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Foreign Residents Felt Welcome - In Pre-Brexit UK

Taiwan, Malta and Ecuador top the list of the best places to live abroad in the third annual InterNations Expat Insider 2016 survey. With more than 14,000 respondents, it is one of the most extensive studies ever conducted to explore the general living situation of expatriates. Independent of Brexit, the United Kingdom did not make it among the favorite expat destinations, placing at a mediocre 33rd place out of 67 countries. The prosperous economy and great career prospects are some perks of moving to the UK. However, the high cost of living and lack of political stability are viewed as big setbacks by many expats, according to the survey, which InterNations conducted prior to the EU Referendum.

United Kingdom: Economy Good, Political Stability Bad

As the United Kingdom stands on the brink of the unknown, the impact that Brexit will have on expat life in the UK is still unclear. Before moving to the UK, 64 percent of expats questioned (who filled in the survey prior to the Brexit vote) considered the economy and labor market one of the top potential benefits of their destination. Furthermore, the survey shows that expats in the UK are generally satisfied with the state of the economy: 77 percent view it favorably, which is a notably higher percentage than the global average of 56 percent. The UK also provides expats with a satisfactory level of job security: The country ranks 16th out of 67 in this subcategory, and another 73 percent rate their career prospects positively as well.

Even prior to the upheaval following in the wake of the referendum result, the political stability of the country has been on a slight downward trend. With 77 percent rating the UK's political stability positively in 2016, the number has noticeably decreased from last year's 86 percent. The positive ratings for peacefulness are also not as high as they used to be: 74 percent rate this factor favorably, which is twelve percentage points lower than last year.

Friendly Locals but at a High Cost

Despite the recent increase in hate crimes across the UK, the pre-Brexit respondents tend to see the Brits as a generally friendly nation. In fact, 70 percent rate the general friendliness of the population positively, and 63 percent even appreciate the friendly attitude towards foreign residents. Moreover, 81 percent rate the population's attitude towards families with children favorably, too. Additionally, 62 percent say that they are satisfied with their ability to make new friends in the UK. Thus, before the recent referendum, survey participants still felt cautiously optimistic about being welcome in the UK.

On the other side of the spectrum, the cost of living in the UK has never been viewed favorably: 51 percent considered this to be a potential disadvantage even prior to moving to the UK, which is more than double the global average of 24 percent. The UK ranks 53rd out of 67 in the Cost of Living Index: The majority of expats (54 percent) report that the cost of living is generally high, which is 22 percentage points more than the global average. It is yet to be seen if the looming Brexit will have an impact on the cost of living in the United Kingdom as well.

Brits Abroad: Moving to the Mainland

The result of the EU Referendum may pose a problem for Brits on the continent. The survey results show that Spain (8 percent), Germany (6 percent), and France (5 percent) are the top three countries of residence for UK nationals living abroad. A better quality of life was the most important reason for those moving abroad (15 percent), followed by moving to live in their partner's home country (14 percent). Brits living abroad are in it for the long haul: 35 percent say that they have been living in their host country for more than ten years and nearly half of the respondents (49 percent) report that they are planning to stay there possibly forever, which is 18 percentage points higher than the global average. The lengthy stays abroad could be due to the fact that one-fifth of British expats abroad are retirees.