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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Moving to England: An Idiot's Guide

That idiot is me!
Moving to a different country was the best decision I've ever made.  I learned how to be independent, what I wanted from the future and how to drink six pints without throwing up.  When I first left, I was so terrified and nervous and sure it was all going to blow up in my face.  I was desperate for a guide just like this that would give me some sort of idea of what I was in for.  It also would have saved me shit loads of money.  I've broken this down into what I think are the main issues of importance, but if you have any questions at all, comment or email me and I will be your travel Yoda.  Also, this is all done from a Canadian perspective, seeing as I am...you know....Canadian.      

Getting a Work Visa
Unless you're going to be an illegal immigrant, which I wouldn't suggest, you're going to need a work visa.  I had a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, previously known as a Working Holiday Maker.  The countries that particpate in the Youth Mobility Scheme are Canada, Japan, Monaco, Australia and New Zealand.  You must be between 18 and 31 years old and prove you have £1,600 in the bank.  The application fee for that visa is approximately $300 CAD depending on the exchange rate.  The whole application process was actually quite simple.  I went to the website visa4uk.gov.uk and starting filling out the form.  The questions are pretty straightforward, so as long as you haven't participated in acts or terrorism or genocide (yes, they really ask you that) you should be golden.  After I'd sent off the form, I had to go the local office (luckily, there was one in my city) and get my fingerprints and picture taken.  It sounds kind of confusing and complicated, but I just sort of followed the prompts given to me and it was pretty straightforward.
Helpful Visa Websites:
http://www.visa4uk.fco.gov.uk/  - This is where you go when you're ready to actually fill out the form.
http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/en/
http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/workingintheuk/tier5/youthmobilityscheme/

My very first day in my new room at my first job.
Where Will I Live?
You basically have to decide if you want to "live in" at a pub or rent your own place and find a job.  There's pros and cons to both, but I would highly suggest going for a live-in job first.  Your room and food is taken care of and usually included in your wage.  It gives you more security when you first arrive because everything is sorted out and taken care of.  It's a wonderful way to meet new people and most live-in jobs end up being a major party atmosphere.  The downside is that you are always at work.  You live at work!  You can't really call in sick because you're hungover if your boss is just down the stairs, you know?  The hours are usually pretty long, and most places expect you to work split shifts.  Some pubs aren't even open between two and five.  If you can, try to get a look at the room you'll have before you take the job.  Or even better, try and get ahold of someone who works there and get the REAL story.  At one job, I ended up living in a glorified closet with another girl and sharing one toilet and one shower with eleven people.  I was not so happy.  It can be imtimidating to quit your job because once you do....you're homeless.

Your other option is to rent a place and find a job independantly.  I eventually did this when I was fed up with my live-in, but finding a reasonable room can be tough depending on where you are.  I lived in Surrey which is beautiful but quite a pricey part of England.  Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr lived in my village, just to give you an idea!  It seems the farther north you go, the cheaper housing is.  I ended up renting a room in Guildford for  £300 a month plus council tax, internet, power and water.  Council tax can be pretty expensive in England and it's the tenant's responsibility to pay it.  If you decide to live in a shared house, make sure you don't live with students as they're not required to pay council tax and you'll end up getting stuck paying all of it.  I found food to be cheaper in England than in Canada but it always adds up, especially if you're used to getting fed at a live-in job.  I'm glad I eventually moved into my own place because it gave me way more freedom and my housemates were wonderful, wonderful people.  I really miss them!
Helpful Websites
http://www.workabout.uk.com - This site is full of live-in jobs, it saved my ass!
http://www.gumtree.com - Classifieds website.  This is where I found my house and my first non live-in job.


I will harass police in any country, apparently.


I Need A Phone!
Staying in touch with your loved ones is so important in the fight against homesickness.  The tips in my long distance relationship article apply to family and friends as well.  To help stay in touch I bought a sim card from  Lebara Mobile.  They specialise in long distance calling and you can top up anywhere, including Sainsburys (a major grocery store in England).  It was 4p per minute to Canada and 10p per minute within the UK.  It actually kind of backfired on me because, as it turned out, I spent more time calling my friends in England than my family at home!  Skype will also let you call land lines and cell phones for a pretty good rate.  I bought a cheap, international unlocked cell phone from tigerdirect.com, but I don't know much about phones.  My tech genius step dad sorted all that out for me.  


My magical, amazing, hilarious housemates


Warnings!
  • You will make dear, wonderful friends that you will miss like crazy.  This is what I've struggled with more than anything.
  • If you live in a pub, you are most likely going to be drinking a lot.  We had one Canadian girl working with us who "rarely drank" when she arrived and was a total boozer by the time she left!
  •  English food is fattening.  Between roast dinners, brie and bacon sandwiches and waaaay too many pints, I gained loads of weight.  Everybody delighted in telling me how fat I was when I got home.
  • Be prepared to tell everyone you meet where you're from and why you're in England.  After a year of living there I had my story down to a perfectly practiced speech.
  • English people use stupid words for things.  Just kidding!  They're not stupid but they are different.  They call eggplants augbergines and a million other things.  If you say "saran wrap" instead of "cling film" you will get laughed at.  Also, they will mock the way you say "to-may-to" instead of "to-mah-to". This English to American translator should set you straight!


Those are the main issues that I stressed over before I left, but if you have any other questions please don't be afraid to ask.  It was the best time of my life and I would recommend it to anyone needing a bit of adventure or spice in their life.  Just be prepared to love it so much you never want to leave!

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