Moving home has always been a stress inducing experience, if you add relocating abroad to the mix the stress levels increase tenfold. However, for years thousands of people from the UK have successfully made their homes in other countries around the globe. Many of these are young professionals, entrepreneurs, and students, but retirees make up a large chunk of these British expats living abroad. Spain is the most popular location for British expat retirees due to the warmer climate and the lower cost of living.
Australia, which presents few challenges in terms of language and culture, and France which is just across the English Channel are both also very popular expat destinations for the young and young at heart.
In recent research by NatWest’s Quality of Life Index however, they have found that a third of British expats on average return home after becoming disappointed and discouraged by their experiences. In a survey completed by returning British expats 67% cited financial difficulties as their reason to return home, while 47% attributed their decision to homesickness, 44% said they had encountered cultural differences, 39% revealed their visas had expired and 27% put the decision down to lack of social interaction.
The top 5 countries from which most British expats return home from are Spain (21%), Greece (11%), Turkey (8%), Australia (7%) and France (6%).
More often than not the idea of moving overseas is portrayed as easy, cheap and romantic in the media, and unfortunately like most things in life moving overseas is far more complicated and requires a lot of planning and cannot be rushed.
Lack of preparation
Some expats simply fail to do enough research and planning before they leave the UK, many over- estimate just how cheap a country such as Spain is, and don’t consider exchange rate changes, charges on international transactions, and a number of other expenses that they wouldn’t experience back in the UK. Many also don’t realise how much it will cost them to relocate and set up in their new location. In a more expensive country like Australia, this can be hard for expats to deal with.
Many expats have the impression that moving abroad will be like an extended holiday, and are oblivious to the harsh realities until they actually get there. People have been known to relocate to countries that they have never even been to until they move, unsurprisingly leading to them eventually being disappointed.
Many expats are wary of the economy in today’s world what with the the turmoil of global banking and the recession make things difficult for all expats in recent years. 92% of expats in Spain are most likely to report dissatisfaction with the current state of the economy (the price of many items has increased, while property values have been going down for instance) and 43% of expats living in The Netherlands believe their country is getting worse as a place to live and work.
The global and local economic climate can make things difficult for expats and for retirees reliant on pensions and savings the effect can be a lot harder. In places like Spain and Greece where there is a downturn in the economy, businesses are struggling, finding work is incredibly difficult and salaries are low.
In the Middle East, many of the once stable Arab nations are less sure of themselves. 37% of expats living in Bahrain for example, are looking to leave due to instability.
After the unexpected results of the 2016 Referendum, two thirds of British expats living in Europe say they are being driven to consider returning home over their concerns for what will happen when the UK leaves the EU. The government has yet to trigger Article 50 and truly begin the negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and with no clear plans announced to the public it is causing confusion and fear for businesses, the economy and expats who won’t know where they stand until the UK finally leave after a 2 year negotiation.
A Brexit may mean that these expats lose their right to public healthcare in their adopted countries, and their pensions and other benefits will also be effected, as well as their right to work. Travel within the EU, obtaining visas and applying for long-term residency could become more difficult. Since the referendum there has been a huge increase in the number of applications for citizenship for British expats trying to find ways of ensuring they can continue to reside in their adoptive countries under the same rights as they currently have. However, at the moment everything involving the Brexit is all guess work and we won’t know the impact until the UK withdraws fully.
Red tape can be an issue for expats in many countries, more so the further afield you go from the UK. India for instance came top in a survey as the worst bureaucratic Asian country. Employed residence and expatriates blamed India’s poor infrastructure, widespread corruption and “fickle” regulations for making business a “frustrating and expensive” affair.
In Thailand, generally foreign nationals are not allowed to own land, therefore anyone planning to buy property or land need to seek legal guidance before committing.
In Spain, 20% of expats living in Spain also saw bureaucracy as a problem facing them especially when it came to the security of their property, in recent news another case has come to light where a couple had their holiday home auctioned off by local authorities without their knowledge, due to a complaint by their Spanish neighbour over damp in their own property which they claimed was caused by the couples adjoining property. (http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2016/10/28/british-expats-forced-to-hand-over-holiday-home-after-spanish-neighbour-buys-it-at-secret-auction/).
High Cost of Living
Utilities, groceries, petrol, housing; all these costs add up, and for the expat, can be a decisive factor in deciding whether to stay or go. 97% of expats surveyed by Natwest’s Quality of Living Index admitted that the cost of living in their chosen country was higher than expected.
Moving to another country can be one of the best and most exciting experiences of someone’s life, but it can also be very stressful. Rates of depression among expats can be up to 50% higher than the general population.
At the heart of expat stress is homesickness, and many, if not all, expats will experience homesickness at some point. 94% of retired expats said they missed their family and friends, while 3 out of 4 said they missed British culture. However, 70% of expats say social media contact with friends and family helps relieve homesickness.
Re-establishing a social life
41% of expats say making friends is a key concern of theirs when moving abroad. Loneliness is an issue for many people, but expats are especially vulnerable to loneliness. 44% of expats surveyed see loneliness as the biggest problem facing expats.
Learning the language of your destination country is a key part to truly settling in, though speaking English can get you by in most situations. 67% of expats living in Switzerland and 58% living in Germany found learning the native language their biggest problem.
There are some expats who relocate with no intention of fully learning the native language or integrating within the local society, and instead expect to enjoy the benefits of the weather and lower cost of living while living in an expat bubble, in the long run this doesn’t always work out for many of these expats especially when problems arise.
For expats moving abroad, on average it takes between 5 and 7 years for them to fully adjust and integrate into their new country, however many expats who become disheartened tend to give in and return home after 3.5 years.
So, although the idea to move overseas is exciting, it is crucial for anyone planning a move abroad to do their research about exactly what living abroad would entail for them to make an informed decision about whether it’s a good move. Once you are fully happy with your decision to move overseas, having researched and visited your chosen destination, Britannia Movers International have dedicated International removal staff on hand to help with your move abroad. There are also various pages on Britannia’s website such as our Ultimate Guide series to help familiarise yourself with your new destination and what to expect, in order to assist you in making the right choice and settle in successfully into your new life abroad.