How to settle in the UK: guidance and advice for an easy transition into your new environment
Hi, we are Ayesha and Chaitali, IMGs and junior doctors working in the NHS. In today's blog article, we are going to share with you some tips and tricks on how to settle in the UK. You may also want to read our blog on How to pass the PLAB 2 exam on your first attempt.
10 TOP TIPS from Ayesha
For some of my colleagues who have never been away from their home country, this may be the first time that you are away from your familiar environment. And also for others, who are moving permanently from different countries to this new destination.
Starting a new job or studying in the UK could be stressful and may require some time to adjust to a new environment. You may start feeling overwhelmed within a week, and trust me it's absolutely normal. Many people have gone through this stage, including me and my close friends. This is why I would like to share with you some tips on how to make this time less stressful and turn it into a learning experience making the transition into the NHS smoother.
First of all, be proud of yourself - you have come this far and you are now a doctor in the UK. This is an incredible achievement and not everyone can make it. Now embrace the challenge and prepare for a new beginning in another country with some adventures. Let me help you adjust to a new country by giving you some tips:
1. Environment & Culture
This is an important factor as IMGs are brought up in different environments and different cultures. Moving to the UK may be stressful for us when we can not find similarities to our own culture. I would suggest before you come to the UK - spend some time learning about British culture, at least some basic things: how British people communicate, what topics are acceptable to discuss, the importance of small talks etc. This is crucial as it will make your life in the UK much easier - you will be able to find friends very quickly and establish good relationships with your colleagues at work.
2. Work-life balance
I would suggest paying a bit extra for your rented accommodation and staying closer to the hospital. You can read more about how to find accommodation in our previous blogs Settling into the first NHS job: advice and top tips and Settling in the UK – Top 10 tips. Living close to the hospital will save so much time on your commute. And trust me, public transport in the UK is not ideal and probably deserves a separate blog.
Also, when choosing your accommodation consider the distance from your home to shops, grocery markets, school, mosjid/church, GP surgery etc. Think about other places that might be important to you and think how far they would be from your potential home. Thinking about these small things in advance will make your life much easier later on.
Even if English is not your mother tongue please do not feel shy or embarrassed about your pronunciation. Just try speaking English at every opportunity. When I came to the UK, I really wanted to improve my English so I would always speak with colleagues, read books and watch films in English.
I would also advise learning some basic slang as this would be extremely helpful for you, especially in certain regions in the UK where patients often use slang to describe their symptoms.
Being a doctor is not just about knowledge and skills, it’s about how we communicate them with our patients and colleagues. In Britain, there is a strong emphasis on collaboration with the patient, involving them in their care and working as a team. Unlike in some other cultures, British people expect to be involved in their care and often need to build trust with the doctor before they respect their information and decisions. Communication skills and the ability to build rapport are therefore paramount.
There is a supermarket hierarchy in the UK. You can find reasonable prices in supermarkets like Lidl, Asda, Aldi, Iceland and Tesco. Please search 'supermarket hierarchy in the UK' and this will give you an idea about food prices in the UK. Keep in mind that on Sundays some supermarkets may close earlier, at 4 pm or so.
5. Social life
It is ok to feel lonely and stressed at the beginning, especially during your first months in the NHS. It is very common and natural. From my own experience - do not worry, things will get better. After a few months, you will feel more confident and less stressed. Almost every IMG went through this stage, you are not alone here. If you feel sad and overwhelmed, call your family or friends, have a talk with your colleague, go for a walk, or make yourself a good cup of tea and watch a film. Try to make friends early on, starting with your colleagues, neighbours and then expanding your network of friends. Make sure you are friendly with everyone in the hospital and show them that you are eager to learn and appreciate their help. Do not overwork, take regular breaks and go travelling every time you have a chance.
'Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much' - Helen Keller
Well, the weather in the UK is a nightmare - it's often rainy and windy, and summer here is cold. l always carry my umbrella with me as you never know when it will start raining. I was upset with the UK weather when I arrived but adjusted now.
