6 Insider Tips for Americans Moving to the UK

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When Leslie Ames* first moved from Virginia to London, she had nothing to wear.  Her US employer’s moving company had shipped her clothes and other essentials via air freight, and they were supposed to arrive at her new flat within a couple days of the move.  But somehow they ended up in Macedonia—fancy coats, designer bags and all.  “I wish I had inventoried and taken pictures of everything for insurance reasons,” said Leslie.  That would have brought some comfort while she shopped for replacement work outfits.  The shipment arrived after a couple of weeks, but a lesson had been learned:

#1 – Keep Records of Everything You Ship

Even if your moving company conducts an inventory as part of its service, be sure to take your own documentation with you, including photos or videos of the shipment’s contents.

Here are some more moving tips based on Leslie's and other expats' experiences:

#2 – Get Accurate Measurements of Your New Home

The moving company shipped Leslie’s furniture, carpets, and other household items across the pond on a container ship.  Surprisingly, some things didn’t fit, because she had been quoted the wrong square footage.  “Take every number the realtors (Estate Agents) give, and skinny it down,” she said.  Leslie suggests bringing your own measuring tape when shopping around.  “American furniture is often too big, and a king-size bed is probably a bad idea.”  Double beds tend to be the most common size in British homes, so prepare to get cozy with your loved one.

#3 – Less Clothing is More

For a couple of reasons, bring less clothing than you think you’ll need.  First off, the British are generally less obsessed with what to wear.  Secondly (and stemming from the first point), their closets tend to be smaller.  You might guess the most important piece of clothing to bring:  a really good rain jacket with a hood.  And especially for expats in London, don’t forget your comfortable walking shoes.

#4 – Hold a Tag Sale or Donate Items You’re Not Taking with You

 

tag sale.jpg

 

You may think you’re going to want that cuckoo clock or oversized chair when you eventually return to the US, but think twice.  Tastes can change dramatically after living abroad, especially if you’re gone for a long stint.  Rather than spending more money on storage, consider donating home furnishings to a nonprofit organization or holding a tag sale.  As for the most valued and meaningful items, you can either bring them with you to help personalize your new home, or store them stateside.

#5 – Take Advantage of a Generous Health System

Anyone living in the UK is allowed medical treatment through the National Health Care Service, (NHS) which is free.  To register, bring an ID and proof of address to your local surgery as soon as you move.  It’s best not to wait until you get sick.

If you’re willing and able to pay more for shorter waits and more personal service, consider enrolling in a private health insurance plan.  Leslie was fortunate enough to receive private insurance through her employer, and she found the service to be excellent.  Doctors gave her long, in-depth consults and were extremely accommodating with their schedules.  She found that, rather than rushing to prescribe medication, her British doctors took a holistic approach.  And, since the medications were all generic, prescriptions were much cheaper than in the US.

#6 – Use an International Money Transfer Service

Obtaining a British bank account should be a top priority after moving, because you’ll need it for other important things, like setting up local cell phone service.  Read our guide on How to Open a Bank Account in the UK.  

When moving funds between your American and British bank accounts, don’t pay more than you should.  Avoid the excessive fees and poor exchange rates of banks, and try an international money transfer service instead.  Use our comparison tool to find the best way to send money online.

 

*name and other details changed for privacy

 


Marisa Fasciano
Content Specialist
Marisa is a communications consultant based in New York with a background in social research, diversity education, and nonprofit development.  She has lived and traveled abroad extensively… Read more

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