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Moving to Glasgow

Expats from all over the world are increasingly considering Glasgow as a viable new home. Scotland's largest city nestles snugly beside the River Clyde in the country's central lowlands. About an hour west of the capital city of Edinburgh, Glasgow grew from its shipping and trade origins to embrace its role in the engineering and manufacturing post-industrial period. Subsequently, Glasgow also became a major player in the Scottish Enlightenment movement, producing impressive art, music and architecture. This evolution has produced a city of contrasts, carefully combining beauty and rugged functionality, resulting in an influx of newcomers keen to make the city their new home.

Once settled, expats will encounter honest enthusiasm and a generous spirit among Glaswegians, finding many residents eager to chat. Come Friday evenings, expats heading down to the pub will find there's plenty of witty banter to be had, and this is a great way to make friends with locals. A night out on the town is a fun way to get to know the city, and expats are sure to find many hours of entertainment exploring the various pubs, bars and clubs lining the city centre's streets.

Football is also a serious pastime in Glasgow, where the declaration of support for one club over another can mean far more than simply backing a home team. The two 'old firm' teams in Glasgow – Celtic and Rangers – have rival Catholic and Protestant roots going back over 100 years.

Many expats come to Glasgow for the purposes of taking up employment in the city's large financial and business services sector. Those expats that haven't secured a job prior to arrival will discover that finding work in Glasgow can be an extremely competitive process. Networking is key and many will find that going through an employment agency will yield the best results.

Getting around in Glasgow is fairly easy with a number of options to choose from. Trains run out of two major stations in the city centre and provide affordable travel options both within the city as well as to the rest of Scotland and as far south as London. The bus system is just as efficient with a reliable and comprehensive timetable servicing the entire city.

A move to Glasgow may seem intimidating at first, but given a little time, expats will feel just as proud to live among the city's stunning Victorian architecture as born-and-bred Glaswegians.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Glasgow

Every city has its ups and downs, and Glasgow is no exception. It's all too easy to idealise this pretty city with historic buildings around every corner, but day-to-day reality can be entirely different from what new arrivals may expect once the daily grind kicks in.

Here are a few pros and cons of moving to Glasgow.


Lifestyle in Glasgow

+ PRO: Lots of green spaces

The word “Glasgow” means “dear green place” in Gaelic, and the city certainly lives up to its name. With public parks and gardens to be found all over, expats will never be far from a place to escape the hustle and bustle.

+ PRO: Friendly locals

Glaswegians are famously friendly and new arrivals can expect to be welcomed with open arms. Locals will generally be happy to help out with any information expats might need, and they enjoy getting to know others over a drink at the pub. Expats with a well-developed sense of humour will find it pretty easy to settle into life in Glasgow.


Weather in Glasgow

- CON: Grey, windy and rainy

Glasgow's weather is not one of the city's strong suits. In the winter, temperatures are in the single digits (Celcius) and sometimes below freezing. Snow doesn't occur every year and is generally light when it does, but sleet and rain make a frequent appearance.


Healthcare in Glasgow

+ PRO: Access to the NHS

The National Health Service (NHS) is considered by many to be a major advantage of moving to the UK and Scotland’s branch of the NHS is highly rated. Expats on the NHS will be able to access fully funded healthcare including appointments, prescriptions and hospital visits.

- CON: Long waiting times

Throughout the UK, waiting times for appointments via the NHS can be long and Glasgow is no exception. Waiting times can be speeding up by choosing costly private treatment instead. Due to the private sector’s high prices, it is advised that expats who plan to use private healthcare invest int in comprehensive health insurance.


Accommodation in Glasgow

+ PRO: Affordable housing

Accommodation in Glasgow is considered well priced, especially farther out in the suburbs – though it's worth bearing in mind that public transport coverage in these areas gets correspondingly more sparse. However, even accommodation in the city centre is significantly cheaper than one would find in Edinburgh.


Education in Glasgow

+ PRO: Some International Baccalaureate schools

While there are no schools in Glasgow offering foreign curricula, some private schools do offer the option for children to study the globally respected International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which culminates in the IB Diploma.

- CON: Catchment areas for public schools

With public schooling in Glasgow being based on catchment areas, children have priority admission to the school in their residential zone. It’s possible to attend a school outside one’s catchment area but anyone applying to such a school will not have priority placement and isn't guaranteed entry. For this reason, parents should research schools before the move and choose a neighbourhood that has good schools nearby.


Getting around in Glasgow

+ PRO: Multiple modes of public transport

Most areas in Glasgow are covered by some form of public transport. The city centre is especially well-connected and those living nearby will be able to choose between above-ground trains, buses and Glasgow’s infamous orange subway trains.

