A Case for the Blues: An Expensive and Gloomy Life in the UK
- Only 3% of respondents rate the weather as very good.
- The UK has a high cost of living and less than ideal childcare costs.
- The local population is particularly unfriendly, according to expats.
- A fifth of expats do not feel at home and doubt they ever will.
A Poor Quality of Life: From Weather to Personal Happiness
People love to talk about the weather; however, among expats in the UK, these conversations don't seem to be overly positive. Only 3% of all expats living in the UK rate the local climate and weather as very good, and 57% even considered weather a potential disadvantage before moving. “Winter days are gloomy,” according to a US American expat, “as there’s no sun all day and only about six to seven hours of daylight. The UK is, after all, an island in the North Atlantic, so there is not much sunshine at times.”
Global rankings for personal happiness are similarly unsatisfactory, with the UK coming in at 64th place out of 68 countries in this subcategory. Only 13% of expats report being very happy with their life (globally: 21%).
In addition to general happiness, health and well-being seem to contribute to a poor quality of life as well. The cost of healthcare in the United Kingdom is not much of a concern among expats, as 65% rate it as generally good. The quality of medical care, on the other hand, leads to more divided opinions, with only about half the respondents (55%) being satisfied with this factor.
Brexit and extremist behavior are changing a once very open and welcoming country.
In a post-Brexit-referendum world, the United Kingdom remains divided. Personal safety and political stability for expats seem to suffer, too, possibly as a result: the UK ranks 49th out of 68 in the Safety & Security subcategory. “Brexit and extremist behavior are changing a once very open and welcoming country,” according to one Italian expat.
The United Kingdom scores well above average in the new Digital Life subcategory, though, ranking 15th out of 68 countries. More than seven in ten expats (73%) say that the availability of administrative or government services online is generally good, and fewer than 2% of expats say that it is hard to pay without cash.
Locals as Unfriendly as the Weather?
Feeling at home in a new country can be a tough task. Although one in five expats completely agrees that getting used to the local culture is easy in the UK, 20% say they do not feel at home there and do not think they ever will, five percentage points more than the global average. In the words of an Australian expat: “The English seem unwilling to welcome and socialize with outsiders. They'll even tell you that's the case to your face. They'll tell you it's an English thing!”
Whether or not the friendliness of locals contributes to expats feeling out of place is unclear: though responses are mixed, nearly three in five (59%) say the local population is generally friendly. The global ranking, however, places the United Kingdom at 56th out of 68 in the Friendliness subcategory. Nearly three in ten expats (28%) rate local attitudes towards foreign residents as generally bad.
An Average Destination for Working Expats
The United Kingdom may not be a top choice for expats who consider moving for work: in the Career Prospects & Satisfaction subcategory, the UK ranks 32nd out of 68, and 20% are unsatisfied with their career prospects.
Job security ratings are mixed: 22% are dissatisfied and 61% are generally satisfied with the job security that the United Kingdom offers. More than half (56%) considered the economy and/or the labor market a potential benefit before moving. After settling in, 58% of expats rate the state of the economy as generally good — a slightly below-average result (globally: 64%).
Ranking 47th out of 68, the United Kingdom is not a top-scorer when it comes to work and leisure. Interestingly enough, expats in the UK work fewer full-time hours per week (42.1 hours) than the global average (44.0 hours) — but nearly one in four (23%) are still dissatisfied with their work-life balance.
Not the Most Affordable for Raising a Family
Only 14% of expat parents completely agree that education is easy to afford in the United Kingdom. While the quality of education receives 73% positive ratings, costs seem to be troublesome.
The cost of childcare also appears to be an issue for expat parents in the UK, with 39% thinking that childcare is very hard to afford. Compared to the global 43% who agree that childcare is easy to afford, only 15% of expat parents in the UK also agree. For one Romanian expat, the “cost of childcare before school is more than the monthly rent”.
Despite concerns over the cost of education and childcare, children’s safety and health are not major causes of worry for expat parents in the UK. Nearly four in five (79%) say that their children’s health is good, and 76% say the same about child safety.
The UK’s Not Easy on the Wallet
In fact, the UK is one of the more expensive expat destinations — nearly half the respondents (47%) actually considered the cost of living to be a potential disadvantage before moving.
The cost of living in the UK, and particularly in London, is becoming more and more expensive.
Around two in five respondents (38%) live in London, which may help explain high costs. Still: 50% rate the cost of living as generally bad. Disposable household income also scores quite poorly, with only 5% reporting they have a lot more than enough to cover everything needed for daily life. Overall, the UK ranks near the bottom of the Personal Finance Index (62nd). “The cost of living in the UK, and particularly in London, is becoming more and more expensive,” according to a Slovakian expat.
- VOA. Research Reveals Divided, Polarized Britain After Brexit. 31 Jan 2018.
- Expat Insider 2018 Business Edition Country Focus: UK
- Expat Insider 2018 — Retired, Wealthy & Settled: The British Do It All
- Expat Insider 2017 — Dissatisfied with More Than Just the British Weather
- Expats in the United Kingdom
Want to take a look
at other years' results?
Check out the Expat Insider 2022!