Dreaming of a life abroad? These 4 expats reveal what it's like…

EXCLUSIVE Dreaming of a life abroad? British expats in France, Spain, Vietnam and Indonesia reveal if the grass really IS greener on the other side – and what they miss about the UK (spoiler… not the weather!)

  • One family moved to Vietnam, where they tripled their income
  • A couple who moved to Indonesia said: ‘The sense of community is fantastic’
  • READ MORE: Revealed – where the super-rich REALLY go on holiday

Is life for Britons actually greener away from the Motherland?

MailOnline Travel speaks with four British expats who certainly think so. 

From a young couple who have tripled their spendable earnings in Vietnam to a builder who now enjoys lounging by his outdoor pool in Spain, they each reveal what they love about living abroad and what they miss most about the UK.

Spoiler… it’s not the weather!

Eilidh McGinness, a lawyer turned estate agent, moved from Inverness, Scotland, to the Dordogne region of France in 2006.

Eilidh McGinness chose Menesplet in France using a ‘pin-on-the-map method’. She said: ‘This seemed like a really good choice near Saint-Emilion’ (pictured)

LEFT: Eilidh, pictured, moved from Scotland to France in 2006. RIGHT: The garden and pool at her home in Menesplet

What inspired you to move to Dordogne?

I wanted a change of lifestyle and a warmer climate. Having four young children at the time, I thought the move would be better for them too.

We chose the village of Menesplet, in Dordogne, with a pin-on-the-map method. It wasn’t the best-planned move in history but we wanted a rural place with a reasonable climate that was well-placed for airports back and forth to the UK.

I’d spent some time before in France – a month in Paris, a month in the north, and a month in the south. Having spent time in these different regions, this seemed like a really good choice near Saint-Émilion and the city of Bordeaux.

I was brought up on a farm in Scotland, and the wildlife and large nearby forest are some of the other things that drew us to this area. Now, we have a four-bedroom house in grounds of two hectares with a small lake and woodland area. There are a couple of palm trees too.

What are the biggest differences?

‘I was brought up on a farm in Scotland, and the wildlife and large nearby forest are some of the other things that drew us to this area,’ Eilidh said. Pictured: Her house in Menesplet

Nearly everything is shut on a Sunday. Also, people like to have their lunch between 12 and 2pm every day, so lots of businesses close during those times too. I’ve been here so long now so I’m used to it, but it does take time to adjust. I quite like it because it slows down the pace of life when you’re not at 100 miles per hour all the time.

Another big difference is the level of hunting. I live near one of the largest privately owned forests in France where we have fox, deer and wild boar in the garden quite regularly.

A couple of weeks ago, I had a couple of wild boar shoot across the garden followed by a number of men in orange waistcoats with dogs following them. This type of hunting isn’t allowed in the UK.

What do you love most about where you live?

The warmer climate. The lifestyle here is automatically more relaxed because of that. Being from Inverness, you can go a whole summer without a sunny day. Whereas here you can take it as read that you can sit outside whenever you want.

 What do you miss most about home?

Living by the sea and the changing landscapes that go with it. When it’s stormy in Inverness, it’s wild and savage and other times it’s quite calm. Sometimes the waves come roaring over the wall along the seafront and it looks amazing. Then when it’s calm, there is a beautiful beach. Whatever the weather, you can walk to the sea and find calm.

The best thing about life as an expat?

It’s great to experience another country, to learn another language, and to have a whole different experience. The children have enjoyed it too and they’ve all learnt to speak French. 

Lilley Loudon halved her working hours and tripled her money after bills when she moved from Bournemouth to Vietnam with her husband Jonny and their two children Elias and Clara in 2023. Lilley has set up a virtual assistant recruitment business in Vietnam

Lilley Loudon had ‘fantasised about moving away for years’ and seized the opportunity to do so when her husband left the military. Pictured: Their home in Da Nang, Vietnam

Lilley, pictured on the beach with her daughter Clara, said hundreds of locals head to the ocean to swim every morning

What inspired you to move to Vietnam?

To an outsider, we were ticking every box with our UK life – two kids, a mortgage on a nice house, a good car, great careers – but the reality was somewhat different.

