After living in Amsterdam for 6 years, I decided to quit my decent-paying, secure, stable job and move to the UK. When some people want to spice up their life they switch from decaf to regular coffee, not me. I toyed with the idea of London (too expensive and my main goal was to live alone) and Cambridge (small and it didn’t seem like there were many jobs) when I finally decided on the badass city of Edinburgh. Instead of moving to another Dutch city or going through the hell of finding an apartment in Amsterdam, I decided to just move countries. Easy peasy (NOT). My thought process was:
- I wanted to grow in my work (adulting pretty hard obviously) and not speaking fluent Dutch hindered that at my company
- Amsterdam rent is off-the-charts insanely expensive (if I had someone to split rent with, I could have managed but alas, it is not in the cards)
- There is no supply of housing in Amsterdam (I looked for 2.5 months last time to find a place and ended up sleeping in a bunk bed)
- I have always wanted to try my hand at living in the UK. Cider is yummy.
Since I am dramatic, I arrived on January 31, 2020. THE day of Brexit. It happened to coincide with the day my Amsterdam apartment contract was ending so maybe not shave-your-head dramatic. I had subscribed to the UK Government update emails and they said all EU/EEA citizens would have until Dec 2020 to register for pre-settlement status via an app. Then everything would be the same (rights-wise) for EU/EEA citizens during that transition period. It now seems that there will be a points system in place for workers as of next year (2021) but since I am here now, it should be all good? But who really knows.
I had/ have no job lined up (I applied to maybe 15 jobs between November 2019- January 2020 while still in Amsterdam and nothing came of it so I thought I would just wing it. I took a similar approach to the whole apartment thing. Cue me crying in my Airbnb bed two days after I arrived in Edinburgh…
I had one suitcase shipped with Send My Bag to my Airbnb. I don’t know if I would recommend it or not. Did my bag get there? Yes. Were all my belongings inside with no damage to the suitcase? Yes. But since they give you a 10-hour window of when the bag will be picked up, you need to clear your schedule for the day. If you miss the delivery truck, it’s game over. They picked my bag up on a Thursday at 17:35 (making me 40 minutes late for my own work party) and it was delivered on the following Tuesday afternoon to my Airbnb in Haymarket, Edinburgh. Keep in mind, the contents when using Send My Bag can only be clothing, shoes and books. I wasn’t even allowed to have an air cushion since they may flag it at customs. On the plus side, it was cheap when compared to airline check-in fees and I didn’t have to lug a massive suitcase along with two other bags across Scotland.
Other than the suitcase being shipped, I had one large travel backpack (that I checked in with EasyJet for 30 euros) and a smaller carry-on bag with me when boarding the place. Everything I own fits into one suitcase and a large backpack. I told people I am a minimalist when in reality I am very, very stingy. Originally, my mom was going to help me move countries but she ditched me, so I did it by myself. Other than my wonderful coworker who helped by driving me to the Amsterdam airport.
I went with Giff Gaff since I could order a SIM while I was still in Amsterdam, so when I arrived in the UK, it was all set up. No complaints so far.
I booked an Airbnb for 2 weeks when I first arrived (Jan 31- Feb 14), hoping that it was enough time to find an apartment. It was, luckily. Two weeks before I arrived I looked on Zoopla, On The Market, CityLets and LettingWeb to arrange viewings. Some property management websites allowed for booking viewings online: Umega, Southside Properties are a few that come to mind. Some properties were taken by the time I arrived but more popped up as I kept looking during my first week. I had about 10 apartment viewings during my first week. Much, much better than the 0 in two months that I had in Amsterdam. One thing that was not humourous in any way shape or form was the day I arrived, I received a phone call from a real estate agent. After informing her I didn’t have a job, she was rude and dismissed me as a potential client and even had the nerve to tell me I would never find an apartment without a job. I was crushed, to say the least. She ended up calling me back 8 minutes later saying that she was too hasty and never fully asked if I could pay rent upfront (which I could) or if I could have a guarantor (which I had). I had mentioned that to her in my first conversation but she had already dismissed me so she wasn’t really listening. It was all too Pretty Woman for my liking. For anyone who is deciding to uproot their life by being an idiot/genius/undecided with life like me, then I will tell you now, it is totally possible to get an apartment without a job in Edinburgh, Scotland. You will probably need to pay 6 months’ rent upfront, and/ or have a guarantor but you will get an apartment. I got mine through Southside Property Management. They deal with shared [student] accommodation so maybe that is why they are more open with people who don’t have a job. The company that treated me like shit when I was in a very fragile state, was Colinton Lettings. Avoid them like the plague (too soon?).
