A Longlasting Lovestory
Moving to United Kingdom has always been one of my dreams and one of the few I managed to make come true so far.
It all started when I was attending college and during the English Literature class I started day-dreaming about English landscapes, getting interested in the fascinating dark and intricate history of the country, noticing the beauty of the English language in brilliant Shakespeare short poems, or those written by the Romantic nature-lover Lord Byron, the witty writing style of Jane Austen or the dramatic compelling tales of the Bronte Sisters.
I know many of you are shouting “BOOORING” right now, but Foreign Languages and Literature are among my greatest passions and that’s what pushed me to attend a two weeks language stay in Bristol when I was 17. I was deeply motivated by the desire to finally speak properly the language of Shakespeare and explore the beautiful picturesque quintessential English towns and scenery I had only seen in films or dreamed about while reading my books so far.
This was my first abroad experience and one that changed my life forever: the idea of living in another country started rooting in my brain more and more and looked less daunting. I was completely charmed by the language, culture and unusual habits and food of local people hosting me, the pretty semi-detached houses with garden, the fascinating architecture, the cosy and lively pubs atmosphere, the presence of untouched nature so close to the city centre. From my naïf teenager point of view it was like living in one of my period TV series and for the first time I was travelling on my own and feeling free and independent!
After obtaining my Bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages in Milan in 2013, I was truly obsessed with the idea of leaving Italy behind at least for a while and make an experience abroad with the excuse of improving my level of English.
So I decided to take the big leap, exit my comfort zone and I never regretted it! I didn’t know that this was just the first step of a thousand miles!
How to go abroad alone with no savings and no friends
When I took my decision, I had two main problems to consider:
1. How to live abroad without having money aside?
2. How to move to a country where you don’t know anyone ?
There are different options you can chose from: You can look on Airbnb searching for a private room or flat. It is a way to start living like a local in the country, get to know the language, people’s culture and habits giving you the time to look for a job (which is much easier once you are already there available to attend interviews). You can use the Couchsurfing group to stay for free for a few days at someone’s place and share your life and travel stories in exchange of people’s hospitality and advice.
You can start working as Au-pair in a host family. Aupairworld.com is a great way to find a family looking for someone to take care of their children. You get the opportunity to talk with them beforehand and see if you could be a good match. It is a great opportunity to improve the language having at the same time an accommodation, food and a small salary. You will have time to make new friends, travel during the weekends or with the family and create friendships that will last a lifetime.
You can also volunteer in exchange of accommodation and food (sometimes you get slightly paid) in any country you like. You can find your host or job opportunity on websites such as Workaway.info or Worldbackpackers.com and many others.
I chose the Aupair option and I ended up in Wales, more precisely in the welcoming Cardiff city. Initially I was supposed to go to Edinburgh since living in Scotland is another big dream of mines still on my list, then I hesitated towards the green emerald Ireland, but I believe everything happens for a reason and a series of circumstances threw me in Wales so here is where I met my partner =).
I stayed there for about seven months and I swore to myself to come back and live permanently in UK. I left the country with a very heavy heart being already under the irresistible rough charm of the “Perfidious Albion” and planning to return here.
As promised, I managed to come back after one year living in Paris, and this time I settled in the gorgeous UNESCO listed Roman city of Bath, famous for its thermal waters (you guessed it from the name) and for its outstanding Regency buildings.
Both Cardiff and Bath hold a piece of my heart and I will always cherish my memories here and remember with fondness the three years spent in this alluring country.
Positive and negative sides of living in the UK
Great things about living in the UK:
- Unique Natural Setting and Wildlife: something I don’t manage to find anywhere else in the world for now, it is the close relationship of local people with nature. As soon as you leave the city centre, cities are surrounded by woods, parks, nature trails and picture perfect scenery that help you unwind and re-establish our connection with nature. Picnics and barbecue in parks or by rivers and lakes is one of the favourite activities of locals! I used to live in Bath city centre and yet I was surrounded by parks rich with wildlife: squirrels and birds would come to see me on my balcony everyday, foxes, seagulls and badgers would trash my garbage every night frightening me to death, rats are common flatmates at the end of winter…you never feel alone! And yet I miss all the British wildlife every single day!
- Finding Careers Opportunities more easily than anywhere else in Europe. One of the reasons UK receives so many expats from south of Europe is the fact that here you will have the opportunity to get some work experience and you will be given the chance to proof your value with or without a certificate or previous work experience. UK is considered for this reason (rightly or not) the new “America” for people looking for a job or trying to take their careers to the next step..
- Learning English: English is the language that everyone gives for granted, but it’s actually hard work to learn the correct pronunciation and be fluent! Being in the UK gives the opportunity to Europeans to live and study in an anglophone country without going to the other side of the world.
- International Atmosphere: if you chose to move to a young and university city like I did you will meet plenty of people coming from across the world and you won’t have time to feel lonely or get bored! Couch-surfing meeting or Au pair gatherings, meetup events are the perfect occasions to practise a language and meet people with the same interests and similar stories.
- Great Live Music and Festivals: GB is the best country to enjoy live music in breweries, pubs, festival, concerts, performances in the streets and in my humble opinion it is great music and bands don’t necessarily need to be famous to be able to play and let people have a good time while sipping some pint of beer or cider. Among the best festival not to be missed I should mention the Glastonbury Music Festival, the Isle of White Festival, Woodstock Festival, Stonehenge Summer Solstice Festival and many more!