Our day-to-day saw us both working up to 50 hours a week to be able to afford our £1,500 mortgage while being simultaneously crippled by £2,300 monthly nursery fees. We spent limited time with our kids and were stuck in a rut of trying to keep all the bills paid.

We absolutely craved a more relaxed pace of life, and of course better weather. We had fantasised about moving away for years, but when my husband decided to leave the military, this gave us an opportunity to really consider making a change to our lives.

After a bottle of wine, we weighed up the pros and cons. With the backdrop of the latest mortgage rate hike and the spiralling cost of living, it became a no brainer. We booked flights that night to give us a timeline to aim for and didn’t look back.

There is a quote that says if you look around yourself day to day and there is no-one’s life that you truly aspire to, then you need to make a change. That really stuck with us and I suppose was the ultimate motivation for us to become expats.

We chose Da Nang in Vietnam as we had visited the country for a three-week holiday in 2019 and had absolutely loved the culture, climate and people. Now we work around 24 hours per week and have £3,100 available to spend each month after rent and bills, compared to £1,100 in the UK.

What are the biggest differences?

Lilley said Vietnamese people ‘seem to enjoy life without the social pressure’ of the UK. Pictured: My Khe Beach in Da Nang

Pictured: Lilley with her daughter Clara and her son Elias (right), enjoying a spot of swimming at the Airbnb where they stayed when they first arrived in Da Nang

There are huge differences between Vietnam and the UK. The pace of living is incredibly slow here, the traffic and motorbikes can be crazy, the people are generally happier, the weather is infinitely better even in the rainy season, and of course there are the expected differences in language and social norms.

For us, the subtle differences are the things we love. For example, in the morning hundreds of local people head to the ocean to swim at 5.30am to 7am. Everyone is up, about, and making the most of the day.

Vietnamese people seem to enjoy life without the social pressure we have in the UK. It is usual to see groups of people meeting up in local parks to exercise and ballroom dance together without a care in the world for what they look like or who is watching. An unlikely sight in the UK.

What do you love most about where you live?

‘In Vietnam, children are an integral part of the culture,’ says Lilley. Pictured: Her son Elias

Alongside the lower cost of living, the thing we love the most is how child orientated the culture here is. In the UK,  you can be vilified for taking small children to a restaurant or on an aeroplane. There is an unspoken expectation in the UK that you attempt to keep them quiet and try to keep them calm. Easier said than done!

Here in Vietnam, children are an integral part of the culture. They are allowed to just be kids and there is very much a sense of community around parenting. It is normal to see the children of a nail salon owner running around or doing their homework in the corner.

In restaurants the waitresses will help wipe your children’s mouths when needed so you can carry on with your food uninterrupted, and taxi drivers will physically help your children out of the car to give you a hand.

These are all situations that would be totally frowned upon in the UK but make trips with toddlers infinitely easier. You never feel like you are parenting alone in Vietnam. The ‘village’ that we are told as mothers we need genuinely exists here!

What do you miss most about home?


Bournemouth UK

Mortgage: £1,500 per month

Childcare: £2,300

Food shop: £560

Working hours per week: 50

Da Nang Vietnam

Rent: £900 per month

Childcare: £340

Food shop: £150

Working hours per week: 24

Source: Lilley Loudon 

We miss our family and friends enormously, but aside from the people there isn’t much we miss.

Another thing we definitely do miss, though, is the ease of knowing how to do things such as sending parcels and paying electricity bills.

When you have grown up in one country, you by default know how to do these things.

But moving to a different country that has a notoriously complex approach to paperwork, you have to figure everything out from scratch, which is not always easy.

The best thing about life as an expat?

For us, the best thing is the financial freedom and endless possibilities of where we could move to next.

Living abroad in a lower cost area of the world means we can work part-time and still have a great standard of living while, most importantly, spending quality time with our children.

Electrical engineer James Wood, 52, moved with his wife in January from Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, to Java, Indonesia, and plans to open a business.

Behold James Wood’s modern-style Javanese house, which looks out across ‘rice paddy fields, a forest and mountains in the distance’

James, pictured, and his wife relocated to her home country Indonesia in January and nearby Bali is now their ‘local holiday hotspot’

What inspired you to move to Indonesia?

After a one-month visit to my wife’s hometown in Indonesia, in May 2022, it convinced both myself and my wife that we should bring our future plans forward to relocate here.

