The current economic conditions in the UK mean that many qualified professionals are leaving the UK in search of a better life overseas. As a nation the UK needs a steady supply of doctors, engineers, pharmacists and academics and increasingly we are looking overseas to find well-qualified people to work in our hospitals and research labs. The problem is that other countries are competing for the same brain power, so how do we make the UK attractive?
Many doctors and scientists who were born and educated overseas are well aware of what it is like to live in the UK, but the government undertakes a program of advertising and public relations to raise awareness levels. This is often done through Universities, and bodies such as the British Council give information regarding postgraduate studies in the UK or research and further training opportunities. The idea is that once a foreign professional comes here to complete their studies, they see how good their lifestyle could be and then stays.
Fast-track Medical Visas
Almost 40% of doctors working in the NHS were born overseas, and the government are currently looking at ways in which to make the visa application process easier for doctors or dentists coming to complete their training or work in the NHS. The system of work permits, visas and the ability to bring a family into the UK is complex, and it appears that the system is putting off many highly skilled medical professionals.
The government system enabling people to apply for visas and come to the UK is based on points and there are different tiers of eligibility. The system is designed to make it easier for high value migrants to settle in the UK. To qualify for the highest points and Tier 1 status, migrants need to show they have exceptional talents, entrepreneur skills or are doing a job that cannot be done by a British worker. Having a position secured in a UK company and sponsorship from an employer can also speed up the process considerably.
The old saying is that the grass is always greener on the other side, and despite the fact that most expats are more than happy with the move abroad, a small percentage every year will return to the UK. Also, there are many people who are only abroad temporarily and whose intention always was to return after a couple of years. There are many good reasons for returning to the UK, although the exact factors will be different in every case.
One of the main reasons for returning to the UK permanently is because of relatives. Sometimes it is simply homesickness, with expats finding it difficult to adjust to life overseas and not seeing relatives on a regular basis. Many families who move abroad discover that as their own parents age and develop health problems that they have no alternative but to sell up and move back to be closer in order to help out with day to day care.
European countries which have historically attracted large numbers of expats are some of those which have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. Portgual, Greece and Spain are going through a period of huge uncertainty, rising taxes and plummeting property prices, and many expats have taken the view that they would far rather be back in the UK where things are altogether more stable, even if this means taking a loss on their foreign property and investments.
Most of us make the move abroad when we are fit and healthy, and we don’t pay much attention to healthcare when deciding where to settle. Although the healthcare systems in countries like Spain and France is as good as here in the UK, being diagnosed with a serious condition can throw life into sharp focus and makes many expats reconsider their decision to live far from friends and family. Language barriers may mean also that expats prefer to return to their UK roots and have their treatment here.
Gone are the days when the pound sterling was worth as much as 1.50 euros. Now we are lucky to get 1.2 euros to the pound, and for retired expats who are reliant on a pension paid in sterling, this is affecting their cost of living to the extent where they are forced to sell up and come home.
The debate about the UK’s future in the European Union is heating up, with the announcement that if the Conservatives win the next election, a referendum will be called allowing the people to vote. The arguments for and against staying in the EU are complex, but expect to hear lots more from people on both sides of the argument before any referendum is called. Here are some of the main reasons why membership of the EU is a good thing for the UK.
Most of the buying and selling we do of British goods are services is with our closest neighbours in Europe. British companies are free to trade with our European partners without restrictions, and this would not be the case if we left the Union. There may also be tariffs placed on British goods, making them more expensive if we were not part of the EU.
The European Union has done more than any other organisation to ensure that the nations of Europe live harmoniously. Gone are the days where European nations regularly went to war with each other, and the period since the advent of the EU has been one of the most stable in history. There is no knowing where the potential break down of the EU would lead the UK, and Europe as a whole.
Freedom of Movement
At present, as a member of the EU a British person has the right to go and live and work in Italy, Germany or France without restrictions. If the UK were to leave the EU this right would not be guaranteed and anyone intending to move abroad would be in the position of having to apply for a visa. Job prospects would be limited and it may also leave the UK in the position of being unable to fill many low paid jobs.
Part of the job of the EU is to regenerate areas which are deprived or have high levels of unemployment. EU money has been used here in the UK to improve rail links, regeneration projects in the Highlands and to fund investment in renewable energies. Leaving the EU would mean all of this money would stop.