- CON: Public transport can be inconvenient

Though it’s possible to get by without a car, most households in Scotland own at least one. Suburban areas don't have as many public transport options and it's sometimes easier to just drive.

Glasgow’s temperamental weather can also make public transport an uncomfortable option, particularly when it’s time to leave the comfort of the heated train carriage and head back out into the freezing rain.

While delays on public transport aren't necessarily frequent, they do occur on occasion and sometimes train passengers are redirected to buses if the delays are major.


Cost of living in Glasgow

+ PRO: One of the cheapest expat destinations in the UK

While Glasgow is more expensive than some of Scotland's smaller towns, it's still much cheaper to live in Glasgow than many other popular expat destinations in the UK, including Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Working in Glasgow

Those intending to work in Glasgow will discover that the city has a thriving economy, with a competitive job market. If considering working in Glasgow and arriving without a secured position, expats should be prepared to go through a rigorous hiring process for any job opportunity.


Job market in Glasgow

In the past, the city's economy relied heavily on manufacturing, particularly the shipbuilding industry. Today, Glasgow's economy has successfully diversified, with services, communications, healthcare, higher education and creative industries among its strong sectors.

Common sources of employment in the services sector include call centre workers, retail and secretarial staff, as well as more senior professional and managerial positions.

The financial industry has a large presence in Glasgow and employs a high percentage of the working population; however, it is very difficult to gain a position without previous experience. The outlying areas of the city support a large industrial sector with skilled workers being in demand on a regular basis.


Finding a job in Glasgow

For expats arriving with no employment secured, the best source for job leads continues to be networking and by word of mouth. Employment agencies are also a valuable tool and are eager to place qualified individuals in temporary and permanent positions. As there are so many applicants for each position, work standards are high and are expected to be maintained by any successful candidate.

Accommodation in Glasgow

Prospective residents of Glasgow will discover that the city has a huge variety of housing options, available for both renting and purchasing. Most expats opt to rent rather than buy accommodation in Glasgow, at least initially. The good news is that Glasgow tends to be a good choice for those looking to make the most out of a relatively tight budget.


Types of accommodation in Glasgow

As is the case with many similarly sized cities affected by urban sprawl, there are certain types of property associated with particular districts and neighbourhoods.

Many areas close to the city centre contain a lot of tenements, most of which have been updated and modernised. More modern apartment buildings are interspersed throughout the city, and often make for an affordable option for newly arriving expats.

Outside of the city centre, the suburbs tend to be more family-oriented with traditional housing options, and are often populated by those who commute to work every day. Many of these housing estates have a cookie-cutter design serving a more functional role, while the older areas have character homes either custom-built or of an older design – and are often larger and more expensive.


Finding accommodation in Glasgow

There are a number of resources available to expats looking for accommodation in Glasgow, including online property portals and local newspapers. Expats may also want to make use of the services of a letting agent, as these professionals have extensive knowledge of the various areas and types of housing available in Glasgow and can offer advice and guidance throughout the process of finding a home.


Renting accommodation in Glasgow

Applications

Once an expat has found a suitable property, they'll need to submit an application. Typically, references and credit checks will be required to ensure that the tenant can afford the cost of renting. Sometimes confirmation of employment and income is enough proof of this, but expats may be subject to a higher deposit as a form of surety.

Deposits

The typical deposit is the equivalent of one or two months' rent, but expats with no credit or renting history in the country might be asked to pay up to six months' worth of rent. This is more common with letting agencies than with private landlords so it's something to bear in mind when deciding to make use of an agency or not.

Leases

The standard length of a lease is six or 12 months. Before signing, expats should ensure that they understand the lease agreement fully, including the terms and conditions associated with the rental.

Utilities

When budgeting, expats should make sure they're clear on what's included in the rental price and what isn't. Usually council tax and utilities are at an additional cost to the tenant.

Furniture

Much of Glasgow's rental accommodation is offered fully furnished, which is a great option for those who may be waiting for overseas shipments or those starting over in their new location with no household belongings. However, if expats prefer to bring or buy their own furniture, it's usually fairly easy to arrange that one's chosen accommodation comes unfurnished

Healthcare in Glasgow

Expats who find themselves in need of medical attention will be able to access high-quality healthcare in Glasgow. The UK's healthcare system, the National Health Service (NHS), is generally considered a success, and all expats legally resident in the UK are eligible for subsidised or free treatment.

Technically there are two types of hospitals in the UK: public hospitals run by the NHS, and private hospitals run by other entities. In practice, though, there is little difference between the two. Both public and private hospitals have excellent facilities and care, which means few people in Scotland specifically use private facilities. Still, some expats may prefer to use private facilities in order to skip over the public sector's waiting times. If they plan to use private healthcare, expats should invest in a private health insurance policy to cover costs.

