The United Kingdom of Great Britain is made up of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is a small island country just off the northwest coast of mainland Europe. Despite its small size (it covers just 94,526 square miles or 244,820km2) it has had a huge influence on world affairs through the British Empire. English is spoken in many former colonies of the United Kingdom; it is a major economy in the world today and is a leading member state of the European Union. These are a few of the reasons which draw people to move to the Great Britain today.
If you are considering a move to the United Kingdom you can be assured of a warm welcome, a good standard of living, low crime rate and generally widespread availability of jobs. It is wise to check the immigration policies with the Home Office even if you are a citizen of the European Union. The downsides are the crowded roads, high-price of real estate, especially in the cities, and the dreary weather. It is also quite expensive for food, clothing, petrol (gas) and high indirect taxes. Sales tax is currently 17 ½%, property taxes may be well over £200 per month, and national insurance is over 11% with a further 20-40% income tax deducted at source.
Being a member of the European Union as well as having many former colonies gives many people the right to move to the United Kingdom and become British citizens. England is one of the most crowded and densely populated countries in the world, with a current estimated population of 51 million and the population continues to rise due to immigration. People are drawn to the United Kingdom to benefit from well-paid jobs, the healthcare system, social security and housing benefits. The United Kingdom traditionally has welcomed immigrants and has well-established communities from Pakistan, India, Romania, Poland and other European Union member countries.
Many student doctors come to England for training, and there is a large Philippine community in the nursing sector. Traditionally Indian and Pakistani immigrants became shopkeepers and run their own small businesses. More recently, Polish and Eastern European immigrants have moved to the United Kingdom to take work in the lower paid hotel, shopkeeping and restaurant trades.
The official language is of course English, but there are many dialects and accents which can make it hard even for British residents to understand each other! There are many international schools which teach English as a foreign language to both short-term language students and immigrants who want to learn the language. Although the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, it did not join the monetary Euro. Its currency remains the Pound Sterling, and London is the world’s largest financial center, with the London stock Exchange, the City of London and the Lloyd’s of London Insurance market.
People certainly do not move to the United Kingdom for the weather, in fact it is a standing joke with British residents for whom it is a major topic of daily conversation. It has a temperate climate with mild winters, some snow in the north and Scotland, and cool drizzly summers. It is the main reason for retirees moving away from the United Kingdom to countries such as France and Spain, to escape the depressing grey skies.
Another great topic of British conversation is football or soccer. Almost every town has a professional football team who play in various leagues. Fans are fanatical and will travel the length and breadth of the country to support their team with singing and scarf-waving at the matches. Other sports include rugby union, cricket (a very quintessential English sport), snooker, tennis and horse racing.
Education in the United Kingdom is generally to a high standard with a strong private sector and world-renowned universities, particularly Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities.
The National Health Service is a great benefit and covers healthcare, prescriptions and dental work. It is free to all UK permanent residents and is paid for from national insurance taxes although it suffers from long waiting lists for common surgical procedures.
Much of the British culture centers on the pubs. They were traditionally the focal point of the community providing alcoholic beers, wines and spirits and have more recently developed into excellent eating places too. Traditional English food is served in hearty portions at low prices. It is also a good place for travelers to find reasonable accommodation and locals to catch up with the gossip.
Real estate in the United Kingdom has boomed since 2000 with pressure on insufficient housing to support the growing population. However, the recent economic downturn has had a cooling effect and house prices are down at least 20% everywhere. A small one-bedroom flat in London will generally still cost over £250,000, whilst the average 3 bedroom house costs around £160,000. Many first time buyers purchase a terraced house which is often just one room wide with 2 rooms downstairs and 2 small rooms above. They are built directly onto the street and may have a shared rear yard. These are also good rental properties.
There are many reasons why people visit the United Kingdom, whether for a short stay or a more permanent move. It is certainly a place with a rich national heritage and good opportunities. It is renowned for its history, architecture, literature, music and great institutions such as the BBC. Education, healthcare and jobs are generally available to all, without cost, and it offers a wealth of cultural diversity and a good standard of living for all.