article by Elizabeth Roberts for telegraph.co.uk
It’s official: living overseas is good for your health, wealth and happiness. Or at least, that’s the case if the latest survey on the topic is to be believed.
An online poll of 1,000 people was carried out for international relocations company MoveHub. Half the respondents (located in the UK and Ireland) had spent time living abroad, and half had not.
A total of 69 per cent of expats rated their health as good or even very good compared with only 58 per cent of people who had lived in just one country.
When it comes to happiness, 63 per cent of expats described themselves as happy or very happy compared with only 53 per cent of others. And 40 per cent of those who’d tasted expat life said they were making a lot of money or were on a good salary. This is compared with 28 per cent of those who had not lived overseas.
But is this too good to be true? We asked six Telegraph Expat readers and contributors around the world:
Andy Probert, 46, a freelance journalist from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, has lived in Turkey for 10 years.
“As an expat, life is a lot sunnier, more relaxed, far less pressured and more enjoyable. We earn 12 per cent interest on our savings, the annual council tax is £40, there are greater opportunities to explore your interests, as well as enjoying the social, historic and cultural fabric of our adopted homeland.
“I returned to the UK in February and was struck by how the rat race has become a virtual 24-hour experience”
Andy Probert, Brit living in Turkey
“For the first time in eight years, I returned to the UK in February and was struck by how the rat race has become a virtual 24-hour experience. Sitting in a traffic jam on a B-road at 2am, wondering where all the traffic had come from, made me yearn for ‘home’. Home is now Turkey.”
Journalist and author Helen Russell pictured in Denmark with her son, is happier – but not healthier or richer
Helen Russell is a 35-year-old journalist and author from London. She lives in Denmark.
“Since relocating at the start of 2013 I’ve enjoyed living Danishly – the distance from friends and family back home has made me appreciate them more; I’ve stretched myself personally and professionally to create a new life for myself in my adopted homeland; and there’s something about the experience of starting over – or making a big change in your life – that is invigorating (albeit terrifying at times).
“Being an expat in the country regularly voted the happiest in the world has certainly made me more content. But healthier? And richer? No. The one-a-day Danish pastry habit and the eye-wateringly high taxes that fund the fabulous Scandinavian welfare state mean I am down on the £ and up on the lbs. But I am happy. And hygge (content). And this, for the moment, feels like a deal worth making.”
Jonny Lis, a 28-year old from London, has lived in the Philippines for three years, where he works as an operations manager.
“Moving to the Philippines has definitely made me happier. I used to live in a cramped house in Brixton, with a dead-end job that I didn’t like, and I was always running out of money due to the costs of living in London. I now live in a lovely flat with an outdoor pool and gym.
“I love my job and have a great deal of financial freedom as everything is so much cheaper. I do miss my friends and family but have made new friends out here too, which really helped my transition. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was healthier; my work schedule matches UK hours, so I work 3pm to midnight Monday to Friday. As a result I usually snack late at night after work, which can easily lead to me putting on weight if I’m not careful, and I can’t cycle to work like I used to in London as the roads here are very treacherous.
“However, I get a lot more sunshine and good weather, I have a number of exotic islands close by for long weekends away, I have made a lot of friends, and have had some unforgettable experiences that I know I wouldn’t have had if I had stayed in the UK. Coming here was easily the best decision I ever made.”
Operations Manager Jonny Lis, pictured with his girlfriend, Grace, is wealthier and happier in the Philippines
Neil Bunting, 50, from Hastings, has worked in international schools in Indonesia, Oman and Saudi Arabia for the past 15 years. He now lives in Dubai.
“I wouldn’t change my decision for anything. It has been a wonderful journey experiencing life in different cultures. It hasn’t always been a smooth ride and I have been exposed to dangers and frustrations, especially with the bureaucracy of moving, but the learning experiences have been tremendous.
“It may be a cliché, but living in the sun does make you happier, as does the opportunities that come more easily along with a more comfortable lifestyle. I am not sure it is healthier, perhaps not in terms of the over exposure to the sun and pollution, but from a mental health point of view living in countries where people smile all the time definitely makes you feel better.”
Gillian Harvey, 37, is from Hertfordshire. A mother of five, she has lived in France since 2009. A freelance writer, Gillian blogs for Telegraph Expat.
“Since moving to France I’m happier and healthier, but not much wealthier. I can’t fault the health care here. Although I miss aspects of life in the UK, the pace of life is definitely slower here, which helps to reduce stress. But food costs the Earth, taxes are high, and heating oil costs a fortune. As they say, two out of three ain’t bad.”
Tim Howe, 52, from Bath is a self employed teacher, translator and interpreter. He’s lived in Germany since 1998.
“While I love being my own boss, Germany is no easy ride. Monthly advance tax payments and health insurance contributions make a big hole in earnings. On the plus side are climate and lifestyle; generally better than in the UK. Warm Bavarian summers mean regular meet-ups with friends at shady beer gardens and beer-fuelled, free-music street festivals. Alpine mountains and lakes, within a two-hour drive of my home, also beckon. Do I miss anything? Yes, British humour and TV.”
So overall, our expats are unanimous in their belief that relocating made them happier. But when it comes to health and wealth, it depends very much on location. What’s your experience?