How to change your EU driving license to a UK Driving license

For EU expats established in England UK, the act of changing their driving license in to an English or British one, is often a mandatory step due to work requirements. Possession of a British UK driving license is also the first and easiest way to obtain proof of residence with a picture and address here in England UK. This is one of the few documents accepted by banks, real estate agencies or employers. The others are more difficult to obtain (bank card, local council bil / utility bill or British passport).

The procedure to change your driving license in England UK is fortunately very simple and relatively quick. All official information can be found on the British government website here. As it is clearly written on the website, the citizens of any EU state have no legal obligation to change their driving license and are allowed to drive with the European license until the age of 70. For those who have obtained their driving license in a country outside the European Union, the driving license must be changed to a British license within 12 months of arrival in England UK.

UK change driver license
Continue reading “How to change your EU driving license to a UK Driving license”

How are taxes and salaries in Romania compared to the west?

How do taxes in Romania compare with those in the West, is it true that we pay more and earn less than those in France, UK or Germany? Let’s see:

  • England, UK, average annual salary £ 31,300 (€ 37,250). The first £ 12570 earned are not taxed. Only from what you earn over 12 thousand, up to 50270, 20% tax is taken by the British government. If one of the partners earns less than 12570 per year, the other has a tax reduction. National minimum wage: £ 9.5 per hour (€ 11.3), or roughly £ 1600 per month;
UK income taxes
  • France, EU – the average annual salary in 2021 was € 39,300. The first € 10084 are not taxed, from what is over 10 thousand to 25710, 11% is taken, and from what is over 25 thousand to 73 thousand, 30% is taken by the French government. In France, the tax is calculated on the combined income of the family, each adult is considered as a unit, and each child as a half of unit. So, if you have a family consisting of 2 adults and one child, and only one of the partners works, his annual income will be divided by 2.5, and then it is observed where he falls within the tax grid. It’s quite possible that he ends up paying no taxes at all. The national minimum wage in France is € 10.25 per hour, or about € 1763 per month;
Continue reading “How are taxes and salaries in Romania compared to the west?”

Immigration from EU to UK England after Brexit – Work and Family paths – Who can do it and how?

It seems that some people still don’t understand that the UK has left the EU and that you cannot enter England after Brexit without having to answer to border officials regarding the purpose of your visit. So let’s see what are the legal ways to come to England after Brexit if you do not have a residence permit (aka Settled Status).

First of all, you can say goodbye to any thought of visiting England and looking for work during your visit. Many were refused entrance in to the country at the airport on a PERMANENT basis if the customs officers even sniffed that you came to work and not just to visit. The British authorities started asking EU nationals for a return ticket, proof of accommodation during the visit and proof that you have enough money to sustain yourself for the duration of your stay. If you’re lucky enough, nobody will ask you anything at the airport, but are you really willing to take that chance and risk flying for nothing?

In addition, all (legal) British employers and all employment agencies are now required by law to request from candidates the so-called “share code” which is an internet link generated by the UK government’s website to the page proving that you are resident in England UK. It doesn’t matter if you have Settled or (Pre) Settled Status, they both give you the right to work and live in England. I explained in the last article how to apply for Settled Status. The deadline to apply for residency was June 30, 2021 (there are very few exceptions in exceptional cases for those who live in England before 2021 or have family here but did not have time to apply before June 2021, the list of exemptions is here). But let’s say you still want to come to England and you don’t have a NINO, residency or any work history or studies in the UK. Let’s see what options you have:

Continue reading “Immigration from EU to UK England after Brexit – Work and Family paths – Who can do it and how?”

Is it better to live in Germany or UK on the long term? Why?

The war is long over, but who won in the end, Germany or UK England? Historians say that the United Kingdom and the Allies, but the modern reality on the ground says otherwise. In addition to official data, we will also look at the experiences of those who actually live in these two countries. I live and work in the UK – England since 2018, and my friends here have been living in various areas of England (London, Manchester) for more than 6 years. I have not lived in Germany personally (just in France) so I asked friends who have live there for research material. Three of them responded, out of which one is a doctor in the Dusseldorf area for 11 years, one works in retail in the Stuttgart area for more than 15 years and one came more recently (3 years) also in Dusseldorf metro area to work in the hospitality sector. Here is what I gathered from all of it:

  • Wages in Germany were already considerably higher than in the UK even before the Brexit referendum, which led to a decline in the value of the pound sterling, and this trend will continue in 2022. In 2020, the average gross wage in Germany was of EUR 47928 or GBP 40866 (at today’s exchange rate). In England UK – the average salary in the country is about 30000 Pounds per year or 35180 EUR at today’s rate. And the pound might continue to fall in 2022 due to the lack of strategy on the part of the British government and the general lack of management of the entire Brexit process; It is true that you pay more taxes in Germany, but even so, your NET income for the same job will still be higher there, no matter how you look at it (there are of course exceptions).
Continue reading “Is it better to live in Germany or UK on the long term? Why?”

How is cycling in UK? Is the Bicycle reliable?

We’ve all heard that England is a friendly country towards cyclists, but what’s it really like cycling in UK England? After years of hesitation, I finally mustered the courage to buy a second-hand bicycle. On fb market, I found this baby for just 60 pounds. Not bad, right?

Bicycle in England UK

I haven’t ridden a bike for many years, but I slowly worked it out. First through the local neighborhood, and then through the city. For a beginner cyclist, I must admit that the road infrastructure for cyclists and the car driver’s behavior is very encouraging. There are literally everywhere segregated routes from car traffic for bicycles, clearly marked dedicated lanes that are usually physically separated by some kind of barrier (green space, curbs, stanchions, etc.). But by far the most encouraging factor is the behavior of car drivers towards cyclists in UK England. Every time or at least 8 out of 10 cases, when they see you approaching an intersection, they slow down or come to a complete stop and signal you to pass. And if you have to share the road with cars, the drivers stay calm behind you until the opposite lane is clear, and then they overtake you with generous clearance to the bicycle. That is, without horns, close calls overtaking, without harassment, verbal abuse, etc, you know the usual in Romania and East Europe in general.

