Beam me up Scotty say British expats
Technology advances are curing British expats of home sickness. And as the ability to keep in touch with family and friends gets easier, expats have settled into their new environments more quickly according to the NatWest International Personal Banking (NatWest IPB) Quality of Life Index.
The global NatWest IPB Quality of Life report, in conjunction with the Centre of Future Studies, reveals the things expats miss most about the UK have changed over the past five years. ‘Missing family and friends' was once at the top of the list, but is not such a key issue today - the number of expats who miss their nearest and dearest has dropped by 44%. One explanation for this is the Internet which is crucially changing the way they live their lives abroad. The top internet tools for expats are webmail, Picasa, YouTube, Skype, Google documents, Twitter and Facebook, all of which are bringing family ties online. Expats can see and talk to friends and family in real time. There is no need to miss a family gathering again.
Factors such as missing the British culture and the English countryside have disappeared from the ‘miss' list over the past five years according to the NatWest IPB Quality of Life report which incorporates expats' real life perceptions and experiences and gauges their personal assessment - satisfaction or dissatisfaction - with their circumstances abroad. Rather the ‘dislikes' are more concerned with the practicalities of being abroad rather than ‘the miss factors'.
Dave Isley, Head of NatWest International Personal Banking, comments: "Five years ago, home sickness was a factor in the decision to stay or go abroad. But Brits are now finding it easier to up sticks thanks to the plethora of internet tools available. Whilst moving abroad either to work or retire used to mean missing those milestone family events, the reality is that technology has lessened the extent of the emotional trauma or guilt of not seeing an important family event."
"Our Quality of Life report demonstrates that expats are continuing to boldly move abroad and are experiencing new cultures, traditions and customs. Over two thirds (69%) are successfully immersing themselves in their new society which is hugely encouraging. Integrating with local communities is key to making the most of their move."
What is motivating ‘wannabe' expats?
The NatWest IPB Quality of Life Index reveals that despite a slowing down in the number of expats moving abroad, motivation for moving has remained strong over the last five years.
Moving from the UK for work related reasons broadly increased between 2004 and 2008 (from 151,000 to 218,000). Since 2008 however, this number has decreased by 13 per cent to 189,000 in 2010. The majority (81%), however, of expats state their reason for leaving the UK is for a better lifestyle. The past five years has also seen Australia emerge as the top destination for British expats to move to, with 188,000 Brits ‘going down under'.
British expats are most likely to leave the UK for a better lifestyle - with an estimated 81% of expats stating this as their main reason compared with just 11% stating their main reason for migrating was to accompany or join friends or family. In addition to a better lifestyle, for almost seven in ten (68%) of expats it was a work assignment that lured them overseas.
Further reasons listed below:
Why did you decide to move from the UK in the first place?
Work assignment 68%
Accompanying partner 37%
Join family 11%
Disillusioned with the UK 23%
A better lifestyle 81%
Study abroad 18%
Source: Centre of Future Studies/NatWest Quality of Life main index
Are expats' expectations being realised?
Previous NatWest IPB Quality of Life Index research has found that the majority of expats (72%) take at least a year to integrate into their new lifestyles and communities. The transition is often difficult, moving from being an ‘expat' to being ‘a citizen' of the country in which they are living. Ties with ‘home' remain strong for a while and their new life feels alien in comparison.
A minority (23%) hold on to their ‘Britishness'; a similar minority (19%), especially those who have moved to radically different cultures, prefer the company of other British expats. However, the 2012 findings prove that the majority (69%) successfully immerse themselves in their new society and 61% consider themselves as cosmopolitan.
The vast majority of people (87%) believe they made the right decision to move abroad indicating their expectations are being met. Significantly, over three quarters of respondents (78%) also feel they have a better quality of life than was previously the case in the UK.
Expats are in a positive frame of mind and living life ‘as an expat' continues to fulfill their expectations despite the downturn in global economic prospects over the past five years.