Here are some thoughts that my wife pulled together on moving to the UK from the US…
- The biggest thing I was told by others and what has become evident for us…bring a lot less clothes than you think you should and bring more personal things that will make your place feel like home. It truly is amazing what hanging a few pictures will do for your place and get you realizing that this is your home for the next 3+ years. People here just aren’t as concerned with the whole clothing issue…you just don’t need an expansive wardrobe.
- Now that I say that…the next thing will be about clothing. An excellent waterproof coat that has a hood is a must. Also, really good shoes are important as most of us Americans walk absolutely everywhere we go.
- You’ll want to bring a few US to UK plug adapters for any electronics you have. We found that they are much cheaper in the States. It’s probably easiest to buy UK version of anything that does not have an internal voltage converter (e.g., most computers and monitors have internal voltage converters). We bought a 110 to 220 voltage converter, and it’s gathering dust in a wardrobe now. One qualification: if you have something that runs on 12V or less, you can buy voltage adapters here for about £10.
- Electronics are really expensive here…about double. We chose to ship our computer and monitor, which ended up being less expensive (and less hassle) than buying a new one here.
- We found that there are no queen size beds here. We brought 2 sets of queen sized linens with us that we fit onto our double bed here – works well enough. It was nice that we had those linens and a set of towels already to get us started.
- There is a Tesco Extra (as close to Super-Walmart and/or Target that you get here) and Argos in Durham (both in Gilesgate Moor), and an IKEA (and other shopping) in Newcastle.
- We ended up renting a car for the first week we were here to be able to make runs to these stores fairly easily to get things set up. It made for a very smooth transition.
- If you are at all considering renting a house off campus, it helps to have copies of bank/financial statements and your University acceptance letter.
On the US side of things…our timeline went about like this:
February – Decided to attend Durham
March – Passport apps. for our children (a friend recommends epassportphoto as a cheap alternative to photos for passports and stuff–come over with a few extra because you’ll probably want them for student train passes and the like.
April – a big clean-out followed by a garage sale
May – Put our condo on the market
June – Visa apps.
July – Closed on our house, sold our car, and did a final garage sale ***We probably sold ~ 85-90% of what we owned. My parents are keeping some of our stuff for us while we are here.
August 1st. – Moved here. ***We chose August since we wanted to be here and settled before our son started school (first week in September). Many students don’t arrive until late September. I would recommend coming at least a week, if not two, before term starts so you can settle in–setting up banking, mobiles, etc. and just getting over jet lag before doing work.
SHIPPING: Through the post office we shipped 1) our desktop computer (~$175), 2) my books in M-bags (~$45/bag, which was a little more than the amount of books that would fit in a box for copying paper) and 3) a couple of boxes of odds and ends (~$100/box). The post office told my dad that the books couldn’t stay in a box within the M-bags, so they were just loosely placed in a large canvas bag for each load. Obviously the books were worse for wear over the trip. Nothing ruined but I wouldn’t recommended it. I talked to another student here, and they let him leave them in the boxes. If the Post Office tries to tell you that you can’t use boxes, just tell them you’ll take your chances with the VAT, which never get assessed unless it’s high tech stuff. Oh, and one of the 7 bags was lost, so consider insurance.
Look up form C3 on the UK Revenue and Customs web site, and turn it in before you ship things, so they’ll know this is your personal belongings as a student. This will keep your stuff from getting stuck in customs, and you having to pay VAT. If it does get stuck, just pay the VAT and send a letter with the C form and they’ll reimburse you. I had that happen.