The cost of living in the UK may sound steep, but with a high teaching salary, it’s to be expected. English teachers don’t save huge amounts of money whilst teaching in the UK, although if you’re careful, you should be able to save enough to travel round the country and into Europe!
If you work for a summer school in the UK (such as PGL) you will be generally be provided with free shared accommodation – usually in something that looks a lot like a dorm room! If you work for a private school, You won’t be provided with accommodation and so you’ll need to find your own: expect to spend around 30% of your salary on rent with a one-bed apartment in Manchester costing around £600/$1,000. If you’re looking to save some money, moving into the suburbs could save you over £100/$160 – or if you share with another teacher, you’ve cut the rent in half. London prices are way more extortionate though, with a one bed flat costing over £1,000; so if you’re teaching English in London be prepared for a long commute!
The cost of food is quite high, but markets like London Borough offer much better value for money, where you can pick up fresh fruit and vegetable for much less than in chained supermarkets!
The Brits love nothing more than a pint of beer in a traditional English pub after work: and although prices vary depending on where you are in the UK, you can pick up a pint for about £3.20/$5.15 – even cheaper if you opt for the local brand!
British cuisine is often unfairly labelled as ‘bland’ and ‘boring’, but a stay in England and you’ll quickly come to realise this isn’t the case! Traditional food is hearty and filling to get people through the long winters – try the favoured Shepherd’s Pie, made of minced lamb and potato, with carrots and onions mixed in a gravy sauce. If you don’t like lamb, try the beef version – otherwise known as Cottage Pie. Another British tradition is to eat fish and chips by the seaside – whether it’s Blackpool or Brighton, it has to be done at least once (preferably in the pouring rain!).
The British love sweet treats (which leads to another unfair myth: that they have bad teeth – they really don’t), and no dessert is more classic than a simple Victoria Sponge, which is a plain sponge cake, wedged with a layer of jam and buttercream, and a light sprinkling of icing sugar.
The Brits love a good beer in a traditional pub, and each area of the country have their own special brews, so be sure to try a few while you’re out here! John Smith and Bulmer’s are some of the more well-known British brands, or try the lesser-known Black Sheep and Badger beers. However, for a quintessential British beverage, you simply can’t beat a cup of tea: add some milk and serve with biscuits and you’ll fit right in!
If you’re planning to teach English in the UK then you should get ready for some rain. Let’s face it; the UK isn’t exactly known for its nice weather! As an island, it rains A LOT, especially in the North West, with Manchester labelled as the rainiest city in the country! The summers are mild, never really reaching past 20 degrees, and the winters are cold: although it snows, it rains so much that it never really settles. In Scotland, it’s even colder, with Aberdeen regularly in sub-zero temperatures in the depth of winter. To sum the weather in the UK: it’s dull.
No matter where you’re living in the country, your accommodation will be of a very good standard, and in-line with what you’re used to at home. The only exception to the rule is London, where accommodation is so expensive; rent for a 3 bed house in nearly every other city is equivalent to a tiny studio flat. Most teachers living in London will share housing with a group of people – whether it’s with other English teachers, or current tenants advertising a spare room online (Spare Room is a great website to check out).
Demand is fairly constant around all UK cities where language schools and summer camps are located, although the majority of opportunities are found in London, Edinburgh and Oxford. To give yourself the best chance of securing a position, start applying for jobs in May and June, when summer school opportunities are advertised. If you’d prefer to teach in a private language school instead, demand is fairly constant all year round; and as long as you’ve got previous teaching experience, you shouldn’t find it too hard getting a job.
London quite literally is the city that never sleeps, and if you love the bright lights of a big city, then it’s the perfect place! See the iconic sites of Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, indulge in some retail therapy – head to Oxford Street for high street brands, or venture over to Spitalfields and Camden Market for one-off, quirky pieces. The nightlife is varied too: sip a pint in a traditional pub, visit the quirky bars in Shoreditch, or party with aristocracy in exclusive clubs Whisky Mist and Funky Buddha!
The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh sure can rival London; and is the ideal city if you want to stay in a more relaxed capital. You can experience an abundance of culture here: visit Edinburgh Castle and watch the cannon get fired every day at 1pm (except Sunday), and enjoy Hogmanay for spectacular New Year’s Eve specials, with performances from well-known British singers. For a night out with a difference, wander round the cobblestones after dark to discover the ghosts of Edinburgh – it’s reputed to be one of the most haunted cities in the UK!
If you want to experience a country English lifestyle, then Oxford is perfect! Life is laid back, and you’re sure to see the students from the world-famous University of Oxford wandering round the streets. You’d have the best of both worlds teaching in Oxford, with a relaxed pace of life, but London’s less than an hour away so you can get swooped into the buzzing capital whenever you feel like it!
All towns and cities are well-equipped with comprehensive transportation systems (usually in the form of buses, although many cities have trams too); and generally, they run on time with frequent services, so you can rely on them for getting to work on time. In London, the majority of commuters use the underground as it’s really fast; but it gets packed during rush hour, and between the hours of 6am-9am, over 57,000 use the tube! Whilst it can be an exciting experience to begin with, long-term English teachers often choose to live nearer to their place of work so they can walk it instead. It saves a lot of money too, as a one-way ticket is quite pricey at £2.20/$3.50!
With an average teaching week of 25 hours, you’ll have plenty of time to do some travelling, and if you want to see more of the UK you’re in luck, with a bus and train network covering the entire country! National Express buses are the cheapest option, but travelling times are longer, and it’s often worth catching the train instead: travel between the two largest cities of London and Birmingham, taking 1.5 hours and costing £27/$43 – or save even more money by investing in a rail card.
Despite being an island on the edge of Western Europe, travelling around the continent is easy and cheap, and you can do it in a variety of ways! Take a trip from Dover to Calais, France for £35/$56 one-way – ferries run every hour and the crossing is only 90 minutes. You can also catch an overnight ferry from Hull to Amsterdam, or from Liverpool to Dublin, Ireland.
The UK is also well-served by low-cost carriers EasyJet and Ryanair, and you can literally travel to anywhere in Europe for hardly any money, whether you’d prefer to stay close by in Paris for £70/$110 (1hr20) return, or venture to somewhere less explored like Vilnius in Lithuania for £60/$100 return, taking 3 hours.
Whilst in most countries, there is an automatic respect for teachers, it has to be earned in the UK; and because of this, teachers can have issues controlling their students. Remember to be confident and firm and you will earn that respect.
Students wear uniforms in British schools, and you should dress professionally too: jeans are not acceptable attire for a teacher, with males wearing smart trousers, and female teachers in trousers and skirts.
No matter whereabouts you’re teaching in the UK, you NEED to have a night out in Manchester at least once. Coined as ‘Madchester’ in the 1980s-90s, this Northern city is well-known for its great nightlife: head to Spinningfields for a classy cocktail, or to quirky Northern Quarter which offers great music and even greater drinks!