It is no secret that people from Britain are often inclined to leave their old lives behind and emigrate abroad to start afresh. Whether it is for the promise of better weather, a new career path or just generally a better quality of life, around 7-8% of the UK population have decided that other places around the world are a lot more appealing.
But interestingly, research has shown that the most popular British expat destinations are not necessarily the best places to live, according to metrics such as the Quality of Life index. We’ve taken a look at why this is, and whether expats are getting it wrong after all.
Where people from the UK are choosing to emigrate and why
Australia and the USA generally lead the way as the most popular destinations for UK expats to start a new life. This is not surprising considering Britain’s shared language and cultural similarities with these nations. To many, countries such as Australia and the USA may seem like just a better version of the UK, with better weather and a similar way of life. Due to visa restrictions, people who move to these countries are likely to be skilled workers or have family connections. But there are some everyday UK jobs that are surprisingly valuable in Australia too.
But one of the most popular countries for British expats in recent years has been Spain. In fact, the United Nations Population Division estimates that the number of expats living in Spain almost trebled between 2000 and 2013. A significant amount of people who have moved to Spain are unlikely to be registered residents, which means this number will probably be even higher. HiFX’s findings, that Spain is Britain’s number one choice as a place to buy a holiday home, reinforces these figures.
Spain has continued to be a popular expat destination in recent years, even when discussions of a potential Brexit began. However, now that it appears the UK will actually be leaving the EU, it is unclear whether this will continue to be the case as we wait to see what Brexit could mean for expats.
Where the best places for expats actually are
Internations ranks expat destinations through the results of various sub-indices. These are based on certain metrics, such as the General Quality of Life index and Working Abroad Index. In 2016, Internations suggested the top expat destinations are Taiwan, Malta and Ecuador. Traditional favourites such as the USA, Spain and Australia are still on the list, but are much further down.
So why are British expats continuing to flock to Spain when research has clearly suggested that Ecuador would be a better choice? In a lot of ways, they are very similar. For example, the predominant language used in Ecuador is Spanish, and over one third of people agreed that it was difficult to live in Ecuador without speaking in Spanish. But interestingly, an ESRC funded survey showed that a third of British expats who had moved to Spain rarely or never met Spanish people, and 60% did not speak Spanish.
In general, the reason why most people decide to emigrate anywhere is for a better quality of life. For British expats, Spain is a nearby option that is familiar to them, whereas moving to somewhere like Ecuador would feel like entering the unknown. But after Brexit, if it becomes harder to move to countries within the EU, perhaps more people will consider countries that are further afield but will still give the same quality of life, like Taiwan or Ecuador.
Although British expats haven’t got it wrong when it comes to moving abroad, there are alternative countries that they could and might have to consider if the situation with Europe changes.
And when it comes to sending money abroad, at least you know that HiFX can help you wherever you are in the world, as we can trade in 142 currencies across 170 countries.
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