For some, the Covid-19 pandemic has been the antidote to globalisation; a reason to stay at home. For others, says Christopher Nye, editor at international relocation and homes website Property Guides, it’s given us the chance to plan a bold new move. But where should you think about moving when it’s all over?
The health emergency has given us the chance rethink our attitudes to many countries, including our own. The UK has suffered especially badly by any standard, while absence had made the heart grow fonder when many of us look to moving home to our favourite emigration countries like New Zealand and Canada.
The pandemic has also come at a time when British people have only a few months to get residency in an EU country and retain their EU rights to subsidised healthcare and the right to work. We have identified the regions and countries where readers have been looking at moving home since the lockdown began.
When it comes to global pandemics, islands are great places to be and Greece has 227 of them to choose from. It’s long been a popular place for a holiday in the height of summer, and jetsetters with deep pockets have bought holiday homes in hotspots like Mykonos. Although Greece hasn’t developed the “little England” expat communities of some European island groups like the Balearics or Canaries, islands like Crete, Rhodes and Corfu offer a warm welcome to relocators.
The success of the TV series The Durrells, based on the real-life exploits of an English family in the 1930s, have encouraged many more, while Mamma Mia! has highlighted the free and easy, affordable island lifestyle on offer in Greece.
Don’t be fooled by your experiences in Faliraki in August into believing that Greece enjoys an eternal summer. It can get cold! Moving to a new country out of season is a good way to (a) get a cheap property and (b) to see the worst first.
New Zealand has won fans for the competence, warmth and openness of its Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern. She appears to embody the community spirit of this small nation of just under five millio people.
There are clear advantages to moving home and creating a life in New Zealand for British people. It’s English speaking and heavily influenced by the UK in its institutions and attitudes. The weather is very similar too!
In the early days of the lockdown, many of us wished we’d had more space, and the biggest difference between the UK and NZ is the astonishing space available. Although a large proportion of New Zealand’s population is squashed into Auckland and its suburbs in North Island, New Zealanders don’t skimp on the size of homes. The average size of a new home in the UK is 76 square metres. In New Zealand it is 175 metres.
The New Zealand equivalent of the American dream or the Englishman’s home being his castle, was the “quarter-acre paradise”. That’s just over 1,000 square metres; enough garden for a vegetable plot, fruit trees, outside entertainment area and enough lawn to play a bit of rugby or cricket on. Now, wouldn’t you have enjoyed that over the past few months?
Financial planning is a major part of moving home abroad. Countries simply don’t want the financially profligate moving there, with the risk that they will become a burden on the state, so financial barriers can be high (especially for those moving to the UK).
While it’s likely that British people will, post-Brexit transition period, still be able to move to EU countries, there will be minimum income requirements, probably somewhere between €10,000 and €30,000 per annum depending on the country.
On the other hand, countries also want well-heeled international residents, which is why Portugal has two schemes to attract them. Its “golden visa” – whereby you can live in Portugal with your family in return for buying an expensive property – has been highly successful. So has its non-habitual residence scheme which gives you ten years of reduced tax rates and exemptions.
While the Algarve’s ‘golden triangle’ around Vilamoura is well established as a year-round playground for the global loafer who’s already made it, cities like Lisbon and Porto are rising in prominence as tech hubs. There are enclaves in these cities where ‘digital nomads’ rent desks by the hour, communicating with offices around the world then living in smartly refurbished warehouses with shared spaces. It’s all very millennial, and could easily become a new model for those of us who realise we don’t really need to be in an office any more.
The USA, like any massive object, has a gravitational pull. Its cultural and economic influence is profound, and the country is extraordinary welcoming to entertainers like James Cordern or business gurus like Apple’s Chief Design Officer Sir Jonathan Ive. There are many hoops for those thinking of moving home to the USA permanently, but nearly 700,000 of us do live there at least part of the year.
Bear in mind too, that immigration laws are something that your immigration lawyer is specifically trained to get round. So get lawyered up and get out there!
Others would rather wait until there is another President. So what about Canada instead? Some 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border. The language is the same, the restaurant portions and cars as massive and the wide-open spaces as huge.
One difference is in healthcare, as has been so amply demonstrated by the pandemic. Canada has a similar universal healthcare system as the NHS and so isn’t quite as intimidating. That said, covering yourself for insurance when arriving in a new country is essential. You may not have the same support systems as “at home”, or understanding of “how things work” and how to get what you need if anything goes wrong.
But back to Canada. “Ah,” you may say, “but isn’t it covered in ice for half the year? That doesn’t sound very healthy.” The interesting thing about Canadian weather is that, yes, it does get plenty of snow in winter, but it also gets far more sun than the UK too. Central Canada gets between 2,000 and 2,500 sunshine hours per year, which is almost double much of the UK and similar to southern Spain.
Canadians also know how to enjoy their weather, with a more rugged and outdoorsy feel in all four, exceptionally beautiful seasons.
Lastly, but importantly, Canada has thrown down an official welcome to hard-working international migrants. There are plenty of visas going and while the lower demand for oil has affected the economy, Canada is a country with a bright future.