Living as an Expat in the UK -

Living as an Expat in the UK

The United Kingdom has always been one of the chosen destinations for both international students and expats. It is the result of the country’s multicultural tradition, world-class higher education system, and cultural diversity present in bigger cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham and others, career opportunities and life-changing experiences.

However, living in a foreign country at 20-something is far from a walk in the park, even though (fun fact ahead!) there are more than 27.000 parks and green spaces in the UK.  

From dealing with cultural shock, language barrier and homesickness, to visas, healthcare and accommodation, many challenges are waiting for you as a new student and expat in the UK. Once you graduate (or even berfore), getting a job, learn how to pay taxes and how to finance yourself will end-up on your list of priorities. 

We will guide you through the process of adapting to your new British lifestyle. And at the end of the day, you are going to find benefits at every step of the process. 

Living as an expat in the UK

What to expect when living as an expat in the UK 

Living in the UK for a while is different from what you were used to back home. There are differences – some of them are smaller and others are, well, challenges.

To become the hero of your own story, you should realize that all obstacles are temporary, you will overcome them and, in the long run, you will have gained something invaluable from them. There are two sides of the same coin. Let’s explore what living as an expat in the UK is really like. 

Culture shock 

The United Kingdom is a diverse and multicultural society. People from around the Globe, with distinct cultural backgrounds, live here. You will see it in every aspect of your future life, from university learning style to work differences, from events throughout the country to walks in the city centre. 

You will go through culture shock while adapting to your new UK lifestyle.

If you are from: 

  • Multicultural, English-speaking countries like US, Canada, or New Zealand, you won’t feel many differences in your new lifestyle. 
  • Countries that have a rich culture, but different from the western one (such as India or China), you might find it strange in the beginning, but with time you will learn so much about the UK that you will feel like you are talking about your home country. 

The culture shock in the UK is not a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. You will feel it throughout your whole journey as an expat,. Once you get off the plane as a student until the last day of your graduate experience in UK, you will find new things to learn about British culture.


There are chances that you are aware of what homesickness feels like – maybe it isn’t your first rodeo and you have already experienced it, or maybe you read about it before moving to UK.

Homesickness is a feeling caused by the separation from what is familiar. But it also has many other causes, and it can manifest in different moments in your new life away from the mainland.  

If it causes you concentration problems or headaches, talk to a specialist:

  • if you are a student, and you need help, contact student support services at your university – most, if not all British universities have such services.
  • an expat in the UK has access to several types of resources and support networks, such as student support services, local expat groups and online forums.

Discover your possibilities by searching for them. By the end of your UK experience, you are going to grow as a person by becoming self-reliant and independent.

Make friends from all over the world! 

UK is probably the best place to meet people from all over the world. Just last year, in 2021/2022 around 680.000 international students were pursuing their degrees in UK. That is a lot! Not to mention the huge expat communities in cosmopolitan hubs such as London or Manchester etc – there are more international people in UK than the population of some countries.

Your British university provides you with some help in meeting new people:

  • there are events created especially for you, like student orientation. 
  • you can join student associations from your university. 

As a student in UK, you can also join international student organisations outside of those from your university. You will likely meet wonderful people and those connections will last forever. 

As an expat in the UK, you can always join expat groups or online forums where you can find information that might help you. These places exist to make meeting new people easier for everyone. You can meet people from your home country or from other parts of the world but who share common interests with you. By joining these groups you will feel more at home in UK.

Places where you can find expat groups in the UK perfect for you:

Language barrier 

Language barrier should not be a problem for you if:

  • you are a new student, as your language proficiency was already tested and approved by your UK university, based on your exam.
  • you are a graduate, as you have honed your skills in your student life in UK for 3-5 years.

However, you can always sharpen your English skills before arriving in UK or while living here. One way of getting used to it is by reading books in English, watching movies and TV shows, and listening to music. In the end, One Direction was a British boyband.

If you feel like you have problems with your studies, student support services in your UK University might offer language or academic support.

Keep in mind that your English will get better each day just by being exposed to the language in class and on the street. Don’t fret over it! 

Living as an expat in the UK

What to consider before living as an expat

Once you decided that you want to live as an expat in UK, there are some things that you must pay attention to. Being an international student in UK is different from being a graduate. The same thing, like the process of obtaining a visa, might be easier for a student or harder for a graduate.


Visa requirements had a change after Brexit. You can check at the official website the new requirements.  

You must pay attention to the restrictions your British type of visa comes with, the renewal date or the process of extending it. UK Universities tend to have an office for international students that offers guidance. 

Depending on your type of visa, an expat can stay in UK for up to 5 years without renewing it. 

Getting a job 

The UK is known for being a popular place for jobs by being one of the strongest economies in the region, with important companies and organisations being present in their market, such as Shell PC, Tesco Plc, Rio Tinto Group, Legal & General Group, HSBC Holdings etc. 

Meeting the necessary qualifications like language and academic skills, right experience accumulated in UK university from participating in student organisations or internships will help you get a job faster, even as an expat. 

Where you can find jobs in UK: 

  • as an expat, you have at least six options: newspapers (The Guardian), company websites, UK government websites, embassies and consulates, recruitment agencies (M2r Education, Morgan Hunt, Advocate Group, Get Recruited etc.) and job sites (CV-Library, Indeed, Totaljobs etc.). 
  • as a student in UK, you can also check with your university if you can apply for a job there. 
  • through networking (LinkedIn).


Taxes in the UK depend on your tax residence and domicile status:  

  • Holders of work visas are required to pay UK taxes.  
  • For students, it depends on the double-taxation agreements between countries. 

With a student visa, usually, you are not required to pay taxes if foreign income or gains are used for things regarding the cost of living and course fees. However, things change once you graduate but decide to stay in the UK as an expat, in the sense that you will have to pay taxes.

For more information regarding taxes in the UK, you can check the official site.  


The healthcare system in the UK is known for being funded through taxation rather than health insurance. All UK residents, including expats, can access free services. You need to register to a General Practitioner to be able to register for UK healthcare.

You need to take into consideration that every region of the country has its own National Health System where the same services have different prices. So, if you relocate, what was free in one region might cost you in another one.

Both citizens and foreigners tend to use private healthcare in UK as it is easier to resolve a health problem and it is also timesaving.


Finding the perfect type of housing in the UK depends on the needs you may have as there are a variety of them – from flats to terraced housing. As an expat there, you will see that is hard to find a balance between affordable housing and the quality of those accommodations.

While international students in UK have the option of on-campus accommodation, expats tend to rent property for financial reasons. You can start your accommodation search on platforms like:

To reduce your spending, you can rent a room in a house, rather than the whole property by searching on SpareRoom - SpareRoom for flatshare, house share, flat share & rooms for rent.

As an expat, you can also buy properties in the UK. However, there is a high demand for properties which leads to soaring prices for them. You can also get a mortgage in UK.

If you are an international student, you can also check The Ultimate Guide to Studying in the United Kingdom in 2023 for more information regarding visas, accommodation, healthcare, and many other things.


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