Do UK expats embrace the culture of their adopted country?

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Do UK expats embrace the culture of their adopted country?

Every week we feature British expats who talk of the fact they love the local culture of their adopted homeland, the different way that life is lived, and the sociable customs.

But do we practice what we preach?

A piece of new research from an online visa application help website suggests that perhaps not always, and that the majority of British expats opt to live a 'British life abroad' rather than embrace the culture of their new country.

According to a poll from IXPvisas.com, it seems that expat Britons prefer to live a life similar to their one back home when residing abroad, with a third, 35 per cent, saying that they would happily live the British lifestyle abroad if they could, whilst a further 44 per cent believed they had more to do to embrace their new country of residence.

The study polled 2,116 UK expats from countries all over the world who had currently been living abroad for at least one year as part of ongoing research into expatriate lifestyles.

Respondents to the study were initially questioned about how much they believed they'd immersed themselves into the new culture that they found themselves living in.

The study asked 'From the following options, which do you think best describes how much you've embraced the culture of the country that you now live in?' which revealed the following responses:

· Completely - 11%

· Mostly - 17%

· Partially - 34%

· Not really - 38%


The study asked 'What elements of your new life do you think that you've embraced the most?' and found 'food' to be the number one answer with 32 per cent of the vote, followed by the 'social aspect/making new friends' at 28 per cent. 21 per cent believed that attempting to learn the 'language' of their country was the thing that they'd embraced most.

Of those that didn't especially embrace the foreign lifestyle, 36 per cent said that they only watched 'British television'.

The study asked all respondents 'Would you say that you try to emulate your life in Britain?' to which nearly half, 58 per cent, confessed that 'yes' to some extent they did. The remaining 42 per cent didn't think that this was the case.

Respondents were asked 'Do you ever think that you should embrace the culture of your new country of residence more than you currently do?' to which 44 per cent said that 'yes' they did. However 35 per cent stated that they would happily live the British lifestyle abroad if they could.

Of course this begs the question of WHY respondents moved abroad, and with 51 per cent saying that they were 'following a better wage', this suggests that most of them in this survey were relocating for work/career reasons rather than lifestyle motivations, or retirement - like most of our readers. Being transferred abroad for a job, or doing a stint overseas for financial gain is a very different scenario to the couple or family who are seeking an improved quality of life.

That said, should we be better at adapting?

Liam Clifford of IXPVisas.com made the following comment: "There's often a lot of political coverage surrounding immigrants coming to the UK and not embracing British culture. However, there's a lot less coverage of what Brits are like when the shoe is on the other foot. It seems that many of us fail to integrate into our adopted cultures when living abroad, instead trying to keep the lifestyle as British as possible."

He continued: "With over a million expats living in Spain alone and hundreds of thousands spread across the world, we really should practice what we preach. Learning the language of a new country should be one of the first things that we try to do. Fair enough if you don't like the local cuisine and are a little choosy in a restaurant, but expats really should make the effort to embrace their new home's way of life in as many ways as possible."

* What do you think? Do you think this survey is misrepresentative? We'd love to hear your views. Email liz.rowlinson@aplaceinthesun.com

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A Place In The Sun