Life Abroad
10 min

Pros and Cons of Living in the UK

In September 2020, right amid the pandemic, I went to study in the UK. I enrolled in a master’s program in psychology at the University of Reading.

It's been a year since I started to live and study here. I’d like to share what I enjoy and what I’m still struggling with.

What’s Good About Living in the UK

Weather. The UK is considered a rainy country. At the same time, the winter is comfortable, with temperatures rarely dropping below zero. During January and February, it is usually 3 to 5 above zero. In late February or early March, the first trees, such as mimosa, begin to bloom.

Summers are not too hot. The temperature is just nice, 20 to 26 degrees above zero. Although rains are frequent here, they are mostly short and drizzling. You’d better always have both an umbrella and sunglasses with you because the weather is very changeable here.

British politeness. The British are always willing to help with any little thing or talk about the weather. At the same time, you will hardly hear an inappropriate question or comment about yourself. People here are perfectly aware of personal boundaries.

Environmental consciousness. The country pays a lot of attention to the environment. Things like waste sorting or bringing your reusable cup when buying a drink are absolutely common here. Unless I forget it at home, I go to a coffee shop with my own cup. In most places, this ensures you a discount of about 0,25 pounds.

Moreover, the UK boasts a rapidly developing infrastructure for electric cars. The government is going to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

What’s Good About Studying in the UK

High quality and credibility of education. British education is acknowledged all around the world. In 2021, four British universities made it in the top ten of the QS World University Rankings.

Trying to maintain a high international ranking, universities pay much attention to feedback from students and don’t leave it unattended and unanswered.

In addition to quality education, universities strive to provide extra services for students. Among them are all kinds of support from both student unions and the university’s staff, which includes free sessions with a mental health counselor, an opportunity to arrange an extended deadline for papers if experiencing difficulties, and providing a tutor. The latter is a teacher assigned to each student to help them in case of academic problems.

British universities are also known for relatively short study periods. A bachelor's degree is generally three years and a full-time master's degree takes only one year.

It is possible to work during studies and find a job after graduation. If you study full-time, you can work up to 20 hours a week with a student visa. If you study and work part-time, you start building up your professional experience even before you complete your program.

From July 1, 2021, international students who have completed an undergraduate or master’s degree can stay in the country for two years. PhD graduates can stay for three years.

Scholarship opportunities. Chevening is one of the most prestigious international scholarships launched by the British government in 1983. It allows students to obtain a master's degree in the UK free of charge.

What’s Not So Good About Living in the UK

High education and living costs. For all the advantages, it is to mention that the UK is an expensive country. For example, renting a room in Reading would cost you around £450-550, plus £100-200 for utilities. Transport is not cheap either. You will have to pay £2 for a bus ride. I rent for £490 and spend £130 on utilities. My daily living costs take on average £600 a month.

Studying at a university is even more pricey. For example, my master’s program costs £20,300 a year. This is the average price for a degree in the UK. Those pursuing an MBA, for instance, would have to dig even deeper in their pocket.

Heavy taxes. The UK uses a progressive tax system which means the higher your income is, the higher tax you have to pay. The tax rate is calculated based on average annual earnings. The minimum and the maximum rates are 20% and 45% respectively.

British accent. Since I had no experience with the British when I arrived, it was challenging for me to understand most simple phrases at the beginning. Sometimes I still fail to get what they say on the first try.

The best thing you can do is to find a British friend before you go to the country. However, it does not guarantee that you will completely understand everything either because the accent of each person is different. Only practice in a native English-speaking environment makes perfect. But even so, embrace the fact that it’ll take a while before you start understanding most of what you hear.

Quality and variety of food. I'm not a big fan of British cuisine. Having fish and chips once in a couple of months is enough for me. Besides, it's hard to find good fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. I buy fruits and vegetables in a Turkish store and cook mostly at home.

No fast deliveries and no 24-hour stores. If you get a sudden craving for a chocolate bar in the middle of the night, you’ll have to wait until morning. Stores in cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Bournemouth close at 8 p.m. on weekdays, while on Sunday it’s even earlier, from 4 to 5 p.m.

By Irina Lavrishcheva


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