To make use of the NHS, expats must make appointments with NHS-approved GPs, a list of which can be found on the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde website. Patients requiring specialist treatment will need to consult with a GP first before being referred to a specialist.

In the case of a medical emergency (where someone is seriously ill or injured) an ambulance should be called on 999. If medical attention or advice is needed in a non-life-threatening instance, NHS 111 should be dialled instead. 

Ambulances called on the national number will take the patient to the nearest NHS hospital. Once the patient has been examined, they may be sent to another hospital which specialises in the patient's particular ailment. This may be a public or private hospital, but as long as the initial hospital was an NHS hospital, the NHS will pay for the treatment regardless.


Public hospitals in Glasgow

Glasgow Royal Infirmary

Websitewww.nhsggc.org.uk
Address: 84 Castle Street, Glasgow G4 0SF

New Victoria Hospital

Websitewww.nhsggc.org.uk
Address: 52 Grange Road, Glasgow G42 9LF

Princess Royal Maternity Hospital

Website: www.nhsggc.org.uk
Address: 16 Alexandra Parade, Glasgow G31 2ER

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

Websitewww.nhsggc.org.uk
Address: 1345 Govan Road, Glasgow G51 4TF

Stobhill Hospital

Websitewww.nhsggc.org.uk
Address: 133 Balornock Road, Glasgow G21 3UW


Private hospitals in Glasgow

Nuffield Health Glasgow

Website: www.nuffieldhealth.com
Address: 25 Beaconsfield Road, Glasgow G12 0PJ

BMI Ross Hall Hospital

Websitewww.bmihealthcare.co.uk
Address: 221 Crookston Road, Glasgow G52 3NQ

Education and Schools in Glasgow

In Glasgow, as in the rest of Scotland, parents have a range of public and private choices with regards to the school their child attends. However, expat parents interested in an international curriculum will have to look further afield. There are only four International Baccalaureate schools in all of Scotland, none of which are in Glasgow. 

While public schools are free, private schools have fees. Notably, Glasgow is home to some of Scotland's best-performing public schools, so parents should keep an open mind when deciding to go private or public. Education Scotland provides reports on both public and private schools, a helpful resource for investigating options.

All of Glasgow’s schools follow the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence in which schooling is divided into two phases. The first phase is a broad general education, beginning at nursery (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 Glasgow

The vast majority of children in Glasgow attend state-funded public schools. Some of these schools are particularly well regarded, topping the list of best-performing state schools in Scotland year after year. However, quality does vary among government schools as a whole so thorough research should be undertaken before making any final decisions.

Schools are automatically assigned according to catchment areas, so this is an important consideration when deciding where to live. If parents wish, they can submit a placing request to Glasgow City Council for a school outside their area. However, priority placement is determined according to extensive criteria, and there is no guarantee of acceptance.


Private schools in Glasgow

Glasgow has a number of private independent schools where funding is from fees and charitable donations. There may be scholarship or bursary schemes to assist with costs. While private schools do adhere to the local curriculum, they have more freedom in teaching methods and may have better facilities.

It is always worth organising tours of the schools, ideally during a school day, so that one gets a feel for the school’s approach and ethos. Some topics worth addressing include the length of the school day, extracurricular activities, class sizes, assessments and possible summer school activities. 

Independent schools tend to run entrance tests and these can be at various times of the year. Whatever school one chooses for their child, it is important that it meets their needs and works well logistically for the whole family.


International schools in Glasgow

Unfortunately, all schools in Glasgow follow the local curriculum, meaning that there are no full-time international schools. In all of Scotland, there are only four International Baccalaureate schools, none of which is in Glasgow. The closest IB schools are the two in Edinburgh, about an hour's train ride from Glasgow, but neither school has boarding options. Scotland's other two IB schools are located even farther away in St Andrew's and Aberdeen.

As the expat community of Glasgow grows, there may be a rise in the number of international schools but at present, the options are limited in this area.


Special needs education in Glasgow

Special needs in education are addressed according to Glasgow City Council's "Every Child is Included and Supported" policy. This policy works according to staged intervention levels which range from localised intervention at a school level to multi-agency involvement. These stages ensure that the support given is consistent and appropriate to the child's needs.

Expat parents may find it useful to know that Glasgow Education Services also offers specialised support services for children who don't speak English as a first language. The English as an Additional Language (EAL) service is available to all children attending nursery, primary and secondary schools. The service assists children of all English levels, from those just learning English to those who have been speaking English for longer but need some extra support.


