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Tochi Esther on the lessons she learned after moving to the UK

New to the UK? Tochi Esther is here to help

We’re so excited to be partnering with Tochi Esther, a YouTuber, consultant and OISC-approved UK Immigration Advisor Trainee helping people move to the UK. 

We chatted to Tochi about her experience of moving here with her family, including raising children in a new country, getting a mortgage, learning to drive in the UK and how small the roads are over here!  

Hi Tochi. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Of course! I share advice and information to help people around the world move to the UK and other countries, too. 

When my husband and I were first moving to the UK, it was hard to find answers to important questions. Now, there’s so much more information available online. I bring lots of that information together on my YouTube channel. I can’t think of a topic I haven’t talked about!

I do the research and speak from my own experiences about things like getting your children into the right school, applying for a visa, opportunities for work in the UK, cultural differences… all kinds of things. 

Thinking back to when you first moved here, what surprised you most about life in the UK?

One thing that really sticks out to me was when I first went to a charity shop. I went to pay but the lady at the till said it was cash only. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any cash! I thought I’d have to leave the stuff behind but she said: ‘No, no, no. Just pay what you can now then come back and pay the rest later.’ 

I was so shocked. She didn’t even know me but she trusted me - a total stranger. It was a really nice moment.
Of course, driving is very different too. Firstly, the roads and parking spaces are so small. I’ll drive down a road and think ‘how are two cars going to pass down here?!’ And people definitely don’t honk their horns as much. 

The roads are surprisingly small here! Aside from the roads, how do you find driving in the UK?

I’m still in the process of learning. I’ve passed my theory test but I’m working with an instructor towards the practical exam.

One of the biggest things people should know is that it’s not cheap to learn how to drive in the UK. My advice would be: learn how to drive in your home country before you move. That way, you’ll only need a few lessons to get used to the UK roads.

I didn’t drive before I came to the UK meaning I’ve spent so much money learning everything from scratch. 

Do you think driving is essential in the UK?

It depends on where you live. If you live in a big city like London you might not need to drive. But if you’re in a smaller city or town you’ll probably need to. Especially if you have a family and are doing school runs. 

You don’t want to be jumping on the bus every day with a pram, especially as public transport isn’t always regular. And getting a taxi isn’t really an option as they tend to be really expensive. 

How do you find being a parent in the UK?

It’s a beautiful experience! Though it can be difficult too. You have to do everything by yourself and childcare is very expensive in the UK. Sometimes you realise that your salary only just covers childcare and you wonder why you’re working so hard. So you find yourself looking for remote jobs you can do at home. 

But being a parent also helps you to meet people. You see the same faces at the school gates and get invited into Whatsapp groups or local support groups. You can build a strong community around parenthood here. 

You talk about getting a UK mortgage on your YouTube channel. What are your tips for UK newcomers looking to find a home?

If you want to rent a house in the UK, you need to start looking early. These days, there’s not a huge amount of supply of rental houses. Search on Rightmove, Zoopla and the estate agents’ websites and keep hunting until you find the right one.

Buying a house in the UK is doable if you put your mind to it. Start saving towards your deposit, even if it’s a tiny amount every month. We used the Help to Buy scheme to save for our house. Sadly, it doesn’t exist anymore but if you’re under 40 and are a UK resident, you can get a Lifetime ISA where the government will add a 25% bonus to your savings up to £1000 a year. Make use of the scheme if you can!

Set yourself a target for your savings and be disciplined with yourself. You will get there.

Thinking about saving, what advice do you have for people moving to the UK during this cost of living crisis?

Plan and budget. When I first moved here, I made sure we were very strict with our finances. I got what I needed from charity shops to help us save money. 

A good thing to remember is that, even when things are 25% or 50% off, those things will almost always be on sale! If you don’t buy something now, it doesn’t mean it won’t be there when you actually need it.

A big thanks to Tochi for sharing her stories and for all the useful tips. If you want to know more about Tochi’s move to the UK as well as other essential information about the UK immigration process, head to her YouTube channel here.

And remember, if you’ve moved to the UK, we can help you save money on your car insurance. We look at all your driving history from any country (yes, any!), to give you the experience-based discounts you deserve. Find out more here.