After 10 viewings, I was able to find a place of my own. With Southside, it takes about 2 weeks to get through the paperwork. My application was somewhat expedited since the property was rented at first but then the person backed out at the last minute.
There was one property I liked more, but everyone at the viewing had jobs so I knew I wouldn’t get it.
One tip from a real estate agent was that if you have looked (10 properties is a lot) then just pick one. There will always be something better located but it will be gone quickly. The place will never be perfect but since you’re not buying it, it doesn’t matter as long as it ticks some of your boxes. My place is nice, noisy and cold but I managed to sign the papers and move in on the day I checked out of my Airbnb, which saved me money.
I then took an Uber from my Airbnb to my new, furnished place with my three pieces of luggage.
In Scotland, you need to pay council tax, which includes water, rubbish collection and water maintenance. It is pricey but if you are living alone, you can get a 25% discount. You need to phone them to get a council tax number, and then they send you a letter. This letter can be your proof of address (which I still haven’t received), it is your ticket to opening up a bank account and registering at a doctor’s office.
Internet will take two weeks to set up, I think this is still true even if you go with the same supplier as the previous tenant. There are a few comparison websites that I used. The original (cheapest) choice only accepted direct deposit, which only works if you have a UK bank. So I went with the second cheapest that allowed (foreign) credit cards. Two weeks without internet was rough but I ended up getting a free library card and sitting in the Central Library reference section, using the free WiFi to look for jobs.
I still haven’t been able to switch my energy supplier since I need a direct deposit for that one as well. I was going to go with Bulb. My life never goes smoothly so it was to be expected, I guess.
In order to work, you will need a National Insurance Number (NIN). You need to first call them, then they will send you a letter by post (so make sure you have an address). It took about 4 days for the letter to arrive. You then need to go to the nearest Job Center, the one in Leith (199 Commercial St) is apparently the closest in Edinburgh. But when I went for a walk near the old town, I saw a Job Center, so maybe the one in Leith is less busy or something. You bring the documents specified in the mailed letter and someone interviews you. Why you’re here? Are you legally allowed to be? etc. Then you need to wait up to two months to see if you got accepted. They will send you a letter by post. I received mine a month and a bit later on the day I left for Canada.
As long as you are legally allowed to work, you can start without having a NIN. But since the appointments will be during work hours, it doesn’t hurt to do it while you’re unemployed.
I have been applying for jobs, solidly for 3 weeks and I managed to get one interview so far. If you’re on a working holiday visa type scheme and are only looking for hospitality work or something similar, I have seen heaps of signs around the city in windows, so I am sure that has a pretty quick turnaround when applying for those types of jobs.
There are some recruiters. One from Hays helped push my CV out there but don’t hold your breath for miracles, you will still have to apply on your own.
My Thoughts So Far
I have had a few meltdowns for sure. The whole, why the hell did I decide to do this!?
The UK, food-wise, is more expensive than The Netherlands but it is mostly due to the exchange rate. I shop at Lidl, any other supermarket is definitely more expensive than the most expensive Dutch supermarket, Albert Heijn.
The weather is slightly colder than in Amsterdam but I feel like Amsterdam gets more rain. Although, the wind here is deadly. I was advised to sell my Dutch bike and not bring it with me here and I am glad I listened. Walking (or busing) is how everyone gets around in Edinburgh. There are two bus apps that are kind of rubbish but one allows you to buy tickets (Lothian Buses m-tickets) and for transport times (Transport for Edinburgh Bus and Tram). There is a minimum order amount for tickets though. If you choose to use a foreign debit card “tap” feature on the bus instead of a ticket through the app or cash, you will notice a 20-pound hold fee that gets reimbursed on your card a couple days later, so no need to panic like I did. Keep in mind, it is one ticket per bus journey, there are no “tickets are valid for X amount of time”. You may be better off buying a day ticket if you have multiple buses on your journey.
The COVID virus threw a massive wrench in my plans, although I still hadn’t found a job about looking for a month and a half. It hit the UK hard, shutting down the schools at least until September meant that I wouldn’t get a job in education so I ended up going to Canada to be with the fam and to save some money. Luckily, I could get some of my pre-paid rent back. I had to waste a month’s rent since my landlord required a 1-month notice, so that was balls.
Thanks COVID, you A HOLE.