How is life in England? Impressions after 5 years in UK

[Cum e viata in Anglia? Impresii dupa 5 ani in UK – articol in Limba Romana -AICI]

Here we are at the start of 2024, now after 5 years in England UK, with obtained permanent residence (Settled Status), living in our own house (I promise to write an article in the future about the procedure of buying a house in the UK), and with our recently expanded family here in the Kingdom, next year we hope to get British citizenship as well. It seems like yesterday I was writing the article about how much it costs to emigrate to England (the article HERE ), now after 5 years here I can tell you detailed impressions about what life is like in England UK, how you adapt to life here, and if it is worth living here or if it is any thought of returning to Romania.

I initially landed a job in the port city of Hull, I talked in detail about life in Hull in the previous article HERE , so I won’t insist here. Now we are in another port city, on the West coast, also in the North of England. This one is a bit bigger, namely Liverpool. The difference between them, is not very big, the weather is just as rainy, the salaries are a bit bigger here, but the rents and price of houses are also a bit higher, but still quite affordable. Liverpool is more like our former home in Marseille, France. Both are large, somewhat problematic port cities, with beautiful city centers, horrible areas in the North towards the commercial port, and nice areas in the South of the city.

Liverpool UK
Liverpool UK
Liverpool city Hall, UK
England UK

Here in the North of England, the common man can still buy his own house. A decent 3 bedrooms, semi-detached house, in a decent area can be found in the range of ​​150-200 thousand pounds, which is very similar to the prices in Hull and even to those in Romania. A terraced house is even cheaper, ranging between 100 and 150,000 pounds. I talked more about how much a house costs in England in this article HERE, so I won’t insist.

The difference between the cities is the size, Liverpool being much bigger and more important than Hull, and with this size comes more opportunities and opportunities, both professional and leisure (museums, parks, zoo, universities, football matches, festivals, exhibitions, artistic events, etc.). And if the opportunities in Liverpool are not enough for you, there’s always just a stone’s throw away the metropolis of Manchester and the historical capital of Chester.

Anfield stadium Liverpool
New Brighton beach
Night life in England

Between Liverpool and Manchester we also have the quiet town of St Helens where many expats have bought houses. The fact that we have 2 big airports here (Liverpool and Manchester) also comes in handy. In the Hull area, the Doncaster airport was unfortunately closed. The only one left in the region is the one in Leeds – Bradford, which is neither too cheap nor too easy to get to. Oh, and here in Liverpool we have a subway system, not even our larger Manchester neighbour don’t have something like this, they had to settle just with just trams hehe.

Manchester Tram
Liverpool Underground Metro

But let’s go back to life in England, how is living here after 5 years? Well, obviously it depends on your circumstances. Some live better, others less so. But in general, those I spoke with, are quite satisfied and have no intention of returning to Romania. While I was doing research for the article ” What Romanians say about life in UK and is still worth coming to the UK“, I even noticed that many Romanians came from countries like Spain and on fb groups like “my house in UK ” is full of posts with people who are in the process of buying or have bought houses in the England and the rest of UK, so the Romanian expats are here to stay. Unfortunately, many are still trying to come here even after the legal immigration deadline gates closed after Brexit. I strongly recommend that NOT TO DO THIS! You’ll just waste your time and your money on scammers who will tell you that this is still possible. Try to apply for the visa through legal means such as work visa or family reunification , read this own article to see how or ask me privately if you need help, I help with advice for free when I have time.

In general, life in England is quite stable, you don’t have to worry about what tomorrow will bring, unlike in Romania for example. Brexit, inflation, or the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have not broken the spirit of those who live here. This is still a country where if you lose your job tomorrow, no need to panic because you can find another job quite easily, as long as you’re willing to do the work. Of course you need to know English for this and have some qualifications or experience to access this large job market. Also, without a driver’s license you’ll discover that life in England will be very limited, especially outside of London.

England is probably the most Americanised country in Europe, almost everything is done by car here. If you don’t work in the mall or in an office doing 9 to 5 in the downtown area, you will be pretty much dead without a car in your daily life, especially in this rainy weather. The car infrastructure is quite extensive here. Even in a “poor” city like Hull (a city equivalent to Braila, Romania in terms of size here), you have 4 multi-storey car parks in the city centre, plus the private ones of the shopping malls.

