If you’ve found yourself reading this article, it’s probably because you’re thinking about selling up, packing up and heading off to a new life in the sun, or maybe the snow. Chances are you have a rough idea of where you want to go - perhaps to sunny Spain, rural France or somewhere random like Iceland (you never know).
But for many, the world is a big place, and the more they look, their list of “maybe” countries gets longer rather than shorter. So, to help you narrow down your choice to one, be guided by your answers to our questions here. The first one is about a sunny climate, so it’s likely Iceland will be scrubbed off your list straight away.
Are you looking to move to the sun?
One of the biggest priorities for people thinking of emigrating is to find somewhere with a beautiful climate, better still if it’s got miles and miles of unspoiledt beaches. If this is you, thoughts of moving to Scandinavia or Northern Europe or Canada can be ignored.
However, you’ve still got a massive choice, including most of southern Europe (France, Spain, Italy, Portugal), Asia, Australia and the Caribbean, too. New Zealand is probably out because of its cold winters.
On to the next question.
Would you like the security of being close to an expat community?
While some people want the opposite (they’re leaving Britain to escape from all the Brits!), many see the sense of moving abroad somewhere where they can rely on others for help and advice. Even before the move, this is useful: by joining a forum for expats in Spain, for example, you can get loads of tips and support from people who have already been there and done it. It could save you tripping up and open your eyes to more opportunity.
Once you move, this community can help with the local language, local services, direct you to the most reliable tradespeople and show you the best ways to enjoy living abroad.
So, if you’re a “yes” to this question, best scrub out most of Asia and the Middle East, South America (there are pockets of expats there but nothing like Spain, France etc.).
Right now, your list is probably looking like: France, Spain, Portugal, Australia, or the United States.
How close do you want to be to “home”?
Yes, we know you’re moving abroad to get away from home, but for many, there’s plenty of reasons to remain within “striking distance”. As you settle into your new life abroad, it’s comforting to know Britain isn’t that far away.
But there are other reasons it might be important to you, chiefly:
- You have family and friends who wish to come out and visit you for holidays or long weekends
- You might want to head back to Britain to see them, or perhaps you have property at home you need to manage
- You might retain business interests in the UK and need to return to attend to those.
If you’re in this camp, then your list has now come down to three likely countries for moving abroad: Spain, France and Portugal, which tick all the boxes so far. Gone are Australia, the United States (although some might argue a regular nine-hour flight to Florida is bearable), and any remaining hopes of the Far East or South America and the Caribbean.
So, is it to be Spain, Portugal, France or further afield?
This is where the real fun begins. Having sacked off most of the world, you’re likely down to a few destinations. You now must weigh up the pros and cons of each, perhaps using these points as your guide:
- Property prices, buying or renting
- The cost of living, including food, drink, utilities – plus the reliability of services
- The standard of healthcare provision, free and private
- Availability of expat help in various locations of each country
- Legal and tax implications of buying, working and living in each country
- If you’re coming up to pensionable age or already drawing your UK pension, check what, if any differences there are between each country
- If you have a specific hobby, perhaps golf, sailing, cycling, fishing or hill walking, what are the local facilities like? Everyone knows Portugal is great for golf but is Spain best for cycling and France hill-walking?
- Transport links – how easy will it be for you to get around in your new country, how close will you be to a major airport with direct links back to the UK, and how long and expensive will those flights be?
Now that you've had a think about the aspects of life abroad that are most important to you, you could try taking our quick quiz which could help you narrow down your search. Just answer a few simple questions and we'll make a suggestion about where you should head for your life abroad!
You’ve picked your favourite destination. Now what?
All your research has paid off, and you’ve now selected the ideal country for living abroad. But you need to check it out before jumping right in. Just because you’ve settled on the idea of moving to Provence in France, because you once went on holiday there and like the hot summer, isolation and walking, it doesn’t mean you’ll love living there all the time.
If possible, do some property research online and register with a couple of local estate agents. Then make not one, but several fact-finding trips to check the area out – in different seasons. Go in winter and perhaps Autumn, so you’ll get to appreciate more of what it will be like living there all year round, rather than just in the glorious summer. You intend to be a resident after all, not a holidaymaker.
Assuming you have done your due diligence, found a property, put in an offer and had it accepted, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re moving abroad!
Enjoy the sun, sea and lifestyle in your new home
In all probability, moving abroad is the best decision you’ll ever take. Before you know it, you’ll be one of those expats that friends or even complete unknowns contact for advice. You’ll feel a certain swell of pride as you think: “Yep, I’ve been there and done that. And I’m very glad I did.”