Bath, United Kingdom Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Bath, United Kingdom

Bath, United Kingdom 10/13/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Have lived in NL for a year.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US. About 10 hours to the U.S. West Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Husband's job.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is expensive, though pretty much comparable to major cities worldwide. Attached housing is much more common than in the U.S. and detached homes are expensive, probably averaging about 400,000 GBP.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

If you are paid in pounds, the prices here are far better than in the U.S..All supermarkets have basics ranges of, well, the basics. That means you can get bread for about 80 U.S. cents a loaf, and a packet of biscuits for about 50 U.S. cents a packet, for example. I feed a family of five very well for 85 GBP (about U.S. $120) a week.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

None except maybe some American comfort foods.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Typical fast food offerings. Restaurants are okay but nothing special. Wide range of prices.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Similar to the offerings in the U.S. but there is not a large Whole Foods-type supermarket in Bath.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None. We have no window screens -- they are not very common here -- and leave the windows open much of the year and have no issues with insects. We are on the edge of a rural area, however, so mice, on the other hand...

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Expensive and unnecessary.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Not to a U.S. standard. With the mild weather, it's much better to go outdoors and get exercise outside.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Pretty much all ATMs here are fee-free.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Bath is a preserved Georgian city. I think it would be very difficult for someone with mobility issues.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Transportation in general is very expensive. My husband commutes into London and it costs him 5500 GBP per year for a rail card or about 100 GBP a day.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Due to the size of our family, I drive a huge SUV. It's expensive to operate and fuel and I now regret buying it. Parking is expensive in Bath.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

We pay 37 GBP (about 60 USD) a month for high-speed internet, home phone and free calls to the U.S. up to 60 minutes.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I think they are much cheaper here than in the U.S. I have the latest Samsung smart phone, which was free with a 31 GBP/month contract. I think it's 500 minutes, unlimited texts and more internet than I need. My husband has a similar plan with his iPhone but it's 35 GBP a month.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Yes, unless you plan far ahead.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Kennels around here are basic. Better to find friends who want to pet sit, which seems pretty common around here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Depends. Much of the "local economy" in Bath is based in London. If you don't want to spend your life commuting, this isn't the place for you.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Very casual. Anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

The drink culture is a problem in every UK city and it turns the city centres into no-go zones on the weekends. Very sad.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Superb. We have used the NHS endlessly with three kids and I have nothing but praise for the excellent care we've received. If there is a post code lottery, we've won it!

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rainy. Summers recently have been a disappointment. Winters are mild enough to have year round access to outdoor activities and sports, a real plus if you're used to ice-cold Midwestern winters!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There aren't any around here, thank goodness, as the one my kids attended in the Netherlands was terrible, with teacher turnover ensuring absolutely no consistency in anything. Local schools are absolutely superb. From primaries to senior schools, they could stand up to any American school. Teachers are very caring and the personal/pastoral care is absolutely unparalleled.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Again, excellent. I have a special-needs daughter and both on the National Health Service and through the schools she has received much better care and attention than in the U.S.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Again, outstanding choices. There is a government grant which provides assistance with preschool fees up until the age of 5, so many use this to privately educate until the grant runs out.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are endless activities, both subsidized and non-subsidized. There is always something for kids to do.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Reasonable for a small city but much better to integrate into the local community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very high. This is a magical place to live.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Excellent. I find the British families we've met very interested in meeting people from other countries. We could honestly have something to do every single weekend.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Probably better for families. Might get small for singles/younger people, though the university helps.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

This is so much less of an issue than in the U.S. Most people are tolerant and accepting. There is a real "live and let live" attitude.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There is little diversity here, though there is a decent Southeast Asian population. There is very little discrimination and my friends of other races and from other countries have found people give them more attention here and often want to know about their home culture.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Raising our kids in a safe, caring community. They really feel at home here and feel so proud of their little city.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Museums, parks, country walks. There are endless things to do.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Travel to Europe.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Everything. Mostly genuine, kind people. Everyone here is from somewhere else so there is a great sense of cohesion. Schools are fabulous with such kindness to the children. Access to Europe is also a plus.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Definitely. Cost of living can be much less here. There is also much less of a consumer society here, so not as much pressure to buy, buy, buy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a New York minute.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

White tennis shoes, please! Also, a superior attitude. Relax, lose the American impatience and you'll be much better off.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humour and ability to laugh at yourself.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Bath is an absolutely magical place, like no other place we've lived. The key is in the people, who are genuine, kind and often outrageously funny. An excellent combination.

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