|American Women of Surrey|
Living in Surrey
How To Arrive And Thrive
Babysitters, Nannies and Nurseries
Ask a friend, the people you meet at school or visit the classifieds at this website. A good site you might like to check out as well is http://www.childcarelocal.co.uk where you can find information on childcare in the area and facts about the different services and facilities available to you.
The procedures and regulations of UK banks are different from those in the US and it is important to note that establishing accounts may take a bit longer. In order to open an account, you will need to provide proof of your identity. Two pieces of ID may be required which could include:
You will also need proof of your UK address which could include:
If you plan to have a joint account, it is best to do this when you open an account as adding your spouse to an existing account can take a considerable amount of time.
Current (Checking) Accounts
In the UK, checking accounts are referred to as Current Accounts. When you open an account you will receive a cheque book (British spelling). Cheques are not accepted by many large retailers on the High Street, but they are still used by small businesses and individuals. Banks monitor usage and additional cheque books will be sent to you as you use them. Banks do not issue customized cheques. Cancelled cheques are only returned if requested and you have to pay a fee. Cheques are pre-printed with crossed lines and "Account Payee" on them. This indicates the cheque must be deposited in the payee’s account and cannot be exchanged at the bank branch for cash.
Writing a sterling cheque differs slightly from writing a US dollar cheque.When writing a cheque, there are two things to remember.
If you need to deposit a cheque into your account, you will need a paying-in slip (deposit slip). You will find a supply of these at the back of each cheque book.
The banks have recently changed their rules. For now all sterling currency withdrawals from bank Automated Teller Machines (ATM), which are sometimes called "cash points" or "Hole in the Wall", do not incur a withdrawal fee.
Chip and PIN
When completing a transaction, most shops and restaurants allow you to insert your credit card in the handheld machine yourself. Your UK issued bank card will have a small silver "chip" on the front. This end goes into the machine first. Then enter your pin number.
Automatic Bank Payments
Standing Orders are written approval for regular debits from your account for a defined amount. Your rental payment or car payment, where the amount doesn't vary from month to month, can be set up as a Standing Order. Direct Debits are similar to Standing Orders but with the Direct Debit the payment amount can vary in amount from month to month. Direct Debits are commonly used to pay utility bills.
England takes dinner reservations very seriously, so be sure to make a booking well in advance if you want to go to a restaurant. The good news is that typically the restaurant will either not rush you through dinner or will tell you when they need the table empty.
This is the short name often used for the Channel Tunnel. The Chunnel runs from Folkestone in the south of England, to Calais in northern France. It is not possible to drive a car or motorcycle through the Chunnel. Motorists and motorcyclists must use the car train service, whereby you drive your car or motorbike onto the Euro Shuttle train, which then takes you through the Chunnel. There's no need to get out of your car, and the journey is over in just 35 minutes. Eurostar operates the passenger trains the run from London, Ashford and Ebbsfleet in England, through the Chunnel, and then direct to Paris. Visit http://www.chunnel.org.uk
Council tax is the local tax assessed on a property to help pay for local services. The amount paid is based on the tax band in your area.
Car Concerns - Driver's License
If you hold a US driver's license, the importance of obtaining a UK driving license within your first twelve months cannot be stressed strongly enough. After twelve months residence, if you have no UK driving license, your insurance is not valid. Also, the police will fine you for driving without a license and being uninsured, and in some cases, will take your car from you at the place where they stop you!
The question about the "one year" issue always comes up. You do not restart your twelve-month period every time you re-enter the UK. Residency is the deciding factor; if you live here for more than 185 days per year and have personal or vocational ties in the UK, you are considered a UK resident.
Naturally, when you first arrive, you can obtain car insurance by providing details of your US state driving license. Many members have found some of the online UK insurance providers to be a quick and easy way to get their car insurance. The Automobile Association (http://www.theaa.com), Tesco grocery store (http://www.tesco.com) and Direct Line Insurance (http://www.directline.com) are a few examples.
You may wish to check with your US insurance company to see if they underwrite policies in the UK. USAA (http://www.usaa.com) and GEICO (http://www.geico.com) are two companies that do.
No Claims Bonuses
UK insurance companies have a system called "No Claims Bonuses". This means that the company will discount your premium for every year in which you have not made an insurance claim. The bonuses are worth having; ask your US insurer for a letter confirming that you have no claims for a specified number of years.
A road tax is levied on automobiles each year. You must display a tax disc on the passenger side of the windscreen showing proof of payment and expiration date. If you buy your car from a dealer, they will usually make sure that it is taxed for the first year. Otherwise, application forms are available from the post office, and renewal forms will be sent by post.
When it is time to renew your tax disc, take your tax form, current proof of insurance and your payment to the post office. You will get your new tax disc on the spot. You may also apply online and generally you will receive your new tax disc in the post within a few days.
Driving Direction Websites
You may find the following sites useful:
Once your car is three years old, it must pass a road worthiness test. This examination certificate will be required when you go to renew your tax disc. Most garages will carry out the inspection but you must book an appointment in advance.
DVD Players and Movies
A video recorder brought from the US will only play videos purchased from the States unless it is a multi-region player. US formatted DVDs (NTSC) can only be played on UK DVD players that are formatted for multi-region.
Electricity and Voltage
So you noticed that your electrical plug does not fit into a UK wall socket. Now is the time to invest in transformers, surge protectors and adaptor kits with plugs for international travel.
Most non-European electrical goods are incompatible with the UK's electrical supply. This is due to the voltage differences, which in the UK/Europe is 220/220v and in the US is 110v. If you try to use a US appliance in the UK, it will burn up unless you use a transformer. Some appliances come with a built in transformer, but if in doubt, use a transformer anyway. There is nothing worse than plugging in your brand new Sonicare toothbrush, burning it up and having to trash it!
A converter is not the same as a transformer. A converter only allows you to plug in an electrical appliance by using a small pin changer (two prong to three prong). Converters do not adjust the voltage level.
