Experiences: after a year in the UK

Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
edited 2008-01-20 in General Chat
After a year of living here I think it might be a good idea to share some
experiences for the benefit of those who are also thinking about moving
over.

PART I - LIFE

GETTING A JOB

Should be easy if you are able and willing to do development for a while.
It's harder if you wish to concentrate on consultancy and project management as the cultural and linguistic - dialects & slang - gap is too big in the beginning to build a close personal relationship of mutual trust to clients. After a year it becomes easy or at least easier, but you have to do something in the first year, and usually it will be development.

Therefore it's easier for 28 years old developers than for 45 years old project managers I guess. Salaries on itjobswatch.co.uk are realistic, expect to be closer to the lower part of the average for the first year, and then you can work it up to the upper part of the average. Here's a good tax calculator: http://www.listentotaxman.com/

It seems to me most jobs are going through two or three headhunters who specialize in Navision - just PM me for their e-mail address. That's a lot easier way to get a job than anything else. I did phone and Skype
interviews from at home (Hungary) and then when I had five opportunities I flew over and did a tour of job interviews. It worked.

COST OF LIVING

The most surprising thing is that there is a huge variance in price/value ratio. Don't expect something to worse just because it's cheaper. A grilled chicken is £2 in the ASDA - it's even cheaper than in Eastern Europe. But a pizza at a takeaway can be £8-10! So it's hard to find the stuff with the good price/value ratio.

What I can do is to list the cheapest options which are still acceptable quality, and then you can discover the rest on your own:

Food groceries: Aldi, Lidl, ASDA in that order, except for fresh fruit and booze.

Fresh fruit and booze: ASDA

Quality stuff, interesting French specialities etc: Sainsbury's

Non-food groceries: Poundland or 99p shops

If you don't want to go to three places: ASDA.

Bread: baguettes from ASDA.

Takeaways: if you happen to like Indian food, look out for shops called Kashmir Sweets or something like that. They often sell curry and it's both tastier and cheaper than fish & chips shops.

Housing: www.easyroommate.co.uk for a start, but later on the best option is to rent a whole house from an agency with friends. Way more fun and half the price. Note: most unmarried people live in shared houses, it is NOT considered a loser's option here. I find it surprising, but I'm glad as it's more fun this way.

Used cars: British (Rover, MG) or Japanese (Honda). Opel Omega (called Vauxhall Omega) is surprisingly cheap but the yearly tax and insurance on it is not. Peugeots and Citroens are expensive, which surprising as they aren't too reliable. www.autotrader.co.uk

Entertainment: lovefilm.com for renting DVD's and console games.

Nightlife is all right but I found that expats tend to stick together, I have more friends here than I had in Hungary, so it's both more fun and cheaper to buy a few 24-packs of beer in the ASDA and have parties at home.

LIFESTYLE

Your mileage may vary but I haven't yet built close friendships with Englishmen. We have a beer, tell a few jokes, but that's it. It seems the famous British multiculturalism doesn't really living in coctail shaker, it rather means many different "tribes" coexist paralelly and people tend to stick to their own tribe. Maybe I'm just lazy but it seems easier to socialize within the Hungarian, Polish and the smaller Czech subcultures than trying to befriend people with very different cultural origins. If you live in a shared house with Englishmen they'll probably won't be very interested in you, they'll stick with their own friends. So the best thing is to do the same - look out for people with similar backgrounds as you.

SURPRISING THINGS

You can park almost anywhere unless it's cleary signalled otherwise.

Speed cameras are always visible, a yellow box and stripes on the road.

You don't have to carry any ID, except when buying booze - you don't even need to carry the licence when you are driving.

Cigarettes are very expensive.

When you buy a car, the trader doesn't arrange the insurance, tax etc. for you. Be sure to have them explain to you how it works.

There is no central database of where people are living, when you need to verify your address bring a utility bill.

You won't be let in a nightclub in trainer shoes, and maybe not even in
jeans and t-shirts. On the plus side: fights are rare. Except in those places which DO let people in in trainers and tracksuits: avoid them.

Some English food are actually tasty: try cottage cheese, coleslaw, and mackarel fish.

Milka chocolates are virtually unknown. Sigh.

Car boot sales can be amazing: people sell a high-end amplifier for £15 etc.

