Reasons to move overseas

by Mark Benson on August 25, 2009

Will you ever return home?

Will you ever return home?

Over the last few years there has been a massive increase in the number of people moving overseas to start a new life and sample new cultures and new countries. There are many reasons why people may decide to move overseas and there is an interesting thread on the expat forum entitled “Why did you leave? And do you plan to stay?“.

The thread contains a number of valid reasons why many people have moved overseas and what they may be leaving behind in their former homeland.

Moving overseas because of the cost of living

There is no doubt that one of the main reasons why people will move overseas is the ever increasing cost of living in places such as the UK and other prominent countries around the world. The last two years, which include the ongoing recession, have shown a perfect example of why many people in the UK have been looking overseas and indeed why many millions have moved in the past. Despite the fact that UK base rates have fallen to 0.5% and inflation is officially below zero we have still seen a substantial increase in the cost of living fuelled by the ever rising cost of petrol and the ever rising cost of energy in the UK.

When you consider that employment income has not increased at anywhere near the same rate as the cost of living in the UK this effectively means that the pound in your pocket is worth less in real terms today than it was potentially 10 years ago. There are many who believe the UK is one of the most expensive countries in the world in which to live and despite the fact that many people move to the UK from other countries, there is no doubt that the cost of living has increased significantly over the years.

Moving overseas because of the weather

While moving overseas predominantly for a different climate may seem a little fickle and a fairly weak argument, the fact is that many people have moved overseas to enjoy the weather and potentially reduce the impact of health conditions in their later years. Even though there are many older people who have moved overseas for the sun and the warmer temperatures there are also many younger people who have also been attracted by the vast array of different climates available around the world.

There is an argument that global warming has in some way impacted upon global weather patterns although in reality the historically hot and cold areas of the world still have a relatively large distance between their seasonal temperatures and climates. The truth is that if you live in a “cold country” the chances are that a warmer climate may well appeal to you although in reality you are taking a big chance if your main reason for moving overseas is purely and simply the weather and you have not taken any other major factors into consideration.

Moving overseas because of retirement

Even though the breakdown between the number of older and the number of younger expats moving overseas may have changed over the years, there is no doubt that a significant number of those who move to foreign lands to start a new life will have entered retirement and are looking for a quieter and potentially calmer lifestyle. These are people who may have worked for over 40 years of their lives and managed to save up enough to start a new life elsewhere after realising their property assets, savings and investments. It is highly likely that those of an older age who move overseas have been planning such a move for many years and have subsequently fought tooth and nail to raise enough money to “start again”.

Traditional areas of interest for those looking to move overseas after retirement are Spain and other European destinations which offer a mixture of sun and a quieter lifestyle but also the opportunity to become part of a large expat community which can in some places make it feel like a “home from home” experience. While Spain has for many years been the destination of choice, the onset of the Internet and cheap flights around the world has seen more and more other countries come into the mix and attract many who have ended their working lives.

Moving overseas because of the political scene

While people in countries such as the UK may regularly disagree and complain about the political scene and the various changes we have seen over the years, there is no doubt that compared to some of the more volatile countries of the world’s those in the UK have it “easy”. When you consider the many dictatorships around the world, harsh authorities and generally low standard of living for many people it is no surprise that a number may choose to move overseas with very little in their pocket or gambling their life savings.

Even though it can be difficult to move to a new country with very little financial backing behind you, it seems that many people are willing to move and take a chance on EU countries where the potential to work and to enjoy a higher standard of living may be greater. There is also a feeling that some people may believe there is “nothing left for them” in their own homeland and hence they are more than happy to take a chance on a new life. While the number of expats moving overseas purely because of political beliefs and political motivation has probably reduced over the years there is no doubt it has been a major consideration for some people.

Moving overseas because of the challenge

If you are young, healthy and willing to take on a challenge in a foreign land then moving overseas may well be something which appeals to you. While perhaps not one of the more prominent reasons for relocating overseas and starting a new life, there is no doubt that many young couples and young families have literally “upped sticks” and moved lock stock and barrel to a new country and a new challenge. Even though, no matter what your reason for moving overseas, you need to be fully aware of the country you’re moving to, the laws, the cultures and cost of living, there is no doubt that people with no ties and possibly no employment in their homeland may have “nothing to lose” by chasing a dream.

Whether this dream turns into a nightmare, as it has for some people, is purely and simply down to circumstances and the people involved, but for those with a more nomadic mind then perhaps the challenge of a new country and a totally new lifestyle may appeal. Even though this particular reason for moving has also appealed to many middle-aged and older couples there is no doubt that it is easier to move when you are younger because of your relatively shallow roots and potentially lack of ties.

Moving overseas because of employment

There is no doubt that the opportunity to move overseas with a new company or perhaps to move overseas to a branch of your current employer has been one of the more popular and potentially sensible reasons to move overseas. With the backing of your employer, the security of a job and money coming in on a regular basis it can be easier to settle and put yourself in a position where life may be enjoyable in your new homeland. This is not to say there are not any pitfalls or problems which you will need to address, both before moving and after moving, but the truth is that a regular income and the ability to fund your home life is essential.

Indeed many people who move overseas on “short-term contracts” have very often decided to stay on a long-term basis because of their new lifestyle with areas such as Dubai very popular over the last few years. It is perhaps the backing of an employer and the ability to potentially “move back home” if it all went wrong which has seen a large number of people take this particular route. Even though there are risks moving overseas for any reason the fact that there is some stability and some backup can make a big difference.

