The rising cost of an expatriate life

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Philip Voice

It is certainly harder now that a year or two back and I know of one family who have gone back without managing to sell their French house. They now rent in Wiltshire and hope that this year will bring a buyer.

A second family we know are going back because they could not find work.

There are a lot of people who left it too late in finding work and the savings just ran out.

The first year or two can be like a fairytale but when financial reality kicks in, pressures eventually build.

I work as many hours now as I did in the UK but I enjoy it very much. However, the exchange rate has made it harder.

I do however feel that the exchange rate will now reverse as currency traders sell the Euro and buy sterling - couple that with the realisation that the European economy is no different to the UK I think the Euro will now become weak (if not even disintegrate within five years).

We may see a testing dip back to parity /Sterling versus Euro but currency traders will see parity now as a one way bet which will bring relief and benefits, in my view, to those dependent on exchange.

Craig McGinty

Hi Phil, I think many people will be joining you in hoping that Sterling gains some strength soon.
All the best, Craig

Paul Kendall

Well, thank goodness for the level-headed, empathetic article from Coral.

I don't know of any ex-pat families from here, either, who are returning to the UK. It is entirely the wrong time to be selling property in France, although, of course, if you do succeed in selling, your euros will buy more sterling than before.

I was interested in the Incapacity Benefit side of Coral's piece. As I understand it, the IB payments are reduced for every pound you have of additional income above £85 per week. So if the occupational pension is £170 a week, effectively you receive no IB (which is £85 per week), apart from the NI payment.

I, too, came to France with a firm promise from the authorities that I was properly entitled to IB, but fortunately didn't count on the promise being founded on a wise decision. Good job! A few weeks after moving, I had a letter saying that that there had been a mistake, and that as I was receiving an occupational pension of £xxx a week, no further payments of IB would be made.

I still receive annual requests from DWP to update them about my income. My pension is paid by the UK government, is index-linked, and won't go down. So I doubt they'll ever have to pay me anything. (And I have my thirty years' NI paid, so even the NI contributions they are paying now serve for nowt!)

Unfortunately, unlike Coral, my spouse has no income, and so we are living on just the one fixed pension, with no other income at all. (Yes, we do own a property in each country, but it seems there would be little to save in returning to live in the UK. And France has been our home for six years plus).

Things have got very tough, but like Coral, we have decided to stick it out if we possibly can.

I can't, though, see any reasons behind Philip Voice's feeling that the euro may weaken or disintegrate. My own feeling is that there is strength and solidarity in being a member of a big club, and that the euro will be just fine. It is sterling which is isolated and exposed, and the UK economy too tied to the USA.

However, many people, much cleverer than me, have been wrong about the economy in the last few years, so I guess no-one knows what will really happen. If we did, we wouldn't be reading this, but sunning ourselves in Martinique, or somewhere!

Coral Luke

My husband took ill health retirement before the changes in the Incapacity Benefit system took place otherwise he would not receive IB at all. When I was retired after my last stroke in 2000 the changes had come into force but my Civil Service pension is not large enough to cancel out my IB completely so I still receive a portion.

We still have to notify of changes to our income and health status (as though we would make a miractulous recovery when each day my health is deteriorating!)

I had to complete a dossier for the DWP which arrived in English and needed to be completed and countersigned by someone on a supplied list.

We had just applied for new passports which we had countersigned by our pharmacist who speaks excellent English (a great rarity around here) but pharmacist was on the list.

I contacted the DWP and under duress they supplied a leaflet in French for anyone else I needed to contact. Some people speak English but do not understand the complexities of what they are signing and worry if it might affect their pocket if something goes wrong.

I went to our Notaire friend who speaks some English and he was understanding, signed anyway and changed me - NOTHING! He said in Paris that would be at least €150 just to put his tampon and signature to it. In fact he put every tampon he could find on it.

I wrote to the DWP and said that if they expect us to get someone to sign they should send out something in the language of the country when the recipiant lives so the signatory understands what they are signing as you cannot expect everyone to speak and understand exactly what the document says any more than you would expect the same in England. They fobbed me off saying it was not their policy but would provide something in the langauge required upon request.

Paul Kendall

Plenty of foreign-language documentation around for those who may not be of UK nationality but who reside in the UK ... So why not for us?

You're right, Coral, to keep on pressing them - as we all should.

Good luck with your health, and I wish you all the best for 2009.

Tina Hamilton

Totally concur with your comment regarding the availability of foreign-language documentation in the UK, Paul. If there is one thing that really gets my goat, is the ease with which "visitors" to the UK can claim all sorts of benefit while we are denied the exportability of our legal entitlements. Grrr! Would also like to thank Coral for keeping the ECJ ruling on disability etc in the limelight.

Ann Broome

hello, i have a question that does not seem to be covered but i am sure one of you may know the answer. i left the uk twenty years ago but now want to return. what rights do i have? i am now sixty but worked for my husband and did not pay any contributions. i have not been back for over ten years and am worried they will just say I am no longer English! any help greatly appreciated.


well obviously everybody is dead!

Tina Hamilton

Age Concern website has some useful information for those looking to return back to Britain:

Craig McGinty

Hi Tina,
Many thanks for helping with that question.
All the best, Craig

J Roger Clifford-Banks

Coral and George are obviously here for the right reasons, and returning to the UK would be a disaster. I would love to hear, from anyone who HAS gone back, that their life is now better; I doubt it. I've been living in France for 37 years, and the thought of returning to England permanently (I'm a Sussex lad too) is unthinkable!

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