Weighing up whether you should move to the UK? And whether the pros and cons of England worth it? There are good and bad things about every country, and it’s always best to be really prepared before making any big moving decisions. All big changes come with challenges, but the rewards are often worth it.
There are plenty of good reasons to move to England, but often film and media paint a rose-tinted version of English life. Whilst we do have the rolling hills and breathtaking countryside, there are some downsides.
Here are the pros and cons of living in England, along with my own personal experiences in this wonderful country.
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Pro: Excellent Public Transport System
England is known for its excellent public transport system that spans the country.
In London alone, the London underground system is a fantastic example of how impactful a good public transport system can be. The history of the underground began in the 19th century, with the first deep-level tube line opening in 1890. Over the past one hundred and thirty years the system has gone from strength to strength, and evolved into the efficient transport system it is today.
Outside of London the country as a whole benefit from an excellent system of train stations (even in rural areas). The stations come with easy access for all and are generally reliable.
The bus and coach routes that cover the country play an equally important role in the well functioning public transport system. Bus stops and stations cover the UK, from the most rural villages to busy cities.
Bus times can vary, but in highly populated areas bus stops will usually offer services every 10 minutes or so. In more rural areas the bus may only come once an hour or in extreme cases only a few times per day. The takeaway here is that no matter where you are, it’s likely you’ll be able to access public transport in some form or another. This is great for people who don’t drive or can’t afford to own a car.
Con: Public Transport
While public transport is great in England it also has its negatives. You’ll often hear Brits complain when there are delays and seems like they can be brought on by anything, leaves on the track, tracks are too hot from the sun, ice on the track and whatever else weather-related.
Transport is also expensive! As an example, if you are commuting into London from a commuter area you can easily spend £5,000 a year on a train ticket.
Psst… if you are looking at saving money on train fares consider getting a railcard. There are various types you can get, check out their website to see if one fits your needs. This can save you 1/3 on rail fares around Great Britain (although not on season tickets).
Pro: National Health Service
One of the biggest pros of living in England is having access to healthcare. Due to paying taxes in our wages the services are mostly free or have capping in place.
The National Health Service, or ‘NHS’, is a vital service that promises a better quality of life for all. The NHS is a high contributor to England’s good standard of living, eliminating health care worries and financial stress for the masses.
Being able to call for an ambulance without the worry of fees is a world-class luxury. If an elderly relative has a fall, or you or your partner have a cancer diagnosis, the additional stress caused by finances is simply not an issue here.
It is worth noticing that dental care is not completely free here, and often requires a flat fee based on the service provided. However free dental care is available to qualifying low-income and elderly residents.
Optical care is also not a free service and requires a fee. Many employers offer excellent employee benefits that will cover optical care. Some are able to access free optical care if they are vulnerable enough to qualify.
It’s also important to be aware of the NHS surcharge as part of visa applications. It does depend on Visa type, so be sure to research this thoroughly if you are considering moving to England. For a 5-year Ancestry visa this can cost you upwards of £3,000 on top of your visa cost.
Con: Waiting Times For Services
The impact of 2020/2021 has had on the NHS means that there is now a long wait time for services and it’s understandable why there is an impact. I am thankful for the NHS efforts during this time and only thank them for their services.
There is a KPI that 92% of patients should be treated within 18 weeks as part of the referral-to-treatment scheme. Since 2016 these have not been met and has hit a new high after 14 years.
You may want to consider private healthcare if this is a concern for you.
Pro: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
If you enjoy the sublime views of nature, and a slower pace of life, then the English countryside will be very attractive to you.
England has beautiful countryside that is hard to match. The rolling hills of Shropshire and the stunning views of the Lake District are just a couple of examples of how breathtaking the countryside here really is.
Enjoy the quaint small-town life in chocolate box towns with tiny cottages. Or if you enjoy both nature and city life then come and experience the beautiful city parks this country has to offer.
See for yourself the stretching moorlands that inspired English literature classics like Brontë’s Wuthering Heights or the rambling hills that inspired Tolkien’s Shire.
England also has stunning beaches and seaside towns to enjoy. Cornwall in particular is a popular tourist destination with a highly sought after property market. In the summer months, the English seaside towns are super fun for a day trip out or a weekend away. Enjoy a classic portion of British fish and chips by the sea, or an ice cream looking out at the views.
