Relocating to another country is a daunting task filled with pitfalls and surprises. However the rewards can be significant as well! Having just gone through this, I thought I would share the experience so others can benefit. My wife and I have now been living in the United Kingdom for about 5 months and while we still don’t know all the ins and outs to life here, we’ve come a long way. We decided to relocate here after our career break to pick up where we left off and jump back into the work force.
Looking back, making the move to the UK has been great from a career perspective. Having overseas experience, especially in London, really ads a certain level of credibility to a CV/Resume. Also, if you can keep living expenses in check (London is notoriously expensive) then you can save a good chunk of money due to the strength of the pound versus the Canadian dollar.
Why Move to the UK?
In the last few months we’ve had several people ask us, sometimes in disbelief, why we would actually WANT to come to the UK! The grass is always greener on the other side I guess!
When we were trying to decide where we wanted to move to, we looked at several factors including proximity to home (Toronto), language, culture, weather, and career prospects. After giving the subject of career development a lot of thought, we decided that if we were going to live abroad we wanted to work in the same field and develop our careers. My wife and I work in similar fields in technology with experience in banking. In order to progress in our areas we would need to work in an English speaking country.
Ideally we wanted to live somewhere that was different enough from Canada that we would feel we were experiencing something totally new. This eliminated the United States. Granted it met many of our other criteria like better weather and proximity, but it just wouldn’t have been different enough for us. We then thought about Australia, New Zealand and the UK. While Australia and New Zealand both meet most of the criteria, they are just too far away. We are very close with friends and family so a move to the other side of the world with a 12 hour difference in time zones was just too great.
The UK seemed to be the middle ground. The weather in London is better than Toronto, in my opinion, with very little snow and milder temperatures. London is also one of the world’s major banking hubs so career prospects shouldn’t be an issue. Culture wise the UK is different enough to seem interesting yet similar enough to not be overwhelming. The UK and London specifically were in the news quite a bit last year with the 2012 Olympics taking place there.
Setting up in a new city
When we first came to London we had no idea what the neighbourhoods were like, where anything was or where potential employers might be! We used AirBnB to find reasonably priced shared accommodation in a couple of different neighbourhoods in the city. All of the hosts were great and gave us considerable insight into their respective areas. Staying with locals let us try out a few neighbourhoods on a temporary basis to see what neighbourhoods we liked more. We walked, a lot, which was a great way to get out and see the city.
Once we had a place to stay we went and opened bank accounts. HSBC has a Passport account which is geared to new residents/immigrants. Keeping ourselves funded was a big priority at first, with the strength of the pound compared to the Canadian dollar, our money didn’t go very far in this super expensive city. We needed to start earning money locally!
On the communications front, I unlocked my venerable iPhone 3GS before we left Toronto since I was no longer locked into a contract. I was with Fido and had to pay a $50 unlocking fee which was totally worth it. I was then able to buy cheap pay as you go SIM cards in any of the countries we travelled to. The UK definitely has more affordable mobile phone service. My £15 monthly pay as you go service includes 300 minutes, 3000 texts and unlimited data!
Public transportation is phenomenal in London, you can get to almost any corner of the city on either the tube, trains or busses. With a population of over 15,000,000 in the London metro area, the city has the volume of passengers to support an extensive transportation network.
Starting the job hunt
After taking our time to get to know the city for a week or so, we started to ramp up our job search. Here are a few of the sites we used:
There are dozens of job search websites in the UK, these are just a few. We also used LinkedIn extensively with surprisingly good results. A good network of contacts is extremely valuable, though a couple of thousand kilometers between you and them can pose some challenges!
That’s all for this post but we’ll continue next time with more on jobs, renting a flat and lots more.
For the readers: Have any of you relocated from one country to another? Share your experiences with us!