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United Kingdom
Preface Last Updated: 9/26/2003 4:46 AM

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) is one of the U.S.'s closest and most reliable friends, NATO Allies, and UN and G-8 partners. Our broad and deep cooperation—a "special relationship"—is based on shared objectives, common values, and commitment to democratic principles.

The diverse population, proximity to the European Continent, varied topography, temperate, climate, endless tourism possibilities, and abundant cultural amenities make a UK assignment an enjoyable one.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/26/2003 4:48 AM

The islands comprising the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) lie off the northwest coast of the European Continent. The English Channel, the Straits of Dover, and the North Sea separate the islands from the Continent. At the closest point, they are only 17 miles from the French coast. The capital city of London is in the southeast and lies on the same latitude as Winnipeg, Canada. The UK has a total land area of 94,217 square miles, roughly the size of Oregon.

The British Isles have a complex geology with a rich variety of scenery and impressive contrasts in topography. Highland Britain contains the principal mountain ranges which vary from 4,000 to 5,000 feet and occupy most of the north and west of the country. Lowland Britain, almost entirely composed of low, rolling hills and flatlands, lies to the southeast.

Prevailing southwesterly winds, influenced by the Gulf Stream, make Britain's climate temperate and equable year round. Weather patterns frequently change, but few temperature extremes occur. Temperatures range from a mean of 40°F in winter to about 60°F in summer. A low of 20°F sometimes occurs in winter, and a high of 90°F may rarely occur in summer. Average annual rainfall is 30-50 inches, usually distributed evenly throughout the year. Cloud cover is persistent, however, limiting sunshine to an average of about 6-7 hours a day in summer and 1-2 hours a day in winter.

Population Last Updated: 9/29/2003 6:54 AM

The estimated population of the UK in 2001 was 60 million, producing a heavily populated country, particularly in the south. In addition to the ethnic groups indigenous to the British Isles, immigration in the past few decades has added large numbers of Africans, Europeans from outside the EU, Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis to the British population. London is a particularly cosmopolitan city, containing over a third of the UK's ethnic minority population.

Today's Briton is descended from varied racial stocks that settled on the island before the end of the 11th century. In its early history, Britain was subjected to many invasions and migrations from Scandinavia and the Continent. The Romans occupied Britain for several centuries. The Normans, the last of a long succession of invaders, conquered England in 1066. Under the Normans, pre-Celtic, Celtic, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and Norse influences were blended into the Briton of today.

Celtic languages still persist in Northern Ireland and Wales and, to a lesser degree, in Scotland. But the predominant language has long been English derived from Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French.

Religious freedom is guaranteed. The Church of England (Anglican), established as the "church of the land" during the 16th-century Reformation, is the major religious denomination. The established church in Scotland, the Church of Scotland, is Presbyterian. There are many other Protestant churches represented in the UK and a large number of other faiths including Roman Catholicism, Islam, Hindu, Sikh, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 9/29/2003 6:55 AM

The UK is a long-standing constitutional monarchy with a democratic, parliamentary government. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, joined together by the 1801 Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland.

The British constitution is formed by statute, common law, and precepts and practices known as conventions. These have never been codified and are not directly enforceable in a court of law, but they have a binding force as rules of the constitution. The constitution is not contained in any document and can be altered by an Act of Parliament or by general agreement to vary, abolish, or create a convention. Therefore, it can readily adapt to changing political conditions and ideas.

The organs of government established by the British constitution are readily distinguishable, but their functions often intermingle and overlap. They include:

The Legislature, composed of the Queen and Parliament (the Houses of Lords and Commons). It is the supreme authority in the realm; The Executive, which includes the Cabinet and other ministers of the Crown, who are responsible for initiating and directing national policy; government departments, which are responsible for administration at the national level; local authorities, who administer services at the local level; and public corporations, which may be responsible for nationalized industries and services; and The Judiciary, which determines common law and interprets statutes. It is independent of both the legislature and the executive. British citizens have the right to change their government and freely exercise that right. The lower chamber of Parliament (the House of Commons, the center of legislative power) is elected in periodic elections. The upper chamber (the House of Lords), with the power to revise and delay implementation of laws, is made up of hereditary and appointed life peers and senior clergy of the established Church of England. In the first stage of a government reform program, the House of Lords agreed in 1999 to remove all but 92 of its over 900 hereditary peers who, with some 500 life peers and 26 clergy, comprise the current House of Lords. Possible additional reforms are being debated, which would further reduce the size of the chamber, democratize selection of members, and add representatives of faiths other than Anglicanism as "de jure" members.

The Government is formed on the basis of a majority of seats in the House of Commons, which are contested in elections held at least every 5 years. Participation in the political process is open to all persons and parties. All citizens 18 years of age and older may vote. Recent devolution of power in the UK has resulted in the (re) constitution of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh National Assembly. Devolution effectively provides these legislatures with varying degrees of home rule. In Scotland, for example, health, education, criminal/social justice, environment, business development/trade promotion, and transport are entirely or mainly the domain of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive. The Westminster Parliament continues to retain control over defense, foreign policy, pensions, and most aspects of taxation. As in England, Scotland, and Wales, Northern Ireland has city and district councils but with fewer powers. England and Wales also have County Councils.

The Channel Islands and Isle of Man (which are Crown dependencies and not part of the UK) have their own legislative assemblies, systems of local administration, law, and courts. At the same time, they have a special relationship with the UK because of their proximity and historic connection with the Crown. The UK Government is responsible for managing their defense and international affairs.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/29/2003 6:56 AM

Public and private art galleries abound. They offer a tremendous selection of works by Old World masters and contemporary artists. Festivals, such as the Edinburgh International Festival, attract worldwide attention and participation. Devotion to the arts is rooted in the UK's rich cultural heritage.

This devotion has led to maintenance of many museums, concert halls, and theaters offering a wide variety of classical and popular works.

In the last 50 years, popular interest in the arts has grown steadily. This development is reflected in the profusion of amateur dramatic and musical societies, the growth in book and record sales, a plethora of festivals, and large attendance figures at major art exhibitions and music concerts. These developments result largely from increased leisure time, improved education in the arts, and the increase in public and private patronage. Another factor has been the influence of TV and radio, which have made the best in the arts available to people in their own homes.

Artistic activities in Britain receive financial and other support from many sources. Drama and classical music rely on this support. Painting and literature continue to flourish with little outside help. Valuable assistance comes from such private sources as voluntary trusts, the National Lottery Fund, Government-backed Arts Councils, and commercial concerns. A recently promulgated law allows individuals tax breaks in return for donations of stocks to registered charities, and this is beginning to have some impact on large cultural organizations such as the Royal Opera House.

The public sector, private companies, nonprofit, and international organizations all contribute to the more than £14 billion spent a year on research in the UK. The Government provides some one-third (£4.5 billion) of the funds, distributed through six research councils. In recent years the Government has encouraged more research within the private sector, especially for commercially viable products.

There are two main systems for primary and secondary education in schools: (1) state or voluntary-aided or grant-maintained schools and (2) independent or private (fee paying) schools. About 8.5 million children attend state schools. A further 539,000 attend private schools in the 'independent' sector. The UK school year generally begins in September and ends in July.

A typical education of a British postgraduate student would be as follows: Beginning at age 3/4 nursery or playgroup for over half of this age group; on to primary or infants school; then secondary school; and finally, at 18 or older, higher education at University College.

The main qualification taken by secondary pupils in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, around the age of 16, is the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). GCSEs replaced what were known as O-Levels (O=Ordinary).

Advanced or A Levels are normally taken from 16-18 years of age. Usually 3 or 4 A Levels are taken. For the last 2 years of his or her schooling, the student will have had a fairly specialized high school curriculum, consisting typically of three or four subjects only. Bachelor's degrees are generally 3 years in duration. Typical undergraduates are 18 years of age when they start their degree course.

The specialization that begins with A Levels continues at university with most students studying only one subject at degree level although courses involving two or three subjects exist. Around 30% of all young people in Britain go into full-time higher education. Britain has 89 universities including the Open University and 70 other higher education institutions. Included within the total are 39 new universities, which were created after the 1992 Higher Education Act. This allowed institutions that were known as polytechnics the power to award their own degrees and the right to adopt a university title. The last decade has seen a huge growth in higher education. One in three young people now enter higher education compared with one in six in 1989.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/29/2003 6:59 AM

Although small in land area and accounting for just over 1% of the world's population, the UK is the world's fourth largest economy. A member of the European Economic Community (EC) and its successor institution, the European Union, more than 50% of Britain's trade is with the 14 other EU member countries. Britain's two-way trade in manufactures with the U.S. amounted to $85.1 billion in 2000—in deficit by a minuscule $190 million. Britons provide the largest source of direct investment in the U.S., with some $230 billion in assets. U.S. investment in the UK currently totals approximately $233 billion, the largest amount in any European country.

Production is heavily oriented toward the service sectors, as in the U.S. It can be broadly subdivided as follows: primary 8.8% (agriculture and energy); secondary 20% (manufacturing and construction); and tertiary 71.2% (service industries including Government). Energy had been the fastest growing sector in the economy when the North Sea oilfields were under development. However, that production has now peaked and the industry is no longer expanding. Manufacturing, long in decline, has resurged in recent years as economic growth has carried firms back into profitability. Nevertheless, manufacturing is clearly secondary to the expanding service industries such as catering, hotels, and financial services. Manufacturing continues to lose jobs while the expanding service sector has raised total employment.

Housing has also become increasingly important in the UK as more people have sought to purchase their own homes, aided by some of the lowest interest rates in decades. Today over 68% of houses in the UK are owner occupied.

Personal incomes in Britain have improved dramatically in recent years, although they still lag behind the U.S., Japan, and some other EU countries. On the basis of equivalent purchasing power per capita, living standards in the UK place 7th of the 14 EU member countries, just above Italy.


Automobiles Last Updated: 9/30/2003 6:58 AM

Great Britain has an overcrowded network of roads and motorways (highways) on which traffic drives on the left. Most people find a car desirable for recreation and sightseeing, and personnel assigned to Belfast and Edinburgh will find a car a virtual necessity. Those in London may find a car optional as parking is scarce and expensive, and congestion is the norm. Few people find it possible to drive to work.

Personnel may import cars tax and duty free. A nominal charge is made for the required pre-registration inspection for vehicles 3 or more years old. Only two automobiles per household can be registered with diplomatic plates. Those vehicles imported under diplomatic auspices must be exported upon departure from country. They may not be junked or abandoned. However, there is an expensive and rigorous process (SVA—single vehicle approval) by which an imported vehicle may be approved for resale in the UK. Check with the GSO Shipping and Customs Section before you send a vehicle.

Automobiles are usually shipped unboxed in containers to simplify customs clearance and drive-away procedures. Marine insurance is recommended.

Most major American auto firms have British subsidiaries that carry different models and, hence, parts. Some repairs are quickly made; others must await shipment of parts from the U.S. Repair service is offered at military exchange service stations, which stock most common repair parts.

Official personnel and dependents 17 or over may obtain a British drivers permit without a driving test by producing a valid driver's license from the U.S. or another country. British licenses are valid for 5 years and are renewable if the holder retains official status.

If you are not attached to the Embassy or Consulates General, you may use your U.S. driver's license for 1 year from your date of entry. Thereafter, you must take a driving test and obtain a British license. Until you pass the test, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will issue a provisional license valid for 1 year. A qualified driver must always accompany a provisional license holder. A fee is charged for taking the test. British traffic-control signs follow the international system.

Unleaded gasoline is readily available. The tax portion of each sale (about 50%) is refundable upon application to the Foreign Office.


Local Transportation Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:01 AM

The UK offers comprehensive rail, air, and sea transportation. Inland travel is relatively inexpensive but at times unreliable. Railroad passenger services are concentrated on the high-speed, intercity lines and commuter service around large cities, especially London and the southeast. Motorail services carry both passengers and cars.

Subway service in London is fast and frequent but overcrowded, subject to frequent delays, and closes at midnight. The present system is comprehensive, but is stretched beyond its capacity. Trips to outlying areas near greater London limits are fairly inexpensive (£25-30). Intracity travel averages £1.90 per trip.

All major urban and suburban areas have frequent, fairly inexpensive bus service (approx. £1 per bus). Intercity buses are painted red; long-distance lines are green. Carrier-owned buses serve major air and sea terminals. Minibus services run in some suburban areas. From Central London there are express trains to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports.

Taxis (the famous black cabs) cruise the streets of all major cities in large numbers. They are easy to find, except in rush hour, in the rain, or after the theatre. Taxis are metered and charge a flat rate per mile/time; surcharges are paid for evening, weekend, and local holiday travel and for extra passengers. Drivers are well educated on London's complex urban geography. Many cab companies have telephone pick-up services as well as credit card priority bookings. Taxis may be found in taxi ranks (stands) in front of large hotels or may be flagged down on the street. There is a growing number of cheaper "minicabs," but they must be ordered, not hailed on the streets.

Belfast. Belfast offers travel by bus, train, and taxi. Public transportation is not too busy during rush hours and the system operates regularly. Fares for intracity transportation are inexpensive and the service is adequate. The Ulsterbus service covers all Northern Ireland outside Belfast, and their express coaches also serve the Irish Republic.

Edinburgh. The local transportation system in Edinburgh is clean, efficient, and less expensive than that in London. Buses run every 15-20 minutes. Most routes go to and from the center of town. Travel from one outlying area to another is often indirect and time consuming.


Regional Transportation Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:03 AM

Edinburgh has frequent airline, rail, and bus services to other parts of Scotland, and there is a regular airline shuttle service from Edinburgh Airport to Heathrow and Gatwick Airports in London. Direct flights to Dublin and the Continent are available from Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Prestwick Airports, and connecting flights through London and other Western European cities allow the traveler to go to nearly any part of the world. Direct flights are also available from Glasgow to the U.S. Bus service to major British cities is frequent, reasonably fast, and inexpensive. Trains are more expensive but faster, more comfortable, and include convenient night sleeper service between Edinburgh and London.

The road network in Scotland is good, but much of it is two lane. Motorways (highways) are scarce in Scotland. Most are near Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Hydrofoils and other car and passenger ferries operate regularly to and from the European Continent.