If hiking is more your thing than the call of the Peak District may be for you. Explore the adorable town of Bakewell and sample the world-famous Bakewell tart, or enjoy long hikes through the Yorkshire Dales. The possibilities are endless!
Con: Over Tourism of Certain Areas
Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty like Cotswolds, Lake District or Peak District are known throughout the world for their stunning beauty and has many visitors every single year. This is great for England, as its economy thrives on tourism and it brings great support for the small businesses in rural areas.
However, we need to support responsible tourism and minimise our negative impacts on the environment and local communities. This is something that we learn over time while travelling and being conscious about it builds the habits over time.
Taking care of the landscape mostly comes down to common sense, such as leaving sites how you found them, taking litter away and not dropping waste that conflicts with the natural ecosystem.
Or designing your trip carefully so that you’re leaving a positive footprint in England. For example, instead of driving there consider catching the train. Travelling in non-peak times so that your business is evenly spread.
Instead of booking accommodation with Airbnb, see if you can book with the accommodation directly so they are getting money to support their small business.
Pro: England’s Rich History
England has a long and rich history that can be explored in person amongst mystical ruins and well-kept heritage buildings alike. Visit sites like Stonehenge, or the hillforts in Shropshire to learn about ancient civilisations.
England’s history is one of the most attractive pros in this list for those with a sense of adventure and a curious mind.
This also bodes well for educational opportunities for kids too! Explore England’s castles and heritage sites and enjoy the rich historical settings.
Stand on the grounds of ancient battles (think the battlefield and Abbey of the 1066 battle of Hastings) or view Buckingham Palace and its guards. There are plenty of things to do and see for history buffs! Ramble over the hills and view the remains of Roman forts or tour renovated stately manors.
Whether you’re interested in ancient history or the Victorians (check out the Blists Hill Victorian town experience with operating Victorian shops and mills), there is something for all tastes. Throughout England, each town or city will have its own historical landmarks to explore.
There is plenty to see for those who enjoy the industrial revolution period too, or for World War history fans. Tour hangers filled with old war planes or visit museums dedicated to England’s industrial revolution and see the magnificent machinery.
Pro: Free Art Galleries and Museums
Across the UK you will discover that museums are free! If you are interested in education, culture and arts then England has plenty of wonderful museums, art galleries and beautiful parks to peruse.
This was mainly instated in 2001 and it is such a great privilege we have. Whilst they are free do consider when you’re visiting a museum making a donation or becoming a member to help support the maintenance.
You will find that exhibitions are paid for and most places will have at least 1 runnings. My favourite is the wildlife photographer of the year award which is held at different venues in England.
If art is more your thing then, England has a lot to offer in this space too. With art galleries spanning the country, there is always something to see and do.
The British Museum is particularly attractive as it’s a world-famous museum with plenty to offer that is always changing and updating. No two visits are the same – come to see the attractions again and again.
It’s a wonderful space dedicated to human history, art and culture full of wonders to browse. Established in 1753 the museum itself is a piece of British history.
Check out the amazing Tate Modern in London – this art gallery resides in the former Bankside Power Station (wow!) and forms an iconic part of London. Not only does it house amazing work from artists all over the world but it actually has live art performances and installations to enjoy. The exhibitions it hosts throughout the year are another reason to visit this gallery over and over again.
Pro: West End and Theatre
If you enjoy theatre then England has some amazing spaces and performances to offer. See the breathtaking interiors of old theatres and enjoy modern performances of classic plays. What else could you expect from the home of Shakespeare?
Across England there are great theatres, here are some of my favourites to go and see:
- Book of Mormon
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Lion King
- Any Shakespeare
Pro: Bank Holidays
One of the top pros of living in England is the bank holidays. Enjoy days off from work with bank holidays that pop up throughout the year.
Here is a list of the bank holidays in 2022, for reference, so you can see how many extra paid days off you can get (in addition to your allotted annual leave from work!):
New Year’s Day (substitute day)
Early May bank holiday
Spring bank holiday
Platinum Jubilee bank holiday
Summer bank holiday
Christmas Day (substitute day)
Bank holidays are fantastic paid time off days that can be enjoyed with family and friends. There is a pleasant English culture surrounding bank holidays, where the whole country feels joyful.
