THE PRIVATE SIDE OF BUSINESS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM
After the United States (and perhaps Australia), the United Kingdom is the country where English-speaking Canadians are most likely to fit right in. Setting aside accents, cultural references, the national sense of humour and sporting interests, there is more in common than different.
Most Canadians living and working in the U.K. will find themselves in London. Though pricey, the global centre offers everything a Canadian could want, including international cuisine and a vibrant English-language culture.
Anyone working and paying taxes in the U.K. is likely to qualify for the National Health Service (NHS), which provides free medical care, including basic dental care. Although the quality of care is considered as good as or better than the care provided by Canada’s public healthcare system, there is a parallel private system, funded mostly by insurance, that can provide faster access, more comfortable hospital rooms and services not covered by the NHS. Like in Canada, the general practitioner is the entry point into the system. The NHS provides an online service to find care, but word of mouth is usually the best way to find a doctor that’s right for you.
Social life and kids
The British lifestyle, despite oddball interests like cricket and trainspotting, is not so different than the Canadian one. On average, homes are older and smaller. Cites are more compact and people are more likely to use public transportation.
The pub is an important part of neighbourhood and village life, though in cosmopolitan London, there are infinite choices on how to fill leisure time. The one thing Canadians living in the U.K. mention as a key challenge is navigating the British sense of humour. Brits tend to be more risqué in their joking, frequently declaring Canadians to be “politically correct.”
For those who enjoy television on a set or even on a computer, one of the quirks of U.K. life is the TV licence, which is what pays for the BBC.
After the U.S., the U.K. is the one country where you’re most likely to run into Canadian expats. There are a number of business, academic and social groups in the U.K. aimed at Canadians, most of them based in London. In particular, Network Canada is the largest Canadian association in Europe. They offer a variety of events throughout the year and publish a guide to living in London, which is available for purchase at the Canada Shop, 27 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2E7JS.
Although cricket and football (soccer) are the national passions, hockey does have its British fans. There is a national recreational hockey association, which also provides a list of ice rinks around the country. There is also a national competitive ice hockey league, the British Ice Hockey Association.
Each of the four countries of the U.K. manages its own education system. Generally speaking, state-run schools and colleges are financed through national taxation, and take pupils free of charge between the ages of 3 and 18. Public schools, contrary to their name, are private, paid-for and often quite exclusive. Though terms like A-Levels and Sixth Form are likely to confuse Canadians, there are, like in Canada, 13 years of basic schooling, including kindergarten, leading up to an array of post-secondary choices.