Belfast has two airports. The Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove, 18 miles from city center) has numerous daily London-Belfast flights and regular service to other British and international destinations. The Belfast City Airport (4 miles from city center) is used by local airlines only for regional hops.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:04 AM

British Telecom continues to be the main telecommunications supplier of commercial and residential services in the UK. Since the deregulation by OFTEL (UK Telecommunications regulating body) in 1984, about 150 licensed operators have emerged. Competition by these new service providers has driven line installation and call charges continually downward, but line rental has increased slightly in some cases due to added Internet services.

Embassy London offers official callers direct dial access to Defense Switched Network (DSN) and International Voice Gateway (IVG) services to many U.S. Government missions worldwide. Due to the Embassy's service provider's competitive long distance rates, official calls to the U.S. are placed via direct dial commercial lines.

Embassy London pays for the installation of one BT line with two telephone points at each U.S. Government residential property. The continuing line rental and call charges are your responsibility. The occupant pays for any additional lines and services. Also, if service is changed to another provider, the occupant pays the reinstatement cost for BT service before departing property.

International direct dialing is automatically available to all subscribers.

All local calls are charged by units. Quarterly BT telephone bills detail itemized costs for line rental, call charges and other features, such as voice mail, which are available at a small additional charge. Charges for home telephones and national and international calls can be more expensive than in the U.S. depending on service suppliers. Lower price on calls to the U.S. may be realized through a variety of different calling plans.

Belfast and Edinburgh. Consulates General enjoy the same excellent local, national, and international commercial and cellular services as the rest of the United Kingdom. IVG and DSN services are available to the Consulates General staffs via the direct tie lines to Embassy London.


Telephones and Telecommunications

Wireless Service Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:05 AM Cellular phones (mobiles) are extremely popular in the UK. There is a wide choice, all having excellent coverage in most areas including the Continent. Suppliers also offer a variety of competitively priced Pay-As-You-Go or monthly deals. American cell phones may work here, but calls will be charged at an overseas rate.


Internet Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:06 AM

Digital lines for the Internet (e.g., ISDN2e and ADSL services) are readily available at reasonable rates for both business and residential customers within a limited distance of the central office.


Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:08 AM

FPO mail service is open to all eligible military and Foreign Service personnel and their authorized family members. Standard U.S. mail rates apply and depend upon class of mail, weight, and destination. Postage may be purchased in the main Chancery and letters can be mailed from either the Chancery or the U.S. Navy building across the street. The Navy facility provides service to customers wishing to send parcels. It also handles certified, insured, and registered mail. Packages sent must adhere to weight and size restrictions (must not exceed 70 pounds or a combined length and girth of 108 inches). Mail sent Priority through the FPO reaches the U.S. within 5-10 days. Items sent by SAM (Space Available Mail) can take 10-20 days for delivery.

FPO mail (letter and parcel) is delivered to the Embassy daily during the workweek. The FPO mailing address for authorized Embassy personnel in London is:

Full Name American Embassy PSC 801 Box ## FPO AE 09498-40##

(Please use the box number assigned to your particular office.)

The British postal system offers excellent mail service. Royal Mail service has proven to be safe, quick, and efficient. It is widely used by Embassy personnel for official and personal correspondence within the country. Delivery time for letters mailed to or from the U.S. usually takes 4-5 days; surface mail can take upward of 3 weeks. Although reliable, it is more expensive than FPO service for items destined for the U.S.

Belfast and Edinburgh airpouches and international mail are received at the Embassy and dispatched daily via DHL. Mail usually arrives at the Consulates General the next day. Pouch service to and from the U.S. is much slower although less expensive than using the Royal Mail. Letters from Belfast and Edinburgh destined for the FPO are sent via First Class Royal Mail and usually arrive at the Embassy within 1 day. Mail received is then put into normal FPO channels.

Belfast and Edinburgh FPO address is:

NAME American Consulate General PSC 801 Box 40 FPO AE 09498-4040


Radio and TV Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:09 AM

TV is broadcast nationwide through the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC-1 and BBC-2), a public corporation, and the commercially financed Independent Television Network (ITV), Channel Four, and Channel Five. The ITV system of independent stations also provides countrywide programming on a regional basis.

Network programming is standard throughout the country in both content and timing. Considerable program flexibility is provided to allow for locally produced shows and news reports between network programs.

Cable and/or satellite television, including AFN, is also available in many parts of London and the rest of the country with plans including five to innumerable channels.

American TV sets (NTSC) will not operate in Britain without expensive conversion to the PAL system, and even after conversion, results are often unsatisfactory. Rentals are available on the local market for approx. £200 a year, but most assigned personnel buy a PAL or multisystem TV from the military exchanges. TV licensing fees are required annually in the UK. Personnel accredited to the Embassy or Consulates General are exempt from this fee but must comply with the associated paperwork.

For optimum use, personnel should ship or buy after arrival, locally or at a U.S. military base, only multisystem TVs and video recorders, which receive PAL (British) as well as NTSC (American) programming. Video rental shops, with extensive and current libraries of PAL videotapes, are located all over town.

Excellent AM and FM radio programming is available throughout the country. BBC radio provides four national channels. It broadcasts all types of music, news, commentary, adult education programs, and works of artistic and intellectual interest. Independent commercial stations provide general entertainment and news. Reception of the Armed Forces Network broadcasts is possible.


Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:11 AM

The British press caters to a wide variety of interests and political views. Ten morning papers—The Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Sun, Daily Star, Daily Telegraph, and Independent—are available nationwide. They have a total average daily circulation of more than 13.5 million. Most publish a Sunday edition as well.

Most towns and cities throughout the UK have their own regional or local newspaper. These range from morning and evening dailies to Sunday papers and others that are published just once a week. They mainly include stories of regional or local interest, but the dailies also cover national and international news, often looked at from a local viewpoint. Of the Scottish newspapers, serious nontabloids include the Herald, the Scotsman, the Aberdeen Press and Journal, and the Dundee Courier. The Daily Record, a tabloid, has the highest circulation. In addition to UK-wide papers with Scotland inserts, Sunday newspapers read in Scotland include the Sunday Herald, Scotland on Sunday, and the Sunday Mail.

Newspapers from the Irish Republic, as well as the British national press, are widely read in Northern Ireland. Regional papers are the Belfast Telegraph and Irish News.

Britain has more than 9,000 periodicals and several prominent journals of opinion. Leading journals of opinion include the Economist, New Statesman, and the Spectator.

European editions of Time, Newsweek, USA Today, and the International Herald Tribune are readily available at newsstands and bookshops. Numerous bookshops in London carry American magazines such as Fortune, Forbes, Saturday Review, Harper's Bazaar, and The New Yorker. You may subscribe to American magazines at domestic rates through the FPO.

A complete network of public libraries serves Britain. Nearly all libraries have children's departments and most also act as centers for film showings, adult education classes, lectures, exhibitions, drama groups, recitals, and children's story hours. They are a very useful resource for information on the neighborhood they serve.

Books of all types are available in bookshops and department stores. The Embassy has a Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) and a PD-run Information Resource Center for both internal and public reference use.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The UK has excellent medical facilities in all major cities. London, Belfast, and Edinburgh have medical training centers offering the full range of services. All residents of the UK are entitled to medical care under the National Health Service (NHS). There has been much angst over the shortcomings of the NHS primarily due to poor funding over the years, but the medical care is still good. Private hospitals do not have emergency rooms; so all emergency patients are seen at the NHS hospitals. The waiting times for nonlife-threatening conditions such as wounds requiring sutures and stable fractures are from 4 to 8 hours.

Since neither the Embassy nor its American employees makes financial contributions to the system, they should not, as a matter of principle, accept free medical advice or treatment from NHS, except in emergencies. The British medical system, including the private sector, is different than that of the U.S., and a newcomer medical orientation is crucial in allaying potential anxiety should one develop a medical emergency.

All admissions to private hospitals have to be prearranged with a consultant, and this is not easy to arrange after hours or on weekends. Only about 2%-3% of medical consultants are engaged in full-time private practice, and most primarily practice in the NHS and spend at most 1-2 half-days a week in private practice. Consequently, even private appointments are difficult to obtain and the waiting period can be lengthy. All referrals must be made through a general practitioner (GP).

The Medical Evacuation Center at the Embassy coordinates medevacs from more than 100 different posts around this half of the world and provides basic outpatient primary care services to patients stationed in London. All London-based patients are encouraged to find a local GP for convenience and for better options after hours. Since there are Navy clinics close by (at the Navy Building and West Ruislip), military members have elected to seek care only at military medical facilities and not at the Medevac Center.

The U.S. Air Force maintains a hospital at RAF Lakenheath, about 80 miles northeast of London. The capability of this facility is similar to that of a small community hospital, and any complicated cases have to be referred to local hospitals.

There are no U.S. Government medical facilities in Northern Ireland or Scotland. Belfast, however, offers a high standard of medical care, including an emergency "cardiac ambulance" staffed by coronary specialists. Specialists are available at the Royal Victoria Hospital, which is the major teaching facility of Queen's University Medical School, the City Hospital, the Ulster Clinic (mainly private care), and smaller hospitals scattered across Northern Ireland. Edinburgh has long been famous for its medical schools, however, and the quality of local facilities is uniformly very good. Personnel should establish themselves with a private, local general practitioner.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Living conditions in Great Britain are generally excellent; no major health hazards exist. BSE (mad cow disease) has been brought under control and the risk of getting a human form of BSE, vCJD, is low. Whether to eat beef in Britain is a personal choice, though, and the Medevac Center will provide the latest update on vCJD during the medical orientation. Community sanitation standards are high and community environmental services are superior. Colds and other upper respiratory infections are common, but no more so than in comparable climates in the U.S.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/30/2003 7:17 AM

Dependents wishing Embassy employment should register with the Human Resources and Development Office. All positions will be advertised in an Administrative Notice and posted on the embassy Web site ( Interested applicants must submit an Application for Federal Employment, SF-171, to Human Resources.

Through a bilateral agreement, spouses and dependents (with certain age limitations) of American diplomats and consular employees do not need work permits for employment outside of the Mission during their sponsor's assignment. Diplomatic immunity from prosecution for working spouses and dependents is continued in criminal areas by the UK Diplomatic Activities Act, but employed persons lose diplomatic protection in civil matters and tax liability on UK wages during periods of private employment.

London is a very competitive job market, with many people coming here from other UK cities and EU countries, seeking employment. London currently has the lowest unemployment in 30 years. About 400 American IT companies have set up shop in Essex, slightly north of London, so there is a huge market for high-tech jobs. Many jobs in the service sector are entry level, but some professional opportunities exist. The process of finding employment is similar to that in the U.S., but it is advisable to get guidance on reformulating your resume.

Some employment opportunities are available with local British firms, multinational corporations, international organizations, and numerous volunteer organizations in the country. Embassy dependents are eligible as well for Civil Service positions in the Navy Annex Building across the street from the Embassy.

Within the Embassy a limited number of family member (PIT, FMA) positions are available to Embassy dependents. The Department's summer hire program authorizes posts to employ dependents during the summer (budget permitting), and CLO and Human Resources normally organize a program for Embassy teenagers.

The CLO sometimes receives notification of job opportunities outside the Embassy. Dependents who are interested in working should visit the CLO office and complete a general skills bank questionnaire.

A list of names and addresses of American firms in the UK is in the Anglo-American Trade Directory, which can be found in the FCS's American Business Information Center office at the Embassy.

The United Nations has a few offices in London, but most are rather small. The largest is the International Maritime Organization. If a spouse has expertise in maritime matters, there would be a chance of obtaining a position there.

Although recruitment for teachers for the American schools in the London area is usually done in the U.S., some hiring is done locally. The need for substitute teachers at all the schools is great. See Education for names and addresses of schools.

FOCUS, an international information service for expatriates in London, sponsors seminars on career counseling and job search preparation, including rewriting of resumes for the UK job market. There is a job search group open to members. In addition, several job search and employment-counseling firms offer discounts to FOCUS members. For more information, write to FOCUS, 13 Prince of Wales Terrace, London W8 5PG, or check the Web site:

Salaries are generally lower than in the U.S. Many UK firms offer extra benefits, such as lunch and transportation allowances. Those considering local employment should be aware that they will be required to pay UK income tax and National Health Insurance contributions. In addition, they must contact the Human Resources and Development Office before accepting employment to prevent any conflict of interest.

More detailed information on employment opportunities in the UK is available from:

Employment Program Coordinator, Family Liaison Office, Room 1239, Department of State, Washington, D.C. Fax: 20520-7512. Phone: 202-647-1076. Fax: 202-647-1670. E-mail:; Internet:; Intranet:, and from the Overseas Briefing Center, 4000 Arlington Blvd., Arlington, VA 22204. Phone: 703-302-7277. Internet:; Intranet:

American Embassy - London, England

Post City Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

London is one of the largest cities in Europe and is the seat of British Government, a center of international commerce, education, the arts, and a wide range of enterprises. London attracts a diverse population because of the quick pulse of contemporary urban life as well as its rich and varied history.

The name London originally described the city of London proper, a neighborhood still referred to as "the City" or "the square mile." With its steady growth since the Middle Ages, London gradually absorbed surrounding villages and districts resulting in the sprawling metropolis of today. London has a population of about 7 million. Greater London is actually made up of 32 semi-independent boroughs plus "the City." Each has a local governing body as well as a town center with business, residential and cultural centers.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The Embassy Chancery building is at 21-24 Grosvenor Square in the heart of the West End. The square has been associated with the U.S. since John Adams, the first minister to Britain (1785-88) and later President, lived at No. 9. During World War II, No. 20 was the SHAPE Headquarters of General Eisenhower and now houses the Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and staff. In the gardens of the Square, a statue erected in 1948 commemorates the affection of the British people for Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1989, a statue of General Eisenhower was unveiled in front of the Embassy.

