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All Pros & Cons You Need To Know Before Moving To Scotland As Foreigner



All Pros & Cons You Need To Know Before Moving To Scotland As Foreigner

Are you considering moving to Scotland and want to discover the pros and cons of living in Scotland before packing your bags and hopping onto the next flight.

I have great news for you as Scotland is the perfect country for anyone looking to move abroad. Moving to Scotland has many pros and cons, making it incredibly rewarding and challenging as your life will change.

Whether you are moving to Scotland from the US, moving temporarily through a Youth Mobility Scheme visa or as a student ready to attend a Scottish university – there are many things to consider before moving.

Determining the pros and cons of moving to Scotland is important to see if it fits you. This post covers everything you need to know about moving and will help you decide if moving abroad is the right choice.

Living in Scotland — The 39 Pros and Cons of Moving to Scotland

Pros of Living in Scotland – The People
Scottish people are known for being very friendly and welcoming. If you want to meet some of the best people in the world – head to Scotland.

When I first arrived in Scotland, I was immediately met with kind, helpful people who were up for a chat. From strangers to workers – everyone was so helpful and made me feel right at home.

I had to ask for a lot of help when I first moved to Edinburgh, and everyone – from strangers to employees of shops I stopped at – helped me, no matter what they were doing.

One example is when I moved into my first flat with strangers I’d never met. They offered to pick me up from the train station and take me to the grocery store once I’d settled in.

And when I started working, all my co-workers invited me out, treated me like one of their own and made me feel part of the team.

So, one pro of living in Scotland is how incredibly amazing the people are. Whether you are moving to Scotland or visiting Scotland as a tourist – one thing you will remember is how friendly and welcoming you will feel when interacting with the locals.

Cons of Living in Scotland – Feeling Lonely

Scottish people are very welcoming; however, when you first move to Scotland, one of the cons is that you will probably feel lonely.

Sometimes, making the first few friends or reaching out to locals can be difficult. If you haven’t started university or started working at a job, breaking out of feeling lonely is challenging.

If you want tips, I have written a post about how to make friends in Scotland to help you if you are feeling lonely.

Pros of Moving to Scotland – Job Opportunities

Scotland, in particular, the big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, have a lot of job opportunities for foreign and temporary workers. If you are moving to Scotland with a Youth Mobility Scheme visa or student visa, you can work at most jobs around the country.

You can find positions in hotels, hostels, offices, pubs and (in my opinion, the coolest places to work!) tourist attractions (I worked at Edinburgh Zoo). The Scottish job market is incredibly welcoming to people from other countries — they embrace us with open arms.

Want to know how to work in Scotland?

There are several jobs in Scotland for expats, but you must get a work visa before starting. Alternatively, you can find temporary jobs through Scotland’s job agencies, which sometimes provide accommodation in conjunction with employment.

There are several temporary job opportunities for foreign expat workers looking for ways to earn as part of a working holiday in Scotland.

Job Agencies in Scotland

You can get a job if you are moving to Scotland with a Youth Mobility Scheme visa or on a student visa. Scotland has several temporary job agencies to assist you with your job search.

Whether you are looking for a temporary office job in a city or a farm job with accommodation, check out my post on how to get a job in Scotland for more information.

Be sure to check out the websites of places you’d love to work to see if they advertise any career opportunities you can take advantage of.

If they don’t have any job postings, it’s still worth sending a CV to their HR department if something pops up. You are legally required to have a visa to work or study in Scotland – find out more on how to get a visa to work in the UK here.

If you cannot get a Youth Mobility Scheme visa, check out the post on moving to Scotland from the US. It is focused on helping Americans move to Scotland, but the process is very similar if you are trying to move from another country.

Cons of Moving to Scotland – Getting a Skilled Worker Visa in Scotland
If you want to move to Scotland to work but cannot get a temporary worker visa, finding a job that can sponsor you can be difficult.

The best way to be eligible to work in Scotland is to apply for a skilled worker visa. The jobs listed on the skilled worker visa are always changing.

I recommend checking out the list I posted about moving to Scotland if you want more information.

