The UK has for some time been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, with the American tourist very common place in the country. The country has a number of factors in its favor including the colorful history (starting with the Celts) which has taken in the Roman invaders, Vikings, Saxons and Normans and many more who have tried and ultimately failed to conquer the land.
Consisting of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the UK offers the full range of climates from the cold winters of Scotland to the warmer climbs of the South coast of England. All elements of the UK have their own personal history, and they are all within easy traveling distance, by plane, car, water or train.
Beautiful landscapes, steeped in history, a monarchy rule, a community spirit and a warm welcome await the millions of foreign national who decided to visit and very often re-locate to the UK. A strong member of the European Union, NATO, G8, UN and other influential political groups, the UK seems very much to punch above its weight on the worldwide stage.
The UK, along with Italy, has the largest influx of immigrant workers in Europe, and while more is being done to control the figures this is proving very difficult. This has also had an impact on permanent residency figures with stricter guidelines and rules coming in to force over the last couple of years. Interviews, nationality tests and an opinion of what an visitor can bring to the UK will all be part of the future immigration policy. These procedures do make it a little more difficult for Expats who want to move to the UK. Yet despite the difficulties Tourist and travel statistics in 2009 indicate there has been a steady influx of visitors to the UK, up by 4.4% the previous year.
The culture of the UK is a very complicated and mixed bag, with the Romans and Vikings very much leaving their mark on the layout and thinking of the UK population. Historically the UK’s land area was much larger then as vast areas of the globe was under the aegis of the old British Empire. While slowly the Empire disintegrated, with many countries gaining independence, the era has left a lasting impression and historical ties with many of the previous members of the Empire. Many of the old British Empire members are now part of the UK Commonwealth, which is a strong association where countries work together to assist with trade, financial help and much more. Often referred to as “Cool Britannia” the UK has led the way in music, fashion, theatre, TV and film.
The English language is perhaps the best reflection of the strengths of the British Empire, with English becoming the most popular language in the world and the lingua franca in business. While England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are joined by the Union agreement of 1800, there is much inward friction with rumors that Scotland may seek independence from the UK ruling authorities. Each area has a different individual culture, and differing society characteristics but all under the flag of the Union Jack.
Historically there are few countries in the world that offer the depth and breadth of multi-cultural groupings present in the UK. While predominantly white British, there are also large numbers of Indian, Pakistani, Caribbean, Asian and Chinese who have also brought their own unique culture to the UK. The British culture has also traveled around the world, with over 8 million UK nationals now living in countries spanning the globe.
Over the last 100 years the UK has moved from a predominantly manufacturing led economy, specializing in textiles, metals and consumer industries into a service driven economy which is now thriving in areas such as legal services, financial services, chemicals and pharmaceuticals to name but a few. Often at the cutting edge of new technology, the UK also has a vibrant small business sector, which has over recent years received support from the government.
The current rate of unemployment in the UK as a whole is some 7.8% as a direct result of the current global recession. While there have been spikes in unemployment in the late 1980s and mid 1990, the rate has increased sharply with an attendant increase in the claimant count, which measures the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, reached 1.58 million in July 2009. It has not been higher since May 1997. The count is up 24,900 over the previous month and up 709,000 over the year. as indicated in the latest 2009 UK statistics.
Where some countries tend to encourage government investment to shore up a failing economy, the UK has historically used the weapon of interest rates, which has proved rather successful in the long run. The country has very strong trading links with the likes of the US, and its many European partners, not to mention a significant exposure to the Far East (due in the main to the influence of the British Empire). One of the top 5 economies in the world, a world leader in finance and a significant power in Europe, the UK has much going for it.
While economic growth is expected to slow down further in 2009 as the Gross Domestic Product decreased in the second quarter of 2009. Despite the seemingly turbulent times, the relative consistency and resiliency in the economy has attracted a great number of immigrant workers, many of whom have decided to stay long term in the UK. There are a vast array of employment opportunities in specialist areas such as finance and legal service – in fact the UK has one of the worlds leading stock markets.
As reported in PropertyCommunity.com, the UK property market is projected to fall further this year and will not show signs of recovery until the end of 2010. While the timing and range of price rises differs greatly across the country, with the capital London suffering the most as the projected price increases are projected at modest 2% to 3.6% until 2011. While the UK property market is projected only for 2010 as the increasing unemployment and weak wage growth may bring about new price falls.
As all indicators project the worst scenario, there are still those optimistic as to the growth of the market. The current price falls will pick up soon enough as there is still an under supply of viable homes in the area. Only 60% of new homes are being constructed, which will only exacerbate the shortage making for a future increasing market. The up trend is coming soon as the average cost of a house has been £159,623 in July 2009, which is lower on an annual basis. Demand has risen and this demand is driven by affordability and low interest rates, which bodes well for the market. All in all, the UK still offers a very lucrative property investment market for those looking longer term.
It seems to be common knowledge across the world that the UK had the most generous benefits system of the developed world. A free national health service, high levels of local authority assistance for the needy, and pensions guaranteed by the government had all attracted a raft of immigrants. This has been affected by the economic downturn as the worldwide economic crisis has wreaked havoc on the state pension system in UK as it has only been able to provide 17% of average earnings, well below the EU average of 57% for 2009.
However, the authorities are now introducing stricter and stricter means testing to ensure that only those eligible and in need will receive the bulk of financial assistance on offer. Even though this will take time to filter down to grass roots, it is most definitely a welcome move by the UK government to improve the current state of benefits in the UK.
Some of the more common state benefits available to residence (whether they have contributed or not) includes unemployment benefit, housing benefit, incapacity benefit and much more. The state welfare system is a multi-billion pound monster which has grown out of control since the early days of the 1940s.There are those who say otherwise as found in the UK Expat Forum last February 22, 2009,
“ your comment regarding the health service in the UK is a very valid one – its not perfect but again its perhaps difficult for people who have never lived outside the uk to recognize just how good it is.”
The UK has much to offer on a number of fronts including, employment, living environment, landscape and history as well as a very high standard of living for most. This has resulted in a vast increase in the number of immigration applications over the last 10 years – something the government seemed to lose control of temporarily. The UK GDP has been falling in cycles with projected growth to remain at a modest 0.5% for the year 2010.
The history and vast array of ethnic groups evident in the country has also assisted with the full integration of immigrant minorities into the UK. The UK Expat Forum has indicated in a post dated August 18, 2009 that
“London is exciting and busy but a nightmare if you have children unless you can afford to live in the expensive parts otherwise steer clear.”
Capital : London
Official Language : English
Government : Constitutional monarchy and elected parliament
Size : 244,820 km2
Population : 60 million
Currency : Sterling
International Dialling Code : +44
Economy : 6th largest in the world (5th largest in Europe)
Religion : Church of England although Various forms of Christianity are practiced