Did you read Annabel Kantaria’s most recent blog entry in the Expat Telegraph about how she always sizes a country up through her expat eyes to see whether she could live there or not? We thought it was very accurate – i.e., once you’ve lived abroad and gone through the transition to integration, you’re acutely aware that if ever push came to shove, you could do it all over again!
As seasoned and habitual expats ourselves, the Shelter Offshore team have made new homes for ourselves in many different nations, but the one country we don’t think we could ever call home again is the UK. As Annabel Kantaria discusses in her post, the weather just puts quite a literal dampener on everything in the UK, and for that key reason alone, the Shelter Offshore staff are in agreement that they couldn’t ever consider returning ‘home’.
But, apart from the weather, are there other reasons not to repatriate? Are expats really better off abroad? We polled 225 British expats from 9 different nations to get their opinions about returning to Britain. Whilst a surprising number have actually considered repatriation, the vast majority have ruled out making the move for the following 5 key reasons: -
1) Life’s too good abroad – the lifestyle that expatriates enjoy overseas is quite simply too good, in many cases, to consider the option of repatriation. As one Shelter Offshore reader who lives in Sydney phrased it: “where in the UK can I live and have the beach to play on, the weather to play in and friends from all over the world to play with?” The lifestyle that expats embrace abroad is quite simply superior much of the time…which is probably why so many Britons want to relocate away from the UK!
2) Friends and community – whilst expatriates aren’t a singular demographic group in their own right, they do tend to band together and make exceptionally firm friends with other expats from all over the world. In part this is because expats all have a shared sense of adventure, as well as the shared challenge of being a stranger in a new country. Expatriate friendships tend to be very long lasting. One of our polled readers commented: “why would I swap the sense of community I have here [in Puerto Rico] for living among strangers in a country I left over a decade ago? The friends I’ve made here are for life.”
3) The weather’s just too awful in the UK – out of the 225 Shelter Offshore readers we polled about repatriation, 218 commented that the weather in Britain is one of their reasons against considering repatriation! Possibly the recent news reports about the heavy summer rain, storms, flooding and ‘exceptionally bad weather for this time of the year’ in the UK have really compounded this in more expats’ minds?
4) Money! – This is a complex reason not to repatriate, because for some of those we polled, money was actually driving them towards having to consider repatriation…whilst on the other hand, it was a very strong reason against returning to the UK. I.e., some of our polled expats are struggling to make ends meet abroad, and they told us that if they are forced out of their current life, they will have no option but to return ‘home’ to the UK, albeit against their better judgement. Others commented that the very high cost of property in the UK (still – and relative to other nations abroad), as well as high inflation and high taxes meant that the UK was the very last place on their list of nations to ever live again. Finally on this point, out of 225 polled readers, 42 said they were earning far more abroad than they believed they could in the UK…which was a key reason for them not to consider repatriation.
5) Employment - Tying in quite tightly with the above point, the other strong reason for not wanting or needing to return to the UK is that of the expatriates we surveyed who are of working age, 90% are in employment overseas currently. Clearly, if you’ve established your life away from the UK to the point that you have paying work, you’re much less likely to consider throwing it all in and going backwards to a life that you left for a given reason. What’s more, 132 respondents made it quite clear that they felt the employment landscape in the UK was far from attractive at the moment – clearly another reason against repatriation.
As stated above however, we were quite surprised by the number of respondents (176) who admitted they had considered repatriation, so we followed up on this to ask them what their reasons had been for even momentarily thinking about returning to the UK. Two significant reasons were given: -
1) Difficulty with integration – It seems that once the initial excitement of having expatriated wears off, many expats experience at least a momentary panic - which can lead to some considering their flight home options! From struggling with the language barrier to finding that life in a given nation wasn’t quite what they’d dreamed of, many of our polled expats admitted to having considered the option of returning ‘home’ to the UK at some point during their time abroad. We would be very interested to find out how many people actually act on this instinct annually!
2) Family and friends – The other main reason given by our polled readers for considering repatriation was missing family and friends back home. This is one of the hardest things expats have to contend with all of their lives. Once you make the decision to go in search of a new life abroad, you have to leave your old life behind – and that can mean quite literally flying away from your parents, your children, your best friend or your siblings. For some, the separation never gets easier, and it can be a genuine reason for some expats choosing to repatriate.
Our research has shown us that life abroad is just too good for most expats to now repatriate, but that it’s not always a smooth journey to achieve that integration overseas. Therefore, if you’re currently considering your options and contemplating a move away from the UK, you need to know that your life probably will be better once you expatriate – but you may have to work at it and overcome missing friends and family in particular.