire a full-blown British accent I’d say you were either working at it or you are extremely impressionable. You probably will acquire, at most, the faintest trace of an accent.

Make sure to get straight the difference between “England” and the “United Kingdom” as well as “Great Britain” and the “British Isles”, and even “Europe” for that matter. Scots and Welshmen can be quite insulted by your referring to them as being English, or living in England.

Is the standard of living in the U.K. the same as in the U.S.?

As years go by the differences between the U.S. and the U.K. are getting smaller and smaller. In general the standards are pretty similar. Service related business isn’t as service oriented as the U.S. with an overriding attitude of “do it yourself”. I think Americans may be a little spoiled in this area. Most items available stateside can be found in the U.K. although I hear marshmallow and peanut butter are in short supply.

Some statistics comparing UK and US

  • Per capita GDP
    • UK: $15,900 (1991)
    • US: $22,470 (1991)
  • Unemployment rate
    • UK: 8.1% (1991)
    • US: 6.6% (1991)
  • Kilowatt hours produced per capita
    • UK: 5520
    • US: 12,080 (US, 1990

“The US has the most powerful, diverse, and technologically advanced economy in the world, with the highest per capita GDP of all major industrial nations… While the UK is one of the world’s great trading powers and financial centers, and its economy ranks among the four largest in Europe.” (Source: the 1992 CIA Guide)

Quality of Products:

  • Perhaps the above statistics say it best, Americans make more money and consume more resources in spending it. However, in the overall scheme of things, the British come in a close second. I find the UK a great place to live. You will definitely not find the UK a primitive place, lacking comforts and material goods that you consider essential. There is a noticeable difference in access to new technologies and products, as well as diversity and competitiveness of services, and quality and price of manufactured goods. Here the edge definitely belongs to the US and almost anyone in the UK will agree with this assessment.
  • In regards to new products, British business practices are very conservative. For example if a new product becomes available, like CD players or microwave ovens the US business and marketing approach is to get the product and try to make a million as quickly as possible by selling it. In the UK they tend to observe the item and the phenomenon for up to two or three years before making a move. Even if it’s wildly successful in the US they watch then eventually introduce the item as the “latest thing from the US.” Because of this everything lags behind the US in the UK, and whatever the product, you can usually find it; made better, cheaper and with more features in the US than in the UK. IN addition there are also some products and levels of quality that never seem to make it to the UK. They can’t get make milk cartons that open properly, cellophane tape (i.e. “Scotch tape”) is appallingly bad here (gooey and yellow).
  • Examples of UK disadvantages in the area of comforts, convenience, or material wealth relative to the US are: small refrigerators, slow home laundry machines, only four standard television stations, home showers with pathetic water pressure, stores closed on Sunday. It is important to point out that this situation is constantly evolving. Britain has become much better even over the last five years, and is still changing rapidly (so, be careful about trusting any descriptions from someone who hasn’t been there for 5 or more years. Regarding access to technology and high quality manufactured goods, the UK is rapidly becoming indistinguishable from the US.

Do the businesses keep the same hours?

This is an area where differences can be found but as always things are changing. Shops generally close at 5:30 p.m. or so. Restaurants have odd hours and there are few which are open for breakfast. It seems that many cook only one meal and if you come in late they will be out of certain foods. Pubs closed at 11p.m. due to liquor sales restrictions, so some restaurants reopen to feed those pub goers who might be hungry and want to eat before going home. Because they really do take “tea” at around 4 to 5 p.m. they aren’t usually ready for dinner until 8p.m. Everything is generally closed on Sunday just like the U.S. before the mid seventies. Places simply aren’t open according to what you are Importantly in most places in the US we can eat or shop for whatever we want, whenever we want, Britain is not nearly so. Shopping districts close up around 5:30pm, so if everyone in your household is working, life can be difficult. Travel agents and car rental places are either closed on Saturdays or open only until noon, a practice that seems defy all business and marketing logic. Many things are closed on Sundays but this situation is changing.

In the UK few restaurants are ever open before about 10:30 a.m., so don’t expect to eat breakfast out very often. You will also find that the nicer restaurants aren’t open for dinner at five o’clock, or if they are, they will be empty. They still break for tea or an afternoon snack around four or five pm this means they aren’t really ready for dinner until around 8. Pubs close at 11 p.m. as, it’s illegal to serve liquor after 11pm, unless in a restaurant. Take out places are generally closed in the evening and reopen at 11p.m. to handle the hungry pub goers. People tell you that pubs are a place to get food (I’ve had delicious lasagna at a number of pubs), but what they forget to tell is that this is generally a lunchtime opportunity. The menu may be on the wall, but they’ll look at you strangely and say “I don’t think there’s anything left” if you try to order something after two p.m.

You can always go to KFC, Burger King, 7-11, MacDonalds and Pizza Hut which are open typically American hours.

What about Sexism and Racism?

Here is another area where the U.S. might be ahead of the curve. If you are easily offended by a culture that still allows women to be in second place you will need to keep a stiff upper lip. It is subtle and yes they have female leaders, but there still seems to be a bit of sexism around. Probably most noticeable in the hours the shops are open (only during the work day) and a preponderance of women employed in retail and lower level administrative positions. There is change happening and more and more women in the professional workforce is a key to the direction.