Transformers are plug-in devices that convert the electricity down to 110v and are sized from 30 watts to 1500 watts. Depending on the appliance, they can be used to power several appliances so you don't necessarily need a transformer for each electrical appliance. As a general guide, if the appliance has been designed to create heat, it will require a more powerful transformer (i.e. kettles and toasters).
Troubleshooting tip: If your appliance is not turning on, check to make sure the on/off switch is in the on position at the wall outlet. US lamps can be used in the UK provided they are used with a converter or fitted with UK plugs AND you use UK light bulbs.
Typically an expat will need to visit their embassy to get something notarized, add pages to their passport, renew a passport or apply for a visa. A list of foreign embassies in the UK can be found at http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/UnitedKingdom
It is recommended that you check the embassy's hours and call to make an appointment ahead of time.
Banks stock limited amounts of the most popular foreign currencies for immediate exchange. In order to avoid disappointment it is wise to place an order for the required amount a few days in advance. Some banks request that you notify them of your travel plans to avoid any problems with the use of your debit and credit cards during holiday.
Note: If you deposit a foreign currency check or wire money in another currency from or to your UK bank account, you will have to pay a commission fee, typically a percentage of the total amount. There are several options depending on how soon you need access to the funds.
If you would like a few more TV channels (as well as radio stations) and are interested in digital viewing, you can install a Freeview box which works through a TV antenna. There is no monthly charge; you just need the box. To check that Freeview reception is available in your area go to http://www.freeview.co.uk
There is an abundance of hair salons in Surrey. Your best bet for finding a new stylist is recommendations from people you meet at AWS meetings or in your neighbourhood. And if a hair stylist asks you how you like your "fringe" they are referring to what Americans call their "bangs".
If you are a UK resident, you are entitled to medical treatment under the National Health Service (NHS) but you must register with a local surgery. To register, choose a surgery, then call them to make sure they are accepting new patients and that you live in their area. You will then need to go to the office and fill out a form. Don't forget your ID as it is required. If you need to see a specialist, your General Practitioner (GP) will need to give you a reference letter. For more information on the NHS, visit http://www.nhs.uk and http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk
Private healthcare is also available in the UK as well as private insurance. A good site is http://www.privatehealthcare.co.uk
Again, advice from friends is invaluable in helping you better understand the way it all works.
NTSC vs. PAL
There are different TV standards in the UK (NTSC in the US vs. PAL in the UK). However many of the flat screen TVs that are now available are in fact a monitor and therefore can be used in either country with the appropriate voltage transformer. This varies by manufacturer and model so the best thing to do if you are unsure is to ask when you buy the appliance and/or check the internet.
Holidays/Public and Bank
Some shops open and some shops do not. As a general rule, banks will be closed and most supermarkets and large stores will be open (although with late opening and early closing Sunday hours). In larger towns, many shops will open over the Christmas and New Year period but most all shops will close on Christmas Day and some on New Year’s Day.
Make Note: An increasing number of shops are now opening on Boxing Day (December 26) to increase their New Year’s sales.
England is a bit unique in that there are many companies and individuals that will come to your home to offer services such as manicures, hair cutting and styling, dry cleaning pick-up, and meat and grocery deliveries. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations.
Internet Service / Logging On
When you first arrive and you are having internet withdrawals, visit your local library. Most have computers which you can use for free or for a small fee. You can also go to most coffee shop chains (i.e. Starbucks, Costa) and access their wireless. A small fee may apply.
There are several internet service providers in the UK including British Telecom (http://www.bt.com), Virgin (http://www.virgin.net) Sky (http://www.sky.co.uk) and Orange (http://www.orange.co.uk).
Once connected, visit and bookmark our favourite sites!
Need A Break?
Afternoon tea is a true English Experience and best tried in London at hotels such as Lainsborough, The Ritz (long waiting list for reservations), The Dorchester or Harrods. High Tea includes savoury sandwiches such as ham salad or smoked haddock. Cream Tea includes scones, jam and clotted cream. For additional information on tea, visit the UK Tea Council at http://www.tea.co.uk
Mattresses & Linens
Beds in the UK are not the same size as those in the US. However, if you have standard length twins, doubles or queen beds, you should have no problem using the sheets sold in the UK.But, if you have a King or California King, you may want to bring some with you.
Note: UK duvet (comforter) covers will not fit US duvets. UK duvets are narrower and shorter. However, you can order bespoke (custom made) ones from stores such as John Lewis. The following sizes are approximate but can be most helpful:
Known as Chemists in the UK, some medicines are available over the counter, but you may still have to ask for them. Ibuprofen (Nurofen, Cuprofen, Brufen) and Paracetamol (Panadol, Disprol) are similar to Advil and Tylenol. Tixymol and Calpol are for children and come in liquid form. As always, be sure to ask for assistance.
Pay and Display Parking
Always have change in your car for the Pay and Display parking lots. When displaying the ticket, place on your dashboard and be sure to leave it facing up. You will receive a ticket if the receipt is face down. Finally, check the section of the parking lot to make sure there is no time limit for where you are parking.
The post office is often located within a newsagent or other business as is the case in Esher (in McColl's on the High Street) and Cobham (Hollyhedge Road). At these locations, you can do more than just purchase stamps; you can buy foreign currency without commission, apply for a driver’s license and UK international driving permits, pay your car tax (check location as not available at all locations), get broadband and phone services, fax documents, copy documents, and much more.
You may wonder why everyone asks for your Postcode (Zip Code in the US). Every house and business in the UK has one. This alphanumeric number can be most helpful when trying to match rental properties with the nearest public transport spot or when trying to locate your child at their play date’s house. This is absolutely one of the first numbers you need to know.
Slang term for one British pound. Comes from the Latin expression "quid pro quo" meaning one thing in return for another.
