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Exploring Top 5 Reasons Why Brits Move to Live Abroad

If you’re already living abroad, can you remember what it was that triggered your desire and decision to move in the first place?  Perhaps you just relocated for a short-term work contract, maybe you hotfooted it after a loved one, or maybe it was always your intention that when you hit retirement you’d make the move?

A new survey of expats has revealed the five most common reasons why we Britons pack up and ship out, and each is very worthy of closer inspection.  If you’re a would-be expat planning a move you always need to ensure that your dreams about your new life overseas are realistic.

In this report we’re going to explore the top 5 reasons why Brits move to live abroad, and see how realistic each one is as a deciding factor behind such a massive change in life.  If you’re planning to relocate, read on to see whether your reasons for moving are common, realistic and achievable…

The Post Office has surveyed a series of expatriates about their lives abroad for what they’re calling their ‘Happiness Index,’ and the broad range of findings are very interesting indeed.  For a start, 70% of all those surveyed stated that they are happy with their new life abroad, with 60% claiming that there is a better sense of community accessible overseas.

With France topping the list of nations chosen by Britons who live abroad and who responded to the Post Office Survey, Spain coming a close second and the US, Australia and Thailand making up the rest of the top five, clearly we Brits go in search of the sun as well as perceived quality of life when looking for a new country to move to…

In fact, the following are the exact top 5 reasons why Britons choose to expatriate according to the Happiness Index…but are these reasons realistic and achievable?

1)  Quality of Life

It’s really no surprise that the number one incentive for any Briton moving abroad is to achieve a better quality of life…after all, who in their right mind would go out of their way to have a worse quality of life?  However, despite this being the number one reason behind people committing to expatriation, it is also perhaps one of the most elusive aspects of a move.

How can you define quality of life?  Someone living in a ghetto where their safety is at threat on a daily basis could easily achieve a better quality of life simply by moving somewhere safer – but thankfully for the majority of us Britons, we live in a nation where public safety is maintained, and so such an extreme change in status is less likely.

If you’re dreaming of achieving a better quality of life for you and your family you need to be far more specific about what that actually means for you – otherwise you may fail to realise your dream by moving abroad.

Do you want to work fewer hours and have more time at home with family or more time for yourself?  Do you want to earn more from a move abroad so you can retire earlier?  Do you want to be able to afford a bigger house?  Do you want to leave the entire concept of consumerism behind and become a beach bum?  I.e., what does ‘quality of life’ actually mean to you?

You need to define quality of life, you need to determine how it’s currently lacking in your life and how exactly your relocation will redress any perceived balance…otherwise getting a better quality of life from a move abroad will not be achievable.

2)  Retirement

Very briefly following the turn of this current century it was fashionable to retire abroad – it was fashionable throughout the same period of time when it was also fashionable to have a second home abroad…and we all know how fast fashions can change.

Many of those who bought second homes have found that they’ve become an expense they can well do without but that they are a difficult asset to sell – and at the same time, many who retired abroad have discovered that it’s not as easy as they thought it was going to be!

If you want to retire abroad – good for you.  However, have you thought it through fully?!!  Firstly, how much pension income are you going to be in receipt of, can you tax enhance that through a QROPS for example, will it be enough to live on?  Are you going to be perhaps disadvantaged by negative currency fluctuations, and how stable is the economy in the country you want to retire to anyway?

Having closely inspected your money matters and hopefully found them all in order for your move…there are a couple of other things that would-be retirees need to think seriously about before they commit.  The first one is healthcare.  You may well be fighting fit today, but as we age we invariably need greater medical support – can you afford this abroad…is it even available abroad to the level you could potentially need?

I’m sure none of us wants to end up in a hospital bed or a nursing home surrounded by strange faces and being tended to by people whose language we can’t understand.  Think seriously about the extremes and ensure you’re well covered.

Finally, what about your children and potential grandchildren as well as your friends who you’re leaving behind?  Don’t underestimate how much you will miss them.

Retirement abroad can be wonderful – temporary retirement abroad can be even more suitable for some – if you’re not wholly committed to making the move a permanent one forever, you could rent out your own home for a year or two and rent somewhere abroad for the same amount of time.

3)  A New Life Experience

It’s definitely true that living abroad will give you a new life experience – but not every aspect of the experience will necessarily be a positive one!  Many who relocate have a dream that everything will be perfect once they’ve moved.  Such people are often running away from things without even realising it.  Cutting and running seldom makes a lasting change to the areas of your life that you perhaps need to change if you want to be happy!

So, if you’re moving abroad hoping that it will be one long holiday, you’re wrong.  You’ll still have bills to pay, you’ll still have red tape and taxes to deal with, there’s road rage abroad, commuting, queues in the supermarket and noisy neighbours.  In other words, you don’t escape the annoyances of every day life by moving abroad.

If you’re aware of this fact and accepting of it, chances are you will be in the right frame of mind to embrace the positive aspects of the move and enjoy the new life experiences that come as part and parcel of relocation.

4)  Accompanying a Partner

For some people they have little choice about a move abroad – if they want to keep their family together they will have to relocate.  Perhaps their spouse is being relocated for work – or maybe their partner comes from another country and that is where their home, their family, their work and their heart is.

Being forced to make a move is not an ideal scenario because it’s hard to start a new life abroad, and if you’re not fully behind the move and very enthusiastic about it, the resentment you may feel could overwhelm any of the positive aspects and have you returning home with your tail between your legs…

So, if you ‘have’ to relocate – i.e., you are following or accompanying a partner or spouse, do everything you can to be enthused about the move if you want it to go well.  Your partner has a massive obligation to help you in this process – and you can further help yourself by looking at the positive aspects of the expatriation and holding on to these on days when things are perhaps less than perfect.

5)  Work

The final reason given in the Happiness Index for Britons choosing to move abroad is for work…a reason we’re seeing on the increase at Expatra.  As jobs become scarcer, less secure and less well remunerated in real terms in the UK, so Britons are looking further afield for rewarding employment opportunities.

If you’re unhappy with your career, you want to change employer, you’re looking for better pay, less tax on income or a new challenge, all can be potentially achieved through overseas employment.  However, practically nowhere in the world has been immune to the global financial crisis, and employment options internationally speaking are harder to come by whilst being more in demand from a greater base of interested party…

So, if you’re moving abroad for work it’s obviously better if you can secure employment before you go – in certain nations you need to have a visa to allow you to work legally, so do check out your right to work abroad before you decide to move.

A further factor you may wish to keep in mind is that if you’re basing a decision to make a long-term move abroad on a job offer, what would happen if you were to lose that job?  Are there other employers available in your chosen location who may offer you another job?  Pinning a lot of hopes on one offer of work is unwise.

See our dedicated section for more information and advice about working abroad.

In Conclusion…

If you want to move abroad then there is quite literally a whole new world out there waiting for you!  However, if you want the transition to be as smooth and successful as possible, you need to ensure your reasons for expatriation are achievable, and that your dreams and plans are realistic.

Take time to think, plan, explore and discuss every aspect of your new life before you commit to it, and then in planning to succeed you will be far more likely to love your new life.

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