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Moving to Aberdeen

Nicknamed the Granite City, Aberdeen makes liberal use of the material, which is visible throughout the city. On sunny days, the granite glints and shimmers beautifully in the sunlight, lending Aberdeen its other nickname of the Silver City.

Living in Aberdeen as an expat

Thanks to its position as a Scottish economic powerhouse, Aberdeen has long been an attractive destination for expats. New arrivals are often struck by the seeming contrast between the city's proudly maintained heritage and its constant development driven by ambitious plans for the future.

Aberdeen is the hub of the North Sea oil and gas industry and has a reputation for its expertise in energy technology. The city's continuous demand for skilled workers remains a draw for expats.

After working hours, expats will find plenty to keep them occupied. Despite being a fairly small city, there is a vibrant range of artistic and cultural attractions in Aberdeen, which are spread across galleries, museums and performance venues. Expats who enjoy an active lifestyle can get involved in a number of sporting activities, from swimming at the city’s aquatics centre to hiking the trails of the Cairngorms National Park.

Cost of living in Aberdeen

As is the case across the UK, the cost of living is fairly high in Aberdeen. Though not as expensive as London, the Granite City is considered to be Scotland's priciest city, so expats moving here should ensure their salary can keep up.

Expat families and children

Those moving to Aberdeen with children will be pleased to know that a range of schooling options are available. Anyone legally living in the city can send their children to government-funded schools at no cost. 

Expats living in Aberdeen will also have access to good healthcare, whether in the form of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) or private hospitals.

Despite its position on the northeast coast of Scotland, the city is relatively well connected to the rest of the UK and Europe, with good air, road and rail networks, so expats will have ample opportunity to travel.

Buses are the main mode of transport in Aberdeen. While it is not essential to own a car in the city, it can be useful for exploring the country.

Climate in Aberdeen

While expats from tropical climes are hardly likely to be whipping out their bathing suits, Aberdeen does hold the distinction of being one of Scotland's sunniest cities with an average of around 1,400 sunshine hours a year. Rain falls throughout the year and winters are cold, with high winds and humidity making the temperature feel even lower than it actually is. Summer is a bit warmer, but not by much.

Thanks to the Scottish hospitality, wealth of career opportunities and excellent lifestyle options the city offers, those moving to Aberdeen are sure to have a memorable expat experience.

Weather in Aberdeen

Situated on Scotland's northeastern coast, Aberdeen has decidedly chilly weather. Summer remains cool and cloudy, bringing little respite from the cold winter months.

Winter is from December to February. The average temperature during these months is 38°F (3°C), though wind and humidity can make it feel colder. In June, summer arrives in Aberdeen. July is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 57°F (14°C). Rarely, a warm spell may arrive, pushing the mercury above 68°F (20°C).

The sun only makes brief appearances during December and January, with average sunshine hours in these months amounting to one or two hours a day. Aberdeen's high latitude means that the length of days varies widely. In mid-winter, the sun sets before 4pm, while it can set as late as 10pm during the summer.

Rain is a seemingly ever-present companion in Aberdeen, so it's best to keep an umbrella on hand year round.

 

 

Working in Aberdeen

Aberdeen is one of the most prosperous cities in Scotland and a cornerstone of the Scottish economy. Internationally recognised as a business centre with a number of globally competitive industries, Aberdeen has excellent academic and research capacities and is home to a growing, highly skilled workforce.


Job market in Aberdeen

The city’s economy was traditionally based on granite, fishing and textiles, but these industries are no longer as prominent as they once were. Over the years, Aberdeen’s economy has modernised and traditional industries have given way to energy, agriculture, property and the oil industry, all of which have been significant contributors to the city’s economic boom.

Energy is the key driver of the local economy, employing roughly 10 percent of workers in the city. Aberdeen is recognised as one of the leading cities in Europe in oil and gas, a sector that attracts many skilled expats to Aberdeen each year.