There are two ways to send letters in the UK – First and Second Class. The difference in cost equates to the time it will take for the letter to be delivered. Recorded Mail is the method that provides tracking and confirmation of delivery. Special Delivery provides more assurances and up-to-date tracking of the items being shipped. For packages, obtain a free receipt of posting; this will provide insurance against loss up to a set value (check at the time of posting). Additional details on mail can be found at http://www.royalmail.com
When you arrive in England, roundabouts may confuse and baffle you. Which lane are you supposed to be in? Can anyone hear you count out loud the number of exits your SatNav tells you to take? Rest assured, after driving around for a few months, you will discover that they are amazingly efficient and help to give you points of reference for where you are going. Keep in mind that locals know the name of the roundabouts and will tell you the number you need to go through to get someplace. Some major ones you should know: Scilly Isles, between Esher and Hampton Court; Tolworth Tower off the A3; and Painshill Park, up from Sainsbury’s in Cobham. It is vital to always remember to give way to traffic on the right. Failure to do so is called "cutting up" and can lead to road rage.
Rubbish (AKA Garbage or Trash) and Recycling
Hopefully, your landlord or rental agent left you with information on when your trash and recycling will be picked up. If not, contact your local council office (Elmbridge Council is http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk) to get the schedule. You can also find out the locations for the local recycling centres that have bins for batteries, newspapers, glass, cans, clothing, etc. when your bins are overflowing in between pickups. Check with your Council about picking up your moving boxes - some do it if they are broken down and tied in bundles with string; others will only collect if the cardboard is cut to fit in the recycling bins; and some, not at all!
What do you do when you have finally unpacked your boxes and find a computer passed its' prime and furniture that is broken. Household waste sites can be found at:
Satellite and Cable
For more channels, you can subscribe to satellite or cable. Satellite is available via Sky (http://www.sky.com) and cable is available through British Telecom (http://www.bt.com) or Virgin (http://www.virginmedia.com). Have patience.It can take a considerable amount of time to get these services installed.
According to http://www.projectbritain.com, opening times are:
Shops are only allowed to trade for six hours on Sundays. Some shopping centres stay open until 8.00 pm or even later.
24 Hour Stores - While some large supermarkets state that they are open for 24 hours, make sure to check the actual hours before you head their way (especially on Sundays).
Telephones and Residential Phones
Acquiring a new phone line can take a long time; so if you are moving to a home where there is already phone service, do not disconnect it. Simply request that the number be transferred to the new name and account.
There are two types of mobile (cell) phone payment plans available in the UK.
The first is a set term phone contract. This is a good plan for regular mobile phone users. However, some members have found that they have been unable to obtain a contract until they have six months of UK credit history.
If you find this is the case, the second option is the Pay-As-You-Go plan. You buy the phone, and avoid a contract and monthly payment. You deposit an amount of credit onto the SIM card and then "top up" as you need more.
You may find you are not able to make international calls until you have three to six months history with your provider. Make a point of calling them to activate international service when the time has passed; they won't do it automatically. Some providers offer "unlimited" international calling plans for a monthly fee, so be sure to ask for details.
If you use or install television receiving equipment to receive or record television program services, you are required by law to obtain a television license according to the official website. The TV license is the government's way of funding the BBC, which accepts no advertising. The license fee is not optional. Inspectors with tracking equipment do visit neighbourhoods and can impose fines of up to £1,000. The current cost is approximately £150 a year. You can pay quarterly by Direct Debit or annually in one lump sum. An application can be picked up at your local post office or you can pay online. For more information, see http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk
Value Added Tax (VAT)
VAT is a tax that you pay when you buy goods and services in the European Union (EU), including the UK. VAT is normally included in the price of the goods or service you buy. Some goods do not carry VAT. Visit http://www.directgov.co.uk to find full details on VAT, as well as a list of those goods which are considered zero rate. It is important to note, when receiving shipments from outside of the UK, the Customs Service may levy VAT charges on the value of the goods received.
Jack the Ripper, Jane Austen, Julie Andrews, John Lennon, James Bond, Captain James Cook, JK Rowlings, and more! England is rich with history and personalities who continue to shape world events. When you need a quick reference guide for who's who, visit http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_people
The Birthday Party
Life moves on after the move and the all-important birthday party cannot be avoided. Many leisure centres, bowling alleys and movie theatres offer parties. A few of our favourite venues are Big Apple in Woking, ACS Cobham Pool and Guildford Spectrum. For more ideas visit http://www.kidsdaysout.co.uk/surrey.htm
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Guests Are On The Way
One of the great joys of living abroad is having family and friends visit. But let's be honest. It can be both wonderful and stressful. Planning activities to entertain different age groups is most helpful in hosting a successful visit. You may even hate to see them leave.
Hampton Court Palace
Nearby palace on the Thames where Henry VIII held court. Audio tours and guides are available. No charge to walk in the gardens. Great for children. Open green space, gardens, maze, cafe, ice cream and garden train in warmer months. Ice-skating in the winter.
London Eye and South Bank
Nice, relaxing outing. Take the train to Waterloo and walk to the South Bank. A trip on the Eye can be combined with a river cruise on the Thames and it is a great way to view the city. A variety of mimes and musicians perform along the river. Big Ben and Parliament are across the river and provide some great snapshots. Westminster Abbey is also within walking distance. You can cross the river via Westminster Bridge. Stay on the South Bank and visit the London Aquarium. Walk the other direction toward the Tate Modern or Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. London Duck Tours provides entertaining tours both on land and the river.
This is the Royal residency and a must for visitors. The Changing of the Guard ceremony occurs at 11:30am April through September. The Royal Mews (where the carriages, horses and cars are stored), Guards Museum and Palace all offer tours. The Palace is open during summer months while the Queen is away.
Museums and Parks
London has a wealth of museums and parks, many free of charge. The Victoria and Albert, Science Museum and Natural History Museum are all in South Kensington. Kensington Gardens are also in the area including the Princess Diana Memorial Playground. Other free art museums include The National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery, The Wallace Collection, The Tate Modern and Tate Britain. Fees are only charged for special exhibits. The British Museum is another gem.
