“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On the Move.

Exodus from UK shows little sign of slowing

By Peter Pallot
Last Updated: 12:01am BST 17/04/2008

Any idea that the exodus from Britain of those settling abroad might be waning appears wildly premature.

The latest survey predicts 1.8 million Britons retiring abroad by 2025 and 3.3 million by 2050.

The survey, on behalf of NatWest International, provides further evidence that the majority of those making the lifestyle change do not look back.

Nine in 10 expats said they enjoyed better quality of life and six in 10 said they did not intend to return to the UK.

Canada was rated the best country to emigrate to, followed by New Zealand and Portugal.

However, beneath the glitz lurked a less happy picture. Three quarters of those surveyed admitted to feeling homesick some or all the time, missing friends, the British culture and sense of humour.

What the survey might usefully have expanded on are health concerns, especially among older expatriates.

Many of those retiring to the sun are doing so at a time when body and brain begin to disintegrate at increasing speed. Local provision of healthcare may be either inadequate or inaccessible to the expatriate.

The language barrier can loom large. Hospital practices may disturb - the National Health Service in Britain has its critics but patients do not generally rely on relatives bringing in lunch, which is routine in some Mediterranean states.

Canada was the most popular destination in the survey

Most expatriates can benefit from medical insurance. For others it is a must. Unless expats are guaranteed full access to healthcare in their adopted state, and standards there are acceptable, skipping cover is flirting with disaster.

Distress and financial hardship can strike when expats are denied care expected as a right. Since NHS access rules were tightened in 2004, the individual who seeks to return to the UK for "free" treatment may also be in for a disappointment.

Just like its continental neighbours, Britain has clamped down on "health tourists". France, the Netherlands, Spain and several Swiss cantons have taken similar steps.

However, these countries offer generally excellent medical services, with hospital-acquired infections much less common than on NHS wards. The gap is recognised by insurers.

David Pryor, senior executive director at MediCare International points to "consistently better" healthcare across much of Western Europe compared to Britain. He said: "The French are rightly proud of their healthcare system and it is still true that access to specialists is quicker, waiting times for operations are lower and certainly hospitals and clinics are cleaner."

Insurers have responded by offering schemes aimed at people who spend most of their lives in continental Europe but a proportion in their home state - in many cases the UK. Limiting the scope helps limit the premium.

As the name implies, Exeter Friendly Society's Spain Residents Plan is mainly restricted to treatment within the country, but limited benefits apply in UK. A 40-year-old would pay €60.67 a month and a 45-year-old would pay €70.76 a month.

Another plan aimed at Spain's burgeoning expat community is Bupa International's Health Plan Complete. It gives comprehensive acute cover in Spain and another, designated, European country.

Obviously, policyholders tend to select their home country as their designated state. But this is not essential. Unusually, the plan differentiates between genders. A man aged 40-45 would pay €76.90 a month and a woman 40-45 would pay €103.70 a month.

Beyond Europe, in the Middle East and the "White" Commonwealth expatriates are being asked to prove they will not burden overstretched national health services.

People who emigrate to Australasia and North America are unlikely to get a visa if they are seen as likely to take more from the economy than they put into it. Mandatory health cover is one solution. In Australia, medical insurance premiums attract substantial tax breaks.

Most top spots for emigration in the Natwest survey offer quality of care that makes medical repatriation benefit unnecessary. However, once you move beyond the developed world, repatriation and/or air carriage assumes vital importance.

Assistance companies, contracted to insurers, specialise in emergency medicine. Their job is to get the patient to a suitable hospital with minimal delay.

Their responsibilities may go further than the purely medical. For instance, during the recent inter-tribal strife in Kenya, an American policyholder whose wife's ethnicity put her at risk, faced the threat of extreme violence.

The insurer's assistance company organised an armed police team to escort the couple to the local airport and then on to a safe haven in Nairobi.


  1. The boomer generation is seeking a haven from the high cost of living. A place to stretch the pension dollars or in this case, pounds sterling.

    Florida, Arizona and long ago, California were attractive to the masses. Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to find an affordable place with an amenable climate.

    Where to go? Where to go? Costa Rica? Panama? Idaho? I don't know...

  2. Whit: Where to go? Where to go? Costa Rica? Panama? Idaho? I don't know...

    I'm on the cusp between boomer and Xer. When I retire in 2024 at age 59 with 40 years of Federal Service I shall emigrate to the Old Country. If I retire in America I will do okay, but if I retire in the Philippines I will be rich enough to have a driver and a nurse.

  3. Canada is highly overrated. The cold climate is too much and wears you down. I think it will be back to sunny Israel for me. There real estate is cheap, the girls are chipper, and the birds are always cheeping. :)

  4. I plan to die in Moscow, good old Moscow, queen of all the west, but do a little travelling between now, and then.

  5. In fact, while the ol' heart keeps ticking, we are making plans right now, to go east again. I think we are heading south, through Vegas, then east through the southern route, to Ohio, land of my wife. I intend to set my feet in Virginia, and see the
    Atlantic Ocean. Then head north, all the way to Canada, come back that way.

    I am excited about this. My wife is all fired up too.

  6. My wife loves a good car travel. She gets her maps, her points of interest. Her credit cards. She is a great person to hit the road with. No back road too dangerous for her. A ripping woman, to go travelling with.

    This time, we got cameras, and really good binoculars.

  7. Make sure you've got the the digital camera and we'll set you up to post pictures on the EB. It's easy to do and by the time your on the road, we'll make sure it's second nature.


    Bob: Check your email.

  9. I will do that, Whit, for sure. I think it's about two weeks, maybe a little longer, then we set sail. Going to be fun. I'll keep in touch, and try to post some nifty pics.

  10. If I may make a suggestion:

    Bob, do some trial posting of photos while you are home. Perhaps we can assist and take out any wrinkles while you are home based and then it will be easier on the trail.

    While I am at it, DR must get to see some interesting scenes on his mounted soirées...what say you rat?

  11. Bob, Photos post best as widths of 600 pixels and file sizes around 125k. You do not need any greater definition than 72 pixels.

  12. Ok. First thing I am going to do is have my daughter show me the ropes. I'll have her write out the steps, so even I can follow them.

  13. "I plan to die in Moscow, good old Moscow, queen of all the west, but do a little travelling between now, and then."

    Sorry, but a depressed old geezer who talks like this is in no condition to drive. Old man, hand over the keys! And you people, should be ashamed of yourselves!