I didn’t want to leave the UK. When I moved to Amsterdam it was with the promise that my partner and I would hoover up the inflated salaries we were being offered and then use our loot to buy a small house in the North of England. We’d be back within a year, tops, to settle down in a postcode with a Lidl and a very nice independent cinema that we’d forget to go to whenever a new series of The Walking Dead was added to Netflix.
18 months later those plans have changed and I have joined the 65% of Britain’s under-40s who want to live abroad. A recent survey from the deVere Group has found that only 22% of “young people”, also known as Generation Rent, would definitely not leave the UK, 13% are undecided and the rest of us are looking for an escape hatch. deVere CEO Nigel Green comments that the survey applicants’ most common for leaving the UK was ”to further their careers for the enhanced lifestyle opportunities that higher salaries would afford them.” And by “enhanced lifestyle opportunities” we can safely assume that Green means “living in a house where the ceiling isn’t entirely composed of black mould”.
This survey comes hot on the heels of a report from economists at the accountancy firm PwC which found that by 2025 more than half of those under 40 will be renting and unable to raise the large deposit required to buy a house. Every time I try to explain my change of heart about living abroad it comes back to housing. Yes there’s the better weather, the fantastic cycling infrastructure, the higher salaries and the cleaner air (I haven’t had to use my asthma inhaler once since I moved here) but all of that pales when I consider the lack of brown sauce, the cost of health insurance and the struggle to order an ambulance at 4am in a foreign language.
The thing that’s keeping me here is the housing. The protection tenants are offered in Amsterdam (and across Europe) puts the UK to shame - and I can actually afford to buy a house here, right now. Not ten years in the future, not once parents retire or a forgotten wealthy relative dies, not once I’ve saved up a 20% deposit and made my peace with living on top of a fracking hotspot. I can buy right now.
When I left the UK I also left extortionate estate agent fees, elderly landlords upping the rent every quarter to supplement their pathetic pensions, incompetent letting agencies, an overactive SpareRoom account, simultaneous pigeon and cockroach infestations, rent taking up two thirds of my monthly salary. Most importantly, I left behind a string of broken promises that if I wait long enough and work hard enough I will maybe, one day, be able to call the place I sleep my home.
This new home may be a long way away from my mum and it may be surrounded by strangers who consider raw herring a culinary treat. But it is mine and it doesn’t surprise me that so many of my fellow Generation Renters are looking overseas for the same thing. Wouldn’t you?
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies