If there’s anything I’ve learned from sharing my Edinburgh expat experience online, it’s this: the people who read this blog are pretty darn nosy. Kidding! (Well, I’m actually not kidding because you guys do ask me personal questions all the time, ha.)
But I totally get where you’re coming from. Before I moved to Edinburgh, I was also ridiculously nosy. I spent every spare second reading about life in Edinburgh and stalked the blogs of anyone who had moved there. I also emailed several bloggers and pestered them with fun questions like, “Where are you working?” and “What is living in Edinburgh like?”
And now the tables have turned. My Instagram DMs and email inbox are filled with those exact same questions. Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to help with your Edinburgh expat journey. I know it can be overwhelming trying to wrap your head around everything that comes with moving abroad.
That said, I feel like I’m answering the exact same questions over and over again. You all seem to have similar fears, worries, and questions about moving to Edinburgh—and I did, too. So, I figured it was about time I created a blog post with all the answers in one spot.
Here they are—the answers to your most frequently asked questions about moving to Edinburgh.
Quick disclaimer: I’m answering these questions based solely on my personal experience as an expat in Edinburgh. This info is essentially the answer I’d give to someone in my Instagram DMs with anecdotes and advice from my time living in Edinburgh. Please keep that in mind and take these answers with a grain of salt.
Table of Contents
- Is Edinburgh a good place to live?
- How hard is it to find work?
- Where are the best places to live in Edinburgh?
- Can you live in Edinburgh without a car?
- Is Edinburgh safe?
- Is it expensive to live in Edinburgh?
- What is the average salary needed to live in Edinburgh?
- What are Scottish men like? Is dating hard?
- Why did your work sponsorship fall through? What’s the process of getting sponsored?
- Should I move to Edinburgh or London?
Is Edinburgh a good place to live?
I’ve already talked about this in my Edinburgh Expat Survival Guide, so I’m going to paraphrase what I said there.
In a nutshell, Edinburgh is a very liveable city. Scotland’s capital has everything you want in a big city, but with more of a small-town feel. There’s a fantastic foodie scene, major festivals and events happening throughout the year, and plenty of parks and green space—all within a compact and walkable space. Public transport is cheap and efficient, and it’s a great spot to base yourself to travel around the UK and Europe. It’s busy and dynamic, but not overly crowded or overwhelming.
If you want a first-hand account of life in Edinburgh, check out my Expat in Edinburgh round-ups. These monthly recaps include musings about expat life, my favourite restaurants, and what I got up to (almost) every month I was there.
How hard is it to find work?
Honestly, I found it relatively easy to find work. But I don’t want to sugarcoat this topic, either. I know some people really struggle to find a job.
In fact, a few people who read my blog and then made the move emailed me and shared how difficult it was for them at first. (Another reason to ensure you have a cushion of savings to fall back on for your first few months in Edinburgh.)
Here’s why I think it was easy(ish) for me:
• Recruitment agencies: I signed up with several recruitment agencies as soon as I arrived in Edinburgh. Like, within hours of stepping foot off the plane.
• Experience: I had eight years of experience in customer service/administrative roles (these types of roles tend to be widely available Edinburgh, especially entry-level and temp positions).
• Flexibility: I was flexible and worked several roles I didn’t love. These roles were also not in the industry that I wanted for my career.
• Temp roles: I accepted temp roles so I had income while looking for something more permanent and aligned with my career.
Thanks to a recruitment agency, I had a (temporary) job within a few days of arriving in Scotland. I hopped around different temp roles for my first eight weeks in Edinburgh. Then, I went through a stressful period where I didn’t have a job for a month or so (my temp role had ended, and I was searching for something else).
Yes, I had several minor breakdowns within this period, but eventually, I found another contract role. This one was longer-term and they ended up offering me a full-time position. I stayed there for a year and then landed the role I wanted to further my career.
In short, you might have an easier time finding work if you sign up with a few recruitment agencies, you’re not super picky, and you’re willing to take a position in an industry that’s widely available (like restaurants, bars, hospitality, or administration).
Where are the best places to live in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is fairly compact and well-connected thanks to its public transport system, so there are lots of options across the city. Here are some neighbourhoods to consider:
City Centre: New Town, Old Town
West Edinburgh: Fountainbridge, Haymarket, Dalry, Gorgie, Murrayfield, Corstorphine
North Edinburgh: Stockbridge, Canonmills, Leith
South Edinburgh: Bruntsfield, Morningside, Marchmont, Newington
East Edinburgh: Portobello
If you’re looking for something more affordable, check out flats in Leith or Gorgie. Neighbourhoods south of the city centre are popular with families and students due to their proximity to the University of Edinburgh and Napier University. Neighbourhoods like Old Town, New Town, Stockbridge, and Morningside tend to be more expensive.
I lived west of the city centre, just past Murrayfield Stadium. It was a really quiet and lovely area—and an easy 20-minute bus ride to Princes Street.
Can you live in Edinburgh without a car?
100% yes. I know this might be hard to fathom for my fellow North Americans, but public transport is incredibly efficient and affordable in Edinburgh—and across the United Kingdom. Edinburgh is also an extremely walkable city.
Is Edinburgh safe?
From my personal experience, I found Edinburgh to be a very safe city. I never felt unsafe, even when walking around the city alone or taking the bus late at night. However, every city has parts that are considered less safe—and that includes Edinburgh.