Pro – Scotland is Safe

One concern you may have is, “Is Scotland safe?” Scotland is a very safe country to travel to and live in. As in most countries, there are a few shady areas that you should avoid. Plus, larger cities are more prone to crime than smaller towns. However, overall, Scotland is very safe for visitors and citizens.

When out and about, use common sense, and you will be fine in Scotland. For example, it is wise to be aware of your surroundings in public and keep your wallet, mobile phone, etc., in a secure place out of reach from potential pickpockets.

It is not common to experience theft of personal objects in Scotland, but it is still wise to be alert.

Pro – Scotland’s Landscape is Stunning

A small creek surrounded by green bushes and purple flowers in Scotland
Scotland is home to some of the most stunningly beautiful landscapes in the world. No matter where you are in Scotland, you never have to go too far to find an incredible place to spend your time.

From visiting Fingal’s Cave, surrounded by the gorgeous cliffs of Staffa, to visiting the hills of Glencoe and trying to find Nessie in Loch Ness. There is always somewhere beautiful to explore in Scotland.

Not only is the natural landscape in Scotland incredibly beautiful, but Scottish cities and tiny quaint seaside towns will be a treat for your eyes. The entire country is dotted with castles and historic buildings – no matter where you go, you will be stunned by the beauty of Scotland.

In Edinburgh, you can head to Arthur’s Seat or go down to St. Margaret’s Loch, or if you want to feel like you’ve stepped outside the city without actually leaving it, try a hike through the hilly Pentlands.

One of the pros of moving to Scotland to enjoy the landscape is that it’s very easy to stay in shape! You will spend weekends climbing hills (even in the city) and getting out of the city to enjoy hiking trails around the country.

Pros – Getting Outdoors in Scotland is Easy

If you love the outdoors, you will love spending time in Scotland. Not only are the cities walkable, but getting out of the city to hike is very easy.

As mentioned above, Scotland has some of the best outdoor sights in the world and the most stunning landscapes for outdoor lovers.

Are you more of an indoor activity fan? Scotland has many free and incredible indoor activities, including visiting museums and castles.

Pro – Scotland is for Wildlife Lovers

If you love animals, you will love Scotland. There is so much incredible wildlife in the Scottish Highlands, including the Scottish Wildcat, Red deer, foxes, badgers and many birds. If you love seabirds, head down to North Berwick and visit the Scottish Seabird Centre to see puffins, gannets, cormorants and more.

Pro of Living in Scotland – Free Healthcare

Healthcare is free to use for citizens of Scotland. If you are moving to Scotland on a work or student visa, you will be charged a yearly Immigration Health Surcharge to use the NHS in Scotland. But, unlike in some countries, all the healthcare in Scotland is free after you’ve paid this fee.

Once you find a GP, you can book an appointment to visit the doctor anytime, and if you require a prescription, the prescription charges are free.

Pro – Free Eye Care

In the same way, visiting a general practitioner in Scotland is free. Visiting an eye doctor is also free! Also, one pro is that eyewear in Scotland is very affordable.

I never purchased glasses when I was there, but I did buy high-quality contact lenses for a very low price. The constant rain is one of the only downfalls of living in Scotland as a glasses-wearer. Contacts were a must!

Cons of Living in Scotland – Is Healthcare Actually Free?

The short answer is no, not entirely. As mentioned above, if you are moving to Scotland with a work, family or student visa, you must pay the Immigration Health Surcharge yearly.

The annual rate for 2024 will be £1035, and there is a discounted rate of £776 for those on a student visa, the Youth Mobility Visa or for children under 18.

The reason the immigration surcharge exists is it ensures that people moving to Scotland with a working holiday or student visa do not take advantage of the NHS if they fall ill. Even though you will have access to free healthcare, I recommend you purchase travel insurance for your stay in Scotland.

Pros of Moving to Scotland – Universities

Historic University buildings in Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland treats its students very well and provides them with free tuition. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t born in Scotland.

As long as you’ve lived there for at least three years before applying for university, you’re eligible for free university tuition.

The universities in Scotland are renowned worldwide for being incredible. Scotland has some of the best university programs that accept and welcome international students.

Plus, the university culture in Scotland is amazing! Most universities are centrally located and surrounded by pubs, restaurants, flats and many places you can visit with your new friends.

