Expat Guide

Expat Guide to the UK

Moving to the UK is more complicated than some people realize. It's not like moving to another U.S. state, where you can just pick up and go. There are many difficulties that people aren't prepared for. It’s a common misconception that an American can just pick up and move to the UK just because they’d like to. This is entirely untrue, you need to qualify for a visa to move to the UK! Be sure to do your research before making plans, you may not qualify at all.

Despite the UK being an English speaking country, there ARE cultural differences and these are also relative to the community/region in which you're living, where you work, and your family. You'll practically have to relearn to shop, cook, drive, count money, etc. Some expats love it and some find that they hate it. Most go through mild to severe culture shock, but some don't. Once people get past the initial "honeymoon" period of excitement and newness, feelings of homesickness, loneliness and frustration can set in. It can be very stressful at times, especially during holidays.

Moving to the UK

It’s an enormous undertaking to make a move abroad. Less than half of Americans even get a passport to travel outside the US borders, which is understandable when America is so large, and there’s so much to see of it. You may not have considered travelling abroad at all until you are surprised by an unexpected opportunity, a long distance love, a dual nationality family, or a work/study abroad opportunity. 

Life in the UK

Despite speaking the same language, the culture is more different than one might expect. It is a separate country with just a few American things. They have their own brands, stores, and products you may have never heard of. The entertainment industry overlaps slightly, but the bulk of the television programming and music industry is British, most celebrities and sport stars you probablly had never heard of before.


It can incredibly frustrating learning new measures, for cooking or even buying clothes. Many simple tasks that we take for granted become more complicated as you must carefully calculate equivalents.

There are some useful conversion charts in this section and below is a download of a freeware quick conversion tool for metric and other measurements. (It runs without installing so it would probably be usable on a portable USB memory stick too!)

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UK Yankee is a resource and community for expatriate Americans living in or planning to move to the UK, established in 1999. Please join the discussions in our friendly expat community.