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When you think of South East England, you naturally think of the behemoth that is London. London – with its skyscrapers, busy trains and expense – is often seen as the Holy Grail for job-seekers across the UK. Hence there’s plenty of interest in living in London. But, with the sky-rocketing London rents, the rest of the South East is becoming increasingly popular.

The South East is a varied and interesting part of the country, with great countryside, excellent coastal towns and plenty of places that rank among the best places to live in the UK for all manner of reasons. Whether you’re after hip and trendy centres like Brighton and Margate, or prefer the laidback and secluded nature of the New Forest, South East England has it all.

So, in light of this area’s excellence, let’s take a look at just what it is that makes South East England one of the best places to live in the UK.

South East England: Careers and Jobs

With a 2017 population of over nine million people, South East England is the most populated area of the country. Unsurprisingly, given its close proximity to the capital, South East England is stacked with commuter towns that have regular (but not reliable!) train links to London, and plenty of people move to this area for its high salaries and good career prospects. According to Adzuna, the average South East England salary stands at £33,085, which is around £6000 higher than the UK average of £27,271.

In terms of career prospects, South East England is less reliant on the public sector. It has a varied economy that includes industries such as ICT, pharmaceuticals, biotech, healthcare, high-tech engineering and aerospace. There’s also plenty of people that work within the financial and creative industries that are currently booming in London, with over 3 million people commuting to the capital on a daily basis.

While the salaries may be higher in the South East, the area is also more expensive than the rest of the country when it comes to living costs. The Money Advice Service reports that the people of the South East come second to Londoners when it comes to living costs, with the residents spending an average total of £632.20 a week. Not only that, but properties in the South East also cost more than the national average, with the average property costing you a cool £324,530 – nearly £100,000 higher than the national average of £243,639.

It may be expensive, but the South East has a lot going for it and it’s easy to see why so many people flock to the area. A region that consists of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey and West Sussex, South East England contains areas of outstanding natural beauty and significant cultural landmarks, cities and towns.

The Sights and Sounds of the South East

If you’re a lover of nature, South East England has some the best landscapes the UK has to offer. The New Forest, the South Downs and the Kent Coastline are areas recognised internationally and should feature highly on the itinerary of any visitor to the United Kingdom.

If you’re after wild horses, idyllic glades and ancient woodlands, the New Forest has it all (and more!) in abundance. A million miles away from the hustle and bustle of London – but only 90 minutes on the train – the New Forest is a place where ponies, cattle and donkeys roam free.

The area invites visitors to get lost in some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. With a host of ancient towns, alongside nearby Southampton and Bournemouth, the New Forest is the perfect combination of seclusion and accessibility, unspoilt by gentrification and commercialisation.

Of course, the New Forest isn’t the only spot of natural beauty in the South East – the area also plays host to the official ‘Garden of England.’ Known for its rolling countryside, fertile farmland and cultivated country estates with fruit-filled orchards, Kent is one of the most sought after locations in the UK and it’s very easy to see why. The perfect combination of countryside and coastline, Kent has everything you could want from a home county, plus it has fantastic transport links to London.

The famous white cliffs of Dover form the backdrop to many Kent postcards and will be a familiar sight to those who arrive in the UK by ferry. But, alongside the ancient cliffs, Kent also boasts a number of seaside towns. Growing in popularity, these are become some of the UK’s leading creative hubs. Known as ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea,’ the small seaside town of Margate is becoming popular with young creatives who are being priced out of London and seeking a way to live more affordably.

Margate’s creative boom arrived after the 2011 opening of the Turner Contemporary — an art gallery built at the eastern hook of Margate’s beach. According to a report published last year by Thanet District Council, the number of creative businesses in Thanet, the Kent district in which Margate is located, has increased by 84 per cent between 2013 and 2016. The same boom has also swelled the number of artists’ studios. It’s this creative culture in the South East region that marks it out as one of the best areas to live in the UK.

