Moving to Edinburgh
October 23, 2007 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I am an American moving to Edinburgh, Scotland. I'd like your advice on neighborhoods, telecomm, banking, and taxes.

I am moving to Edinburgh for at least a year. I've seen some older questions such as this one, but my circumstances are slightly different.
  • Neighborhoods: I would like to be close to the University area in the city center, where I'll be working. I am not a student and I'll be making a pretty good wage, so I'm not limited to budget accomodations. I'd like to live in a neighborhood with lots of shops and restaurants, but nightlife isn't especially important. What neighborhoods should I be looking at?
  • Telecomm: I expect to visit the U.S. somewhat regularly for business and personal reasons. I would love to find a cellphone/plan that (1) provides good service in the U.K., (2) offers reasonable rates for calls to the U.S., and (3) is still functional in the U.S., even if I have to use a different sim card or some other workaround. Does such a thing exist? (If no, I'll settle for 2 out of 3).
  • More telecomm: high-speed internet recommendations?
  • Banking: I have a fair amount of money saved in the U.S, but my new salary will be in sterling. I'd ideally like to find a single bank that has branches in both the U.S. and the U.K. (and particularly Edinburgh and the northeast U.S.). What are my options?
  • Credit card: which providers aren't going to kill me with ridiculous charges for foreign transactions, like my current one does?
  • Taxes: help! I have always prepared my own taxes in the U.S., but I'm totally out of my depth here and I'd be happy to pay an expert. Where should I go for advice?
Also: any general expat advice? Good books for people in my situation? Is Living and Working in Britain worth ordering?
posted by alopez to Work & Money (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There was a question on Edinburgh just a few days ago. Seconding what I wrote there, Marchmont and surrounding area is very, very nice, and close to the Uni.
posted by fire&wings at 10:34 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: Telecomm: Orange have the best coverage in Scotland by far, and mine works fine in the US. It's pricey to use it there though, and it's pricey to call the US. That is going to be expensive on any mobile service. Use your landline/Skype/calling cards. The savings are immense.

Internet: Think Broadband will tell you the best.

Credit card: Amex has been good to me here. If you get a current account, there's a 99% chance you'll get a Visa debit card, which is accepted virtually everywhere. The Nationwide one has no foreign fee.

Taxes: Depending on your salary and income arrangements, you may not have to do anything. PAYE will take the tax (accurately) from your monthly salary.

Also Marquis would be worth hitting up for info. He's done this before.
posted by bonaldi at 10:36 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: # Neighborhoods:

Newington is lovely and is very close to Arthur's seat and the Commonwealth Pool (a good council gym), Marchmont (as mentioned) is great (anywhere around the Meadows is good, really) and Morningside Road is great for shops.

# More telecomm:
I use Virgin Media for broadband and it works quite well for us, never had any major problem with them.

# Banking:
I think HSBC is about your only choice if you want US and UK banking and a branch in Edinburgh (others, feel free to correct me!). Their Offshore Bank account is available in pounds, USD or Euro but i think the minimum amount is something like $10k USD.

# Credit card:
Not sure about this one, I had an AMEX when I first moved here but hardly anyone takes it here, so I waited and got a UK card.

# Taxes: American Expats UK have a good advice page about taxes and also have a Money/Tax forum (registration is about $10) where you can ask for recommendations. I found these forums really useful when I moved over to Edinburgh.

Also see my answers to the previous thread fire&wings pointed you to, and feel free to ping with more questions through the swanky new metafilter mail.
posted by ukdanae at 10:58 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: Newington is a great area too, actually fairly close to Marchmont, but a bit busier and closer to some of the city-centre Uni buildings. Loads of shops, restaurants and bars and right on a busy bus route that will get you anywhere you like. Marchmont tends to be more residential focused and you would probably have to walk a bit to get anywhere "fun". Having said that, Edinburgh is pretty small, so pretty much anywhere in the city is likely going to be fine for you.

Any of the "big four" (Orange, O2, Vodafone and T-Mobile) are fine for coverage in Edinburgh and the rest of the UK. All also have roaming agreements so you will be able to use them in the US no problem (provided you are on a contract and not pay as you go phone). As for charges for US calls, they're all pretty bad. Vodafone and T-Mobile may be better for you as they are I believe directly associated with American companies (Verizon and Cingular, respectively).

Bank-wise, HSBC have a big advertising push in this country about being global, and they are pretty prominent in this country. I guess you can answer from the other side ;)

Virgin are my personal recommendation for internet but if you are in rented accommodation that's not already cabled then this may be a problem.

As for taxes, as said above, unless you're doing anything special (like more than one job, independent contractor, self employed), then the tax part is all handled by the company automatically.

Hope this helps :)
posted by jon4009 at 11:00 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: High-speed internet. Two options - cable or ADSL. There's a number of bundles for the both available. My recommendation is Eclipse. I use them, a number of technically minded friends use them, and they're essentially trouble free and straightforward to set up with. But they're by far not the only option.

Cable seems to be generally faster, although if you're in central Edinburgh ADSL should be plenty speedy enough for most purposes.
posted by edd at 11:32 AM on October 23, 2007

No specific advice (I've only been there once and it rained. Non-stop. For a week.) but it's a beautiful city and was just voted the number one place to live in the UK on Channel 4's annual cockup survey.
posted by ceri richard at 11:51 AM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: Net access: cable. They'll install quicker, it's faster and it's usually cheaper. Game over. They also provide telephone service and (duh) TV.

If you can afford it, live in Marchmont or the city-very-centre. Marchmont is nicer. You can walk to and from work and anything in the city centre, and should you find yourself under a monsoon the cab home is only a fiver.