West End Theater District
Always a great experience as there is a show to suit everyone. And who wouldn't enjoy having an ice cream during the intermission?
Boat Rides to Kingston and Richmond
From April through September you can take a boat ride down the Thames to Kingston, Richmond or even all the way to London.
Kew Gardens and Palace
A lovely place that will interest all ages. The Palm and Temperate Houses and the Palace are fabulous. The Climbers and Creepers play area is educational and the perfect place to burn off energy. The Orangery offers lunch and tea and the Rhizotron and Xstrata treetop walkway takes you underground and then 18 meters (59 feet) in the air.
The oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Take a tour or explore at your leisure.
Located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, Blenheim is one of Europe’s largest palaces. It has 2000 acres of parkland and gardens, a maze, butterfly house, adventure play area and miniature train. The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill and the home of the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough. The home is open for tours and has shops, cafes and exhibits.
Hever Castle and Chartwell
Both about an hour away in Kent and near each other, these make a nice day trip. Hever Castle was the home of Anne Boleyn (second wife of Henry VIII) and has beautiful gardens with a children's play area and a water maze in the summer. Chartwell is a National Trust Property and the former estate of Winston Churchill. It has lovely grounds, a restaurant and a gift shop.
A moated castle in Kent with a huge tract of land, Leeds Castle makes a great day trip. It also has an aviary, a wonderful adventure playground and a maze that finishes in an underground grotto.
A very kid-friendly former working farm featuring the very unusual looking Oast Houses where hops were dried. There are indoor and outdoor play areas, animals and a variety of places to eat. Special weekend events during the summer.
Oxford is a nice day trip for adults and kids (especially those who have devoured the Harry Potter Books). There is so much to see in this quaint pedestrian-friendly town. A walk around the town to see all the college buildings, beautiful gardens, museums and old pubs is quite fun.
Lots of mystery and questions about this ancient place. There is a walkway around the stones and a commentary in several languages is available. Bring your National Trust or English Heritage cards for free admission.
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What To Do Next
Now that you're here and you've gotten your house into some semblance of order, it's time to check out life in Surrey! Perhaps you've arrived in England with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation - excited about all the new things to try, but a little scared of having to figure it all out. You want simply to settle in and get your family back into a routine. But how? Here are a few tips, suggestions and helpful links on how to do just that.
Join an Organization
You've already taken one step by joining AWS. Go to meetings, sign up for activities and ask questions! Bookmark and visit our website on a weekly basis. Be sure and read the Club emails. You can be busy every day of the week if you want! There are also a number of other women's clubs, international organisations, book groups, and more. The list is endless.
Find a Place of Worship
There are many churches and synagogues in Surrey. Ask around and see what's available near you. Listings of locations and schedules can often be found in your local community paper or try http://www.findachurch.co.uk
Take a Continuing or Adult Education Class
Local libraries are a wonderful resource for class listings. You can find your local library and more from your local council websites. Visit http://www.elmbridge.gov.uk for locations and class information. And don't forget! AWS also has an incredible range of opportunities for you to learn a new skill or brush up on something from your "previous" life.
Join a Gym
There are several options available in our area to help us get fit. The gyms (or Health Clubs) are quite similar to those in the US. Most are private and therefore you must be a member to use the facilities. Many of them have a cafe and/or restaurant, childcare facilities and personal trainers. Some of the more well known gyms in our area:
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Driving On The Other SideSubmitted by Barry and Victoria Thomas
Elmbridge Automatic Driving School
The Legal Aspect
Your US licence or US International Driving Permit (IDP) is valid for one year, starting on the date you arrived with the intention of taking up residency in the UK. Residency is described simply as "the place where you live due to personal or occupational ties." After this date, your US licence or IDP is no longer valid and therefore, to allow you to continue driving legally, you must pass your UK Practical Test before you have been in this country for one year.
If you do not pass the test within one year and you continue to drive, you will be driving illegally and liable to Police prosecution. If caught, you risk having your vehicle impounded. More importantly, your motor insurance could also be declared void in the event of an accident or other claim.
The UK Provisional Licence
A Provisional licence does not entitle you to drive after your one year period is up; it merely registers you as a Learner Driver and entitles you to book a Theory Test and Practical Test.The current fee is £50 and you can download an application form at http://www.direct.gov.uk/motoring
A change to the rules in June 2004 means that the only confirmation of identity the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will accept is a passport, so you need to mail your passport with your application. There is no exception to this rule. DVLA estimates that they will return your passport within 5 to 15 working days.
To speed this process (by 1 or 2 days?) you can visit a Driver and Vehicle Registration Office to have your application approved prior to mailing it. The nearest DVLA Office is a two-minute walk from Wimbledon Railway Station at Connect House, 137 Alexandra Road, Wimbledon, SW19 7JY. Opening hours are 9.30 am to 4.00 pm Monday to Thursday and 9.30 am to 3.30 pm on Friday. On the third Wednesday of each month, they open at 10.30 am. The telephone number is 0870 600 6767.
The Theory Test is a computerised touch screen test, where the minimum pass mark is 43 correct answers out of 50 questions plus a Hazard Perception Test which monitors your awareness and reaction to video footage of developing hazards. Most people can prepare thoroughly for this test with a total of six hours study time. You will need a current edition of The Highway Code and the CD containing the current Driving Standards Agency (DSA) Theory Test Question Bank and Hazard Perception clips. These are available in abundance and at bargain prices on eBay, or from The Chertsey Bookshop, WHSmith and others.
The current fee for a Theory Test is £31 and you can arrange a test appointment at http://www.direct.gov.uk/drivingtest Do not use any other site which offers you a driving test booking service; you will probably be charged an extra booking fee. The local Theory Test Centres for the majority of AWS members will be Kingston-upon-Thames, Guildford or Staines.
