Tips for American Expats in the UK

Many Americans assume that living in the UK will be easy, since both countries speak the same language and share similar values. American expatriates are surprised to learn how different the US and UK really are. Adjusting to life in a foreign country is difficult even under the best of circumstances, and culture shock can cause feelings of isolation in expats. Here are some common sense tips to make the transition smoother.


1. Learn The Language

While the main language of the UK is English, prepare to be slightly confused by the various dialects and accents. It will take awhile before understanding these speech patterns becomes second nature, so make sure to listen closely and be patient in the meantime. Also, a small percentage of people in the UK speak Welsh and Gaelic.

2. Prepare For A Lifestyle Change

Products cost more in the UK than they do in America and wages are lower. The homes are much more expensive, considerably smaller, and offer little room between you and your neighbor. One car garages are a luxury, and most homes lack the modern conveniences that have become commonplace in the US. Being prepared for this will make the change less jarring. Make sure you secure a reputable mortgage broker who specializes in finding houses for foreigners, and familiarize yourself with the neighborhood before making any purchases.

3. Don’t Get Political

If you believe that American politics are superior to politics in the UK (especially regarding socialist policies), it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself. Insulting the policies of the UK is an excellent way to offend the natives. Be thankful for the National Health Service and save your critiques for phone calls back to the States.

4. Learn To Get Around

Familiarize yourself with the various methods of transportation in the UK. Gatwick and Heathrow are the international airports, and motorways are available for cars that are taxed, registered and insured. Residents of big cities often utilize public transportation, which is a daily expense that must be factored into the budget. It’s important to practice driving in the UK before venturing into traffic, as cars travel on the opposite side of the street.

5. Don’t Tip

Tipping workers in the service industry is frowned upon in the UK, and can even be considered insulting. If you tip, you will be going against the culture and also paying twice, as there is usually a service charge attached to the bills.

David Milberg is a credit analyst in NYC.