Many distinguished Americans have served as Minister or Ambassador to the Court of St. James. Among them were 5 Presidents (John Adams, James Monroe, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, and James Buchanan), 4 Vice Presidents, 2 fathers of Presidents, 3 sons of Presidents, and 11 Secretaries of State. The list also includes the noted academician James Russell Lowell, Abraham Lincoln's son Robert Todd Lincoln, founder of the U.S. Naval Academy George Bancroft, JFK's father Joseph Kennedy, and Edward Everett, who later became President of Harvard University. Each of these men, and all who have followed in their footsteps, contributed to the building of what John Adams called "a bond of esteem, confidence, and affection between people who, though separated by an ocean and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood."

The Department of State competition for the design of a new Chancery for London was won in 1957 by the renowned architect Eero Saarinen. The brief called for a building that would house all the major sections of the Embassy under one roof in a style that would blend in with the existing architecture of Grosvenor Square. The resulting building has over 600 rooms on 9 floors. Only six stories are above ground to conform to the height of surrounding buildings.

The four floors above the lobby contain most of the Chancery offices. There are 26 U.S. Government agencies represented in London, including the Departments of State, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Treasury, and Transportation.

The Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission provide overall policy guidance and executive program direction. The Embassy is divided into five traditional sections: Administrative, Consular, Economic, Political, and Public Affairs, each headed by a minister-counselor. The Foreign Agricultural and Commercial Services are also headed by ministers-counselor. The Defense Attaché's Office is headed by a Naval Officer. The Consulates General at Belfast and Edinburgh are each headed by a consul general and are under the general supervision of the Embassy.

The Chancery is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm. The telephone number is 7499-9000. Telephone operators are on duty from 6:45 am to 10 pm weekdays and 8 am to 10 pm on weekends and holidays. The Marine Guards are on duty 24 hours daily.

New personnel usually arrive by air at London's Heathrow Airport, where they may be met by a representative of their assigned office. Very few formalities are involved in clearing UK customs upon entry. No visa is required. You need only a valid passport and landing card (available from the airline).


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The Embassy has a number of one- and two-bedroom transit flats and serviced apartments available for arriving and departing employees. The government-owned flats are located in St. John's Wood, 2 miles north of the Embassy. The serviced apartments are located in diverse areas of London. All have cooking facilities and a limited supply of linens, dishes, cutlery, and cookware. In the rare cases when arriving and departing employees cannot be housed in either, they are housed under temporary lodging allowance in hotels convenient to the Embassy.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Winfield House is the Ambassador's residence. It is a three-story, 35-room Georgian-style building on 16 acres in Regent's Park given to the U.S. Government as a gift by the heiress Barbara Hutton in 1946. The residence is considered one of the most beautiful homes in London.

Wychwood House, the DCM's home, was acquired in 1950. It is a Georgian-style house located in South Kensington, offering seven family bedrooms and excellent entertainment areas. It is fully furnished.

Dedicated housing up to the space allowance for an executive level family of four is provided for the senior representative of each foreign affairs agency (FAS and FCS) and the designated U.S. Defense representative regardless of family size. All other senior executive employees are assigned housing from among Embassy housing pool properties, based on family size and representational requirements.

Embassy employees are housed whenever possible in U.S. Government-owned properties. These include a limited number of houses with four or more bedrooms, plus four blocks of flats containing two-and three-bedroom apartments. The London Intranet site has photos of housing in the Embassy pool. All U.S. Government-owned properties are furnished with a normal complement of American furniture, carpeting, lamps, curtains, refrigerators, and stoves. Bed sizes are American queen and twin. Individual houses have their own washers and dryers. Some U.S. Government apartments also have available communal laundry facilities. Housing assignments are made by the Inter-Agency Housing Board based on family size and representational responsibilities of the employee. Please inform the housing office of any special needs.

U.S. Government-owned properties account for only about half of Embassy London's housing pool. The remaining quarters are leased locally by the Embassy for its employees and are assigned to incoming employees in the same way as owned properties. A few personnel, usually military and living well outside London, are on LQA.

If no suitable quarters are available for an incoming employee within the existing Embassy housing pool, the Embassy leases appropriate housing on the local rental market. When possible, this is done before the employee arrives.

All employees and staff of non-foreign affairs agencies represented at the Embassy are housed in leased quarters.

Most houses and flats in London are smaller than their Washington counterparts. Rooms are very compact. Storage space is extremely limited, and bedrooms rarely have built-in closets. Although a limited shipment is authorized for London, it is advisable to ship less than the allowance as no Government-provided storage is available. Bathrooms are scarce than in the U.S., and bathrooms and kitchens are less modern and offer fewer conveniences. Appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators are much smaller than American standards. Where space permits, the Embassy attempts to supply American standard appliances. Standards of maintenance in Britain differ from those in the U.S.; employee specific information on housing assignments is sent as soon as possible after receipt of assignment notices or travel orders, to assist employees in sorting household effects at previous posts and/or making U.S. shopping plans.


Furnishings Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

London is a furnished post, except for a few agencies. (Please check with your agency's administrative officer before shipping furniture.)

A few furnishing pitfalls should be avoided. Some houses cannot accommodate queen-sized box springs due to narrow staircases. British queen-sized beds rest on box springs that come in two pieces. Do not ship your queen-sized or larger box springs without checking with post. Lamp shades are attached differently here, so new mounts are required to put British shades on American lamps.

The Embassy provides Transit Kits for arriving and departing employees who do not have their household effects. Kits contain basic essentials for housekeeping: blankets, sheets, pillows, pillowcases, towels, cutlery, china and glassware, pots and pans, and kitchen utensils. Baby cribs are available upon request. During periods of heavy turnover, the Embassy's supply of items for Transit Kits can be stretched to the limit. Include a small supply of necessary housekeeping items in your airfreight shipment.

For those who would like to purchase their own furniture, nearly every type of furniture found in the U.S. is available here. Stores carry every conceivable item needed to equip a home. However, prices are higher than in the U.S. One of the pleasures of serving here is enjoying the almost endless opportunities to search for antique treasures. Prices are high, though, and continue to rise.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Natural gas, oil, and electricity (50 cycles, 240v, AC), rates higher than in the U.S., are paid by the Embassy. The more modern apartments and houses have central heating and modern bathrooms with tubs and/or showers. Most kitchens have all basic conveniences.

The kitchen cold water faucet carries the only water that comes directly from the main line, so it is the purest and safest drinking water. All other faucets provide water from storage tanks on the premises. London's water is quite hard, so water softeners are recommended when washing. Water is not treated with fluoride, but fluoride tablets for children are available at the Navy Medical Clinic.

Appliances of every kind are available locally but are much smaller than their American counterparts, to fit into the generally smaller rooms. The Embassy will provide refrigerators, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and microwaves. However, the Embassy does not provide a vacuum cleaner and most employees purchase one upon arrival. American appliances (except clocks and TVs) can be effectively operated with 240v/110v stepdown transformers. The Embassy will provide at least one transformer per household. American-made lamps can be used by switching to 240v bulbs, changing sockets to the bayonet type, and changing plugs to the distinctive British three-pronged type. U.S. telephones can be used upon purchase of a $5 adapter at the commissary.

Window screening is rare since insects are not a problem, but you may find insect spray and fly swatters useful in hot weather.

Bring most personal small appliances with you. If further equipment is needed, British units can be purchased on the local market. Employees can also buy American-made appliances from one of the military post exchanges in the area.

Pets. British landlords often prohibit pets in rented properties, including some buildings where we own a number of flats. It is often extremely difficult to find accommodations for families that wish to bring their pets to post. The pets also face long periods of quarantine. Please give Housing a long lead time if you are considering bringing a pet to London.

Recent changes in quarantine rules now make it possible to import pets from certain countries without quarantine if they have been in residence a certain amount of time and meet all requirements. However, please be aware that if you are bringing to London a pet that is exempt from quarantine, your temporary quarters will probably not accommodate it, and the U.S. Government does not reimburse employees for kenneling costs unrelated to quarantine regulations.

Food Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

London markets have a large selection of foods. Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are imported from around the world, and because of the diverse foreign community in London, ingredients for cuisines from nearly anywhere can be found here. Supermarkets stock fresh, frozen, and packaged goods, nearly always at prices substantially higher than those in the U.S. British foods, eating habits, kitchen equipment, and terminology are different from U.S. counterparts. Some information on the differences can be found in the Living In London Guide and So You're Planning to Live in London, both available from the CLO. Another useful source of information is the Junior League of London's Living in London: Guidelines.

Liquor, wine, and beer are sold to authorized personnel at diplomatic prices in the wine mess located in the Embassy, as well as at military facilities.

Personnel assigned to the UK and their authorized dependents can shop in U.S. military post exchanges and commissaries. Several such facilities are on bases between 26 and 150 miles from central London. They are easily reached by car. Each exchange carries a variety of cosmetic, clothing, paper and household items, as well as small appliances and video and stereo equipment. Commissaries carry American frozen, packaged, and canned goods. There is a small post exchange in the U.S. Navy building across the street from the Embassy. It carries a limited stock of cigarettes, film, candy, and "convenience store" food items.

Clothing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Mediumweight fall and winter clothing is needed about 9 months of the year. Lightweight clothing is useful the rest of the year. Be prepared for rain and cool weather year round. Even summer can have many cool days.

London department stores and specialty shops offer readymade clothing for all family members in most quality ranges, but clothing costs considerably more than in the U.S. The fashionable shopping districts offer a full range of designs, from conservative to avant-garde.

Shoes in narrow and wide sizes are hard to find, particularly men's sizes larger than 12. Purchase a supply of shoes in these sizes in the U.S. Other sizes are available in many styles and makes; again, they are expensive. People tend to walk a good deal in London. Good walking shoes are essential.

Military exchanges offer a limited selection of clothing of varying quality, for children as well as men and women.

Attire in London for office, theater, shopping, sporting events, and social occasions is in darker colors and more conservative styles than in the U.S. Casual attire often means a coat and tie. The terms lounge suit, day dress, town coat, "tenue de ville," informal, and business suit on an invitation indicate dark business suits for men and professional attire (smart day dress) or cocktail dresses for women. Formal, black tie, dinner jacket, tuxedo, and smoking jacket mean long gowns for women (or short dressy gowns, depending on current fashion) and black tie for men. Women are expected to wear hats and gloves for the Queen's Garden Party, Ascot and other dressy occasions (e.g., local weddings).

Rental of formal wear is easy, good quality, and common practice for women and men. There are several shops close to the Chancery which stock appropriate attire for every formal occasion, from the Queen's Garden Party and races to opening nights.

In general, only the Ambassador, DCM, ministers-counselor, and counselors occasionally wear full evening clothes (white tie for men, formal dress for women) or morning dress.


Men Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Collar sizes are the same as in the U.S., but it is hard to find long-sleeved shirts in larger collar sizes. Senior officers will need black-tie evening wear for the opera, symphony, special theater performances (when royalty is present, for example), official dinners, and dances.


Women Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Women in London usually wear professional attire (smart day dress) for evening affairs, including informal receptions and cocktail and dinner parties. Most senior officers need formal evening dress for black- or white-tie affairs. Interchangeable skirt and blouse combinations are very useful.

Dress, knitwear, and lingerie sizes include:

Britain 10 12 14 16 18 20 U.S. 8 10 12 14 16 18 Fits European bust (cm): 81 86 91 97 102 107 Fits U.S. bust (inches): 32 34 36 38 40 42

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Almost anything is available from London's numerous shops and stores. Stores compare favorably with those found in large U.S. cities. Household items, cosmetics, and toiletries of most varieties are available. Drugstores carry a complete range of medicines, medical preparations, and health aids. All prices are high, often about 30-50% more than for a comparable item in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Neighborhood shopping areas are scattered throughout greater London. Some American-type shopping malls have opened in the past decade. Virtually all shopping areas (the High Streets) offer common services: laundry and drycleaning, hairdressers and barbers, gas stations, drugstores (chemists), hardware stores (ironmongers), travel and ticket agencies, restaurants, flowershops, giftshops, banks, libraries, newsstands (newsagents), bookshops, jewelers, and the ever-present pubs, to mention a few. There are also a growing number of stores that provide on-line shopping and delivery, including some of the major supermarket chains such as Tesco and Sainsburys.

The Embassy provides a catering service for cocktail and dinner parties. A cafeteria and grill/lounge are available in the Chancery for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The U.S. Navy Headquarters across the street from the Chancery has a small commissary, a barbershop, a cafeteria, and a special services desk where you can order a wide range of items.

Artisans will do carpentry jobs; reupholster or rebuild furniture; refinish woodwork; rewire lamps; make curtains; clean, repair, and lay carpeting; and paint, but they are considerably more expensive than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Servants are scarce, but the word-of-mouth network among Embassy families is usually successful. Costs tend to be higher than in the U.S. The CLO might have a list of recommended help. For occasional entertaining the Embassy catering service is available.

Child-care is not as readily available and costs about 3-4 times per hour more than in the U.S. Also, it is usually given either in 2 ½-hour or 5-hour blocks. Options include nannies (live-in or daily), au pairs (up to 20 hours/week, and often they do not speak English well), agency sitters who stay with children in your own home, and full- or part-time care at the home of a registered child minder. Also available is care at public and private institutions such as preschools, playgroups, and centers. It is also possible to bring in a domestic servant with you or bring one in after you are in London. It is much easier to make the arrangements prior to arrival in the UK, however. Either way, all domestic servants must have the appropriate visa before entering the UK. Because housing is substantially smaller than at most posts, any live-in option may require considerable sacrifice of space and privacy.

There are virtually no full-time day care centers for children under 3. This care is available through nannies, au pairs, and child minders. Most nursery centers require the child be potty-trained (except a few of the area Montessori Schools), and as Americans tend to potty train later than the British, this can pose a problem.

If you employ a non-UK domestic already resident in the UK, you must conform to government regulations regarding work permits. If you bring someone in as a "private domestic servant of a diplomatic household," different procedures apply. Approved lengths of stay differ for au pairs and other categories of domestic help. (Currently, au pairs may not extend their stay in the UK beyond 2 years.) For details, contact CLO or HRD.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

All major religions are represented in London. The Church of England (Anglican/Episcopalian) is the established church. Various Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Islam, and other faiths have houses of worship in the London area. The American Church in London (Protestant), located a mile from the Chancery, offers independent, interdenominational services specifically intended for Americans residing in London. It has Sunday school classes, fellowship meetings, Bible study, and youth groups. The Saturday Times lists the times of services, the speaker, and the music to be performed for major city churches.