The property industry has also benefitted from the growth and development of Aberdeen’s economy. As the city grows, there is a sustained demand for both commercial and industrial property. This has made Aberdeen a popular destination for property developers and investors.


Finding a job in Aberdeen

Most expats who relocate to Aberdeen do so with a firm employment offer already in place. It is a great city for expats with relevant skills and qualifications to build a career for themselves. Expats who move to Aberdeen often find themselves staying far beyond the end of their initial contract as there are plenty of opportunities for career progression in the city.

Those without a job offer can search for opportunities online or in local newspapers, though the best approach is often networking.

Non-EU expats moving to Aberdeen to take up employment must hold a work permit to legally work in Scotland. For expats from outside the EU, the employer will be required to prove why they were unable to hire a candidate from within the EU for the position.


Work culture in Aberdeen

On the whole, Scots are a friendly bunch, and this is true of the workplace, too. Meetings usually start with small talk and pleasantries, and it's best not to rush the process but instead enjoy getting to know coworkers.

Be sure to stick to safe, neutral topics during small talk and be aware of local points of sensitivity – for example, confusing or conflating the English with the Scottish is unlikely to earn friends.

Cost of Living in Aberdeen

While the Granite City is one of the UK’s more affordable metros, it's still relatively pricey compared to many other expat destinations. The Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2021 ranked Aberdeen as the 128th most expensive city out of 209 cities surveyed worldwide. According to these rankings, Aberdeen is the most expensive city in Scotland.

The good news, though, is that expats will likely find that the cost of living in Aberdeen is matched by their higher earning potential and supplemented considerably by the city’s social infrastructure.


Cost of accommodation in Aberdeen

Rental costs in Aberdeen are among the highest in Scotland, largely as a result of increasing demand for property. Accommodation will likely be the biggest expense facing prospective expats, so they should try to negotiate an adequate housing allowance in their employment contract to ease this burden.

As is the case with most cities, the area a person chooses to live in will have a noticeable effect on price range. Accommodation near the city centre is usually more expensive than in the suburbs.


Cost of food and entertainment in Aberdeen

Most grocery stores and supermarkets in Aberdeen have standardised pricing across the UK, with prices generally being quite reasonable. Some budget supermarkets, like Aldi and Lidl, offer many cheap off-brand versions of products that are surprisingly good quality.

Entertainment can be expensive, especially if expats go out fairly often. Alcohol is heavily taxed in the UK, making for some of the most expensive beer prices in the world. Cigarettes are also particularly expensive.


Cost of transportation in Aberdeen

Transport in Aberdeen is generally more costly than in most Scottish cities, but it is always reliable and efficient. Expats can get weekly or monthly bus passes to save money and make the most of the extensive bus network.


Cost of education in Aberdeen

The cost of education in Aberdeen depends very much on an expat parent's choices. Local state schools are entirely free to attend, and many offer a good standard of education.

On the other hand, Aberdeen is also home to one of only three International Baccalaureate schools in Scotland, an appealing option to many expats. IB fees are high, though, and this option is bound to make some serious dents in an expat's budget.


Cost of living chart for Aberdeen

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for November 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GBP 1,000 – 1,300

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GBP 600 – 900

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

GBP 500 – 700

One-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

GBP 400 – 600

Food and drink

Dozen eggs

GBP 2

Milk (1 litre)

GBP 0.90

Rice (1kg)

GBP 0.90

Loaf of white bread

GBP 1

Chicken breasts (1kg)

GBP 5

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

GBP 11

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

GBP 6

Coca-Cola (330ml)

GBP 1.30

Cappuccino

GBP 2.60

Bottle of beer (local)

GBP 3

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

GBP 45

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

GBP 0.10

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

GBP 25

Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)

GBP 100

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

GBP 1.30

Bus fare in the city centre

GBP 2.60

Gasoline (per litre)

GBP 1.25

Accommodation in Aberdeen

Finding a suitable home in the right location is essential for a positive expat experience in Aberdeen. Negotiating an unfamiliar city and its property market is always a challenge for new arrivals, so expats should do some homework before they move.

