Moving to Bristol

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Moving to Bristol with preschoolers

September 2006

We are considering a move to Bristol, England. My husband has a job offer. We don't know a whole lot about the area. We have 2 young kids (3 & 4). We need to know about pre-schools and schools. What is it like to live in England? Is it kid friendly? What is there to do with young kids? What is the cost of living like? Everything seems so expensive. It seems like a great opportunity to live abroad for awhile, but we'd love to get any information. Thanks! anon

I'm from London originally but we just spent 2 years in Bristol before deciding to come back to the bay area. I could say so much about the place, both positive and negative, that it would be much easier if you'd like to email me and we can chat. Bristol is a pretty good place to be if you want to be in England. It is a family friendly city, diverse and alternative community minded, surrounded by lovely countryside, and felt a very managable size. It's only 1 1/2 hrs from london on the train. Cost of living is high, but it really depends where you live in the city. I can point you in the direction of some family oriented neighborhoods. Schools are not great in Bristol; secondary schools (high school) are notoriously bad, but may change soon. Basically you have to afford to live in a good neighborhood to get into a good school. But overall I think schools are less inclined towards standardized testing in the UK and still manage to have arts, sports, etc. Our son went to the Streiner (waldorf) school there which has a very good reputation and which we loved, and which - unlike here - is government subsidized up to 5 yrs old. In general nursery school starts at 3 yrs old and - imagine this - is free in the state schools. Primary school starts in the september of the yr your child turns 5. For me though it was hard living there for a few reasons; a long way from the coast, despite how it looks on a map. It's a very racially segregated city. A lot of grey skies and rain. I missed the joy, energy and optimism of bay area folk. Us Brits are much more reserved, overall. I missed eating out (too expensive and not very child friendly, plus the food isn't great). On the other hand; fantastic media, real seasons, long vacations (5 weeks a year generally), all of Europe at your doorstep, and genuine people - when you make a connection with someone it really lasts. Oh, and good beer : ) mcharlton

I was just there last week. I spent 2 days in Portishead, just a few minutes outside Bristol. Portishead has a lovely park and lake with a playground, lots of ducks to be fed, lots of old men sailing remote control sailboats, a path to walk around the lake. There is a teacup ride there, too, and when we were there (on a weekday) and inflatable slide. Bristol is beautiful. Amazing bridge over a gorge. You may be happy to know that there is a children's ER there. We had a very good experience there after my daughter fell down a steep flight of stairs. There is a small zoo just outside Bristol called Noah's Ark Zoo Farm.

It is very expensive. It seemed to me that it was ALMOST the case that what they pay in pounds there, we pay in dollars here, in other words, something that costs one pound there would cost one dollar here, so everything is twice as expensive.

One thing that bothered me was the pervasiveness of smoking. There are just a whole lot more people smoking everywhere there than there are here. susan

I say go for it! Your kids are a perfect age to expose them to new places and people without the challenge of separation you would face if they were a bit older. When I was in junior high school, I lived in England with my family due to a job transfer. I think the hardest part of that for me was my age. I now love England and have been back several times. Be prepared for re- learning how to drive, a very different school system, school uniforms, inability to find some favorite foods (or prohibitive expense when you do find them), and potential loneliness for the parent who isn't working, especially if that parent has to leave a job here to make the move happen. Besides being a beautiful place to explore in its own right, being in England means being in Europe. Going to France can be a similar expense to going to Yosemite for those of us in the Bay Area! Anglophile

Moving to Bristol in England with young kids?

August 2005

We are considering a move to Bristol, England for my husband's work and are looking for any advice on living abroad with small kids (ages 1 1/2 and 3). We figure we will go for at least 3-5 years so they will start school there. Any experience with Bristol? England? Or just generally advice on living abroad? This is something we have always wanted to do and figure it is better to go when the children are young. At the same time, I worry that I will be isolated since I won't know anyone or be able to work (thankfully they speak the same language!). My husband's schedule will be demanding and will require travel so we'll be on our own at times. Ideally, we would take the opportunity to travel as a family but even that seems exhausting with young kids. We are both excited and nervous about the possibility and appreciate any comments...

Hi, We lived in England for about five years and I taught in an elementary school there. Bristol is a lovely city. I haven't lived there since I had my son, but lots of my friends have small children. I think you will have a wonderful experience. A city like Bristol is very child-friendly. A lot of pubs have play areas and the schools for young children are very good. Travelling should also be quite nice because you can travel almost anywhere on a train. I always find train travel nice with small kids because they are not so tied down to their seats and you don't have the stress of driving or navigating. There are lots of kid-friendly things to do if you seek them out too -- berry picking, museums, walks. I never lived in Bristol, but I have friends that do. I lived in London and Oxford. If you have any specific questions feel free to e-mail me. Mandi