Hull parking
ARCO HQ Hull

As I said earlier, life in England will be greatly influenced by your circumstances, respectively by the area where you live and what you do for work. If you live in an area like Bootle in Liverpool or Beverley Road in Hull and work 6 days a week in a factory or a warehouse, you probably won’t find life in England very nice. But if you are in a decent area and have a more decent job with 35-40 hours a week that allows you to go out from time to time to a pub, a restaurant, socialise or visit various sights around every week, life in England becomes very beautiful.

The difference compared to Romania is that here, even with a minimum wage job, you will be able to afford a place to live, and you won’t have to worry to much about bills and food. We are still talking about a country where the cleaning lady tells us how about her vacation in the Canary Islands or in Benidorm, Spain. I doubt that a cleaner in Romania has such stories…

Here, the first £12,500 earned annually are not taxed AT ALL, and what you earn over 12,500 (and ONLY what is over), is taxed at 20% of the gross income. Compared to Romania, where even the one who earns a bitter salary of a few hundred euros (minimum national wage), the Romanian state puts it’s hand deep into his pocket and takes 43% of it…

Another difference compared to Romania is that the local authorities here really care about what the citizen has to say, especially when it comes to his safety. I’ll give you an example, I noticed a cracked cover on one of the grid covers on the sidewalk, a pretty big one. I went online on the council’s webiste, chatted with someone there immediately, and he gave me a phone number for those who deal with roads and sidewalks. In just a few hours from my report, someone came to check it out, and they put a barrier over the cover so that no one could step on it. In about a week, the guys from the Internet company came (it was their jurisdiction), changed the cover and took away the barrier. This would’ve required months and months of waiting and persistent calls for anything to happen in Romania…

Life in England UK is characterised by the concept “your house is your palace”, your property is sacred, the British are used to living in their own house, with a garden at the back, with a large window in the living room facing the street, a double glass door at the back kitchen facing the garden, bedrooms upstairs. Here it’s normal to have your washing machine in the kitchen, to have separate taps for hot and cold water, you switch on the light in the bathroom by pulling a wire, most people even have a dishwasher, and at any public toilet in the city, bar, highway or service station runs hot water, even during summer! (I understand that this is to prevent the spread of the Legionella bacteria). Bot to mention that here even the most depraved neighbourhood in the city has access to a park, playground, football or basketball fields, clinic, reliable public transport and community programs for the youth. Unfortunately, this concept of sacred personal property (known as NIMBY = not in my backyard) also puts many obstacles in the wheels of progress. Many infrastructure projects such as the HS2 high speed train had to be cancelled or scaled back because many locals did not want such a thing behind their houses or on their property.

Humber Bridge Park
Life in England – residential park

Life in England is generally characterised by a relaxed, libertine, and tolerant attitude (perhaps too tolerant even as we saw the last violent protests of a certain religion in London, Dublin or Manchester). The Brits will hold the door open, they apologise if they invade your personal space, public and store employees smile and speak nicely to you (even if it’s a fake smile sometimes), the police don’t carry firearms, in traffic rarely someone honks at you, and I often signal you to get in if I see that you are waiting to exit a side street. And in general, no one will judge you for how you look, how you dress or how you speak. They are still used to receiving people from all corners of the empire for hundreds of years. Here you are not obliged to carry an identity document with you on the street, the police do not have the right to interrogate you if you are not suspicious of something, and according to the Equality Act of 2010, it is illegal to discriminate based on your appearance, your religion or because of your nationality (especially if you are an employer!).

police station in UK

This freedom can also be seen in the business environment, here with a few clicks online you opened your company and in general any service related to bureaucracy (income declaration, driver’s license, passport, taxes, bill payment, etc.) is done online. Also during the pandemic, quarantine was practically non-existent. Apart from the fact that shops, restaurants and pubs were closed, you could walk quietly on the street, anytime anywhere, no one would ask you anything. Compared to the horror stories from Romania and Europe where you needed a special permit to leave the house for an hour a day, and you were controlled if you were vaccinated to enter the shops, here I can honestly say that it was a luxury. For the British, something like this is unimaginable…

It is equally unimaginable to tell the police, the mayor’s office or the doctor. There is simply no such thing. In general, the police are at the citizen’s disposal and if you speak to them nicely and really show that you are sorry if you have done something wrong, you have a good chance of getting away with just a warning or an educational course.

