Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Positives & Negatives of Expat Life - England

Life isn't all sunshine and unicorns and that goes for the expat life as well. There are definitely benefits and drawbacks to being an expat. Today's post comes from P. who writes the Spinster's Compass blog. I appreciate her blog for her "no holds barred", honest look at what her life is like as an expat. She currently resides in England. - T

Exciting! Exotic! Fun! Romantic! Splendid! Those are some words that come to mind when some people think of moving to another country outside of their own. You meet new people who turn into wonderful friends, your job is perfect, you eat at laid-back cafes every day, and the local dating scene may even lead to a new love or marriage. You can stay in your chosen country happily ever after!

Absolutely. On Planet Utopia.

As an expatriate of over one year, this surely isn't the case for me, nor is it the case for many fellow expatriates. Here's a brief look at (what I consider) the positives & negatives of moving to another country.

Positive: My taxes help pay for universal health care, extremely low prescription medication costs, and things as miniscule as almost commercial-free TV programming.

Negative: Heavy taxation on everyone, including me as a legal non-citizen worker. Almost 25% taxes out of people’s paychecks, sometimes more? Come on now. That puts a big dent into one's paycheck & makes it difficult to live frugally. That doesn't include other fees such as council tax, annual TV license, and public transportation.

Positive: Better job, better benefits. In Europe (depending on which country you reside in), minimum vacation time is 20 days (4 weeks) and that's for part-time employees. You may even have higher pay. Your profession may be more appreciated in another country, which is always a plus if you're from the United States, where unequal pay still exists and some jobs are looked down upon.

Negative: In the current economy, your pay may be the same as, or even less than, what you earned in your home country. Your profession may be even more looked down upon in your new country, and the system in which you work - whether it be health or finance or engineering or teaching or (insert any profession here) - may be in even worse shape than the same system that you left in your home country. Possible remedy: lots of research - make sure that you know exactly what you're getting into before you move.

Friends (how many of us have them?)
Positive: It can be exciting to meet new people. They can help you get adjusted to your new area, taking you out on the town & introducing you to other people who can help you feel even more at home away from home. If your personalities mesh, these friendships can last a lifetime.

Negative: If you're like me (not always good at negotiating social activities, norms & mores), it's more difficult to meet new people. Rather than meeting fly-by-night acquaintances, you may be seeking more solid friendships. Solid friendship are more difficult to form and can take longer to develop, and lack of friendships can make it more difficult to adjust to your new area. Possible remedies: go out on your own & explore your new area, and/or take up a hobby in your new area, which can expose you to new people.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. My top recommendation to anyone who is considering expatriation: know what you're getting into before you go. It can mean the difference between an easier transition or a return plane ticket back to your home country.


Daphne said...

I always appreciate circumspect posts on life as an expat. I've been reading up on expatriation (been thinking about it for a year or so now), and the options therein, so it's good to know the positives and negatives to make an informed decision.

Thanks, P.!

P. said...

You're welcome. Glad you like it.


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