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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Fleeing the British Weather Forever

Many British expats spend their retirement overseas and are generally satisfied with life abroad. Those that are working are most likely to be in education.
  • Two-thirds looked forward to a better climate and weather
  • Spain remains the most popular destination
  • Expats struggle to learn the local language(s)
  • 22% of Brits abroad are retirees
  • More than half (52%) say they’re unlikely to return to the UK

Close to Home but Not Likely to Return

Brits don’t usually venture too far: Spain (8%), Germany (6%), and France (5%) are the top 3 destinations for British expats, and have been since the first Expat Insider survey in 2014. Their main reason for relocating was to find a better quality of life (17%), which they achieved by (generally) relocating to countries with better weather and climate — an aspect which two-thirds saw as a potential benefit before moving. A British expat residing in Myanmar, for example, loves “the feeling of being settled with my family in a beautiful rich cultural country in a warm climate”. After moving, 78% of British expats rate the climate and weather of their host country positively (compared to 61% of expats worldwide), with 42% even saying it’s excellent (26% globally).

The average age of British expats is around 51 years old — more than seven years older than the average survey respondent. In fact, 22% of all Brits abroad are retirees, compared to only 9% of all Expat Insider participants. Of British expats who are still working, a quarter are in the education sector — ten percentage points higher than the global average. This could be connected to the high demand for English teachers globally.

Whether retired or working, Brits seem to quickly adjust to expat life — 26% feel at home nearly straight away. They also seem to really love living abroad: over one-third (35%) have been living in their host country for more than ten years, and more than half (52%) say it’s unlikely they will be returning to the UK in the future. However, only 14% have acquired citizenship of their host country.

The Benefit of Speaking English

More than half of British expats (56%) generally agree that it is easy to live in their host country without speaking the local language(s), ten percent points higher than the global average. Brits abroad have a relatively hard time learning the local language(s) despite the fact that over one-quarter (26%) say their social circle mostly consists of local residents; three-fifths don’t find it easy, compared to 50% of expats across all nationalities.

Moreover, 52% say they speak the local language(s) of their host country only a little or not at all, compared to a worldwide result of 46%. A British expat living in Spain, for example, says that “the thing that bothers me most is the inability to speak the language, but I am having lessons to remedy this”.

Romance beyond British Borders

Brits abroad are slightly more likely to be in a relationship (71% vs. 65% globally). However, long-distance relationships are not particularly common: only 9% are braving the distance, compared to a worldwide result of 13%.

Although speaking the local language can be a challenge, over four in ten British expats who are in a relationship (43%) have a partner who’s from their host country, and 15% of all British respondents moved for love. Almost half of British expats in a relationship (47%), however, actually met their partner in the UK.

A quarter of Brits abroad have dependent children living with them, while another three in ten have children that are already living on their own. The latter is almost double the global average (16%) and may be connected to the fact that a large proportion of British expats are retirees. All things considered, more than four-fifths of Brits abroad (81%) are generally happy with their life.

A Variety of Incomes

There are mixed results among British expats when it comes to income: nearly two-fifths of those working (38%) state that it’s lower than back home, compared to 29% globally.

Despite lower wages, over three-quarters (76%) feel that their disposable household income is enough or even more than they need to cover their expenses. Over half of British expats (51%) regarded the cost of living as a benefit prior to their big move, as opposed to 42% globally. Actual costs, of course, depend on their country of residence: in Spain — the most popular destination for British expats — prices are around 20% cheaper than in the UK.

Gross yearly household income is in line with the global average: the most common income bracket for Brits abroad (23%) is 25,000 to 50,000 USD a year. Some British expats, however, are earning a lot more: 13% have an annual household income of 150,000 USD or more, slightly more than the global average (10%). At the same time, just under three in ten British expats (28%) have at least a postgraduate or master’s degree — compared to a global average of 46%.

Further Reading