The Practical Driving Test
You must quote your Theory Test Pass Certificate number when arranging a Practical Driving Test appointment, so this Test cannot be booked until the Theory Test has been passed. The waiting list is usually around four weeks, but can reach up to seven weeks in the summer months. The current fee for a weekday Practical Test is £62. You can make an appointment using the http://direct.gov.uk website or by phone.
The Practical Test is primarily aimed at teenage drivers and the required style of driving bears little resemblance to the standards you see daily on most UK roads. The Test lasts up to 45 minutes and includes varying types of road and traffic conditions and strict reversing manoeuvres. Anyone that has taken this test will almost certainly confirm that even the most experienced and careful driver is very unlikely to pass without professional tuition. In 2010/11 the overall pass rate throughout the UK was below 45%.
The comprehensive websites of DSA (http://www.dsa.gov.uk) and DVLA (http://www.dvla.gov.uk) both provide extensive information on the process. It is a very good idea for you to thoroughly review these websites to fully understand the process.
The Recommended Order For An Experienced Driver:
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Keeping Kids Entertained
Infants to 5 Years:
2 Years to 10 Years:
10 Years and Older:
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A Year In England
Lottery for Wimbledon Tennis Tournament Opens
August 1 - December 31
The majority of Centre, No.1 and No.2 Court tickets are sold in advance via a public ballot. Entry into the ballot does not automatically entitle applicants to tickets for Wimbledon but a place in the draw for tickets.
Houses of Parliament Tours
UK residents can tour throughout the year; overseas visitors may only tour on Saturdays and during the Summer Opening. Accompanied by a trained guide, visitors will see the main areas of the Houses of Parliament which are open to the public.
Ongoing through October 7
Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, as well as the administrative headquarters of the Royal Household. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.
Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
The world’s most spectacular Tattoo host a celebration of talent from around the world including pipers, dancers, singers and more.
Great British Beer Festival
Britain's biggest beer festival once again brings together a wide range of real ales, ciders, perries and international beers.
Edinburgh International Festival
August 9 - September 2
Three exhilarating weeks of the very best in international opera, music, drama and dance.
A month of events encouraging young people to get involved in theatre. Children under 16 years old can see an awesome selection of shows for free, as long as they are accompanied by an adult paying full price.
Notting Hill West Indian Carnival
Europe's largest street festival is recognised throughout the world.
Summer Bank Holiday
The Braemar Gathering & Highland Games in Scotland
Scottish dancing, games and bagpipe competitions. Close to Balmoral and the Queen usually attends.
The Great River Race, London
Over 200 different rowing boats race along the River Thames from Richmond to Isle of Dogs.
Heritage Open Day
A celebration of England's fantastic architecture and culture with free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge admission.
The Times BFI London Film Festival
The UK's largest public film event, screening more than 300 features, documentaries and shorts from almost 50 countries.
End of British Summer Time
Don't forget to set your clocks back!
All Saints Day
Ice Skating at the Natural History Museum
Ongoing Nov through Jan
London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
Few events in today’s international calendar like the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run can claim such individuality, personality and character as around 500 fine examples of pre 1905 manufacture demonstrate their early engineering ability.
Guy Fawkes Night
The celebration of a failed plot to blow up Parliament. Bonfires and fireworks can be found all over Britain. The best displays in London are usually at Alexandra Palace, Blackheath, Crystal Palace and Battersea Park. Check community newspapers for local activities.
Lord Mayor’s Show
The modern procession starts with an RAF flypast. It travels from Mansion House to the Royal Courts of Justice, where the Lord Mayor takes an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. The procession sets off on the return journey from Victoria Embankment to Mansion House. The day finishes with one of London’s grandest firework displays from a barge moored in the Thames between Blackfriars and Waterloo bridges. Some 6000 participants with bands, floats and incredible carriages.
Ice Skating at Tower of London
Ongoing Nov through Jan
Numerous services held in the UK. One major event is when the Queen lays a wreath of poppies at the Cenotaph, a WWI & II memorial in London.
American Thanksgiving Day Service
St Paul's Cathedral opens its doors to the American community in London for this service, attended by thousands of American residents and visitors. You must pre-book a ticket to attend.
Ice Skating at Hampton Court
Ongoing Nov through Jan
St Andrew's Day
State Opening of Parliament
The State Opening of Parliament is one of the most well-known and colourful state occasions in the UK. For over 500 years, State Opening has served as a symbolic reminder of the unity of the Sovereign, the House of Lords and the House of Commons. Escorted by the Household Cavalry, the Queen leaves Buckingham Palace in a carriage procession that makes its way through the streets to the Houses of Parliament Most of the royal family are in attendance.
Regent Street Christmas Lights
For many Londoners, Christmas just isn’t Christmas until the Regent Street lights are switched on.
Christmas Tree Lighting in Trafalgar Square
Each year since 1947, a Christmas tree has been given to the people of London from the people of Norway in gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War II. For many Londoners the Christmas tree and carol singing in Trafalgar Square signal the countdown to Christmas.
Bluebell Railway Christmas Events
Santa trains, Carol Service, Victorian Christmas trains, Bluebell Railway Band and other special events for the holidays. A unique steam train experience.
Christmas Reindeer Parade
Live reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh. Parade starts at Windsor Castle, Castle Hill, going down St. Albans Street behind the Guildhall, back up High Street and down Peascod Street to the Post Office at Windsor Town centre.
The Queens Message
Televised on Christmas Day afternoon, it’s a British tradition to watch.
New Year's Eve
Fireworks celebrations held all over the country.
Wimbledon Lottery Applications Due
Deadline for submitting an application for lottery.
New Year's Day
London's New Year's Day Parade
More than 10,000 performers representing 20 countries a parade filled with marching bands, cheerleaders, clowns acrobats, and much more! Starting at Westminster and ending at Berkeley Square.
The birthday of Scotland's most famous poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) celebrated with great festivity by Scots but everyone is welcome. Burns Suppers are traditional celebrations on this day.
