If you're thinking of making a move to Shetland you've probably got lots of questions about what the place is like and what to expect when you get here. To help you with your decision, we've compiled a list of the common questions we get asked and our honest answers...

  • What’s living in Shetland like?

    This is a common question and one that doesn’t have an easy answer! In a nutshell, Shetland is a friendly place to live with inclusive and welcoming local communities and a thriving economy. We offer a safe and welcoming haven for people from all walks of life.

    Rather than us reel off all the reasons we love Shetland ­– as you know we’ll be a little biased – check out the experiences of some of our islanders in our Why Shetland? area of the website.

    If you have any specific questions about life in Shetland, join our Living and Working in Shetland Facebook page, and for the latest industry news and job opportunities, follow our Living and Working in Shetland LinkedIn page.

  • What are the benefits of moving to Shetland?

    Shetland offers something for everybody, young and old, and there are lots of reasons people choose to move here. Some are attracted by the islands’ exceptional scenery and wildlife. Others come here for a year or two to study or because taking a job here is a logical career move – and 10, 20, 40 years later, they’re still here, having found a settled home and lifelong friendships in a magical place. Then there are others who are looking for a better quality of life for themselves and their families, which they find in Shetland’s first-rate education, culture and leisure facilities and inclusive, supportive community.

    If you’re used to the stresses of a busy town or city, Shetland definitely offers a more relaxed pace of life and an opportunity to achieve the perfect work/life balance.

    For more great incentives, read 21 reasons to move to Shetland.

  • What is there to do in Shetland?

    There’s so much to see and do in Shetland that you will never grow bored. We have impressive landscapes, coastlines and wildlife right here on our doorstep – not to mention the freshest of air and crystal-clear waters. If you’re interested in natural history, this is one of the best places to live in northern Europe. There’s also a fascinating human heritage to explore, whether your interests lie in archaeology, history or folklore.

    If you’re creatively inclined, you’ll find yourself in the company of artists, writers, poets, photographers, musicians, architects, textile designers and a whole range of craftspeople. There’s also a varied programme of theatre, music and arts to keep you entertained during the winter months. If active living is your thing, we have a huge range of indoor and outdoor facilities to keep you fit and healthy all year round.

    For more inspiration and real life stories, browse the features in our Why Shetland? tab.

  • How does Shetland differ from other parts of Scotland?

    Shetland has similar services and facilities to those found in mainland Scotland – schools, public transport, supermarkets, cinemas, leisure facilities and so on – but the scale and quality of those facilities is better than you’d expect in a comparable rural area. If you’re used to being stuck in traffic on the way to work or crammed on a busy train, you’ll be pleased to hear there are none of those commuting stresses here. The only reason you might be late is if you stop to watch an otter or a pod of orcas at play! (See Joanna’s commute video for a taste of what we mean!)

    Then there’s the strength and warmth of the community; Shetland has been welcoming people for centuries. And, despite Ann Cleeves’ murder mystery novels – and the popular ‘Shetland’ TV series based on them – we have one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, making it a great place to raise young families.

    Our northerly latitude means that in the summer we can enjoy up to 19 hours of sunshine a day, meaning there’s plenty of time to make the most of the great outdoors. And, in winter, even though the days are shorter, you have the opportunity to see the thrilling aurora borealis, or northern lights.

  • Is it easy to find work in Shetland?

    Shetland has a thriving local economy with a total output worth £1 billion. Employers are always on the lookout for enthusiastic workers and there is a range of opportunities available at all levels of employment. Primary and secondary teachers, social care workers, administration staff, accountants, hospitality workers, nurses, fish processors and aquaculture specialists are just some of the types of job available.

    Growing industries in Shetland include fishing and aquaculture, tourism, hospitality, renewable energy, oil and gas, and the creative arts. There are also opportunities to work for the NHS and for the Shetland Islands Council. See our Current vacancies and Find a job pages for the latest posts.

    If you run your own business or are looking to set up a new enterprise, there’s plenty of assistance available locally, too. Check our Run a business page for more information.

  • Where can I find a place to stay in Shetland?

    Shetland offers many kinds of housing, from coastal locations with stunning views to cosy town houses with easy access to shops and amenities. There are many options in between, too.