Chester, UK

The English in general are proud of their country, their history, their currency and their monarchy. It is true that some are a bit conceited and have a sense of superiority similar to the French, but no, when your country is the 6th economy in the world with a history full of victories, crucial inventions and great empires, you have something to brag about. They are not as proud of their government on the other hand, the series of Prime Ministers that have wandered around London in the last 5 years and the (bad) way in which they have managed the exit from the EU has left many with regrets and a bitter taste regarding their vote.

Here it is normal to go to work on 6-lane highways, on bridges or through huge underwater tunnels. My previous commute included passage through a 90-year-old underwater road tunnel, the second oldest road tunnel in the world! (the first being in London) We are talking about a country that was building bridges similar to the one now open in Braila, in the past with 40 years. For example, the Humber Bridge was inaugurated in 1981.

Humber Bridge

This insular mentality is probably also what led them to leave the EU. Here you can find all kinds of oddities that show how different they are from the continent:

  • the Pound Sterling is used, not the Euro (although they were in the EU for 47 years);
  • drive on the left side of the road;
  • the signs on the highway are blue and on the national roads green (opposite to the continent), also the highways are marked with the letter “M” and the national roads with A, compared to Europe where the highways are marked with A;
UK road signs
  • distances are in miles and yards instead of kilometers and meters;
  • gasoline is sold by the liter but the car consumption is in miles per gallon;
  • taxis are black and the back door opens backwards;
  • chips are called Crisps, and fried potatoes are called chips instead;
  • here it is normal to eat ice cream from the very noisy mobile cone that walks through the neighborhoods even when it freezes your underpants;
UK ice cream van
  • beans on toast is apparently a normal snack;
  • it is normal for women to be approached in public with expressions equivalent to “how are you dear?” or “hey love, how are you today?”;
  • in the pub it is completely normal and acceptable to go with small children until a certain time, many even have playgrounds and menus for the little ones;
UK kids in pub
  • drinking a beer on the train, in the park or in general anywhere in public is perfectly normal, there is no law that prohibits the consumption of alcohol in public (unless the operator imposes the rule in certain special areas). On Friday evenings and Saturday evenings, the trains to the centers of big cities turn into real mobile bars with people warming up on the way to the fun… And yet somehow, the upholstery of the seats, the carpeting of the trains and the trains in general are not destroyed by people!
UK train drinking
UK train drinking

a little rain will never stand in the way of a walk or a hike in the mountains. What seems extreme to us is relatively normal for them. Often even at temperatures close to zero degrees, many Britons will go for a walk in shorts… ( photo source )

UK rain hiking

But of course not everything is rosy and beautiful in this country. Many Romanians as well as Britons have reported problems with the NHS health system. The British have a love/hate relationship with him. They are proud of him, but at the same time they complain about him. When it works, it’s excellent, but often at the first contact you find it difficult to find a qualified doctor, and until you get to the place you should be, it takes a long time and it’s a frustrating process.

At the level of hospitals (especially in big cities), it is excellent. Both in Hull and in Liverpool, I saw new hospitals or in the process of renovation/reconstruction with excellent facilities. The wife gave birth here by caesarean section and the whole process went smoothly and according to the book. The post-operative part could be better from my point of view, but maybe I have too high demands. But hospitals really show, how a hospital should look without being afraid to step into it.

UK hospital
UK Hospital room

If things are fine at the hospitals, at the family doctor (GP) and neighborhood clinics, things are completely different. Although the clinics are relatively new and modern, they have an acute lack of staff. If it’s not an emergency or it’s not for children, it’s practically impossible to get an appointment with the family doctor. And on the rare occasions when you manage to get one, you are usually seen by a nurse and you have a fixed 5 minutes to tell her what hurts you. After a cursory examination, if you do not quickly tell him exactly what the problem is, what the symptoms are and you are not in a visible state of pain, or you are not bleeding, you have a 90% chance that he will tell you to go home and take paracetamol. This phenomenon is also exacerbated by those who do not speak English very well or by those who go with problems that do not necessarily require a visit to the doctor.