Continuing on the creative and bohemian theme, South East England is home to that internationally recognised bohemian and liberal city Brighton. Known for its accepting nature, brilliant nightlife and booming arts scene, Brighton has often been seen as the epicentre of the UK liberal scene. And it’s popular with young Londoners looking for a cultural hub outside of the ‘Big Smoke.’ With its yearly LBGTQ pride parade and varied collection of club nights, restaurants and activities, Brighton is everything you could want from a city while being compact enough to walk everywhere. It may be known for lentil-eating hippies, but Brighton regularly ranks as one of the happiest places to live in the UK. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for us all.

Brighton is situated within the South Downs in Sussex, an area of the South East known for its rolling hills and bustling market towns. This part of Sussex is steeped in history, with towns such as Chichester and Lewes resembling the ‘Chocolate Box’ England that so many people think of before they arrive on our muddy shores. While Brighton may exercise the biggest pull, the aforementioned towns – alongside the growing popularity of Hastings – make Sussex and the South Downs a varied and cultural hotspot that has become a melting pot for creatives, restaurateurs and start-up businesses.

Local Traditions and Delicacies of South East England

The South East’s is a hamper of traditions and delicacies – so, if you’re moving here, it’s time to roll up your sleeves. Whether you like to dress up in armour and re-enact the Battle of Hastings, or you prefer to head out for a slice of traditional ‘Gypsy Tart,’ there’s something in the area for everyone, and you’ll never get bored of discovering new traditions and landmarks.

The royal history of the South East makes it a hotspot for castles and fortresses alike. Hever Castle, Windsor Castle, Arundel Castle and Dover Castle are all located in various parts of the region and are perfect for an informative and fun family day out. Not only are these castles educational and steeped in history, but their gardens are the perfect backdrop for a lunchtime picnic.

Speaking of food, the South East’s multicultural population means a growing abundance of different delicacies to try. However, an authentic South East England meal involves a lot of pastry, leaving you worrying about your cholesterol levels and calorie count. To start, indulge your taste buds with some traditional Whitstable oysters from the coastline of Kent. The fishing town has been associated with this salty snack for hundreds of years, and even the Normans were known to fish for them here. They may not be for everyone, but oysters are a known aphrodisiac, which may explain why so many people fall in love with the South East.

Once you’ve washed down your oysters, you’re now confronted with three options for your main course – fish and chips or pie and mash, or a Bedfordshire clanger. Like British people themselves, the first two options are pretty self-explanatory and straight to the point. The Bedfordshire clanger, however, is a piece of culinary genius.

The premise of the Bedfordshire clanger is simple: why have one meal when you can have two? The clanger is a ginormous pasty that is savoury at one end and sweet at the other. The savoury end is usually beef and onion, while the sweet end traditionally consists of cooked pears. Clangers were historically a lunchtime snack for agricultural workers, although nowadays they’re a staple of hotels and restaurants across the South East.

Pie and mash is as London as London itself. The dish may go back hundreds of years, but it still retains a huge following across the South East region. Traditional beef pies are served with mounds of mashed potatoes and smothered in ‘liquor’ – a green liquid made up of eel stock and parsley. While the dish has been modernised to include gravy, any southerner worth their salt sticks to liquor and instantly judges someone who does otherwise. If you’re looking for the full South East experience, order a side of jellied eels (yes, Jellied Eels), although, don’t be surprised if you find yourself hunched over a toilet seat a few hours down the line.

Now it’s time for dessert. Strawberries and cream are the archetypal British dessert and you’ll be hard pressed to find better strawberries than those from Kent. Strawberry farmers from Kent have been supplying the strawberries to the Wimbledon tennis championships for years, and they are the best in the country. Mash them together with some cream and a bit of meringue and you’ve got yourself a traditional South East desert.