A few areas on the outskirts of Edinburgh, like Muirhouse and Wester Hailes, are known for having negative reputations. Unless you have a specific reason to visit these neighbourhoods, they’re not typically areas you’d end up spending time in anyways.
Leith used to be one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Edinburgh, but it has undergone massive changes over the past few decades. Although certain parts might still be considered a wee bit rough, Leith is now one of the best areas to visit or live (and it’s one of my favourite spots in the city).
Is it expensive to live in Edinburgh?
Yes, Edinburgh is a relatively expensive city. That said, I found certain things (like monthly cell phone plans and eating out at restaurants) to be cheaper than back home in Canada.
Here’s a quick rundown of some expenses and what you can expect to pay in Edinburgh:
• 1 bedroom flat: £900 – £1300 per month (not including utilities or council tax)
• Single bus ticket: £2
• Ridacard unlimited transportation pass: £62 per month
• Cell phone plan: £10 per month (I used giffgaff)
• Loaf of bread: £1.40
• A dozen eggs: £2.90
• Average restaurant meal: £15 – £20
• Latte: £3
• Pint of beer: £5
If you’re curious about the price of groceries, internet, and other necessities, I go into more detail under ‘the cost of living’ section in my Edinburgh Expat Survival Guide.
What is the average salary needed to live in Edinburgh?
According to Talent.com, the average salary in Edinburgh is £33,120 per year or £16.98 per hour. If you’re planning to work an entry-level role, the starting rate could be anywhere from £11 to £13 per hour. As of April 2023, the National Living Wage is £10.42 per hour for those aged 23 and over.
To get a better idea of the salary for jobs in your field, try browsing job sites like Indeed or S1jobs to see what’s currently available in Edinburgh.
As for how much money you’ll need to live comfortably, that depends on a number of different factors. How often do you plan on going out? Will you share a flat with one or several roommates? Will you be eating out a lot or cooking at home? Edinburgh is pricey, so you’ll have to budget accordingly depending on your job and lifestyle.
What are Scottish men like? Is dating hard?
Surprise, surprise—it turns out you’re also curious about Scottish men.
Now, I can’t answer this question because that would involve generalizing the entire male population of Scotland. As usual, I will speak to my personal experience.
Did I date a Scottish guy? Yes. Did I swoon over his accent the entire time we dated? Obviously. Did he like football? Surprisingly, no. Did he spend a lot of time at the pub and have a good sense of humour? Yes.
When it comes to dating, I found it similar to the experience of dating in Canada. I didn’t use any apps when I lived in Edinburgh, but I’m sure that’s the main way to meet people now. I only went on a few dates with people I had met in real life, including my boyfriend at the time.
Why did your work sponsorship fall through? What’s the process of getting sponsored?
Remember when I mentioned you guys are kind of nosy? Here’s a prime example.
In case you’re new to this blog, I ended up wanting to stay in Edinburgh longer than two years, so I explored a few potential visa options. I won’t go into too much detail about my attempt to get sponsored, but I will keep it real and say it’s not easy for the average person to get sponsored.
The UK has a points-based immigration system, and there are several requirements you need to meet in order to be eligible for sponsorship. Points are allocated according to a number of factors, including:
• Having a job offer from an approved company
• The job offer is at the required skill level
• The job offer meets the minimum salary threshold
• The applicant speaks English to the required standard
You might have a shot at sponsorship if your job is on the shortage occupations list. A few jobs on the list include health services, scientists, engineers, carpenters, and IT architects. If you work in one of these fields, getting a Skilled Worker visa could be a potential option.
When I lived in Edinburgh, I met one girl from the US who managed to get sponsored through her work. She then applied for permanent residence and eventually got a UK passport. Bear in mind, she started the whole process over 10 years ago, when (I’m assuming) UK immigration policies were very different.
To reiterate: it is difficult to get sponsored, but not entirely impossible. (I figured I’d throw that anecdote in to keep things somewhat positive and not completely crush your dreams if you end up wanting to stay in Scotland.)
Should I move to Edinburgh or London?
This one comes down to personal preference. Are you a big-city person or do you prefer smaller or medium-sized cities? Do you want to be within throwing distance of world-class restaurants, galleries, markets, and theatres? Or do you want to live in a quiet neighbourhood, walk everywhere, and have easy access to green space?
For me, it’s a no-brainer: I love visiting London, but I could never live there. It’s too big, too crowded, and just too much. Edinburgh on the other hand, is considerably smaller (with a population of 500,000 vs. London’s 8 million), easily walkable, has lots to see and do, and still manages to feel laid-back and peaceful (except in August during the Fringe Festival, of course).
Both cities are expensive—although London costs more overall. Since London is a major metropolis, you’ll have more of everything: more things to do, more job opportunities, and more places to explore. Being close to the UK’s largest airport is also a big perk if you want to travel around Europe while you live abroad.
There are pros and cons to both cities. Think about your lifestyle, what makes you happy, and what’s most important to you.
Looking for more Edinburgh posts? I’ve got you covered:
- 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to Edinburgh
- Living in Edinburgh: The Expat Survival Guide
- Millennial Money: Edinburgh Expat Edition
- Expat in Edinburgh: Monthly Roundups
- 25 Telltale Signs You’re an Expat in Edinburgh
- 61 (Awesome) Things to Do in Edinburgh
- How to Survive the Edinburgh Fringe Festival