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UAE is the place to be, say British expats

The UAE is becoming more popular among British expatriates, who now rank the country their third-favourite destination to live and work, a new study has found.

ABU DHABI // The UAE is becoming more popular among British expatriates, who now rank the country their third-favourite destination, a new study has found.

The country defers only to Australia, in first place, and Canada in the NatWest International Personal Banking Quality of Life Report, which surveyed 1,800 British expatriates throughout the world. In the same study in 2010, the UAE came 10th.

Britons were asked questions relating to their lifestyle, motivations for moving, and opinions of their host countries.

While sunshine and health were major motivators for those moving to Australia, about three quarters of the 149 Britons surveyed in the UAE said they moved here for career opportunities. Tax-free salaries and higher disposable incomes were also key attractions.

However, the majority also said they saw the UAE as a temporary posting, with 92 per cent planning to return to the UK at some point.

Factors the study considered included education, health care, weather, the availability of consumer goods, entertainment, food, law enforcement, public transport, housing, culture, and the natural environment.

In 2008 the UAE came 10th. It climbed to sixth in 2009 but slipped back to 10th in 2010 before rising steadily to its current position. This year, the top-two countries switched places, with Canada more popular than Australia in 2012. European destinations fell in popularity due to concerns over their economies.

"The most notable shift in our Quality of Life results this year was the rise of the UAE as an expat destination," said David Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking.

"The once loved traditional expat communities of France, Spain and Portugal are diminishing, with quality of life drastically reducing for expats living there, making way for newcomers such as UAE and Singapore. It seems expats are willing to adjust their lifestyle in exchange for a stronger economy and better job opportunities."

Lorna Allen, a British expat mother of two, said her family came to the UAE for her husband's job in construction, but had found themselves enamoured with the lifestyle.

"There are lots of activities for the kids, they really like the new water park, and my son enjoys rugby. For myself, the weather is good, you can use the beach. It's a good lifestyle."

However, she admitted the family planned to return to the UK "at some point".

"Yes it is a good place for expats," agreed Pete Harris, who moved to Abu Dhabi from England a little more than a year ago.

"The weather definitely beats back home. I think a lot of people come for job opportunities, and the money is a big factor.

"The lifestyle is great, and you meet a lot of people in a similar situation. I'm not sure how long I'll stay yet, as long as the job suits I reckon."

The report was put together in collaboration with the Centre of Future Studies.

Respondents were emailed invitations to take part and recruited through notices on expatriate websites. A prize draw incentive of 500 (Dh2,800) was offered.

ksinclair@thenational.ae

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