    If you're looking for a home in Shetland, we recommend you plan a visit here first to get an idea of the different areas and what would best suit your requirements. If that's not an option, many people rent a property for their first few months until they get a feel for the place and familiarise themselves with the different communities and transport links.

    For more information on finding a place to stay, see our Housing page.

  • Are there good transport links to and from Shetland?

    Flights fly in and out of Shetland regularly from Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Kirkwall, plus there are seasonal flights to Manchester and Bergen. If you move to Shetland permanently, you can benefit from the Air Discount Scheme, which is operated by the Scottish Government. Currently, non-business travellers enjoy a 50% discount on the fare, though not on the additional taxes and charges.

    Shetland is also accessible by ferry, with departures seven nights a week in both directions on the Aberdeen to Lerwick route all year round, with three calls a week at Kirkwall, Orkney, on route. If you live in Shetland, you can apply for an Islander card. This gives you discount on standard fares for passengers and non-commercial passenger accompanied vehicles. You will also benefit from 20% off a range of on board purchases. For full details and to apply for an Islander card, visit the NorthLink Ferries website.

    If you’re thinking of moving here permanently, check out Planning your move pages for more information on topics like moving your belongings and moving with pets.

  • What are the public services like?

    Our public services are of a high standard. If you have children, they’ll receive excellent free education in some of the best-equipped schools in the country. We’ve also got two colleges, offering a range of subjects. Our local NHS reaches every corner of the islands. Shetland has excellent roads and convenient internal ferries and bus services.

    When it comes to shopping, there are two main supermarkets in the town of Lerwick and another in Brae, in the north mainland. There are also lots of great independent shops selling local food, drink, homeware and gifts. Online shopping is popular, too, with most retailers happy to send products direct to Shetland.

  • What are broadband speeds like in Shetland?

    High speed broadband is available in the isles’ most populated areas, with good connections capable of handling online streaming services. Some of the more remote areas of Shetland don’t yet enjoy the same high speeds but broadband roll-out is continually progressing. Our network of 4G mobile phone coverage is also improving all the time, across the range of providers.

  • What is the weather like in Shetland?

    Shetland has the most extraordinary light and a calm sunny day is a truly magical experience. The sun shines and the sea is like a mirror, creating complete stillness and tranquillity. In July and August, temperatures average between 14°C and 18°C, but on some days, it can climb into the low to mid 20s – much like the rest of Scotland.

    There's usually a light breeze and, in winter, wind speeds can reach up to 60-70 miles per hour. The sight of huge waves crashing on cliffs, spray rising a hundred feet in the air and the taste of salt on your lips are all part of the Shetland experience; it is spectacular and invigorating.

    Winter temperatures tend to be mild. Frost is much less common than farther south and heavy snow is rare. Annual rainfall is around 1220mm, not very different from much of western Britain.

    Shetland’s weather can be changeable – sometimes you’ll experience four seasons in a single day – but it’s all part of the islands’ enduring beauty and charm.

    Read our blog on Shetland’s weather for more information.

  • What is the cost of living like in Shetland?

    There’s no hard and fast answer to this, but here’s what we can tell you…

    House prices, particularly in rural areas, tend to be lower than in other parts of the UK, as are home insurance and council tax rates. Heating bills may be slightly higher due to our cooler climate, but many of our modern houses are built to Scandinavian standards of insulation and feature efficient heating systems.

    Our shops and supermarkets charge much the same as in the rest of the UK, although some stores may be slightly more expensive for everyday items. Cinema, performance and sports’ facilities are very affordable, too, and we have excellent free schools and nurseries.

    If you intend to make frequent visits to friends and relatives on the UK mainland, the fares will mount up; but if you’re currently spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on your annual commute, that saving needs to be factored in.

    Local residents benefit from substantial discounts on air and ferry services. If you’re driving, petrol and diesel fuel are a little more expensive, but they’re comparable with most other rural areas in the UK.

We hope we’ve answered some of your immediate questions about living in Shetland but, if you have a more specific query about moving here, please join our Living and Working in Shetland Facebook group. This is a forum for people who have recently moved to Shetland, and those thinking of moving here in the near future. Feel free to join and ask any questions.

For more on living and working in Shetland, plus the latest job opportunities, sign up for our newsletter.

We look forward to welcoming you.