Dependent Education Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The London area has a number of schools offering American-curriculum instruction from nursery school through high school. You are urged to consult the Office of Overseas Schools Resource Center. Microfiche information from this office is available in Washington and at all overseas posts. It has full details on a large number of London schools. A fairly extensive list of schools is included at the end of this section and is also available through the CLO via e-mail or hard copy. The list will soon be available on the Intranet Web site.

An education allowance (which is reviewed annually) is given to civilian and some military Embassy employees for the education of dependents. The allowance can be applied to any school of your choice and covers tuition, books, transportation, and other obligatory expenses, such as registration fees. Uniforms and lunches are not included. Some schools require attendance at "extra" classes, such as musical instrument instruction. Rental of instruments is not reimbursable. An education allowance is given for 1 year of kindergarten for a child who is 5 by December 31.

A basic decision parents must make is whether to keep their children in the American system or enter the British or International systems. It is generally agreed that the British system of education is good for children in their early years, when they can adapt more easily, while older children tend to find the adjustment much more difficult.

Three of the most widely recognized national curriculums are the UK GCSEs and "A" levels, the U.S. Graduation Diploma, and the International Baccalaureate (IB). There are criticisms of all three systems. The usual one leveled at the British curriculum is that it forces students to specialize far too early on in their education. The opposite is said of the U.S. Graduation Diploma and the IB.

The British General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) curriculum allows for specialization at age 16, when students choose two or three subjects for study up to Advanced Level ("A" level). The next 2 years of intensive study are viewed as a preparation for work that will be continued at university.

International Baccalaureate offices in Geneva and London administer the IB. There is a panel of examiners working together from many countries and cultures. The baccalaureate fulfills university entrance requirements in over 40 countries. This qualification is aimed at providing a broad education with sufficient flexibility of subject choice to suit individual interests and abilities. Universities all over the world are coming to respect the IB, and in the U.S. an IB candidate is sometimes eligible to go straight into the second year of a degree course. Additional information on the IB program can be found on their Web site:

It is wise to start considering schools as soon as you know you are coming to London. You might want to contact directly the school of your choice. They will send you a registration packet, or you can download the forms and information from their Web sites. If you are concerned about registering your child early, contact the school and ask to pre-register your child until you can complete and return the registration packet. Each year the waiting lists get longer, so the sooner you can make a decision, the better off you will be. Although the CLO has considerable information and contacts with the schools and can provide support and insight, selecting the school of choice and registering the student(s) is entirely your responsibility.

Following are some of the American and international schools used most often by Embassy families because of their good academic standards and their proximity to neighborhoods where Americans live. All telephone numbers are written for dialing from outside the UK. If dialing from within the UK, replace the country code (44) with a (0).

American School in London. ASL is a private coeducational day school, accredited in the U.S., offering instruction from nursery school through grade 12. The school is located in central London and is convenient to most Embassy housing. There is a schoolbus service, and public transportation is good. No school uniform is required. Entrance requirements are listed on the Web site. Extracurricular activities are music, drama, and sports. American School in London, One Waverley Place, London NW8 0NP. Tel. [44] (20) 744-91200. The Web site is

The American Community School. ACS is a private coeducational day school that provides a progressive education from prekindergarten to grade 12 for children of all nationalities using an American curriculum. There are three geographically distinct campuses: one northwest, one west, and one southwest of London. Entrance requirements are listed on individual Web sites. The International Baccalaureate is offered. Extracurricular activities offered are drama, music, sports, and crafts. The Web site for all three campuses is

American Community School (Surrey Campus), Heywood Portsmouth Road, Cobham, Surrey KT11 1BL. Tel. [44] (1932) 869-744. E-mail:

American Community School (Hillingdon Campus), Hillingdon Court, Vine Lane, Uxbridge, Middlesex UB10 0BG. Tel. [44] (1895) 813-734. E-mail:

American Community School (Egham Campus), "Woodlee" London Road (A30), Egham, Surrey TW20 0HS. Tel. [44] (1784) 430-611. E-mail:

Marymount International School. Marymount is a day and boarding school for girls in grades 6 to 12. It is one of a group of European Marymount Schools established by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, a Roman Catholic foundation. It is accredited in the U.S. The international student body represents many religious affiliations. Students in grades 6 to 10 follow the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program and in High School follow the International Baccalaureate Diploma program or may take individual IB certificate examinations. Entrance requirements are listed on the Web site. Extracurricular activities are educational tours, music, drama, and sports. Bus service is available for day students. Marymount School London, George Road, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey KT2 7PE. Tel. [44] (20) 8949-0571; Web site

The American School in Switzerland, England. TASIS schools are found in Switzerland, Greece, France, and England. TASIS England is an independent, coeducational day school for children in prekindergarten to grade 12, accepting boarders for grades 9 to 12. The curriculum followed is American, and it is accredited in the U.S. Entrance requirements are listed on the Web site. Extracurricular activities are drama, music, clubs, and field trips. TASIS England American School, Coldharbour Lane, Thorpe, Surrey TW20 8TE. Tel. [44] (1932) 565-252. The Web site is

Southbank International School. Southbank International is a day school with two locations: Kensington in central London and Hampstead in northwest London. Coed students from Early Childhood (nursery) to grade 12 are accepted. Southbank has adopted 3 International Baccalaureate Programs: the Primary Year Program (for Early Childhood through 5th grade), the Middle Years Program (grades 6 to 10), and the Diploma Program (grades 11 to 12). There is a school bus service, and public transportation is good. No school uniform is required. Entrance requirements are listed on the Web site. Suzuki violin and foreign language lessons are included in the program beginning in kindergarten. Extracurricular activities are music, art, clubs, and sports. Southbank International School, Hampstead Campus, 16 Netherhall Gardens, London NW3 5TJ. Tel. [44] (20) 7431-1200. Southbank International School, Kensington Campus, 36-38 Kensington Rd., London W11 3BU. Tel. [44] (20) 7229-8230. The Web site is and the admissions e-mail address is for both schools.

International Community School. The school takes children ages 3-18, with a curriculum based on the English National Curriculum. The primary school is for children ages 3-10 (the Nursery for 3-5, Primary 5-10), and the Secondary School is for ages 11-university. There are a number of extracurricular activities and schooltrips throughout the year. The Primary School is located at 4 York Terrace East, Regents Park, London NW1 4PT. Tel. [44] (20) 7706-7676. The secondary school is at 21 Star Street, London W2 1QB. Telephone [44] (20) 7402-9273. The Web site is for both schools. There is a full and comprehensive special needs program, priced on an individual basis, depending on the support required. A limit is placed on the number of special needs students (8% of the total student body).

London Central High School. London Central is a Department of Defense School (DODDS) 35 miles northwest of central London. It is accredited in the U.S. and offers a program for grades 7 to 12. It has advanced placement courses, study enrichment courses, and programs for mildly and moderately handicapped students. Entrance requirements include previous school records and a health certificate. Extracurricular activities include music, theater, publications, and student council. London Central High School, RAF Daws Hill, Daws Hill Lane, High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire HP11 1YQ. Tel. [44] (1494) 795-720.

West Ruislip DOD Elementary School. This DODDS school for children in kindergarten to grade 6 is about 13 miles northwest of central London. There are special education and hearing-impaired programs. There are two bus pick-up points for children living in central London. Entrance requirements include previous school records. West Ruislip DOD Elementary School, RAF West Ruislip, Ickenham Road, Ruislip HA4 7DW or PSC 821 Box 104, FPO AE 09421. Tel. [44] (1895) 616-688. Web site is

State-Operated Schools. Most schools in Britain are supported by public funds are free, and are run by local education authorities. There are basically two types of programs followed in State schools-selective and comprehensive. In the former, students are tested at age 11, and those who show academic promise are admitted to a secondary school that offers academic courses until age 18. The remainder of the children are admitted to secondary "modern schools" that provide a general education to age 16.

The large size of most secondary state schools makes it possible to offer many combinations of subjects; the disadvantage is that your child's special needs may be overlooked. The British system is not well designed to accommodate transfers between schools, much less between countries. Courses and programs vary from school to school, and the newcomer must catch up on missed work.

Private Schools. These schools usually have stringent academic requirements and select only those students who are likely to succeed. Be prepared for a competitive entrance process. Private schools are generally smaller than state schools.

Because of the large number of private schools in the London area, you are urged to contact one of the following educational consultants for more specific information:

Gabbitas Educational Consultants, Carrington House, 126/130 Regent Street, London W1B 5EE; Phone [44] (20) 7734-0161 Independent Schools Information Service (ISIS), Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0BS; Phone [44] (20) 7798-1500 Sterling Education Group, Martin Humphries, Adelaide House, 626 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5RY. Phone [44] (20) 8996-0200; fax [44] (20) 8996-0252 For information on Catholic state schools, contact: The Catholic Education Service, 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1 V1BX. Phone [44] (20) 7901-4880.

Preschools. Also called nursery schools and infant schools, these accept toilet-trained children between ages 2 and 5. Remember that the U.S. Government will pay for only 1 year of kindergarten and that the child must be 5 by December 31. When you arrive at post, check with the CLO or your local library for information.


Special Needs Education Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Special Needs Schools. Post cannot assess the caliber of special needs schools compared to their U.S. equivalents. Although the schools listed below offer limited programs for learning disabled children, most have L.D. programs designed for younger, primary school children, and not for adolescent and high school-age children. It is generally agreed that they are not of the same standard as those in the U.S. Begin communicating with the school well before you arrive at post and send as much information as possible on your child's handicap. For more information on special education problems, contact the Education Counselor in the Family Liaison Office, Room 1239, Department of State, Washington, D.C. 20520-7512, or telephone 202-647-1076.

For more information on British state schools for those with special needs, contact the Department of Education at [44] (870) 000-2288.

For all inquiries regarding special needs or difficulty with registration and admittance for state schools, call [44] (870) 000-2288. (You must be able to tell them where you are living so they can give you information on schools in your area.)

The following list of special needs schools includes both independent and state schools:

Centre Academy (private). The Developmental Center uses a team of counselors, testing staff, clinical psychologists, educators, and other professionals to find the causes of a child's behavior. After an educational consultation with the Clinical Director, a full evaluation of the child follows, including an interview and testing. The Developmental Center offers a full day program that combines remedial help with coursework and preparation for exams. They also offer "one-to-one" for students who do not need the intensity of the full day program. Centre Academy, The Developmental Centre, 92 St. John's Hill, Battersea, London SW11 1SH. Tel. [44] (20) 7738-2344.

Fairly House (private). Fairly House takes boys and girls between ages 5 and 12 who have specific learning difficulties (dyslexia). The school is designed to help the intelligent child with learning problems, so there is a high staff/pupil ratio. Each child is assessed by the school and, if the education provided at Fairly House is suitable, the parent may complete an application for entry to the school. Fairly House, 30 Causton St., London SW1P 4AU. Tel. [44] (20) 7976-5456.

Parayhouse Preparatory School (private). Parayhouse is a coeducational day school for children ages 4-17. Prospective students attend a 1-day structured assessment at the school. The curriculum is based on traditional subjects but geared to specialist methods for dealing with learning difficulties. The objective of the school is to encourage children to develop their true potential in readiness for possible transfer to mainstream education. Computer literacy is an essential and a core subject at Parayhouse. Parayhouse Preparatory School, St. John's Church Bldgs., World's End, Kings Road, Chelsea, London SW10 ULO. Tel. [44] (20) 8740-6333.

The Cameron Learning Tree. This is a coeducational school for children with learning difficulties of a dyslexic nature. There is a high pupil/teacher ratio, with no class larger than 12. There are extracurricular activities in dance, pottery, karate, and judo. The Cameron House School, 4 The Vale, London SW3 6AH. Tel. [44] (20) 7352-4040.

Allington Manor School (private). For learning and therapeutic help, ages 10-16. Allington Manor School, Allington Lane, Fair Oak, Hampshire SO5 7DE. Tel. [44] (2380) 692-621.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt School (state run). For the physically handicapped, ages 2½-19. Swiss Cottage School, Avenue Road, London NW8 6HX. Tel. [44] (20) 7681-8080.

Victoria School (private). For the physically handicapped, ages 3-16. Victoria School, 12 Lindsay Road, Branksome Park, Poole, Bournemouth BH13 6AS. Tel. [44] (1202) 763-697.

College Park School (state). For the mentally handicapped, ages 2½-19, educationally subnormal-mild. College Park School, Garway Road, London W2 4PH. Tel. [44] (20) 7641-4460.

Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School (state). For the mentally handicapped, ages 2½-19, educationally subnormal-severe. Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School, Kennett Road, London W9 3LG. Tel. [44] (20) 7641-5825.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) offers a most comprehensive selection of part-time day and evening courses for adults at locations throughout the city. The cost is minimal, and the selection is endless. Registration is in September, but places are sometimes available later in the year. Floodlight, the ILEA directory, is sold in bookstores and newsagents in August. CLO has a copy, as do local libraries.

There are innumerable courses on cooking, flower arranging, and fine arts-nearly anything interesting. The Junior League of London's Living In London: Guidelines (CLO has a copy) has a good listing of these courses. This Guide can be ordered from The Junior League of London, 9 Fitzmaurice Place, London W1X 6JSD. Tel. [44] (20) 7499-8159. The Navy Education Office is a very good source of information on adult education in general and Navy-sponsored programs in particular.

Many American colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate programs here. Quality of programs varies and costs range from moderate to expensive. Transfer of credits to and from other institutions can be a major problem. It is highly recommended that families seeking university education for dependents investigate costs, programs, and transferability before making their decisions.

The U.S. Educational Advisory Service of the Fulbright Commission, at 62 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2JZ, publishes a list of American colleges and universities in the UK. They also have the largest collection of U.S. university/college catalogs in the UK and have three full-time advisers. The list is also available from the U.S. Embassy's American Citizen Services Section. Tel. [44](20) 7404-6994; Web site

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

You can participate in virtually every popular sport in London, outdoors and indoor, team and individual. Borough-run facilities are free or very inexpensive.

