Should we sell up and move overseas?

12 December 2007

How do you feel about life in Britain? If you would rather live somewhere where the weather is warmer, the property cheaper and the way of life more relaxed, then you are not alone. Five hundred jaded Brits leave the UK for a new life overseas every day, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Move abroad

Making the move is a huge decision and not one to be taken lightly. Unless you're retiring, you will still have to work. Thinking life will be one long holiday is a common mistake, says Scott Huggins, former presenter on the BBC's Get a New Life and chief executive of Intrepid Investments.

"Unfortunately, 90% of people come back to the UK within seven years of moving overseas," he says. "Most people expect to be in the 10% that make it, but don't realise that it requires a lot of hard work and emotional adjustment to establish yourself in a foreign country."

Of course, it can be done, and if you plan your move carefully and embrace your new way of life there's no reason why your move can't be a success.

You'll need to prepare for the physical, psychological and financial factors of moving, and the first step is to pull yourself out of holiday mode. "You'll still have to get up and go to work everyday, do the grocery shopping, get the kids into schools and do the school run every day, so it's important to look beyond the dream to reality.

"The factors you enjoy from holidaying in an area will be very different to factors affecting your day-to-day life there," explains Huggins.

A long-distance move also will mean losing your support network. "No matter how much you plan your move, the absence of friends and family can be a big shock to the system," says Zilpah Hartley, property writer and presenter on Channel 4's A Place in the Sun.

To ease the transition it's worth making some contacts before you leave. "There are lots of expat websites offering advice, and having one or two contacts, such as a play group, sports club, language school or even a local bar, can help the bumpy transition from new kid in town to one of the locals," adds Hartley.

If you're moving somewhere with a foreign language, it's important that you start learning it in order to mix with the locals, increase your employability and avoid feeling isolated.

Learn the language

If you plan to work in your new country it's crucial to research the job market inside-out first. "Employment can be tricky unless you have transferable skills that are in demand in your chosen country," warns Hartley. Look at your personal skills and whether your new country needs them.

"As a general rule, professions such as nursing and teaching are required all over the world - as are trades such as building, electrics and plumbing," says Huggins. "But there may not be as much demand for specialist jobs such as computer programming."

A pipe dream for many people is to own and run a beach bar or restaurant by the sea, but few succeed. "It's astounding how many people assume they can run this type of business with no previous experience," says Huggins. "You wouldn't attempt it in the UK, so why do it overseas?" He advises using any contacts you have at home before you relocate and get as much experience of the industry as you can.

Business advice is invaluable when moving overseas - everything is different, from tax and banking to the actual logistics of running a business."

Visas are also an issue, and in almost every country you will need a work permit, so it's worth researching online on the country's embassy website to find out how to apply and whether you are eligible.

If you have school-age children, it's important to research the quality of local education. "You'll generally have the choice of a local or international school. I'd advise going for a local school where possible, so your child is immersed in the culture and mixes with local children," says Scott Huggins.

Zilpah Hartley adds that quality healthcare is also important. Research your rights and the standard of the local hospital, and look into insurance, as not all countries have a free health service.

All this must be backed up by careful financial planning. Moving overseas requires a realistic approachand a great deal of research, but do this and you could be among the 10% who live happily ever after in the sun.

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