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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expats Struggle with Their Finances in the United Kingdom

They find it rewarding to work in the UK but are unhappy with their personal finances.

The United Kingdom ranks 37th in the Expat Insider 2022 survey overall but lands in the bottom 3 of the Personal Finance Index (50th). Only Luxembourg (51st) and New Zealand (52nd) perform even worse in this regard. Exactly one in four expats (25%) is unhappy with their financial situation (vs. 21% globally), and over one in three (35%) feel that their disposable household income is not enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 28% globally).

When asked what they dislike most about life in the UK, a US American expat notes that “the cost of living is very high”. In fact, more than half (54%) are dissatisfied with the general cost of living (vs. 35% globally). It probably does not help that the gross yearly income of expats in the UK is below average: 78% earn 75,000 USD or less per year (vs. 68% globally), while just 14% make 100,000 USD or more (vs. 21% globally).

A Great Working Environment

Salary is also a topic in the Working Abroad Index (15th), and 22% of expats feel paid unfairly based on their industry, qualifications, and role (vs. 20% globally). Except for this one factor, they are quite happy with their working life in the UK. Expats are satisfied with their career opportunities (70% vs. 58% globally) and feel that moving to the UK has improved their career prospects (74% vs. 60% globally). More than three in five (62%) also rate the local job market positively (vs. 47% globally), all of which lands the UK in fourth place in the Career Prospects Subcategory. “Life is easier here because I was able to start a new career and grow in the industry I work in,” says an expat from Poland.

The UK also performs very well in the Work Culture & Satisfaction Subcategory (10th). Over two in three expats (69%) feel that the business culture in the UK encourages creativity and thinking outside the box (vs. 51% globally). It also supports flexibility (77% happy vs. 60% globally) and promotes independent work (62% happy vs. 45% globally).

Difficulties with Housing

Another financial issue arises in the Housing Subcategory (42nd) of the Expat Essentials Index (17th). While close to half the expats (48%) report that it is easy to find housing, just six percentage points less than the global average (54%), 60% find it unaffordable (vs. 43% globally). Close to three in ten (27%) even describe it as completely unaffordable, compared to 15% globally. “The properties are small, and the interior quality is usually substandard — I find it hard to consider any of these places home,” a Dutch expat comments, also pointing out “the short contracts, renewals, and the risk to be thrown out”.

Few Bureaucratic Obstacles

On the bright side, expats find Digital Life (12th) in the United Kingdom quite satisfying. Nearly four in five expats (79%) are happy with the availability of administrative/government services online (vs. 61% globally), and another 89% are delighted with the unrestricted access to online services (vs. 82% globally). Moreover, the UK also ranks quite well in the Admin Topics Subcategory (13th). When it comes to dealing with the local bureaucracy/authorities, the country ranks 6th out of 52, with 62% of expats rating this factor positively (vs. 40% globally).

A Worrying Healthcare System

The United Kingdom ranks midfield in the Quality of Life Index (31st). Among all the subcategories of the index, it performs best for Leisure Options (26th), with expats particularly enjoying the culture and nightlife (72% happy vs. 67% globally). On the other hand, it performs worst in the Health & Well-Being Subcategory (39th). Expats are unhappy with the availability (42nd) and quality (40th) of healthcare, and 24% find it difficult to access all the healthcare services that they need (vs. 17% globally). However, healthcare in the UK at least seems to be affordable (25th): 66% of expats say so, compared to 61% globally.

Disappointing Transportation & Climate

The same cannot be said about the Travel & Transit Subcategory (33rd), in which the United Kingdom ranks 50th for the affordability of public transportation. About one in three expats (33%) find it unaffordable, more than double the global average (15%). On the other hand, 77% are happy with the availability of public transportation, compared to 73% globally.

Expats also struggle with the climate and weather (47th) in the UK. Two in five (40%) are unhappy with this factor, 21 percentage points more than the global average. “The weather is difficult, and during the winter the lack of daylight can be depressing,” a Chinese expat explains.

A Slightly Unwelcoming Environment

The United Kingdom has a rather mediocre performance for several factors in the Ease of Settling In Index (36th). In terms of Culture & Welcome (30th), 17% of expats do not feel welcome there (vs. 16% globally). One in four expats (25%) also does not feel at home in the UK, compared to a global average of 21%. The same goes for Local Friendliness (34th): 19% of expats think the locals are not friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18% globally). Moreover, 17% of expats rate the general friendliness of the local population negatively, exactly the same as the global average of 17%.

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