- International Dining Places: UK is dotted with many different international restaurants, you are truly spoilt with choice: Italian, French brasseries, Spanish tapas, Thai, Japanese, Indian, Greek, Turkish, Irish and British pubs, and many more allowing to your stomach to taste the world’s best dishes without even travelling!
Negative aspects to consider while moving to UK:
- The Cost of Life: UK is one of the most expensive places to live. Many adults still live in flat sharing until they are 40 or 50, spending around 500-600 Sterling per person for a room in a shared house all bills included which I think is a lot. Obviously it depends on the city you choose, but unless you are in a couple or earn a lot you won’t be able to live on your own. Fruit, meat and cheese are pretty expensive too in supermarkets.
- The Poor Health Service: the NHS is famous for offering poor diagnosis and treatments and barely no prevention exams due to its debts and under staffing problems, so you better go to an expensive private clinic or subscribe to an additional private health cover to avoid being in troubles when you need medical assistance the most. This is my personal opinion based on my experience and those of my friends.
- Whimsical Weather: the weather is unpredictable due to the currents and winds coming from the ocean, so in the same day you could see the four seasons one after the other: remember to always have an umbrella in your bag! The weather is what most discourage travellers to move here since British summers barely reach temperatures above 20°! They probably don’t know that after the rain, the sun always shine and the British landscape will surprise you with the brightness of its evergreen lawn, the colours of the beautiful flowers in spring and some extremely rare but hot day during summer where you can even bath in the sea. English nature knows how to pay you back with its wild landscapes and unexpected beauty. Sometimes the rain adds on that cosy feeling and even enhance the attractiveness of this country!
Best Places to Visit from a Local Perspective
During the years spent in Great Britain, I took the chance to travel as much as I could during the weekends and spend most of my holidays doing wonderful road trip in this fascinating country. I hope you will find my travel tips useful and that they will inspire to explore this mysterious and legendary country thanks to my local experience.
I will take you through the capital of Wales, Cardiff with its stunning castle, the Victorian arcades, the easy going and university vibes in the brewery and pubs, the rugby stadium, the stunning parks and the lively marina filled with restaurants, bars and great cycle paths to the nearby posh Penarth.
From here there are many day trips and weekend options such as hiking the majestic Pen-Y-Fan mountain, visit the mythical Forest of Dean, see the fairy-tale Castle Coch, explore the traditional Caerphilly village and medieval castle, hike the outstanding Brecon Beacon National Park and its waterfalls, stroll along the sandy beaches of Swansea or Barry Island tasting some fish and chips at the seafront shops. the multiple awarded Rhossili Bay in the wild Gower Peninsula, Tenby the colourful fishing village, gardens and manors.
We will move from the green and wild Wales to England to find about the legends, spa and the Roman history of the wealthy Bath located at the bottom of the stunning Costwolds National park, its best hikes and cycling paths, to the most quintessential British villages (Castle Combe, Box, Bradford upon Avon, Bibury, Colerne etc.) , gardens and manors surrounding the area.
I will probably mention many places you didn’t even know they existed in UK and for this reason they will surprise you even more: the Cheddar Gorges caves and trails, the mysterious and alternative Glastonbury village and tales, the Stonehenge stone circle, one of the seven World Marvels, Bristol an ex slave trading city, Wells or the smallest village of England, Oxford with its beautiful university, parks and film settings, Salisbury‘s pretty Medieval town and cathedral, watch the Punch and Judy’s show on the Weymouth‘s golden beach on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset and hike from the scenic Durdle Door to the turquoise’s waters of Lulworth Cove.
From here let me guide you through the best week-end ideas: the Dartmoore National Park legends, wild horses and views, the historic dockyards of Portsmouth, the isolated and rough Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel, a great place to see seals and puffins, Brighton‘s seaside resort and quirky shops, the legendary Warwick Castle and village and the Shakespeare’s village, Stratford upon Avon, a paradise for books and theatre lovers! A weekend in London is always a good idea, there is always something to do and to discover in this cosmopolitan never-sleeping capital.
Living in UK, I had the chance to find very cheap flight deals to go to Jersey Island, a surprising micro climate and flora characterise this island located in the British Channel or explore Edinburgh in Scotland, and old dark Gothic city with a lively and welcoming spirit and pop to Stirling Castle, the city of the legendary Scottish war chief William Wallace.
One of the best road trips I have ever done is the one in Cornwall: starting with the cobbled and steep harbour village of Clovelly in Devon, we headed south and stopped by the mythical Tintangel Castle linked to King Arthur legends, then Boscastle, the village of witchcraft, continued towards Newquay the surfing city, stopping in the stunning St. Ives the artists’ town populated by seals and surfers, then we made time to see the scenic Minack Theatre built on a cliff, continuing the journey to the Lizard’s point observatory and its rough beautiful beaches, St. Micheal’s Mount the castle built on a tiny island, Penzance the capital of pirates, the lush Trebah Gardens, Salcombe‘s outstanding Devon coastal views and beaches finishing up in the picturesque Dartmouth on the Dart estuary in Devon.
Living in the UK is one of the most enriching experience you will ever do and I recommend you to live there once in your lifetime (even if with Brexit it will be more complicated, at least for Europeans)! But don’t let this discourage you or divert your journey somewhere else: all the fuss and paperwork will be totally worth it!