Everything is very relaxed. It's some sort of a miracle: often there are no rules, no procedures, no standards, nothing - and still everything works out very well. I think the culture in general emphasises individual creativity over organization and rules. It seems to me that the archetype of a successful, respected Englishman is rather a "lone hero" inventor, like James Watt and Stephenson.

What I find especially really surprising in a very pleasent way that client, bosses, public officers, policemen etc. don't like to threaten people, don't like to motivate with fear. They are usually just asking stuff politely but if you say you cannot do it, for some reason, they accept it. They think procedures are for people, not people are for procedures. And that's very nice. It means there is very little stress here. It feels like a holiday, actually. I do work, but work is not the main reason of stress, it's fear, anger, tension, one-upmanship, power games are the main reasons of stress and they are virtually unknown here.

NEXT SUBJECT: how Navision projects work here. Stay tuned! :)

Comments

  • ara3nara3n Member Posts: 9,248
    This was a very interesting stuff.
    I would like to read more about these kind of experiences from other countries.
    Specifically Australia.
    Ahmed Rashed Amini
    Independent Consultant/Developer


    blog: https://dynamicsuser.net/nav/b/ara3n
  • DenSterDenSter Member Posts: 8,281
    Yes very interesting indeed. Sounds like you are pretty happy there Miklos, that is good to hear. Do you have any plans to ever go back to Hungary?

    Why the interest in Australia Rashed? Planning on moving there?
  • NikkNikk Member Posts: 49
    Thanks this is very helpful and eye -opening. I have dozens of relations in the UK but not a single one will paint me a good picture of what its like there.. This is very helpful for a Developer like me who's exploring the possibility of moving there... again thanks.... =D>
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    Yes very interesting indeed. Sounds like you are pretty happy there Miklos, that is good to hear. Do you have any plans to ever go back to Hungary?

    Now that's a hard question. I like the general way of living but I miss my friends, parents etc. And there is an interesting thing - as I drive a lot (clients can be 100-200 miles away) and tend to collect speed tickets, after 3 years, when I'll have to exchange my EU driving licence for a UK one that licence will be taken away right away, due to the points collected. As it's not really possible to work in this industry without a driving licence I might have to move after 3 years. Yeah I should be more careful but 6-hour drives with 7 hours of work on site tend to make me press down hard on the accelerator :)

    BTW how do you handle this problem? I think distances in the US are even bigger.

    Sometimes I'm thinking about moving to Austria after a few years - it's close to Hungary but still in the West. The problem is, I can't find the energy and time to study German. I'm trying to practice a bit at msdynamics.de.
  • ara3nara3n Member Posts: 9,248
    In US, if the client is farther than 4 hours drive, we usually fly and rent a car. I do not drive more than 4 hours. The farthest that I've driven is from Washington DC to New York. I was working on a project in Pittsburgh, and it takes 4 hours to drive or to fly. So I would switch between them from time to time.

    I thought public transportation is pretty good in UK. Would taking a Train take longer?
    Ahmed Rashed Amini
    Independent Consultant/Developer


    blog: https://dynamicsuser.net/nav/b/ara3n
  • krikikriki Member, Moderator Posts: 9,038
    Milka chocolates are virtually unknown. Sigh.
    Maybe because they have better chocolate they are importing from Belgium! :wink:
    Regards,Alain Krikilion
    No PM,please use the forum. || May the <SOLVED>-attribute be in your title!

  • ssinglassingla Member Posts: 2,973
    Interesting observations. None of my friends settled there told me in so much detail.

    Would be waiting for your next.

    Would love to taste Indian food in UK "Kashimir Sweets"
    CA Sandeep Singla
    http://ssdynamics.co.in
  • ara3nara3n Member Posts: 9,248
    the 6 hours of driving you meant both ways?

    In that case it's 8 hours here. We normally ask our clients that onsite has to be at least 3 days if traveling is this long.

