How is life in Hull? England – UK Impressions after 3 years as Expat

[Cum e viata in Hull? Anglia UK – Impresii dupa trei ani ca Expat]

Four years have passed since we left France and immigrated to England, UK. I wrote about life in Hull once before HERE , it was my first impressions after the first month of living in Hull . At that time I was not planning to stay in the city of Hull , but the pandemic and Brexit greatly reduced the opportunities for work and relocation. Now at the time of writing this article, I left Hull for some time, but I can’t say that I intentionally wanted to leave. If I would’ve gotten the job I wanted there, I’d would’ve probably settled there permanently. I didn’t leave because I had a bad life there, so to speak, but you can do better than Hull. I think this is probably the short story of the city.

Don’t get me wrong, the city of Kingston upon Hull, known simply as Hull after the river Hull that runs through it’s by no means the worst place in England, but it’s quite… limited both in size and in mentality. After all, the population voted 67.6% for Brexit, and shortly after the implementation of the referendum result, one of the two ferry lines to Europe from the port (Hull – Zeebrugge) was permanently closed and the other laid off without notice 800 British employees via video conference to replace them on the same day with Asians and agency workers so….

Obviously, my impression of England was influenced by the city, just as life in France was influenced by the city of Marseille , see the article about life in France HERE . But let me tell you how is life is in Hull. This port city located in the North-East of England, in the Yorkshire region, has an urban area of ​​about 320,000 inhabitants, about the same as my hometown Constanta, Romania.

It has a fairly good industrial base, the main economic activity revolves around food production factories (there are well-known names in the UK such as Cranswick or William Jackson), fish processing, caravans (Swift and Willerby ), medical equipment (Smith & Nephew is based here), protective equipment (ARCO HQ is here), gas boilers (Ideal Boilers), Siemens Gamesa Wind Blade Factory is also a large employer, telecommunications (KCOM is based here), Flower processing (JZ Flowers main plant in the area), chemical processing (we have AAK and Saltend industrial park), pharmaceuticals (Reckitt Benckiser), and the port, which although small, has a healthy cargo traffic and maintains numerous jobs in transport, logistics and in local warehouses. I understand that Amazon is also building a massive warehouse in the area.

There is even an IT sector that is steadily rising in the new area of ​​town. The government is also a key employer. We have in the city two large regional hospitals and the University of Hull which enrols over 10 thousand students annually.

Compared to Romania one could say that it’s doing quite well. Back home in Constanta, although the city and the port are much larger, apart from the cooking oil plant, beer, textile and one brick factory, nothing really happens in the city. Luckily the port still keeps the city afloat, especially now with the redirected cargo traffic from Ukraine…

Hull University
ARCO HQ Hull
Hull New Town

So we can say that business in Hull is going really well compared to other British cities. Well not quite. Although there are indeed many jobs available, most of them are paid with the national minimum wage (which is not negligible in England, from April 2023 being £10.42 per hour or around £1500 net per month ). Hull is not an expensive city (you can find decent houses with 2-3 bedrooms, for rent for 500-600 pounds per month), so you can live comfortably here. In many cases, here you are left with more money in your pocket to spend compared to cities like London for example.

Of course, all these factories and warehouses also need training specialists, banks, supervisors, office staff, recruitment services and IT support, so there are plenty of well-paid jobs as well for those qualified who know how to speak English. For the better jobs, of course they will prefer the British candidates. It can be quite frustrating when you see that you have the best qualifications and experience, and an inferior candidate is chosen as the winner. But from time to time one of our guys manages to slip among them. Easy easy, British employers are starting to see the advantages of the Eastern Europeans workers due to their work ethics.

The problem is that factory floor work is hard, and (some of) the British don’t really like it. In Hull they still mourn the days when Hull was a major fishing port hosting the largest deep-sea fishing fleet in England. The fleet disappeared in the 70’s when Iceland won the Cod Wars, leaving the crews and those in the port unemployed for a very long time, creating a whole generation of assisted unemployed people. Photo source HERE

Hull fishing fleet
Hull deep sea fishing fleet

When business started to pick up, and factories began to pop-up in the 2000s, it coincided with the lifting of restrictions on the British labour market for EU nationals. Romanians and Poles started to come by the thousands to the area, and the city began to grow rapidly both economically and demographically. Obviously the locals didn’t really like this massive immigration phenomenon, many blame them because they don’t have jobs (despite the fact that they were the first invited to apply at the factories).

 The fact that health services, schools and the housing stock have not kept up with the growth of the population, leading to shortages or inferior services at GP surgeries, probably didn’t help either.

