Contemplating working abroad? Tired of the lack of opportunities available in your own town, region, or country? Yearning for travel and adventure? Or simply wanting your circumstances to change in general? For all of these reasons UK workers are often enticed by the apparent opportunities made available by finding work abroad.
Once you start to play with the idea of working abroad, one of the first things that will come to mind will almost certainly be the location. You might be a person who doesn’t like extremely hot temperatures. Alternatively, you might adore hot weather and love to sunbathe. You might speak five languages fluently, two languages confidently, or none at all besides your first language. You might like clubbing culture or you may prefer cobbled streets and cosy cafes. All of these idiosyncracies that form part of your own personality can greatly influence where you actually want to live.
As such, telling yourself that you’re ready to work abroad is only the first step. Moving and working abroad is not a decision you should make lightly. It is highly recommended that you choose the location wisely. You might not have the finances to go and visit your top five favorite spots. If you’re in a position where this is possible, that’s great, but for many this is simply not feasible. Jobseekers don’t often usually have a lot of money to play around with — this is why they are contemplating their career at home or abroad in the first place! So, if you want to pick a place where you think you will like to live without actually visiting it, how can you possibly ensure that your information will lead you in the right direction?
Well, one of the first things you need to find out is:
Where do UK people usually emigrate to, and why?
A good starting point for trying to figure out what country you would like to live and work in is to find out what countries are popular choices for people who want to leave the UK. It’s also important to consider the reality of living in these countries. For example, if Christmas is your favorite season, you might find it odd to move to a really hot country and spend Christmas on the beach eating barbecued chicken! In order to make an informed decision on where might suit you best, here are the top five most popular countries for finding work abroad:
Australia is the number one choice for British expats looking for work. It’s a popular misconception that Australia is pretty much like a bigger England. One of the biggest differences between Australia and England is something that will impact your everyday life: nature. Enjoying the milder climate and dreaming of playing volleyball on the beach pretending you’re on the cast of Neighbours doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect.
The linguistic idioms and cultural attitudes in Australia are much different. Going for a pint is going for a schooner, being rorted means you’ve been scammed, and feeling ‘crook’ means you’re sick. Starting your new job you will no doubt experience a sharp learning curve. Plus, if you have kids, you’ll soon see that childcare in Australia is more expensive.
Finally, if you like going on adventures, you might want to do more research on all the crazy scary animals in Australia. The Australian outback is renowned for its harsh environment. Poisonous snakes, spiders, box jellyfish, and of course crocs (!) are all part of the environmental fabric of Australia. Therefore, if you’re afraid of bugs or aren’t outdoorsy, you need to think long and hard before deciding to move to Australia.
I can speak more confidently about America because I live here. America is a popular choice for UK expats because it is thought that America is a universal symbol of opportunity. This is the good news: in America there is a real vibe that if you work hard you will do well. Plus, there are plenty of jobs here. Everywhere I go there are ‘help wanted’ signs up. It might be a restaurant or a shop, but it’s a start for someone who is really serious about coming to live here.
There are lots of great things about living in America, but you should understand that it is best understood as fifty small countries. You might love one state and completely detest another, so the essential thing to do if you’re thinking about living here is to pick a number of states and figure out which will suit your lifestyle and habits best.
Colorful, vibrant, with lots of culture and history. It’s not surprising that British expats are drawn to Spain. It’s a short plane ride home to the UK, so if you’re feeling lonely or Christmas is approaching going home to see your family can be achieved relatively easily. Missing family is one of the top reasons expats struggle in their new country, so the advantage of this cannot be underestimated.
One of the best ways of weeding out the great choices from the poor ones is to contemplate the opinions of people who are already expats in that location. Expats who talk about their complaints, for example, are a valuable resource for anyone looking to move to a new country. It’s easy to say that France is so chic and cultured with great sightseeing and shopping, but what is it really like to live there? One female expat talks about how unfriendly the women are. If you’re a girl who loves to socialize, is this really going to be somewhere you’d like to live?
This is not to say that all French women are unfriendly, but it is actually a stereotype about the French. They are often portrayed as blunt and short-tempered. Personally, I lived with French girls when I was at university and found them to be absolutely lovely. It’s important in such instances to use your discernment. Perhaps the expat in question is shy or looks unfriendly. Still, you are never going to get a more realistic portrait of life in a foreign country than on an expat forum or message board, so make sure you examine these thoroughly before buying a plane ticket!
A lot of expats are drawn to Canada simply because of its strong economy. It was one of the few places that wasn’t hit severely by the last recession, so it’s assumed that the Canadian economy can provide job security. This is a big thing, because you don’t really want to pack up your entire life and take the chance on a work sponsored visa and then end up in a country with a bust economy!
Another reason Canada is popular with British expats is because it is thought to be a more laidback version of America. While America is seen as the land of dreams, Canada is thought of as a rural paradise complete with log cabins and thermals. In essence, despite it’s European origins, it resembles America more closely with regards to social and cultural etiquette.
Getting a visa processed to go to Canada can take up to three years, so you really need to have the patience to endure the long haul of waiting for your application if you plan to move here.
Choices, Choices, Choices
Moving and working abroad is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s one of those life decisions that can truly shape the next few years of your life. If you’re fed up of the status quo and are yearning for something new, make sure that the void you’re feeling is connected to your location and job situation. Just because you’re going through a rough patch or are bored on the weekends in your hometown doesn’t automatically mean it’s time to go to China to be a samurai. Consider your options carefully before jumping in head first!
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)