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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Retired, Wealthy & Settled: The British Do It All

The average British expat doesn’t shy away from new beginnings: from length of stay to friendships with local residents and ease in feeling at home, results are generally far above average.
  • 51% are not likely to return to the UK.
  • British expats are on average 53.0 years old.
  • 3% of British expats are independently wealthy.
  • A quarter are retirees.
  • 24% are mostly friends with local residents.

The British and Their High Expat Standards

British expats surpass nearly all global averages when it comes to the duration of their stay abroad. Perhaps most impressive is that 37% of expats from the United Kingdom have been living in their host country for more than ten years — more than ten percentage points above the 24% global average. Brits are also more than ten percentage points more likely to feel at home in their new country: three-quarters say they do feel at home, compared to only 64% of all survey respondents.

Since so many British expats report feeling at home, it seems hardly surprising that exactly half plan to stay forever (vs. 32% globally). Likewise, more than half (51%) say that it’s not likely they will ever return home to the UK. The British expat is also four percentage points more satisfied than the average expat: nearly one in five (19%) even say that moving for a better quality of life was a main priority (vs. only 10% globally).

Language Learning No Motivation for the British

With the widespread use of English across the globe, learning a new local language might not always be a priority for British expats. And indeed, about two in five (39%) say they can speak the local language only a little bit — nine percentage points more than the global average — while another 12% don’t speak it at all. Similarly, only 17% can speak the local language very well — ten percentage points below average.

Despite lower fluency levels in foreign languages, British expats don’t necessarily move abroad to change this fact: 9% say that language skill improvement was a reason for their move, whereas a global 11% say the same.

Perhaps contributing to the low motivation to learn local languages is the overwhelming consensus among British expats that this would be quite the task: over half (53%) do not agree that learning the local language is easy — well above the 45% average. Though learning new languages can be a challenge for British expats, most still get along just fine, as 58% say that living in their new country is easy without speaking the local language.

Leaving the UK for a Sunnier Retirement

If one thing stands out about work-life trends among British expats, it would be the high percentage of retirees who look outside of their home country for settling down. More than double the global average of 11%, a quarter of British expats are retired. This is also reflected in the above-average age of British expats (53.0 vs. 44.2 years globally). Weather could also play a role in the high percentage of retirees leaving the UK: 64% considered the climate and weather abroad a potential benefit before moving (vs. 45%).

Next to the many retired British expats is an unusually high percentage of expats who are independently wealthy — living off income from property, investments, etc. In contrast to the 1% global average, 3% of Brits abroad fit into this category.

Levels of education, on the other hand, are significantly lower than the global average. Compared to 48% of all respondents, only 29% of British expats possess a postgraduate degree or PhD. Close to two-fifths (38%) even either have no degree at all, a high school diploma, or vocational training.

Happy Together

Expats from the United Kingdom don’t particularly stand out in terms of relationships regarding when and where they’ve met their partner and where they are originally from. Relationships are slightly more frequent, though: in contrast to 66% of all respondents, 72% of British expats report being in a relationship.

In these relationships, satisfaction levels are slightly higher than average, too: 59% of the Brits in relationships are completely satisfied, compared to 52% globally. An overwhelming majority of couples (92%) are living in the same country, too, which could play a role in the satisfaction rate among British expats and their partners.

Fitting In with the Locals

Compared to global averages, British expats have many more local friends and also typically find it easier making those friends, though considering the high percentage of Brits (37%) who have already lived abroad for more than a decade, this is hardly surprising. Above the 19% global average, 24% of British expats say that their friends and acquaintances are mostly local residents, and, compared to only 45% globally, 54% of Brits agree that making those local friends is easy. In fact, Brits regard the ease of making new friends in their new home country quite favorably: 66% of British expats rate this factor positively as well — nearly ten percentage points above average (57%).

Two in five British expats who are generally happy with their life say that they have plenty of socializing opportunities (vs. 35% globally) and that this has contributed to their happiness. Of those currently dissatisfied, only 15% struggle with the practical aspects of living in a foreign country (vs. 20% globally). When it comes to friends and social circles, the Brits don’t seem to have many complaints.

Further Reading