I was first driven to study British migration because I knew people personally who had moved to Spain and I thought it was a brave and slightly crazy thing to do. I had so many questions. Why do they do it? Why don’t they want to live in their own country? Does it work for them? Do they mix with the Spanish much? Does it matter if they don’t? What can we learn from this group of people and how they live? How can they inspire us?
There has been a tendency to see migration as something other people do, and to see it as a problem. Academics, journalists, politicians, and other commentators tend to focus on immigrants (that is, those who migrate into a country rather than those who leave) and on the burden they cause, the costs they bring, or on the upheaval migration causes generally. Migration has been seen as permanent, as unusual, and as totally different to tourism. British migration to Spain turns a lot of these assumptions upside down and, as a sociologist, I like what that does to the way we see the world.
Almost ten percent of British people live abroad; that is close to 6 million. I believe we should be interested in why they wish to leave the UK, how they live, what contribution they make to different societies, and what we can learn from them about a different way of living. Perhaps in coming to understand them, we can also further understand other migrants, even those who are so often seen as problematic and troublesome, and perhaps we can also understand our own society a little better.
I have been studying British migration to Spain on and off since 1994. I have now also begun research on British people in Thailand and Malaysia. Please follow the links on the site for more information.