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British Expat Newsletter: September 2013

Hello, and welcome to those of you who have recently signed up.

In this issue

This month

Here’s our news about the latest additions to the BE website.

Our readers in the tropics will probably all have noticed that toilet habits are a much more frequent topic of conversation than in the UK. Our latest eBook, Now Wash Your Hands! How YOU can avoid food poisoning, is a straightforward guide to food hygiene for professionals, families and travellers. Based on the syllabus for the Basic Food Hygiene Certificate required by all commercial food handlers in the UK, it gives plenty of advice on how you can avoid being chained to the loo. A must-read for expats!

You may remember that a couple of months ago Jamie Waddell came up with a list of five British celebrity expats. Some of you may have noticed that they were all men. Well, now he’s redressed the balance with five names to show that British female slebs are no less intrepid.

Biscuit or cake? No, nothing to do with Father Ted; it’s just one of the questions from our Quick Quiz, all about a great British favourite. Cake!

Our latest Pic of the Week comes from China’s Hunan Province and shows what must be one of the world’s twistiest roads – going up a karst mountainside in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Editorial: The green, green grass of home?

In last month’s editorial we talked about reverse culture shock and the difficulties of adjusting to a life in Britain that often bears disturbingly little resemblance to the Britain left behind several years earlier.

Less than a fortnight after we wrote that editorial, the Telegraph carried a news story under the title “Expats have it worse than Brits at home, survey reveals”. The subtitle went on to explain that Britons abroad faced living costs rising at about three times the UK rate of inflation – and the article mentioned that while UK house prices were now on the rise once again, they continued to fall elsewhere.

The Eurozone seemed to be the hardest hit, with four out of five of those surveyed saying that price rises had forced them to make lifestyle changes. Those in Portugal and Greece reported the biggest rises.

So what’s the answer? Should we all go racing back home again?

Apparently it’s not as easy as that.

Perhaps you’re thinking of climbing back onto the property ladder. The bad news is that many mortgage lenders won’t even look at you until you’ve built up a credit history – which can mean hanging around for up to three years. The fewer ties you’ve maintained to the UK in your absence, the worse it is; if you’ve had a UK bank account and kept yourself on the electoral register, you’ll find it easier than if you wiped the dust thoroughly off your feet as you stepped onto the plane at Heathrow.

If you’re married to someone who isn’t a citizen of an EEA (European Economic Area) member state, things may be even more difficult. In 2012 the Home Office changed the regulations so that your non-EEA spouse won’t be able to join you unless you (not your spouse, just you) can show that you’ll have an income of at least £18,600 a year – and even more if you have children. The amounts involved are way over the previous benchmark of £5,795.40, the income support allowance deemed to be enough for a UK couple.

Unsurprisingly there was a legal challenge to this, and the High Court ruled in July that it was a disproportionate interference in family life. However, the Home Office has appealed, so any applications that fail to meet the income requirement are currently on hold until the Appeal Court has ruled – which could take several months.

In the meantime, some desperate families have resorted to exploiting a legal loophole by moving to another country within the EEA – where the spouse is given a visa automatically under EEA freedom of movement rights – and then waiting for long enough to establish right of abode, at which point the spouse can no longer be refused entry to the UK. But, given the expense of moving house and the upheaval of trying to come to terms with an intermediate different society, culture and language, it’s a long-winded and costly way of doing it.

Besides, how reliable are these surveys anyway? The one reported on by the Telegraph was used by the Post Office to plug its own currency services as a means of making savings. So naturally it was in its interests to choose a survey that could be used to paint a picture of economic doom.

Several surveys purport to identify the cheapest and most expensive expat destinations around the world. But they identify different results depending on what expenses they included.

For instance, Mercer states that Luanda is currently the most expensive city – because it includes housing in its basket of costs. But many expats have housing provided for them by their company. The Economist Intelligence Unit doesn’t include housing, but does cover private schools, domestic help and utility bills, so it identifies Tokyo as the most expensive. ECA International just looks at consumer goods, so Oslo heads its list.

Ultimately, it’s all down to personal circumstances. And some expats may well find, after a long hard look at their own situation, that they have more reason to return home than to stay overseas.

But most don’t. Two more surveys carried out recently indicate that more than three-quarters of expats would only return if they were forced to – and only a third of expats return to the UK earlier than they intended.

So maybe the grass isn’t always greener…

Have you considered returning to the UK? Whether you decided to go, or to stay away, we’d love to hear your reasons. Why not share them on our discussion forum?

Write for British Expat

Would you like to write for British Expat? Sorry, we don’t pay for articles but if you have a website we’ll link to it in the author’s blurb below any of your articles we publish. We use all sorts of content as long as it’s useful and/or interesting to our readership.

Besides articles, we also publish quick trivia quizzes – five questions about any subject. So, if you’d like to write for us but don’t feel like producing a literary masterpiece, then why not try writing a quickie quiz about your city, country, or even your hobby? Please use our contact form to get in touch.

British Expat Amazon Shopping

Amazon don’t just do books, you know. We’ve teamed up with them to bring you the ultimate in online shopping – from a micro SD card to a garden shed! A great way to do your shopping online, especially if the shops aren’t up to much in your part of the world.
BE Amazon Shop: UK & EU | BE Amazon Shop: non-EU

And now for something completely different…

Do you fancy yourself as an art connoisseur? Do you find yourself fuming when the papers report millions being handed over for yet another talentless daubing? Here’s a fun test for you!
UsVsTh3m: Priceless or worthless?

So there’s a round-up of all that’s been going on. Come on over and see for yourself! Don’t forget…
Visit the BE website and join in with our lively community!

Till next time…

Happy surfing!

Kay & Dave
Editor & Deputy Editor
British Expat – the definitive home for British expats

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