    How did you get used to driving on the left side? How many mistakes did you make?
    Ahmed Rashed Amini
    Independent Consultant/Developer


    blog: https://dynamicsuser.net/nav/b/ara3n
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    Well I took some driving classes. I was really funny, by the way, the teacher was an old Sikh guy with a turban and everything. He asked my name, I said Miklos, but don't worry, just call me Mickey as people usually can't pronounce it properly (Miekloash). He told me his name, it was totally incomprehensible, he started to laugh and said don't worry, just call me Val. :-)

    My first move was almost breaking his left mirror as I had no idea how close I can go to the left side of the road, where the cars are parking. After three lessons it was all right, but even a year after, just a week ago, I blew two tires by accidentally hitting the left side of the road at 60 miles per hour - after a year and about 12 000 miles it still feels strange to have most of the width of the car on my left side :-)

    I'll write about the projects sometimes this week, when I have some free time.
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    Kriki,

    unfortunately no - it's usually just Cadbury. Which tastes like compressed cocoa, not really like milk chocolate i.e. not really like milk. Well at least I won't get any fatter :-)
  • JutJut Member Posts: 72
    i look forward to hearing about your project-experiences as well :)
  • ssinglassingla Member Posts: 2,973
    Me Too Waiting........
    CA Sandeep Singla
    http://ssdynamics.co.in
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    Part II - How projects work here

    The interesting point is that the only thing really different here that the projects are bigger, the clients are bigger, they have more money to spend. They don't have more than 20-80 users per site as above it AX and SAP and Oracle competes strongly - but they often have 10-30 sites or subsidiaries.

    This means they simply don't notice the bugs and missing features of the standard product. They would have practically everything they use heavily customized anyway, the aim of the project is to build a complete group-level solution on top of Navision rather than to implement Navision as it is. So even if Navision was better designed it would help them much.

    Because they have everything customized they don't really care that a feature they need to have changed is a genuine customization - changing something logical but too general into something specific - or it is rather fixing a bug or adding a feature that should have been in the standard if it was a well designed system. They just don't care. They can easily buy 2-300 days of development and what they care about is the end result, they don't make any fuss about why Navision doesn't do something (correctly) by standard. Therefore, in the end, we are only judged by the service we provide and not by the quality of the "base product" we sell - they never say "If you had told me it doesn't do so and so I would not have bought it". If fixing something stupid in Navision costs a day - and after 5 years in Navision one can do a lot in a day on site - and they have 20 subsidiaries it's 24 minutes per site. So they just don't care. And I think it is the most important difference.

    Actually one cannot even tell how much development these big ones buy as it seems to be a going cost, an overhead rather than a one-time investment. Of course there is an initial estimate but in the long run one could rather define a project as three days per week until go live and for another half year, a day per week for a year after that and then a day per every two weeks practically forever - as there are always small things can be polished, adding stuff to reports etc. basically forever.

    This is so different from the "I can afford 100 days, offer me something that will serve all my needs" way of thinking of the smaller companies that it's hard to put into words. Suffice to say that an "enterprise" is totally different from a small, family-owned company in every possible way, they just can't be compared.

    For the smaller companies we simply sell a different product - an accounting package. Which as far as I know does mostly the same as Navision - I mean the features people actually use, not the fancy but not neecessary stuff - except that most things it does better: you can reverse every kind of transaction with a click, you can print an invoice and correct it if it's wrong before posting it and so on and so on. And it's not much harder to develop than Navision - it's been written in FoxPro. Navision's only practical advantage seems to be it's layers - it's very good that every financial transaction goes through a General Journal etc. so it's easy to throw away the uppermost layer and replace it with something specific, but still using the journal and posting codeunit layer, so that we don't have to care about many small things - in these packaged these are not so easy, they often don't have these layers.

    So why don't the bigger clients choose it, why do they choose Navision? I don't think it's for the layers - they don't really know about them. I think rather because they make decisions on the strategic level - they want the base system being developed by a really big company like Microsoft or SAP, that they can be sure it will well be supported 5 years later, that has lots of resellers in case they wanted to switch and so on. They do have an IT Strategy, they don't make decisions just based on what features they need, but on strategic level. And I think this strategic way of thinking is what makes a company an enterprise - and serving these strategic needs is what turns an accounting package into an Enterprise Resource Planning system.

    So the most important difference here is that companies are often bigger, they are real enterprises, and an enterprise way of thinking is totally different from a family business.

    But there are other differences besides company size, for example, specialisation. Most companies I know in Hungary trade B2B, trade a bit cash & carry, do a bit of manufacturing and provide services. It's a kind of a "whenever there is a small gap in the market let's start a two-people division to serve it" way of thinking. Here it seems to me companies concentrate on doing one thing well. This simplifies things a lot, makes the licence cheaper etc.

