I have written a list of differences between Australia and the United Kingdom that require 'adjustment' or are worth being aware of for when staying in the UK for a holiday or something more. Some are good, some are bad. It's not intended as a country comparison but will hopeful help people avoid some of the issues we have run into and answer a few of the question that I had attempted to research before I left Australia but was unable to find reasonable answers too.
Well it's a little hard to explain but I will give it a go. Now what is interesting is that in some places you can pay with either Euro or Pound. For example at the time of writing 1 Euro gets you 90 Pence. So 3 Euro is 2.7 Pound. On the plan over from Ireland to London we were offered the paper at 3 Euro or 2 pound. Hmm. Which currency will I use to pay for my paper I wonder? Further to this there a clearly different tax situations in place in each country. Alcohol in London is comparable in price to Australia (even taking the conversion rate into consideration). Ireland however is a very excessive. I paid 7 Euros for a Stella (bottle) in Ireland. I paid 12 Pound for 4 Pints of Stella in the UK. Now I accept that you always pay more for a bottle but that's just crazy.
You also get great offers in the supermarkets in the UK like 3 cases of Stella (18 bottles per case) for £20.
Cost of Food
Food is cheaper if your earning local currency but if you are converting from Aussie dollar (and loosing half) then it seems expensive. Given that it appears if you take the conversion rate into consideration you will earn about 1.4 times what you did in Sydney (well that's our experience so far) and groceries with conversion probably average out at about 1.2 times the Sydney price so its cheaper to buy groceries in the UK.
Eating out on the other hand is more expensive in the UK and be prepared for most eating out and fairly standard restaurants to cost significantly more than it does in Australia. Having said that there are a number of places that buck that trend, serve great food at unbelievable prices.
If you compare most of London with inner city Sydney and reduce the size a little it's about the same. We are in a 1 bedroom unit for sub 300 Pound and for all intensive purposes are in the 'City' (N1). If we were living in a similar location in Sydney I would expect to pay about $500.
There are only a few carriers at this stage touting 24MB speeds and really the only exception to the rule is Virgin Media who are running fibre to the door (or at least that's what they advertise). Virgin are currently getting a little criticism because they are limiting upload on the fibre to no more than 1MB with most users getting only half that. Most are clearly running ADSL 1 (not 2 or 2+) without restriction so you may get 8MB. Just like Australia where everyone is stuck with a Telstra ULL (decombobulator translation: phone line copper) here it's British Telecom. For the privilege of connecting your phone line if it has been disconnected at the exchange they will charge you 122 pounds so once you move in connect the phone quickly. Of course unless you choose Virgin or not to have a phone line (therefore choose not to have DSL) you have no choice.
There is no Naked DSL here so you will be stuck paying BT 13 Pounds a month for line rental. I am lead to believe that BT are the spitting image of Telstra back home. This roughly translated to a suggestion would be if you can find some way to avoid their services then do it.I hadn't looked at mobile broadband (HSDPA, GPRS etc) at home for a while but its rather cheap here and on my mobile at least (N95 support 3.6MB with 3 UK) its reasonably quick (for a phone). I seriously considered avoiding the phone line and going the wireless broadband solution. Having said that I have tested a BT HSDPA modem and it was not impressive at all. It was that unusable that I felt my only options was to pay BT and get a phone line.
The legal driving limit here is measured differently and is stated as parts per million but after conversion to Australian methods (BAC or Blood Alcohol Content) the figure in the UK equates to a legal limit of .08. Interestingly most people here feel that the .08 means they can only have one drink an hour as opposed to the much higher expectations that Australians are given (2 or 3 in the first hour and 1 every hour after that) on the ability for the body to absorb or dissipate the alcohol they have consumed with a maximum of .05. The reality is that for most people in London this is all very irrelevant as they don't have a car at all let alone take it when they go out.