Cons of Moving to Scotland for University

Students from around the world flock to Scotland every year to attend University, but there are some downfalls. Due to the popularity of universities in Scotland, getting accepted into specific programs can be difficult.

University in Scotland is free – for Scottish residents. So, if you plan to attend university from outside the country, be prepared for expensive tuition. However, as mentioned above, if you live in the country for three years, you will be eligible to attend university for free.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Scotland – Fully Furnished Flats

When moving to a new country, especially as a student or temporary worker, you don’t want to live in an empty apartment. But you don’t want to spend money on furnishing a place you’ll stay in for just a few years.

Finding a non-furnished flat or house up for rent in Scotland was rare. Having easy access to fully furnished flats makes living in a country temporarily much easier. Most flats come with everything you need — dishes, beds, couches and all the rest.

Check out my post about where to live in Edinburgh or how to find a flat in Glasgow to get help finding a flat or renting a room in Scotland.

Cons – Fully Furnished Flats

Access to fully furnished flats is a big pro of living in Scotland; however, if you want to make your home feel like yours, you may want to bring or purchase your own furniture.

It can be challenging to find flats or houses for rent that do not come fully furnished. Unfurnished flats are available but are a bit more difficult to find.

Pros of Moving to Scotland – Lots of Places to Live

Large cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow have a huge number of flatshares available. If you don’t mind living with strangers (who will usually become your best friends), you’ll find it easy to get a place to live.

Depending on who you connect with during your search, you could live with Scots or other foreigners like yourself.

If you can’t decide where to move, check out the post about Edinburgh VS Glasgow: Which City Should You Move To?

Cons of Living in Scotland – Flats Fill up Fast!

One of the cons of moving to Scotland is finding a flat. While loads of flats are available in big cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, it can be challenging to find one you like before someone else snatches it up.

Especially if you are moving to Scotland for university and everyone else is looking for a place to live at the same time.

Over the past couple of years, finding a flat to rent has become more difficult as people move in and out so quickly.

Worry not, though; it isn’t impossible, and I have two posts to help you find a flat: How to Find a Flat in Glasgow or Finding a Flat in Edinburgh.

Cons of Living in Scotland – It is Expensive

Moving to Scotland is an amazing opportunity, and I highly recommend it to everyone considering it. However, Scotland, especially the larger cities, is expensive. Everything costs a lot, from flat rent prices to dining out to purchasing groceries.

The cost of living is high, and you must be prepared to pay high prices when moving to Scotland.

Pro – Scotland’s Free Attractions

A pro to living in Scotland is that the country has many free things to do. There are a large number of museums, art galleries and historic sites that you can visit for free. While the cost of living is a bit high, you can always find a free attraction to visit in Scotland.

people walking in the pouring rain in Edinburgh.

Cons of Living in Scotland – The Weather

Scotland is rainy and windy and can get very cold in the winter. However, if you dress appropriately for each season, you should get by without too much hassle. You will get wet no matter what, but wearing a waterproof coat will greatly help.

I recommend checking out my packing list for Scotland to know what to bring to keep you warm.

Not only does the weather get cold and rainy, but be prepared for the dark and gloomy winters. Due to the country being so far north, the sunlight disappears very early during winter.

A few days a year, the weather is so warm Scots all around exclaim that it’s “taps off” weather! Grab a drink and join the other shirtless Scots enjoying the short-lived but much-appreciated super-hot sunny days.

Pros of Living in Scotland – The Weather

Weather is a pro and con of living in Scotland because while it is damp and cold and the skies always seem gray, Scottish weather has some pros.

As Scotland is surrounded by water, the winters are generally always mild. Snow will fall in some places, but it never lasts long.

Scotland is known for the massive amount of rain that falls year-round, making the country green and beautiful. And, if you love the rain, you will enjoy the pitter-patter it makes as it falls onto the roof of your house. Plus – the smell! Is there a better smell than fresh rain?

Pro – Castles & History! Everywhere!

Boasting thousands of years of captivating history, Scotland is also home to some of the world’s oldest places.

What other country have you been to that has historic castles all over? Scotland is home to some of the oldest and most stunningly gorgeous castles.

From exploring Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile to stepping below the city streets to discover the once plague-infested Mary King’s Close.

