By Mariel Gonzales
You have finally bid goodbye to your family and friends to start your new life and career in the UK. You feel excited and apprehensive at the same time as you’re uncertain of what’s ahead of you.
Will I like or hate it?
Will I make friends and settle in a foreign place with different culture, language and norms I was used to?
Will I thrive and survive thousand miles away from my home?
These probably are the questions lingering on your mind as you step on the UK soil. And my lovely, there is no turning back! You need to have a brave heart and a positive mindset so you can achieve the goals you have set for yourself.
All you can do at this point is to be prepared and gather as much information about the things to expect as you arrive in your new workplace and hometown.
This article will give you an insight on the most significant tasks you need to sort out after arriving in the UK so you can just enjoy your journey and your cup of tea. Trust me you will learn how to love tea in this country!
1. Get to know your area. Find your grocery shops and local stores.
This might seem obvious but walking around your neighborhood gives you a glimpse of your local amenities and places for your daily needs. You can also use google to look for the nearest services around your area and their opening times.
Most towns and cities in the UK have selection of grocery shops where you can do your “food shopping”. Larger grocery stores sell other commodities such as clothing, hardware, appliances, toiletries and other household items too.
2. Make sure you know where the nearest hospital is located.
If you are a nurse coming in the UK, your local hospital will probably be your employer so there is no need to locate it. But if you’re not or maybe other healthcare facility had employed you, then it’s worth knowing the nearest hospital in your area in case you need to go to Accident and Emergency or Urgent GP for health emergencies. Hope it won’t happen but it’s essential to know where emergency services are located.
3. Know your local taxi company and bus routes.
UK offers great public transport to help you get around the city or town. Being familiar with the bus routes and bus times allows you to go to different places in your area.
If you live in London, buses and underground are great ways to explore the city and can be available almost every few minutes. You can visit TFL website or download the bus times apps for Android or Apple to determine the bus times and plan your route accordingly.
Outside London, towns have buses running everyday as well although not as often as it is in London. I recommend the Moovit app (Apple or Android) to see the bus times and the bus number that you need for your desired destination. Always bear in mind that there’s a designated bus stop for each bus number so it is always worth checking it before riding the bus.
Taxis can be a superb option for you if you are looking for convenience. But you have to pay a premium price for the service of picking you up and dropping you off exactly where you want to be. Every area has a local taxi number. All you have to do is call them and tell your location for pick-up and your destination. There is normally a set price depending on the distance but some taxis run with meters to determine your final bill.
Trains will also be a great part of your life along the way especially if you love travelling and of course, to see London! Who doesn’t have that in their itinerary?! We have a seperate guide for you about public transport in the UK so you can save money and travel with ease.
4. Find the Town Centre in your area.
Relocating in a busy city is a bit different than moving in a quieter town. For instance, London and other major cities offers plethora of retail shops and malls that you can easily go to.
However, if your employer is located in a countryside then your go-to place for leisure is the Town Centre. This is the commercial area of a town where you can find shops, libraries and major public transport such as train stations.
5. Get a UK Sim card.
Mobile companies in the UK operate using GSM standard. Your best move is to make sure that your mobile phone is unlocked so you can just buy a UK Sim card.
There are two options to acquire mobile phone connection: contract or “pay-as-you go”
Since you are new to the UK, it might be difficult for you to get a contract (a.k.a. postpaid plan) as you haven’t built a good credit rating. Hence, you can probably start off with a prepaid sim or pay as you go. You can purchase this from your local stores and any mobile phone shops in the high street or town centre then just “top-up” (load) if you need some more credit.
6. Apply for a bank account and get a debit card.
Our group was lucky enough as our Trust employer facilitated opening our bank accounts when we arrived in the UK. The team looking after us have asked Natwest employees to come and meet our batch so we can set up an account easily.
However, if you have to do it yourself, there is a range of banks you can choose from. You can open an account through online or at their branches. Current account is usually the standard account you can use for your daily expenses, paying bills and most importantly, receiving your monthly wages.
This may also come with a debit card that you may find very useful as most shops, restaurants and stores allow card payment so you don't have to bring cash when you're out and about. Depending on the bank you have chosen, there might be some offers that come along with the current account such as credit card, savings account or overdraft facilities.
Although every bank has their preferred list of requirements to open an account, they will likely require you to complete an application form, confirm your identity, and show proof of residency and employment. Once you have set up a current account, you can manage your finances through your local branch, online or mobile banking.
7. Apply for National Insurance Number.
National Insurance is the UK’s tax system that requires all the workers and employers to make regular monthly payments to gain access to state benefits.
It is a legal requirement to acquire National Insurance Number to ensure that your contributions and tax related accounts is recorded solely under your name. Your NI contributions will depend on your how much you earn and deducted automatically from your salary if you are employed.
8. Register on your nearest General Practitioner (GP)
In order to gain access to public health services in the UK, you must register yourself in your local General Practitioners (GP) Surgery. Don't get confused with Surgery as this is the UK term for clinics run by GPs.
You need to contact your preferred “GP Surgery” to register . They usually require the applicant to submit a proof of identity, proof of address, medical record (if you have one) and complete the application form. The Surgery will contact you once they have accepted your application.
You need to make an appointment in order to see a GP if you feel unwell or have any health concerns. Your GP will then assess and diagnose, provide prescriptions and refer you to further investigations or to a specialist if necessary.
9. Set up utilities, internet, TV licence and council tax in place.
Your employer will most probably have sorted out your accommodation and utilities for the first month to make your move less stressful. Some accommodations may have the utility bills included in the monthly rent. However, it is your responsibility to make sure that you know your utility providers for gas, electricity, and water if you have to pay for it monthly. Consider paying by direct debit as well so your payment is automated and won't incur charges due to missed payments.
Council tax, on the other hand, is the tax you pay based on the property band whether it is owned or rented. It funds your local council’s education, fire and police services, roads, libraries, rubbish collection and planning. The amount you will pay will depend on your property type and location.
Even if you don’t have a television but plan to watch broadcasting and streaming services online through your computer or mobile phone, you might be better off paying for your TV licence. You are legally required to pay TV licence if you also use BBC iplayer in any device.
Finally, you can shop around for internet providers around your area. UK provides fast fibre optic broadband services that won’t disappoint you. You can visit comparison websites to check for the best deal from different internet providers and utility providers as well.
10. Know your Emergency Numbers.
999 is the MAIN emergency number in the UK you should remember. If you are in a life threatening situation, someone is seriously injured or a crime is happening, you should contact this number. It connects you to ambulance, police, fire brigade, coastguard and rescue services (cliff, mountain, cave) depending on your situation.
112 works exactly the same as 999 but this number works anywhere in the world. You can use this for dire emergencies outside the UK.
111 is the non-emergency medical number where no life is threatened. This number is used if you want urgent medical advice about injuries or illnesses that can not wait for a GP appointment or during out of hours.
101 is the non-emergency number for the police where immediate response is not needed. The rule of thumb is if a crime is not in progress then you should contact this number to reach the police.
There’s no quick way to settle in a new place but if you allow yourself to immerse on the great experiences that UK can offer you, it will make your transition smoother and less stressful.
About the Writer:
Mariel has been in the UK Nursing industry for over 10 years, working as a theatre nurse in the Kettering General Hospital. She is a proud wife and a mother of a beautiful toddler. While she enjoys her job as a nurse and passionate about it, she also loves taking photos and dreams of having her own photography studio.