Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A Question of Location

One of the more irritating platitudes of life is that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. One of my neighbour’s goats in the next paddock certainly believes this as she regularly prunes my roses for me. However, having done so, she goes home quite happily.

And this is how many that leave their homeland for foreign fields seem to be.

A recent poll of the citizens of the United Kingdom revealed that one third of them wished to be elsewhere. Now this is a statistic that I think the government should take very seriously. It would seem to be something well worth encouraging, perhaps with the cooperation of Ryanair, since it would reduce the rampant overcrowding so apparent in those islands. If, in addition, the exports could include those who are unhappy with their lot there and who relieve their feelings by blowing up all and sundry, this could only be a bonus.

But I’m afraid I don’t have much confidence in opinion polls and I wonder just how many, who said they would move, would do so if push came to shove and they had to upsticks and leave. Not many, I fear. And I believe many of those who do, eventually return to their homeland, baffled and bewildered by the fact that “them foreigners don’t do things the way we Brits do.” Integration, that buzzword of politicians at the moment, is not all that easy, wherever you might be from.

Americans don’t have the same problem. With a country that size you can shove off at a moment’s notice for those green hills far away without even a glance at a Berlitz language guide (There are some places in the US where such a guide might be helpful, but let’s not get into that).

I lived in Florida for a while and, having spent a convivial evening with my neighbour, awoke the next morning to see the tail lights of his U-Haul disappearing down the street. He was off to California, a matter that he had failed to mention in conversation the night before!

Travel magazines, television programmes and articles extolling the delights of somewhere else are responsible for this, and the “jolly hockey-sticks” type of books about the fun of living abroad have been a menace to intelligent thinking on the subject - but I won’t mention any titles. You’ve probably read ‘em.

Up until quite recently, dubious offshore investment companies always included a mandatory picture of loungers on a tropical beach, your future location, for putting a few shekels into their grubby hands. Having lived for some years in one or two of these tropical paradises, I can assure you that ennui will strike eventually, if the bugs don’t get you first. But as the investment programme was probably fraudulent in the first place, you had no need to worry, the only loungers on the beach would have been the promoters.

So searching for one’s Shangri La or Eldorado is not something that should be based on an enjoyable holiday experience. Before taking the plunge, it pays to have spent a considerable period in the place – renting initially rather than buying property would make sense.

Somehow I doubt that we shall be seeing many of those polled heading south. Absence of fish and chips, pork pies, pubs and Indian take-outs is enough to keep most Brits firmly anchored in that sceptred, or septic isle – and the Daily Mail is always a day late. Actually, it’s a crying shame that they deliver it at all, but that’s a personal view. It gives foreigners who can read English a terrible image of Britain and the British.

I have been extremely lucky inasmuch as my professional life has led me to lead the peripatetic, but educational, experience of living and working in a number of different countries, enabling me to make a considered choice of my ideal location.

“Location, location, location” is the mantra of the real estate business, a particularly irritating platitude if there ever was one, and one that is clearly a load of old cods-wallop. For one man’s heavenly location may well be another’s hell upon earth – and I don’t think I would wish to put my trust in an estate agent in such a matter. Fortunately, I am not looking to move, but if I were and saw a property advertised as being “ideally located,” I wouldn’t cross the street to look at it.

From which you will gather that I have found my Shangri La, but it has taken me a good many years and quite a few countries to make that decision.

I just went and took a look at the grass in the paddock next door – didn’t look any greener to me, but Pinky, the goat in question, is still eyeing my roses. Mind you, she’s not travelled much.


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