Who hasn’t looked in the estate agent’s windows on holiday and dreamed of leaving everything behind to settle permanently in their holiday home?
Around 4.5 million Britons are currently considering moving abroad, and the prospect of a better quality of life – away from inflation and poor wages – is attracting more and more people. According to new research from Totaljobs, more than 3.4 million UK employees have long-term plans to live abroad, with 3% of them planning to settle elsewhere in a year or two.
Falling in love with a place while traveling is often the first step in changing your life, says Michael Brein, author and lecturer on the psychology of travel. “When we travel, we are more open, more receptive to news. It is easier to make new friends and you are more ready to adapt to a new culture”, he explains. In other words, it’s easier “only becoming familiar with the news if you are at home, stuck in your routine”.
The upheavals caused by the pandemic and the increase in telecommuting have also changed mentality. One in ten workers in the UK have already taken up remote work from home, and the same number say they are ready to become mobile workers, even if the pay is lower, according to the Totaljobs report. In April alone, Google searches for the phrase “moving abroad” exploded by 1000%.
But moving abroad is not always fun. When the excitement from the beginning is over – when the need to find a job, schools and to complete the administrative procedures takes over – some expats start to have doubts. Far from their friends and the comfort of their homes, and with little command of the language, they harbor sometimes painful regrets.
But for those who succeed in their expatriation, Michael Brein assures us, the possibility of making stronger connections than those forged in the country of origin is very real. “Friendships between foreigners from another country and people of another nationality are even more interesting.” Getting to know people from a different social and cultural background in a completely new place creates bonds “more intense, [car] it requires more investment. And so these relationships are all the more valuable.”
Australia, the US, Canada and New Zealand are among the most popular destinations for Britons looking to travel elsewhere, while Spain and France are the top two destinations outside of English-speaking countries. Domestic moves are also on the rise, with 250,000 people reselling their property in the first six months of 2022.
Four people who have chosen to rebuild their lives – in another part of the UK, on the other side of the world or somewhere in between – testify about their experience.
Sydney, Australia: “Everything is 5 minutes away”
Vicki Bainbridge, 46, HR director, married with two children
16 years ago, my husband and I visited my brother in Manly, a suburb of Sydney. I really fell in love with the area: everyone was very relaxed, people lived outside and went to the beach when they had an hour to spare. Although it is the suburbs of Sydney, you are also very close to the city where there are lots of things to do and visit. The people were very nice and everyone seemed to know each other and took the time to stop and chat.
It was winter in Britain at the time, and Sydney’s beaches were all the more beautiful for it. By the time we got back we had both made our decision.
“Close to 30, without children and renters, for us it was now or never.”
And the most wonderful thing is that my husband, who is far from being a very organized person, was ready to embark on this move.
Work visas like ours are only given to people under the age of 30, and this deadline undoubtedly helped speed up our decision. It took us eighteen months to organize everything, but as soon as we arrived we felt at home. Having friends and family already settled here has helped us a lot.
The rest of the logistics were a little more complicated. Above all, it took longer than expected to find a job. You had to be registered with the administration and have a bank account to start working. We found a job a month and a half after our arrival, thinking the case would be settled in a fortnight.
“My company sponsored me when my visa expired and four years after we settled down we had our eldest daughter. For me, it really is the perfect place to raise a family.“
Life is great for kids, they are outdoors all the time and there are lots of sporting activities to do which is great for meeting the locals. My friends back in the UK have to make endless car journeys to take their children to their activities, whereas here everything is five minutes away.
My only regret is of course being away from my family. When my daughters, who are now 11 and 8, were younger and we were going to spend a few weeks in England, they cried for a whole day upon our return, at the thought of not seeing their cousins and their grandparents any time soon. They enjoy Australian life now, but it was harder then.
Of course I miss my friends and my family and some shops (especially Marks & Spencer), but if the UK is always the country of my heart, I can’t imagine living anywhere else but Australia. We love the area and have moved from Manly to Freshwater, a kilometer away, since arriving in 2016.
Sometimes I wonder if my daughters will do the opposite and move back to the UK when they grow up, or maybe Europe. People move a lot in Australia and the advantage is that people are more open, especially in friendship. They know that newcomers need to make friends. Many people leave the country for a year or two, but they always come back – the attraction of the beaches is too strong.
distance is real
Difficulty making a quick jump to friends or family, which can be difficult to live with. Some people will definitely miss you.
It will take you several weeks, or even much more, to get properly installed.
Listen to the advice of others
If you are moving to a place where many of your compatriots already live, listen carefully to them. All advice is welcome.
From where to live, to the job market, to the paperwork, make sure you know everything there is to know before you travel.