The visit had opened my eyes to a slower pace of life, with far less stress and pressure compared to our life in the UK.

My wife was able to be reunited with her family who she had been apart from for nearly 18 years. We would both be able to give up our day jobs and live a far more comfortable life financially, with far more time to ourselves along with the idea of starting a small business down the line.

So by December 2022, we had sold our house, left our jobs, acquired the required visa and jetted off in January. We relocated to the island of Java, in the small rural village of Nglayang. Our local holiday hotspot is the beautiful island of Bali, which is around one hour away by plane.

What are the biggest differences?

The biggest noticeable difference between Indonesia and the UK is religion. Religion plays a big part of most people’s daily lives here and is very important to them. Mosques are everywhere, even small villages sometimes have three or four and cities seem to have them on almost every street.

The other big differences are the people. They are extremely friendly and helpful, the sense of community is fantastic. Everyone helps everyone.

Although a lot of people, including children, have very little here compared to the western world, they don’t seem to want for material things in life. If they have food and water and a roof over their heads, then this is enough from what I have experienced so far.

What do you love most about where you live?

When asked what he loves most about Java, James said it’s the ‘relaxed simple way of life’ and the ‘super friendly and super helpful people’

James shared details of his new life on the island of Java in Indonesia. ‘We have fantastic views,’ he said, like the one of a nearby lake, pictured here

The relaxed simple way of life, super friendly and super helpful people, the fantastic tropical climate all year round and the amazing scenery almost everywhere. Well, apart from in the cities of course.

Also for me, I enjoy not being under pressure to have to work anymore. This is only afforded because what we brought with us financially goes a long, long way here. We live in a modern style Javanese single-storey three-bedroom house with fantastic views of rice paddy fields, a forest and mountains in the distance. And we are thinking about starting a small business in the near future to keep our brains active.

What do you miss most about home?

I have three grown-up children and two grandchildren, with a third on the way, and despite the modern technology of video calling and social media, I still miss seeing them and friends in the flesh.

Although I said that it’s nice not to have the pressure and commitment of a job, I have found it quite difficult at times adjusting to that too.

The best thing about life as an expat?

It has been a lifetime ambition for me to emigrate and, until now, life never presented me with the opportunity. I will now make the very most of it.

Harry Vaughan, 66, a retired builder originally from Somerset, and his wife Susan, 68, swapped their four-bedroom home in Wales for a six-bed villa with a pool in Murcia, Spain, using YourOverseasHome.com in 2023.

Harry Vaughan and his wife Susan swapped their four-bedroom home in Wales for a six-bed villa with a pool, pictured, in Murcia, Spain

Harry and Susan, pictured, said they love the weather and the friendly people of Murcia

What inspired you to move to Murcia?

We decided to leave the UK as we felt it had little to offer us other than rising fuel costs and long winters.

And we also decided to seize the day whilst we still had our health and fitness.

We didn’t want the Spanish coast – these areas can turn into ghost towns in the winter.

Instead, we wanted to experience true Spain and the people, which led us here to Murcia.

What are the biggest differences?

Obviously the weather. In late November, the temperature is still in the twenties (between 68F and 84F) here, although the evenings and mornings become cooler.

Language is an obstacle. We’re trying to learn Spanish, and there’s a local dialect, which doesn’t help, but most people are very helpful and a lot of the younger generation here are taught English at school.

Virtually all of the Spanish residents don’t go out to eat until 9pm or 10pm, so it’s no good going out at 6pm expecting to find food. Nothing opens before 8pm.

What do you love most about where you live?

Harry and Susan wanted to experience ‘true Spain and the people’, which led them to Murcia. Pictured: Plaza de Las Flores in Murcia’s old town

The weather and the people, who are very friendly and always seem to be very happy. It’s a beautiful location and we’re surrounded by olive, almond and peach groves. Generally we’re very, very happy here and it really feels like home.

What do you miss most about home?

Immediate family and the ability to go out and buy virtually anything, with deliveries coming to your door. As we live in the campo (countryside), we don’t get deliveries. Instead, we have a mailbox at the local post office and have to go to pick up hubs for anything else, if you can get it.

The best thing about life as an expat?

You can guarantee the sun every morning, which is so uplifting. It’s so cheap you can eat out every night if you wish to.

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