As far as racism there is a bit of that as well. It is a primarily Caucasian culture with a very low percentage of people of color. The issues is again subtle but obvious as to the overall treatment of people. If you are female or a person of color you might find some uncomfortable features of the culture, but since the British pride themselves on their “cultured” behavior it will be quiet and subtle.

UK is a friendly, civilized place for all people who visit or live there. You probably will not experience any blatant racism or sexism because people try very hard to be nice. However, you may experience it in more subtle forms. Educated women in the UK are very informed about feminism, but you will find that modern feminist thinking is not as prevalent. Women tend to accept traditional roles with less protest. In addition, even liberal-minded women seem to dutifully shave their legs and underarms and going braless is infrequently seen. These same women don’t flinch when a female in her twenties is referred to as “a girl.” The good old boy men’s club is still pretty strong, and there are fewer laws in place to prevent it. The hours that shops and Laundromats are open (i.e. closed at night) sends a clear message the woman of the household is at home during the day. On the application for a birth certificate there is an “occupation” line for the father, but no such line for the mother. Even more sinister is the fact that if you are a married student coming to study abroad, a male may granted a visa for his wife, but a female student will be denied one for her husband. On a day-to-day basis the UK does not seem very sexist. I think that attitudes have run somewhat ahead of actual laws so far.

Is the UK a racist place? It’s a sad but commonly observed fact that white people tend to breeze through customs and immigrations, while people of color are stopped and questioned more frequently. .If you are Indian or Pakistani, referred to as “Asians”, you are considered to be on a lower societal rung in the UK than in the US and you may find you are treated in subtly different ways. But before you make up your mind about the UK in this regard, be aware that only 2.8% of the UK is non-whites (although another source puts it at 5.5%), whereas in the US it is 13.9% (source: CIA Guide). As a person from “melting pot” America, think twice before applying the same yardstick to the UK that you use for the US.

Some of the amazing stuff about living in the U.K.

  • It’s somewhere else. A different place with different views, and experiences and adventures galore.
  • Great day trips and weekend trips
  • Cheap and easy trips to Europe, Paris, Germany and others
  • Pubs and great ale
  • History and historical sites, a look at what it was like before
  • An amazing rail system that can take you everywhere, great for viewing the countryside
  • Slower pace, lots of vacations, less stress
  • Safety, there is so much less crime in the streets
  • Common sense seems to be more prevalent than in the U.S.
  • Getting to experience a foreign culture without the inconvenience of a language barrier.
  • It costs less than a round trip ticket to London than to go to Paris for a weekend Package weekend deals to Paris including flight and hotel for less than $200 during the off-season.
  • The excitement of having many cultures in a smaller place. The European Union is making life particularly interesting here.
  • “civilized.” People are much more agreeable and less conflict-prone than in the US; they solve problems by talking things through rather than arguing and posturing. People in positions of authority tend to consider the facts more thoughtfully instead of making inappropriate snap judgments.
  • Slower pace of life. People tend to really leave work at 5pm and go home, and not come into work on weekends. Everyone gets about six weeks of vacation here. This is much more conducive to a better family life.
  • A sense of a social safety net.
  • Better TV. Everyone has junk but the best of the U.K. shines above the best of the U.S.
  • Universal health care, so there’s not that sense fear of becoming ill or unemployed that one has in the US.
  • Personal safety. Much lower crime rates.
  • A far larger proportion of areas in major cities are safe to walk in at night in the UK than in the US
  • A bad neighborhood in the UK is often quite benign by US standards.
  • Common sense prevails in law. The UK gets its share of nuisance lawsuits, affirmative action laws gone out of control, and “politically correct” liberal parochialism, but not nearly as much as in the US.
  • Better quality television. The junk on British TV is every bit as bad as the junk on US TV, but the best stuff in the UK tends to be a lot better than the US’s best TV.

Do I want to be an academic in the UK?

If you are coming for a job with one of the major universities in the UK there are a few things you might want to consider.

What is the research ranking of the department you are going to work for? All British universities are ranked on a 5-point scale for research excellence, and the standards are very high. A department with a five rating means that many faculty members have solid reputations and long publications lists. You can assume that it is competitive with the best department of its type anywhere in the world, and in addition it is probably bringing in huge amounts of research money. The rating review is performed every five years. The universities in the “industrial north” (Birmingham, Sheffield and Manchester) tend to be more practical, with research funding tied to major industries (much like University of Michigan’s ties to the auto industry). These are still three of the best research universities in the country. The word “professor” has a different meaning here. In the UK, “professor” is a rank of considerable seniority and distinction, roughly equivalent to what is called a “full professor” in the US.

Other translations:

  • assistant professor (US) = lecturer (UK),
  • associate professor (US)= senior lecturer (UK).

University lecturers in the UK are hampered by huge amounts of paperwork; the typical academic spends a larger proportion of their time on paperwork than in the US. The conservative government seems to feel that academics spend money frivolously, so they figure if they have to fill out three forms in triplicate for every move that is made, will keep costs down.

