This has been a hugely attractive expat destination since the 1960s. It’s sometimes overlooked that during the first decades of mass British immigration to Spain, the country was still technically a fascist dictatorship under General Franco. Whatever affects that may have had on the internal politics of the country, it didn’t stop vast numbers of British people moving there and apparently living very contented lives.
The return of democracy made no difference to the trend whatsoever, with a net result being that nobody really has any idea just how many Brits are now living there – but the figure is likely to be millions. There are probably three main reasons why it continues to be an attractive destination:
- the weather;
- low prices;
- largely friendly people and welcoming culture.
It probably also has to be admitted that since the arrival of the European Union, it has been an easy destination to get into and that helps. All the above points make it a particularly attractive destination for older people. Though current economic issues have put a bit of a dampener on this as a destination
Just like Spain, nobody really has a clue how many British people live permanently or semi-permanently in France. Some figures put the estimate at around 400,000 though many people suggest that is far too low and that the true number is almost certainly above one million. In some parts of the country, entire villages are now populated almost entirely by British people.
People are attracted there by the weather, the culture, the relaxed lifestyle, the proximity to the UK, the traffic-free roads and the still phenomenally cheap land and property prices by the standards of countries such as the UK and even Spain. However, apart from property, prices in France are broadly comparable to the UK and that can sometimes cause a problem for people on limited and fixed incomes.
As an overseas destination, though it attracts retired people, it is also very attractive for younger families who wish to radically change their lifestyle and drop out of the UK rat-race.
Australia and New Zealand
The historic and family ties that link the UK to these countries remain strong. What that means is that they continue to be a particularly attractive destination for both young professionals and younger families. The specific nature of those attractions is legendary. Things like the weather, the beaches, the open spaces and the sense that these are lands of opportunity and countries of the future, all make them prime targets for certain types of expat.
However, some of the gloss may have gone out of this destination, as over recent decades, successive Australian and NZ governments have significantly increased the entry criteria for immigrants. The net result of that is that it is no longer a routine matter for British people to obtain residency permission – particularly in situations where they are unqualified, above a certain age or without significant financial reserves behind them.
The net result of this is that once seen as a total family destination, these countries are increasingly targeted by younger professional people and younger professional families, as others may find them difficult to get into. Corporate sponsorship by local organisations may be the only viable route in some cases.
The United States and Canada
In many respects, both of these countries can be broadly seen in the same context as Australia and New Zealand. If you are young, well qualified or have significant financial reserves behind you, obtaining permission to go and live and work in North America may take time but might be achievable. The same comments relating to corporate sponsorship above, apply here also.
The attractions of these countries are clear. Open spaces, entrepreneurial orientation, relatively low tax regimes and a sense that the future is there to be grabbed. On the downside, the United States has received considerable negative publicity over recent years for things relating to crime and the cost of healthcare, things that may put some potential expats off.
South Eastern Europe and Turkey
This is a rapidly growing and very attractive destination for British expats. Yet again, weather will be a predictable factor together with very low prices for things such as property and land plus ease of entry for those countries that are now part of the European Union.
These destinations are particularly attractive to older people or those facing retirement, as their money is likely to go a lot further. As there is very little history of expat settlement in some of them, the people are particularly welcoming and are eager to see new sources of money and renovation entering their communities.
Countries to watch for the future are Bulgaria, Romania and with more reservations due to political instability, perhaps Turkey.