When it comes to washing your food down, South East England is known for its hops – with history claiming that the first English hop garden was created in Canterbury, Kent. Nowadays, the South East counties of Kent, Suffolk, Surrey and Sussex are home to some of the best hop farms in the country, giving you privileged access to the tastiest beers, ales and ciders currently on the market. This love of beer has fed a boom in micro-breweries across the South East, with craft beer lovers moving out from the city and into the motherland to set up shop and sell their unique, sometimes peculiar, beers.

Moving to South East England? Top Locations

We definitely can’t give you an exhaustive list – but here are our top picks for the South East. And for each one – you’re just one click away from getting 6 free quotes to move there!

Aylesbury

A market town in Buckinghamshire famous for the Aylesbury duck. The town centre contains the Queens Park Centre, the UK’s largest independent arts centre.

Banbury

A market town on the River Cherwell in Oxfordshire, Banbury is home to the Jacobs Douwe Egberts coffee-producing facility – apparently the world’s largest.

Brighton

This south-coast city is famous for its artsy inhabitants and open gay scene. A politically progressive beacon for many reasons, Brighton is home to the UK’s only Green Party MP. Plus it also has the Regency-era architectural curio that is the Brighton Pavilion.

Bromley

Historically a market town located in Kent, Bromley is now a district of south east London. Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was once MP for the town.

Crawley

A town in West Sussex, north of Brighton and south of London. Gatwick Airport is located on the edge of the town.

Croydon

A large town in south London, Croydon has a diverse economy and is well known for its nightlife and restaurants.

Ealing

A western district of Greater London, Ealing has developed a significant retail and commercial economy, including restaurants, nightclubs and bars.

High Wycombe

The second largest town in Buckinghamshire, High Wycombe is commutable for both London (29 miles west), Oxford (27 miles southeast) and Reading (23 miles north east). Situated amidst some pretty countryside, the town is well located for both work and family weekends.

Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes is a new town in Buckinghamshire that incorporates older towns and villages such as Bletchley – the famous site of World War Two codebreakers depicted in movies like The Imitation Game. The town is also home to Marshall, one of the most famous guitar amp makers in the world, responsible for the wild onstage tone of classic rock heroes Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend and Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore.

Oxford

If you’re want to live in an ancient university town, then this is absolutely one of the best places to live in the UK. Oxford houses officially the oldest university in the English-speaking world (founded in 1096), followed by Cambridge (1209), St Andrews and Glasgow. An architectural gem, it also has a very diverse economic base, encompassing tourism, IT, science and research, publishing, and even car manufacturing.

Ruislip

A town in the western part of Greater London, Ruislip is a pretty residential area with many grade II listed buildings, dotted with public parkland and local heritage sites.

Slough

Perhaps most famous for a whole generation as the location of Ricky Gervais comedy series The Office, Slough is a large town in Berkshire, located between Reading, High Wycombe, Maidenhead and Windsor. It’s a popular residence for London commuters and has great rail and road transport links west into the Thames Valley and eastwards to London.

Watford

A town in Hertfordshire that falls within the M25. With its proximity to London, Watford contains a remarkable number of head offices for major national and international firms, from JD Wetherspoons, Mothercare and the Camelot Group to Total Oil, TK Maxx and Hilton Worldwide.

Wimbledon

A district of southwest London, Wimbledon is of course most famous for its annual tennis championship. As well as the Wombles. Wimbledon Common is one of the largest common land areas in London.

Worthing

If you’re moving house to Worthing, then make sure you pack your bucket and spade. A large seaside town on the south coast of West Sussex, Worthing is 10 miles east of Brighton, 16 miles west of Chichester, and commutable to London in the north.

Whatever you’re after from an area, the South East will have it, and will have it in abundance. History, modernisation and nature come together to form a melting pot of culture and diversity unlike anything you get elsewhere in the country. So, whether you’re after a quiet country life or a diverse and developing city, the South East has every option covered. With its coastline, cities and countryside, it’s easy to see why the South East of England ranks as one of the best places to live in the UK.

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