A collage of a plane
Image: Steve Beech / Time Out

F*** this, I’m moving abroad: the Brits fed up with the cost of living in the UK

An estimated 4.5 million of us have considered leaving the country this year. We speak to the people who made the jump

Chiara Wilkinson

If you’re feeling like life in the UK feels particularly exhausting at the moment: no, it’s not just you. From a broken rental market to rising energy costs and a government that seems to change every five seconds, the headlines aren’t exactly cheery.

It’s unsurprising, then, that around 4.5 million Brits were considering moving overseas for a better quality of life, according to a study by Total Jobs in July. Three percent of Brits said they were actively planning to relocate either in the next year or the next two years – equivalent to more than 380,000 British workers leaving the country en masse. 

Moving abroad might not be as easy as it used to be (thanks, Brexit!) but with more countries introducing digital nomad visas – including Portugal, Colombia and Malta – a whole new era of work has started. And we have to admit that remote working from a co-working space overlooking the beach in Bali sounds slightly more appealing right now than in your cold flat in Hackney. We speak to three Brits who’ve sacked off the UK and moved abroad to find out how things have worked out for them.

I swapped my Clapham flat for an apartment that’s double the size in Amsterdam

‘I moved to Amsterdam seven months ago. I’d been in London for eight years and planned to leave anyway, so when my partner got a job here it spurred us to make the move. Rent prices here are expensive for the Netherlands, but you get so much more for your money compared to back home: we live right in the centre on the canal belt, in a flat double the size of our one-bed in Clapham that was run down and opposite a building site. It’s just £300 more every month. 

‘But it’s not just cheaper rent. Everyone cycles to get around, and if you’re travelling from further than five kilometres to work, employers often pay for your transport. Nightlife revolves less around binge drinking, and there’s a massive expat community so it’s really easy to make friends: someone is always leaving, new people are always arriving. People are always trying to refresh their friendship group. I also just feel generally happier here. I felt inherently unsafe in London, and to be honest, I think I underestimated how much that contributed to my happiness. Here, I could walk home at three in the morning and feel perfectly safe. I think we’ll stay at least five years and try to get on the property ladder.’ Kassie, marketing manager, 27 

Society feels a bit more egalitarian in Düsseldorf (and a four quid pint is very normal)

‘I moved around a lot when I was younger, but London was always home. After I finished studying abroad in Vienna, I wanted to move back but it just didn’t make much sense – the drop in my standard of living would be so big. So I moved to Düsseldorf in Germany instead. We’ve also got problems with gas prices here, but if you live in a flat like I do, it’s significantly cheaper than a house. I’m paying 40 a month now for energy bills, so even if it triples, it’s still going to be around £100 a month.

‘Society feels a bit more egalitarian here. Tenants’ rights are a lot stronger: there’s no end date on my lease, for example. Eating out is cheaper. Going for drinks is cheaper, a four quid pint is very normal. It’s a very international city, and well connected: two hours to Amsterdam, two hours to Brussels and half an hour to Cologne. There are English-speaking cinemas and I play in an English speaking five-a-side football team on Sunday.’ Robert, industrial construction worker, 30

In Cape Town, you get sun all year round and a lot more for your money

‘I’m from Kilwinning, just outside of Glasgow, but have moved around a lot in recent years: to Barcelona, Manchester and Portugal. I lived in Cape Town from May to July this year, and now I’m looking to move there full time and get a business visa. The quality of life is just so much better: you get sun all year round, socialising is oriented around wellness and you get a lot more for your money. I started off living in a luxury penthouse in the centre and it was £1,200 a month with bills, then moved into the suburbs with my girlfriend, and we paid £200 to £300 a month each. Activities like yoga, going for long walks, swimming, kayaking and acupuncture have become part of my regular routine, which they never used to in the UK.

‘Cape Town is only an hour ahead and almost everyone speaks English, so it’s a good place to work remotely. It definitely took me a while to get used to load-shedding, which is when the power is shut down all over the city, about four times a day. It’s inconvenient, but you can plan your day around it and just buy a battery pack to use when the power does drop. The biggest stressful point for me was figuring out how to stay longer, but they’re bringing out a digital nomad visa soon, which will make it a lot easier for people.’ Craig, entrepreneur, 24

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