Welcome to the UK! To help you get settled into the British way of life we have created a short guide to offer insight into this new place you will call home!

The United Kingdom, known usually as “the UK” is made up of four countries which share one monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) and a government. The countries are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each country has its own cultural identity and to assume all four countries are ‘the same’ would be doing a disservice to each region. Each area offers something invaluable to the make-up of this diverse and interesting part of the world. While England, Wales and Scotland are on the same island, Northern Ireland is separated by The Irish Sea, and shares a border with The Republic of Ireland.

Getting to know the UK’s key cities


London is England’s capital and is the most popular destination for expats coming to live in the UK. 

The city is large and constantly growing and there are now over 300 languages spoken there. Moving to London can often be a challenge for newcomers so seek advice and visit areas before you commit to anything. Each region of London has its own distinct identity, and there are several neighbourhoods where expats tend to settle, for example Ealing and Hammersmith. 

Much of London is on the London Underground metro system, a series of underground train lines. Living close to a tube station is really handy and a good consideration for choosing a location to live. Visit our website for more information on the various boroughs around London that we recommend. 


Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, a popular location for professionals, families and students. It offers beautiful landscapes such as dramatic mountains and a dormant volcano called Arthur’s Seat offers its visitors a panoramic view of the fine city. The Scottish capital offers dramatic architecture, a rich and interesting history (with its famous castle which sits at the top of a road called The Royal Mile), and is famous for its city-wide summer festival. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival brings together the best of upcoming music, comedy, and theatre and is popular with tourists from around the world, attracting over 250,000 visitors each year! 


Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The most popular reasons for moving to this city include work, family, and education. The largest city in Northern Ireland, Belfast is situated on the east coast of the country on the banks of the river Lagan. Home to stunning landscapes and scenery and bursting with culture, traditionally the city isn’t as popular with expats as the likes of London, Edinburgh and Cardiff.  Northern Ireland has had a troubled history and in the second half of the 20th century, the Troubles raged in Northern Ireland, from time to time spilling over into other parts of the UK and Ireland. This conflict ended in a ceasefire and the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, but still violence occurs every so often in the region. 


Cardiff is the capital of Wales and the country’s largest city and is the commercial centre for Wales. One of the first things visitors notice about the Welsh capital are the bilingual street signs, in both Welsh and English.

The Welsh language and culture are very important to the natives here and this is proudly displayed when the nation’s rugby team plays! 

This vibrant city and surrounding areas in Cardiff offer historical castles, stunning beaches, hiking spots and an abundance of tours and trips for the adventurous.

Some useful facts and figures

  • Population: 66.8 million
  • Climate: Temperate 
  • Official languages: English. Regional and minority languages include Scots, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Irish, and Cornish
  • Religion: Majority Christian 56.6%, Muslim 5.6%, Hindu 1.7%, Jewish 0.5%, Buddhist 0.5%, other 1.5%, none/not stated 32.8%.
  • Monarch: Queen Elizabeth II
  • Cars drive on the left hand side 
  • Currency: British pound (GBP)
  • Emergency number: 999
  • No location in the UK is further away from the sea than 77 miles so don’t forget to pack your swimming costume!!
  • The UK was part of the European Union from 1973 until 'Brexit' was finalised on 31 December 2020 when the transition period (from 31 January 2020) ended with new arrangements between the EU and the UK.

Things to know

Plug In

In Japan the standard voltage is 100 V and the frequency is 50 / 60 Hz. The voltage in Japan (100 V) is less than in the United Kingdom (230 V). You need a voltage converter which can be bought via a UK plug. 

Watch the clock

Japan is 9 hours ahead of the UK (GMT) so this is something to be aware of before calling friends and family in Japan. 

The period when the clocks are one hour ahead is called British Summer Time (BST). There's more daylight in the evenings which isa  real bonus and less light  in the mornings (sometimes called Daylight Saving Time). When the clocks go back, the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). 

Make a meal of it

The Brits love their food and have several dishes that are close to their hearts, these include traditional fish and chips, typically enjoyed from a takeaway restaurant but popular dishes in pubs. A weekend in Britain isn't truly complete without a ‘Sunday roast’, a dish typically containing a selection of seasonal vegetables with a roasted meat (usually roast beef, roast chicken or pork) served with roasted potatoes, yorkshire pudding and lots of gravy! Other popular dishes include Indian curries (with a British twist such as the Chicken Tikka Masala) and Toad in the Hole.

Put the Kettle On

It’s a widely known fact that the British love their cups of tea, add to this a biscuit and you will create smiles all round! Having a teapot to make a ‘proper brew’ will impress any new British friends and having a well-stocked biscuit tin with a selection of chocolate and plain biscuits will ensure you have friends for life!

Getting out and about

Whether it’s frequenting the pub on a Friday after work to destress after a long week or visiting the cinema, theatre, art gallery or clubbing there’s so much on offer. Going to support the local football team on a Saturday afternoon or joining the local health club or gym, having a weekend activity will ensure you’re really embracing British culture. 

Get in line

It’s not just a source of amusement for the rest of the world, but a fact of life that the British people do like to queue! They see it as a fair and orderly way to behave in public.       

Political Landscape

The British political system is a two party system. Since the 1920s, the two dominant parties have been the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.  The Conservative Party also known colloquially as the Tories, Tory Party is one of two main political parties and current governing party in the UK, winning the 2019 general election with an overall majority in the House of Commons. 


Across the UK there are five stages of education: early years, primary, secondary, Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). Education is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5 (4 in Northern Ireland) and 18.