The Clown's Annual Church Service
Held at the Holy Trinity Church in Dalson, East London, hundreds of clowns attend a service in memory of clown Joseph Grimaldi and then perform for the public after the service.
Chinese New Year
To celebrate the year of the Rabbit, the parade will display an array of colourful and lively dragon and lion dances, showcasing ancient traditional Chinese culture and traditional dances fireworks and firecrackers. The major celebrations in Central London are the largest outside Asia.
St David's Day
Crufts Dog Show
With nearly 28,000 healthy, happy dogs enjoying the thrills and excitement of Best In Show with their owners, there's no better place than Crufts to experience and learn about the wonderful world of dogs.
Pancake races take place across the UK, combining fun and fundraising. Participants have to toss pancakes in a frying pan while completing the course.
A family day to celebrate "Mum", Mothering Day is always the second Sunday of Lent.
The Cheltenham Festival
The Cheltenham Festival is the most prestigious meeting in the National Hunt racing calendar in the UK and has race prize money second only to the Grand National. It is an event where many of the best British and Irish trained horses race against each other. The festival takes place annually at Cheltenham Racecourse in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.
St Patrick's Day
Take advantage of our close proximity to Ireland to visit where it all began.
If you can't make it to Ireland, celebrate St. Patrick's Day here.
Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race
Dates back to 1829 and is a must see. Up to 250,000 spectators. One of the great London events, the Boat Race creates a festival atmosphere on the banks of the River Thames.
British Summer Time Begins
Don't forget to move your clocks forward 1 hour!
Windsor Festival Spring Weekend
The Windsor Festival's Spring Weekend fills this historic town with classical music, literary events and more. Previous years have seen the likes of the Southbank Sinfonia performing in St George's Chapel and book signings around town by famous authors.
April Fools' Day
Easter Monday Bank Holiday
The Grand National Horse Race
The race is one of the most famous steeplechases in the world. It is a unique test of horsemanship for the rider and also a test of a great significance for a horse.
More than just a marathon, this is the largest annual fundraising event in the world, with 35,000 runners creating an amazing atmosphere.
St George's Day
Honouring the patron saint of England with festivals and parades.
Royal Shakespeare Company
From April Onwards
50th anniversary season featuring a series of the RSC's "greatest hits" - revivals of famous RSC productions from the last half century. Throughout London.
Celebrated across the UK with Maypole dancing, Morris dancing and general merrymaking. Try the Covent Garden May Fayre Puppet Festival in London.
The Great Escape Festival
More than 300 bands perform at the festival that takes place over three days at 34 venues across Brighton. The music festival is an annual highlight in the city’s cultural calendar.
Spring Bank Holiday
For hundreds of years the Gloucestershire Cheese Rolling has taken place in a steep hillside in the English countryside. One of the UK's most anticipated annual events attracting crazy cheese chasers from around the world.
Chelsea Flower Show
Every year the grounds of the Royal Hospital are transformed into show gardens, inspirational small gardens and vibrant horticultural displays that make up the world's most famous flower show. The Chelsea Flower Show is attended by 157,000 visitors each year. The number is limited by the capacity of the 11-acre ground. Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Polo Season Begins
Set in the private Home Park of Windsor, Frogmore is renowned for its beautiful landscaped garden and 18th-century lake. Queen Victoria was inspired to write "all is peace and quiet and you only hear the hum of the bees, the singing of the birds". Queen Victoria loved it so much that she chose to build a mausoleum for herself and her husband, Prince Albert, in the grounds. Open only twice a year; three days in May and three days in August.
Four days of classical music at the Spring Sounds International Music Festival. Featuring the compositions of Mozart, Schumann, Mendelssohn and more, the festival brings cherished classics and new commissions to the Warwickshire town.
Anniversary of the crowning of Queen Elizabeth II with a 41 Gun Royal Salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery.
The Epsom Downs Derby
One of the most famous racecourses in the world and the most prestigious of the country’s five Classics. Situated on the beautiful Epsom Downs and run for more than two centuries, the Derby is the jewel in English racing’s crown. Thousands flock to watch the race each year. The winning rider nets one of racing’s most generous prize funds.
Trooping the Colour is one of the capital's most spectacular events but it's hard to get a great view because it's so popular. A little London secret is Beating Retreat, a virtual dress rehearsal for the big day. Enjoy the elegance and precision of Guards as they practise the routine for the Queen's Birthday without the crowds.
Isle of Wight Festival
A must for music fans.
Trooping the Colour
The custom of Trooping the Colour dates back to the time of Charles II. This impressive display of pageantry is now held on the occasion of the Queen's Official Birthday.
The premier British horse racing and social event of the summer season. A uniquely English tradition with the possibility of even catching a glimpse of the queen. Ladies day is Thursday and the perfect time to see spectacular fashion and hats.
British Grand Prix
The Motorcycle Grand Prix is the pinnacle of motorcycle racing with the fastest bikes and bravest riders returning for another spectacular round.
Hampton Court Palace Flower Show
The world's largest annual flower show.
Wimbledon Tennis Championships
Since the first Championships in 1877, Wimbledon has grown from its roots as a garden-party tournament to a Grand Slam tournament with a following of millions around the world.
Wisley Garden Concerts
A three day event held at the RHS Garden Wisley - one of the great gardens of the world – and a unique and wonderful setting for open-air picnic concerts. With classics, jazz and classic pop, all musical tastes are catered for, and each concert finishes with fireworks.
The British Open Champion
The Open (often referred to as the British Open outside the UK), is the oldest of the four major championships in professional golf. It is the only "major" held outside the US. It is held at Royal St George's Golf Club, in Sandwich Kent.
Henley Royal Regatta
First held in 1839, the regatta and has been held annually ever since, except during the two World Wars. Originally staged by the Mayor and people of Henley as a public attraction with a fair and other amusements, the emphasis rapidly changed so that competitive amateur rowing became its main purpose Henley-on-Thames features fabulous rowing races.
