So what kind of a migrant are you?

“Most Brits never want to move back home.” So declared someone who should know.

He has had a few careers in the local financial sector – including phone-bashing at one of the larger self-proclaimed financial planning and wealth management outfits – he left because he was older than the barely in their 20s posh graduates who peppered the office. Their measure of success was how much money they made each month, his wasn’t.

Let’s call him Mr M. M then went on to work as a broker, left that too and now assumes more of a managerial position in another firm that offers numerous financial and related policies. The point is, M has been here for a tad under a decade, and by virtue of his various day jobs, has chatted life plan and aspiration with every single one of his clients and potential clients – ‘cos he’s that kind of guy; not in it for the “kill” of a sale, but genuinely interested in people, their lives and their stories.

M explained that others, like Australians, South Africans, German, French and Spanish clients, talk in terms of moving back – they view their expat time as a bit of an adventure, but want to go home at the end of it all. Most of the Brits, himself included, don’t. They want to move on, not back.

I wonder what kind of migrants they will be. Economic? Could be – tax-free earnings are usually right up there among the top three reasons for living in a place like the UAE.

Quality of life migrants? That’s very subjective – it depends on how you define it. The UAE comes high on the list for many females, according to a recent survey, because of the support they can buy into here, which I’m sure helps keep more sanity in check.

Migration is as old as life. Humankind is the movement of people from one place in the world to another with the aim of taking up permanent or semi-permanent residence.

We can’t always go where we’d like for a variety of reasons, political, economic, red tape or people-related.

But for those of us with more than one option – what do we look for?

Personally, I’m going for “environmental migrant”: gulping in good air is top of my list, the rest will follow. The rest being: feeling good and healthy, with a big dose of calm and community.

Last week I met an Australian attending a conference in Abu Dhabi who moved his family and himself to Switzerland – having lived in Japan for the previous five years. They wanted to get away from city life and its pollution. They now live in the French-speaking part, their two young children go to the local village school, and one year in, they’re starting to really enjoy life there. The children’s French is sorted – last year’s camping holiday had them stuck to their parents, this year they were all over the shop conversing with other children – in French.

I met another person at this event who left the UK to live in a part of Spain he declares to have the best food in the world. Gastro-migration perhaps? He currently resides in the mountains of North Carolina in the US. He too is a Brit who never wants to go home. His criteria for his best life was to live somewhere he could walk to a fab coffee place, be commuter distance to an airport that had direct flights to the UK and not have to pay what he consider extortionate prices for a decent home with space both in and out.

And he found it. He’s a world-renowned author, top of his field and advises governments and international bodies, so not short of a penny – but decided to live by his values and priorities and migrated to the better place for his lifestyle.

So what things tick your box? Once you have figured that out, for this current phase of life, what are you doing about it?

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals was launched last month, and alongside my already existing mantra to be financially sustainable, I am launching another quest. I’m putting my surroundings at the top of the list. If where I live is verdant and healthy, then by default I will be. That means less money spent on stress-related problems, potential current and future health issues – and all that entails in the way of time unable to work, money spent on medication, simply not enjoying precious life. I believe I’m more than justified forking out on my tiny garden – no matter how long, or little, I live at the property. It’s being transformed, with a lot of cajoling, into my own personal green lung.

Things won’t stop there – I’m still figuring out other bits to make the transition into environmental migrant.

Of course, some who opt out of the UK forever do go back, unwillingly, and unplanned because of a nasty surprise like illness or sudden unemployment. Perhaps I’ll be one who bucks that trend …

Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website You can reach her at and find her on Twitter at @nimaabuwardeh.


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