Written by: Cally Worden
If you’re thinking of joining the 320,000 people who left the UK for foreign climes last year, then read on. Moving abroad will change your life forever, its kind of key that you think things through well before you make the leap. I speak from experience, because I did just that 10 years ago. I moved to France. Not exactly the other side of the world, but far enough away to be like jumping into a cold bath with the shock of it. Here are eight fundamental practical issues you need to think about before you do the same.
Cost of living
Even in countries that are close to home, you cannot count on the cost of living being similar to that in the UK. Join a few forums, dip into some expat communities online and ask around about how much people are spending on energy, food, entertainment, and any other costs you may not even have considered
If you have family and close friends in the UK, you will want to visit from time to time and for them to be able to visit you. Consider the travel options to your country of choice – most likely you will need access to an airport. What are the costs of flights like? How regular are they? How permanent is the airport? (Budget airlines have been known to close unprofitable routes unexpectedly, leaving local expats high and dry)
Currency Exchange Rates
You will, initially at least, need to transfer money from the UK into your new local currency. Check out the exchange rate; keep an eye on how much and how often it fluctuates. In the future, you may need to transfer money in either direction, if you have a pension or earnings paid in the UK your forex transactions will be more regular. How will it affect your disposable income if the rate changes significantly?
We are spoilt in the UK with the NHS. No other country in the world offers such a wide range of care for so little. In most other countries you will have to pay for access to similar services. In France, for example, you have to pay for healthcare upfront. Those who qualify receive 60-70% of the costs back, but you are expected to take out insurance if you want the remainder covered. This can run into hundreds of pounds a year. And there are exceptions aplenty. Emergency care is always provided; those on low incomes do receive assistance. But still – it’s a bit of a shock to the pocket when most services in the UK are free
Anyone receiving a UK pension who moves outside of the EU, or to another country that does not have special arrangements with the UK, will find that their pension is frozen at the point they leave and receive no further increases. Australia and Canada are just two examples of countries where this applies
The cost of buying and selling houses varies from one country to another. In France you can expect to pay 6-10% on top of the property price in legal fees and taxes when you buy. Suddenly, stamp duty doesn’t seem so bad! And in most countries you will be required to pay an equivalent of Council Tax each year – don’t assumes these costs will be necessarily similar to those in the UK. Be aware also that, as an expat, any capital gain you make when you sell a property in the UK or abroad may be subject to CGT at surprising levels
Inheritance laws vary around the world. Depending on your new place of residency, you may find yourself limited in how you allocate your assets in the event of your death. In France, for example, your children have a default claim on property unless specific provisions are put in place, even then these can be challenged under certain circumstances.
It may seem obvious, but do think about how you will cope if you move to a country where the language is not English. Every single day-to-day interaction outside the home will be a challenge unless you learn the lingo – fluency is not necessary, but perseverance and a sense of humour are!
Personally, moving abroad has changed my life for the better. It allowed me to change various aspects of my life that I simply could not have achieved in the UK. If you’re ready for a change then I can highly recommend it, don’t think for one second it will be ‘easy’. However, if you expect the unexpected, are prepared to be flexible, then moving abroad can be an amazing experience. And if, at the end of it all you decide the move was not for you – well you can always move back. Life is for living, so if you want to try then do it. No regrets.