Spectators can enjoy both professional and amateur games year round. The annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race brings thousands to the Banks of the Thames. The Henley Regatta, held in July, is host to rowing entries from all over the world. Horse lovers find pleasure at the major races of the year-Epsom Downs, Ascot, and Derby.

The most popular sports are football (soccer) and rugby in winter, cricket and tennis in summer, and horse and golf events year round. TV coverage of these events is extensive. Tennis at Wimbledon, cricket at Lord's, football at Wembley, and dog shows at Olympia are a few of the highlights of a sports program that is full, continuous, and of international caliber.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

London is well known as a sightseer's paradise. Whatever personal interests you have, London's museums, art galleries, libraries, historic places, pageantry, and parks are bound to fulfill them. Sightseers can explore the city by bus or tube, on foot, and by boat on the Thames or the canals. A full calendar of daily events is available in several weekly publications and in a number of on-line resources, including and

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Culturally, London is one of the richest cities on Earth. It has symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and pop and rock concerts. The legitimate theater in London is unrivaled. World-famous British, American, and international artists are often on stage. Productions routinely move from Broadway to London and vice versa. Nearly year-round offerings of opera, ballet, and symphonic music are offered at the Royal Opera House, the Sadler's Wells Hall, the Barbican and South Bank Centres, and the Royal Festival Hall. In addition to top-quality resident companies, famous continental and American groups often visit.

Central London offers a wide range of first-run films at theaters, film clubs, and art theaters. Going out to the movies is as easy and informal as in the U.S., although a bit more expensive.

Restaurants, cafes, and tearooms of every size and price range abound here. Food ranges from fastfood fare to exclusive English and international cuisine. Pubs and afternoon tea are two English traditions that should not be missed. Prices are generally higher than in the U.S.

Museums and art galleries in London contain one of the most comprehensive collections of objects of artistic, archeological, scientific, historical, and general interest ever to exist in one city. The most notable are the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, National Gallery, the Tate Britain, the Tate Modern, National Portrait Gallery, Imperial War Museum, Museum of London, Wallace Collection, British Museum of Natural History, Geological Museum, and Science Museum.

The British seem to go out of their way to provide entertainment for children. This is especially true during summer and at Christmas. Some of the popular outings are special theater productions, pantomimes and puppet shows, the zoo, concerts, and film festivals.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM The American Women's Club and a number of neighborhood Women's Clubs provide social and community service activities. The American Society in London is the oldest established social and cultural U.S. organization in the UK. It hosts four events each year, including the Independence Day Barbecue, traditionally hosted by the American Ambassador, the Thanksgiving Dinner Dance (a black-tie affair at the famous Savoy Hotel), and autumn and spring cocktail parties.

The American Embassy Employees Association is open to all American employees of the Embassy, their spouses, and adult dependents. There is also an AmEmbassy Recreation Committee (ARC), which sponsors social activities such as Quiz Night and manages a small but fully equipped gym in the Embassy basement.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

International Contacts Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM Although we share a common language and a special relationship with Great Britain, it is wise to remember that it is still a foreign country. To expect attitudes and conventions to be the same as those in the U.S. will make the transition to life in Britain frustrating. It is tempting to feel that the "settling in" process will be faster and easier in Britain than in other posts, but some people find it takes just as long as in other countries. There are many subtle differences that are not immediately apparent. It is recommended that all new arrivals read the cross-cultural guide, So You're Planning to Live in London, available by e-mail or hard copy from the CLO. (

Private social and political clubs are a prominent social feature. Many have flourished for over 100 years. Largely frequented for their social advantages, all have their own premises, including licensed restaurants. Entrance fees and subscriptions vary. Most men's and women's clubs are exclusive, where members can entertain friends in a comfortable atmosphere. Some clubs waive initiation fees for senior diplomats.

The English-Speaking Union is open to men and women who are citizens of the U.S. or Commonwealth countries. In an attractive headquarters near the Embassy, it offers a dining room and a range of activities.

Focus Information Services, founded in 1982 by a group of American expatriate women familiar with international relocation, attempts to aid expatriates in adapting efficiently to life in the UK. It offers guidance on a broad range of topics, including education and career opportunities and selection of schools and doctors, and provides expatriates with a chance to meet people of similar interests. FOCUS is a nonprofit organization that is run by expatriates, for expatriates. It offers many services, programs, and publications and have an excellent resource center. There is a membership fee, but anyone is welcome to call for assistance. It is located at 13 Prince of Wales Terrace, Kensington W8 5PG. For more information, call FOCUS at [44] (20) 7937-0050 or check their Web site

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The London diplomatic corps consists of about 2,000 members and the consular corps has some 125. Both groups are active in arranging official representation activities. Only the most senior officers will generally be invited to the many national day celebrations and to major functions given by officials of the host government; such events are usually stag.

Each November, the Queen hosts a formal evening reception at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle for Heads of Mission and diplomatic staff. It is the most prestigious event in the diplomatic calendar. Senior diplomatic staff who are reaching the end of their tour and spouses are selected for an invitation, based on departure date and seniority and at the Ambassador's discretion.

The same criteria applies to The Queen's Garden Party to which the Ambassador is invited every other year along with a number of his diplomatic staff and spouses. The Garden Party is held at Buckingham Palace in July.

Application to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot may be made through the Embassy, which, like all diplomatic missions, is allocated a quota of places.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Social protocol in the Embassy is kept to a minimum since the Mission is so large. Officially, only officers on the diplomatic list will need calling cards and then only in limited numbers. Formal calls are not made at any level, so cards are not usually exchanged within the Mission. Cards may be needed to meet social needs and standards, and are used in business connections. These are also handy for extending or acknowledging informal invitations, sending flowers, and leaving notes during missed visits. If cards are needed they can be reproduced locally.

Special Information Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Post Orientation Program

Please cable your arrival details to post as early as possible. For State Department employees your office will assign a sponsor who may meet you upon arrival and will assist you at post. Non-State employees should check with their agencies about the assignment of a sponsor. The CLO can also identify a neighborhood sponsor, if requested.

Upon notification of your move to London, the CLO will immediately send a welcoming letter and copy of the Embassy handbook, Living in London, as well as a cross-cultural guide, So You're Planning to Live in London, which contains valuable information and insight. (They can also be sent electronically.) They serve as a basic orientation to post. Feel free to get in touch with the CLO with any questions at Community Liaison Office, American Embassy, PSC 801 Box 1, FPO AE 09498-4001, or e-mail at

A sponsor's duties include: ensuring that your house is clean, that the Transient Kit is in place, that the telephone is connected and appliances work, that he/she has local currency to loan you, and that essential food items are in your house. They are also responsible for arranging for transportation on your first workday; giving you a tour of the Embassy; and introducing you to members of your section. A Transient Kit will be in your flat or house and will contain basic survival items: sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, dish cloths, cutlery, china, pots and pans, iron and board, transformer, etc.

CLO provides a Welcome Kit during your check-in. It contains maps of the underground and buses, general tourist information, and military base information. CLO coordinators are a vital part of the Embassy's effort to assist newcomers. Spouses are strongly encouraged to take part in the check-in procedure, especially the visit to the CLO and the Medical Unit's orientation program. The London Embassy Group is also an excellent resource for newcomers and welcomes new members. The CLO provides monthly orientation briefings that are conducted immediately following the mandatory RSO briefing. The CLO also sponsors welcome coffees and holds other social programs to welcome newcomers into the community. You will be invited to attend a welcome coffee or other social event at the Embassy within 3 months of your arrival. This will give you an opportunity to meet other newcomers and gather information on living in London.

Consulate General - Belfast, Northern Ireland

Post City Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Northern Ireland is a Province of the United Kingdom, created by the 1921 partition of Ireland. About the size of Connecticut, it has 1.5 million people, of whom some 400,000 live in Belfast.

Although part of the UK, Northern Ireland has a distinct identity of its own, a product of its history and the mixing of Irish, Scottish, and English traditions. Its beautiful rolling green countryside-underpopulated by European standards-is dotted with historic monuments, from stone-age tombs to great houses from the 19th century. Right in the middle is Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles. Northern Ireland has strong ties with the U.S. It claims 13 U.S. Presidents with ties to the province, and many families have relatives living in America. A U.S. consular presence dates back to 1796, and more than 200 U.S. companies are located in the province, employing over 10,000 workers.

Belfast was one of the UK's first great industrial cities, making its reputation in the 19th century on shipbuilding, linen, and textiles. This port city is beautifully situated in the valley of the river Lagan, which flows into a long bay called Belfast Lough, and is surrounded by hills. The city's name is derived for two Gaelic words: "beal," a river mouth and "fierste," hurry or haste.

Downtown Belfast was badly affected by violence from 1969-1994, but in recent years buildings have been restored, shopping greatly improved, and many new restaurants opened. The center of Belfast has been turned into a pedestrian mall that draws crowds of shoppers. Although most of the city's substandard housing has been replaced by attractive public housing, several parts of the city are blighted by the economic and security effects of the "The Troubles." The rest of Belfast and its tranquil suburbs seem remote from the violence. On the whole, positive signs of progress can be seen and citizens have a resilient "business as usual" attitude.

Northern Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate similar to that of the Pacific Northwest, though seasonal changes are less pronounced. Weather is often overcast and rainy (relieved by "sunny intervals"). It must be noted that a majority of the rain is merely a light misty moisture. Because of Belfast's northern latitude, the number of daylight hours varies greatly between summer (about 18 hours in June) and winter (about 8 hours in December). The sunniest weather is in May and June. Light snow falls occasionally in January and February, but temperatures seldom remain below freezing for more than a day.

For more information on Northern Ireland's history, see Background Notes for the United Kingdom, produced by the Bureau of Public Affairs in the Department of State.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The consular district consists of the six counties of Northern Ireland (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone). It's often referred to as Ulster, though the original province of Ulster included three additional counties now part of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland has a 303-mile border with the Republic and a coastline of about 245 miles.

The Consulate General has 4 officers and 14 Foreign Service national employees. The officers share in all aspects of the post's workload and administration.

The workweek is Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm. The telephone numbers are [44] (2890) 328-239 and 328-626. After hours, a contract paging service informs the duty officer of emergency calls. The post address is:

American Consulate General Queen's House 14 Queen Street Belfast, BT1 6EQ Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

Note: At the time of this writing, efforts are under way to relocate the Consulate General to another location in downtown Belfast.

Via FPO:

American Consulate General PSC 801 Box 40 FPO AE 09498-4040

Via pouch:

U.S. Consulate General Department of State 5360 Belfast Place Washington, D.C. 20521-5360

Consulate General employees can send and receive personal letter mail and packages via London through FPO, whose postal rates are the same as in the U.S.

Travel to post is usually by air via London. This provides an opportunity for initial orientation at the Embassy. The Embassy in London provides support services and overall program guidance for the Consulate General.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Post anticipates having permanent housing ready for officers upon arrival and, therefore, does not have a temporary housing program.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

U.S. Government-owned and -furnished quarters are available for both the principal officer and consul. The other two officers live in rented housing (townhouses, duplexes, or detached houses) in South Belfast.

The principal officer's home, "Ardnavally," is located in a bucolic setting 4 miles from the city center. Built in 1926, it is an attractive 14-room, 2-story, stucco-and-wooden-frame home with double garage, greenhouse, and tool sheds. It has 2 acres of landscaped grounds screened by trees and a security fence. The ground floor contains a large entrance hallway, spacious living room, small den, cloakroom, bathroom, dining room, kitchen, pantry, bar, and laundry room with bath. The upper floor has seven bedrooms of various sizes, four complete bathrooms, storage room, and study. The house has central heating (hot-water radiators) and is comfortable and well-suited for representation.

The second owned property is located in Marlborough Park, a quiet residential area dominated by private houses built around the turn of the century and within walking distance of parks, schools, and stores. It is a red-brick, two-story Victorian house on about three-fourths of an acre of landscaped grounds. The ground floor consists of two living rooms, dining room, conservatory, bathroom, kitchen, and pantry. Upstairs are four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and two storage rooms. The house also has a two-car garage. It is centrally heated, comfortable, and suitable for entertaining. The Consulate General and town center are about 2 miles (10 minutes by car) away. Nearby bus service is available.


Furnishings Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The principal officer's home is fully furnished except for personal items. Bring pictures, books, small rugs, radio and sound equipment, bric-a-brac (especially for numerous fireplace mantels, side tables, desks, and other surfaces). Furnishings include wall-to-wall carpets in most rooms, rugs, curtains, beds, silverware, dishes, glasses, some linens and towels, and kitchenware.

All other housing is furnished in the same manner as staff housing in London. Cooking utensils, plates, linen, and blankets should be sent by airfreight. Bring pots and pans, china and glassware, linen, and personal items, such as sound equipment, pictures, small rugs for decoration and other belongings that will make the quarters more comfortable.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The principal officer's home has ample hot and cold running water, electricity (220v, 50-cycle AC, with 110v razor outlets in four bathrooms), and lighting fixtures. Ardnavally is equipped with a fuel-oil heating system, telephones, alarm system, and several transformers.

Electricity in the other residences is 220v, 50-cycle AC. They are equipped with washer, dryer, dishwasher, electric stove, vacuum cleaner, refrigerator, and freezer. No other appliances are provided. American-made appliances require transformers. Buy them in the U.S. or en route; they are not available locally. American-made clocks and phonographs (100v, 60-cycle, AC) will not run on local current. Bring small appliances from the U.S.

American-made TVs cannot be used in this area, but British sets can be rented reasonably. Purchase of a multisystem TV is wisest. Appliances of every kind are available locally but are usually smaller than their American counterparts.

Food Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

It is not necessary to bring anything except specialty foods. Daily food needs are bought primarily at one of the many local supermarkets, which are well stocked with local and imported products and seasonal fresh items. A large selection of American groceries and frozen foods or reasonable substitutes are available on the local economy, which can be supplemented from the small commissary at Embassy Dublin. Local prices are higher than in the U.S., but conveniences include a milkman, butcher, and vegetable or egg person available for daily household delivery. Duty-free alcoholic beverages can be obtained from the Dublin commissary. Orders also can be placed with the wine mess at Embassy London, though transport charges must be paid. Most popular brands of hard liquor, wines, liqueurs, and mixers are available at local stores. Beers (European and American) and a wide variety of American soft drinks are also available. It must be noted that breadmaking is something at which the Northern Irish excel, and bakeries are varied and abundant.

