HAPPY 1 YEAR TO ME!
Yes it’s already over a year that I have been living in the Kingdom. A YEAR! Time flies so fast that it is ridiculous. I have been super busy lately and, to be honest, have not felt like writing. Not that I don’t enjoy it any more but I simply have not had time to do much fun stuff to write about. Now I am BACK, though. I decided to dedicate this post to THE UNITED KINGDOM and give you my honest opinion about the stay so far.
I have written bits and bobs here and there in the past but I figured I am missing an overview for people who might really consider living, studying, working here. I actually got this idea already back in October at my school reunion when people asked me about UK and few of them were seriously considering coming here.
First of all, the most important thing- food. In one of my previous posts I wrote about the packaging craziness and processed food obsession they have. By a coincidence I now live near an organic shop and my opinion of local eating habits has slightly changed. Not all the people eat that processed thing they call food. A small grocery shop, UNICORN, is the cutest shop I have ever seen. Yes, you have to pay a penny or 2 extra to eat organic and clean food but let me tell you, the taste is worth it. I have even noticed that it is cheaper to buy diary free things from there than from supermarkets and the shop is constantly fairly busy, to be honest. Not just it is super simple for vegans and vegetarians to find veg substitutes but you get the best possible quality. I do not consider myself as a vegan but I do eat mostly vegan at home (in UK). Oh you didn’t know? Well this is a long story and I need a separate post for just my eating habits and lifestyle now. All you need to know right now is that there are very good options in big cities like Manchester to eat well. What is more, the amazing shop Unicorn Grocery, has always a box of veges for free. That means people who maybe cannot afford even basic food can take salad material just for free. How amazing is that?! In my opinion all supermarkets should have that option. Not just that there would be less starving and hunger but big chains would throw away less food.
What is next… Oh, transportation. Unlike the opinion about food, this has not changed. If anything, it has gone even worse. I do not drive or use public transportation in Manchester because it is simply too slow and expensive. I have an old bike here and I cycle to work, gym, school, shop, where ever I need to go. Unfortunately, I must admit I have had quite a few accidents here already. The first ones were back in Reading. I already sensed then that drivers don’t really care about cyclists. Right now when working with patients who have experienced traffic accidents it seems like drivers don’t care about other drivers either. There have been few times that I almost got hit and one time that another cyclist did hit me. Touch the wood (ptuiptuiptui), so far all the “accidents” I have been in were without any injuries or damages. But I am super careful now. I have reflectors everywhere on the bike, on me. I have lights on the bike and a high visibility vest on. I do look like I just got off from the kindergarten but at least I am doing everything I can to be safe. Some cyclists prefer those blinding headlights that in my opinion make the accident risk even higher as it is seriously disturbing for the vision and therefore, you cannot pay proper attention on the surroundings. So, traffic is something that I am not very pleased with. Until you are very careful yourself you should be fine, though. If you are thinking of bringing your own vehicle here then DON’T. We learned it the hard way. Basically if you do not re-register it to UK number plate, the car will be taken and you will be given a certain amount of time to do it. Unfortunately, in real life that cannot be done and as you do not have the registration by the due date they will simply scrap it. So, just don’t bring your own. If you need a car and you don’t have any money problems, buy one here. If you need one for short period of time only and you have money problems, rent it. As simple as that.
Now, the part that probably everyone is wondering about the most. Is the salary and living really better? 2 months ago I started a job in a private practice. As I already had a local experience as a physiotherapist, the interview went smoother- I was confident and less nervous to start a new job. I already knew what they expected and how to manage my time at work. Although, the client base is completely different (from Reading and the Estonian working experience), and I see twice as many patients as for example in Estonia, I feel a lot more appreciated as the salary reflects my hard work. I am not working full time because of the university, I live in a quite expensive house, buy organic food, travel, and am still able to save enough to pay for my Estonian student loan and current university tuition fee. So, in my field I must say I do get more than in my home country (something for Estonian employers to think about). For other fields, as much as I have heard, it seems similar. It might be a little difficult in the beginning but as soon as you have already a local experience to show on your CV (even if it’s short period) you are going to find a job and good salary faster. Of course, it ain’t La-La Land. You need to plan your time, work hard, and have motivation to manage everything. But it is doable. I must admit I have to give half of the credit to my amazing other half who helps out and supports me on the way. I am not sure if I could manage it all alone.
