(Note: for anyone reading this who wants to know more about the how’s of moving to the UK, you can find almost everything you need at the Britain/USA website at http://www.britainusa.com.)
I’ve been cleaning out my In Box today – some in the bottom were well over a year old – and found an email from Jason Cook. I worked with Jason at Wired, and we keep in touch on and off – through his year in Rome, and our year here in England.
His email thanked me for some advice about things they might want think about before they moved. I scrounged through my Out Box and found my note to him. As I’ve had several people ask the same types of things, I thought it might be worth posting.
Well, I’m officially moving to England. Azure and I are probably going to arrive 28 August – I start at Cambridge in mid-September.
While we’re not moving house on the same scale as you and Rachel (mostly because we own no house) I thought I’d at least ask you if you had any small tips worth sharing. Anything in the realm of initial setup (opening bank accounts, health care) that you’d wish you’d known about, going over?
The one question I can think of offhand is: what cell phone provider should I use? That’s one of the first things I expect I’ll need to do, and I don’t want to get stuck with the wrong provider/plan (it’s hard enough to figure out who’s best in the States…).
Hope we get a chance to have a pint in the next year…
Very exciting that you’re moving to England…I think you’ll like it a lot.
You’re welcome of course that stay with us when you arrive if that would help. We’re about 40 minutes by train into London, easily got to from Heathrow and Gatwick, and have lots of spare room (but not as many beds as bedrooms, so one of you would be in a sleeping bag on the floor). Come stay as long as you like…
Will you be buying a car? That was the first thing we did, and after looking around in the papers/auto trader, we went with a dealer. We can help you with that if you want.
Bank account-wise, you don’t really need one, unless you want to move a bunch of money into pounds. Rachel had an HSBC account that I got added to, but everything can be done with ATMs and VISA/MC and electronic bill pay. I have a Wells Fargo bill pay account, and I do everything that way. What it doesn’t do is let me write checks in pounds, so yes, I guess you’ll need a bank account. You might check out Citibank in the US before you come. I’ve seen Citi branches here, and it might be possible to have dollar and pound accounts that you can move freely between. We wanted to move a bunch of stuff to euros and wound up opening a swiss bank account, but it’s not as convenient as I’d hoped it would be.
Phone-wise, there’s T-Mobile that works in the US, UK and old-Europe, or Vodaphone seems to be good pan-Europe provider. I’m using O2/BTCellnet and wouldn’t recommend it particularly. What I would recommend is using the pay-as-you-go plans – we’ve saved a lot of money by only topping up when we need airtime as opposed to paying for lots of time that we never use. I bought an unlocked phone in the US before coming here – I’d recommend looking on Google for the phone you want and buying an unlocked version before you come. But don’t worry too much about getting the wrong provider – there’s a CellPhoneWarehouse on every street corner, and buying a pay as you go chip is as little as 29 – if you don’t like it, go get another one.
That’s all I can think of now…if you have any other questions fire away.
We’re on the Cape now, and will be back in the UK on the 14th.
Hi to Azure…
One thing I forgot to tell him was about health care. In the UK they have the NHS – National Health Service. To see a doctor, all you do is show up at the local doctor’s office, and fill out a short one-page form. That’s it. Really. I know all you folks in the US think I’m kidding, but I’m not.
For small things like colds and shots and prescriptions it’s amazing. Fast and free. Just this week Sebastian had a terrible cough – we called at 10:05, they said come in at 10:30, and we were out by 10:45. And the prescriptions are reasonably priced as well – free for children, and just £6 for adults.
For emergencies it’s pretty good too. I broke a rib a month ago mountain biking, and on the third night was in so much pain that at 4:00AM, after not being able to get back into bed, Rachel bundled me off to the emergency room. I was the only person there, and was in and out in about 45 minutes – 3 x-rays and some free pain relievers later I was a much happier person.
Where it appears to fall down a bit is with non-emergency procedures. There can be a 2-6 month (or more) wait for certain procedures, even for life-threatening things like cancer treatments. If you think you might need such surgery, then some form of private insurance might be useful. I’ve recently seen a policy advertised that will pay for private care if the NHS won’t schedule something within 6 weeks – sounds interesting.
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