Continue reading “How is cycling in UK? Is the Bicycle reliable?”

What is something that you can do in Romania that a person in the United Kingdom cannot do?

The UK is a great country with lots of nice places, but unfortunately some things are just out of reach because of nature. In my country, Romania, you can’t do a lot of things due to financial limitations, but you can do however a whole lot of other things like:

  • Go to the beach and enjoy a nice 32° C (90 F) degree sunny day with a beer in my hand, then if I get too hot, take a dip in the Black Sea, where the water in the summer is 22° C (72 F). After bathing, I can stay on the hot sand to dry while watching an endless parade of local girls that look like models pass by. After a superb day like this, I can come back the next day and repeat. I can do this for 2.5 months and almost never have to worry about rain, grey skies or wind; You can do it for an extra 2 months if you don’t mind sitting on the beach on slightly lower temperatures like 25° C (77 F). In England, last summer we had just one single day when the temperature reached 30° C, the summer average is 21°C (70 F), while the maximum sea temperature at nearby beach resort of Scarborough is a chilly 17° C (62 F).
Continue reading “What is something that you can do in Romania that a person in the United Kingdom cannot do?”

How shocking is the weather in UK England for foreigners?

I was born in Romania and came to UK from Marseille France and the weather was a complete shock for us here. Even though we were warned by our friend who lives here, and despite the fact that we came to visit ahead of relocation to scout the place, we were still hit hard by it. Remarkably during our visit here, it didn’t rain once, so whoever was working on the sales pitch up there, did a very good job.

So basically this is winter in UK:

Continue reading “How shocking is the weather in UK England for foreigners?”

What are the most shocking facts about UK?

I have been living here in UK for more than 2 years now. Here is what I found out to be shocking in UK for me as a foreigner (came from France and born in Romania):

  • UK is one of the few countries in the world where the local property taxes are paid by the tenant and not by the owner of the property. If you are tenant in UK you will pay an additional 130 pounds per month (or more) in property tax to the local authorities for a property that is not yours (aka council tax). If you are renting and not pay the property tax, you can be prosecuted and thrown in jail for this! Before you say it’s not a property tax, let’s look at the facts:  it’s based on the value of the property, and if the house is vacant, it is paid by the owner. No matter how much you try to sugarcoat it, it is still a property tax that supports local services for the permanent residents of the city, not for the temporary occupiers of the property. I as a tenant am not using 90% of the services I am paying for (parks, schools, public transports, libraries, community centers, long term projects for improving the city), but my landlord and his kids who live in town are using them and will continue to use them after I leave the city, hardly fair no? In France I was paying 10 Eur per month for bin collection and that was it, the rest of the services are funded from taxes (impot local) paid by the owners of the properties, it’s like this all over the world. I am using Emergency services yes, but they are charged separately in the bill (roughly 21% of the bill), I have no problem in paying those, the rest of 80% that goes exclusively to the council I have a problem with.
UK Council Tax
Continue reading “What are the most shocking facts about UK?”

UK Points-Based Immigration System – 2021 How does it work?

As you know, on first of January 2021, Brexit finally materializes, the UK leaves the European Union (more like crashes out without a trade deal it seems) and the UK point-based immigration system comes in to immediate effect. The right to free movement, work and live in UK of Romanians and all other EU nationals who are not already established in the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland) will cease immediately. That is, those who do not already have a Settled or Pre Settled Status residence permit, and want to come to the UK will have to follow the UK point-based immigration procedure.

This procedure is very similar to the immigration procedure in Canada, Australia or New Zealand and unfortunately it is just as rigorous as it is in those countries. The system does not apply to those who are already established in the UK by the 31st December 2020. But in order to be established you must already have a NINO and proof of residence, which unfortunately at the present time is impossible to get. It is currently only issued in exceptional circumstances. (e.g. for medical staff or those who come to work in care homes).

On the British government website we can see the official procedure: from the start we see the clear message: Only sponsored skilled workers who have a job offer and know English will be able to immigrate and permanently relocate to the UK! Without these requirements, it is IMPOSSIBLE to get the minimum 70 points required by the UK point-based immigration system. That basically means that the good old days, when anyone from Europe just came to the UK with just a backpack, looked for a room to rent on fb market, and got work anywhere they could, all that is now over!

Continue reading “UK Points-Based Immigration System – 2021 How does it work?”

Memories from my first voyage on the School Ship Albatros

It was the Autumn of 2008, I was in my third year of studies at the Romanian Naval Academy. Those wishing to go on the Albatros school ship (the only school ship of higher maritime education system in Romania) had registered long before and now were waiting for their turn to embark. The School Ship “Albatros”, was an ancient relic of the once great Romanian merchant fleet. It now sailed at the edge of legality only through “friendly” ports. No one risked entering a port in the West due to it’s many problems related to the technical condition and the certificates status. It was however understandable. This was a cargo ship built in 1977 under the name of “Dej”, already over 30 years old age.

Although it was technologically obsolete, and what you were doing there had little to do with what you do on a modern ship, many students still wanted to embark on it, being a good way to put some experience on their seaman’s book. The management of the Academy also wanted to put as many students on it as it could, being a safe method to check who has seasickness and who is able to withstand the conditions on board, thus being able to make cadet recommendations to large companies.

Continue reading “Memories from my first voyage on the School Ship Albatros”