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Buying British Goods Online

By: Maggie Lonsdale BA (hons) - Updated: 25 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
British Online Website Products Diy

Even if you plan to fully embrace the culture and lifestyle of the country you’re visiting when working abroad, it is certainly the case that some products you’re used to buying the UK will either be unavailable or considerably more expensive. Although you can try to find alternatives, this process can be expensive and frustrating while you’re looking, so if you’re not planning to spend more than a year or so in your chosen country, it may be worth while buying some products from the UK.

It is also worth noting that some products overseas are either more expensive than those in the UK, or lower quality, or, in the case of paint in France, both. It can be hard to know what products are more expensive or harder to find overseas than in the UK, so here is a general guideline for products that are good quality, reliable and good value in the UK and can be bought online and shipped overseas.


This is a tricky topic for buying online because it has a reputation for being a bit dodgy. Although it is certainly not a good idea to buy medication from unauthorised sites, buying medical products from recognised websites can save a fortune. A good rule of thumb is to see what other products the site is selling, what reviews there are and whether there is a UK phone number and contact information. All websites selling medication also need to have a registered pharmacist available, so this is a good question to ask.

Many online chemists allow you to post, fax or scan and email a copy of a UK prescription to them in order to have your medication delivered, which can be convenient, but the real savings are to be hard in ‘over the counter’ medicines. In Europe particularly, products that we in the UK are used to buying quickly and easily, such as pain killers, vitamins, antiseptic and indigestion tablets, are at least three times the price and have to be bought in a pharmacy. So not only does it cost more, but you can’t just pick it up of the shelf – you have to ask in another language.


There are a number of reasons why it makes sense to buy your clothing online from British retailers. Firstly, the British ‘high street’ is much envied as there is not really an equivalent in other countries, so the good value, good styling of high street names is often hard to find. Many British retailers now offer international delivery and, with the terrible Euro/Sterling exchange rate, can help save a small fortune.

The sizing is also more likely to be suitable. If you’ve bought clothes in the UK from Spanish, French or Italian brands you will know how depressing it is when the European ‘extra large’ is barely a UK 14!

Electrical Items

Although you will probably need to be able to change a plug, buying electrical items from recognised UK-based retailers can be particularly cost effective. This is largely because the UK market is more competitive, so better deals are available, but also because people in the UK buy these types of products more often, so they are better value. Just remember to ensure they are safe for use in your country – transformers are often required in the UK to ‘step down’ British electrical goods.

Building Supplies

In much the same way as electrical items, building supplies are usually far more expensive in Europe as other Europeans are rarely as bothered about DIY and decorating their homes as we are in the UK! Consequently, the vast majority of DIY related items – paint, tiles, carpets, curtains, fittings etc – are not only more expensive but far less stylish! The choice is nowhere near as wide as in the UK and the costs are higher, so either live as the Europeans do and leave it as it is, or have your DIY items sent from the UK.

UK Delivery Services

There is a whole load of delivery services popping up all over Europe, particularly in areas where there are plenty of expats. These services act as a ‘hub’ for delivery of UK products, including groceries, furniture and whatever else you can think of, and then make weekly deliveries to Europe. This has been largely driven by the dire exchange rate, particularly as it is affecting expats on a set budget, and charges a percentage of the cost of your order. They can be a good way to save money, although this is unlikely to be a long-term answer.

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