Scotland is bursting with fascinating sites. Scots are tremendously proud of their history, so be prepared to get an earful when you make friends with some locals.

If you are a history buff or a fan of dark history in Scotland, you will be SO happy with the amount of history everywhere you go.

Cons – Culture Shock

Depending on which country you are from, you may have to deal with the dreaded culture shock.

From being unable to understand the Scottish accent (don’t worry, you’ll get so used to it you won’t even notice people have accents eventually) to trying to make your new home feel like home.

Decision Fatigue is real when moving abroad. Doing things that seem simple in your home country can be exhausting. At first, figuring out where to buy certain items, how to register for a GP, how to do laundry, and Scottish culture will be hard.

Culture shock can also bring on homesickness and feelings of loneliness, making you want to hop on the next plane home. Stick it out as things become easier the longer you live in Scotland. I have tips for overcoming homesickness and loneliness when moving abroad if you are having difficulties.

If you have any fears, please check out my post about what to expect when moving to Scotland.

Pro – Immersing Yourself in Scottish Culture

One of the pros of moving to Scotland is learning and immersing yourself in Scottish culture. It’s so rewarding when Scotland feels like home, and you feel like a local.

Here is a list of things I loved when I moved to Scotland.

My friends thought of me as a local or an honourary Scot even though I didn’t feel like one.

When people ask me for directions on the street, does this mean I look like I know where I am and where I am going? I love giving tourists directions! It made me feel like a local.

When I started to understand Scottish slang and started using it!

I loved hanging out with Scottish friends. You get the real Scottish experience by being friends with people who were born and still live in Scotland. You go to all the best pubs and places that tourists do not visit. It was nice diving deep into the average life of a Scottish person and starting to fit in.

And you may pick up a Scottish accent the longer you live there!

Pros of Moving to Scotland – The Scottish Accent

The Scottish accent is one of the best accents in the world. The way Scots pronounce words is such a pleasure to listen to. Plus, not all accents are the same in Scotland!

Considering Scotland is such a small country, it is amazing how different the regional accents are. My personal favourite accent is from Ayrshire. I have only heard two people with this accent, but I LOVE it.

Cons of Moving to Scotland – The Language Barrier

The Scottish accent is incredible, but it can be difficult to understand what people are saying when you arrive. Not only is the accent quite strong, but they will also include Scottish slang during conversation, making it even harder to understand people in everyday conversation.

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Do you think one of the pros and cons of living in Scotland is visiting castles?

Pro – Scotland has Fantastic Public Transport

Public transport in Scotland is great, particularly in the larger Scottish cities. Several buses and trams run within minutes of each other throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow, so you will never have to wait long for your next ride.

If you don’t live in a big city, you’ll still have access to regular buses and trains that will quickly and cheaply transport you all around Scotland. It’s effortless to get around in Scotland without buying a car.

Also, it is easy to travel around most of Scotland by hopping aboard a train. If you want to take a day trip from Edinburgh to North Berwick or Glasgow to Oban – head to the train station and purchase a ticket for a fantastic day trip.

If someone asked me if I would consider public transport on the list of the pros and cons of living in Scotland, I definitely would.

Cons of Living in Scotland – You Might Need a Car

Public transport in Scotland is definitely on my list of pros of living in Scotland. However, some places are inaccessible without a car.

One example is how difficult it can get to St. Andrews, home to one of the most prestigious universities in the country. It is possible to get to St. Andrews if you take a train, then get a bus and walk the rest of the way, but it is considerably harder than people with cars.

Other options to get to less accessible places are renting a car or taking a day (or 3-day) tour to places like Loch Ness or the Scottish Highlands.

Pros of Living in Scotland – Scottish Food!

British food is generally regarded as unflavoured and boring, but that is far from the truth. Scottish food is so delicious that I daydream about eating it anytime I leave the country.

Scotland is the land of deep-fried foods, and some of my favourite meals come from the fish and chips shop down the street. If you are new to Scotland, I recommend trying the Pizza Supper – it is a personal favourite of mine! My friends recommend Sausage Supper and deep-fried haggis. It doesn’t get much more Scottish than that.

