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Old 10-12-2005, 06:00 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: In my angry-dome.
U.S. Citizens traveling to the U.K.

I've just begun investigating a trip to the U.K. It will be my first trip off the continent. Since there are so many unknowns, this first jaunt will be exploratory with the intent of a longer stay should things permit. I have no contacts on that side of the pond. It's just a place I've always loved from afar: the personality, history, humor, and diversity.

-What costs should I expect? I won't likely stick around London since everything I've heard says traffic is a nightmare. Still, I will want to spend time in both city and rural areas.

-Where did you go? How did it compare with your life in the U.S., and what's your favorite area?

-Long term, how difficult is it to obtain a work visa? I've been to the UK's immigration site but would like a dose of reality from people who've made the attempt. I'm a 25+yr developer/IT vet who can weld, rebuild transmissions, and appreciate a pint & greasy food with the best of them!

-What to expect of healthcare?

-I want to continue my education. How might that affect my options?

Come one, come all!
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Old 10-14-2005, 04:56 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I've only been to London on a short, 5 day stay, so I can't answer most of those questions, but I can answer the cost one--London is fucking expensive. The dollar is basically worthless right now, so add that onto London's already high prices... The pound is worth twice what the dollar is, and all the prices there are about what you would expect back in the US--except they are in pounds, and so are twice as expensive. A beer and a sandwich in a bar will cost you $20.

That said, I absolutely love London, as do many others I know, so take that into consideration. I'm not really sure why you're worried about congestion--London didn't seem any more crowded than any other city, and the public transportation there was fabulous.

Good luck!
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Old 10-14-2005, 10:04 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thanks sailor. Hey, it's entirely possible my notions are baked. That's what I'm trying to find out.

Okay, to anyone reading: Anything you can muster is more than I have. What's your take on life in the U.K.?
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Old 10-15-2005, 05:08 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Where morons reign supreme
I have to agree with sailor...the prices seem reasonable until you remember the conversion rate. I spent three days in London and two days in Cardiff....Cardiff was much more enjoyable in my opinion. It wasn't quite as busy as London and the people seemed friendlier.

As far as immigration, I've looked into it and it seems a bit difficult. From what I read, you have to either have family there, be married/engaged to a natural born citizen, or make a pretty good living so as not to put a strain on their resources. I'm sure it's possible...I knew a girl from high school who pretty much moved there after school, but I'm not sure what route she took. Good luck if you try it...and have fun regardless, the UK was an awesome place and I enjoyed my time there tremendously.
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Old 10-16-2005, 12:21 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: In my angry-dome.
The last couple days woke me up to England's sensitivity on immigration. Seems more common as a news item than our border issues, and the barriers to entry are substantial. Even immigration with the goal of starting a business is expensive. A minimum bankroll of ~US$400K, work it yourself plus provide two full time jobs out of the gate. No seat-of-the-pants startups here, thank you.

I can tell they need IT help. One of the main .gov sites has been down all weekend with a servlet problem.
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Old 10-19-2005, 03:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: UK
Hey Cyrnel - I'm an American living in the UK on an extended spousal dependent visa - which means that I'm here with my husband because of his job and we can stay here as long as his job lasts. We couldn't get visas until he had a work permit which meant that his employer (the NHS- National Health Service) had to write a letter saying that they wanted him to come and work and that they would pay him enough so that we would not become dependent on the state at any point of our stay. And if I'm not mistaken - I think that's how it has to go. A friend of mine who's interested in relocating here has said that she thinks she can get a travel visa and then find a job while she's here, get someone to give her a work permit and have her travel visa exchanged for a work visa and go about it that way. I don't know if that would work or not - but you could check it out.

In terms of prices - yes you can plan on everything costing about twice as much in the UK as in the US. But I've found that to be a small price to pay for what we've gotten out of the experience. I really, really love living here and would pay as much as we could possibly afford to be able to stay. In fact - my husband just got his contract extended so it is now open-ended and we may just stay forever. It is very different from the US in most ways I can think of - but different in a way that really suits me. I'm like you, I've also always loved all things British- literature, humor, attitude, etc - so that's probably why it's so appealing to me.

We live in a little village in Somerset which is one of the more rural counties in England. We live about an hour and a half outside of London. Beautiful, beautiful country side, really nice people, outside of the hustle and bustle but centrally located - we can be in Cardiff in an hour, Bristol in about twenty minutes, etc...always plenty of stuff to do.