Homeschooling in Glasgow

Given that there are no international schools in the city, homeschooling can be a good solution for parents living in Glasgow who would like their child to continue with a non-Scottish curriculum.

Parents must submit notification to their local council if they wish to withdraw their child from public school and educate them at home. If the child is being withdrawn from an independent school or hasn't been enrolled in school yet, it isn't necessary to notify the council.

There aren't any restrictions regarding curriculum and scheduling doesn't necessarily have to follow a fixed daily or termly timetable. However, parents do have a legal obligation to provide a suitable education according to the child's age, ability and aptitude. Parents will need to prove this in complying with checks from council investigation officers, which usually take place once a year.

Lifestyle in Glasgow

Expats moving to Scotland's largest city will find that the lifestyle in Glasgow offers plenty of opportunities for shopping, entertainment and outdoor pursuits. Whether expats are in the mood to shop up a storm in the city centre or are in search of a moment alone in the great outdoors, Glasgow has something for everyone.


Shopping in Glasgow

Buchanan Street in Glasgow's city centre is the heart of the Style Mile, as the city's main shopping district is affectionately known. Lined by high-end shops, tempting restaurants and an ever-present array of street performers, there's plenty to enjoy in this part of town.

At the top of the street is Buchanan Galleries, which houses more than 80 retailers. Further down is Princes Square, where the best of designer fashion can be found, from Vivienne Westwood to Ted Baker and beyond. For families, St Enoch Centre towards the bottom of the street has toy shops galore, including Scotland's flagship Henley's store.

That said, Glasgow has plenty to offer shoppers beyond the Style Mile. Lovers of vintage and second-hand clothing will be in seventh heaven in Glasgow's West End, while other excellent shopping centres such as The Glasgow Fort and The Forge Shopping Centre can be found dotted around the city.


Nightlife and entertainment in Glasgow

Whether expats are in the mood for some live music, a cocktail night, or just a drink down at the pub, there is plenty of variety for those looking to enjoy a night on the town.

Music fans can go big at the SSE Hydro, a 30,000-capacity arena that often attracts some of the world's biggest musicians and comedians. On the other side of the scale is King Tut's Wah Wah Hut – one of the city's smallest but most iconic live music venues.

Merchant City, close to Buchanan Street, is a hotspot for upmarket cocktail bars, while those in the mood for a pint should head to Glasgow East, where a number of local breweries can be found.


Sports and outdoor activities in Glasgow

Despite Glasgow's typically cold and rainy climate, Glaswegians love to get out and about, whether it's to support their favourite football team or enjoy the city's natural beauty. Golf is a popular pursuit, as are water-based activities such as sailing, kayaking, and swimming in Glasgow's rivers and lochs. There are also plentiful opportunities and trails for mountain biking and hiking.

See and Do in Glasgow

Expats looking to explore Scotland's largest city will discover plenty to see and do in Glasgow.

Founded centuries ago, Glasgow is filled with historic sites and buildings, not to mention art galleries and museums galore – plenty to keep any culture-hungry expat busy.

Expats need not worry if they're exploring the city on a shoestring budget as most of Glasgow's attractions have no entrance fees, though there is often an option to donate at the entrance for those who wish to do so.

Here are some of Glasgow's must-see attractions.


Recommended attractions in Glasgow

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

One of Glasgow's most popular attractions, Kelvingrove offers visitors the chance to see unique temporary exhibitions alongside the museum's mainstays. The variety that Kelvingrove offers ensures that every visitor is bound to find something that interests them. Highlights include an authentic WWII-era Spitfire plane, a huge collection of historical arms and armour, and an active hive of bees. There is also an incredible art collection which includes works by some of the most renowned artists of all time, such as Dalí, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Although sunny days are something of a rarity in Glasgow, the Botanic Gardens is the perfect place to spend them when they do come around. In spring, daffodils and colourful tulips pop up all around the gardens, while squirrels can be seen scampering through the grounds and are quite friendly to visitors, especially those who come prepared with a few nuts. There is also a fascinating greenhouse which houses exotic plants from all over the world.

Gallery of Modern Art

A visit to the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is never a dull experience and it's well worth spending some time contemplating the artworks on display. Work by both local and international artists can be seen in the museum, and the gallery frequently runs special projects to address social issues.

Duke of Wellington Statue

In front of GoMA, visitors will be greeted by a sight beloved among locals and foreigners alike: the statue of the Duke of Wellington. This statue's unusual claim to fame is the ever-present traffic cone perched jauntily on its head. This is one of Glasgow's most iconic images and is considered by many to be a monument to the city's cheeky sense of humour. Unsurprisingly, government officials disagree, and the cone has been removed by officials numerous times, much to the chagrin of locals. The cone is never gone for long, though, and there is always a sneaky local willing to clamber up the statue to replace it.

