Hot on the heels of the BBC's recent Escape to the Continent TV show, which looked at Brits considering a move abroad, we thought we'd put together our own guide for an alternative life in a new, sunnier climate. This post is for those looking to escape to Europe. While the idea of moving to Europe after spending the odd weekend or week there in the Summer may seem extremely appealing, moving to another country is a completely different proposition altogether. As well as all that sunshine, beautiful scenery and change in lifestyle, you also need to be aware of the property laws and taxes, the language problems you could face as well as the possibility of an expat community that could stop you from feeling quite so alone. This post hopes to address all of those issues, as well as giving you a sense as to why so many people choose to move to Europe. 
 
Britanny, France 
Nicky Chapman, presenter of BBC's Escape to the Continent chose Britanny as her “best buy at the moment”. But what is it about Britanny that she finds so appealing? Britanny is most famous for its coastline and has built its economy around the summer tourism on its beaches, but its also far more than that. Often compared to Cornwall – which is why many Brits adapt so well to living there – its also got a great interior (which you could compare to Wales, with its undulating hills and vast fields of green) and a cultural and historical identity which sees it aligned with Celtic culture just as much as French, as anyone who has been to its famous Lorient festival will be able to testify. 
 
This focus on tourism, which began in the 1970s, has seen Britanny Ferries open up many routes across the pond to England, Wales and Ireland, and this has made it very appealing to Brits wishing to move abroad but not live too far away from family and friends. In particular, many who have family in the South and West of England have said that they are now closer to them living in Britanny than they were when they lived in London. The Gulf of Morbihan is the most famous tourist attraction in Britanny, a gorgeous bay filled with beaches and islands - supposedly with an island for each day of the year. It's here where many Brits have situated themselves, as well as in Roscoff and Morlaix, which are very close to the ferry routes, and so it's here where you can get the most out of the Britanny lifestyle – the scenery really is breathtaking – while also feeling part of a community as you get your French up to speed. In fact, it's the language that some expats complain about as being one of the problems with living in Britanny. Although you may be lucky and find a bank manager and doctor who speak perfect English, this is not a given and learning French will make life so much easier. You will also notice a lot of the native Breton language on signs in Britanny. While there are some who still speak Breton and a campaign to increase usage of the language, as long as you speak French, you shouldn't have any problems. 
 
As with all the destinations in this article, you will have no problems working or living in France as British people have the right to live and work anywhere in the EU. One of the big advantages of living in Britanny will be the cheaper cost of living. For a start, you will be able to get a bigger property in comparison to your home in Britain. Then, you will save money as Brits don't have to pay the heavy social insurance and tax which the French do, health care is generally excellent and not too costly, 
and you will also save money on water and utility rates, which are normally much cheaper than in the UK. 
 
The range of food will not be as vast as many have got used to in the UK, and price-wise it will be about the same, though wine will undoubtedly be cheaper. Oh, and if you love pancakes, Britanny is the spiritual home of the crêpe, meaning it really can be Pancake Day all year round. Those looking to move to France should also have a look at Midi-Pyrenees, Dordogne and Poitou-Charentes, three other hugely popular areas. 
 
Algarve, Portugal 
The Algarve is essentially the Southern coast of Portugal, an area more officially known as the Faro District. It is the most popular tourist destination in Portugal and has amassed a huge expat population over recent years. While some are put off by what they see as mass tourism and the way that the area has changed – the number of golf courses and Irish pubs is forever increasing – many are still attracted by the astonishing climate and all of those things that put some off; at times it's almost as if the Algarve is an expat theme park, designed to give the laid-back, healthy and diverting lifestyle that so many expats desire. 
 
Within the Algarve there are many hot spots, with Lagos acting as the hub for nightlife (it has been dubbed “the carnival queen of the Algarve”), Tavira offering a connection with Roman history, Monchique situating itself as the gateway to laidback countryside life, and Faro, the capital of the region, offering that extra dose of culture. The Western part of the Algarve includes Sagres, Carrapateira and Albufeira, beach-side towns that attract many tourists. Lagos is currently a particular popular destination for Brits moving to the area, though all of them have a strong British population – there are an estimated 40,000 Brits living in Portugal, mainly within the Algarve. Due to the popularity there are many deals available for Brits looking to move to Portugal, including finance packages and subsidised inspection trips which can be organised in the UK and make the move that little bit easier. 
 
As the infrastructure for foreigners to buy properties in Portugal has been set up for some time it is not necessary to speak Portuguese. Furthermore, many potential buyers will give power to a Portuguese lawyer to take care of the purchase. This can be a huge help as Portugal is a notoriously bureaucratic country and trying to navigate all of the paperwork alone can be daunting. Although Portugal was well-known for its small cost of living, this is now increasing and some see a comparison between the cost of food in the UK and Portugal. That said, the cost of your property will undoubtedly be a lot cheaper and still offer good value. One thing to take special care with is health care as the NHS isn't free in Portugal. 
 
Umbria, Italy 
There are so many other European destinations we could mention. There's Malaga, Almeria and Valencia in Spain, Limassol and Paphos in Cyprus, Mosel Valley in Germany, Carinthia in Austria and Dubrovnik in Croatia, never mind Abruzzo in Italy, but to finish off this article we will choose another Italian destination, the lovely Umbria in Central Italy. The main reason that expats move to Umbria is because, as with Tuscany and Abruzzo and other areas in Central Italy, it is very cheap. While inflation and the Euro crisis has had implications in Italy, this has mainly been felt in Rome, Florence and the other bigger cities. In Umbria, costs are still low, with property prices around 60% of those in the UK, unbelievably low property tax and some commodities, such as wine and mineral water, being much cheaper, though petrol is quite expensive in Italy. 
 
Umbria itself is far from the urban meccas of Italy. It's largest city is Perugia, which is relatively small compared to other Italian cities. Scenery-wise expect lots and lots of hills, containing lots and lots of vineyards. And this is where one of the problems with Umbria emerges, at least where buying land is concerned. Land prices are decided by a number of factors, and one of the most costly is the ability to grow olives on the land. If there are olive trees on a piece of land you are looking to buy this could raise the cost of the land by around 100 euros per tree. Speaking Italian is a big help in Italy if you're looking for work but there are plenty of English speakers in the region, especially around the many towns which form a mini-tourism network for many Italians – who are especially interested in the agriturismo, which is very popular in Umbria – and especially in Assisi, the only town that could be said to attract swathes of tourism. 
 
While lacking the kind of expat community that you can expect in Britanny or the Algarve, Umbria is a great option for many expats looking to break away from the UK and find a new life in the sun, particularly those expats looking to do that on a small budget.
 
If you are thinking about moving to Europe then please get in touch with Britannia Movers International to see how we can help with your continental move. 
 
 
 
 
 
Catagory: 
Planning your move

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