New beginnings

If you’ve dreamt of starting a new life in the sun, there are some practicalities you need to consider. Flic Everett outlines the basics

When the rain is lashing down on the grey suburbs, the idea of a sunny home overlooking a Spanish harbour can seem the solution to every complaint about broken Britain. But before signing up with that estate agency, there’s a few issues you need to consider, including how it will impact your closest relationships, why you’re really going – and whether your get-away-from-it-all dream is a valid plan or just a pleasant fantasy.

“Escaping can be healthy, and in some cases, a necessary part of life,” says Kamalyn Kaur, a psychotherapist and anxiety expert ( “It can breathe life into us if we’re feeling a bit stuck, or it can help us learn
about ourselves.

However, in the excitement, we might forget the emotional security that our usual routines, family and friends can provide.” Leaving behind your emotional ‘safety net’ can be far more challenging than some assume, agrees counsellor Georgina Sturmer. “It’s important to understand what you’re ‘escaping’ – consider why your needs aren’t being met in your current location,” she says. “This helps to clarify whether the ‘escape’ will bring meaningful change, or whether you’ll simply be facing the same challenges with less support.”

Over seven years ago, I moved from busy Manchester to isolated rural Scotland to live with my now husband. I love my life here, but it works for me because I spend one week a month back in Manchester. Without that strong connection to my family, I’d have struggled to cope with being so far away, in a place so radically different from my previous life. I suspect my move has also worked because I was moving ‘towards’ something – a new life with my husband – rather than ‘away’.”

When you’ve done the research, look at the pitfalls and set a plan in place, it can be the best move you’ve ever made, agrees Rebecca Ronane, 67, now a life coach specialising in post-50 reinvention, who moved with her husband Alain to Provence, France, in 1995. “Back then, Alain had relatives in this part of the world, and one of his languages is French,” she explains. “It was a risk, but expats are often risk-takers.” Rebecca set up an international network for women and says, “If you don’t find what you’re looking for when you get there, create it yourself.” She loves the region and says,

“I won’t return to the UK because I can live outside here, whatever the season. Life doesn’t just happen though,” she warns. “You must make an effort when you’re
a ‘foreigner’ – but I now have friendships with people from many backgrounds. In the UK, I tended to rely on friendships I’d made in the past, or work friends.”

French life isn’t perfect, “but there is a quality to everyday living I never found in the UK,” Rebecca adds. “I love the blue skies, the scenery, the outdoor life.” Her advice to those planning a move to a new country is, “Be curious, stay adventurous and respectful – and make an effort.”

Speaking the language – or at least learning it – is a must, while sticking only with expat friends, rather than socially integrating with people from the country, is often frowned upon. Some homesickness can be inevitable, thinks Georgina Sturmer, but planning around it is vital.

“Remember to think about what you might miss from your current location,” she advises – friends, familiar routines, hobbies. “Be proactive about how you might build this for yourself somewhere new.” Making contacts on social media before you go can be invaluable, as can multiple visits to the new location and taking the lead in organising visits from friends and family.

She also recommends allowing time to settle in – if things are tough at first, don’t assume it’s a huge mistake, but do take note of what’s going wrong and how you might fix it. “Avoid the ‘black and white’ thinking of success and failure,” she says. “You might find that in some ways the move is better than your expectations, but in other ways it disappoints. And be wary of taking other people’s experiences or success stories at face value. They often neglect to tell us about the pitfalls they’ve faced.”

Some of those pitfalls can be the sheer practicalities of starting afresh somewhere new. Most of us focus on how much we’ll miss family and friends, or where we’ll now have our coffee in the morning. But factors such as Brexit and its impact on living in Europe, the cost of living crisis, estate-agent red tape (particularly in a new language) and the sheer practical problems of organising house sales, moving vans and workmen in a new place where you don’t know anybody can be daunting. Few of us are prepared to move alone (though some do!), but as soon as others are involved, whether that’s partners, kids or perhaps ageing parents, it multiplies the impact of any problems.

“Think through how any potential changes will affect them too and how they might feel about it,” says psychotherapist Clare Flaxen ( “If you’re really not sure whether you’re moving for the right reasons, I’d advise sitting on the decision for three to six months,” she advises. “If you’ve found yourself pinging between the idea of a dozen different moves in that time, or coming up with different incarnations of what your life could be like, chances are you just enjoy the fantasy of trying something new.”

