Moving abroad can be life changing, whether it’s for work, family or a change of scenery. There are some fantastic benefits, but also lots to consider.
To give you an insight into the life of an expat, we’ve spoken to a number of people who have moved abroad, to find out why they moved, their own experiences of living as an expat and how the move changed their lives…
Sara Tomaszewska – Little Media Bureau
I came to the UK nearly nine years ago for holidays. I came to visit my cousin who used to live here. After a month I decided to give up a a place at a prestigious university in Poland and instead stay here and study at Birmingham City University. It was quite a spontaneous decision, however, it all worked out in the end. It was quite challenging because I didn’t know many people here, and my English wasn’t perfect. But somehow I adapted quite quickly. I honestly didn’t think I would stay here that long, but it turned out that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I must say, it’s been a hell of a journey! I did a lot of exciting projects from working as a radio presenter in a community radio station and PR to marketing and social media. After a while of working 9-5, I decided to set up my own business. I started a social media agency Little Media Bureau that helps small businesses with their online marketing. It’s very challenging, however, it’s also incredibly rewarding, and I enjoy every aspect of it.
Honestly, if someone told me ten years ago I’ll be living in the UK and running my own business, I would never believe it. Birmingham became my home, and I’m now very pleased I’m here. I met incredible people, and it presented me with a lot of amazing opportunities. I feel very grateful that I’ve had so many incredible experiences.
Lisa Phillips – The Confidence Coach
I have been lucky enough to live life as an expat twice – once for 12 months in Singapore on a work placement and more recently 18 years in Sydney, Australia. Both experiences were very different. In Singapore, I was lucky enough to get a full expat package along with Condo and car, whereas in Sydney I was left to fend for myself!
Working and living abroad as an expat opens you up to amazing countries, cultures, and experiences and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I travelled solo on both my trips and have come back to the UK a far more adventurous, open-minded and confident person. I have visited places that I would have only dreamed of and also managed to build a very successful business in Australia. The world just seems such a small place now and I have far more knowledge of different cultures and work practices as having been exposed to many of them on a regular basis. Yes, I did feel lonely and lost a few times, but I am a big believer in ‘ you take yourself with you wherever you go’ so this was inevitable wherever I was living!
I returned to the UK in 2017 and admit, I often feel like a bit of an outsider. It’s almost like I have two versions for me – An Australian version and a UK version. I have gone from living in a large city back to a small town and do admit craving some in-depth conversations about travel and stuff I have experienced over the past few years. Sometimes I feel that I have grown so much but the people in my life have stayed the same – they still see me like I was 18 years ago!
Saying that living as an expat has definitely given me both the mindset that anything is possible and haven’t yet put down my final roots! I think nothing of packing a suitcase and jumping on a flight last minute as I know I will be able to cope – the world really isn’t that much of a scary place really!
Talbot and Gayle Thrush
We moved to Turre in Spain after retirement to enjoy the warmer climate and to experience the health benefits of a more relaxing way of life. There are some wonderful parts of living in Spain, perhaps most notably the warmer and drier climate eases my chronic health condition.
The cost of living in Spain is cheaper than the UK, which means that everything from eating out to winter heating bills and local taxes are less pricey. Also, Turre is a more sociable environment than our South Wales hometown: we’re able to sit out in the sun with our friends most days.
However, nothing’s ever completely perfect and there are some issues that come along with living abroad. For example, the local tap water is not drinkable which means we have to take a trip to the local fuentes twice a week to get drinking water. Occasionally, there are some language barrier issues and many things take a lot longer in Spain than they do in the UK, such as getting planning permission and receiving mail.
Being expats has affected our lives in some brilliant ways, such as being able to enjoy the climate and a more relaxed lifestyle. However, making arrangements for UK related issues can be challenging, such as organising our wills and British bank accounts. We’ve also had to purchase a Spanish registered car and have had to arrange medical cover and Spanish National Insurance, as well as, of course, learning Spanish.
My husband and I moved from the UK to Spain in 2009. We purchased a holiday home in Spain in 2002 and we would come over three or four times a year one or two weeks at a time. In that time we got to know the area more and understand the Spanish culture. We also made a lot of friends who were mainly British. We were both golfers and joined in the social life as a result, when we were here in Spain. So when we made the decision to move over permanently, we already had the benefit of knowing what to expect. The main problem we experienced, in the beginning, was the language and understanding how things work here in Spain. A big difference between having a holiday and being here permanently!
The benefits living in Spain include the climate and therefore being able to spend much more time outside. Another benefit due to the climate is to your health as a lot of conditions improve with the better climate. The cost of living is lower so therefore it’s cheaper to live and as most expats are pensioners this matters a lot! The impact of being an expat is being able to experience different cultures and lifestyles. It’s also lovely to be able to share with our families what it’s like to live in another country. We have never regretted our decision to move to Spain and have fully embraced all the positives, very few negatives.
Isabella Benestad – Isabella McNeill
When faced with a situation or choice that could change my life in one direction or another, I used to think of it as a risk. A risk is often associated with negative connotations. However, with time I’ve learned that the risk of moving across borders is actually a way to opportunities beyond my imagination. One must work to forge away the never-ending waterfall of the what-ifs and worries. Taking a new opportunity and moving out of one’s comfort zone is not only exciting but a life-changing reward. Every move is not the same and will teach you something valuable about life in one way or another. Embrace the change to come, accept the feelings and never regret the decision – it’s the best decision you will face to open your horizon and get to know a whole new World.