Expats should take some time to familiarise themselves with the various areas and suburbs in Aberdeen to narrow down their choices. Other factors expats should decide on before starting their search for accommodation include their budget; proximity to work, schools and public transport; and the type of property they want to live in. Most expats tend to rent rather than buy a home in Aberdeen, at least initially.


Types of accommodation in Aberdeen

From Aberdeen’s distinctive granite townhouses to luxury apartments, newcomers to the city are sure to find a home that meets their needs.

There are fully furnished, semi-furnished and unfurnished accommodation options in Aberdeen. Those on short-term assignments for work who won't be in the city for long will likely want to opt for fully furnished housing. Those in the city for a longer period may prefer unfurnished accommodation. It's quite easy to purchase reasonably priced furniture.

Expats on a tight budget will find plenty of house-share options in Aberdeen, especially given it's a university town. Renting an individual room in a larger house shared with others is fairly common among students and young professional expats starting out in Aberdeen.

Some new arrivals choose to rent short-term to start with, via a holiday-let website. While the cost of short-term rental is higher, the property is usually furnished and all bills are included. 


Finding accommodation in Aberdeen

Finding property in Aberdeen can be a challenge for new arrivals who don’t have much knowledge of the local market. Some expats will be lucky enough to have their accommodation arranged by their employer but, for those who need to find a home on their own, there are a number of resources.

Before moving to Aberdeen, newcomers should browse property portals online to get an idea of what's available within their budget. While it is possible to deal directly with property owners, most people enlist the services of a letting agent who has local knowledge of Aberdeen’s property market.


Renting accommodation in Aberdeen

Applications

Landlords or agents will typically require references from the expat's employer or previous landlord, so it is always best to have these ready, along with proof of identification.

Deposits

It's standard to pay the equivalent of one or two months' rent as a deposit when signing a lease. Note that according to Scottish law, charging more than two months' rent as a deposit is illegal.

Leases

The terms of tenancy agreements can vary and can be negotiated between tenant and landlord. Generally, landlords rent their properties for between six months and a year.  

Utilities

Before committing to a contract, expats should find out whether utilities are included in the rental price. In most cases, expats will need to budget for gas and electricity as additional costs. They will also need to factor in the cost of council tax.

Areas and Suburbs in Aberdeen

The best places to live in Aberdeen

The decision on where to live in Aberdeen will have a significant impact on an expat's overall experience of the city. Various factors may affect this choice, including budget, the size and type of available properties, proximity to work, shopping and entertainment facilities, and access to road links and public transport.

For expats relocating to Aberdeen with a family, living in a neighbourhood with access to good schools will be a priority, especially as admission to local government-funded schools is based on a student’s residential address.


Recommended neighbourhoods in Aberdeen

Aberdeen by Paul Rysz

West End

This is an area close to the centre of Aberdeen. Properties here are a mix of traditional granite terraced houses as well as freestanding homes. There are also a number of modern developments in this part of town where expats can find luxury penthouses with a range of facilities.

The area is popular with young executives who enjoy a high standard of living and wish to be close to the city centre. The West End is well connected to the rest of Aberdeen through the city’s bus network. 

Old Aberdeen

Old Aberdeen is the name given to the area located to the north of the city centre. This area is home to the University of Aberdeen. Here expats will find small cottages and large old houses with lots of character. The area is highly sought after, though, and it can be difficult to find properties available for rent. 

The desirable location and the area's large properties make accommodation in Old Aberdeen fairly expensive. The area is popular with those looking to be close to the city centre while also enjoying an element of historic charm. 

Rosemount

A popular residential area northwest of Aberdeen’s city centre, Rosemount gives residents access to excellent local shopping facilities and reasonably priced accommodation. Housing in Rosemount mainly comprises Victorian-style terraced houses, but an increasing number of modern apartment complexes are being built. 

