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Global Recession and Its Impact on Your Moving Abroad Plans


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For many people Spain epitomizes the moving abroad dream: a country that offers the prospect of year-round sunshine, lower living costs and a more relaxed pace of life.

Not surprising then that year after year Spain has proven to be one of the most popular destinations for expatriates from around the world, with 10% of its 45 million population now made up of foreign nationals.

Yet the beneath the alluring sheen of the Mediterranean sun all is not well.

An article on the BBC website* reported that the country's industrial output fell 15.1% in November 2008 compared to the year before, the biggest drop on record. This manufacturing slump comes on top of the collapse already witnessed in Spain's construction sector, showing the country's woes are spreading across the economy and raising fears of a deep recession.

And there was more evidence of that with the release of figures showing unemployment hit 3 million in 2008, a 12-year high. Not the greatest time perhaps to be relocating to the country.

For anyone considering moving to Spain at present there is a silver lining though, in that the credit crisis has resulted in a plentiful supply of properties and tumbling house prices.

On the flip side however, the strength of the euro means that anyone coming from a non-euro country will now find it relatively more expensive to buy property and live there.

For instance, over the course of the previous year the British pound had a 52-week high of 1.35 euros. At that rate, a 300,000 euro house would have cost approximately £222,000.

But the pound at the time of writing is down at 1.11 euros (having almost hit parity over the Christmas period). So if that same house has dropped even as low as 250,000 euros it would still cost £225,000 for a British buyer.

And the strength of the euro against currencies such as the pound and US dollar has raised the general cost of living in Spain and elsewhere in the eurozone for many expatriates, not least retirees on pound or dollar denominated pensions.

In this sense then it's a bit of a glum picture. And similar circumstances and scenarios can be found around the world. This recession is of truly epic and global proportions, with apparently nowhere safe from its impacts.

Yet it's not all bad news for prospective expatriates.

I still read many articles exhorting people to move abroad, bemoaning the parlous state of their home countries and economies, and referencing places such as Australia and New Zealand, Turkey, Costa Rica and Mexico where properties and living costs remain cheaper, and the sun does still shine.

And of course they are right . . . to a certain extent.

There are always good property deals to be had somewhere in the world. You can always find locations where your food bills or a bottle of wine will be a fraction of what you pay now, and where you'll be able to soak up some sun while your friends back home freeze their butts off.

But if you are seriously considering moving abroad you should take into account all the lifestyle factors when making your decision. Don't just base your choice on the latest currency swings or property deals. Think carefully too about how comfortable you'll feel with the local culture, what health or educational services they have, how far you'll be from close family and friends.

Consider where you want to be for the long term, not just because of some temporary economic situation. And if that means the timing isn't right at present to move where you feel you most want to go then don't be afraid to be patient (as long as it isn't an excuse for prevarication!). Ultimately it is more important to make the right move later than any old move now.

* BBC News, 9 January 2009,

Paul Allen is a freelance journalist and writer who has lived in northern Spain since 2003. He is the author of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go? The Truth About Moving Abroad And Whether It's Right For You, " a comprehensive e-book guide for people seeking advice on whether or not to move abroad. For more details about the book, and to get lots of free information and advice on moving and living overseas, visit his website at


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