    So what are the lessons to learn from it? Don't try to push Navision to the smaller ones, sell some small and smart accounting package to them and push Navision for the real enterprises. And if for some reason you can't do that, if you can't find big enough clients to distribute the costs of development to 5-30 sites, then distribute it to 5-30 clients, in other words: build an add-on. An add-on does not have to be specialised for some obscure industry, it can just be a general trade, service and mfg one.
  • KowaKowa Member Posts: 896
    Milka chocolates are virtually unknown. Sigh.
    Enough of them over here :). I can send you some for Christmas if you like.
    Kai Kowalewski
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    Thanx, very nice of you, but by Christmas I'll already be on holiday back in Hungary on a goulash & Milka binge :)

    (Actually, there is an Austrian restaurant a few miles away, which I'm always planning to visit - what always keeps me away is that they committed the ultimate blasphemy of
    advertising a bread-crumbed pork as Wienerschnitzel and I wonder what other horrors might await :) )
  • girish.joshigirish.joshi Member Posts: 407
    Something you mentioned in your post about the UK that is different from the US:

    It is very common to charge and schedule by the day instead of by the hour (as in the US).

    Consequently, I found requests for change to be much more formal and less 'help desk'.
  • Ajay_AxAjay_Ax Member Posts: 2
    There are loads of indian restaurants all over the country, the best test for quality is usually what the locals say about them

    Brick Lane in London is great for a curry although expensive since it is London

    So's the Sparkhill/Sparkbrook part of Stratford road in Birmingham

    Hell, it's shocking to NOT be able to find a decent curry house in any city in England, it is the nation's favourite food
  • EvieG2017EvieG2017 Member Posts: 1
    Very good observations and certainly a list that resonates with ne after spending time living abroad and experiencing life in another European country. Even if I'm British I certainly find the life in England expensive at times. Especially London, where travel and rent prices are notoriously high...

    Work opportunities are fairly easy to come by, even for under-skilled individuals. London is so culturally diverse that there are many different types of companies, most likely some will be in your native language.

    One of the stark differences I found in the U.K after living in Italy were the considerably lower tax rates. I've spoke to many non-native individuals who have come to the U.K with the sole intention of setting up business.

    Here is a really useful link I came across to see how you may potentially benefit from lower tax rates in our country: https://income-tax.co.uk/

    Great thread! :)
  • Slawek_GuzekSlawek_Guzek Member Posts: 1,688
    edited 2017-11-20
    Interesting topic pulled out of nowhere :smile:

    @Miklos_Hollender are you still in UK? If you still are it would be very interesting to see how much your observations have changed (if at all) after 10 years living in the UK .

    EDIT:
    Country: Austria, so you've made it :)
    Still - write another one please - for those thinking about moving to Austria :)
    Slawek Guzek
    Dynamics NAV, MS SQL Server, Wherescape RED;
    PRINCE2 Practitioner - License GR657010572SG
    GDPR Certified Data Protection Officer - PECB License DPCDPO1025070-2018-03
  • Miklos_HollenderMiklos_Hollender Member Posts: 1,597
    edited 2018-01-19
    No, I moved back after three year and living in Austria since.

    My impressions of Austria: one of the best food in Europe, a relaxed culture, perhaps a bit boring and excitement-free but very civilized.

    First I worked on the Megabau add-on, then moved to an end-user company as ERP Manager.

    Taxes are high and even pre-tax pay is lower than the UK, cars are more expensive, overally one does feel like living on a tighter budget here. However the good quality of almost everything is a big consolation, like, for example, bad coffee simply does not exist here.

    A house is nearly unaffordable even on a managerial salary, but that is a general experience almost everywhere, real estate esp. standalone house and garden is moving out of the reach of normal people of even a good career.

    There are English-only jobs in theory, in practice not knowing German can create unwelcome social barriers at work and elsewhere. Knowing German, like I did, the next obstacle is the fairly thick Wienerisch and similar dialects. Consider it something like Brummie English.

    A good place to have a family. The school in our neighborhood looks amazing. Quite children oriented country, I think.

    Looking at the NAV market from the end user side, I think hiring at partners must be good because the few ones I talked with said they are booked out full for half a year. So it looks like they could use more resources. I would not even bother with job ads. It is a small country with few partners. Just contact them all directly.
  • mrkzkbrgmrkzkbrg Member Posts: 5
    Thanks! It's interesting. Haven't ever thought that life in the UK can be so excited ;)
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