This is a quaint area and expats living here should take the opportunity to support the local boutique stores. Rosemount is highly popular with couples and artistic types. The area's many parks and green spaces make it perfect for expats who enjoy a healthy outdoors lifestyle.

Cults

Cults is a family-friendly suburb perched on the banks of the River Dee, well known for its historic granite buildings. Houses in the area are large and often come with spacious gardens, making them perfect for expats with children.

Despite being relatively close to the city, Cults maintains an element of village life and many who live here prefer the area's tranquillity compared to the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s a great place to raise children, as there are many parks and a number of good schools.

Healthcare in Aberdeen

The NHS Grampian, an affiliate of the Scottish National Health Services (NHS), is the main provider of healthcare in Aberdeen. While most expats in Aberdeen choose public healthcare, those who can afford it make use of the private sector.

To receive treatment under the national system, expats need to register with a local general practitioner. GPs are the first port of call for non-emergency medical concerns. Appointments with specialists can only be made via referral from a GP.

The downside of public healthcare in Aberdeen is that patients often face long waiting lists to get treatment. Waiting times at private hospitals are much shorter, but they can be extremely pricey. For this reason, expats wanting to make use of private medical treatment are advised to invest in medical insurance to cover the costs.

Below is a selection of recommended public and private hospitals in Aberdeen.


Public hospitals in Aberdeen

Aberdeen Royal Infirmary

Website: www.nhsgrampian.org
Address: Foresterhill Rd, Aberdeen AB25 2ZN

Aberdeen Maternity Hospital

Website: www.nhsgrampian.org
Address: Cornhill Rd, Aberdeen AB25 2ZL

Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital

Website: www.nhsgrampian.org
Address: Westburn Rd, Aberdeen AB25 2ZG


Private hospitals in Aberdeen

BMI Albyn Hospital

Website: www.bmihealthcare.co.uk
Address: 21–24 Albyn Pl, Aberdeen AB10 1RW

The Aberdeen Clinic

Website: www.tachealthcaregroup.com
Address: 387A N Deeside Rd, Cults, Aberdeen AB15 9SX

Education and Schools in Aberdeen

Expat parents will be glad to know that the standard of education in Aberdeen is generally high. With two universities that date back centuries and still rank among the best in Scotland, learning is part of the city’s fabric.

Schools in Aberdeen are either state-run or private. With only a small minority of children in Aberdeen attending private school, it's well worth considering state school as an option. Education Scotland does regular inspections of all schools, the results of which can be accessed on the Education Scotland website.

All of Aberdeen’s state schools (and all private schools but one) follow the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence, which divides schooling into two main phases. The first phase is a broad general education, starting with nursery at age 3 and continuing through seven years of primary school (P1 to P7) and three years of secondary school (S1 to S3). The senior phase starts in S4 at age 16 and concludes in S6 at age 18.


Public schools in Aberdeen

Expats can choose from a variety of primary and secondary schools in the city, many of which have good reputations.

Pupils generally attend a school based on where they live. Those wanting to attend a school outside of their catchment area can submit an out-of-zone placing request. These requests are usually granted as long as the school in question has places available.


Private schools in Aberdeen

There aren't many options for private schools (known as independent schools) in Aberdeen. With few to choose from, parents may find it difficult to secure a spot for their child. Unlike public schools, private schools charge fees. Considering that there are also good public education options available in Aberdeen, many expats arriving in Aberdeen decide that private education is an unnecessary expense.

That said, there are a number of benefits associated with private schools, such as smaller class sizes, superior facilities and diverse extra-curricular programmes. If expats decide to go this route, it's best to enquire and apply early.


International schools in Aberdeen

There is just one international school in Aberdeen: the International School of Aberdeen, a school for children between 3 to 18. The school offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Program. The IB curriculum is standardised and taught at more than 5,000 schools around the globe, easing the process of transitioning between two schools, even in different countries.