Making the move overseas permanently is a huge decision to take, and the exact choice of country will depend on many different factors. However, there are a few countries which consistently top the “best places to live” lists, and it’s no surprise that these countries are also the most popular places for expat Brits.
A recent survey found that Australia was the second best country to be born in and it is an eternally popular destination for British expats. Salaries are high, the climate is favourable, and the Australian economy has been weathering the storm more easily than European nations. The appeal of Australia is enormous, and although there are some hoops to jump through in terms of applying for a visa, over a million Brits have decided to make the move down under.
Switzerland has it all; it’s one of the world’s richest nations, standards of living and salaries are high, and the scenery is the most spectacular in Europe. Job opportunities in Switzerland are what attracts many Brits there, but becoming a permanent resident in Switzerland is not an easy process, unless you have a spare million or two in the bank.
The vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Singapore has been attracting expat Brits for decades. Many multinational companies have offices in Singapore and salaries offered are high for the region. English is widely spoken and Singapore is known for being clean, safe and very family friendly. The weather is warm and tropical, and transport links makes it easy to get back to the UK.
The wide open spaces of New Zealand are what attracts most expats, and the fact that there are so many expat Brits and that English is the country’s language makes settling in easy. The standard of living in New Zealand are good, and the low crime levels and good healthcare and education system means that it is a very popular destination for families trying to escape the rat race in the UK and make a better future for their children.
Moving abroad to live can be a very daunting prospect. A good support network is essential, but it can take some time to get to know people when you move somewhere new. All over the world there are British expats in the same boat, and there are some tried and tested methods of meeting people, exchanging tips and sharing ideas.
Anywhere in the world where there is a large concentration of expats, there will be a local British club or association. Typically these associations will host various social events through the year and are the ideal place to meet people. The hard bit is going along for the first time and forcing yourself to speak to people you don’t know, but people are open and friendly to newcomers and you’ll fit in easily. You don’t need to get into lengthy conversation with everyone you meet, just smile and say hello and let them know you’re open to chatting if they want to.
Even before you move you can get online and start getting ideas and tips from people who are already living overseas. Internet forums for expats are all over the web, so look for one specific to the area you live in or for parents with young children or whatever applies to you best. Facebook can also be a good way to research what is going on in the city or region where you live overseas and using the internet to make new contacts is free, simple and something which can be done from the comfort of your sofa.
Office or School
If you are living overseas with children, school or playgroup can be a valuable source of contacts with the other parents. Many British expat children attend international schools, so get onto the PTA and make contact that way. International companies which employ a large number of expat staff also have an active social scene, and many will have staff dedicated to helping new arrivals settle in and to help with all of those local customs and peculiar laws which newcomers find hard to grasp.
Two of the most popular overseas destinations for UK nationals heading abroad are Australia and France. It is estimated that there are over a million British-born people living in Australia, and over a quarter of a million in France. But what are the factors which keep them from coming home?
Many people who move overseas permanently do so to escape the cold and wet of a British summer, and the fact that we have just had one of the wettest years on record does nothing to encourage them to return home. The outdoor lifestyle is something which most emigrants to warmer climes wish to experience, and once you have had a taste of being able to eat outdoors most of the year it’s hard to imagine returning home.
The world economy has gone through turbulent times in recent years, and the value of properties, salaries and other assets have fallen or risen in value. Many expats take the view of “better the devil you know” and don’t want to risk losing out by moving back home and then being unable to find a job or afford a property in their preferred location. Australia in particular has weathered the economic storm far better than other parts of the world, and staying put may well be the sensible option.
Gone are the days when getting to Australia meant 6 weeks on a boat. Now we think nothing of hopping on a plane, and the simplicity of travel means that moving abroad is no longer the wrench it used to be. Flights are competitively priced, and as more of us start to travel by air, increased competition means the service is getting better too.
Inventions such as Skype and internet mean that keeping in touch with loved ones in the UK is far easier, wherever you are in the world. Homesickness is far less of a factor when you can email pictures every day, or have a Skype call whenever you feel a bit lonely. The cost of this technology is coming down all of the time, and makes being overseas far more affordable.
