To Stay Or To Go?



My partner says he never heard the word ‘inside’ used to mean at home before he came to the UK. It’s true, we grew up thinking of us as being at home and everyone else as foreign. I blame the Victorians.

I arrived back in Barcelona feeling virus-filled and exhausted, but after watching people in the park it was impossible not to become freshly inspired.

Outside I found: 30 very old ladies on bicycles. Another gaggle performing pilates and yoga. A medieval parade. A tap-dancing troupe in the bandstand. Two excitable children, obviously not on Ritalin, fascinated by spinning tops. Parents feeding their children octopi in the sun. Drummers, acrobats (see picture), readers, play-rehearsers, a choir,  and and one very touching moment when a large group of unchaperoned kids stood before the park’s memorial to gay concentration camp victims to read the inscription.

At this point I decided that the Happiness Index was rubbish. How can anyone be truly happy in the cold? I grew up not with pursuits but with ‘pastimes’ – things to do while you waited for the rain to stop. Living in the Northern hemisphere is a challenge, and I can see why many opt out. Almost 3,000 Britons move abroad each week, with around five million now living outside the UK.

However, Dr David Bartram, of the University of Leicester, said that migrants from the UK and five other northern European countries who went to Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus were less happy than people who stayed behind. He says ‘Migration itself can be disruptive to other dimensions of people’s lives – social ties, sense of belonging – possibly with consequences for their happiness.’

But writers have a much higher rate of migration, perhaps borne of a desire to observe more of the world. In America, New Zealand, Canada and Australia the question of  whether you stay or leave regularly arises. In the UK, it’s always assumed you’ll stay.

Apart from family ties, I’m held back from leaving by the thought of becoming proficient in another language. This was not a problem when I lived in France (My French doesn’t run to advanced intellectual levels but is good enough) but here you have Catalan and Spanish to deal with.

There’s one other decisive factor; London is becoming obscenely expensive. Fine for the business account executive, but a no-go zone for normal people. With the most expensive property in the world now in London, more people will be forced out than ever before.

9 comments on “To Stay Or To Go?”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    We’ve always said; inside, I think it’s widely used here. Maybe the cold up north or the biting insects that come at dusk – usually – down south. In fact, I’ve never heard it not used.
    Moms would shout: “Come inside now and get ready for dinner or (supper) or finish your homework, if you want dinner.

  2. Wayne Mook says:

    We also used to get told to play at your own end of the street as well, with so many cars that’s now impossible. The housing in Manchester is starting to get expensive, with more people living on the street. In part it’s due to people moving into the city from the suburbs. Traffic on the roads and over-crowding on trains making commuting increasing time consuming.

    On London there is a piece about hidden housing on the BBC website, industrial sites and other hard to find places.

    Here’s a link

    hope it’s ok to put links in admin.

    As for going to live in another place there are many hidden things you don’t get to know until you have gone. My in-laws live in Portugal now, the price of electricity is high because it comes from France, dealing with the government takes forever and the £/Euro exchange is a great worry. Having said that My father-in-law has no intention of coming back, even if he does travel back to the UK for the dentist.


  3. pheeny says:

    I rather like the cold – if I ever leave blessed Albion’s shores it will be for Scandinavia not Spain – which is lovely but too hot for me. Such is the perversity of human nature however I am learning Spanish …

  4. admin says:

    I’m learning too – very slowly…going back ‘inside’ to do it.

  5. Mike Cane says:

    How odd that “inside” is a strange term. Used all the time in the U.S.. “Let’s go inside…”

    Speaking of obscene housing costs, check out this documentary about Tiny Houses:

    A bit is in Spain.

    Oh. I hope it’s not geo-restricted despite being free on YouTube.

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Good for you admin, nothing learned is ever a waste. Like Pheeny I’m no good with heat, but I’m not happy with real cold either, so I stay inside during real winter weather. “Come inside, you’ll catch your death of cold.” Yup.

  7. George Mealor says:

    Many Brits move here to Atlanta, GA. I’ve 3 Brits and an Irishman in the 100 yard length of my street. The Anglican Church has re-established itself just to the north in Dunwoody, GA and now a future King George has been born. Should I be worried?

  8. Mim says:

    I used to edit a magazine for people buying property in Spain, and the most successful migrants (to any part of the world, actually) are the ones who are going somewhere, not leaving somewhere. In some areas around 50% of people moving out with the assumption that it would be perfect moved back to the UK within a couple of years, but often they were the ones who were fed up of the UK, and who found getting work they were happy with difficult. As you love Barcelona so much, and are as aware of the drawbacks as the advantages, and you can write anywhere, you could well be one of the successful ones.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    Is the main thing keeping the Fowler household London based the need for immediate London knowledge? I recognize the end of winter desperation but I hope it isn’t anything more.

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