Dreaming of big blue skies, sparkling white beaches, sipping a glass of wine outside at a table in the sun…? In short, are you dreaming of being anywhere else but here…? If so, you’re not alone. It is predicted that 10% of Britons emigrated to other countries in 2005, and these figures represent just the latest wave of wanderlust Brits to leave our shores for pastures new.
Strangely, given the furore recently about immigration into Britain from East European countries, we are actually the most likely nation to up sticks and move to a different country and culture. And this is nothing new: emigration is something Britons have done for centuries. Perhaps it stems from being an island nation of seafarers, explorers and colonisers that makes us restless. Whatever it is, the tug of resettlement, of going to live a life elsewhere, does seem to be stronger in the British psyche than it is in most other nations.
All of which is reassuring if you are finding yourself spending a disproportionately large amount of time dreaming of relocating abroad because that means it is a road well trodden. There are enclaves of Britons resident all over the world, from 1.3 million living in Australia, via 761,000 resident fulltime in Spain (and not all of them are retired), to the frankly amazing 900 Brits currently settled in the Ukraine. Each and everyone of these people had to go through the process of creating a new life and leaving their old one, so there are a huge amount of resources available to help you if you choose to do the same.
So who actually relocates abroad?
Emigration from Britain seems to go in waves, generally peaking every 200 years; we are currently witnessing a rising trend, and it is most popular amongst the 30-40 year old age groups. Emigration tends to be higher when our economy is buoyant coupled with a rise in the cost of living in the UK. Many émigrés cite conditions at home as reasons to move, although for most it is eventually the draw of something better that makes them up and leave, rather than home conditions driving them away. A smaller group move abroad because of international assignments, while another group retire abroad, often to Spain.
If you want to try before you buy, so to speak, have a look at www.transitionsabroad.com, which is good for temporary jobs and studying abroad, as well as ‘teaching English as a foreign language’ placements (also see www.tefl.co.uk). If you are specifically thinking of studying or teaching abroad then check out the Socrates-Erasmus programme’s website at www.kent.ac.uk/ERASMUS/erasmus, which organises student and teacher exchanges. If you are considering volunteering as a first taste, start by looking at www.vso.org.uk.
Visit www.escapeartisist.com for a comprehensive mini hub offering sound advice from people who have gone before you, as well as country profiles, jobs, properties for sale and rent, plus lots of links to other region-specific websites. They also have a section for people who are considering retiring abroad. The British expat mini hub and magazine can be found at www.britishexpat.com, and provides a lot of essential information for people planning to emigrate, and is especially strong on the financial side of things for before you go as well as once you arrive. www.justlanded.com is another good resource and expats in Western Europe also benefit from www.expatica.com, which covers Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, as well as featuring the only expat dating site! The HSBC lives up to its tag as the world’s local bank and provides some good information at www.offshore.hsbc.com.
Culture shock can be a problem, advises www.kwintessential.co.uk, the language and cultural specialists, who have a selection of really good resources and articles to help you, as well as providing the necessary resources and links to help you learn the language. And if you have a beloved pet you can’t leave behind, check out www.jets4pets.com for comprehensive advice and shipping.
The government’s own resource for can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/en/BritonsLivingAbroad/index.htm, and is good for getting the facts about tax, pensions, and the like, as well as advice about schooling and education. If you want to move to the USA, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, www.wwicsgroup.com is a good resource, as is www.overseas-emigration.co.uk, which also offers a comprehensive diy immigration kit as well as links, pro-departure seminars and immigration disaster recovery.
If you are looking to buy a property, whether to buy as your new home or as a second home ‘taster’, first get an overview at www.channel4.com/4homes/buyingabroad. Then spend some time searching the internet for your chosen country. You will find that the main destinations for Britons moving abroad will have dedicated websites, such as www.wisemovetospain.com, www.italymag.com, and www.livingfrance.com.
Tips for Moving Abroad
Advice is invaluable, especially if you are planning on moving overseas without support from your employer and you are buying, so here are some top tops from people who have blazed the trail before you and are already living la dolce vita…
• Learn the language. Vital, and anything is better than nothing – it shows you are making an effort and even just the basics will get you a lot further than you think if you make the effort. Offer free English conversation in exchange for chatting in the foreign language. Be aware that you will have good have language days and bad language days so don’t get discouraged!
• Research the country and areas you want to look at well in advance of going out and take a decent amount of time once you are there to look around.
• Use the internet, books and magazines, but don’t always trust what you read; people are sometimes out to make a quick buck off you, Don’t always believe the scare stories – they are very good for selling advice books!
• Make a list of what you want and what you are looking for. If you can tick off more than half the things on the list you’re doing really well! Don’t just be ruled by your heart, use your head – is it really a good idea to buy the nice chateau or villa or is it better to buy something smaller and/or scruffier and keep some money in the bank just in case?
• Take photos and lots of notes about the areas you are visiting, distances to the shops/schools/bars – airport train station, and why you liked it (or not). You will probably see lots of interesting places so it’s good to keep records with photo documentation, it makes it a lot easier to remember!
• Once you think you have found somewhere you like, move away and look at other areas. If the original area is still calling you back then you know you’re on the right track.
• Rent for a while in the area you want to move to and try different times of the year – you need to see an area at its worst as well as its best.
• Appreciate the culture you might be moving into. Not all cultures are to everyone’s taste and you remember you are moving to their country, so don’t judge your new country too harshly.
• Think about the reasons you are moving and write a list of pros and cons for moving – think them through carefully. Are you running away from something or towards something? The best moves are towards something.
• Look at the legal and health system. Don’t move without getting yourself covered, and check with the Inland Revenue to find out what you need to do well in advance. For example, if you are renting out a property in the UK you will still be liable to pay UK tax. Organise bank account/s well before departure – being stranded with no money is no joke.
• Over-budget and over-estimate everything. This is not a scare tactic, but you just never know and it’s always best to leave yourself some room for manoeuvre.
• Have a back-up plan if things go wrong. In fact, have two.
• Be prepared to feel homesick. You will be way out of your comfort zone but remember that this is an adventure most people will never have the chance to experience, so try and enjoy it!
• Don’t be shy. Ask everyone you meet in the areas you are going to about everything and anything you want to know, and ask your network for contact details of anyone they know in the area. Most people are only too delighted to help a new arrival find their feet.
• Get involved. Go to the local sports events, use the bars and the shops, try and get involved in the community as much as possible, including making new friends.
And most importantly – enjoy!
© Claire Burdett. Please only reproduce this article with permission, in its entirety and with a hyperlink to www.claireburdett.com. Thank you.