Special-educational needs in Aberdeen

Aberdeen's special needs programme is based on three major facets: inclusivity, early intervention and participation, and effective targeting of resources. These facets define the city's approach to catering for special needs.

Different levels of care are allocated according to each child's needs. Milder cases may only require assistance from the child's class teacher (universal support), while slightly more severe cases might warrant assistance on a school-wide basis involving several staff members (targeted support). Children who require the highest level of care will receive specialised assistance from multiple parties, both internal and external to the school (multi-agency support).


Tutors in Aberdeen

Tutors can easily be found in Aberdeen, both online and in person. Expat children in particular can benefit from tutors in a number of ways, such as getting to grips with the Scottish curriculum, learning English or maintaining the family's mother tongue.

More general skills can also be taught by tutors, like study skills and essay writing. They can also help students brush up for major exams.

Lifestyle in Aberdeen

Expats moving to Scotland's Granite City are sure to find the lifestyle in Aberdeen enjoyable. The city's diverse array of after-hours attractions caters to a range of tastes. Whether in the mood for the consumer comfort of retail therapy, the constant beat of clubs and bars, or the green silence of nature, there's always something to get up to in Aberdeen.


Shopping in Aberdeen

The main shopping area in Aberdeen is Union Street. Known as Granite Mile, Union Street houses numerous shops, bars, clubs and restaurants. Just around the corner is the biggest shopping centre in Aberdeen, Union Square, which has an assortment of high-street and upmarket retailers, restaurants and a cinema.

Expats after a more authentic experience should visit the Merchant Quarter. Situated between the city’s major malls, the Quarter's historical architecture is an attraction in itself. There are restaurants and bars, live music and entertainment venues, and a shopping section filled with quirky boutiques to explore.


Nightlife in Aberdeen

There's plenty of nightlife to explore in Aberdeen. For starters, no expat can be called an Aberdonian until they have been to one of its traditional Scottish pubs. Aberdeen’s pubs are the perfect spot for enjoying the company of friends, watching sport, drinking ale and sampling the city’s best pub grub.

Expats wanting to dance into the wee hours won’t be disappointed either. Covering a broad range of electronic genres, live music and 80s oldies, the city’s club scene caters to eclectic tastes.

For more refined surroundings, there are various cocktail bars in Aberdeen as well as a few comedy clubs.


Sports and outdoor activities in Aberdeen

Expats will be able to enjoy a range of outdoor activities in Aberdeen. The city is well-known for the green spaces that offset its granite facade, having won the Royal Horticultural Society Britain in Bloom award a number of times.

Residents can escape the city’s commotion in Aberdeen's urban parks, flower gardens, and numerous national parks and leafy estates, all within driving range. Part of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, the picturesque beaches around Aberdeen are another popular way to get some respite from the ups and downs of city life. Water sports such as surfing, diving and sailing are all popular pursuits.


See and do in Aberdeen

Characterised by beautiful granite architecture, a rich maritime history and natural beauty, new arrivals will have no shortage of things to see and do in Aberdeen. All too often overshadowed by Edinburgh in the sightseeing stakes, the tourist's loss is the local's gain.

Balmoral Castle

The royal holiday home Balmoral Castle has been in the British royal family since 1852 and was described by Queen Victoria as her "paradise in the Highlands". The grounds are open to the public from April to July each year.

Cairngorms National Park

Extending over the Cairngorms Mountains, the national park is the largest in Britain and offers activities such as mountain biking, skiing, horse riding and white-river rafting.

Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail

The beaches around Aberdeen form part of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. The route consists of 165 miles (265 km) of pristine natural scenery, picturesque towns and gorgeous beaches, each one with its own unique atmosphere.


Annual events in Aberdeen

The packed calendar of events in Aberdeen means that expats will have numerous opportunities to enjoy themselves and get involved in the local culture. Here are a few highlights.

