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
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.
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.
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.
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!