Apart from family and friends, the thing that Brits living overseas miss the most are the peculiarly British food, drink and sweets which are just not available abroad. If you simply can’t live without your favourite brand of teabags or breakfast cereal, there are several options in the USA for getting your Brit food fix.
There are several websites offering the chance to buy all of the products you are familiar with from home. Shopping online is very easy and most companies will deliver anywhere in the United States or Canada. Shipping charges are quite steep though, and you will also pay far more for the products than you would in a UK supermarket. The convenience and ease of purchase though makes it the ideal solution for anyone living miles from a UK food shop.
If you live in areas where there are a lot of British and Irish tourists, you will probably be able to pick up your British favourites such as cans of beans, bottles of diluting orange squash or jars of pickle in the supermarkets along with the rest of your groceries. This is especially the case in the Orlando area, which is popular with both expats and visitors to the theme parks. The selection isn’t enormous though, and for specialist products you will have to look elsewhere.
Small Outlets and Delis
The greatest concentration of specialist shops selling British products is again in Florida. Some sell the tins and packets which you can find online, whereas others specialise in a niche of the market, such as Scottish products or confectionery only. There are also a number of British restaurants or cafés where you can indulge in fish and chips or a cream tea. If you are struggling to find the product you are looking for in stores closer to home or online, and you have no visitors coming over the pond to bring you what you need, many of the smaller independent stores will be happy to take an order over the phone and then send it out to you.
With the UK economy struggling to recover from one of the worst recessions for decades, and at a time when most of us have not had a pay rise for years, it’s hardly surprising that more of us are thinking about going overseas to work. Salaries and benefits packages can vary dramatically from one country to the next, and depending on your profession you could double or even triple your income by heading overseas.
The average salary here in the UK is just over £27k, which is far less than the average American’s wage of almost £34k. Working in America is an attractive proposition for many, but the red tape associated with getting a work visa makes it impossible just to pitch up and start working. If you are attracted to the USA with the promise of high salaries, the easiest way in is to start off by working for a American company here in the UK, and take every opportunity for a transfer to the other side of the Atlantic.
It’s one of the smallest countries in Europe, but people who work in Luxembourg earn more per capital than any other Europeans. The average wage is £33k, and wages in Luxembourg are higher because the economy is focused on the high-tech industries, banking and finance. The good news is that as Luxembourg is part of the European Union, there is nothing stopping you heading over the English Channel and seeking work there, although speaking French would definitely help.
The Swiss economy is another one which is based around technology and financial services, and the standards of living in Switzerland are among the highest in the world. The average wage is just over £31k, and besides the salary benefits, working in Switzerland will give you the opportunity to experience some of the best scenery in the world. Switzerland is not part of the EU, so working there is not quite as straightforward as in other parts of Europe.
If you’re looking for the sunshine, Australia is an eternally attractive option. The average salary is only slightly more than in the UK, but the climate more than compensates. Criteria for emigrating to Australia are strict, but if you have experience in one of the approved occupations you could be starting a new career down under within months.
Nearly all of us at one time or the other have grumbled about the British weather, our boss or the state of the economy and thought about packing it all in and moving somewhere warmer, and with a slower pace of life. Very few of us actually take the plunge and move abroad, but those who do often find it is the best thing they have ever done.
Although it seems trivial, the UK weather can have a severe effect on our general health and wellbeing. Just think about how good you feel on a warm June day when the sun is shining and everyone is happy, and imagine feeling that way on a permanent basis. Most people leaving the UK do so to go to warmer destinations in the south of Europe, or to places like Australia or Florida which have temperate climates all year round.
When you look at the global salary market overall, the UK doesn’t perform badly. But salaries in the UK have been static for several years as we struggle our way out of the recession, and there are better salaries on offer in countries such as Australia, the United States or Switzerland. Certain professions are in extremely high demand, and an increasing number of pilots, air traffic controllers or medical professionals are heading out to the Gulf States, where salaries are considerably higher than in the UK, and taxation is much lower too.
Many people with young families make the move because they feel the UK is no longer somewhere that they want to raise their children. The outdoor lifestyle offered by countries like New Zealand or Australia is hugely attractive, and many parents want their children to have opportunities which they never had growing up. Moving overseas gives children and parents alike the chance to experience a whole new way of living, and to perhaps learn a new language also.