Is The Grass Really Greener Overseas?
Going to the dogs? We're not the only ones.
The UK is probably the worst country to live in the history of the world. Dirty, indebted, overcrowded, unequal, celebrity-obsessed, crime-riddled and in a word, broken.
At least, that's the impression that you get from reading the newspapers, and that was before the credit crunch struck.
I spend a good chunk of my time in Norway, and one cultural difference that strikes me is how negative the British are about their own country (Norwegians think theirs is the best in the world). We love nothing more than to moan about its shortcomings, that's when we're not actively planning to leave.
Which is exactly what many of us are going to do. Around 2.1 million Britons plan to escape our troubled economy and earn a living overseas in the next 12 months, according to new research from Cater Allen Private Bank.
Tent cities and soup kitchens.
Now I'm all for foreign adventure and a bit of get up and go, so the best of British to these aspiring emigrants, but I wonder whether they are ever-so-slightly deluding themselves.
Because in case you hadn't noticed, the credit crunch is a global phenomenon. The UK economy isn't the only one in trouble.
So where are our itchy-toed compatriots planning to go to escape the crunch? The US? Perhaps they could move into one of the newly-opened tent cities and find a job serving in a soup kitchen. Right now the States is in an even worse state than us (although we're catching up fast).
Rain in Spain.
Or that old expat fave, Spain? I don't think so, with property and employment sinking at a rate that makes the UK housing and job market look buoyant. All the sunshine in the world won't cheer you up if you can't get a decent job. Ireland? Ahem. Denmark? Italy? France?
All these countries are facing similar troubles to our own, in some cases worse, and I haven't even mentioned Iceland (okay, I doubt many Brits are planning to relocate there.). The UK may be massively indebted, but at least it isn't bankrupt.
I should probably add "at time of writing". Things have a habit of moving very quickly these days.
Admittedly, other expat haunts such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand are in a better state than Blighty (and they're cleaner and less crowded), but even they risk getting sucked into the global downturn.
And the Dubai bubble may not burst for a year or two, but I bet it will. If we are heading for a depression, everybody is going down.
Farewell to Posh.
To back up my case, here comes another piece of research, nicely timed to sober up those dreaming of a new life overseas. "Credit crunch is biting abroad," reports Bupa International.
Shock, horror, even sun-soaked expats are spending less and struggling to save, and cutting out luxuries such as holidays and clothing.
While those who rely on money from the UK are being tormented by currency fluctuations, with the pound falling 17% against the euro since the start of the year.
So it's not all gravy.
Although of course they aren't being knifed by hoodies, continuously rained on, swamped by Posh Spice trivia or permanently gridlocked on the M25, daily hazards faced by the British-based population.
Moving abroad is a big decision. If you have a job to go to, then I would snap it up (the sun, the prices, the tax regime!). Bupa's research does show that despite the global financial uncertainty, more than three-quarters of expats say their lifestyle is now better, mostly due to the weather and way of life.
But if you don't have a job, remember that foreign lands are suffering from a few unemployment problems of their own.
You should also beware the British disease. As anthropologist Kate Fox pointed out in her entertaining book Watching the English: the Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, the nation is permanently convinced that it is "going to the dogs".
For a nation whose national catchphrase is "mustn't grumble" it seems that we do nothing else.
I remember the surprise and dismay after research published last year (pre-crunch) suggested the average British wage is higher than in the US. Nobody believed it. More importantly, nobody wanted to believe it, because it contradicts our cherished notion that, yes, we're going to the dogs.
Remember, this cramped and tiny island is actually the world's fifth biggest economy. A shrinking economy, perhaps, but not the only one. China has only just overtaken us, with its billion-plus population and vast tracts of land.
So let's not be too down on poor old Blighty. The sky may be bluer overseas, but the grass isn't necessarily greener.