Clothing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Clothing styles are the same as in the U.S.; what is proper in the U.S. is acceptable in Belfast. However, officers need more formal evening wear for entertaining because of the position that the Consulate General occupies in the local community. Long dresses or a dark dinner jacket are necessary on some occasions.


Men Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Woolen clothing can be worn most of the year. Tropicalweight and wash-and-wear suits are seldom needed, but they may be useful on trips to southern parts of the British Isles and Europe. Readymade or custom-made suits can be purchased both locally and in London, though not cheaply. Local suits are tailored somewhat differently than American suits and may not be to your liking. Rainwear is needed but can be purchased locally.


Women Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Attractive, well-made women's clothing very similar to American fashion is available in Belfast. The prices are considerably higher than American-bought merchandise, but the quality is generally excellent.


Children Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Children's clothing follows U.S. styles, with emphasis on casual slacks and jeans for both boys and girls. Shorts are worn for summer play, weather permitting. Dresses, slacks, and shirts are available, but prices are higher than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Toiletries, medical prescriptions, cosmetics, personal supplies, tobacco, and other sundry items are carried locally. Toothbrushes are more expensive than in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

All basic services such as tailoring, drycleaning, laundry, shoe repair, beauty shops, etc., are found in Belfast, though laundry service is not particularly good.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Daily help is available at approximately $10 an hour. In addition, employers are expected to pay social security contributions required of both employer and employee, provide tea, and allow at least 2 weeks' annual vacation. Good caterers, bartenders, and waitresses can be hired locally, though they are expensive.

Live-in help is difficult to find for families with small children. Day care, or "child minding" as it is termed in Northern Ireland, is available at rates depending on the age of the child and the length of stay with the child minder. You can obtain a list of registered child minders from the Health and Social Services Headquarters.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Churches abound in Belfast. The major denominations are Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Church of Ireland (Episcopalian), and Methodist. Other faiths represented include Lutheran, Christian Scientist, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Baptist, and Jewish.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM No American or international school is available in Belfast. However, there are numerous excellent primary and secondary level schools with high academic standards and good programs of extracurricular activities. Relative emphasis on subjects is not the same as in American schools nor are transfers from one level of education to another. Tuition-free elementary and secondary schools similar to U.S. public schools are available, but Foreign Service families usually prefer to send children to preparatory or grammar (university preparatory) schools, which are more like private schools in the U.S. The education allowance covers most costs, except for required uniforms. Students who pass certain tests or who achieve high academic standards do not have to pay grammar school tuition. The school year extends from the first week in September through the end of June. More information on the school system can be found at:

Government Resources on the School System:

Department of Education for Northern Ireland Rathgael House Balloo Road Bangor, County Down BT19 7PR Web site:


Belfast Education and Library Board 40 Academy Street Belfast, BT1 2NQ Telephone: [44] (2890) 564-000 Web site:

Some preparatory (primary) schools (ages 5-11) close to residences are:

Fullerton Preparatory School (preparatory school for Methodist College) (co-ed): 1 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6BY. Phone: [44] (2890) 205-205. E-mail: Web site:

Inchmarlo School (prep school for Royal Belfast Academical Institution) (boys only) Cranmore Park, Belfast BT9 6JR. Phone: [44] (2890) 381-454. E-mail: Web site:

Stranmillis Primary School: Knightbridge Park, Belfast BT9 5EH. Phone: [44] (2890) 3811-164. E-mail:

Victoria College Preparatory School (girls only): Cranmore Park, Belfast BT9 6JA. Phone: [44] (2890) 661-506. Fax: [44] (2890) 666-898. E-mail: Web site:

Some grammar (secondary) schools close to residences are:

Methodist College (co-ed): 1 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6BY. Phone: [44] (2890) 205-205. E-mail: Web site:

Royal Belfast Academical Institution (boys only): 1 College Square East, Belfast BT9 6JR. Phone: [44] (2890) 240-461. Fax: [44] (2890) 237-464. E-mail: Web site:

Victoria College (girls only): Cranmore Park, Belfast BT9 6JA. Phone: [44] (2890) 661-506. Fax: [44] (2890) 666-898. E-mail: Web site:

Belfast has a number of schools for children with special education needs. These schools often have a specialist role in dealing with particular forms of educational need.

Preschool children under the age of 4½ can be placed in a variety of programs including mother/toddler playgroups run by several of the churches (no fees); private nursery schools (parents pay fees); education and library board nursery schools or nursery classes attached to schools (like U.S. kindergartens-no fees); or private playgroups (no fees).


Dependent Education

Away From Post Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM See Dependent Education under London and in the Ireland Post Report.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Queens University Belfast is conveniently located between the officers' residences and the Consulate General. Known for its school of medicine, it also offers courses in most fields of study.

A variety of adult education courses is offered by Queens University ( and the Rupert Stanley College of Further Education.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Belfast is an excellent city for sports enthusiasts, who can enjoy many sports inexpensively. The city environs have 10 golf clubs. One offers honorary membership to the principal officer, and membership fees charged to other personnel are reasonable. Many clubs offer squash, tennis, badminton, yachting, and sailing. Several public leisure centers offer swimming and aerobics; Queens University has a complete physical education center. The country offers horseback riding; stag and fox hunts; fishing (salmon and trout); and geese, duck, snipe, and small game shooting. A few good beaches are within easy access, but the water is cold. Spectator sports include horse racing, soccer, rugby, cricket, Gaelic sports, and motorcycle and auto racing. Belfast also offers several bike and running races. The Irish baseball and softball federation is a cross-border league of six teams that play 12-16 games a year. A number of American baseball enthusiasts play in the league.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Northern Ireland offers opportunities for biking, "pony-trekking," water skiing, camping, sign-posted walks and nature trails for hiking, and mountain climbing. All parts of Ireland, including the magnificent west coast, are easily reached by car. Driving is on the left side of the road and no special documentation is needed, though a valid drivers license is required to obtain a diplomatic driver's license. Traveling by car is the most efficient and agreeable way of getting to see the area. The road network is good, with 70 miles of motorway for those in a hurry, about 1,500 miles of dual carriageway and "A" roads, and very low traffic density. The two main motorways striking out west from Belfast skirt Lough Neah to the south (M1) and north (M2). The National Trust administers several attractive historical and wilderness sites in Northern Ireland.

Belfast has a museum, castle, theaters, art galleries, antique shops, zoo, and botanical garden. The Ulster Folk and Transport Museum is about 20 minutes by car from Belfast city center. One-and-a-half hours' drive from Belfast is the Ulster American Folk Park. Air, rail, and ferry services connect Northern Ireland to Scotland, England, and Wales, though fares are high.

Accommodations (hotels, bed and breakfasts, guesthouses, self-catering cottages) are numerous and of high standard. Whatever you are planning to do, there are several choices of places to stay varying in price from moderate to expensive. Further information is available from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (

Dublin, a 2½-hour drive from Belfast or 2 hours by train, offers excellent theater, a variety of restaurants, and a cosmopolitan environment. Shopping is more varied in Dublin, especially for women's clothing, though generally more expensive.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Belfast is experiencing a cultural and culinary renaissance. The Grand Opera House, Waterfront Hall, and Ulster Hall attract national and international touring companies regularly, bringing opera, ballet, and theater. Frequent concerts are given by a good local symphony orchestra. Several good theater companies present plays, including those about the contemporary situation, in a number of modern theaters. The Lyric Theatre is of particular note. Each November a cultural festival brings 3 weeks of entertainment to the city. Occasional fairs and exhibitions are held at local centers. Cinemas and a film club at Queens University offer first-run and classic films. The Northern Ireland Arts Council is deeply involved in promoting a stimulating variety of arts throughout Belfast.

Belfast has used Baltimore as a model to develop its riverfront, the Langanside. One outstanding feature of it is the Odyssey arena, which includes theaters, a hands-on science center, an IMAX theater, a Hard Rock Café, and the only ice arena in Northern Ireland.

Many good restaurants, taverns, and cafes are common in Belfast. Some restaurants offer "pub grub" and other simple menus, while a number of French, Italian, Indian, and Chinese restaurants provide good meals at reasonable prices. A number of tea and coffee shops can also be found.

Crafts are in abundance throughout Northern Ireland. A wide range of factories with shops is available, which offer daily tours of their work.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM Besides those retired in Northern Ireland, fewer than 500 Americans live in the Belfast area. All are well integrated into the local community. The province has only one specifically American organization, the Ulster-American Women's Club, which is quite active.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

International Contacts Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM Northern Ireland's people are very hospitable, and almost all areas of society are open to contact. Social life is built mainly around a private circle of friends and acquaintances and tends to develop among family, professional, club, and school lines. Social functions are similar to those found elsewhere, such as cocktail parties and dinners. Any number of special-interest clubs or groups (golf, bridge, hiking, stamp collecting, etc.) and a Rotary Club are available.

The U.S. is the only country with diplomatic representation in Northern Ireland. A number of other countries maintain honorary consuls.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Because Belfast was long a provincial capital and remains unusually politicized for its small size, representational responsibilities are greater than might be expected. Important civic and organizational occasions and local holidays, as well as many functions given by groups of people with only marginal ties to the U.S., bring invitations to the Consulate General's officers. The principal officer's position in the community as leading American representative means that he or she entertains and is entertained frequently. This is less true for other officers, but their social activity also will be above normal. Officers often entertain visiting American dignitaries and maintain close contact with government officials and local political, religious, business, and professional leaders.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

In general, Northern Ireland's people are more socially, politically, and religiously conservative than in the rest of the UK. Although Catholics and Protestants mix somewhat, a social division along religious lines is still discernible. As in the rest of the UK, class distinctions are more important than in the U.S.

American officers are highly visible in the Belfast community. An initial supply of calling cards is useful, though additional cards can be printed locally.

Special Information Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Although random political violence remains a minor worry, Americans are generally welcomed by all segments of society in the province. Official Americans have not been targets of terrorism in the past. Street crime is limited and is prevalent only in small parts of Belfast that are easily avoidable. Though the security situation in Belfast is subject to change, Americans posted to Belfast feel secure.

Post Orientation Program

The post has an informal orientation program since local customs can best be explained first hand by officers at post. No language barrier exists, and entry into local society is easy.

Consulate General - Edinburgh, Scotland

Post City Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

By voting to accept the Act of Union in 1707, the Scottish Parliament merged with Westminster, and Scotland joined with England to form the United Kingdom. Thus, the current Scottish Parliament, which opened in Edinburgh on July 1, 1999, is Scotland's first Parliament in almost 300 years. It has devolved responsibility for most Scottish domestic matters while Westminster has reserved responsibility for foreign policy, defense, social security, and most aspects of taxation. In this fascinating time in Scottish history, a nation steeped in democracy is building and nurturing new democratic institutions.

The ties between Scotland and America are deep and long-standing. Scots made their mark on our Declaration of Independence, the development of the Federal system, and the U.S. Constitution. The Scottish enlightenment taught in our universities inspired our founders. Over half the signers of the Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent. Our consular presence in Scotland dates back to 1798.

With 5 million people, Scotland is 31,510 square miles of dramatic and varied scenery: moors, lochs, glens, mountains, forests, castles, and rolling farmland dotted with sheep. Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, is one of the world's most beautiful cities. Its visual focal point is Edinburgh Castle. Looming on a high rocky hill, it sits at the head of the Royal Mile leading to the Palace of Holyrood, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. The castle is also home to the Scottish Crown Jewels. Much of the city's Georgian and Victorian architecture is carefully preserved. Called "the Athens of the North," Edinburgh cultivates culture. The city's population of 450,000 is swollen by hundreds of thousands of visitors from all parts of the world in the summer, particularly during the 3-week annual Edinburgh International Festival, which begins mid-August. The city also hosts the International Film and Television festivals, the International Jazz festival, the Edinburgh International Science festival, and a semiannual book festival.

Scotland is generally colder than the rest of the UK, especially in the northerly regions. The west tends to be wetter and warmer than the east. In upland areas, snow is common in winter, and fog and mist may occur at any time of year. Edinburgh's climate is commonly cloudy, with moderate rainfall, and its closeness to the sea impedes temperature extremes. The average temperature in winter ranges between 30 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The summers tend to be quite mild with temperatures mainly between 60 and 75 degrees. Because of Edinburgh's northern latitude, the number of daylight hours varies greatly between summer and winter.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Edinburgh's consular district includes Scotland and adjacent islands-the Shetlands, Orkneys, and Hebrides. The Consulate was established in 1798, and since 1951 has been at its present location. Established originally to look after American shipping interests, the Consulate General now focuses on developing America's relations with the new Scottish Executive and Parliament, promoting our close commercial and cultural ties and extending consular support to 20,000 American residents and hundreds of thousands of American visitors. Over 500 American firms operate in Scotland, primarily in manufacturing, financial, retail, oil and gas sectors.

The Consulate General has one Foreign Service officer assisted by local staff. Office hours are 8:30 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday; American and Scottish holidays are observed. The telephone numbers are [44] (131) 556-8315 and 557-2991. An afterhours answering service informs the principal officer of emergency calls. The post address is:

American Consulate General 3 Regent Terrace Edinburgh, EH7 5BW Scotland, United Kingdom

Via FPO:

American Consulate Edinburgh PSC 801 Box 40 FPO AE 09498-4040

Via Pouch:

U.S. Consulate General Department of State 5370 Edinburgh Place Washington, DC 20521-5370

Employees of the Consulate General can send and receive personal mail and packages through FPO and pouch, via London.

The Consulate General is located in a U.S. Government-owned converted Georgian residence. It is a 10-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from Waverley Train Station in the center of town or to the city center. A regular bus service operates from Edinburgh Airport to Waverley Station. A city bus stops within one block of the Consulate General.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Post anticipates having permanent housing ready for the principal officer on arrival and therefore does not have a temporary housing program. Temporary duty officers and official visitors choose from several first-class hotels.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The principal officer currently resides in a government-leased, 4-story, 4-bedroom, Georgian townhouse in the west end of town. It is about a 15-minute car or 20-minute bus ride to the Consulate General.