Like any city, it has good parts and bad parts. Here I saw, for example, one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in all of England, the former port basin “Victoria Dock” was transformed into a small village, with coul-de-sac streets, it’s own school, doctor’s office, it’s own park and dedicated commercial spaces. It’s also got it’s own waterfront promenade and it’s just two steps away from a pedestrian bridge that links it to the historic centre of the city. A good example of urban planning, where every house has a driveway, tree-lined streets and lots of green space. The former naval locks have been preserved and there are informative panels to show the history of the place scattered all around.

Of course, not all areas look like this, we also have many areas with cramped terraced houses from the Victorian era. Unfortunately, many areas were simply taken over by less desirable immigrants, so to speak. Some of “our people” came with all their bad customs from Romania to England. You will probably find them eating sunflower seeds and drinking beer on street corners of areas like “the big Jet”, Beverley Road or Pearson Park and unfortunately also in the city centre.

As a general rule, as a Romanian expat, if you wish to have a quiet tranquil life in England, you must avoid as much as possible dealing with Romanians. If you need a house, go to the agency and get one (see here the tutorial on how to get a house in England). Don’t approach any Romanian on Facebook who claims he’s got a house to rent, because in 9 out of 10 cases you will get scammed! Are you looking for work? Go to the recruitment agencies or search on recruitment websites. Do you need a driving license? Follow this Tutorial from here. Apart from the Romanian shops and close friends, I didn’t really have any contact with our compatriots and it was very good that way. There is nothing that these individuals ask you money for, that can’t be done by yourself for free online. I have published enough tutorials on this blog, I hope they helps, if you can’t figure out something, you can ask me anytime and I will gladly answer when I can.

Hull low cost area
Hull low cost area

Walking trough the city centre, it’s practically impossible not to hear the Romanian language on the street. There are a lot of us in Hull, nobody can deny that. Unfortunately, when walking in the city centre, depending on the day and time, you will also see homeless people, drug addicts, and drunk people. I would be lying if I denied this phenomenon.

 Brexit and the pandemic induced economic crisis, have not been kind to the commercial spaces on the High Street, and as a result there are many empty storefronts on the pedestrian streets. It’s a shame really, because the council really invested a lot of money to renovate the city centre, and it looks really good now. But there is also good news: several large city revitalization projects are underway, including the construction of 2 large museums and a cultural centre to attract more pedestrian traffic and visitors to the city.

Hull City Centre High Street
Hull UK

The waterfront area next to the city centre has more commercial success. The Hull Marina dock is surrounded by bars, restaurants, and the new pedestrian bridge over the A63 Road makes access so much easier. Here we also find Humber Street, a street that not long ago was full of industrial warehouses. Now it’s been converted into a pedestrian area with restaurants and hipster bars, new homes and office developments, another project for which the council deserves praises! Nearby we also have “The Deep” aquarium- one of the most beautiful aquariums I have visited in all of Europe, which attracts visitors from all over the country. So life in Hull is going well! Before the pandemic and before Brexit, you could also see in the city many mainland Europeans visitors that came via the Rotterdam Ferry. Let’s hope they will come back. (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Across the pedestrian bridge, we find the historic Hull Old Town, spread around Hull Cathedral. Although it’s quite small, it has some very beautiful historical streets, that are used as filming sets for movies such as Enolia Holmes 2 or Blitz. Although the city was massively bombed by the Germans in the Second World War, the authorities made great efforts to preserve the buildings that survived. I would’ve liked to see such efforts from the Romanian authorities in my home town Constanta, but unfortunately every time we’re visiting the old country, all I see is disregard and mockery in the old parts of town.

Another point of interest we find here is the Museum District, which is free to visit and contains several museums. I recommend the one called Streetlife Museum, which has historical scenes reproduced with trains, horse-drawn carriages, etc., it’s beautiful. The regional history museum is not bad either.

The old town is probably better known for the night life it offers, which is very good compared to other cities. Every weekend, the streets with numerous bars and clubs are filled with party people, and unlike London, here you can still enjoy a pint of beer in the city for 3-4 pounds or cocktails 2 for 10 pounds!  These premises also maintain many jobs in the hospitality industry.

In the northern part of ​​the city we have East Park, a large park that also includes a mini zoo and a health centre with an indoor swimming pool. Entrance to the zoo is also free.