7. Mobile expenses
Usually, it takes £10-£20 every month depending on how much mobile internet you use and how often you make calls. You may want to read more about different providers and mobile phone allowance in the UK. There is lots of information available online.
There is an alarming growth in fraud in the UK, especially bank scammers. Do not blindly trust a company or a bank as I have seen some IMG got scammed by some rental agencies and property agents. Please read more about internet scams and phishing at GOV.UK. Please double-check everything and find trustworthy information before giving money to anyone or paying for services. It is always better to ask a colleague or a friend if you have any doubts.
9. Using your money wisely
I would recommend using travel cards instead of buying train/bus tickets every day. This will save you lots of money. Most of the places in the UK accept card payments, however, I always carry a small amount of cash with me (£20) in case there is no way to pay by card.
Financial literacy is very important when you start saving for a house or a car. TrewLink has some very informative free webinars on how to plan your finances as a doctor in the UK. You can watch all webinars for free at TrewLink.com. Here is a preview of one of them:
10. NHS discounts
If you are studying and working, get free library memberships at your hospital and use your NHS discount whenever possible. Many shops and restaurants offer discounts for NHS staff. I personally, use my NHS discounts for Uber eats & Uber taxis.
10 TOP TIPS from Chaitali
We all feel lost initially after we have landed in this country. Being away from friends and family makes us feel overwhelmed. We need to plan our initial days - that will make our transition easy. There are a few things which we have to remember:
1. If you are travelling alone or with family - please do your search about accommodation. There are many sites where we can find information about renting, initially don’t try to rent in remote areas - try to stay near a town centre or high street and most importantly if possible near your workplace. We have provided some tips on how to find your accommodation in our previous blogs Settling into the first NHS job: advice and top tips and Settling in the UK – Top 10 tips 2. Please keep in mind that the UK is an island. The weather and culture vary with region. Try to read more about British culture, way of communication and local lifestyle. Choose the area you would like to spend your time wisely otherwise it can affect your mental well being. If you would like to learn about the British communication style, please watch free webinars at TrewLink.com.
3. Come with an open mind. Being open-minded is important for learning and personal growth. It does not mean that you must agree with everything you are told. But making an effort to understand the reasons that might be behind someone's beliefs can be helpful in exploring new cultures and making new friends.
4. Bank account - you will need one for sure. Any UK bank should be fine, they are equally secure. We will soon post a separate blog on how to open a bank account in the UK.
5. National Insurance number. If you don’t have one yet, please apply as soon as possible. You can apply for a National Insurance number if you live in the UK and have the right to work in the UK. All information is available on the UK government website on how to apply for a National Insurance number.
6. GP registration. As soon you decide in which area you are staying, please register yourself with the nearest GP. It can be done online as well. Please read how to register with a GP surgery. Anyone in England can register with a GP surgery. It's free to register. You may not even need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.
7. Oyster card. This is a travel card in the UK for those who live in London. You can top up the card with money and use it. There are many offers - like cost will be less for the monthly scheme than weekly top-up. You can always explore other options as well. Buying a ticket is a little troublesome. Using the Oyster card is easy in the UK.
8. If you are under treatment for any chronic condition - asthma, diabetes, thyroid problems - don’t forget to bring your current prescription and all medical records. That will help your doctor to continue your treatment. Getting a specialist appointment or blood tests or any test is time-consuming in the UK.
9. Parents need to be organised with full-time NHS jobs. If you have the responsibility of looking after your children then it needs some good planning. Children can attend nursery if they are less than 3 years old. It could be a little bit expensive but there is always a chance to find a suitable option. In the UK childminder or nursery are available. You can select as per your budget. Public schools are free of charge. Medical expenses and public transport are also free for children.
10. Last but not least - a new place, new people, a new culture can make you feel lonely. Start your journey with an open mind and try to learn as much as possible. If you accept new surroundings, they will also accept you.
If you have any questions feel free to ask on the TrewLink website, we are happy to help.
If you found our blog articles helpful, please share them with your IMG friends & colleagues who may also benefit from reading our blog.
Best of luck with your new beginning,
Ayesha & Chaitali
Written by Ayesha and Chaitali
Edited by Julia