Furnishings Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The principal officer's house is furnished, and a Welcome Kit is available. The large rooms and high ceilings of Edinburgh townhouses leave extensive space for wall decoration. Additional furnishings and fine art can be purchased locally, as the availability of all consumer goods is high in Edinburgh. Several auctions and reliable dealers sell antiques. Fine-quality tableware, crystal, china, silver, and linen can also be obtained locally although most items are expensive by American standards.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Edinburgh's electrical current is 240v, single phase, 50-cycle AC. Plugs are of a special British three-pronged variety and are available locally. Most light fixtures require bayonet sockets, but local stores also have 240v bulbs with screw-type sockets that fit American lamps. American appliances (except clocks and TVs) can be effectively operated with 240v/100v stepdown transformers. Appliances of every kind are available locally but are smaller than American versions. The principal officer's home has refrigerators, washer, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, televisions, and transformers. The home has gas heat. As in London, the kitchen cold water tap provides the purest and safest drinking water, and water is not fluoridated.

Food Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

A wide variety of high-quality, local and imported foodstuffs is available in Edinburgh. There are a number of Safeway supermarkets in town and a large Costco (a restricted membership warehouse) situated on the outskirts. Scotland prides itself on its beef, lamb, and salmon. Bakery products are also good, and milk is of excellent quality. American baby foods are available locally. Food prices are generally higher than in the U.S.

Duty-free alcoholic beverages can be obtained from the wine mess at Embassy London, as well as at military facilities. The closest U.S. military commissary, also carrying a range of American food and consumer goods, is at Menwith Hill, near Harrogate, England, about a 3½-hour drive.

Clothing Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

In general, clothing styles acceptable or appropriate in the U.S. are similarly so in Edinburgh. All types of clothing are sold locally, but clothes available in Scotland can be less stylish and more expensive than in the U.S. Extra tall, small, or large sizes can be difficult to find. There are also difficulties in purchasing shoes for small, large, slim or wide feet. Summerweight clothing is rarely needed in Edinburgh, but a few items may be useful for those occasions when the temperature rises above 70°F. Since houses are cooler than in the U.S., warmer clothing for indoors can be useful. Rainwear and winter coats are a necessity. Those posted to Edinburgh should be prepared for an extensive representational calendar requiring formal evening wear.


Men Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Readymade men's suits are widely available. Materials and quality are excellent, prices are high. Black tie or dress tartan (i.e., kilt) is worn at formal occasions.


Women Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

A wide range of attractive women's clothing of British, continental and American manufacture and styling is available. Excellent quality can be found but at a price higher than for comparable garments in the U.S. Suits are appropriate for luncheons and informal receptions; cocktail dresses for cocktail parties and dinners, and evening dresses for formal dinners and balls.


Children Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Good quality, reasonably priced clothes are available for children. Warm clothing and rainwear are essential. Both private and government schools require special uniforms that must be purchased locally and are not covered by the education allowance.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Toiletries, medicines, and other sundries commonly used for housekeeping, household repairs, and entertaining are available at local stores. Recognizable brands of commonly used medications tend not to be available, however; and very few medicines, particularly for children, are available off the shelf (i.e. without direct contact with a pharmacist).

Supplies and Services

Basic Services Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

All basic services (including tailoring, drycleaning, shoe repair, etc.) are available in Edinburgh. It is difficult to get most U.S.-made appliances repaired, however, although repairs are available for American-made radios and stereos. (American TVs and clocks do not operate in Scotland, even with transformers.) Beauty shops and barbers provide service and prices comparable to those in the U.S.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Few people have live-in domestics. Housekeepers or cleaners can be engaged locally, most often at a daily or hourly rate. Hired help to serve at dinners and receptions is also available, as are a wide selection of caterers. Domestic workers are covered by Britain's National Insurance plan. Under the "pay-as-you-earn" law, employers must deduct income tax and National Insurance from the wages of domestic workers who are paid more than £4,400 annually.

There are numerous certified day care nurseries and childminders available. Rates are determined by the number of the hours the child is in care. Live-in nannies are difficult to find, but students are available to babysit for some £5 per hour.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Most denominations common in America have places of worship in Edinburgh. The Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) is the established church. The Catholic and Episcopal churches are also well represented. In addition, Methodist, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Islamic, Baptist, and Jewish places of worship are available. Sunday school and youth fellowship groups are organized on much the same basis as in the U.S.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM No American or international school is available in Edinburgh. In nicer residential areas there are easily accessible, high-quality schools, both government-run and private. Private schools have better facilities than the government-run schools and, at the secondary level, are generally better academically. Edinburgh has virtually no schoolbus service. Thus, if the school chosen is not within walking distance, parents need to provide transportation. Many older children use city buses. The school year runs August-June. Virtually all schools require pupils to wear uniforms.

Many Scottish parents send their children to day nurseries from age 3 until they begin primary school. Nursery places are available at nonfee paying government schools, at some independent schools, and at a wide array of private nurseries. The Scottish Executive subsidizes nursery tuition for ages three and four at private nurseries.

Scottish schools place heavy stress on the three "Rs" from the first year of formal education. The first year, called Primary 1 (P1), is a kindergarten year taught at the level of first grade for children who will turn 5 by February. Thus, at the end of P1, the 5 year old, who would have been in kindergarten in the U.S., is expected to read, write, compose simple stories, and do double-digit addition and subtraction. Nevertheless, by about P4 (third grade), American and Scottish children are operating at about the same level.

Scottish schools generally require more conformity than American schools, and there is less emphasis on imagination and creativity. There is, however, a much earlier emphasis on mathematics, the sciences, and languages. As a result, Scottish children in secondary school are usually ahead of their American counterparts in these areas. Americans should be prepared for a difficult transition period as older children work to catch up with Scottish classmates. Nevertheless, students who have done well in American/International schools usually do well in Scottish schools after the transition.

The Scottish curriculum and education systems differ from the American and English systems. Scotland has its own qualifications system administered by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) which covers the curriculum from secondary to higher education. The first SQA qualification is usually the "Standard Grade" (broadly equivalent to the GCSE in England) covering a wide range of subjects. At roughly the same time (age 16/11 years of education), a Scottish student will take also a series of "O level" examinations covering subjects (s)he has specialized in during the preceding 2 years. American students who have not studied here for those years may find it difficult but not impossible to pass "O levels" and receive a Scottish Certificate of Education (SCE), indicating completion of the minimum level of secondary education.

After Standard Grade and "O levels," students can follow the "Higher Still" program which offers a broad range of subjects, academic and vocational, at fifth and sixth year. Those wishing to attend university will take exams called "Highers" and "Advanced Highers." Successful completion of "Highers" is required for entrance to Scottish universities and recognized for entrance throughout Britain. Scottish students may also take "A level" exams like those given in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

To enroll children in a nonfee paying government school, parents should approach the school in their catchment area (school district). Information on these schools is available from: Scottish Executive Education Department, Victoria Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6QQ. Telephone [44]-(131)-556-8400.

Information on Scottish private/independent schools can be found in the SCIS/ISIS Directory of Independent Schools in Scotland: SCIS/ISIS (Scotland), 21 Melville Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7PE. Phone: [44] (131) 220-2106. Fax: [44] (131) 225-8594. E-mail:

Well-respected independent schools include:

The Edinburgh Academy Junior School (age 3-11 boys) 10 Aboretum Road, Edinburgh, EH3 5PL. Phone: [44] (131) 552-3690. Fax: [44] (131) 551-2660. E-mail: Web site:

The Edinburgh Academy (age 11-18 boys, coed in sixth form) 42 Henderson Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5BL. Phone: [44] (131) 556-4603. Fax: [44] (131) 556-9353. E-mail: Web site:

Fettes College (age 8-18: co-ed) Carrington Road, Edinburgh, EH4 1QX. Phone: [44] (131) 332-2281. E-mail: Web site:

George Heriot's School (age 3-18: coed) Lauriston Place, Edinburgh, EH3 9EQ. Phone: [44] (131) 229-7263. E-mail: Web site:

George Watson's College (age 3-18: coed) Colinton Road, Edinburgh, EH10 5EG. Phone: [44] (131) 447-7931. E-mail: Web site:

The Mary Erskine and Stewart's Melville Junior School (age 3-12: coed) Queensferry Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3EZ. Phone: [44] (131) 332-0888. E-mail: Web site:

Stewart's Melville College (age 12-18: boys, coed in sixth year) Queensferry Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3EZ. Phone: [44] (131) 332-7925. E-mail: Web site:

The Mary Erskine School (age 12-18: girls, coed in sixth year) Ravelston, Edinburgh, EH4 3NT. Phone: [44] (131) 337-2391. E-mail: Web site:

St. George's School for Girls (age 2-18, day/boarding) Garscube Terrace, Edinburgh, EH12 6BG. Phone: [44] 131 332-4575. E-mail: Website:


Dependent Education

Away From Post Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM See Dependent Education under London.


Special Needs Education Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Children with special educational needs can be taught in a range of different educational settings, according to their needs. Mainstream Government schools are able and encouraged to accommodate special needs children, when appropriate, by calling on a wide range of available specialists and auxiliary support. Specialized schools are also available. Special needs education information can be obtained from:

ENQUIRE, Princes House, 5 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh, EH2 4RG. Helpline: [44] (131)-222-2400. E-mail:

For gifted children, information can be obtained from:

National Association for Gifted Children (Scotland) Advice Line Telephone: [44] (1908)-673677. Website:


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Scotland has 13 universities, 6 specialist higher education institutions, and 45 colleges of further education. Four universities are in Edinburgh. Edinburgh University and the Lothian Regional Council, in particular, offer excellent evening adult classes in a wide range of subjects, including languages, usually October-May. With the University of Edinburgh, three cultural offices (the French, Italian, and Danish Institutes) offer language classes. Traditional dancing is taught regularly by the Scottish Country-Dance Society.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The home of golf, Scotland has many fine private and public golf courses, and temporary memberships are available in all but the most select clubs. The climate allows golf to be played year round. Edinburgh has seven courses. Edinburgh also has many tennis clubs, health clubs and good squash and basketball courts. Memberships to these clubs are available at a minimum cost.

Several indoor pools are open to the public at nominal fees. The Meadowbank Sports Center and the Royal Commonwealth Pool are within a mile of the Consulate General. The cool climate limits outdoor swimming to a short time in summer. Fine beaches within easy reach are suitable for picnicking and sunbathing. Several equestrian schools are close and reasonably priced. The countryside offers opportunities for whitewater canoeing, pony trekking, fishing (salmon, trout), hunting (deer) and shooting (grouse, pheasant).

Scotland has five ski resorts. Snowfall is usually consistent November to May. Snowboarding and cross-country skiing are possible. Slopes can be reached by car in about 3 hours and by train in about 4. Equipment can be rented. Open year round, the ski and snowboarding center at Hillend, Edinburgh, boasts Europe's longest artificial ski slope.

The most popular spectator sports are rugby and football (soccer). There is also horse, motorcycle and auto racing. Scotland has an American football team, the Claymores, which plays in an international league.

Scotland is famous for its annual Highland Games. The best known and largest is held in September at Braemar, in the Highlands.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Scotland's variety of scenery—from moorland, forests and green hills to lochs, glens and coastlines—makes it ideal for hill walking and touring.

Those touring Scotland will find tourist accommodations available in all cities and towns. Bed and breakfasts and guesthouses are plentiful and reasonably priced. Bigger hotels tend to be expensive with less charm. Many interesting castles, palaces, and stately homes are within a 1-day drive. Castles dot the landscape. Glasgow (Scotland's New York) is only 1 hour away by train or car. Outside these great cities is an amazingly varied landscape.

To the west are the mountains, moor, and heather of the Western Highlands and easy access to the lovely island of Skye and the Western Isles. The west coast of Scotland, highlighted by the town of Fort William, has attractive coastal resorts and beautiful scenery.

Just to the north of Edinburgh, across the Firth of Forth's famous road and rail bridges, is Dunfermline boasting a medieval abbey and home of Andrew Carnegie. One can follow the Malt Whisky Trail of distilleries by the River Spey or tour the Trossachs, the gateway to the Highlands, in a day by car or tour bus. Farther north one can investigate the elusive Loch Ness monster, the awesome expanses of the Highlands, and the Shetland and Orkney Islands—more Norse than Scottish.

In the northeast are the granite city of Aberdeen (Scotland's oil capital and home to its largest American population) and St. Andrews with its university and famous golf courses. It can be reached from Edinburgh with ample time for lunch and a game of golf.

To the southwest are moorlands, lochs, and hills, the haunt of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns, and to the southeast are the castles, forests, and glens of the Borders.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

There is an active cultural life in Edinburgh. Opera, orchestras, plays, and exhibitions take place throughout the year. Movie theaters show current U.S. films, and the Film House shows international films.

During the Edinburgh International Festival, the world's largest arts festival, there are brilliantly produced operas, leading ballet companies, symphony orchestra concerts of international caliber, and plays with outstanding casts. Complementing the Festival is the "Fringe" which has countless presentations of cabaret, musical comedy, and drama. The International Film Festival features a number of first showings, with leading performers usually in attendance on opening night. There is also a Jazz Festival and a Youth Festival in Aberdeen. All in August.

Edinburgh boasts excellent museums including the National Gallery of Scotland, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and the National Museum of Antiquities. The Scottish National Library, Edinburgh Public Library, and university libraries offer a wide selection of books, research materials, and music.

Hotels offer shows and dancing throughout the year. During the tourist season, major hotels have Scottish parties called Ceilidhs (pronounced "kay-lee"), which include traditional dancing, singing, and music.

There are many pubs and restaurants/bistros/cafes. Some offer musical entertainment including jazz and even country-western music. There is a wide range of international cuisine, e.g., Scottish, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Mexican, French and Italian.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM Americans are largely well integrated into the local community. Some social contact is available through the American Women's Club of Central Scotland and the English-Speaking Union (ESU) in Edinburgh. There is also a large U.S. community and American Women's Club in the Aberdeen area.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities

International Contacts Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM The Edinburgh-Leith Consular Corps now includes representatives from 41 countries, of which 13 are represented by career diplomats and 28 by honorary consuls. The principal officer is included (often with spouse) in receptions and dinners hosted by Consular Corps colleagues as well as by business and cultural organizations, Parliament, the Scottish Executive, and local government.

