20 September 2016

Alanna - Expat in England

Alanna - Expat in England

We’ve had the chance to talk to Alanna, 23, a Canadian expat who has moved to England with her boyfriend. Ms. Alanna who has been living there for over nine months, now works as a faculty administrator and blogger.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I'm born and raised in Canada!


Q: What made you move out of Canada?

A: My boyfriend is English, and we tried dating long-distance. It was terrible, so I made the move across the pond.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I'm living in south-east England.


Q: How long have you been living in England?

A: I've been abroad for just over nine months!


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I live with my boyfriend who's from England, so it's just me getting used to being an expat.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I miss my family and friends every day, that's just a fact of being an expat. Coping with homesickness is different for everyone, but I find keeping a solid routine and general self-care habits (getting enough sleep, exercising, staying hydrated and eating well) make a huge difference. I also keep in touch with my friends and family very frequently.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: English people are very friendly! It's incredible how many tell me that they have friends or family in Canada and will do their best to make me feel at home.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in England? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Making friends for me is always hard and being an expat makes it even harder. I try to socialise with both locals and Canadian expats, mainly through work, friends-of-friends, Facebook groups or MeetUp. Anything helps!


Q: How does the cost of living in England compare to your home?

A: Canadian versus English cost of living is comparable, although I do think you get more for your money in Canada once you take the exchange rate into consideration. Coffee may only be £3, but that's more like $5 Canadian.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: £3 for a simple coffee, usually.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: £7-10 at a local pub.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: £20 and up!

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: £5-10 for a bottle of wine, cigarettes are very common, but many people roll them themselves!


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in England?

A: Many banks require a proof of address (from a payslip or rental agreement) before opening an account. But many places need you to have a bank account before you can get a job or flat. Very much a Catch-22! I found that Lloyds Bank won't require proof of address and will allow you to get a bank account with your passport and visa documentation, which was very easy.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: I'm currently on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa, and it was straightforward to apply for. The visa is aimed at 18-30-year-olds wanting to work for two years in the UK, so there isn't as much paperwork behind it versus a long-term work visa. When completing your documents, it's helpful to have someone else read it to make sure you've filled in everything correctly. It may also take longer to process depending on what time of the year you're applying for. I applied in November, and the whole process was finished in a few weeks whereas the summertime may take months to get everything sorted.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in England is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: I'm lucky that I haven't had to use the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK yet, but it is available for me if I need it. I had to pay a fee to the NHS when applying for my visa so I'm able to use UK healthcare like a regular citizen. I would recommend registering with your local doctor as soon as you finalise where you'll be living, that way you'll have it ready in case you ever need it.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in Canada or England? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: Because my visa gives me regular access to the NHS, I didn't require additional insurance. I know everyone says it's important, but I skipped that one.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to England? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: I didn't use a moving company, just two very large suitcases! I'm all about lists, so my packing consisted of following a list and doing a “practice pack” a week or so before my move, to make sure everything I planned on bringing would actually fit.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Being away from my friends and family can be really tough, and it's my biggest challenge. Some days I just want to see my best friend and chat in her kitchen or watch TV with my parents.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in England?

A: As a Canadian, England isn't much different to home: same language, similar culture and comparable weather. It's a lot easier to get into the swing of things when it's already close to life back home. Still, there's always annoying differences like driving on the left side of the road or not always understanding people's accents.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: South-east England is totally beautiful. You're easily within driving distance to a bunch of coastal towns, beaches, tons of hikes and trails, plus castles and historic cities like Canterbury. My recommendation? See as much as possible, even in the rain!


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I have no plans right now: anything is possible!


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Don't always compare your new home to the one you're used to. Instead, immerse yourself in the local culture and experience as much as possible.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about England?

A: I actually don't follow any UK-based blogs, but connect with many expats from all over the world!

My own blog: Adventures and Naps