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

Personal Experiences from Oxfordshire, United Kingdom

Oxfordshire, United Kingdom 11/15/11

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 Middle East as well as central Europe

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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?

Home base is the midwest - about an 8 hour flight from DFW

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years from 2008 - 2011

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

Affiliated with American military

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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 very small by American standards. Most housing is located in small rural neighborhoods. We lived right next to a nice, large park. About 20 minute commute.

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

Just about anything you want can be found but the cost is about double the cost of what you would pay in the States. Shop around and use the supermarket savings cards.

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

Anything you need for electronics. It can be difficult to find what you need in the smaller towns. I am sure you could find it in London but that is not always convenient. Tortilla chips, tortillas, any Tex-Mex foods. These can be found here but not always the same flavor.

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

Most of the favorite American fast food restaurants are available someplace in the area. We had McDonald's, Burger King, KFC.Papa John's is in Oxford. Local pubs provide a wide range of food types and costs. The Greyhound in Marsh Gibbon is great of Thai Food, Pizza Express is family friendly and nice for pizza, Puddin' Face in Deddington is great for British pies.

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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?

Again, just about anything you want can be found either in the supermarket or Oxford or London. We subscribed to a vegetable box scheme where we got organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered each week. A great way to get organic vegetables and try the local, seasonal produce.

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

Bees are awful.

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Daily Life:

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

APO

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

Domestic help is expensive. The one family we did know who brought in their nanny had a difficult time getting all of the paperwork completed. Make sure you check with your supporting organization and get help with this. It can be tough.

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

Yes but I never had any personal experience with any of them.

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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?

Safe and easy to use. We never had any problems.

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

Yes. Church of England, Catholic.

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

Yes. We had local cable for about $60 a month.

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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?

You need to speak English. Never really heard anything else being spoken unless I was on the train in London.

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

Not too many. I pushed baby strollers for the three years we were there and did not have many problems. The sidewalks are well made with ramps. However, the smaller villages do not have sidewalks and any trip to London would prove difficult.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. Trains are expensive. Always look online for the current savings scheme.

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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?

The roads are in good condition so any type of vehicle really will work. Pay attention to any metal parts though. The damp environment can cause things to rust.

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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?

Yes. Our internet was combined with our cable so we had cable and Internet for $60 a month.

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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?

T-mobile and Vodafone where used the most.

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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 but because we did not have pets I am not familiar with the rules on quarantine.

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

No experience with this aspect.

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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?

Yes. There is an adviser at the Embassy in London that can assist with local employment.

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

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

About the same with any large American city. There were a few cases of juvenile vandalism where we lived and one case of a sexual attacker attacking women who were walking alone at night. Use common sense and lock your doors and you should be fine.

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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?

Upper respiratory infections due to the damp air. Medical care here is so-so. Be prepared to fight for what you think you need. The medical system here is so overloaded that only the most urgent cases get the serious attention they need. We had two major experiences with the medical care here. One of our children was born here. We chose to go with private medical care for that and had a pretty good experience but they are totally hands off when it comes to labor. However, there is a great post-natal support system. One of our children also broke a bone while here. She did get the treatment she needed but every ER visit and follow-up visit was a test of patience persistence. Long waits and distracted staff was a bit diconcerting.

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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?

About the same as a large U.S. city, though very damp. There was always someone in our household suffering from some kind of upper respiratory infection or other simply due to the dampness. It is difficult to adjust to if you are used to living in a drier environment.

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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?

See above. It is very damp. The hottest it usually gets in the summer is 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It does not always rain but is overcast and damp most of the time.

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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 are not international schools here. Most people use the local private schools for middle and high school. Beachborough and Kingham Hill for the two main ones. Children can go to school for free at the public schools once they reach the age of four. We sent our daughter to a local Church of England school and had a great experience. You really just have to do your research, visit the schools and decide which is the best fit for you and your child.

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

No experience with this area.

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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?

Widely available with widely varying standards. As with schools, visit several and see which one you like best. Very expensive though.

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

Several - especially soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Small in this area but larger in London.

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2. Morale among expats:

Okay. There is definitely a small town mentality and that can be stifling at times.

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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?

For families there are movie theaters, parks and play lands.

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

Very good area. England is on a big push right now for healthy kids and families so there are hundreds of things to do every weekend for families and kids - many free.

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

Really never heard much about this.

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

None that we ever experienced.

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

Train trips to London, ferry rides to Normandy, participating in local sporting groups, rambling the countryside

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

Take the train to London, eat ice cream at Godwin's Ice Cream farm, pick berries and apples at a pick your own farm (Millets is good), tour Oxford, tour any of the numerous historic homes (an English Heritage or National Trust membership is well worth the money), visit the local pubs, go shopping in Milton Keynes.

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

Pub grug, Cath Kidston items, tea pots and tea sets

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

Because English is spoken here there is a real advantage. You can easily get involved in the local culture and activities. Oxfordshire is very central and makes a great base for touring all over the U.K.There is something to do every weekend from shopping in London to walking through the countryside. Veg box schemes - fresh, seasonal produce, fish, eggs and milk delivered to your door. You can save money but it is tough. There are free things to do you just have to look for them.

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11. Can you save money?

It's tough.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely

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

Shorts, bathing suits and warm weather clothing

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3. But don't forget your:

Wellies, rain coat and umbrella

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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?

This is a great post for families and easy to settle into.

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