The city has a reasonably active social life. Cocktail and small dinner parties, receptions and black-tie functions are a way of life in winter. Scottish country-dance clubs teach regional dances and, at the same time, provide a means of social contact. Rotary Clubs and other special interest and social clubs are also available.

Official Functions Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The recent devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Executive has heightened Edinburgh's stature as a capital and brought with it an increase in the number of accredited diplomats, official visitors, and official and representational functions. Important national, civic, and organizational occasions; foreign national days, and hospitality for U.S. visitors often occasion 2-hour weekday receptions. Annual dinners are held by many private and public sector institutions and frequently require black tie. The principal officer receives numerous invitations to these and many other events.

Edinburgh, as capital of Scotland, has an air of reserve that is especially evident in its social functions. The formal dinner, for example, follows an almost ritualistic procedure, with top table guests announced and piped into the room, a dram presented to the piper, and a series of toasts beginning with the Loyal Toast "To the Queen." Symbols of national culture-bagpipes, kilts, etc. are natural components of social functions, and Scottish country dancing is often an integral part of evening balls.

Official Functions

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Invitations to important functions usually specify dress, for example lounge suit (business suit) or black tie (tuxedo). Invitations are sent substantially in advance of the event, and a prompt response is expected. It is customary to be on time or not more than a few minutes late.

The newly arrived principal officer makes formal calls on the First Minister; the Presiding Officer of the Parliament; the Secretary of State for Scotland; several Scottish Ministers; the Lord Provosts of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, and Aberdeen; the heads of the three British military services in Scotland; the Chief Constables of Police for Strathclyde and Lothians and Borders; and the Dean of the Consular Corps.

Calling cards are not required for protocol purposes, but they are very useful for all official and business contacts. Officers may wish to bring a supply or have cards printed here or at the Embassy.

Special Information Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

Post Orientation Program

Edinburgh has no formal orientation program. Personnel generally have 3 working days consultation at Embassy London en route post. The principal officer should make every effort to consult also with his/her predecessor. The Embassy provides administrative (GSO, FMO, HRDO, and MED) support services.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

London is a major hub for international travel. Air and sea routes cover all corners of the globe. Britain is served by modern ferries and hydrofoil service to mainland Europe, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, linking to the respective road and rail systems. The Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) provides a further link to Continental Europe with direct passenger rail service from London to Paris, Brussels and other European cities. There is also motor-rail service through the Chunnel several times an hour from Folkestone in southeast England to Calais in France; the trip takes 35 minutes.

Most employees and dependents arrive in Great Britain by air. United Airlines, American Airlines, TWA, Continental, Northwest, U.S. Air, and Delta offer direct scheduled flights from the U.S. to London. Personnel generally arrive at Heathrow International Airport, about a 1-hour drive west of London. TWA, Northwest, Delta, U.S. Air and most continental flights arrive into Gatwick International Airport, about a 1½-hour drive south of London. Both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports have express rail links to central London. A representative from your office may meet you upon arrival, provide assistance with customs and immigration formalities, and provide transportation and accommodations.

Porters or trolleys are available at all ports, railway stations, and airports. Depending on the size of bag and distance carried, it is usual to tip at a rate of £1 per suitcase.

Employees assigned to Belfast or Edinburgh usually transit through London en route. Advise the Embassy of transit date, time, and flight number. Consultations and arrangements for arrival assistance will then be made.

Plan to arrive at post during the workweek and not on weekends or British or American holidays. Upon arrival at the Embassy in London, you will be asked to complete an application for a UK Foreign Office identity card. Photos are required for identity cards for employees, spouses and dependents 16 and older. (Note: The age of majority in the UK is 18 years. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office does not normally consider children over the age of 18 to be part of the official family unit unless the child is attending school, at least part time, in the UK and residing as a member of the official family.) A photograph is also required for each employee and dependent 10 years of age or older for the uniformed services identification and privileges ("commissary") card. Bring four passport-sized photographs of employees and dependents.

Airfreight normally arrives in 2-4 days from the U.S. and customs clearance takes about 5-7 days. Surface shipments from the U.S. take about 3-4 weeks, with customs formalities requiring 10-14 days. Surface shipments of household effects take 6-8 weeks to arrive in Belfast from Washington, D.C. No special items need be included in unaccompanied baggage.

Storage is available at several reputable warehouses permitting temporary storage of household effects until housing is arranged.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The U.S. and the UK are signatory nations to the Vienna convention on diplomatic immunities and privileges. Within that framework, the British Government grants all U.S. personnel duty-free entry privileges for household effects, car(s), personal baggage, and packages. The Embassy arranges documentation for importation of these goods.

Duty-free clearance of personal effects is routine, but do not include firearms in checked baggage, due to strict firearms control laws. See Firearms and Ammunition.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Passage Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

A visa is not required to enter the UK. However, post administration asks that all officially assigned employees carry a copy of their travel orders should UK Immigration authorities ask for additional identification. Evidence of immunization against any disease is generally not required. You and your family should have current inoculations for polio, tetanus, diphtheria-pertussis, and measles.

If you are coming from areas where an epidemic has occurred, you may be required to present evidence of immunization against the disease in question. Such procedures are placed in effect on short notice. If they are in effect when an assignment is announced, the Embassy will advise you in advance of your arrival.

Insure cars and household effects against damage and loss. Arrange surface shipment of car(s) and household effects from the U.S. through the U.S. Despatch Agent, in conjunction with the Supply and Transportation Division (A/LM/OPS/TTM, Room 1244, telephone 202-647-4160), Department of State. From other locations, address consignments to:

American Embassy London, UK "For (name of owner)"

Send advance notice of such shipments to the Embassy for planning purposes. Port facilities in London are adequate for shipments of any size.

Special arrangements for shipping effects to Belfast are unnecessary. Shipments are routed via Liverpool. Rules governing shipments through U.S. Despatch Agents apply.

Domestic Staff. If you plan to employ domestic staff from abroad who are not UK nationals, UK permanent residents, or EEA nationals (basically EU plus Scandinavia and Switzerland), you are responsible for completing specific application paperwork and your domestic staff member must obtain an entry visa before coming to post. Currently, au pair visas are subject to different limitations than other household staff (e.g., au pair visas are limited to a total of 2 years). For information on the visa application procedures, please refer to London's Welcome to Post Cable or write the Human Resources and Development Office.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Pets Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

There is a concerted effort on the part of the UK Government to prevent the entry of rabies into the UK. All dogs, cats, and other mammals entering Britain must either undergo 6 calendar months' quarantine in government-approved kennels or qualify for a waiver/pet passport. To qualify a pet must have been living in an approved country (mostly EU) for at least the length of the quarantine time and fulfill all other requirements. For more up to date information see the GSO intranet site or write 6-10 weeks before departure to:

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Hook Rise South Tolworth Surbiton Surrey KT6 7HF

Application forms will be sent by return mail. Please send a copy of all such letters to the Embassy's GSO.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The UK has strict gun-control laws, and importing firearms is extremely complicated. You should consider storing all firearms in the U.S. before coming to post. Chief of Mission permission is required before firearms are shipped to post.

Licensing of firearms in the UK is controlled by the Police. Restrictions exist on the type and number of weapons that may be possessed by an individual. Applicants for a license must be prepared to show 'good reason' why they require each weapon.

The weapon must be stored in accordance with Police guidelines in a Police-approved gun safe, and Police will interview all applicants at their home address to assess their suitability. Background checks will also be carried out.

There are two types of licenses (some fees may apply):

a) Shotgun Certificate (SGC) b) Firearms Certificate (FAC)

The Shotgun Certificate covers sporting guns which are defined in the UK as:

Double barreled shotguns with a barrel length of over 24 inches, or Pump action/Semi-automatics with a permanent magazine capacity of two rounds (three including one in the breach) and a barrel length of over 24 inches.

The only types of Firearms that may be possessed in the UK are the following:

a) .22 caliber Semi-Automatic Rifles b) Bolt Action Rifles c) High Capacity Pump/Auto Shotguns d) Flare Pistols

Ammunition for firearms is also controlled and must be stored separately from the weapon.

Once in-country, all firearms must be stored either with a Registered Firearms Dealer or in a British Standard Gun Cabinet bolted to a load-bearing wall. Police will inspect the gun cabinet prior to issuance of a certificate.

SGC applications are required to be signed by a UK resident who has known the applicant, personally, for at least two years. For a FAC two references are required.

Air Rifles of under 12 foot/lbs. muzzle energy and air pistols/pellets guns of under 6 foot/lbs. energy are not subject to control. More powerful rifles are subject to FAC control and more powerful pistols are prohibited.

All CS/OC pepper sprays are prohibited articles in the UK.

Inform the Embassy General Services Office at the earliest opportunity of your intention to ship firearms. Report how the firearm will arrive and the following information:

Proof of ownership, Make or manufacturer of firearm(s), Serial Number(s), Caliber, Number of rounds of ammunition in your possession, Type of ammunition, Estimate the number of rounds to be used and purchased during your tour.

If you ship firearms to the UK you must arrange for them to be collected from UK customs at the weapons' point of entry by a UK Registered Firearms Dealer and stored until such time as you acquire the correct certification (either SGC or FAC). You will be responsible for the expenses incurred for this service which in 2002 ranged from $75-$200 for picking up the weapons from Customs and $20-$40 per month per firearm for storage. These cost estimates are approximate and could be higher at the time you ship firearms.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

The UK monetary system is based on the pound sterling (œ). The pound is divided into 100 pence (pennies). All transactions are made using coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 pence and £1, and bills in denominations of 5, 10, 20, and 50 pounds.

The British pound is on a floating rate of exchange against the U.S. dollar. It currently is in the range about of $0.66 = £1 (June 2, 2002).

Since 2000, the British officially use the metric system. Human weight, however, is expressed in stones (one stone=14 lbs.). Food items are still measured in both metric and imperial (pounds and ounces) systems. Gasoline is measured in liters, but road distances and speed are measured in miles.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM


No monetary controls are imposed for importation or exportation of British or foreign currencies.

Items imported duty free may not be sold without permission of UK authorities. When sold, they may be subject to payment of customs duty and value-added tax.


Maintain a checking account in an American bank. A checking account in a UK bank is also desirable for paying monthly bills and making large purchases.

The Embassy has an in-house contract bank which will open accounts for all employees. The branch office is open 5 days a week at the Embassy. Deposits, withdrawals, and international currency conversions may be made at the prevailing exchange rate.

Travelers checks are widely accepted throughout Great Britain. Credit cards are widely used in Great Britain and are readily available from several sources. Most large stores and restaurants accept major credit cards. Most official Americans exchange currency by withdrawing it from their U.S. account through an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). ATMs on American banking systems are widely available and the rates of exchange offered are competitive.

All U.S. personnel assigned to the Embassy or the Consulates General are paid salary and allowances by direct deposit every other Thursday. Checks for other agencies are prepared and distributed by regional centers located in Washington, Britain, or Italy. The Embassy will advise you on setting up bank accounts, cashing checks, and making desired salary allotments.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Great Britain Britain 2001: The Official Handbook of the United Kingdom. Office for National Statistics, The Stationary Office 2000 (published annually).

A History of Britain Vol 1: At the end of the World? 3000 BC-AD 1603. Simon Schama. Hyperion: New York, 2000.

A History of Britain Vol 2: The British Wars 1603-1776. Simon Schama. Hyperion: New York, 2000.

This Sceptred Isle: 55 BC-1901 & This Sceptred Isle Vol 2: The Twentieth Century. Christopher Lee, Penguin Books: 1998 & 1999.

Fighting With Allies: America and Britain in Peace and War. Robin Renwick, Macmillan Press 1996

Over Here. Raymond Seitz. Weidenfeld & Nicholson: 1998.

Muddling Through: Power, Politics and the Quality of Government in Postwar Britain. Peter Hennessy, Victor Gollancz: 1996.

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes. Jonathan Rose, Yale University Press: 2001.

England The English: A Portrait of a People. Jeremy Paxman. Penguin Books: 1999.

London: A Social History. Roy Porter. Penguin Books: 2000.

London: The Biography. Peter Ackroyd. Chatto & Windus: 2000.

Scotland The Scottish Nation: 1799-2000. T.M. Devine. Penguin Books: 2000.

Scotland: A New History. Michael Lynch. Pimlico, 1992.

The Scottish Parliament. Brian Taylor. Polygon at Edinburgh, 1999.

Northern Ireland A History of Northern Ireland 1920-1996. Thomas Hennessey. St. Martins: 1997.

Making Peace. George J. Mitchell. University of California Press: 2001.

Wales A History of Wales. John Davies. Penguin Books: 1994.

There are a number of encyclopedias of Britain. These include Hutchinson: The Encyclopedia of Britain, Helicon Press: 1999 and Encyclopedia of Britain, Bamber Gascoigne, MacMillan: 1993.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 10/31/2002 6:00 PM

In addition to the nine American holidays established by Congress, Foreign Service posts in Great Britain observe local holidays according to the following schedule:


Good Friday Easter Monday May Day Holiday (1st Mon. in May) Spring Holiday (usually, 4th Mon. in May and coincides with U.S. Memorial Day) Summer Bank Holiday (4th Monday in August) Boxing Day (1st workday after Christmas Day)


St. Patrick's Day (Mar. 17) Good Friday Easter Monday and Tuesday May Day Holiday (1st Mon. in May) Spring Holiday (usually, 4th Mon. in May and coincides with U.S. Memorial Day) Orangeman's Days (2nd Thurs and Fri in July) Summer Bank Holiday (4th Monday in Aug.) Boxing Day (1st workday after Christmas)


Bank Holiday (Jan. 2) Good Friday Easter Monday Spring Holiday (April 15, 2002) May Day Holiday (1st Mon. in May) Victoria Day (3rd Mon. in May) Spring Holiday (usually, 4th Mon. in May and coincides with U.S. Memorial Day) Summer Bank Holiday (4th Mon. in August) Autumn Holiday (3rd Mon. in September) Boxing Day (1st workday after Christmas Day)

All public offices, banks, and stores are closed on these local holidays.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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