There are of course a whole host of reasons why expats return home to the UK.
Let us look at just three of the more common reasons why some people change their minds.
1. Missing family and friends. At first the whole relocating idea is a novelty. It`s exciting, there is a great deal of planning to do, a home to buy, things to organise, and, a certain element of “the grass is greener…”
And whilst it is true that living in another country does not stop family from visiting it is not quite the same as when you are closer to them in a geographical sense. If you live anywhere in the UK you are never likely to be more than 900 miles away from a member of your family, and the chances are you`ll be much closer to one another than that. Even if your family lives in Ireland it is only 30 minutes or so by air.
On the other hand the distance from the UK to Spain is one thousand miles or more, and takes over 2 hours by flight, depending on exactly where from and to you fly. You can’t just jump in the car and pop in on the family, and that to some people (especially I think women), is a real downside.Travel to Spain has got cheaper in real terms, true, but it still involves additional cost that has to be budgeted for. Both sides of our families came over to visit, sometimes a couple of times a year, but it is not quite the same.
And apart from family ties, some just miss the British way of life, even dare I say, the good old British weather. The heat in Spain in the summer months can be oppressive, and it just does not suit everyone. We often found it too hot to be outdoors, so we had the air conditioning turned on and stayed indoors for much of the day, only going out in the evening. That is a problem we never have in the UK. Homesickness, then, is one of the reasons expats return from Spain.
2. Bear in mind that a lot of the expats in Spain are of the older generation. With age usually comes poorer health. That means more likelihood of going in to hospital, which could mean surgery, after care etc. In our case although my wife, Joyce, can drive, she never would in Spain. So, if ever I was to go into hospital then visiting me would present a real problem for her. No relatives in our case to help out. Of course there were other expats we had come to know over there, and some said that if the situation ever arose when Joyce needed some help with transportation they would willingly do it. But, neither of us wanted to be in the position of having to rely on others in those circumstances. Don’t get me wrong, none of us are islands, and at times we all helped one another. That is what you do when you are in a community. But, somehow, hospital trips would be different.
We also considered the fact that if a hospital stay was necessary the standard of care concerned us. In Spanish hospitals relatives are expected to carry out some of the care on family who are patients. That is just the way of life in Spain, something we are just not used to in the UK.
And, although it may sound morbid to even think about it, no one knows when our lives will end, but every day you get older that is one day closer to it. Joyce always felt that if anything should happen to me she would rather be back in the UK, among her family, rather than what was still in effect a foreign country, and to a certain extent, alone. Worry about the state of their health is another of the reasons expats return to the UK.
3. As I mentioned at the beginning, many Brits in Spain are of pension age, or fast approaching it. This means that any pensions they receive are in sterling, and are then converted to euros. The exchange rate fluctuates, but over time it has gone against the pound. If, for example, £100 per week was sent from the UK at 60 pence to the euro that meant receiving 160 euros after conversion. When the pound was at 90 pence per euro it dropped to just 111 euros. So, on the figure of £100 that has resulted in a difference of 49 euros less available to spend each week. That is a fall of around 30%. Not many expat pensioners are in the position to increase their income if local taxes rise or sterling continues to fall against the currency of whichever country they move to.
With the recent global economic crisis employment for expats in Spain is much harder to get too. Tradesmen like builders, plasterers, in fact anyone employed in the property industry are finding things very tough. And it does not stop there, as the hospitality and entertainment industries are suffering too. In short, a lot of expats can no longer to afford to stay in Spain, and that is why some are returning home to Britain. A lot of Brits moved to Spain thinking they would start up English bars as new businesses. But, the recession in Spain is worse than in most other countries in the European Community. Debt problems in some areas of the European Community have reached crisis point, and Spain is no exception. Fewer British holidaymakers are travelling to Spain, and those who do have less money to spend than in the past. British expats living in Spain don’t have the same disposable income nowadays, so they aren’t going out to bars as much. All these factors have contributed to the financial problems suffered by bar owners, and many are closing down, and the owners, disillusioned, are returning to Britain.
The double whammy for those putting their properties on the market is that the more time it takes the less money they are likely to get for them. We had friends there who had to drop their asking price on their villas by 20,000 euros, and in some cases by as much as 80,000 euros, and even those reductions haven’t meant a sale in all cases. The only slight upside is that as the euro is strong against the pound the money they receive is worth more when exchanged. So, financial concerns is the third of the reasons some expats return home.
The best advice I can give is to think seriously before becoming an expat in any country.