Moving overseas because of investment opportunities

Even though it is possible to invest significant amounts of money in any country around the world from the comfort of your own armchair in your homeland, more and more people are looking to start a new life with the potential to enter a new market at the bottom. There is no doubt that countries such as Bulgaria in the early days and other relatively new entrants to the EU underwent a massive transformation and suddenly became magnets for overseas investors and overseas investment.

More people decided to move lock stock and barrel to these new entrants to the EU in the belief that the cost of living was relatively low and the possibility of acquiring property and other investments in the country would in due course prove very lucrative. However, if only everything was that simple in life!

As we have seen in many of the so called underdeveloped European nations, the initial influx of overseas investment very often led to overheated markets and internal controls and internal regulations which were in no way able to retain the required level of control. We saw many new markets crash and burn and many investors return back to their homelands with their tail between their legs. Moving overseas purely for investment reasons sounds very good on paper but ultimately you need to have an understanding of the country, the culture and above all, know when to sell your assets!

Moving overseas because of the EU internal passport system

As the European Union (EU) continues to grow there has been a significant move towards bringing the member states closer together to effectively create a Federal Europe in due course. As a consequence, every person living in an EU member state has exactly the same rights in any country in Europe as the local nationals do. As a consequence we have seen many people move from some of the “less well developed countries” such as Poland to countries such as the UK where employment prospects are greater, there is a larger benefits system and the National Health Service is free, a service which is second to none in the world.

Internal immigration within Europe has caused significant problems in some areas and the ongoing recession has highlighted some issues in the labour market where immigrants are seen as “stealing local jobs” which has caused some friction. One of the issues which is mentioned on a regular basis is the fact that many of these “expats” have been known to return home when the economic climate in their new “homeland” turns down.

Reasons for moving back to your former homeland

While there are many reasons why you may look to move overseas and sample life away from your homeland there are also many reasons which see hundreds of thousands of expats returning back to their origins on a regular basis. If there is one phrase which brings together one of the main reasons why many expats do return home it is the fact that “the grass is not always greener on the other side of the road”.

It is very easy to view an overseas country through rose tinted glasses and begin to believe that a new lifestyle and new life awaits you in foreign lands. Even those who have done their homework on their new “homeland” may well find that the lifestyle and culture they expected prior to arriving is very different when they get there. No matter where you move in the world there will also be a number of new laws, new cultures and new situations to take in and ultimately as in places such as Dubai there have been many east/west cultural clashes.

The truth is that for many people home is where the heart is and while sometimes it can be difficult to stomach what is going on in your homeland, which has seen more and more people look overseas, ultimately the pull back to your family, friends and roots can be more compelling than the challenge of a new lifestyle, new cultures and new experiences.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel September 2, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Hi. This was really useful. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I’m doing some thorough research on Ex pats and this helped a lot. You answered many of my questions and kept the negative outcome as well as the good.



Alf September 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm

I think the wetaher has to be so imporrant for us northern European.I lhave just loved to Australia from the UK and can’t belive that it took me so long to do so. I actually wasn’t sure about doing which seems now iunbelievable.The weather is great and the lifestyle is fanatstic. I belive if you are thinking of moving and don’t do it then you will oly regeret it. Incidentally, If you are thinking of Aus I recieved great service from the company as they did all the work for me at reasonable price. Just do it


brooke September 16, 2009 at 10:40 am

I moved for love. While volunteering, I met my husband in Ireland and now we are in the UK. I think love is really the only reason a person should move abroad, either because you love someone, or you love the country you’re moving to and its’ people. People should never move abroad because they’re fed up with politics at home – that’s cowardly. If you feel passionately about changing things, then stay and change things in your own country! I meet a lot of dissalusioned, self-loathing Americans in the UK and they really give us a bad name. If you want to see change in your country, then go change it and do something positive! Don’t just move abroad and complain, and expect everyone to love you because you criticize America. Let’s be grown up in our behaviour abroad, we are representing our country.


Karen September 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

Hi, I moved to Sweden for love. We have been married 17 years and have 3 children. I have loved it here, but my heart is at home in the States. Now that I have reached “50” I am reevaluating my life, the dreams I had etc. I want to have my children experience things that they only can “over there”. It feels heavy. What to do. I do not want to get divorced, but I can’t see a way clear to satisfy me. Other expats that become middleaged must also experience this dilemma. Looking for support. K


Laura December 28, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Hi Karen, I know exactly how you feel. I moved to Italy for love 10 years ago from Australia and now have two small children. I love Italy but lately I feel very homesick and I'm always wondering what would've been if I had stayed. We are not struggling here but the way things are here at the moment it's very difficult to see a bright future for my children and this saddens me. Australia is a country that allows you to grow, plan your future and gives you security, but my husband does not want to move there. It's a very frustrating situation and I know of situations like mine that have turned out badly. I could not do that to my children. It comforts me to know that there are worse situations people have to deal with and if you have your health, your children have their health and my family (even if they are far) are well then we should be thankful for that. I hope this helps, but remember you're not alone


Sal February 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm

Hi, I moved abroad for love and left my whole family in the UK. I have never been able to adjust to life thereand have always begged my husband to move back. After 9 years, he promised we could come back to the UK while I gave birth to our son and try. After 9months, however, my husband is still out of work and now wants to return. I really don't want to go as I don't think my son would have many oppurtunities growing up there but as my husband and I both have jobs, a flat and a car to go back to I don't know how I can ask him to stay. My family is mad with me for taking my son away but I don't know what else to do..very hard situation to be in 🙁


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