Moving away from the unhealthy world of fish and chip shops, Scotland has a fantastic vegetarian and vegan food selection in takeaway restaurants and grocery stores.

What about Scotland’s National Dish?

Scotland is home to the infamous haggis — ground-up sheep’s heart, liver and lungs stuffed inside a sheep’s stomach. This one-of-a-kind dish includes onion, oatmeal, suet, and spices.

Scottish people eat haggis and have it at least once a year on Burns Night, a celebration honouring Robbie Burns. It’s also readily available throughout the year in restaurants.

I once tried a vegetarian version of haggis, neeps, and tatties (haggis with turnips and potatoes), and I was not a fan. But haggis is a big part of Scottish cuisine, so you should try it — vegetarian style or not.

One final Scottish delicacy I need to mention is Irn Bru. Drinking it is like sipping the joyous tears of every God in existence. It’s a beautiful soda pop/fizzy drink that will rot your teeth while filling your heart with happiness. Try it! It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever tried.

5 Bottles of Irn Bru – Irn Bru is one of the pros and cons of living in Scotland. You get to drink it but it is full of sugar!
Imagine the music from The Legend of Zelda when Link opens up a treasure chest playing as you approach this shelf.

Want to try some Irn Bru and see how great it is? Buy it here, and let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Not only does Scotland make some of the tastiest food you can imagine, but the country has a wide range of food from other countries, so you will never get homesick if you are missing food from home.

Do you want Chicago deep-dish pizza? Head down to Civerinos in Hunter Square in Edinburgh. Are you missing perogies from home? Sainsbury’s now sells Polish-style perogies for everyone to enjoy.

Several specialty shops carry food from several countries, so finding an ingredient or snack from your home country should be easy if you miss it. This is one of the pros of moving to Scotland for people who feel homesick – you will always be able to find a taste of home!

Cons of Living in Scotland – The Food?
Scottish food is delicious, so how are there any cons? The only con is that it’s pretty easy to get your hands on loads of deep-fried foods that could be a bit harsh on your health.

However, Scotland’s many deep-fried foods can still be enjoyed in moderation. I highly recommend trying chips and cheese with tomato ketchup from your local chip shop.

And is it a trip to Scotland without trying one of their iconic deep-fried Mars bars? This isn’t much of a con of living in Scotland, but I thought I would mention it!

However, one con I must mention is that food prices at supermarkets and restaurants are quite expensive! With inflation rising prices every year, it can be a challenge not to spend much money every time you go food shopping, get a takeaway, or eat at a restaurant.

Pro of Moving to Scotland – Zero Bank Fees

When you open a bank account in Scotland, you will not have to pay monthly bank fees for having an account. Even using an ATM won’t result in pesky user fees, which is fantastic as seeing your money stolen by ridiculous bank fees is not fun.

However, be aware that depending on the ATM you use – there is the odd machine that charges you to make a withdrawal. If you don’t want to pay these fees, simply cancel the transaction before you’re charged.

Con – It’s Damn Hard to Open a Bank Account in Scotland

Banking in Scotland is fantastic once you have a bank account open. However, opening a bank account in Scotland can be challenging if you are new to the country.

Banks like to have a reliable reference, which is impossible to get if you have moved to the country and do not have a job or a place to live.

I have written detailed information on opening a bank account in Scotland to make it easier for you. Check out the post here: The Moving to Scotland Checklist.

The Pros and Cons of Living in Scotland – Leaving Scotland

A pro for living in Scotland is leaving Scotland? Yes! The rest of Europe is right on your doorstep. Do you want to spend a weekend in France? Or grab a pizza in Italy? Flying around Europe from Scotland is quick and affordable to get ready to explore more of the continent when you move to Scotland.

Pro – Scotland has Great Mobile Phone Plans

In Scotland, mobile phone plans are phenomenal. Phone plans are affordable, offering unlimited data, texting, and other perks.

Plus, there is a lot of competition, so it is easy to find a great deal, whether you are looking for a permanently fixed plan or want to pay as you go.

One example is a perk offered by O2. They sponsor a lot of concert venues, so if you are a customer, you will have easier access to buy concert tickets.

Cons – Scottish Taxes

Scotland has a few unexpected taxes. How much you pay depends on where you live, your accommodation, and whether you have a TV.