Billed as the "World's Greatest Classical Music Festival" uniquely British form of classical music concerts main Proms take place in London from July to September each year.
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Getting From Point A To B
Driving to London is often costly, time-consuming and stressful. Save yourself the hassle by following these easy tips for getting around. Southwest Trains provides train services to London from Surrey. A few tips:
Peak, Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak
Peak prices apply Monday through Friday during the morning periods. Off-Peak times and prices usually apply Monday through Friday for trains arriving in London at 10.00 am or after. Super Off-Peak tickets provide the best value. These tickets are available on trains arriving into London after 12 noon on weekdays and any time on weekends and public holidays.
Single vs. Return Tickets
Rates are usually better when you purchase a return (roundtrip) ticket vs. a single (one way) ticket. Time of day for travel will determine the best ticket to purchase.
Cobham To ...
Three or four adults travelling together can travel off-peak for the price of two. You can add up to four kids to your party for only £1 each.
This card offers unlimited rides on National Rail, London Underground, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and Croydon Tram-link within the London Fares Zones Area. Travel cards are also valid on most London Bus services throughout their network. A 3 Day Travel card is also available, which is ideal for weekend breaks.
Season Tickets offer regular travellers significant savings rather than buying tickets every day. With an Annual Season Ticket, you enjoy 52 weeks travel for the price of 40, plus a range of Gold Card benefits including a third discount on off-peak travel for you and three adults, upgrades to First Class and discounted tickets for children. Season Tickets are also available for a week or a month.
London Tube (Underground)
Normally the quickest and easiest way of getting around London. The Underground transport map is very useful and quite easy to navigate. A map showing the different zones can be found at http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/lon_con.pdf.
Children under five can travel free at any time on the Tube, DLR, buses and trams as long as they are accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. Under 11's can travel free at any time on buses and trams. They can also travel free at any time on the Tube and DLR when they are travelling with an adult who has a valid ticket. Please see the Transport for London website for full details, http://www.tfl.gov.uk
Useful Tips When Using The Tube:
This is a smart card that makes buying and using tickets easier. An Oyster card can store up to £90 in value, which can be used to pay as you go on the Tube, trams, buses, DLR, London Overground and some National Rail services in London (though not Southwest Trains). The benefits to using include:
Quick and convenient way to travel around London, providing plenty of sightseeing opportunities en route. There is a flat fare throughout the bus network; £1 with pre-pay Oyster card or £2 cash. Most routes in Central London require that you buy tickets before you board. Ticket machines selling single fares and daily bus passes are located next to the main bus stops. For more information, visit http://www.tfl.gov.uk
The premier, state of the art, high-speed train service that links the UK with mainland Europe. After a quick check in at St. Pancreas International Station in London or Ebbsfleet Station in Kent, you can travel from London to Paris, Brussels and other European destinations. For pricing and to check reservations, visit http://www.euro-star.com
London's award-winning, walking tour company offers daily tours in London, as well as Explorer Days outside the city. Tours are reasonably priced and do not require a reservation. Their knowledgeable guides will take you behind the scenes and open your eyes to London's secret treasures. Visit http://www.londonwalks.com
There's so much to explore in the city. Transport for London developed a network of walking routes all over the city. Interactive maps also include areas in west London, such as Richmond and Kingston. Whether you’re looking for a place to feed the ducks, a short stroll one afternoon, or an energetic walk, check out http://www.walklondon.org.uk
Open Top Buses
Don't forget, you can get a tour of London by an open top bus. Visit http://www.bigbustours.com or http://www.theoriginaltour.com to find out more.
A Few Tips When Parking
If driving to the train station, it's handy to pull up front, run in and use your credit card to get both your ticket and Parking Slip for the day. Then park your car and leave your Parking Slip on the dash. No need for coins and running back and forth.
Did you know you can claim 2FOR1 entry at a host of top London attractions such as Hampton Court, HMS Belfast and great West End shows? Just present a completed voucher and your valid London-bound train ticket. To learn more, visit http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk
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Odeon movie theatres are located in Epsom, Esher, Guildford, Kingston, and Wimbledon (http://www.odeon.co.uk) and the Screen Cinemas are located in Walton and Reigate (http://www.screencinemas.co.uk) Remember to prebook your movie tickets by phone or online. Tickets are issued with an assigned seat number.
The independent regulator of the film and video industry, The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) sets the rating for all movies and their website provides a database on current movies and their reasoning for the classification (http://www.bbfc.co.uk)
Ratings and what they mean:
During the holiday season, be sure and watch out for the Christmas Pantomime shows. Pantomimes, a very British tradition, are a popular form of theatre for adults and children alike.
There is nothing like the excitement of the Chelsea Flower Show in June and the Hampton Court Flower Show in July. Both events are sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). Tickets should be purchased in advance and if you prefer to avoid the crowds, plan to attend as early in the day as possible. RHS members have the opportunity to purchase tickets in advance and receive a discount. Visit http://www.rhs.org.uk
Hampton Court Concert Series
Organize a group of friends and plan a picnic dinner under the stars while enjoying live music at a fabulous historic setting. Because we are in England, it is a good idea to purchase tickets under the enclosure just in case it rains. For more information, visit http://www.hamptoncourtfestival.com
Ascot, Sandown, and Kempton are all within easy driving distance and a day out at the races is fun for everyone. Even children love the excitement of the race and those under 16 pay no entry fee.
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Staying Active In Surrey
Aside from school sports, there a number of organisations throughout Surrey which specialise in various team sports. We've listed just a few to get you started. Once again, ask other families where their children play. You never know, you may even find a car pool buddy.
