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Working out where to live

Thanks to its strong economy and high living standards, the U.K. has become a popular destination for expats from all over the world.

Many have made their home in the capital city of London and the surrounding southeast region. But there are a variety of exciting, prosperous cities and regions you may want to consider before you decide where to settle.


As the country’s economic powerhouse, there’s a reason why London and the southeast are the first choice for many expats. You’ll find a wide variety of jobs in the capital, across many sectors. But it’s the city’s position as a global financial hub that really drives its success — with a large number of financial services providers setting up shop there. Expats are also attracted by the higher wages in this region. But this can be offset by an increased cost of living — particularly when it comes to renting or buying a home.

Many expats also enjoy the idea of life in a vibrant and cosmopolitan city. London is extremely multicultural — making it easy to integrate into British life while also retaining a connection to home. The city also boasts many of the country’s major cultural and sporting institutions, and plenty of nightlife to enjoy!

Finally, don’t be put off by London’s reputation for being rainy and grey. In fact, it’s one of the driest cities.


The northern city of Manchester may get more rain than London, but it does offer other advantages. The cost of living is much lower — particularly when it comes to housing — although prices have been rising steadily, thanks to a thriving economy driven by world-class universities, multinational businesses, and a strong connection to the creative industries.

Manchester is rightly proud of both its sporting and cultural achievements. If you’re a football fan, you can take your pick from two of the top teams in the world: Manchester United and Manchester City. The city also has a lively music scene, fostering many successful artists and bands over the years. With the U.K.’s top media companies — including the BBC — making a home in the newly developed Media City, Manchester attracts many locals and expats seeking to work in the arts.

Like any big city, certain parts of Manchester have gained a slightly dubious reputation, which can put off some expats. In reality, it’s a relatively safe and pleasant place to live. That’s why it’s become home to a wide range of expat communities over the years.


Birmingham, in the West Midlands, is the U.K.’s second largest city. Exceptionally important during the Industrial Revolution, its distinguished history can sometimes obscure its current position as a global commercial centre. As with many of the U.K.’s cities, the Birmingham economy is now dominated by service industries. But you can still find evidence of local manufacturing expertise in its modern factories, which produce everything from cars to chocolate.

Birmingham prides itself on being a vibrant, multicultural place to live. Expats from all over the world have made it their home, contributing to the city’s unique and diverse culture. Relatively low house prices and several top universities also attract a large population of students and younger people to the area.

Dotted with numerous parks and a botanical garden, Birmingham also offers many oases of rural calm among the urban sprawl. Its 32 miles of canals even give Venice a run for its money!


As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh offers many of the advantages of life in a cosmopolitan, international city while remaining manageable and compact. It’s also home to many important government institutions and a vibrant financial services sector.

The occasionally harsh weather does mean year-round sun is off the menu. But Edinburgh shines when it comes to arts and culture. The city is home to many theatres and concert halls, and the world’s largest arts festival. It was also named the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004. You won’t struggle to find something interesting to do — even if it’s raining!

If you’re looking for an alternative to the southeast’s high cost of living, it’s worth noting that Edinburgh is one of the more expensive cities. But it is still relatively cheap when compared to London.

One country, many options

The U.K. is a rich and diverse country, which is home to a wide range of cultures and communities. We’ve covered a fraction of what the country has to offer the expats who make it their home. Like many of them, you may decide one of these cities is right for you — or you may choose to explore further afield.

It’s important to do your homework before you go. When considering all the different factors — such as cost of living, transport links, weather or culture — you’ll need to work out which ones are important to you and your family. There’s no doubt you’ll be able to find a new home in the U.K. to suit your needs.

With so many exciting decisions to make, it’s also important that you don’t forget the practicalities of starting life in a new country. Make sure you stay happy and healthy – before, during and after your move. Contact Aetna International about our range of expat health care plans and wellness benefits today.

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