After living in the UK for over five years, there’s been quite a few lessons that I’ve learned the hard way. Here are some unexpected and surprising things no one tells you about being an immigrant in the UK. I hope you can learn from my experiences and make your life in the UK a bit easier.
1. Unexpected allergies
Being in my late-twenties, I was pretty sure I was past the age of discovering new allergies. However after living in the UK, I realised that I found a new allergy! Surprise!
I started getting horrible itchy bumps all over my back. At first I thought it was a flair-up of my existing eczema and just suffered through it. However after visiting Canada for an extended period of time, my weird rash disappeared. After returning back home to the UK, it started up again. I could only assume that I was allergic to something in the UK.
After weeks of eliminating different products in my home, I finally found relief. In my case, I stopped using fabric softener and replaced my laundry detgerant (Fairy Non-Bio pods) to a more natural solution (E-Cover Non-Bio). That did the trick! My weird allergy slowly disappeared and has not returned.
It’s a good lesson to learn early on that new products or environmental factors can impact you differently than in your home country.
2. Food intolerances & sensitivities
I’ve met many people who have moved abroad, whether to the UK or elsewhere, who developed some level of food intolerance. Many countries make, produce and package food differently. There are varying regulations and laws when it comes to food and drink manufacturing. So don’t be surprised if a food you loved in your home country is different in the UK (and may even upset your stomach). Listen to your body and hopefully you’ll find out what type of food or drink is upsetting your system.
3. Air quality
The air quality in the UK can be vastly different to what you’re used to in your home country. Many expats that move to London suffer with breathing issues and may even be required to get an inhaler prescribed by their local GP.
While this may not be the case for all villages, towns and cities in the UK, it’s certainly something to consider when moving to places like London.
Want to know more about moving to London? Check out my article: Moving to London: Your First Month in England
4. Winter depression
Winter in the UK can be extremely dark, wet and cold. Depending where you are from, this may be a big shock to the system come winter-time! Personally, as an immigrant in the UK, I suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and can be depressed and unmotivated in the wintertime. I find the best way to deal with SADs in the UK is by taking a Vitamin D3 every morning during the winter months and using a SAD light (which you can easily buy online or via Amazon)
If you find yourself really struggling through the winter in the UK, make sure to speak with your doctor.
Want to learn more tips on surviving winter? Check out my article: Everything you need to know about winter in England
5. Your life back home
As an immigrant in the UK, you have to come to terms with the fact that your friends and family will continue on with their lives without you. People will break up, get hired, have babies, move house, start new jobs and die – all while you are living in the UK.
Unfortunately this is something that’s part of being an immigrant in a new country and it’s something that you’ll need to come to peace with in your own way. It can be tough knowing that your friends and family are moving on without you, but that’s part of the life of an immigrant.
6. Poor credit score
One thing you may not realise when you become an immigrant in the UK, is that you will have no credit score. No matter how well you handled money, credit and financial responsibility in your home country, the UK will view you as having no credit history. Unfortunately there is no way around this. For immigrants new to the UK, it’s best to start building your credit history as soon as possible.
Once you are eligible for a credit card, I would recommend getting one and making sure to pay it off every month. This simple routine will increase your credit score quickly.
7. Parts of you will change
Since I’ve been living in the UK for over 5 years, parts of me have changed. My voice is slightly different, I use more British words and phrases, and even my inflection when speaking has changed. While I don’t have an English accent (and probably never will) parts of my language and voice have definitely changed since living in the UK.
While you may not notice the change, your friends and family back home will!
8. Immigrants aren’t always welcome
It would be naive to believe that immigrants are always welcome in the UK. This is simply not true. As with every country, there is a portion of the population who do not want you to live in their country. You might be seen as stealing British jobs, homes, taking benefits and in general “ruining the UK.”
This ideology is something you have to push through as an immigrant in the UK. In my experience, 95% of Brits I’ve interacted with have been nothing but kind, supportive and friendly. But there is always going to be a portion of British people who do not want you in their country.
Make sure to check out my article: Living in England: Pros and Cons
What they don’t tell you about being an immigrant in the UK
I love my life in the UK and I would not change it, nor my experience being an immigrant. However, it’s always important to remember that things aren’t perfect and there will be challenges along the way. I hope these lessons and experiences can help you to have a happy and healthy life as an immigrant in the UK!