United Kingdom

5 Days of Summer: The Downsides to Living in the United Kingdom

July 17, 2017
downsides living in united kingdom

We all scream for ice cream and even just a tiny bit of sun in Brighton.

The United Kingdom is a fantastic country, in so many ways. It’s beautiful, it has an incomprehensibly rich history and there’s far too much to see and do there. You’d need a lifetime and then some to truly experience everything it has to offer.

Although the UK is a fantastic place to visit, living there is an entirely different kettle of fish. No country is perfect after all (my own drives me barmy on a regular basis) and the UK is no exception.

From weird weather, to Brexit – an almost non-existent summer and general ongoing concern over the worsening state of your liver, there are a few downsides to living in the United Kingdom. Mostly though, you’ll probably find yourself living a particularly charmed and exciting life.

Related: Expensive Isolation: The Downsides to Living in Australia

downsides living in united kingdom

Actual blue skies in South East London.

The weather is… odd

British weather isn’t really as bad as everyone says it is… yet I still wouldn’t describe it as being great.

The biggest issue I have with it is how easily it chops and changes. The day can start out brilliantly sunny, then suddenly a wind will pick up, in come the clouds and before you know it, it’s raining and you’ve forgotten your umbrella. All I ask for is a little consistency.

That being said, the weather in the UK is incredibly mild, so that when something unexpected happens it’s all anyone can talk about. As an Australian, I was greatly amused by the reception of a heatwave in London… 35°C and everyone is freaking out, handing out bottles of water on the streets (let’s not think about the plastic waste involved there) and telling people to avoid the Tube at all costs. To be fair that’s good advice as it’s hotter than Hades down there even in the middle of winter.

Speaking of summer – it lasts for roughly 3-5 days of the year

When the weather is good in Britain, it is damn good. Beautiful, sunny, cloudless days, with 25°C being considered a hot temperature. The days are long, the nights are short and there’s a positive vibe within the air.

Unfortunately, summer in the UK is if anything, fleeting. It sometimes won’t choose to hit until around July and you’ll be lucky to get more than 2 or 3 good days in a row, and maybe 5 hot days all up.

I’ll never get over hearing people talking about swapping out their winter coats for their summer equivalent… but in the UK, it’s a completely normal thing.

downsides living in united kingdom

Edinburgh Castle, being all moody and mysterious.

And winter can seem never-ending

I like winter. A lot… Or so I thought. Turns out I like Australian winters, which are still relatively warm and sunny and can supply you with a generous ten hours of light a day.

Moving to London in the month of October was quite possibly the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. The weather quickly turned grey and miserable, it rained every day and the daylight was quick to diminish to the point where I was convinced I was suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). As a solar-powered Aussie, I felt I was at my lowest point ever – simply due to the lack of Vitamin D in my life.

I didn’t start feeling better until around April, when the weather began clearing up and the sun made an appearance again. I have never been so appreciative of the summer season.

Related: 17 Reasons Why Australia is an Amazing Country to Live In

The trains will often stop running for no reason

I think it’s safe to say that the trains in Britain – while brilliant when all is running smoothly – have the potential to drive any sane person completely around the bend.

The slightest change in the weather – snow, leaves on the tracks, the sun shining too bright in drivers eyes – will cause pandemonium across the network. My area was unfortunately serviced by Southern Rail, who were notorious for cancelling trains at the last moment. This was caused by friction between the union and the company itself over whether drivers or conductors were to close the train doors, which seems incredibly petty from an outside perspective.

On the upside, at least the next train is generally under fifteen minutes away… unlike in Melbourne, where’s you’ll be stuck on the platform for the next twenty minutes to half hour.

downsides living in united kingdom

Although I wouldn’t be too bothered if this were my ride.

And driving can be upsetting

I don’t really know anyone who drives in London and from the minimal driving I did outside of the capital, I was happy to avoid it. There was a lot of congestion, with whole motorways turned into temporary parking lots, which is the opposite of what’s meant to happen.

Added to that the fact that the speed along the motorways seemed to be assumed knowledge – not once did I see a sign letting me know how fast (or slow) I could drive. I kept to a speed that was certainly below the limit, because everyone took great pleasure in whizzing past me (it’s 70 mph on morotways, for the record. I KNOW THIS NOW).

South London drivers in particular are quite possibly the rudest, angriest people I’ve ever had the misfortune of encountering on the road. I had a van pull out in front of me once, without any warning. As he was in the wrong and I’d nearly hit him, I beeped him. Rather than being apologetic, he aggressively beeped back at me and gave me a death stare as he drove away. I feared for my life.

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Eating out is expensive

I liked eating out in London, but my bank account didn’t.

