Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Most middle-class British families want to leave Britain

A room with a view
Tower Bridge, London. My wife and I were married there.
Photo by Tanya Hart
I've previously written about a poll showing that many Americans would like to move outside the US. Interestingly, up to 40% of younger Americans stated that they would like to live outside the US. Many Americans I've spoken with have told me they would love to live in the UK, so this suggests an obvious question: is the UK a nice place to live?

Having lived in the UK for years, I have to say it's absolutely a nice place to live. Apparently, though, the British disagree with me. A recent poll found that two in three middle-class British families would like to move abroad.

When you talk about the reasons for emigration, there are "pull" factors — adventure, a new love, a new job, and so on — and "push" factors — no work locally, escaping war, fleeing oppression, and so on. The research about why British families wanted to leave was definitely push factors: avoiding the weather, rude people, and poor values.

I can actually understand some of this. The UK has a drinking culture which absolutely floored me when I first encountered it. It's quite normal to see people stumbling around drunk on the street and vomit-strewn sidewalks near pubs. More than once I would walk into a Wetherspoons for breakfast and find people having a Full English and a pint.The weather is, admittedly, rubbish and the British economy has been stumbling. Despite this, I don't think the situation is nearly as dire as many Brits think. Part of this is the "grass is always greener" syndrome, though I confess that British people, unlike their American counterparts, have probably seen that other grass firsthand.

Of course, my "grass is always greener" theory is kind of shot to hell when I find out that 80% of British expats have no intention of returning to the UK.


  1. Speaking as a Brit who got married near St. Paul's Cathedral, it's hard to escape the general perception that Britain is a country in general terminal decline. The recession has made this absolutely stark.

    There's also the general British nature to downgrade everything including their perceptions and expectations in life. After all, the threat to ensure your bins are emptied only once a fortnight wouldn't make the national news in most countries.

  2. Slightly off topic, but worth the read just the same:

    TIME: "Mister Taxman: Why Some Americans Working Abroad are Ditching Their Citizenships"

  3. The british government is also quite opressive in a low key british way. The absolutely appalling income threshold spouse migration rules are a classic case in point.