I've found the NHS to be fine. I've not had any trouble getting appointments, etc. and the dental care is free for us. Of course none of us is sick or has a chronic illness - I can't speak to how those situations would go here. But my husband does work in an ER here, and he's really favorably impressed with the level of dedication and compassion he sees. Of course, he's looking at it from an insider's view.

I'd say if you have any way to do it - grab it. Just the experience of living in a different country with people who have different mindsets, behaviors, etc has been so enriching and really, really fun. And if you stay for five years, you can gain citizenship and be a citizen of the European Union and then you are free to live and work in any of the EU countries. It really opens up a whole new world.

If you have any specific questions about lifestyle, culture, etc. feel free to let me know. Good luck...
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Old 10-19-2005, 07:05 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Excellent Josie. Thanks. That's exactly what I was looking for.
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There are a vast number of people who are uninformed and heavily propagandized, but fundamentally decent. The propaganda that inundates them is effective when unchallenged, but much of it goes only skin deep. If they can be brought to raise questions and apply their decent instincts and basic intelligence, many people quickly escape the confines of the doctrinal system and are willing to do something to help others who are really suffering and oppressed." -Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, p. 195
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Old 10-19-2005, 11:31 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: comfortably perched at the top of the bell curve!
cyrnel -

We went for 8 days in southern England in 2002. Then, we went to Scotland for 9 days in 2004. We loved London, but it's very expensive in the UK. The "times 2" ratio seems to be very accurate. You should definitely go to Bath - what a magical city. You will be hard pressed to find a English person in London. However, you will meet plenty of Australians and South Africans. Don't ask for directions because no one knows where anything is in London, but that doesn't stop them from telling you where it is. If you mail me a picture of yourself standing under a sign for Tottenham Court Road, I will mail you a silver dollar! We still don't thing that Goddamned street exists.

We liked Scotland better than England. The people are a LOT more fun and friendly. They are very proud of their country and will spend as long as you want to listen talking about it.
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Old 10-20-2005, 05:32 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Location: UK
Speaking as an Briton, some tips.

Beer: $6 per pint.
Hotels - expensive, especially in city centres. Expect an average price in the suburbs of around $70-80 per night, if you're lucky.
Contrary to popular belief, trains tend to run on time now. They are, however, expensive.
Never ever ever take a London Taxi. They kill budgets. Use the bus or the tube.
That said, do mind the gap - they're not joking. I nearly fell down one once.

Outside of London, head west for relaxation and landscapes (Somerset, Avon, Cornwall (Bath is a great place to stop over if you're heading that way - architecture, culture and good eating) Northwest for the countryside (Peak District, lots of scenery and walking) and into Wales for a far more laid back approach to things.
Scotland really deserves its own guide, as do Wales and Cornwall. University towns are a good bet - Canterbury to the Southeast and Oxford/Cambridge (north of London) are always nice places to visit. York and Durham, much further to the North, are also worth a look.

Market towns still exist, especially in the countryside.

I'm not sure about work permits etc but you should have a minimum of fuss getting one - you've got marketable skills and you already speak the language.

Expect rain and non-stop drizzle on bad autumn days, and high cloud cover. Pack warm clothes.
Don't forget to register with your embassy if you're staying longer than three weeks or so.
Expect high prices for food, but if you look around a bit you should be able to find a decent lunch and a drink for around £5.
Fast food over here isn't, and comes cold. Go to the pub instead. The menus can be highly varied, but expect a generally high standard.
From what I've drunk in the US so far, UK beer tends to be much stronger in both alcohol content and flavour than over there. Stella Artois or Smith's would be the eqivalent of Miller. Always order whatever's on the tap, it's just better. Look out for locally brewed products and expect an alcohol content of 5 - 9 %

Take traveller's cheques in £sterling for emergency purposes (and everyday use) but be warned - apart from large hotel chains, shops don't tend to accept them. It's better to stick to cash. Ask your bank before you go if they have an agreement with other banks over here - some operators in both countries charge for cash withdrawals, although Visa/Mastercard etc should attract no charges. I'm not sure about American Express. For a longer stay, (+ 2/3 months) I'd suggest opening an account.

When are you going?
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