Hull East Park

Another beautiful area can be found at the Western entrance of the city, near the Humber bridge. This engineering marvel is a little bigger than the bridge that is being built now across the Danube near Braila, and it has a country park next to it. At the edge of it, you can admire the Humber River and the bridge that spans across it. For the brave who don’t have a problem with heights, I recommend a pedestrian walk on the bridge, the view from the top is amazing! Also, from the city to the bridge, there is a dedicated cycling route. Riding my bike on this route used to be my favourite activity on my days off. The route is part of the Trans Pennine Trail cycling route that connects the two coasts and goes all the way to the Irish Sea in Liverpool.

And after you’ve had your fill of Hull, you’ll discover the surroundings of Yorkshire County, one of the most beautiful British counties. We have the beautiful historic city of York just an hour away, Lincoln is also an hour away, the metropolis of Leeds, Beverley, the beach at Bridlington, Robin Hood Bay, and many lovely little villages such as Knaresborough, Goathland, Pickering or the Flamborough coastal nature reserve. You only need time and gas money, because there is much to see in this part of England. You can also take a weekend trip to Holland with the direct Ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, which offers mini cruises at reasonable prices.

Of course life is not perfect in Hull. Although it’s no longer in the top 10 most depraved cities in the UK, it has not dropped much in the rankings. The city still has a disproportionately large number of assisted and unemployed people, most of them by their own choice, because, as I said above, there are enough jobs in town.

About the people, what can I say, the English, just like our fellow Romanians, are divided into two categories: the normal ones who work and mind their own business, and you can sit down for a beer with them, and the other group: which are thick headed, racists and can’t really get along with. The later ones in general, if you don’t show any interest towards them, they will also mind their own business. I can’t say that I felt any racist attacks from them, the most was one drunk guy sitting at the neighbouring table in the beer garden, who started to make remarks that there are too many immigrants in the city when he heard us speaking Romanian.

Another major problem in the city would be the traffic. The main connection to the rest of the country is the M62 highway, which unfortunately stops long before the city limits. It then continues with the A63 dual carriageway. This road that connects the port of Hull, practically cuts through the city centre and due to numerous traffic lights and roundabouts, traffic is almost always at a standstill in the city centre area.

Fortunately, the local authorities are actually doing something about this, underpasses and pedestrian bridges are being built, and some roundabouts have had traffic signals introduced to give priority to transit traffic towards the port. The city centre is currently a huge construction site to make way for the underpass illustrated in the rendering below.

But again, compared to Romania, I can say that the city’s infrastructure is excellent. We have in the city center alone four multi-storey car parks, the last one being inaugurated by the council in 2021, and this is without taking into account the private multi-storey car parks of the shopping malls. In fact, there is even an excess of parking spaces in the center, so one of the parking structures has been partially converted into luxury apartments. In Constanta, we have exactly ZERO multistory parkings in the city center, although the demand for parking is huge in the city. In the whole city, there is only one parking structure that serves the Constanta County Hospital, and even that has a very small capacity…

Hull A63 upgrade
Hull parking

But even with these measures, the capacity of the road will still be limited. The city also suffers because it does not have large avenues, most of the main roads have two lanes in total, and in the rare cases when there are two lanes each way, one lane is usually dedicated to buses or cyclists. During the pandemic, numerous bike lanes were introduced in the detriment of car lanes, an experiment highly criticized by the population. Now the council is considering the removal or reduction of these cycle lanes because they are not really used so much and the traffic congestion is approaching levels that are impossible to sustain economically.

I was saying earlier that the city is quite limited. Well, basically it kind of is. For someone who wants more from England than just to work and pay the rent, he will be disappointed by the lack of events and opportunities in the city. They rarely try to organize something, and when they do, it is on a small scale and with a low budget. Don’t expect a big concert here, a convention, a Couch Drinking expat meeting, or to see an extraordinary football match at the local stadium (although the stadium is new and impressive). Also, if you want to go shopping in a store more sophisticated than Primark or Sports Direct, you will quickly be disappointed by the lack of such shops, and you will end up going to Leeds or York to do your shopping. You will have to do the same if you want to take your children to a decent Christmas market (I recommend the one in York!). Image source: Russell Hart/Focus Images Ltd

Hull Kcom Arena Stadium

In conclusion, I can say that Hull remains an attractive city for immigrants. Life in Hull has something to offer for many categories of people, and the cost of living is a strong argument in it’s favour. House prices start at 100,000 pounds, and even in the best areas in the West of the city (towards the Humber bridge) they rarely exceed 300 thousand (although they have started to rise rapidly lately).

What do you think? How is life in your city? Better or worse? Feel free to share your opinion in the comments section or message me on the GarciaCalavera.com fb page. If you like the page please drop a like and share the article to help others in this situation.

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