And best of all, these days come in addition to your paid annual leave allowance from work – you heard that right! It should be noted however that some jobs do require employees to work over bank holidays, but most do not.
Celebrate the sunny bank holidays with friends at barbeque garden parties, or cosy up in the winter by the fire in an English pub. Bank holiday culture is great for all!
Pro: Fabulous Cities
Another fantastic pro of living in England is the fabulous cities it has to explore. Aside from London, the amazing capital city, England has many other big cities with their own attractions to enjoy.
Visit Manchester’s Northern Quarter and sample dishes from world-famous restaurants (with all of the insta worthy glitz and glam) or head over to Bristol to enjoy the artsy scene (the home of Banksy!).
If a fun English night out is your idea of a good time try the beautiful pubs of York and feel as though you have stepped back in time. There are plenty of pubs and swanky bars hidden in the nooks and crannies of York’s medieval streets.
With plenty to do and see in cities across England, you’ll never run out of staycation ideas when living here.
Here’s some inspiration to add to your list!
- 12 Great Places To Visit Alone In England
- 10 Places to Visit in England by Train to Inspire Your Wanderlust
- 22 Best Seaside Towns in England to Get Your Vitamin Sea
- 15 Best Places To Visit In England Without A Car
Pro: British Culture
British culture is another fun pro for moving to England. There’s a different accent in every city and a culture to match. England is a hub of cultural activity, and English people are fun to be around.
The English music scene in particular is a great part of English culture that people travel from around the world to experience.
From gigs in your local pubs to full blown music festivals, the English music scene is an attractive pro for audiophiles! From Glastonbury and Reading to Download rock festival, there are festivals for all music tastes.
Pro: Great Labour Laws and Employee Benefits
England’s labour laws and employee benefits are an attractive reason to move to the country for many.
Benefits for employees like sick pay, a company pension, maternity leave, annual leave, the right to unionise, and often optical and medical benefits too are amongst some of the employee benefits that are offered in job packages.
Some companies go a step further and also offer great paternity leave, cancer insurance cover, physiotherapy, medical cover for the families of workers, an option to join employee shares schemes, fun evenings out on the company, bereavement leave, counselling and more.
A national minimum wage too must be upheld, along with the right for employees to unionise and rules around working hours that can’t exceed 48 hours a week (in most cases).
These laws are designed to protect employees and serve as an excellent incentive to move to the UK.
Pro: Access to Free Education
Access to free education is an excellent pro for moving to England. Education is vital for developing minds, and so it is offered for free for children between the ages of five to eighteen years old.
Education is mandatory between the ages of five and sixteen. After the age of eighteen children are able to attend higher education at university, which is not free.
Free education is a great benefit that England has to offer for younger people.
Con: Unpredicatable Weather
English weather is often the punchline for many British jokes, because of its unpredictability. It can be raining one minute and then beaming sunshine the next – you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Whilst England and the rest of the UK does have defined seasons, sometimes snow can carry over into spring and April showers can carry into the summer months.
The gloomy weather is often a grizzling complaint from locals, however, we do experience lovely summers, so it all balances out!
Pro: People Make the Most of the Summer
You know when the sun comes out in England! People make the most of it, from heading to the beach, hosting a last-minute BBQ or enjoying a beer garden. The summer months are the best months to be living here as everyone gets their social calendar in.
Con: House Prices
The housing market in England is a point of contention for many, due to its difficult entry requirements.
House prices are steep for buyers, and for many first time buyers it can be hard to get on the property ladder because of this.
I highly recommend checking the house prices of the general area you would like to move to in the UK to get a decent idea of what you are in for, should you like to buy in future.
The extra bits you need to buy a house can be tricky for some to obtain. Getting a mortgage requires a number of documents, and is easier if you have the following:
- Have a permanent job in the UK and can produce three payslips from the last three months
- Have been a resident of the UK for the last two years
- Have a UK bank account
The above can be hard for some to obtain and will require planning in advance.
