Buying A Home

Three things that may affect you unexpectedly when moving back to the UK

Aug 17, 2020


With everything going on in the world at the moment, understandably global citizens living abroad are considering whether it’s time to move back home to the UK. Two forces in particular are converging simultaneously to prompt British expats to think about making the move home. The first is Covid-19, and the second? Brexit. 


Without a vaccine many Covid-19 restrictions are not necessarily going anywhere anytime soon, even if they are able to be relaxed to an extent. This means that travelling will likely continue to be more difficult than before the pandemic. 


Secondly with Brexit still in motion and no deal in place, the uncertainty is... uncomfortable at best. 


Both factors have led many British people living abroad to reconsider where they want to live and what their priorities are. Being close to family and having easy access to healthcare has naturally become more of a concern in recent months. While it’s yet to be seen how many British expats living abroad will be looking to relocate back home as restrictions on travel ease; it’s likely many are weighing up their options — possibly thinking they’d feel more secure coming back home if only temporarily while all this change happens.


For others however, Brexit and Covid-19 are not key factors impacting their decision-making in relation to what country they live in. Sometimes it’s just time to come home, because after all, there’s no place quite like it.


For those planning to make the move back home to the UK, here are three surprising things that may affect you when making the move from expat to repat.


Three surprising things that may impact you when moving back home to the UK after living abroad:


1. Reverse culture shock is a thing, and you may experience it

While the phenomenon of culture shock is pretty well known (and prepared for ahead of moving abroad), its reverse, tackling the subject of reentry, is less so. Consequently many people looking to move back home to the UK think it’s going to be easy culturally, and from an emotional and psychological perspective. But it can actually be really hard to the extent that some people even express feeling like an alien in their own country!

While feeling like an alien may be a tad extreme, the reality is it’s going to be a little weird at first because if you’ve been away a long time (say several years), then a lot has probably changed. For one, you’ll most likely feel like a different person as a result of your experiences abroad. And to add to that, your home nation will likely have undergone changes too in that time. All this means that things that were once familiar might now seem unusual.

The bottom line is this: There’s a bit of an art to coming home and re-adapting; it’s normal to feel disconnected when you first return home; and it’ll probably take you a while to settle back into the rhythm of daily life. But keep in mind that this will pass.

You may even want to prepare for this. One way is by building a network of people back at home who themselves have made the return journey to live in the UK. This community can be a powerful remedy to reverse culture shock as they’re able to apply the benefit of their experience to help you to settle in and cope with the changes.


2. The Covid-19 led transition to virtual viewings and job interviews may make it easier than it was before to secure a job and accommodation ahead of returning home

The good news is that there aren’t as many considerations with moving back to the UK as there are with moving abroad in the first place, logistically speaking. This is because you don’t have to organise visas or sort out important things like healthcare and other insurances.


That said, obviously there’s still a lot to do in order to get yourself, all your things and your working life relocated back home. Beyond the obvious logistical question of transporting yourself and your belongings back home, there’s also the matter of where you’ll live and work when you get back to the UK. These should be top priorities.


One outcome of Covid-19 that could actually be helpful in this regard is the increase in online job interviews and online property viewings both of which make it easier for you to start searching and applying while still out of the country. 


3. With a lot of things, you need to be prepared to start from scratch

When you move back to the UK after living abroad, there are a lot of things that you may find yourself having to start over again with. Key things for most people will be:

  • Getting a job, or potentially a new career
  • Getting a car
  • Buying or renting a property

When looking for a new job, many expats are surprised when the hiring companies they’re talking to don’t look at the time they’ve spent working abroad as particularly valuable or beneficial. Unfortunately many employers consider time abroad to be akin to a gap on a CV forcing some people to start over again with building their careers.

Further when it comes to the big financial purchases, like buying a car or a house, if you’re hoping to do this by applying for credit then another challenge you may face is with your credit history. 

Because credit histories are reviewed for many reasons from getting a mobile phone, to taking a mortgage, to applying for rental property — reestablishing your credit history is critical to getting life going again when you come back home. 

To assess the risk in lending to you, lenders will check your credit report when you apply. At the moment most lenders require you to have been at a UK address for three years prior to be considered eligible for credit. This is clearly a problem for people who have been living out of the country for a while. And there is an awareness amongst providers that this system doesn’t entirely work for the modern day era where people are moving around the globe a lot more than before. Therefore we can expect this restriction to be replaced with an alternative measure in time to come. But if you’re in this situation right now, that doesn’t really help you.

Further if you’ve been out of the UK for several years, and especially if you don’t have any active UK bank accounts, your credit report will now likely be a blank slate. This means that lenders have no information with which to make a decision on how well you’d be able to handle credit, forcing them to categorise your application as high risk. 

Don’t panic. You’re only high risk in their eyes because how you handle credit is an unknown. But this is fixable. If you know you want to apply for credit, then on your move back to the UK you need to re-establish a credit record at a UK address. Whether you rent somewhere or use a family address doesn’t really matter but you should get your names onto the electoral roll there and provide your existing bank and credit card companies with the new UK address.


Another thing you can try is LOQBOX. LOQBOX is a free tool that helps you to build your credit score, while you save. You just need a debit card to sign up. You can find out more about LOQBOX and how it can help you here.

Over time you’ll be able to build a decent foundation for credit checks so you can get on and achieve your goals.

In our next post I’ll share with you a checklist to help you make the move back home to the UK as hiccup free as possible. 

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