Unfortunately, many have developed medical conditions that could have been prevented if investigations were done in time, and often ours go to Romania to solve their problems ignored by the medical staff here in England. Well, many of our people curse the medical system here and applaud the one in the country, but they omit to say that they go to Romania PRIVATELY to be honest, not to the state one. No, we also know how things are with the medical system in the country. Why they don’t go here to private for a second opinion and prefer to spend money on airplanes in Romania, it’s hard to explain… To those who can afford it and need it, I recommend a private health insurance, for a family with a child, it reaches somewhere around 75 lire per month at a company with a decent network of clinics and hospitals such as Bupa .

private health insurance in UK

Another less beautiful aspect about life in England that I mentioned earlier (repeatedly), is that it rains a lot here! And this rain often hides the sun, which leads to other problems. Unfortunately, it is just as “normal” to say so, to see on all bridges crosses and signs in memory of those who jumped from that bridge, along with signs with phone numbers where you can talk to someone in case you consider you kill yourself Many young people with mental problems, disillusioned with the reality around them, in a combination of drugs (which are another common phenomenon here) and the weather with the prolonged lack of sun in the winter months (and as a result the lack of estrogen hormones and serotonin) reach this situation. When I lived in Hull, I was close to the Humber waterfront and quite often heard the coastguard helicopter searching for people in the water at night. At the height of the Covid pandemic, the authorities had to temporarily close pedestrian access to the Humber Bridge due to a very large number of such incidents.

UK signs on overpasses
humber bridge memorial

But such gray landscapes become somewhat normal, you get used to them over time and make you appreciate a sunny day more and take advantage of it. Of course, it doesn’t rain in the pub and that’s a good thing, right? And even with rain, it certainly won’t spoil your barbecue mood when you have guests.

Weather in UK England / Vremea in Anglia UK
Weather in UK England

But when the weather is nice, life in England UK seems to turn into the most beautiful country in the world. You have so many beautiful areas in this country, which, as small as it is, is so full of different landscapes, historical cities and things to see and visit that it has to offer. In Hull we had the region of Yorkshire and the city of York, and here in Liverpool we have the superb Lake District to the north and immediately to the south of the city is the city of Chester and the border with Wales, a superb mountainous region. I saw here in the summer landscapes on the coast bordered by a flawless blue sea that if you hadn’t driven on the left side of the road, you would have easily confused it with a place in Greece or Spain.

Wales UK
Wales UK
Lake District UK
Lake District UK
Looe, Cornwall, UK
England, Cornwall, UK

Many Romanians would probably also say that the British are very racist. They probably wanted to say xenophobic because the Romanian race had not been invented yet. Maybe there are some, in Hull (a city predominated in favor of Brexit), there were certainly a few, but nothing to be afraid of. I personally and our acquaintances have never experienced anything like this. As long as you mind your own business and don’t scream in Romanian on the main street, you will have minimal chances of someone looking at you badly. It would probably help if you know English and make an effort to integrate with the locals… And now speaking honestly, if the police give me a fine on the grounds that I exceeded the speed limit, that I was playing on my phone while driving or that I threw away a cigarette on the ground, are they really racist or did I break the law and deserve to suffer the legal consequences just like any Englishman who would have suffered the same in my situation? Many Romanians here seem to confuse the need to follow the law and the fact that there are consequences if you don’t do it with “rasis”…

Politia in Anglia UK

In conclusion, I can say after 5 years in the UK, that life in England is good. Even with the weather here, at least now in winter we have 13 degrees and many days and sun, so it’s not really that bad. I achieved things here that would have been almost impossible to achieve in Romania or would have been much less, so I don’t regret it. Would I want to stay here until old age? …probably not, but many Brits retire early to Spain, which is not a bad idea. Also with British citizenship you can access new opportunities in countries such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand, so the future is never known.

What do you think? Which is better on the long term? Germany or UK? I am waiting for your opinions in the comments section or on the Fb GarciaCalavera.com page. You can also drop a like there to subscribe to future articles. Thank you.

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How the other half lives :  Karachi ,  Guayaquil  , Lagos

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