Join now
Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

The UK Offers Great Career Prospects amid Financial Challenges

Professional opportunities can’t make up for the unsatisfying quality of life and high cost of living in the UK.

Since leaving the bottom 10 in 2021, the United Kingdom has never fully escaped its pull. It now ranks 44th of 53 countries in our Expat Insider 2024 survey, back in the roster of worst-ranked performers. Although expats are happy Working Abroad (24th) in the UK, they’re dissatisfied with their Quality of Life (41st), struggle with the Ease of Settling In (42nd), and rank the UK in the bottom 3 for Personal Finance (51st).

How Expats Rate Life in the UK

Navigating Healthcare Challenges & Safety Concerns

According to expats, the Quality of Life (41st) in the UK is nothing to write home about — and it’s not just the bad weather (45th) that’s pulling the country down. Rather, results across the different subcategories of the index range from the middling to the very bad.

The UK places 30th in the Travel & Transit Subcategory, for example. Close to twice the global average rate the affordability of transportation negatively (29% vs. 15% globally), even if its availability is sufficient (28th).

Healthcare (46th) is the bigger issue. Less than half of expats (48%) rate the quality of medical care in the UK favorably (vs. 66% globally), ranking the country 49th for this factor. Opinions on its availability aren’t much better (28% negative ratings vs. 16% globally).

“The National Health Service (NHS) needs a total makeover. In my experience, waiting times are very long to get a hospital or doctor appointment.” – US American expat

Next to your health, feeling safe is a cornerstone of a pleasant expat stay. Sadly, this is only true for around two-thirds of expats in the UK (68%); worldwide, four in five respondents (80%) rate their personal safety positively. An enjoyable urban environment (23rd) and a good culture & nightlife offering (22nd) can’t make up for these results.

Career Growth vs. Financial Strain

The UK receives its best result in an index for Working Abroad (24th), with expats highlighting their Career Prospects (9th) in particular. Over three in five respondents (63%) are happy with their career opportunities (vs. 53% globally) — and 43% agree completely that moving there has improved their career prospects (vs. 30%)!

Expats find that the local business culture supports flexibility (7th) and show an average satisfaction with their working hours (29th). Things are less positive in the Salary & Job Security Subcategory (41st). The state of the British economy is the biggest pain point here: twice the global average express dissatisfaction (38% vs. 19% globally). And the country only ranks 40th regarding fair payment for one’s work.

“I find that wages are very poor in comparison to the cost of living.” – Australian expat

Speaking of money: the UK’s 51st place in the Personal Finance Index is its worst result across the survey. The majority of expats (58%) rates the general cost of living negatively, a significantly higher share than the global average of 39%. They aren’t happy with their financial situation (50th), and over two in five (43%) find that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life in the UK (vs. 30% globally).

Administrative Ease amid Housing Challenges

Accommodation is typically a major cost factor, and this is more than true in the UK: 63% of expats rate the affordability of housing negatively, compared to 47% of respondents worldwide. Close to three in ten (29%) even give it the worst possible rating (vs. 16% globally). And accommodation is only slightly easier to find (40th) than afford (44th).

In regard to Digital Life, the UK ranks 19th overall. This is, among other things, down to the availability of administrative services online (19th) and the ease of making cashless payments (15th). Expats rate the availability of online administrative and government services as good, too (66% positive vs. 58% globally).

“I’m enjoying the green surroundings, polite people, and easy administration.” – Italian expat

Admin Topics (15th) in general are a winning topic in the UK. Opening a local bank account is relatively straightforward (17th) and dealing with local bureaucracy causes few issues (13th). Over half of respondents (51%) agree it’s easy to deal with local authorities, which is a markedly higher share than the global average of 36%.

Struggling with a Lukewarm Welcome

Next to finances, the UK receives some of its worst results when it comes to the Ease of Settling In (42nd). Expats are unhappy with their social life (45th) and miss having a personal support network (46th) that they can approach for practical or emotional support.

“The people, like the weather, can be very cold.” – South African expat

Expats in the UK find they have little reason to praise the friendliness of the people in general (40th) and towards foreign residents in particular (38th). Overall, over one in five (21%) don’t feel welcome there (vs. 17% globally). Getting used to the local culture, at least, is less of an issue (29th).

The Typical Expat in the UK

Further Reading