Ruth Bradford, founder of The Little Black & White Book Project, which produces sensory books and gifts for children, moved from Britain to Singapore in 2011. “Edward and I had both been considering a move overseas before we met,” she says. “Not long after, we decided we should just go for it together. It was nerve-wracking, but having each other helped, plus he had family there and we were ready for an adventure.”

The initial move was a success. “Life was just beautifully simple and efficient. The people are kind, English is one of the primary languages and there’s a huge expat community,” she says. “We could both work easily – I was an art director – and we had lots of disposable income.

We could leave work at 5.30pm and be on the beach by sunset!” But while the life was ideal for people with few ties, she admits, “We got married in 2015 and our son was born in 2016. We didn’t want a live-in helper, which meant going back to work for me was extremely difficult. I’d just launched my business, which I felt needed to have a UK base.
My husband wasn’t enjoying his job, and we felt we wanted some roots and more help from family,” Ruth explains. “We wanted our son to know his grandparents and they couldn’t do the long journey to us anymore, as they were getting older.”

The couple took the very hard decision to move back to the UK in 2017. “It’s the best decision we ever made, though one day, I’d love to travel again,” says Ruth. “If you really want to move somewhere new, I’d always say do it. But have a plan, do your research, have some savings behind you – be sensible about it.”

How to have a happy move

Kamalyn Kaur’s top tips for a smooth move far away

It can take anything up to three months to adjust to a new place full of new people and cultures. Be patient and kind to yourself, rather than critical or judgemental.

If possible, travel with a loved one so that they can help you get settled into your new place and support you exploring your surroundings and familiarising yourself. Having company can help the whole process feel less overwhelming and daunting.

Before making the decision to move away, take time to reflect on why. List your motivations and intentions: what do you hope to achieve; what are your expectations of the place – and consider whether those expectations are realistic to avoid setting yourself up for a fall.

Research, plan ahead and gather as much information as you can about the new place: cost of living; living conditions; crime; employment opportunities; best places to stay; culture and crucially, your budget. Doing this will help remove uncertainty, which can often create stress and anxiety.

Having a backup plan if things don’t work out is a great way of giving you peace of mind and taking the pressure off yourself. When some people go abroad, they realise the experience doesn’t make them happy. This is a perfectly normal reaction. Give yourself some time to adjust and if you still feel the same as time goes on, then give yourself permission to change your mind. Coming back home is not a sign of failure – don’t force yourself to stay because you’re worried about what others will think.

What to know before you go

Moving to another country isn’t as simple as packing up and getting on a plane. Before you head into the sunset, you’ll need to plan for life somewhere else…

If you’re moving abroad on a permanent basis, you’ll no longer automatically be entitled to medical treatment under normal NHS rules. This is because the NHS is a residence-based healthcare system. You’ll have to notify your GP practice so you and your family can be removed from the NHS register. The NHS website says, “Before leaving for your new destination, it’s important to check what health services are available to you in that country. Healthcare systems vary from country to country and might not include services you’d expect to get free of charge on the NHS. You may have to pay a patient contribution towards any treatment, or it may be necessary to take out health insurance.” Find out more at moving-abroad/planning-your-healthcare

You can stay within the Schengen area of 27 countries with a Schengen visa for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. If you want to stay for longer, you must apply for a visa from the country where you want to remain. British citizens’ eligibility to live, work or study in an EU member state now depends on the host country’s national immigration laws and visa requirements.

According to the National Insurance website (, “If you’re in a personal or workplace pension scheme, moving abroad shouldn’t have any effect.” Your pension should continue to be paid in full and you’re normally entitled to any rises, regardless of where you live. However, if you’re self-employed or unsure, always check the details of your pension scheme before you move.

It’s essential to find independent legal advice on buying abroad – get everything in writing, always view the property in person and pay for a survey before you commit. Factor in additional costs such as translation and bank transfer fees before committing to a sale. Check out for more information.

You must tell your local council and HMRC if you move abroad. You’ll now pay tax to the government of your country of residence and you’ll need to fill in forms to arrange this before you go.


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