Moving to the UK was a huge undertaking for us. Some of the unknowns were made so much simpler for us because other students from abroad had made this same move to Durham and had blogged about their experiences. One of the most frightening things people in the US said to me was how EXPENSIVE everything is in the UK. Well, we have found that cost comparisons depend on where you are moving from and what you are comparing. For example friends that moved to Durham from California think everything here is wonderfully affordable. Moving here from Alabama I would say it is a mixed bag. Somethings are cheaper and some are more pricey.
Cost of owning an automobile
A nice used car here in the UK can be purchased quite cheaply but that is a very small part of the actual cost of owner ship.
Auto Insurance: Here in the UK one car with one driver cost the same amount as two cars with two drivers did in Alabama. If a second driver is added to the mix here the cost can almost double. If you are thinking of owning a car while in the UK do some calling around and price quotes first. We chose based on those numbers and our short time here not to have a car.
MOT – Motor vehicle inspections are carried out annually here and your car must meet these requirements and MOT paid. They can be about $50. But the repair costs to the make the vehicle compliant are normally the expensive part. Here is a link to help cut costs on an MOT.
Fuel: There is no doubt Americans are a bit spoiled by cheaper prices at the pump. Pricey petrol is one of those things that is a given here in the UK. When we left Alabama unleaded gas (petrol in the UK) was about $3.00 per gallon the same US gallon here in the UK currently cost about $8.00 per gallon. Petrol here is sold by the litre. That higher price at the pump means many things here in the UK. We have only counted about 19 standard US sized personal pickup trucks here in 6 months. (We have a bit of a contest going with ourselves.) There are very few cars with automatic transmissions here and those cars with automatic transmissions have a higher insurance rate. Most cars here are very small and have manual transmissions.
Public transportation is widely available, easy to navigate and much cheaper. It does depend on how far you plan on living away from school and work. Consider all options.
Again it depends on what part of the US or world you are relocating from. We have found it good to be in a small more energy wise home (although a newer one would be even more efficient). A rough calculation of the energy cost on electricity alone shows that the cost per Kilowatt hour in Durham is about 2 and 1\2 times the same Kilowatt hour in Alabama. That being said we use much less electricity in this house here in Durham so our costs on that have only risen slightly. We were green in Alabama but we are much more so here in the UK. Yeah for carbon footprint reduction!!!
Mobile Phones: When moving to Durham our US mobile phone contract was expiring. Our mobile phone carrier released our phones and we were able to purchase a pay as you go SIM card here in the UK. We are using the company “Orange” and like them. We pay the equivalent of $15 per month for 400 text and 1 G of Data on our old iPhones. I don’t know what your US mobile phone bill is like but that is a HUGE reduction for most people. Here in Durham we have found that most people communicate by text. It is a bit costly to make lots of mobile phone calls. With that many texts per month I have not ever hit my limit. When you are on wifi you can even make FaceTime calls to family in the US. That has been wonderful.
Calling Home: A few years before we moved we turned off our land line at our home. We purchased an OOMA box and kept of home phone number. After purchasing the box you can register your home number with emergency services in the US and connect the box to the internet and pay about $4 per month for local and most long distance services. We disconnected the OOMA and brought it with us to the UK plugged it in to the internet here and PRESTO our Alabama phone number works here in the UK. For $4 per month. It works well for us.
I will post more information later as I think of it. If you are moving to the UK and have a specific question we will be happy to try and help. Leave us a comment below.
*(NB)Please note: We do not assert that the way things are done in America are better, and the way they are done in then England is worse. We are here to tell our story of some things that we learned along the way that were simply different. Maybe these accounts will help someone else make a smooth transition to their new home in wonderful Great Britain.
**Rob is a Post-Graduate Research Ph.D. in Theology at St. John’s College, Durham University. He, his wife Beth, and two children moved to Durham for Rob’s first year of research. The remainder of his Ph.D. work will be field work outside the UK.