Travel (London Underground)
The travel in London is a little different so there are some points worth mentioning to anyone intending to visit. Firstly and probably most importantly the map of the London tube in no way represents the geographic layout of London. There are a number of places that you can walk to quicker than you can catch the tube to if you are in the main metropolitan region of London. In some situation using the map it looks like a long tube ride between two stations (and it may indeed be a long tube trip) however you can walk it in minutes. This is because the map is not to scale and stations are not geographically correct on the map. Some stations appear miles apart on the map but in reality are only 500 meters away.Cost of transport is an interesting debate.
A weekly zone 1/2 costs about 100 pound per month at the moment giving the holder access to the tube as much as they like (in those zones) for the month. If you compare this to trip to a Sydney City to North Sydney monthly its probably about double the price. Having said that the Australian ticket only gets you from A to B whilst the UK ticket gets you anywhere in zone 1 and 2. If you are like me and had a car back home (or between you and your partner had two cars) and wont have one in the UK well its fairly obvious that transport will be cheaper in the UK.
Travel (London Overground)
The overground which is the equivalent to the Cityrail network in Australia is very expensive. It costs me 67 pounds a week to go from Islington to St Albans (which distance wise equates to a Parramatta to Sydney City trip). The London rail network is good, very good. The trains are far superior to the trains in Australia, they have tables and much more comfortable chairs. Its probably only because I am going the opposite way to the main flow of peak hour traffic but I always get a seat (and a table) too. As much as the trains are nicer they also have a bit to much intelligence. They have GPS and detect the trains current location. This is used in order to open the doors (and prevent the doors being opened when not at a station). I have seen this cause more than a few problems at the underground stations that I use because the GPS can't see the satellites so it can take 5 minutes for the doors to open some times.
Renting (References and Deposits)
You will get varying information from people about how the rental market works here and that is primarily because it works in a different way with each estate agent you deal with. Some agents told me that because I was from Australia and couldn't provide much in the way of financial referencing (Freda had a contract already and I was still unemployed) that they wanted 6 months rent in advance plus 6 weeks bond. I challenged that particular agent to find me someone (local or foreigner) looking to rent a property they had who could muster up that sort of cash and promptly walked out. There are others who will use the standard guidelines you find in Australia (4 weeks in advance and 4 weeks deposit). The referencing here is a bit of a driver for the difference. As most of you will know when you give a deposit in Australia it goes to the Rental Bond Board (now the Office of Fair Trading I believe) and is held by them. The only guarantee that the owner has that you will pay is that 4 weeks deposit. This is also the only guarantee that you will look after the place. Someone may do a reference check on you but its primarily about how you may treat the place and is nothing more than a short investigation into you as a person. In the UK its somewhat different. A third party will take that deposit and a reference check will be done. The reference check company however will not only look into you as a person but will check on your financial situation and the offer the owner protection should you damage the property, leave or fail to pay the rent for the term of the contract. This means that company is putting a large amount of risk in the property and you the tenant. Given this they don't agree to it unless they are very confident that you will be a good tenant and pay the rent. Alternatively you can agree with the estate agent (and owner) on some other form of confidence in you as a tenant. In my case I managed 8 weeks in advance instead of 4 weeks. The main thing to take away from this point is be prepared to have more money in the bank to pay for rent in advance than you would otherwise expect.
This one is a little odd. I am going to assume that because I haven't seen them in Australia we don't have them in Australia but I might be wrong. In Australia we are use to having a nice big (hopefully) tank of water in the backyard or cupboard or if not that then a coil/small boiler in the wall providing instant hot water. In the UK (and Europe in general) they have these boxes inside the shower that are the heaters and pumps for hot water. It means that you control the temperature in most showers on the box which is fine. It also means that that you don't get much power out of the shower head because the boxes are nice and compact meaning they lack power. There is law here preventing power outlets from being installed in the bathroom (safety so that you don't electrocute yourself I assume). Freda has a real issue with this because she can't use her hair dyer in the bathroom. The best part is they then all place a huge 7KW (uses lots of power in non technical terms) heating system in the shower with you. Hmm, hope the hot water system is sealed well and hope you don't get water on it.