Expat Lifestyle – A Full Guide for UK Expats

Whether it’s due to the glorious sunshine or fantastic job opportunities, it’s easy to see why millions of British natives are lured into the expat lifestyle. More than 5.5 million Britons live overseas permanently, with around 500,000 living abroad for part of the year.

From the most popular expat locations to the best way to transfer money abroad, Halo Financial covers all there is to know about becoming a UK expat in 2021.

image of british expat looking to return

What are the financial and lifestyle benefits of being an expat?

There are multiple reasons why people choose to live abroad from a better quality of life in retirement to better employment and education opportunities for their families.

Statistically, there are many financial benefits to becoming an expat from salary increases to affordable housing. Global expats in employment are, on average, able to earn 25% more than they could in their home country, 52% state that they can save more money and 57% claim to have more disposable income.

Research has shown that property ownership is a particular priority amongst UK expats, with 75% owning a property abroad compared to 64% property ownership amongst UK residents.

Although finances are a primary driver for expats, many move overseas for an improved lifestyle and a new adventure. 38% of expats state that a new challenge was their motivation to move abroad, 34% to improve their quality of life and 41% believe that moving overseas provides them with a more positive life outlook.

Research indicates that expats who retire in Europe have an exceptionally positive experience. 55% of retired expats in Europe state that they felt happier after moving, with climate, lower cost of living, lifestyle and healthcare as the key motivators.

globe against the background of a school class

Where are the best locations for UK expats?

Whilst UK expats are distributed worldwide; five countries are particularly popular:


Australia is the most popular location for UK expats, with over 1.3 million British native’s currently residing down-under. It’s easy to see why Australia is so popular amongst UK expats with its pleasant climate and typically higher salaries than the UK. Australia operates a points-based immigration system, similar to the UK’s post-Brexit immigration rules. Applicants must score a minimum of 60 points based on various criteria, including language skills and qualifications. You can find further information about living in Australia visit here.


There are currently around 761,000 UK expats living in Spain, an ever-popular expat destination. Spain is loved by UK expats due to the beautiful weather, generally lower cost of living and laid-back lifestyle. As the UK no longer has freedom of movement with the EU, UK citizens must now apply for a visa when emigrating to Spain. UK government guidance for UK expats looking to move to Spain can be found here.

United States

According to the Expat Index, there are currently around 678,000 UK expats living in the United States and has been deemed one of the most ‘liveable’ countries for Britons. The score is based on job prospects, property prices and flight time from the UK. For further details regarding living in the United States, please click here.


Canada comes in at number four, with around 603,000 UK expats and is most favoured for its stunning landscapes. There are a variety of visas for UK expats looking to work in Canada from a start-up visa to a family sponsorship. For more information about living in Canada, please click here.


Only a stone’s throw from the UK, Ireland has an estimated 291,000 UK expats. Despite Brexit, there is still freedom of movement between the UK and Ireland, meaning UK expats will not require a visa. More information about living in Ireland is available here.

What are the healthcare options for UK expats?

Many of the most popular UK expat destinations also offer excellent healthcare standards. Whilst some countries have a free national healthcare system similar to the NHS for residents, it’s advised that expats always take out private health insurance.

Living in another country no longer grants British native’s access to the NHS automatically as the system is specifically for UK residents. Investing in private health care is particularly important in countries such as the United States as, without it, you will be faced with a substantial bill.

From December 2020 onwards, it became a legal requirement for UK expats in Spain to have private health insurance. However, retired couples with pre-existing health conditions saw monthly costs rise to over EUR 250. As a result, many UK expats have considered moving to Portugal where healthcare costs are substantially lower than Spain, by up to 20%.

Some points for UK expats to bear in mind when taking out private health insurance:

  • There are additional costs for adding children and other family members to the plan
  • Health insurance premiums are calculated based on age, lifestyle and medical history
  • It’s always best to shop around to ensure you get the best deal

What are the pros and cons of being an expat?

Whilst the idea of becoming an expat sounds thoroughly ideal, it also comes with a set of disadvantages. Here are some of the pros and cons of becoming an expat:


Better opportunities

As mentioned previously, living in another country can often result in UK expats finding better job opportunities and earning higher salaries than they would at home.

Better lifestyle

Lower living costs often mean UK expats can purchase more extensive, affluent properties and more disposable income than living in the UK.


