As an island nation, the British have never been averse to travelling abroad in order to work. If you’d like to experience other cultures first hand and feel your adventurous spirit is up to it, then being a Brit abroad could be just your ticket.
According to research carried out for the NatWest International Personal Banking (IPB) Quality of Life Report, since 2006 over 200,000 British citizens have left the UK in order to work abroad, and of these two thirds went not to retire, but to work. David Isley is the Head of NatWest International Personal Banking, and he himself left the UK in order to work offshore in Jersey some years ago. He says: ‘A normal ex-pat will be on a secondment for between three and five years abroad. Some of them do decide to stay on after that in the country they have moved to, but many others do come home. They go to learn new things and new cultures, and bringing that experience back into the UK is very valuable. From our own client base we have seen if you work abroad for a period of time you’re a more rounded person, and so ultimately can put yourself forward for potentially better positions within companies.’
Apparently, the people who move out of the UK tend to be professionals or managers, and it is not so much that they dislike the UK, as they tend to be individuals who are attracted to a different lifestyle. David says for some it is the climate, for others it is a more relaxed pace of life, but for many it is because they are top end professionals and managers and their earnings abroad tend to be higher than here in the UK. This is especially true in the Euro zone, where the Euro has gained value against the pound by over 20 per cent in the last months. ‘In some respects the UK is seeing a brain drain,’ David states. ‘The people who tend to be moving are not just people in banking but highly skilled people in almost all areas including engineering.’
But while Brits are leaving the UK, plenty of Europeans are arriving to take their places. As a global bank, RBS (of which NatWest is a part) is used to relocating its staff and has a well-worked system to make them feel comfortable wherever they land up. ‘You must provide them with as much information as you can about the country they have moved to – taxation, where to get a driving license — things like that,’ says David. ‘The world is a different place now than it was even five years ago and people have the opportunity to go and work abroad more than they ever have before. It has become so much more convenient to jump on and off planes, so globalisation will continue, certainly we believe it will continue at the rate seen recently and actually potentially expand. As a company it is always good to attract people in from different locations, they bring different experiences and knowledge levels which can only help the business grow when they are channelled in the right way.’
However, it is not just companies who gain from having well-travelled employees, David is enthusiastic about the personal benefits moving away from your birth country to work can bring. ‘I see it as a great experience, especially if you are a graduate,’ he explains. ‘You get the chance to mature; you can put yourself into positions you’ve never put yourself into before, which helps you grow as a person. Every time you do that you learn new things.’ He says in order to make a go of it you need the following skills and strengths: ‘You need to be fairly outgoing; you have to be interested in meeting new people; you can’t be scared of making new friends as you tend to leave family and friends behind. Because of that you need to be able to make friends quickly, and have a willingness to see it as an adventure. Five years working in a new country is a fantastic opportunity and experience, so you should look forward to it rather than dread it.’