Getting Settled

Moving to another country is exciting, scary, stressful – and one of the best things we have ever done.

Before we moved we did as much research and planning as we could but nothing prepared us for the reality of actually living here.  The houses, the food, the accents – everything was different to what we were used to. Of course they speak English but not the kind of English we were used to hearing!  For the first month or so we did a lot of smiling and nodding whenever someone spoke to us.  Where we live in Devon, it’s common to say ‘you alright?’ (they actually say awreet?) instead of how are you.  I remember walking around thinking gosh, I must look sick, everyone keeps asking me if I’m alright!

Lower Dean, near Buckfastleigh, Devon

Where in the UK do you want to live?
Presumably you have made your mind up where in the UK you want to live or,  it might depend on work, family or school.  There are so many amazing places to live; even after 8 years here I am still stunned by the beauty of the places I visit. Certain areas of the country are more expensive than others – London and anything within commuting distance of London tends to be very expensive. You can get more for your money in the north but you may not find the job opportunities like you would in London or any of the other major centers. I live on the outskirts of Buckfastleigh in Devon, a small moor town with a population of about 3,300. It’s situated roughly halfway between Plymouth and Exeter. There are buses to both Plymouth and Exeter and a train station 10 miles away where I can get the 7:30 am train and be in London in time for a 10 A.M. meeting. I love living in Devon but the houses here can be pricey and the wages a little bit lower compared to a larger center but the quality of life here is amazing.

Mobile phones 
One of the first things you may want to get yourself is a mobile phone. There are mobile shops everywhere so the choice is pretty much endless. When I first arrived here I had no UK credit history, no job and no permanent address so not surprisingly I wasn’t able to get a phone contract. It was either a buy a cheap pay-as-you-go mobile (which you can top up at any ATM) or pay for the phone in full. I choose the cheap mobile. Usually after a year of residence and steady employment you should be able to get yourself on a plan and get a better phone. I am now with SKY and pay £28.00 per month for two phones (one is a new one and the other is just on a data plan). As a SKY customer I get unlimited calls/texts and 500 MB of data per month.

Rent or Buy?
I have only rented in the UK, so I can’t really comment on purchasing a home. I have had conversations with my bank and they told me that in addition to a deposit (usually 10 percent of the purchase price) you will need at least 2 years of credit and employment history in the UK before they would consider giving you a mortgage.

Anson Place, Plymouth Devon – The first street we lived on when we came to England

The majority of rental properties in the UK are listed with Estate Agencies and can be found on any of the various property sites. The Estate Agent will usually manage the initial tenancy on behalf of the landlord.

There are income requirements in order to rent – without an guarantor you will need proof that your total income is equal to or more than 30 times the monthly rent of the property.  If a Guarantor is required, their income will have to be at least 36 times the monthly rent, or share of rent, payable by the you. You will need to pay a non-refundable administration fee per applicant.  You will need to undergo a credit and reference check and pay a security deposit which is usually the monthly rent + £100.00 or so.  Administration fees will vary depending on the Estate Agent.  As I didn’t have a job or a guarantor I had to pay 6 months rent up front.  I would strongly suggest if you don’t have a job already in place to have enough money to sustain yourself for at least 6 months.

Dean Court, Lower Dean, Devon March 2018

Initially you will be offered a 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST).  If after the 6 months and a successful home inspection, you and the landlord decide if you want to extend to a 12 month lease.

You will need to pay a deposit on the property and it’s normally around £100 + one months rent.  You deposit is held in the Tenancy Deposit Scheme which protects you from your deposit being lost or unfairly withheld from you.

The rent you pay will be dependant on where in the country you want to live. I have paid on average between £800 and £900 per month for a 3 bedroom house with a garden that allows pets.

I love the quirkiness and charm of British homes but they are on average smaller than a Canadian home.  So be prepared to downsize somewhat.  A lot of the homes we have rented really lack storage space and bedrooms don’t always have closets so you’ll likely have to buy yourself a wardrobe. To add to the lack of space you have radiators hanging on the wall messing with your furniture placement.

Additional Monthly Expenses
Other monthly bills you need to consider are;  Council Tax  (similar to property tax and you pay this regardless of whether you rent or own) water and sewage charges (that’s for water coming in and going out); parking (if there is restricted parking in your area) and finally heat and electric. Before you commit to a heat/electric supplier it’s a good idea to go to one of the comparison sites to try and get the best deal. The competition is fierce out there so you can afford to shop around.

And of course we mustn’t forget the TV licence.  Yes you really do have to have a licence if you have a television or watch live streaming television on any device in your home. You could incur a £1,000 fine if you are found to have a TV without a licence – but don’t worry about forgetting to pay it, they will send you countless letters reminding you that you owe them money and if you’re really lucky they will pay you a visit and demand access to your property. Now there are many opinions out there about whether or not you have to by law grant them access to your property and a lot of people refuse to pay it at all (the issue of abolishing is always being debated) but I can’t be bothered with the hassle so I just pay it.

As far as watching TV goes, you can either get Freeview  which is exactly what it sounds like, Free TV.  It’s the basic channels and as long as you have a TV with Freeview installed (most new televisions do) and an antenna you’re good to go. If you want more variety you can also purchase speciality TV channels and again, the choice is endless. I found that by bundling the TV channels with my phone and broadband I got a better deal. I have used Sky since I moved here; I love their customer service and I find it to be the best deal out there. Right now I pay £76.00/ month but that includes all the major channels; SKY sports, unlimited broadband; phone with unlimited UK calls. As with anything, it’s a good idea to check the comparison sites to see what’s out there.

Helpful links:

Mortgage Information for First Time Buyers
Spare Room
Right Move
Mobile phones 

“Leaving what feels secure behind and following the beckoning of our hearts doesn’t always end as we expect or hope. We may even fail. But here’s the payoff: it can also be amazing and wonderful and immensely satisfying.” ― Steve Goodier