A meal with a drink could cost anywhere between £20-30 and that is just for your most basic of feeds. In Australia, I pay about the same but in dollars, which I find to be a far more reasonable price.

I thought this was just a “holy heck is London the most expensive city in the world or what” type thing, but I can’t say the food got any cheaper anywhere else I went in the UK.

I would eat out 2-3 times a week when I lived in Sydney, but in London it became a sometimes treat.

downsides living in united kingdom

All the craft beer you ever hoped for.

Your liver will never be the same again

Drinking is heavily ingrained in British culture. I’ve been told that Australians are big drinkers my entire life, but trust me – we’ve got nothing on the Brits.

Pub culture in Britain can be broken down as such:

Is it sunny? Good. Go to the pub.
Is it raining? Oh well. Go to the pub.
Is work over? Yes. Go to the pub.
Do you have the day off? Excellent. Go to the pub.
Hanging with friends? Meet at the pub.
Bored and lonely? Go to the pub.

And so on and so forth.

Considering the average price for pint of beer in the UK is around 4 quid – can you blame anyone?

All I know is that my time in London turned me into a social drinker. My liver may never recover.

Related: What NOT to Do When Visiting the United Kingdom

Brexit

Life in Britain changed monumentally after the Brexit referendum and in London at least, the vibe was quite bleak.

This is a period of great uncertainty for the country – no one knows what will happen, nor how the results of the vote will affect those who call it home. Many residents are sure to be negatively affected by the changes, but by how much exactly, no one is entirely sure of.

Services don’t always work as you’d hope they would

I think this is a problem that is beginning to escalate worldwide (certainly in Australia at least), but I first really noticed it in Britain.

Customer service is generally poor to non-existent, which is particularly irritating when eating out in London (most places have a 12.5% service charge and you’ll feel like you’re contributing money to a practise that doesn’t actually exist).

British bureaucracy is an utter nightmare to navigate. For example, I needed to open a bank account when I first moved to the UK, in order to get paid. I was living with my Aunty at the time and wasn’t able to open one without proof of address, with the bank refusing all the options that I currently had. I couldn’t move out and so get my hands on a tenancy agreement until I got paid, I couldn’t get paid without a bank account – do you see my problem here? I ended up having to get my bank in Australia to send a statement to my current address, which they finally accepted.

And asking for something as simple as having an item you’ve paid for delivered on time turns into the biggest thing in the world. How anyone gets anything done ever, I have no idea.

downsides living in united kingdom

Enjoying a fleeting moment of peace in Cambridge.

You’re never alone

This was probably the thing about living in the UK which bugged me the most. I come from Australia, a country where the population density is 3 people per square kilometre. The UK’s in contrast, is 269. There’s quite the difference, right there (although to be fair… Australia is a helluva lot bigger).

Everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by people. It’s nearly impossible to find yourself alone.

On top of that, there is certainly a vibe of “Big Brother is watching you”. The UK has one of the largest totals of CCTV cameras in the world, at an estimated 4-5.9 million.

The UK government is also intent on implementing extreme surveillance laws, regarding the data-collection of everyday citizens.

It may be more than 30 years later than Orwell first predicated, but as time goes on, 1984 seems to be more and more of a reality in Britain.

You can easily spend all your time in London

There’s so much to do in London, it can become a little overwhelming. There’s always some new show, festival, restaurant, exhibition. It’s a massive, sprawling city, rich in history. You could spend a lifetime there and never run out of things to do.

The downside of this is that there is plenty of other interesting things going on elsewhere, all over Britain. This can be hard to appreciate when you’re stuck in the London bubble.

Related: Offbeat Tours in London: See a Different Side of the UK’s Capital

downsides living in united kingdom

Maybe a farmhouse in Wales would do the trick.

It’s quite hard to settle on where to live

I ultimately decided to spend my time living in London (gotta go where the work is and all that), but I considered packing up and moving daily, simply because there were so many other cities around the country that I loved. Bristol, Brighton, York and Margate all seemed particularly pleasing and I would have happily packed up shop to go spend a few months living in Edinburgh or Glasgow and getting a taste of Scottish life.

Each city seemed so varied and different and like the Pokémaster I fancied myself to be at age 10, I wanted to catch them all.

You’ll spend all your money on travel

Britain is conveniently situated pretty much smack bang in the middle of the world, making it ideal for travelling. Add onto that the fact that you can often nab flights to Europe for next to nothing (I’m talking Ryanair sales with £1 flights) and you’ll find it very difficult to not take off at any given opportunity.

On top of that, the UK does of course consist of 4 different countries, which are each worth visiting in their own right. You don’t have to leave the country’s shores to go off and have a good time somewhere new and exciting (unless of course, you’re going to Nth. Ireland).