People's Palace

Those wanting to learn about the history of Glasgow's people will find the People's Palace well worth a visit. The People's Palace is home to a museum documenting the city's unique social history from the mid-18th century to the present day, giving a glimpse of everyday life in Glasgow throughout the ages. Visitors to the People's Palace can also enjoy a walk in the adjacent Winter Gardens.

The Lighthouse

This six-storey tall building in the heart of Glasgow offers a beautiful 360-degree view of the city from its top floor. Designed by famous Glasgow architect Charles Mackintosh, the Lighthouse also hosts art and design exhibitions, including a permanent Mackintosh exhibition for those keen to learn more about the man himself.

Getting Around in Glasgow

Thanks to a well-developed public transport system, expats should find that getting around in Glasgow is relatively easy and stress free.

It's quite possible to get by on public transport alone, although those who aren't keen to face Glasgow's typically chilly, windy and rainy weather may prefer to drive around in the comfort of their own car.


Public transport in Glasgow

Glasgow's public transport system is comprehensive, convenient and cost effective. Different forms of public transport are well linked and although there isn't a centralised ticketing system, some forms of public transport offer special tickets that allow travel on more than one form of transport for a set amount of time.

Subway

The bright orange exterior of the subway trains and the circular route they follow has led to the Glasgow subway being dubbed the 'clockwork orange'. Admittedly, this nickname is perpetuated more by guidebooks and tour guides than locals, who tend to just call it the subway.

More importantly, the underground train system is a quick and easy way to get around the city, though its route is limited to the central and West End areas of Glasgow. On most days the subway trains run from the early morning to just before midnight with a train arriving every four to eight minutes. The circular route has one inner track and one outer track with trains running in opposite directions, so that passengers can choose either track depending on which train will reach to their desired destination first. One drawback of the subway system is that it's quite compact in both size and scope. There are 15 stops in total, and it only takes about 20 minutes to complete a full circuit of the route.

Trains

Glasgow's network of above-ground trains traverses a much wider network than the subway, with ScotRail covering local and regional routes and other providers such as Virgin Trains connecting Glasgow with England and Wales.

The local train route covers much of suburban Glasgow and provides it with a connection to the inner-city areas. Once in the city, it is easy to connect to the subway. The frequency of trains depends on the route and time of day, and trains may suffer from delays, especially in bad weather. Travellers should be sure to stay up to date using ScotRail's website or mobile app, which both offer information on timetables, routes and any delays. 

Buses

Glasgow has an extensive bus system, with the main provider of bus services being First Glasgow. There are over 100 bus routes in Glasgow so travellers are well covered. However, some buses offer only limited services, especially at night, so it's best to check with the driver when boarding the bus.

Tickets are bought onboard the bus, but travellers will need to ensure they have the exact amount of money needed to buy the ticket.


Taxis in Glasgow

Ride-hailing applications such as Uber and Lyft are operational in Glasgow, and travellers can easily hail a cab using the relevant application on their phone. There are also classic black cabs, run by Glasgow Taxis. They can be hailed on the street or booked online, over the phone, or by using the official Glasgow Taxis app.


Driving in Glasgow

Most expats will find that owning a car in Glasgow is unnecessary, but a car can come in handy in the case of rainy weather.

Expats from within the EU can drive in Scotland for as long as their licence is valid, and those from outside the EU can drive in Scotland on a valid licence from back home for up to 12 months after their arrival.

Expats who are used to chaotic and aggressive driving may find that Glasgow roads are much calmer, and some may even find the somewhat slower pace of Glaswegian drivers frustrating. Glaswegian drivers are also noticeably more polite and patient than drivers in many other countries – it's uncommon for anyone to honk their horn, even if someone else on the road drives carelessly or inconveniences them.


Cycling in Glasgow

Glasgow has over 186 miles (300 km) of cycle lanes. Sidewalks are also usually safe to cycle on. Although Glasgow is not quite as cycle-friendly as nearby Edinburgh, there's still plenty of support for cyclists in terms of cycling infrastructure and bicycle-hire schemes, including a comprehensive scheme run by the city council.


Walking in Glasgow

If using public transport, walking is an almost inescapable part of travelling in Glasgow. Glasgow is a large city, and despite numerous public transport options, a bit of walking is usually necessary to get to where one wants to go. Travellers should always be prepared for a bit of rain, though, so it's advisable to carry around a small umbrella or rain jacket in case of sudden showers.