Places to Live and Work in the UK (Other Than London)
Your family probably won’t believe you’re in the United Kingdom if none of your postcards feature Big Ben, the London Eye, or palace guards in funny hats. A heavyweight in the tourism industry, the country’s capital is the second most visited city in the world. Given this level of popularity, London is understandably an attractive location for anyone wanting to live and work in the UK. Don’t let London’s calling make you forget that there is a whole other Britain, though. If you think the best of British culture lives in London, just remember that the Beatles came from Liverpool, Oasis are from Manchester, and Scotland gave the world the deep-fried Mars bar.
Between the linguistic, cultural, and traditional diversity of Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland combined, there are plenty of lively cities to choose as a home base in the UK. You’ll find just as many pubs, chippies, and historical sites in cities outside of London. Plus, you don’t want to waste half of your time overseas sweating in the Tube, or spending nights at home with a greasy takeaway because all your hard-earned pounds were gobbled up by rent. Living costs are universally lower outside of London, meaning you’ll get a whole lot more out of your working experience. So when making the big move to the UK, forget living in London and consider establishing yourself in one of these awesome cities instead.
Tucked away in England’s South West, Bristol might seem familiar from those episodes of Skins you watched seven years ago. Possibly the coolest city in the UK, Bristol’s character is summed up by the abundance of vintage clothing shops, its craft beer scene, and the presence of cheeky Banksy murals, who got his start scrawling on Bristolian walls. The harbor serves as the city’s social and cultural heart, with the 19th century warehouses now housing up-market restaurants, boutiques, and galleries. There are still plenty of grungy hipster hangouts though, with no shortage of art-collectives, vegan cafes, and live music venues throughout the city.
A city of high culture and higher cliffs, Edinburgh’s royal roots still show. The dramatic castle overlooking the town is hard to miss, and the Royal Mile lends the tangle cobblestoned streets in the Old Town a noble air. Don’t let Edinburgh’s medieval appearance put you off though: behind the ancient stones there is a booming tech scene, which is highly attractive to young professionals. There’s also plenty of Scottish quirkiness to keep you entertained year round. Buskers play bagpipes, men are known to wander round in kilts, and in summer creativity is unleashed in the world’s biggest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Then there’s Hogmanay, a street party that flies in the face of logic by taking place in the middle of winter, and culminates in the Loony Dook: a New Year’s Day dip in the frigid North Sea. Despite the cold it is hands down the UK’s best New Year’s Eve party though, and singing Auld Lang Syne in a crowd of thousands is an experience you aren’t likely to forget.
Bordering the English seaside, Brighton is a town that knows how to work retro-chic. Its shingle beaches are backed by amusement arcades and bohemian storefronts, while the famous Brighton pier and the many kiosks along the waterfront evoke a certain nostalgia. It’s not all old-timey feels though: don’t let the sedate daytime image fool you. Brighton is a young and fun town, with a hedonistic side that embraces raves on the beach, a vibrant arts scene, and more than a few festivals. Colourful, charming, and just a little crazy, Brighton has plenty of reasons to make you visit, and even more to make you stay.
Tourists might turn up their noses at Glasgow, and it’s true it’s no beauty queen. But Glasgow moves to its own edgy urban beat, and it has an innovative streak that make it stand out as a place to live and work in the UK. Plus, it more than makes up for its lack of castles with lashings of culture. You can spend your spare time here getting familiar with the Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, and the National Theatre of Scotland. Then once you’ve paid your cultural dues you can dive headfirst into the legendary nightlife. You might have trouble understanding the thick Glaswegian accent, but it’s nothing a few pints of beer won’t fix.
Don’t let Geordie Shore out you off – Newcastle-upon-Tyne has style. Sure, it hasn’t completely shrugged off its industrial legacy, but the grit just gives it flavour. The Victorian elegance of the city centre belies Newcastle’s mixed heritage, and hints at the collision of no-nonsense practicality with urban chic that characterises the city. Local students are the lifeblood of its thumping club scene, but Newcastle has its share of sophisticated bars, restaurants, and art galleries. Then there’s the fact that it’s billed as the happiest place to live in the UK – hard to argue with that.
Northern Ireland has traditionally been more of a hotspot for violence than working holidays. Belfast is a different kind of challenge for anyone wanting to live abroad. The whole city is a think-fest, from the political murals detailing the Troubles, to the so-called ‘Peace Lines’ that are a jarring reminder of the religious conflict that nearly tore the city apart. Belfast has left bullets and bombs in the past though, and forging a new identity as a party town. Maybe it is the legacy of violence, but this is definitely a city that know how to embrace its wild side. Live music is almost a religion unto itself, the locals are great craic, and the sheer number of bars means you will never be bored. Add to that the stunning natural beauty that surrounds the city and you have yourself a new home you’ll never want to leave.
The capital of Wales is an eclectic blend of old and new. Set between a modern waterfront and a historic hilltop fortress, Cardiff is compact, interesting, and always on the move. There are all the things any good city should have – great shopping, world-class restaurants, and plenty of bars – but all delivered with proud Welsh flair. The Welsh language incorporated in everything is delightfully confusing, and the Welsh themselves are a lively, rugby-loving, bunch. If you choose to live in Cardiff, it won’t take long before you are waving around your own dragon-emblazoned flag with gusto.