Banking: There is no magic transnational bank, and you're going to have to get over it. There is no benefit whatsoever in setting up with a bank which happens to have two similarly-named yet utterly unconnected subsidiaries. When withdrawing on US cards, take larger amounts to minimise the percentage you're getting stung for. For transfers, learn the keywords SWIFT and IBAN.

Taxes: if you're working for an employer you will not have to file your own taxes in the UK. It's deducted at source. The process is called Pay As You Earn (PAYE).
posted by genghis at 12:10 PM on October 23, 2007

This thread may help you with US/UK bank accounts. Looks like HSBC, Citibank or maybe Barclays.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:17 PM on October 23, 2007

Best answer: "Depending on your salary and income arrangements, you may not have to do anything. PAYE will take the tax (accurately) from your monthly salary."

And other similar advice - not totally true. You'll still have US obligations, but you'll get credits on the US side for taxes paid in the UK.

The first $95,500 in local currency equivalent will be tax free on the US side, but the credits from the UK side - as you'll be taxed here - will complicate matters.

Savings - keep the bulk of your cash off shore and you'll avoid basic rate taxes on interest income. You're only liable for money you bring into the United Kingdom. I try to park as much cash off shore as necessary, rendering that interest income free of UK (NOT US!) taxes. Keep in mind that for folks who are UK domiciled taxpayers off shore is no longer an option. This includes most British citizens, as well as EU nationals.

Travel - keep track of days outside of the UK. These will give you credits on the UK side of your tax liability.

This is a very complex area and recent activity by the UK government, particularly for what's called non domiciled ex-pats has really complicated matters, rendering them very, very murky. Don't expect any clarity until December 2007.

You should proceed only under professional advise to avoid an expensive mistake. I used to work with KPMG but recently have migrated to a company called Global Tax Network, who have been solid to date.
posted by Mutant at 12:34 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gag that reads horribly.

"This is a very complex area and recent activity by the UK government, particularly for what's called non domiciled ex-pats has really complicated matters, rendering these matters very, very murky."

Not that we non-doms aren't considered a murky bunch. Comment about lack of clarity until December 2007 still stands, and is not written into stone, rather a consensus from the US ex-pat community here in London. We're all pretty concerned about these changes, particularly those of us (like myself) that have been here ten plus years.

Could be totally wrong but as it stands now, the proposed legislative changes are totally not transparent down to the finest operational detail.

And I forgot about calls back to the US; I'm currently using Superline.

I'm paying about 2.5 pence / minute to the US, and can call from my home or mobile.
posted by Mutant at 12:46 PM on October 23, 2007

Mutant (and others) - try Telediscount for 1p per minute to the US from landlines. There may be a surcharge for mobiles.
posted by triggerfinger at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2007

There will be a big surcharge for mobiles.
posted by grouse at 5:20 PM on October 23, 2007

I think HSBC is about your only choice if you want US and UK banking and a branch in Edinburgh (others, feel free to correct me!)

What about Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns Citizens Bank (in New England) and Charter One (in the Midwest)? I know you can use Charter One and Citizens Bank ATMs and branches interchangeably. I'm not sure if this applies with Citizens Bank/RBS -- you'd have to call up and check. (They all have the same logo though!)
posted by puffin at 6:14 PM on October 23, 2007

The university area in the city centre is George Square. Newington is probably the nearest neighborhood but, as others have said, Edinburgh is extremely walkable / cyclable so Marchmont and Morningside would be fine as well. Also take a look at Tollcross (I lived there for 6 years) - it's only about a mile and a half from George Square (and you can cycle there along the Meadows cycle path) but you can also be on Princes Street in 10 minutes. Tollcross is excellent for food shops. Drop me a Mefi Mail if you have any other questions.
posted by primer_dimer at 3:28 AM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: i live in the tollcross area , and yes lots of foos shops , but perhaps i bit full on sometimes , its one of the party hubs. would really depend on which street your in.

bruntsfield , marchmont , morningside , southside are probably your best bets , further out is stockbridge which is a lovely area , but a little far from the uni.
posted by burr1545 at 4:14 AM on October 24, 2007

urghh ,,, food shops , excuse me
posted by burr1545 at 4:15 AM on October 24, 2007

How close is close? Walking or cycling? And what kind of shops? My answer is going to be that Newington's nice, anyway, but if you wanted to go a little further down the hill there's Dalkeith Road / Mayfield / Sciennes, which have more houses rather than flats, and more trees, gardens and so on. The shops and so on are on Nicolson St / Clerk St, which is on your way home to anywhere in Newington and not really out of the way for Sciennes; there's also a big Sainsbury's in the mall at Cameron Toll at the bottom of Mayfield Road, for the times you want to do a big supermarket shop instead of getting stuck in the queues in Tesco's.
posted by Lebannen at 8:44 AM on October 24, 2007

Agree with a lot of what's been said on areas - Newington's OK and not far, as is Bruntsfield. If you're working look around Clerk St/Nicolson Street as they're closer in to the centre (not that Edinburgh's particuarly hard to get around). Tollcross is OK too. Stockbridge is my favourite but it's a fair way from the Uni. Hillside/Easter Road/Leith Walk, perhaps, though again a bit of a walk to the Uni.

I'd avoid Marchmont if you're wanting pubs, shops, restaurants and signs of life - it's close but it's a pretty dead student dormitory area.

The good thing about Edinburgh is that you can probably afford to live nice and central.

No idea about much else I'm afraid.
posted by ComfySofa at 4:39 PM on October 24, 2007

pretty much everything you'll ever need to know is on
posted by browolf at 5:22 PM on October 29, 2007

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