The past three months have flown by; from dashing from a close friend’s wedding to the airport to now I’ve had delightful and uncertain experiences, made great new friends, and found another place I feel at home. I’ve got a few more detailed posts about Scotland queued up but wanted to reflect on how my trans-continental move went.
For starters, if you’re considering moving to a completely new country before be prepared to start over entirely. I don’t necessarily mean money and whatnot-I had, and still have, access to my USA bank accounts-but as far as credit history and general background you may very well be considered a blank slate. When opening a bank account in the UK, for instance, you need to be able to give proof of address. Conversely, to secure a lease on a flat you need to have a valid UK bank account…catch-22 anybody? Some pointers on getting settled into a more permanent state of mind (and residence), since I’ve got a feeling nobody likes living out of a suitcase while starting a new course of study/job/anything of the sort:
- Decide what kind of accommodation you’re looking for: this seems pretty simple but knowing what you want, including what is non-negotiable and what you’re willing to be flexible on, is a huge help. Figuring out what your basic needs are (for me, a washing machine and walking distance to campus were two essentials) helps narrow down your searches and is useful in determining your budget. Every income situation is different-right now I’m a full-time student on loans and my own savings-but comparing what you need and want in a place to what the city’s general renting rates are helps lessen the shock when you do move. Flats and houses that are actually available are obviously going to be different from the ones you’ve looked at online in the months to your move, but chances are they’ll be comparable.
- Research renters’ requirements: I’m not familiar with every country’s credit/renters’ requirements, but in the USA you usually need proof of credit history (with a good credit score to match), proof of funds, and one or two months’ deposit on-hand before getting the keys to your place. Sometimes a co-signer is needed depending on your situation. The UK seems to be similar, though it varies from agency to agency. If you don’t work full-time some agencies require a guarantor, any working UK citizen who can vouch for your character and ensure you pay your rent-or will pay it for you if you can’t. Others are willing to waive this requirement if you agree to a double deposit instead. Talk to different agencies and ask what their requirements are. Taking the initiative rather than waiting until you’ve found the place of your dreams, only to be turned away, saves you an incredible amount of time. By reaching out to agencies and asking their requirements before arranging viewings I was able to narrow down my search to three agencies in the area.
- Find the bank you want to open an account with (and set up a meeting before you move): it’s worth noting which banks are big in the country you’re moving to and which have a presence in your specific city. My bank, for example, has branches worldwide but only a few in Scotland. I was unsure about whether to go with them for this reason, but I’m glad I did. Before leaving the States I had set up an account with them in my home state, which made arranging for an appointment in their Aberdeen branch easier, as I was an existing customer rather than a new one. Setting up a meeting with the bank before you move will allow you to sort out what kind of account you need and get it opened as quickly as possible. If I hadn’t set up a meeting before coming over I wouldn’t have gotten in until three weeks after term started since the bank was flooded with new student appointments. This delay would have meant a delay in securing a flat, getting a monthly mobile plan, all that.
You may find different obstacles in getting yourself sorted with a place to rent, as each country could have its own rules and regulations. Still, hopefully these three tips can serve as a starting point when you make the big move!