Good luck saving any money whilst living in the UK. That’s all I have to say on the subject.

downsides living in united kingdom

But I want to stand here and look out at the Giant’s Causeway FOREVER.

If you’re on a visa, you’ll eventually have to leave

And here’s the most heartbreaking thing. If you’re in the UK for a good time, not a long time – eventually you’ll have to leave.

This is undoubtably one of the hardest aspects of expat life. Citizens of countries such as Australia, NZ and Canada are allowed to stay for up to two years, which is plenty of time to get used to a place, to really have it start feeling like home.

Once those 24 months are over, you pretty much have one option – pack up your life and move back home, or onto a new destination if you’re a serial expat.

Are you from the UK, or have you spent a long stretch of time living there? Do you agree with my points?

Opps, I pinned it again.

Britain is pretty awesome, but no place is perfect. Here are some downsides to living in the United Kingdom - I hope you weren't too fond of your liver.

Britain is pretty awesome, but no place is perfect. Here are some downsides to living in the United Kingdom - I hope you weren't too fond of your liver.
Britain is pretty awesome, but no place is perfect. Here are some downsides to living in the United Kingdom - I hope you weren't too fond of your liver.
Britain is pretty awesome, but no place is perfect. Here are some downsides to living in the United Kingdom - I hope you weren't too fond of your liver.

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12 Comments

  • Reply Rhiannon July 17, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I would like to contest “the trains will stop running for no reason”. Not sure how it is in England, but in Wales we have plenty of solid reason for the trains to stop – sheep on the track, tree on the track, family of ducks on the track, flooding on the tracks and so on and so forth.
    Your Uk posts are my favourites because they make me laugh as they’re so spot on its embarrassing!

    • Reply LC July 18, 2017 at 1:41 am

      Haha that’s like when you’re driving in rural Australia and you might encounter a “traffic jam” – because a bunch of cows are crossing the road. Cheers Rhiannon, they’re fun to write!

  • Reply Rosie July 17, 2017 at 10:27 am

    All of these points are absolutely brilliant – especially the pub saga. (Guilty.) Southern Rail is in a league of its own when it comes to train cancellations, though the rail network definitely isn’t designed to cope with adverse weather! (My usual four and a half hour train journey to visit my boyfriend once took double that due to an incy wincy layer of snow on the tracks.) British weather definitely leaves a lot to be desired come summer – it was roasting the weekend before last, then there were downpours the following day. Bonkers!

    • Reply LC July 18, 2017 at 1:42 am

      Haha yes, at least winter is mostly consistent with its grey days. That being said, the first time I visited London was in a January years ago and there were brilliantly blue skies. I fell in love straight away and didn’t realise until years later that I’d been sold a lie!
      The trains are ridiculous and delays like that make me so angry, especially when you consider how much the service costs to use.

  • Reply Katie July 17, 2017 at 7:01 pm

    I agree with most of this but I found it more expensive to eat out in Sydney than London – in fact I found everything more expensive there. I moved to Sydney after living in London for years and was continuously shocked by the high prices in Sydney. Not that I think London is cheap either though

    • Reply LC July 17, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      Haha I grew up in Sydney so I guess you have to know where to go 😜

  • Reply Danik July 17, 2017 at 8:36 pm

    “On top of that, the UK does of course consist of 4 different countries” – ouch! Countries! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! You mean territories of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. England, Wales, Scotland and NI are all territories and not countries. Ouch 😛 (and I am a local, who does see England as a country but in real terms we are a territory and have to respect that) . 😀

    My liver is kinda fine but lucky I dont go to the pub here. I do that when I travel as British people are boring buggers (well, when I go to the bar that is, all they talk about is BREXIT, I dont give a dam as nothing is going to happen, its a divorce, get over it people) 😀

    • Reply LC July 17, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      If I follow proper country classification and lump them together, people get upset at me. I’ve heard Scotland, Wales and England described as “countries of the United Kingdom” – that seems to be terminology that works out fine for everyone!

  • Reply Ashley July 18, 2017 at 3:30 am

    Nodded my head in agreement with every point! (And yet reading this still made me miss living in the UK)

    • Reply LC July 19, 2017 at 11:12 pm

      Writing this made me miss it too!

  • Reply Mel | The Wandering Darlings July 19, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    As a fellow Aussie who’s lives in the U.K. For the last 11 years I can completely agree with these. I opted for Bristol rather than London and so glad I did. My friends that lived in London had such a different experience to me. I did a post recently about the differences of a uk summer and Aussie summer. We both drew on lots of similarities. Enjoyed this!!

    • Reply LC July 19, 2017 at 11:15 pm

      I often wonder what it would be like to live elsewhere in the UK – Bristol is a city I fell for straight away and I think life there would be pretty grand. Glad you made the right decision and thanks for your comment, Mel.

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