If you are planning to come for just studying then I do highly recommend that. I just finished the first semester of my studies and couldn’t be prouder of myself. If you are Estonian you might be used to good grades but here they expect as much from you as from locals. That means you need to push yourself twice as hard. Your English on paper and on examinations need to be as good as native speaker’s. But don’t worry about English too much, it will improve tremendously while living here. Based on my own experience and my coursemates’ English level, with the level of B2 there should be no language barriers. The only thing is that some universities ask for C1 at least. As a credit for the University of Salford I must admit they give a lot of support and feedback for foreign (and local) students. You have a personal supervisor and one for each module (at least in physio). Whenever you are in trouble, don’t know what to do, you have plenty of people who care and will help you. Here you go, come and have a degree in foreign language! Not only does it sound great when saying it out loud but it is highly rated by locals (hopefully at home as well) as many of them know just English. Now the money part. I decided to pay my tuition fee by myself because I already have one loan. However, there are student loans available with very reasonable criteria. If I am not wrong there should be even one (around 20 grand) that you don’t have to pay back until you start earning yearly more than around 18 grand (in pounds). Knowing the average salary in Estonia then it might be that you don’t even have to pay it back at all.
The health system here is similar to Estonian. They have an association called NHS that provides the basic help. All students and people that are working have the basic healthcare and do not have to worry about it. When arriving you just need to register yourself in one of the surgeries in your area. Some employers do offer private healthcare as well and in that case you probably can go to dentists and private doctors for free (or for less money) as well.
What else? Weather. In the South I think it was a lot better than I expected. Summer was hot like summer is supposed to be and I even got a tan. Up here it is raining every other day. Seriously. As the temperature doesn’t really drop below 0 right now I don’t think there is a winter in here at all. It is more like a constant autumn. So who is into that you are welcome to come and enjoy. I for sure am not. I miss snow, cold wind to freeze the tip of your nose, and wearing winter boots. I am not sure how bad is it going to be in the summer but what I’ve heard of, it ain’t a dream either. So if you are thinking of travelling for the weather, don’t! Or stay in the South.
Last but not least, people! Locals themselves say that people up in the North (midlands) are more opened and friendly than in the South. As I don’t really remember meeting too many angry or rude people in the South I am not sure what kind of position to take. There are always people that either have a bad day or simply don’t care about the others around. Based on my experience I wouldn’t say it is worse in the South or better in the North. All my colleagues, patients, coursemates, etc have been reasonable and lovely people. Colleague-wise I would probably even say that there is less “competition” and tension in the clinic than back at home. Or at least I don’t sense it as much as when working in Estonia. Everyone is willing to help and teach you. After all, the clinic/business is as good/strong as it’s weakest worker. So in order to keep the good quality you need to invest time and knowledge in new workers and English do understand that. Generally I reckon we all have bad days and I wouldn’t generalise the population based on those few rude ones. I think local people do care (even when you are foreigner) and they take time to explain themselves when you cannot understand the accent (especially the one in Manchester). Even though, the political situation may leave another expression.
In conclusion, if you don’t mind constant autumn, would like to learn authentic English from natives, and are willing to make an effort to build your success up, I believe England could be the place. But I reckon you should do it before Brexit because you know, no one really knows what happens after!
Before I end this one I wanted to discuss another idea I have. So, far I have been writing about 3 things- travelling, hiking and living in UK. At some point probably I am finishing the UK series as I am running out of things to write about. So, instead of that I was thinking of starting a new part/series that will be about healthy and active lifestyle and my opinion/stories/experience related to that- beauty, exercising, food, shops, products, money etc. I will continue with the hiking and travelling posts of course as well. Let me know what you think!
That is it for now. I have few blog suggestions and ideas waiting already. I appreciate you letting me know what you like to read about and giving me feedback. That is PERFECT. Keeps me motivated! I hope I will manage to write more often from now on. But now, crab your Earl Grey, a bisquit, sit back and enjoy Ed!