As a Canadian living in England for the last few years, there’s some pros and cons you should consider before moving here. When I decided to move, I didn’t always consider all the variables when it came to England. Thinking about these things before moving ensures you make the right choice.
As with any country, England is riddled with wonderful aspects and horrible elements. It’s just whether the pros outweigh the cons for you. Being an expat isn’t for everyone.
Here are some of the top pros and cons to living in England.
Pros to Living in England
In my opinion, here are some of the best parts of living and working in England.
1. Music Scene
So much incredible music is being made here, every single day. As someone who listened to music everyday, it’s a great positive to have about the country I live in. There is no shortage of live music, either. Brighton, Bristol, London, Manchester and Liverpool are huge centers for music. And with England being so small, it’s easy and quick to get to these cities.
2. National Health Service (NHS)
As a Canadian, I know how important it is to have a healthcare service that helps you when you need it most. Thankfully, England also has a great system that is easily accessible, even as a Canadian living here.
As part of most working visas, you’ll be required to pay an NHS surcharge. This is part of the visa application and allows you to use the NHS like a regular citizen. Now that I’m in the country, I can visit my doctor whenever I need to, get prescriptions, visit the emergency room (A&E) or use a walk-in clinic for all my health needs. All of these services are free, but of course certain charges still exist. Services like dentists and optometrists cost money, but there are certain exemptions available. You may also need to pay for prescriptions while others are free, such as birth control.
At the end of the day, even though the NHS has its own issues, it’s an incredible service. Many other countries cannot say their medical care is as accessible or affordable like the NHS.
3. Public Transportation
I love Canada, but the public transportation leaves plenty to be desired. However, it’s incredibly easy to get around England with public transportation. Buses, trams, trains and the London Underground (the Tube) are affordable and easy to use. Some people in England never drive because they simply don’t need to, especially in London.
While some smaller villages and towns may struggle with public transportation, overall it’s incredibly useful around the country. Want to see a concert in Manchester this weekend? Take the train. Need to head into town to do your grocery shopping? Hop on the bus. Want to visit a London museum? Take the Tube.
Many people move to England simply to live in London. While this city isn’t for everyone, it’s one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in the world. However, it’s also the city where the cost of living is incredibly high.
Everytime I visit London, I always see something new, eat something new and try something new. It’s a city that is always evolving, changing and growing. It’s full of young people, old people and people in-between. For some, this is the best place on Earth. And you can only get it in England.
Planning on living in London? Make sure to read my article: “Moving to London” for everything you need to know!
5. Free museums
Not only is London an incredible city, but it also has some of the best museums in the world. And guess what? They’re free!
Some of the best museums include:
The British Museum – My personal favourite, this museum has some incredible pieces of history from all over the world. I could easily spend days at this museum and still not see everything.
National History Museum – This museum tends to be geared a bit more towards children as it has some wonderful exhibits of dinosaurs, animals and gems.
The National Gallery – This free art museum is home to over 2,300 paintings, the earliest ones coming from the mid-13th century. If you’re interested in art, this museum is a must-see.
Imperial War Museum – This museum is actually split into five different locations, but the London-based museum is one of my all-time favourites. Here you can learn more about conflict from WW1 to the present day. The exhibits and history is incredible.
And that’s not all! There are over 20 free museums to visit in London alone. Some of which are the best museums I’ve ever been to!
5. The Pubs
England is one of the best places in the world for pubs. These places are homey, comfortable and cozy. While some pubs in largest cities can be very expensive (such as London) most pubs offer affordable drinks and wonderful atmosphere. Some pubs even serve food, which can be a cheap dinner out.
Want to learn more about fitting in with British culture? Check out my how-to list on How To Fit in with the Brits.
I’ve done a lot of travelling, but I always feel at home in an English pub.
6. The Location
Love to travel? England is a wonderful homebase. As a Canadian, I might be able to afford a trip to Europe once a year, at most. Now that I’m living in England, I can find affordable flights to mainland Europe and beyond. I can visit these places multiple times a year! If you’re interested in travelling more, whether around the UK or onward, England is a great location to do so.
Cons to Living in England
As with any country, England isn’t perfect. There are a lot of things wrong with this country, but it’s a matter of whether the pros outweigh these cons.
I won’t even begin to discuss how difficult the working visas are, but if you’re interested, you can check out my guide to the Working Holiday Visa UK.
1. Cost of Living
In certain parts of the country, the cost of living is actually a positive! Many villages and towns around England are affordable. However, while everyone loves London, it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Unfortunately as more and more people are unable to afford living in London, they’ve been moving to cities nearby. This has been making the prices of those cities increase drastically. It’s now become like a black hole – the cost of living in any town near London has skyrocketed.
When viewing houses, I was shocked to see how much money such a tiny house cost. House prices have continued to rise in these areas as well.
If you’re happy to live elsewhere in England, or further north, you should be fine. However, any cities near London or other desirable places come with a very high cost of living.
2. Brexit & England Leaving the EU
Right now, there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about England and Brexit. England, the UK as a whole, might be fine after leaving the EU. Or things may get very bad. Unfortunately, no one knows for certain. This can play a big role in your decision to move to England. It might be hard to move to a country full of so much uncertainty.
3. The Weather
I love the sun and I miss the sun. Living in England means you have to sacrifice some sun. As a Canadian, I didn’t realize how sunny Canada can be until moving to England. The stereotype is that England is dark and rainy 90% of the year. And while this isn’t totally true, you definitely experience much less sun.
The type of weather is also determined where you live in England, or which part of the UK you’re in. For example, the south gets less snow and more sun than the north. The weather can also change very quickly. You are living on an island, you know!
4. Horrific Traffic
Some of the worst traffic I’ve ever seen has been in England. Unfortunately it’s the combination of different elements:
- England is a small country
- With lots of people
- Which means a lot of cars
- And tiny, extremely old roads!
If you do decide to drive in England, just be aware of the traffic. If you can, avoid driving in towns and cities during rush hour as you’ll likely crawl faster.
5. Missing Friends and Family
If you’re moving to England solo, you’re leaving behind everyone back home. This shouldn’t be overlooked. While you may love travelling, and love England, this element may be too much to handle. Don’t disregard the painful effects of homesickness: it’s very real and it’s very difficult. If you rely heavily on being around your family, moving abroad might not be the right choice for you.
6. Difficult Accents
I love the accents of England, but it can be really tough to understand them as a foreigner. This can make life a bit difficult, especially at work. England is also unique in that accents will change every 20 miles in any direction. So once you get used to one accent, just travel to another town a few miles away and you’ll start all over again!
In the end, this won’t be a big problem. You’ll get used to the accents around you, in time. But at first, it can make life as an expat in England very difficult.
Should I move to England?
In my opinion, England is one of the best countries in the world. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s wonderful in its own way. Whether you move to England is up to you: Do the positives outweigh the negatives?
If you can, I would suggest visiting England for as long as you can before moving. Even spending a month or two in the country can give you a better idea of whether you’d enjoy living there or not. Of course, vacations are always more fun than actually living in a place, but at least it’ll give you a better understanding overall. Visiting during the winter is also a good indication of what the country is really like.
At the end of the day, the decision is up to you. Will you move to England, or stay home?