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About A Week: Gone Abroad

Peter Hinchliffe tells of British folk who have chosen to leave the land of their birth.

Almost one in 10 British-born citizens have now left the land of their birth.

At least 5.5 million Brits live outside the United Kingdom.

Official figures reveal that record numbers are now leaving the country. In the year up to July 2006, 196,000 left the country.

Another 187,000 non-Brits also left. Many of these were Eastern Europeans who had decided to return to their homelands.

The favoured destinations of emigrating Brits seem to indicate that the prime reason for moving to a new land is a desire to live in a sunnier climate.

The latest statistics show that 71,000 went to live in Australia, 58,000 to Spain and 42,000 to France.

Ex-pat Brits are living on every continent. There are, for instance, 55,000 in the United Arab Emirates (which include Dubai), 47,000 in Pakistan, 45,000 in Singapore, 41,000 in Thailand and 36,000 in China.

A million British citizens now live in Spain. English is commonly spoken on the over-built Spanish Costas which stretch along the Mediterranean coast.

My wife Joyce runs a Spanish class in an industrial town in the north of England. A member who joins the group in summer spends most of the year in Spain. “England is where I speak Spanish,’’ she says. “In Spain I only seem to meet English people.’’

A survey undertaken three years ago revealed that 40 percent of those going to live outside UK were professional/managerial, 25.3 percent manual/clerical, 17.5 percent retired, 9.3 percent children and 7.9 percent students.

British TV networks regularly feature families who have made new lives for themselves in other countries. Some estate agents in UK offer houses and flats for sale in countries as far off as Australia.

For a number of years I wrote a weekly ex-pats column for a daily newspaper in Yorkshire, England. I did telephone interviews with hundreds of people world-wide. The majority were delighted with the new lives they had made for themselves and their families.

Melanie and Craig Briggs went to live in rural Galicia in northwestern Spain. "This is paradise," says Melanie. "The roads are quiet and people are laid-back. If someone arranges to see you at 6.30 pm they are more likely to show up at 7.40 pm."

Craig writes the Spanish Secrets column for Open Writing.

Stuart and Olwyn Mason, who are from the village where I live, fell in love with a village in Andalusia, Spain. They bought a house, intending to use it as a holiday home. Olwyn, formerly a psychiatric nurse, suffered from arthritis. Her condition improved when she was in sunny Spain. When the specialist who treated her learned that the Masons owned a property in Spain he asked, "Why are you still here?" Now they are living happily in Spain. "And we are here for ever and ever," Stuart adds.

The many ex-pats I interviewed expressed affection for their home town -- but not one of them had any desire to live here again.

The emigrating Brits are being more than replaced by a large inflow of people from other countries who come to seek a better life in the UK. Last year there were 463,000 new arrivals.

In the 1940s and 1950s many West Indians came to live in the UK. They were followed by thousands of people from the Indian sub-continent, many to work in Britain’s textile mills, which, wilting under the onslaught of foreign competition, were eager to recruit cheap labour.

Many of the new immigrants now come from Eastern Europe, hundreds of thousands of them from Poland, though there are indications that a considerable number of these do not intend to make their permanent homes in UK.

Britain has been called the crossroads of the ever-increasing global movement of people. Every nation on Earth is now represented in the population of London.

Thousands of British businesses are owned by foreign buyers. The country’s 20 Premiership football clubs are dependent on foreign players. Arsenal, managed by a Frenchman, often field teams which do not include a single Brit. Soon half the famous league sides will have foreign owners.

But many British-born people resent incomers. A report issued this week by the Institute of Community Cohesion who carried out a survey of attitudes in the local government area in which I live found many communities “remain insular and inward looking, fiercely proud of their local heritage, customs and traditions, but not particularly welcoming to ‘outsiders’.”

The report added: “We found instances of disadvantaged white communities who felt very isolated, that they were being left behind, out-competed for jobs by new immigrants and that their voices were largely ignored.’’

However 69 percent of people in our area think it is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.

**

On a personal note, I emigrated to America. While there I married Joyce, who is a Texan. After three years in the U.S. I returned to England.

I emigrated a second time to Kenya and worked there for two years.

One of my sons lives and works in Scotland. The other lives in Thailand. I have a Thai daughter-in-law, and an extended family in various parts of Thailand and Southern China.

I write for OhmyNews International, the world’s pioneering citizen newspaper.

I can claim to be a citizen of the world, but I live in a village which I have known since boyhood.

For some of us Brits there’s no place like home.

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