Whist becoming an expat is a huge decision; it doesn’t have to be forever. Should you discover that the UK life is not for you, you are not obliged to stay for the full length of your visa and can return home at any time.

Experiencing a new culture

Entering into a new life adventure makes the expat lifestyle appealing to many. Living abroad is an opportunity to engage in a new culture, learn a new language and experience local cuisine.

Better weather

Living in a warmer climate by the sea allows UK expats to experience summer holiday vibes all year round. This benefit is particularly valued by UK retirees looking to spend their golden years in the sunshine.


Meeting entry requirements

Some countries have a strict set of entry requirements, making it challenging to meet the specific criteria. More countries are now favouring skilled workers with specialist knowledge, and with caps on visa levels, this could cause your expat dream to be a little more challenging.

Costs of renewing a visa

Visas don’t last forever; once yours approaches its expiry date, expats must go through the application process again, which can include additional costs.

Tax implications

UK expats can encounter both positive and negative tax implications depending on the country of choice. It’s always best to speak to a financial adviser to make your money go further.

Missing family back home

Despite beautiful weather and improved lifestyle, expats always face the challenge of missing their family members back home. Video chat and social media can help you stay in touch with family and friends in-between visits.

Language barrier

While most popular UK expat destinations contain many English speakers, it can be challenging to communicate with banks and government services if you don’t speak the local language.

What are the top careers for working expats?

Depending on your country of choice, it can be easier to secure specific jobs, particularly those seen as skilled or in high demand. Some of the leading industries for working expats include education, hospitality, tourism, healthcare, finance, marketing, and technology.


An English teacher is a prevalent career choice for expats and is one of the easiest careers to secure when living abroad. Some countries may require a university degree, though requirements are not as strict in countries such as Vietnam.


Expat website, Expatriant listed client service roles as the second most popular job for expats in 2020. International hotel chains hire employees worldwide, covering various functions from managerial positions to kitchen staff.


Nursing roles are one of the most in-demand jobs globally, with many countries facing nursing shortages. Europe and the Middle East are two of the most popular locations for expats working as nurses.


Finance jobs are often the highest paid jobs amongst expats, with many companies paying for high levels of expertise, regardless of your country of origin.


Another easier role for expats to secure is software developer jobs. Whilst jobs in tech are becoming increasingly remote; it is still possible to obtain a developer role working from home whilst still living abroad.

What should expats consider before moving abroad?

Before moving abroad, there are many considerations which expats should assess beforehand to ensure you are making the right decision and to make the move as efficient as possible.


Your work situation will vary depending on your situation. If you are by yourself and entering a country which does not require you to have a job offer beforehand, you may wish to look for a job after you have moved into the country. If you choose to do this, you must have sufficient funds to support yourself in the meantime.

Skilled worker visas require expats to gain a job offer from an employer in the first instance. There is often high competition for skilled worker visas so it could be more challenging to secure an appropriate role.

Entry requirements

Always look at your country of choice’s entry requirements before making any significant decisions by looking at the UK government website. Observing this information will help you to make a checklist and plan accordingly.

Travel costs

Expats must look at the cost of flights to assess how affordable it is to travel back home. Higher travel costs could mean you won’t be able to visit your family back home as much as you would like.

Research the culture

Living in another country can be very different than living in the UK. It’s important to look into local rules and customs to assess if you are thoroughly comfortable living in a different culture.

Cost of moving

There are many logistics involved when moving abroad, mainly moving all your possessions from one country to another. Take a look at how much this would cost, from flying everything over to the cost of delivery vehicles.

Buying a property

Take a look online at how much your ideal property would cost to assess whether what you are looking for is in the budget.


It’s important to factor in setting up new accounts and processes when you move abroad, i.e. applying for a new bank account and a driving licence.

What is the best way to transfer money abroad?

An essential matter when moving abroad, which may not be immediately obvious for expats, is managing foreign exchange risk. Expats will want to transfer money from their UK bank account to their new international bank account but doing so could lose money without implementing the right currency exchange solution.

Sending international payments via your bank can result in hidden costs and poor exchange rates. Therefore, it’s always recommended that you seek advice from a foreign exchange specialist like Halo Financial. At Halo, we assess your situation to ensure that you get the best possible exchange rate when sending money abroad.

For expats that would like to know more about managing their currency risk, please give Halo a call on 020 7350 5474.