International Youth Sports (IYS)
ISL is a parent run youth recreational sports organisation for children ages 4 to 13. It emphasizes learning basic game skills, good sportsmanship and most of all fun in soccer, American flag football, basketball, baseball and softball. For more information and schedules, visit http://www.eteamz.com/IYS/
The London Youth Baseball League (LYBL) provides baseball and tee ball for children ages 5 to 15. Games are held on weekends at the LYBL fields in High Wycombe. For information on registration and more, visit http://www.eteamz.com/LondonYouthBaseball
There are several basketball leagues for ages 10 and up. Visit:
It seems there is a riding stable on every corner in Surrey. A few of the most popular places among our members are:
The Surrey County Football Association is a good resource to find a local club for boys and girls of all ages. Find them at http://www.surreyfa.com
Other popular sites are:
There are many private and public courses offering lessons for all ages and levels. Some commonly used facilities are Burhill, Silvermere, Pachesham and Sandown.
Some local clubs in the area are:
Guildford is the place to go for a highly competitive team. For more information about Guildford Junior Ice Hockey visit http://www.gjihc.org.uk
Originating in England in the 1800's Rugby is quite popular. Some of the more popular places to play are Reed School and Cobham Rugby Club. For more information, visit http://www.surreyrugby.com
For information on cross country, walking and more, visit http://www.surreyathletics.org.uk
A favourite run for many of our members is on the tow path along the Thames from Hampton Court to Kingston upon Thames and back. For more information go to http://www.riverthames.co.uk/walks/2416.htm
Lessons are offered at local schools and leisure centers. There are swimming clubs in Woking, Leatherhead and Guildford to name a few.
There are lots of local clubs in the area including:
Free courts are located in Weybridge, behind the public library next to the car park. An option for lessons is AD Tennis, http://www.adtennis.com
Ashcombe Volleyball Club, http://www.ashcombevolleyball.co.uk
Leisure Centres = Recreation Centers
A leisure center is a sports and fitness center that is open to the public and is similar to a YMCA.
The Elmbridge Xcel Leisure Complex
Walton-on-Thames, KT12 2JG
Tel: 01932 260300
Guildford Spectrum and Lido
Parkway, Guildford, GU1 1UP
Tel: 01483 443322
Dorking Sports Centre
Reigate Road, Dorking, RH4 1SW
Tel: 01306 870180
Leatherhead Leisure Centre
Guildford Road, Leatherhead
Tel: 01372 377674
Woking Leisure Centre
Kingfield Road, Woking
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If sports are just not your child's "thing", there are still options out there that will give them and you the opportunity to meet the locals, learn something new, experience England and even make a difference. Make the most of all your new surroundings have to offer.
Scouts And Guides
Scouts is a program of informal education with an emphasis on practical outdoor activities, including camping, woodcraft, aquatics, hiking, backpacking, and sports. There are many local boy scouting troops which can be found at http://www.surrey-scouts.org.uk. If you would like to stay involved in Boy Scouts of America, the Transatlantic Council website is http://www.tac-bsa.org. Girl Guides engage in outdoor and special interest activities and may affiliate with national and international organisations. More details can be found at http://www.londongirlscouts.org or find out about Girls Scouts of America overseas by looking at http://www.girlscouts.org
Many international schools offer scouting as an extracurricular activity.
Walking And Hiking
The quintessential way of exploring the UK! Invest in a sturdy pair of walking shoes or boots and head off to the countryside! AWS has a weekly hike on Fridays and will expose you to some of the best trails in Surrey. And once you know the way, take your family. They are sure to be impressed! But if you’re anxious to discover and would rather get out there on your own, check out http://www.walking-routes.co.uk
And if you and your family desire a bit of a challenge, try orienteering. An exciting outdoor adventure sport that offers a mental and physical challenge. Navigate, in sequence, to different control points that are located on a special course, using a specially-drawn map. Decide on the best route to complete in the quickest time. Think of it as an advanced treasure hunt that anybody can do, or think of it as a cross-country race that you navigate using a map instead of following a set course. For more information on orienteering, visit http://www.britishorienteering.org.uk
Children's Camps and Activities
"Let's Go With Children-Surrey" magazine, found at the local library, is a wonderful resource for children's camps and activities. Visit their site at http://www.letsgowiththechildren.co.uk
Also, organisations like Historic Royal Palaces (http://www.hrp.org.uk) and the National Trust (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk) offer fantastic opportunities for children not only during the summer months but throughout the year.
Finding a private teacher for children can often be done through your school. Local music shops usually have a list of available teachers. Don't forget though, asking around is always another way of finding out just who is out there.
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What To Have At All Times
In Your Wallet:
In Your Purse:
In Your Vehicle:
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The Things We Just Can't Live Without!
No matter how hard we try to adapt to our new environment, there are times we all think "There's no place like home." But short of having things flown in, there comes a point we just need to accept the items on the grocery store shelves and possibly even learn to live without our favourite brands and simply find a substitute.
American Ingredients And Groceries Generally Unavailable
UK Resources for American Foods
There are specialist retailers in this country who might stock that elusive ingredient which you need or crave or the many your family may be missing. Just expect to pay.
64 Portsmouth Road
Cobham KT11 1HY
London WC2E 9BF
Esher, KT10 8LS
Bagshot GU19 5JB
The Mayford Centre, Woking
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Cooking and Eating
Adult Shoe Sizes
Children Shoe Sizes
For clothing, UK size in comparison to US size can vary up to two sizes larger depending on the manufacturer. These charts are guidelines and should be used for approximation only as we cannot guarantee that it is absolutely correct. It is always advisable to "try before you buy".
Terminology - Banking, Shopping & Going To The Doctor
Terminology - Clothes
Terminology - Household
Terminology - Phrases / Slang
Terminology - Driving, Vehicles and Transportation
Terminology - General
"A few important conversions you may need around the house or while out shopping."
American recipes use standard containers, the 8-ounce cup and a tablespoon that takes exactly 16 level fillings to fill that cup level. Measuring by cup makes it very difficult to give weight equivalents, as a cup of densely packed butter will weigh considerably more than a cup of flour. We recommend buying a kitchen scale and using conversions. It will make your life much easier!
When A Cup's Not A Cup and A Spoon's Not A Spoon
Oven Temperature Equivalents
When It Comes To Water
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