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Where to Live for Expats in the United Kingdom

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: July 2013

Finding the right place to live in the UK depends on many factors. There are practical considerations such as finding work, transport connections to other parts of the country and to international airports, house prices, the cost of living and availability of local amenities. There are also emotional criteria, such as the desirability of a place –  whether what you desire is happiness, safety, friendly locals or a frenetic social life.

By far the largest and most celebrated city in the UK is London. Living in London gives you opportunities for socialising, eating out, entertainment and shopping that rival any city in the world. It also has many characterful buildings, especially in the City and Westminster. London is one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, so it is an excellent place to encounter other cultures. Also, if you want to be around other expats from your home country, to socialise with or to act as a support network, it shouldn’t be hard to  find some in London.

London is certainly a world-class city, but the people can be aloof and unfriendly, and you may find the city to be too hectic, expensive and unsafe in some areas. Also, it may actually be hard to find employment other than casual work in London, as the unemployment rate, at around 8.5%, is slightly higher than the national average.

The lowest unemployment rates are to be found in the areas around London, in southern England. Some towns and cities in these areas also have fine architecture, low crime rates, good connections to London and elsewhere, and better weather than the rest of Britain, especially in South West England. However, house prices are usually high.

There are other places. Cities such as Manchester, Cardiff, Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow are very good for cultural events and socialising. People from these cities are likely to be friendlier and more community-minded than Londoners and those from south-east England.

In general, unemployment rises as you move northwards, and it is especially high in some of the old industrial centres. You can find a recent unemployment map of the UK here.

If you are interested in a more relaxed, less intense life with lower crime rates, there are dozens of quiet, characterful little market towns throughout the country. Some of these have rail connections to major cities. It is usually these towns that are voted the most peaceful places to live in Britain, as can be seen here.

Taken on its own, England is one of the most densely populated countries on earth. So, if you want to get away from it all, it might be good idea to try one of the UK’s other three constituent countries. To the west of England, Wales has to some extent a distinctive culture that reflects its Celtic heritage, and its own, completely distinct language, Welsh. You almost certainly won’t need to learn Welsh though, as the vast majority of people speak English. Wales has some unspoilt areas and many parts of it are good if you like outdoor activities. There are some areas of Wales, such as the Valleys in the south, that have very low house prices, though unemployment is also high there.

Scotland has a large central belt, stretching from Glasgow to Edinburgh, where most of the people live, and most of the rest of the country is nearly empty. There are vast tracts of land with outstanding natural beauty, and many areas of Scotland are therefore good if you like the outdoors or just like being in the countryside – weather permitting, of course. Even Glasgow, the largest city, and a major centre of cultural and social activity, is only a short journey away from beautiful sites such as the Campsie Fells and Loch (Lake) Lomond. You may find the accent a little hard to understand, however.

Northern Ireland is generally home to warm, welcoming people. There is a good social life to be had, particularly in Belfast. There is also some fine scenery, and you are in a fine position to visit the Republic of Ireland to the south. Northern Ireland has had its problems in the recent past, and there are still social difficulties and high unemployment rates in some areas.

 

 

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