The UK has a free publicly-funded healthcare system called the National Health System (NHS) which is world-leading in terms of its quality of care and access for all. The NHS is different from many healthcare systems elsewhere as it is funded through taxation rather than health insurance. There is also a smaller private healthcare sector that people can choose if they wish. 

Mini Guide to renting in the UK

Renting a home in another country can be a little overwhelming but with a little guidance you can be sure to find a place you want to call home!

Finding appropriate housing in the UK can be a challenging aspect of relocating as there are many different aspects to finding a home, signing contracts and so on. Plus, rental prices will vary depending on the region or area (some parts of London are much more expensive than others) and the type of house you are looking to rent.  

To help guide you through this exciting yet daunting process, Japan Letting Agency has created a useful guide with definitions and help to make the journey of finding a property much easier and more enjoyable.

There are various types of property available to rent in the UK and they each offer something different:

  • Flats: i.e. apartments.
  • Penthouse is a flat on the top floor of a tall building, typically one that is luxuriously fitted.
  • Two-level flat: i.e. maisonette or duplex.
  • Studio flats: typically combines a kitchen, bedroom, and living space in one open space.
  • Converted flats: these are usually older houses which have been renovated and split into smaller flats.
  • Detached houses: single houses which are not connected to another house or building.
  • Semi-detached houses: coupled together with another dwelling via a wall on only one side.
  • Terraced house: attached to other houses on both sides.
  • End of terrace: at the end of a line of terraced houses. This has very similar properties and features to a semi-detached house.
  • Cottage: seen in more rural areas; on farms and in the countryside.
  • Bungalow: single-storey house, also detached from other houses.
  • Mansion: typically consists of multiple large rooms, many floors, a large garden and typically with outbuildings etc.

Renting in the UK: what do you need to know?

Renting a house rather than purchasing one when you first relocate is preferable and far less hassle. Plus, landlords (owners of the flat/house) are responsible for most of the property’s upkeep; this makes your life much easier. This means they have a legal duty of care and must ensure that the rental property is maintained to a certain standard. The landlords are responsible for the following: 

  • the structure and exterior of the property (e.g.walls, windows, external doors and stairs);
  • drains, gutters and external pipes;
  • basins, sinks, baths and toilets;
  • gas appliances;
  • electric wiring heating; and
  • hot water

Rental Process and Rules

Japan Letting Agent has a selection of rental properties in a variety of desirable locations across London. Once you have selected a property that suits your needs and requirements, had a viewing and made you ask any questions you may have, it will be time to sign a contract. Most contracts are for a year, at the end of which you can extend your stay. It is important that you read your contract carefully and in detail. Typically you will be asked to pay a deposit to ensure the property is secured which is usually the same amount as one month’s rent (although this is not always the case). You may also be asked for the following requirements and documents for renting so make sure you have all the documents to hand: 

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of legal work permit/visa
  • Proof of earnings
  • Letter of confirmation of employment from your employer
  • Copy of employment contract
  • References from previous landlords

Rental Contract and Deposit

It’s a good idea to ensure your contract has the following information:

  • your (and your landlord’s) name and contact details;
  • address of rental property;
  • dates of beginning and ending of rental contract;
  • rental fees with payment dates;
  • dates and frequency of rental review;
  • security deposit and conditions for getting it back;
  • deposit protection scheme
  • extra fees, if any are applicable
  • who is responsible for which type of repairs; and
  • subletting rules.

Make a list

You have signed on the dotted line and the ideal property is yours to enjoy. Before you move into your new home it’s a good idea to create an inventory of items in the house and their condition, taking photos can be a good idea if there are areas of wear or damage before you move in. This way you will make sure you get your deposit back when the tenancy is over. 

Rights and responsibilities

As a tenant, you will have rights and responsibilities and it’s a good idea to read up on what’s what before you sign any tenancy agreement. 

The UK’s government website offers really good advice on what’s expected of you as a tenant and what your landlord should be doing. When you rent a property as the tenant you have the right to live in a place that is safe and private and to be protected from eviction or rent that hasn’t been agreed. As the tenant of a property, you have the responsibility to take care of the property you’re living in, and pay the rent that you have agreed to pay. 


Lastly, as a tenant, you will most likely be responsible for paying your utility bills. Some of them might be paid as part of the rental price but you will have to take care of the rest. Make sure to consider these payments in your monthly budget. The bills you will need to be aware of and budget for include: 

  • Electricity
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Council Tax
  • Broadband
  • Landline
  • TV Licence: this is a legal requirement if you watch, stream and record programmes on any device. Read more information here.
  • Pay television services
  • Miscellaneous and not applicable to all rentals:
    • Service charges, ground rent (for leasehold properties), rentcharges (for freehold properties) (if applicable)—included in the rent
    • Other charges, e.g. security alarms and cameras. It is best to check with the landlords and agents regarding possible charges. 

For any queries regarding utilities and additional charges chat to your contact at Japan Letting Agent and they will be able to assist you. 

A final word on living in the UK

There should be information available from us (the agency) or landlord when you rent a property about the rubbish and recycling collections. For the most part there are general waste collections and then separate plastic and recycling collections. 

Be respectful to the property, this means no blu tac or tape on the walls and doors as this will take off the paint.  It’s also a good idea to be polite to landlords, neighbours, porters, gardeners and cleaners (if applicable), you never know when you may need to call upon their assistance! 

Keep on top of the daily cleaning and general maintenance of the property and make sure you regularly open windows for ventilation and to avoid dampness. Landlords can come for checks on the property, as long as they give you adequate notice. 

Drains can get blocked and become a nuisance so making sure you clean them out using a shop bought drain cleaner will make your life easier. If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space make sure you keep on top of any general tidying and weeding.

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