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A Look at British Expats

Most of the time when we talk about migrant workers on the TransferGo blog, we are referring to those from other countries coming to the UK to live and work. It may be surprising to learn that a great number of British citizens also move to other countries to live and work as well.

UK citizens that live and work abroad are called “expats.”  Basically an expat is one that has voluntarily withdrawn their residence (or allegiance) to their native country. The term now has worldwide usage, but at one point was considered to be a “British” word. Part of the reason for this is due to the fact that the UK has a long history of expatriatism.  The number of British expats stands at about 4.3 million; a recent survey suggested that up to two-thirds of the British population was “open” to becoming expats.

Expats have attracted a fair amount of attention recently due to the discussions surrounding the possible withdrawal of the UK from the EU.  The benefits of being an EU member country for British citizens living abroad are far reaching in terms of such things as property ownership, health care, the ability to work and ease of finding a job.

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Reasons for Becoming an Expat

Over the years the attitude of British expats has been changing. At one point more than 70% of the expats stated that they were highly unlikely to return to the UK.  That number has recently changed dramatically, with more than a third of current expats saying they expect to return to the UK in a relatively short period of time.

The reasons for becoming a British expat are in many ways similar to the reasons those from other countries move to the UK.


Work related expatriatism ranks as one of the major reasons.  As the business world becomes more global, companies often send experienced workers to other countries to work.

Some countries actively recruit U.K citizens to fill in demand jobs in education, technology and specialty professions. At one point these jobs were considered golden positions due to the famous “expat packages.”  It was not unusual for these jobs to include generous (or free) housing allowances, round trip airfare including for holidays and other perks.  While many of these perks have disappeared or have been cut back, such positions are often very appealing.

Other expats simply move to use their skills in foreign countries for a sense of adventure or simply as a change of pace. Many set up small businesses or pursue self-employment opportunities in the countries they have enjoyed visiting.


The number of British citizens living abroad to lessen their tax burden is somewhat legendary. Known as “tax exiles,” these UK citizens live and work in various places around the world and often follow somewhat rigid and unorthodox schedules.  Those with the more extreme schedules include artists and musicians who often set their tour schedules to allow for easy egress from a country on set dates in order to to comply with all tax laws.

Cost of Living

Living in the U.K can be expensive. Many become expats to enjoy a lower cost of living and hopefully a higher standard of living, although the two do not always go hand in hand.  There are websites and companies throughout Europe designed specifically to lure and help British nationals become expats. At one point these sites were aimed at retirees and stressed the lower cost of living with little reduction in the standard of living.  These sites and companies now focus almost equally on pensioners, workers and entrepreneurs.

The Weather

British weather has never been a major selling point for living, working, or visiting the UK.  Many expats have moved to find climates that are more to their liking.

Where Do UK expats live

About 1.3 million of UK expats live in Europe.

Spain tops the list, with Ireland and France in the number two and three spots. France, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, and Poland are other countries popular with expats. A small percentage of expats live in the US, Asia, and the Middle East.

British expats, especially those that are living in other countries for a short time to work and who plan to return to the UK, face many of the same challenges facing migrants in the UK. They often have property and expenses in the UK or need to send money to family back home.  TransferGo’s unique local in local out model provides the same level of service and costs savings to those individuals and to those who are paying bills or send sending money home from the UK.


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