Word on the street would have you believe that there is an exodus of expat Brits returning to the UK. It is true that the expat community has always been very transient ever since the beginning but it is more like a consistent stream replacing newbies that are in the process of moving out. There appears to be a threshold of four years. Generally people who make it beyond this point stay for good. However, many people don’t even make it past a couple of years or if they are really unlucky, six months.
Currently, the most influential factor pushing people back to the UK is the inability to earn a living. It is becoming increasingly difficult for young families to make ends meet. Many younger expats have been working in the real estate sector which, as we all know, is not exactly booming at the moment. Even if they haven’t been affected directly by job cuts, the lack of property sales will have had an impact on the services sectors such as furniture shops, curtain makers and anything else related to setting up and maintaining a home in Spain.
The sale of real estate will even determine the jobs for those that build the roads or assemble the advertising boards. You cannot underestimate how many have been affected by the fall in sales both expats and Spanish. Finding a job in itself is a struggle and when people do lose their jobs their options are limited as there aren’t the retraining or adult education opportunities offered back home. So people find themselves in a more cut throat environment chasing jobs alongside an ever increasing number of competitors.
It is generally not the retirees that are returning but those who are struggling to make ends meet with a family to support. It is tough on those families that have endured the whole upheaval of coming out here only to have to do the same in reverse a couple of years later. It is a huge disillusionment to them when they had come out to Spain with the intention of being here all their lives. However, as a younger expat, you can never be so sure as the work situation is very unreliable so people come and go, enjoying it whilst it lasts and hoping that it will forever.
On the other hand, for the retirees, it has always made good economical sense to live in Spain. Converting their UK pensions into euros and less bills to pay meant they were better off. However, as the value of sterling is increasing against the euro and electricity bills are reaching extortionate levels over winter it might not be quite as comfortable as it was before. Retirees, too, are wondering if the pros of the so called cheaper life in the sun really outweigh the cons of living so far from family and health care in another language.
If they aren’t returning due to unemployment or financial issues it is usually down to general disillusionment. Over the past few years many Brits have been tempted into leaving rainy old Britain by watching too many aspirational lifestyle programmes like Place in The Sun etc. Many have come to live in Spain without really knowing the first thing about the country beyond what they have seen on such ‘feel good’ programmes and what they experienced on a couple of holidays.
It all seems so simple; they can sell their house, get rid of the mortgage and have cash to spare to start a new life. However, often other unforeseen expenses spring up in place of the ones that they left behind. And if the cost of living is much lower than their area back fome it is probably due to a far inferior social infrastructure. In reality there are constant battles with bureaucracy, lack of work, language problems and the list goes on.
For those that do find work, they discover that working long hours in the unbearable summer heat for considerably less pay than in the back home is not all it’s cracked up to be. And for those living in the most developed parts of the Costas where infrastructure has improved considerably the cost of living does not correlate to the low wages.
Times have changed considerably in Spain over the last few years and there’s no longer a stigma attached to having to return back home. At least they can say they tried it out.