Spectra (February)

This dazzling light show, complete with dramatic artwork projections on famous city buildings, attracts just short of a million visitors annually and is held at various sites throughout Aberdeen. Every year has a distinct theme.

Braemar Gathering (September)

Part of the traditional summer highland games, the Braemar Gathering is traditionally attended by the royal family and attracts large crowds every year, who come to watch bagpipe bands, tug-of-war events and catch a glimpse of the queen.

Aberdeen Winter Festival (November/December)

This fun-filled festival is made up of various events held in Aberdeen throughout the festive season. From Christmas markets to carol concerts and outdoor ice-skating, there are plenty of opportunities for the whole family to get into the festive spirit.


Where to meet people and make friends

Settling into a new city has its challenges, and trying to meet locals and make new friends can be a daunting prospect. Having a shared interest often helps, so here are a few clubs worth looking into.

Association of American Women in Aberdeen

Though primarily made up of expats from the US and Canada, this association welcomes fellow expats from around the world. Along with general meet-ups, members can also join special activity clubs within the association, like book club and a moms-and-tots group.

Northern Arts Club

Artists of all ages and skill levels are welcomed at the Northern Arts Club. The club offers a number of classes, including life drawing and landscape painting.

Ramblers Aberdeen

Outdoorsy expats are sure to enjoy exploring Aberdeen's gorgeous countryside with this friendly club. Hikes and walks are held every two weeks, and there are also extra social activities and occasional weekends away organised by the group.

Getting Around in Aberdeen

Getting around Aberdeen is easy and straightforward, and many residents prefer to use public transport to commute to work rather than driving. Owning a car is not essential as Aberdeen’s buses connect most areas of the city, but having a car does offer the freedom to explore the countryside and is particularly useful for expats with children.

Although the Scottish weather is not always conducive to it, cycling is another great and healthy way to commute in Aberdeen.


Public transport in Aberdeen

Buses

Buses are the main mode of public transportation in Aberdeen. First Aberdeen has a monopoly on the city's bus services, but Stagecoach also runs a few lines and there's a handful of smaller operators too. There are more than 30 bus routes in Aberdeen, most of which begin on the outskirts and run through the city centre before travelling to other suburbs.

Tickets can be purchased in advance or on the bus in exact change as drivers do not carry cash. Frequent users of various bus services may find it useful to purchase a Grasshopper ticket, which allows access to all buses regardless of operator.

Trains

While there is no local commuter system in Aberdeen, the city is well served by national rail connections. From Aberdeen railway station it is possible to catch intercity, regional and local train services to various parts of the UK, including overnight sleeper trains to London.


Taxis in Aberdeen

Taxis are readily available in the city centre and most taxi companies offer booking services online, via mobile application or by telephone. Passengers are usually charged a base fare and a fee for each additional mile they travel. Most people only use taxis for short journeys as fares are high.

Ride-hailing services such as Uber are operational in Aberdeen and are a good alternative to taxis as they give the commuter more control over routes and displays the expected price of travel beforehand.


Cycling in Aberdeen

Cycling is also a good way to get around Aberdeen. There is a bike-share scheme in development, but for the moment residents who want to cycle have to invest in their own bike. 

The city does have a fairly good network of cycle paths that connect certain suburbs through the city centre, but cyclists should be aware that some cycle lanes are shared with buses, though these are usually regulated by dedicated traffic lights.


Driving in Aberdeen

Driving in Aberdeen poses no real challenges. The standard of road infrastructure is good, and signage is generally clear. 

Driving conditions in Aberdeen are good and local drivers are courteous to other road users. However, expats should be aware that roads in Aberdeen are often affected by snow and fog in winter. Although local authorities take measures to grit the main roads, smaller roads are often slippery, and the risk of accidents is high. Drivers need to be especially careful when driving in severe weather conditions.

As is the case in the rest of the UK, EU citizens can drive on their licence from their home country until it expires. Non-EU expats can also drive on a valid licence from their home country, but can only do so for 12 months before they will need to exchange it for a UK licence.