A guest contribution by regular reader ‘Pablo Silver or Lead?’ on why the British want to move abroad and how the grass is always different, if not always greener, on the other side.
The one thing that seems to unite this growing wave of émigrés is not age, or class or even wealth, it’s the shared opinion that the UK is going to the dogs and the politicians seem oblivious or powerless to do anything to change it! This is translating into an attitude of ‘the grass is greener’ abroad and there appears a huge head of momentum for us to desert Blighty and flock to a place in the sun.
In many cases the seeds of these ‘dreams’ are sown on holiday. After a few days on vacation unwinding and relaxing, you suspend the reality of your life back home and enter that blissful, dreamy, stress-free state of “no shoes no news”. The school runs, the office politics and the bad weather temporarily fade becoming a dim and distant memory. This is a dangerous place to be, at least psychologically. Your guard is down; all the things you hate about your life and circumstance back home are suddenly and painfully magnified by the perfect life you could lead abroad. Right here right now, under the shade of this palm, cocktail in hand, looking out over the shimmering azure horizon. The really crazy thing is that you’re normally risk averse, sensible and sober partner, is also seeing the possibilities and actually agreeing with you for once……….
Grant and Jemima, fantasising about their escape to Umbria….. “Darling just think for the price of our terrace house in Battersea we could buy a farm, pay off the mortgage and put a £150k in the bank for a rainy day”. “Tabitha and Tarquin can learn Italian, I can paint water colours and you can do odd jobs and a bit of writing, what do you think?” “Yes! We could grow our own vegetables, keep a few goats, pick olives and tread the grapes. It’s a much healthier outdoor life for the children. Have another glass of Chianti darling”……..
Or Kevin and Shaza from the North West of England, deciding to start afresh with their kids Britney and Dylan, by opening an ‘All day breakfast’ bar in Benalmadena. This despite the fact that their only previous experience of bar ‘work’ was getting bladdered every weekend in the local!………”Well Shaza it’s sunnier than Bolton, Blackburn or even Blackpool! The beer, fags and rents cheap and more people speak English here then back ‘ome. We’ve nuthing to lose!”
As an abstract dream it all works. However, as the end of the holiday looms and with it the realisation that they are going to return home, to clamber back onto the treadmill of their daily lives, the haze of optimism is soon replaced by the ‘black dog’ of reality. There is however always the lifestyle media, ably lead by Channel 4’s ‘A Place in the Sun’ and ‘Pay off your mortgage in a Year’ (by seemingly trebling your debt to buy over priced property abroad, on the assurance of a commissioned salesperson that it’s a good investment), to lift your spirits. These and a plethora of other ‘foreign adventure’ programs such as BBC 2’s, ‘Get a new Life!’ try before you buy emigration program only serves to reinforce the idea, that a better utopian existence awaits them abroad.
It seems that there is a push and pull effect in action. The push to leave is driven by people’s negative perceptions of their work/life situation at home in modern Britain: – bad weather, high taxes, increased immigration to the UK (ironically), crime, European regulations (loss of power to Brussels), high cost of living, poor schools, poor health service, the pensions crisis. Also New Labour’s style/spin over substance (now being copied by the conservatives), lack of a credible opposition party, long working hours, traffic congestion etc. Basically it appears that the materialistic, consumption driven, rat race we are all caught up in at home, has lead us to an overwhelming sense of helplessness. This feeling of not having sufficient control over our lives leaves us feeling unhappy about the quality of life we are leading. We feel unfulfilled and guilty about the sort of present let alone the future we have created and are creating for our children. These feelings manifest themselves as increased anxiety and stress levels and this is one of the main causes of so many people looking for an escape route or way out.
On the other hand there is the pull to arrive in a new sunny place and start a new life: – better weather, lower taxes, lower crime, a slower pace, lower cost of living, better schools, good health care and generally a better quality of life. Immigrants! Well we’re the immigrant, so what’s the problem?
It appears many wage slaves saddled with an omnipresent sense of “so much more of life’s millstone to tread”, ahead of them in Britain. View a life in the sun with rose tinted glasses, as if to blind. This rose tinted view is encouraged and enhanced by the polar opposites of what people want to escape from and what they believe they are escaping to. This is to ignore the perceived wisdom, that when you live and work in a place where you’ve previously holidayed, the place you thought you knew and understood as a tourist, is often very different, in reality. This is to state the obvious, but often overlooked fact, that living and working abroad is a whole different circumstance from vacationing, down timing and chilling.