These taxes pay for local services, such as garbage collection, schools, and general city maintenance, making them necessary and important. (but we can still complain!)

Several council tax bands, from Band A (the cheapest) to Band H (the most expensive), dictate how much you must pay.

These charges are separate from your rent payments, so be sure to find out which council tax band your future flat is in before you sign anything to avoid unwanted (and expensive!) surprises down the line.

To quote my friend Chris, “I introduce you to council tax, which is taking your hard-earned money and setting it on fire!”

Another additional tax is the TV tax! Because the BBC wants to remain ad-free, each household must pay a monthly TV tax. The only way to get out of paying is not to own a TV. Does anyone even watch TV anymore?

Pro – Paying Taxes? Really? Yep!

I know nobody likes paying taxes, but there are a lot of benefits to how your taxes are used in Scotland. Scottish people enjoy free tap water, which is also clean to drink and delicious.

People who live in Scotland have access to free healthcare through the NHS. Attending university is free for citizens, and most museums and art galleries are free to access. The country is clean, and our taxes help make Scotland one of the best places to live in the world.

Cons of Living in Scotland: Washing and Drying Clothes

In most countries, hanging your clothes out on a line to dry is standard. But if you’re moving to Scotland from North America, you’ll have to adjust and learn how to do your laundry without the joys of a dryer (or a tumble dryer, as they say in the UK).

Even if you get your hands on a beloved tumble dryer, they are terrible in Scotland! Usually, the machines are one washer-dryer combo, with a definite quality compromise on the dryer side.

I have heard they have considerably better machines now, but chances are you won’t have them in your rental flat. Just learn to hang your clothes; your life will be a breeze!

It’s almost like they move the laundry around in a circle for ten hours until it’s damp, and you give up on waiting for warm, dry laundry that you doubt will ever come.

I have heard that you can purchase better stand-alone tumble dryers – but if you rent a flat for two years, be prepared to have one of the terrible combo dryers! (or no dryer at all)

Plus, Scotland is the land of rain. So be prepared to dash outside often to pull your clothes off the line and dry them inside on a clothes-drying horse instead!

So, if you are moving to Scotland from Canada or the US and are spoiled by dryers like me – this is 100% a con of living in Scotland. If you are already used to this, worry not; you are already ahead of the laundry game!

That is the dryer horse I purchased and passed along to my friends when I moved. Who, in turn, passed it along to their friends. I wonder where my dryer horse is now.

Con – No Screens on Windows

I’m not sure why people in Scotland don’t put screens on their windows. If I didn’t have a screen on my window in Canada, I’d be constantly plagued by spiders and other bugs in my bedroom because there wouldn’t be a barrier between the inside and the outside world.

If you love having fresh air flow into your bedroom, be prepared to share your space with spiders. Depending on where you live in Scotland, this may not be an issue, but the spiders were aplenty in Edinburgh and South Queensferry!

So, you can purchase temporary window screens that you can attach to your window sill if this bothers you.

Pros of Living in Scotland – Edinburgh Festival Fringe

If you are moving to Scotland and love live theatre and festivals, you’ve got to check out Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe — the largest arts festival in the world.

As well as the Edinburgh Tattoo, for which tickets often sell out 6-12 months in advance, the Festival Fringe brings the city to life with street buskers, theatrical plays and hilarious comedians.

Be warned that Edinburgh becomes insanely busy with tourists during the Festival Fringe. So give yourself extra time to get to work if you must pass through the city centre or the Royal Mile.

The Pros and Cons of Living in Scotland: Should you move to Scotland?

Whether you plan on living in Scotland for a year or moving there permanently, you have made the right choice! After reading the pros and cons of living in Scotland – has this helped solidify your decision?

It’s a beautiful country full of jaw-dropping landscapes, history, amazing food, great opportunities, and amazing people.

If you are worried about moving to Scotland, check out my Moving to Scotland Checklist so you will be fully prepared.

However long you live in Scotland, you will change for the better and become a proud Scot – even if you have no Scottish ancestry.

Hammed Tajudeen is a graduate of Osun State Polytechnic, Iree with Higher National Diploma (HND) in Mass Communication

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