Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Newbie in the UK

Most Malaysians who come to UK for the first time have some idea of what to expect here but they are unprepared for a lot of things and sadly, apart from some guidelines provided on the Government websites (which unfortunately doesn't tell you much), there are several things we had to learn on our own - by trial and error. Definitely not a very good idea. They also fail to mention other small but very important details.

So given below is a checklist for UK newbies, with some very important tips:

1. Accommodation: Make sure you have a place to stay before you come here. Malaysians usually put up with a friend for a few weeks and then look for a house or apartment to stay.

This is not advisable but gives an opportunity to shop for good bargains. The Internet does not always give us a lot of important information, such as the distance to the nearest school, shops or safety of the locality. My wife took the opportunity to attend a conference in London and have a quick look around Coventry a month before all of us moved here. The various accommodation provided by the university were a bit too pricey for our liking (around £600) and We were lucky to have friends who helped find and book a house for us (only £400) before we arrived. Most Malaysian families here in Coventry reside in the Foleshill and Stoney Stanton areas. Probably due to the fact that there are a number of Halal shops and 2 mosques in the area.

Nobody told us, but we were informed that we would have to pay a council tax (around £1400 annually). I know! That's an awful lot of money. Fortunately, our land lord informed us that we were exempted from the tax as we are students. We only had to go down to the City council office and fill up a form providing the necessary documents (letter from the University and our passports).

2. Vehicle: The public transport here is really efficient. However, not having a vehicle of our own really restricted our movement, such as going to the car boot sales. You can't tumpang your friends forever. We finally bought a 2nd hand Ford Escort (1.8 litres 16 v) for £700/ Many people look at the price of the car and go: "Wow! That's cheap" but there are several other things (and costs we need to keep in mind). First of all is the car insurance, which in our case came up to £450. We also need to look at the road tax and the MOT. The later refers to the mandatory test of safety and roadworthiness aspects of vehicles in the UK. The MOT test for our car is due in January next year and we are praying that we won't have to replace any parts. It is not just the price of car parts that we have to worry about. It is the service charges, which are worrying.

At first I thought we could rely on public transport but I soon realised the importance of having our own car after getting soaked to the skin in the rain once, while taking the kids to the clinic. This brings me to one of the most important things you need to do when you get here.

3. Registering with a GP
: People may find it hard to believe, but so far, from my experience, the health care services in Malaysia are way better. The first problem we faced was trying to find a health centre that would accept us. A few days after we moved into the house, we went to the nearest clinic. They turned us away saying that they didn't have any application forms ("and we can't say for certain whether the doctor would accept your application"). The second one said that they were not taking any more new people. Fed up, I called up the NHS helpline and got a list of clinics (or surgeries) in the area. We finally got one, which were accepting new applications but about 10 minutes drive. The whole process of registering was quite easy. On the positive side, the service is totally free. So far, we have been to the Surgery twice - Once to register and the last one for the kid's vaccination jabs (which should cost us at least RM600 in Malaysia). Both times, we never got to see a doctor. It seems like the nurses handle everything, unlike in Malaysia where the nurses are only supposed to help the doctor.

I think these are the 3 most important things that all Malaysian newbies in UK need to think about. There are more but that's another post.



ainee said...

another thing, the petrol price is a bit high. (don't know in coventry).

hmm, how do u settle for furniture and electrical appliances then?

o yeah, happy holloween to thou and family.

lainieyeoh said...

not that i'm going there anytime soon, but if i were, this would be dead useful.

Adam said...

Hi Ainee: Petrol prices. Hmmm that's another post topic.

Fortunately, our house was fully furnished. We bought some small furniture from second hand shops and car boot sales. Same for the electrical equipment.

BabyPink said...

wow! you're in the UK now.:) i hope i'll have the chance to go there one day, too.:)

God bless!:)

sweetspirits said...

Hi Adam
Sounds a little like oz , doctors books full n the rest..

I hope things go smoother :)

Zaza said...

house fully furnished? that's a good thing! and if you ask me, you guys got yourself a car, was a wise decision since you have two bouncing children! try not to take the car everywhere tho to save on fuel. busses are child friendly too! i miss UK...


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