13 Challenges You Face As An Expat In The UK

Moving to another country is a challenge on its own – new city, new people, new language in some cases… but what about all those challenges that kicks you out of your comfort zone once you land in your new final destination? It takes time to overcome those challenges and make yourself comfortable. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, certain things follow you around all the time. I don’t like when people move abroad and complain how life in a certain country is harder for them. Poor you, wipe your tears & move on. The fact is that each country is set up to make their own people comfortable and if you want to live somewhere else than your motherland, you have to adapt and learn new things.I think I did a pretty good job adapting to the UK culture, however, when I look back 5 years ago and remember my trip to Newcastle with 4 suitcases, a backpack on my shoulders and American English language skills… I had a good few challenges to overcome.

Challenge 1. Tea is not always what you think it is

So we all think that we know what tea means, right? Wrong! In some parts of the UK, tea can mean dinner, whilst dinner can mean lunch. Confusing, innit? But now you know if someone is asking if you had a tea, they might not necessarily mean a cup of tea.

Challenge 2. Best wishes XX

Many of us know what xx at the end of a message means. In the UK, people put xx on everything. Whether it is your friend, boyfriend, tutor, boss at work, they all like to send kisses to each other. Imagine my face when I got a first one from a colleague at work that I just started, thinking ‘OMG, does he like me? Will it be uncomfortable next time I’m at work? Should I mention it?’ So don’t get your hopes up if you get some kisses when you are here, people don’t mean it. What if they do? It’s a pretty tough job to find that out!

Challenge 3. Public Transport

Public transport is never on time in the UK. Okay, maybe not all the time but most of the time. Whether it’s a bus, a train or a metro, it likes to be late. And don’t get surprised if you find out that your train to someplace is cancelled because ‘crew were not available’. They don’t need big excuses to be late or cancelled.

Recently a brand new super fast kinda train was presented in the UK and guess what? It was 40 mins late on its launch day. You get what I mean.

Challenge 4. No plug sockets in bathrooms

I still remember the first time I came to the UK and tried to plug my hair dryer into the electric razor socket. God dammit, it was not working! They say it is for safety reasons so you wouldn’t electrocute yourself. So if you are like me who are used to doing their hair in the bathroom, you will have to change your habits – there’s no plug sockets in bathrooms in the UK, sorry mate.

Challenge 5. Washing machines in the kitchen

In many UK homes you will find a washing machine nowhere else but in the kitchen. Weird, I know. I can look after my oven and the washing machine at the same time so I guess it’s a win-win situation unless my laundry smells like a roast chicken…

Challenge 6. Red Light does not exist 

Red light basically doesn’t exist in the UK. If you stand waiting for a light to change, most likely you are the only one doing it or there’s a few newbies in town who are doing it with you. Locals never wait for a light to change, unless they have kids, and they cross the street any time they feel appropriate. Even if it’s middle of the night, they had a few drinks too many and the car is about two steps away from them. Don’t be that bore who waits for the green light! (joking, of course, do not cross the street or listen to me at any point of this post)Challenge 7. British slang

And there’s a lot of it ladies & gentlemen! Mint, cheeky, gutted, knackered, skint, steaming, bugger off… don’t worry if you don’t know what any of this means, it’s fine. I promise you can still live, talk and have a conversation with someone without it. It might cause some funny and confusing situations but you will get over it. I remember when I went into one of my first restaurants in the UK and the toilets said ‘Lads & Lasses‘ on them without any pictures, explanations or any other clues that would help me decide if I go left or right. So if you ever find yourself in this situation, lads means men & lasses means women. You’re welcome.

Challenge 8. You alright is a greeting, not a question

It’s not a surprise that in the UK people like to be friendly, even if they don’t mean it. They will always smile and ask if you are alright. If you hear this in Britain, ‘you alright’ is a greeting, not a question. No one expects you to answer it… don’t start a long solo-speech of how you, your family, your relatives are doing, no one is listening.

Challenge 9. Carpets, carpets everywhere

In many houses, apartments, student accommodations in the UK people like to use carpets. They are in corridors, living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms, everywhere. Hands up who’s got a carpet in their flat/house? I refused to live in one! Finding a flat with no carpets was a challenge on its own because everyone for some sort of unknown reason love carpets. In my personal opinion, bugs love living under the carpet, especially when you cannot move it or fully clean out.

Challenge 10. Driving on the left-hand side

I have been driving in a few different countries before moving to the UK, however, all countries use right-hand system. In Britain, you have the joys of driving on the left-hand side. Ain’t nothing wrong with that at all, only the fact that you will get lost, confused, scared, shocked and sweaty when you’ll drive out on the WRONG side of the road thinking you are doing a great job. I still get into situations when I catch myself unintentionally wanting to turn into the wrong lane & I have to constantly think about it before I put the volume up of my favourite song.

Challenge 11. Queuing

Never ever try to beat a British person in a queuing championship, you are going to be a sore loser. I’ve never seen a country where people queue so patiently and so in line like they do it in Britain. Absolute perfection! And if you ever try to beat the queue, be ready for a fight, like you are the target of the Hunger Games. RUN or don’t do it!

Challenge 12. Chip butty

Yes, it is real. It’s not made up or only shown in movies, people in the UK actually eat a chip sandwich. A sandwich made with chips (French fried potatoes) on buttered white or brown bread or a bun. Delicious? I would rather say interesting and very, very weird.

Challenge 13. See you later

See you later or never ever again? No matter if you are buying your morning cup of tea or coffee, shopping for a weekly fridge top-up or saying goodbye to your beloved one, most people say ‘see you later‘ as a goodbye. It works in some cases, while in others it gets rather confusing. Why a lady from my corner-shop wants to see me later? Is she going to follow me? I started using it myself (how dare you)… but still wonder what if I never ever see you again? That’s a bit disappointing, innit?

Have you ever lived or are living abroad and had to face similar challenges? Every country is different and I absolutely love those moments that throws you out of your comfort zone. Share it with me!If you would like to find out more about my travels, please don’t hesitate to follow me on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook !