So you’ve got your visa and a seat on a plane to the UK, congratulations! You’re about to embark on an exciting adventure. At this point, you’re probably feeling some anxiety at the thought of moving to a foreign country and starting a new life. Fear not. Here are our ten tips for finding your feet quickly.
Moving to a new country can be daunting, at times even lonely and confusing. So the first thing to do is make sure you arrive with a positive attitude. That’s the easy part – maintaining your attitude when things get difficult is the real challenge. Think about what put you in a good mood back home, and then find a way to experience that feeling in the UK. Whether it’s yoga, running, dancing, cooking or eating consuming copious amounts of Marmite that helps you relax – find a way to do it as soon – and often – as possible. Keep your feel-good hormones flowing.
Get a SIM card
Just for a second, imagine life without your mobile phone. Not fun. Get a SIM card as soon as you arrive (or before) so that you’re never out of touch.
Get yourself an Oyster card
This plastic smart card is loaded with pay-as-you-go credit and takes away the need for paper tickets and coins. It’s also the cheapest way to pay for single journeys – travelling by bus, tram, London Underground, Overground and most national rail services in London. Get one as soon as you arrive.
Open a bank account
This might very well be the most unpleasant part of your stay in the UK. But the good news is that there are ways to make it easy on yourself and do it before you leave or on arrival, in just one day, and best of all – with no proof of residence needed. Go it alone and you’ll need a utilities bill or something similar as proof of residence in the UK as a bare minimum, as well as a lot of patience. Chances are, as a newcomer to the country, you probably don’t have all the documentation you’ll be expected to produce.
Find a job
Unless you’re transferring to the UK through your job or have a job offer already, finding work will naturally be high on your to-do-list. Make sure your CV is formatted to British standards and then sign up with a reputable recruitment agency to get your foot (or feet) in the door. If they’re good, they’ll find a job for you. On the other hand, if you have a marketable skill, you might want to consider contracting as an avenue – but only if you have enough funds to keep you going while you get your business started.
Find a home
There is a variety of accommodation available throughout the UK, including shared accommodation, furnished/unfurnished apartments, houses, hostels and self-contained apartments. There is also the option to rent privately or through an agent. You might need to find something temporary until you get more settled. Try the Hostel Guide or visit Hostelworld. For shared accommodation, try Accommodation London, Ultimate Housing, London Houseshare or London Shared. Remember that renting a room through a reputable agency means you might need to pay a direct deposit from a British bank. This is a catch-22 though, because banks require proof of residence (that is, unless you Kickstart your bank account).
London is notoriously fast-paced and Londoners can be outrageously rude, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put effort into engaging with like-minded people you meet through work, where you live, or through the activities you take up. One of the best ways to meet likeminded people is through one of the many expat communities in the major cities across the UK. Saffas can head to The South African to find a comprehensive list of expat clubs. For Aussies, the Australian Times is a good place to start, while Kiwis can head on over to the New Zealand Times.
Don’t forget to stay connected to the people who care about you. Facebook, Skype, email, telephone, twitter, instagram – there are probably a thousand ways to communicate, so get in touch with your mom a lot, ok?
Explore your surroundings
Nothing makes you feel more isolated than not knowing your surroundings. Get familiar with your environment – it’s going to be home for a while. Don’t waste time in finding bus and tube stations, your favourite local pub, a park nearby, the best supermarket in your area, all the shortcuts and anything else that will make you feel at home.
Make your mark
Lastly, you might feel like a little fish in a big pond when you arrive, but the truth is that anybody has the potential to make their mark in the UK. What skills or talents do you have that you can use to your best advantage? Don’t be shy – get out there and do your thing.
To make life as easy as possible on your arrival in the UK, consider a 1st Contact Kickstart package, which has been carefully put together to take care of every need a newcomer to the UK might have. The package includes a UK bank account, SIM card, NI number, accommodation information, a free money transfer, CV and job assistance, a gym voucher, a comprehensive London guide, and a host of discounts and complementary services. Find out more at 1st Contact Kickstart.