Con: Requirements to Move Here
Visa requirements for the UK can pose as a con for some, as they can be quite hard to meet. Countries like Australia have easier requirements as we can access the Youth Mobility visa and in 2021 they agreed to extend this to 3 years. Other commonwealth countries are offered 2 years Youth Mobility visas.
For US citizens this can be more difficult and a harder process to go through.
Here is a quick rundown of what requirements you can expect when applying for a UK visa, for you to read on gov.uk here.
Making sure you apply for the correct visa and have the supporting documents is a vital step to take when moving to the UK.
Pro: Close to Europe
One of the main reasons I moved to England was the proximity to Europe and the ability to travel there for a weekend. It’s such a luxury to have the option to be able to do this and if travel is on your list then England is a perfect location to be able to do it from.
Con: Competitive Job Market
The English job market can be quite competitive, and higher positions may have difficult education and experience requirements to meet.
Whilst there are many resources to help you source a job in England, it is worth noting that the process can prove difficult for some.
If you aren’t headhunted and recruited from abroad, you’ll need to get something lined up for yourself when you move.
Here’s how I moved to the UK without a job and experiences getting one since living here.
Con: Lower Average Wage (Outside of London)
Another con is the average wage outside of London drops quite drastically. Before moving to the UK it’s best to have a good understanding of the average wage in the area you have your eye on, instead of looking at England’s average wage as a whole.
Here are the average wages across big cities in England, to help you get the full picture:
- London’s average wage is £39k
- Manchester’s average wage is £30k
- Bristol’s average wage is £31k
- Liverpool’s average wage is £26k
- Leeds’ average wage is £29k
- Leicester’s average wage is £26k
Con: Narrow Country Roads
If you aren’t used to driving down small winding roads then you are in for a shock when you move to England!
Even the largest and widest roads in the UK pale in comparison to the size of American roads for example.
Small narrow country lanes are quite tricky to navigate, with there often only being enough space for one car to fit at a time. If you meet with another vehicle head on, one of you may have to reverse quite a long way until an indent or layby presents itself.
Country roads on foggy days or late at night are not for the faint of heart. And what’s more – the locals who know the area well can often take these roads at quite the speed. Watch out!
Con: Very Hard to Rent If You Have Pets
In England and the UK as a whole it can be very difficult to rent if you have pets. Some landlords may allow fish or a small hamster, but cats and dogs are usually completely off the table.
If you have pets you will need to plan in advance when moving to the UK. Make sure you find accommodation that allows for your furry friends, or you’ll be in a spot of trouble when you arrive.
Some landlords may be lenient about pets when asked directly, so it’s always worth dropping an email or giving a call to the landlord when looking at a prospective place to see if they will wave their rule.
Buildings that are owned by large companies or blocks of flats will almost never allow for pets, so keep this in mind. You’re better off looking for somewhere that’s owned by a landlord with one or two properties on their portfolio, who you can develop a direct relationship with. In these cases, the landlords may be more lenient.
Con: Small Houses
If you are from America or anywhere else in the world that enjoys large houses, then the size of English houses may come as a bit of a shock to you.
Whilst the UK and England have their fair share of mansions and big houses, the average English house is far smaller than the average American house for example.
The average square footage of an English house is 729 square feet, whereas the average American square footage of a house is 2687 square feet.
It’s best to check the average square footage of houses in your area, then compare them to the average in the area of the UK you would like to move to, so you can get a good idea of the difference.
For some this may result in an improvement in square feet, but for most American readers this may come as a shock!
Con: Scams (Phone, Text & e-mail)
There are quite of scams! For spoof HMRC to text saying you need to pay import tax to receive your parcels. Some seem so real as well so it can be hard to tell. There are also lots of calls asking whether you’ve been in an accident!
Also watch out for renting scams. If they ask you for money without seeing the property this should send red flags straight away. I’ve written an article on renting which describes the fees that you may pay as a part of renting, even though it says London it does apply to England.
It’s something to watch out for when you move here. Unsure if you’re being scammed then Google, ask a friend or check with the company that sent you the text. If it seems odd then you’re probably right!
Living in England does have its upsides and downsides, but overall the beauty of the country, the NHS and overall quality of life certainly makes it a great contender for a big move.
It’s always best to really know what you are in for by carefully considering the cons also. I hope my list will help you get a broader understanding of England.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.