Maintaining the Links (sponsored contribution)

1st April 2010, Comments 0 comments

Embarking on a new life in a foreign country is a journey full of excitement and new challenges.

However, there can be a dizzying variety of advice to sift through, available via an ever-increasing array of sources, from the anecdotal (friends, family, expat websites and forums on the internet), to more official sources (financial advisers, banks, developers and estate agents). Just taking on board all the potential sources of information can be a huge task within itself – in terms of deciding what to act upon, what to bear in mind and what to disregard entirely. However, one insight that Lloyds TSB International’s expat customer base shared consistently during a recent series of interviews was; do not sever links with the UK completely.

The chief reason that so many expatriates stressed this was that maintaining a link to the UK can provide an invaluable safety net should anything go wrong after relocation. This might seem like a negative consideration; after all, no one departs to their dream location expecting it to be anything but the amazing experience the vast majority of expats seem to enjoy. However planning for any eventuality is another key component of a successful move abroad – and that means considering a number of factors that might lead to an unplanned return to the UK.

Maintaining a property
If your finances allow, avoiding selling up completely in the UK can be vitally important. Even if you sell your main property, investing in a smaller apartment allows the option to return home easily should for example, a work placement not last as long as you expected it to. Secondments can be cut short, or indeed extended, by weeks, months and even years. Lloyds TSB International customer Angela Milligan, who runs cultural awareness courses for individuals and families that are about to move abroad, comments, “When I’m conducting training courses I always make the point that it is crucial to maintain a base in the UK. It is vital to keep a foot on the UK property ladder. You never know how long a secondment might last – companies merge, things happen – so that two year placement can turn into five and you might be asked to return from a five year secondment in just a few months.”

A second consideration is, perhaps, not something many of us like to spend too much time thinking about, but health can also have an effect, and can often see an expatriates’ residence in a foreign country being cut short. As such, planning for medical care whilst abroad is crucial, and if moving out of the EU, expats may need to budget for medical insurance. Many expats also comment that although the standard of medical care available in many European countries can match and even exceed that of the UK’s, issues such as the language barrier (medical language of course being a great deal more complicated than conversational language), and difficulties with transportation for the ‘visiting partner’ can make the situation untenable. Again having a UK base allows for a quick and easy return – something which will be a huge benefit should ill health be an issue.

Beyond providing a safe haven to return to, expats that are able to maintain their UK properties whilst living abroad could be provided with a steady rental income. A constant income stream also lessens a reliance on savings; something which is especially pertinent for those of retirement age.

Having a UK base also means that expats that want to return home have the freedom to do so without having to rely on selling their overseas property first. Again this has a myriad of benefits, uppermost of which is that it negates having to absorb a loss on your overseas property to make a quick sale, due to either unfavourable currency fluctuations or a drop in property prices.
Maintaining a bank account
It’s not just maintaining a UK property that expats recommend – keeping a UK bank account open can also have a variety of benefits. For example expatriates that have decided to return to the UK have found that their credit history can be wiped out if they have been abroad for several years. Maintaining a UK bank account allows expats to maintain a credit history in the UK, and therefore more easily and successfully apply for credit on their return. Opening an international current account will have the same affect, and provide a large number of other benefits into the bargain. These vary from freedom of movement from country to country without having to open multiple local bank accounts, to having all your money in one place and experiencing the levels of customer service that you would expect from a leading UK financial institution. It is also possible to lessen the impact of foreign currency fluctuations by having an international account, some of which have the option to hold money in a variety of currencies, providing the option to draw funds from whichever currency has the most favourable exchange rate. As Angela Milligan comments, “The exchange rate can have a dramatic impact – it’s easy to enjoy the fruits of a strong pound when you’re living abroad but should the money markets move against you, you can find yourself stuck.”

Maintaining British Citizenship
As a British citizen, maintaining links with the UK enables you to gain a new passport when your current one expires, or can get you assistance with any visa or citizenship issues that you may encounter whilst living abroad. Being a British citizen allows you to rely on Embassies and Consular help should you need emergency assistance.

Maintaining friendships
Lloyds TSB International customer George Reid who is currently based in Switzerland comments, “If you completely turn your back on the UK then you don’t have anything to return to. My advice is to ‘drift away’ rather than cut things off entirely, and maintain regular contact with friends and family as it is all too easy to become absorbed in your new life and forget everyone that you have left behind.” Having friends, family and a social network to plug back into will certainly ease the transition following a long period abroad.

By planning ahead and nurturing, not cutting off, links with the UK it is possible to create a safety net to cushion the blow of your return to the UK. There are many reasons for an unexpected return home; close family illness or bereavement, political unrest, natural disasters, or you may just decide that you miss the UK and are ready to come back. Most expats will of course have a 100% successful stay abroad but as the old adage states, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ and maintaining links with the UK may help ensure that returning from your dream residence abroad doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Courtesy of Lloyds TSB

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