Be prepared for a very different interview process. First, it is quite typical for all the candidates for a position to interview on a single day, therefore be prepared to meet your competitors. It is not the grueling whole-day affair that US interviews can be where you are marched around to see dozens of future colleagues and deans. Instead you’ll give a presentation, and have a 20-30 minute interview, and be given a cursory look around the department with your competitors. Sometimes it happens that the committee even makes their decision on the day of the interviews and tells you the results before you leave. If you give a presentation, for research-oriented departments this is the single most important component of your visit. Be prepared to describe your work at differing levels of technicality; for your interview. Design it so someone outside your field can understand the basic message of what your work is about. The image of an academic here seems to be a little more casual, as though looking untidy is a sign of intelligence. This means men might get by with slightly longer hair than in the US; but I would still wear a suit to the interview.

Salary rates may be outdated but close.

  • Lecturer Grade A: $22134 to $28989 in seven steps
  • Lecturer Grade B: $30199 to $43134 in ten steps
  • Senior Lecturer and Professor: $40527 to $49510 in eight steps

Is there required reading?

This list is constantly changing the best thing to do is go to Borders or another large bookstore in your neighborhood and read everything you can find. You can also go on-line and research from there.

Here are a couple of our favorites though:


  • “Changing Places” by David Lodge (Penguin Press): Is a story about an American and a British professor who swap positions at their respective universities for a year. Gives a great view of the cultural differences between the U.S and the U.K
  • The “Rumpole of the Bailey” stories (many different volumes) by John Mortimer. Trial lawyer mysteries of good quality.
  • “Lucky Jim” by Kingsly Amis. Novel from the 50′s about a recent college graduate struggling to get by in his first year as a college lecturer.

Non Fiction

  • Paul Theroux, “The Kingdom by the Sea” (Penguin Press, 1983) A bit of a travel biography.
  • “Coping With England” by Jean Hannah (publ. Basil Blackwell, 1987). A guide of what to expect in England
  • “The Underground Guide to University Study in Britain and Ireland,” by Bill Greaser, Intercultural Press, 1992.
  • “How to Study and Live in Britain,” by Jane Woolfenden. Northcote House, 1990. Full of useful information (i.e. on registering with the police,.immigration)
  • “Driving in Britain: A North American’s guide to the ins and outs and roundabouts of driving over there,” by Robert A. Lockhart. Cande Marketing, PO Box 405, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3C 2T2. $12.95 plus $2.00 shipping and handling.

Other sources of information

  • An American (and Canadian) expatriot support group in the Manchester area publishes a useful guide. The address is The Ruskin Rooms, Drury Lane, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6HA.
  • For help on immigration laws, tax laws, duty imports, etc., write to British Information Services, 845 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022, Tel: 212-745-0200 or possibly 212-752-5747.
  • The British Weekly, a throwaway newspaper for Brits living in the US. Contains many ads for international moving companies, export shops, etc.: 1617 Lincoln Blvd. Suite. 248,Venice, CA 90291, Tel: 310-452-2621
  • Union Jack, another paper like The British Weekly: Union Jack Publishing, PO Box 823, La Mesa, CA 91944-1823, Tel: 619-466-3129.
  • International Express, “Britain’s premiere newpaper for British news, sports, Royalty and entertainment.” Speedimpex USA Inc., 35-02 48th Avenue, Long Island City, New York 11101-9748, Tel: 718-392-7477.
  • The International in Britain, a magazine for Americans living abroad in the UK. Lots of good tips for getting by in British society; example articles in the October 1995 issue are: “Domestic emergencies; how to avoid the cowboys when disaster strikes”, and “Divorce: the British way of splitting up.” FT Magazines, Greystoke Place, Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1ND. Telephone 0171-405-6969, FAX 0171-831-2181.
  • If you need to get a copy of one of the daily British newspapers such as the Times,Guardian, Independent, etc., you can get them through Intenational Media Service, 3300 Pacific Avenue, Suite 404, Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451-2983 Tel: 800-428-003.

Is there a FAQ for moving from the UK to the US?

Basic facts comparing the US and UK

  • Total area:
    • UK: 244,820 km2 (slightly smaller than Oregon)
    • US: 9,372,610 km2 (38 times larger)
  • Population:
    • UK: 57,797,514 (1992)
    • US: 254,521,000 (1992; 4 times larger)
  • Type of government:
    • UK: constitutional monarchy
    • US: federal republic
  • Constitution:
    • UK: unwritten; partly statutes, partly common law and practice
    • US: 17 September 1787, effective 4 June 1789
  • Legal system:
    • UK: common law tradition with early Roman and modern continental influences; no judicial review of Acts of Parliament
    • US: based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts
  • Percentage of non-white ethnic groups
    • UK: 5.5 (1992)
    • US: 13.9 (1989)
  • Full name of the country
    • United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
    • United States of America
  • Major Regions
    • UK: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales
    • US: no official regions

(Source: the 1992 CIA Guide)

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