Money and Housing in the UK

Over the 10 years i spent in the UK i’ve learnt a few important things about expat life that i’d like to share. Today i’ll talk about Money matters and Houses as these are things that many people want to know about. I’ve put some pictures as well.

Money in the UK

Despite being part of the European Union (EU), the UK has kept its national currency so you won’t find any Euro here, only Pounds (£ – GBP). Refusing to adopt the Euro may just have been to right decision as prices soared in some European countries. When i moved to the UK from France in 2003, i could just about afford the basics in the UK. Now the situation has reversed itself, France has become very expensive and life in the UK is alright now.

There is a welfare system in place and people on low income may be entitled to some benefits to help with rent and the cost of life. These can be claimed by British citizens, European citizens or people with the relevant visa/residence permit. Medical care is free under the National Health Service (NHS) and education in state schools is also free from 3 to 16 years old.

Housing in the UK

Most people in the UK live in rented accommodation. Buying a house is not affordable for most people. Rent is expensive everywhere in the UK but even more so in London which is among the most expensive cities in Europe and even in the world. If you plan to move to the UK, you must check housing prices as this will be a huge part of your budget. On top of the monthly rent, you will need to pay Council Tax and utilities (Gas, Electricity and Water), no freebies in the UK.

There are some council housing and Housing Association properties available for rent but the waiting list is long, very long, very very long. So be prepared for a long wait and in the meantime you will need to look at renting a place privately. The 2 main types of houses for rent are called “Terraced” and “Semi-Detached” houses (look our for Terr and Semi D words in real estate ads).


Terraced houses are older and usually in long rows covering entire streets.

housing in the UK

Typical city street

I simply cannot live in them because the layout is terrible. Since all the houses in the street are literally stuck together, walls are usually very thin and you can hear a lot of what’s going on with the neighbours. Same for the gardens, there is NO pricavy possible and it can get very noisy outside. Terraced houses are all in length, quite narrow on 2 or 3 floors with usually 3 bedrooms. Look at the layout on the floor plan below, it’s crazy. Found the bathroom yet? Yes that’s the room right by the kitchen!!!

housing in the UK

typical floor plan for terraced houses

Well nothing wrong with that you say. Well to me the whole house is done wrong. First of all kitchens and bathrooms are usually very small. If you like to cook, forget it, these houses are not for you. Then the bathroom is located on the ground floor, right at the back…just behind the kitchen. It is as bad and weird as it sounds: to go to the bathroom from the entrance, you need to cross one or 2 living rooms, the kitchen and there it is, the bathroom. Also imagine the trip in the middle of the night!


Semi-Detached houses (pictures below) are more modern they are usually set in nicer and quieter neighbourhoods and offer more privacy in and outdoors. Instead of an endless row of narrow houses (as with the Terraced) you now have 2 houses stuck together (much thicker wall too). And the layout is much more logic as far as i am concerned.

Shopping in the UK

Some things can be surprisingly cheap to buy in the UK, like cars (insuring them is another matter), clothes, food… especially if you take the time to look around. Online shopping is very popular too and delivery time is really quick so a lot of people buy their things online. I used Amazon for almost everything.

In the UK the second hand market is huge and there are loads of 2nd hand shops and charity shops, where you can buy just about anything from clothes to furniture. Buying 2nd hand is totally acceptable in the UK and you shouldn’t be surprised to find some well off customers in a charity shop. You may also hear about Car Boot Sales, they take place everywhere in the country, often during the weekend. Those are big outdoor 2nd hand markets where people come to socialise, look for bargains and hunt little treasures. British people love them and you should go at least once it’s quite an experience. You’ll often hear “treasures” stories about people digging up some collectibles among broken toys and grandma’s dishes. They even have plenty TV shows on the topic.


Expat life in England is fairly confortable especially once you know what you’re entitled to. I’m happy to help if you have any question. You can also check the England and Wales country page for more info and useful links.

One thought on “Money and Housing in the UK”

  1. shantanu sinha says:


    This is great piece of information.
    Indeed the United Kingdom, is one of the most expensive cities in the globe.
    Nothing come cheap here, whether that is houses, rents, and any other commodities.
    Every things need to be charged up pretty high.

    The structural designs for the rent houses seems to be very uncomfortable,
    just imagine, you could here any couple fighting, just behind the walls of your bedrooms.
    The privacy is simply gone and the money INVOLVED there is very high.

    WOW! these second hand re sale events are very cool.
    Very handy things could get under these outside sales at a very affordable price.
    Thanks for sharing this among us.
    Shantanu sinha

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