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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 02:09 GMT
Would you be cut out for the expat life?

A union jack flag at a bowling green
The bowling green on the Costa Blanca is mostly made up of Brits

A new survey suggests expatriate Britons are overwhelmingly happy with their new life abroad. BBC reporter Chris Mason spoke to two British emigres, who have made a new life for themselves on the coast of Spain.

"I suddenly decided I'd had enough. I was going nowhere, everything was the same, I was in a rut. And so I decided to get out."

Eric Warren is originally from Leeds - but don't expect to see him out shopping in West Yorkshire any time soon.

He moved to the Costa Blanca around seven years ago - and now spends much of his time here at the San Miguel Bowls Club near Torrevieja on Spain's Mediterranean coast.

It's a mid-winter's day - and there's not a coat in sight. It feels like a summer day in Britain and it's around 18 degrees.

As Eric pushes up the sleeves on his all-white crown green bowling outfit, revealing his tanned arms, he talks me through how he ended up here.

"We came over at first for a six month stint - but within three weeks we'd bought a house and we set up home.

"It's brilliant. The weather is fantastic."

I think of people at home - they would be in the house by the fire, and that's if they could afford to keep warm to start with
Ann Eagle

It's estimated that up to a million Britons might now be living in Spain, and those I've talked to seem to agree with the findings of a new survey by the NatWest bank.

It suggests more than nine out of 10 British expats think they have a better quality of life now than they did in the UK.

Golden age

Ann Eagle is the Secretary of San Miguel Bowls Club - and is originally from Newcastle. The club has around 200 members.

The vast majority are British. None of them are Spanish.

She's convinced she has a better quality of life now - and shares the view of the two thirds of expats in the survey who consider themselves to be healthier since they left Britain.

While keeping a close eye on the ongoing bowls competition, she tells me: "We drive through the Spanish villages and we see late into the evening all the Spanish old age pensioners out and about - and they look rosy.

"Then I think of people at home - they would be in the house by the fire, and that's if they could afford to keep warm to start with."

But what about getting homesick? Both Ann and Eric say they know of friends who've given up on Spain because they've missed the UK - or rather usually, because they've missed seeing their grandchildren.

Exchange rates

Both point out that getting from here to Britain only takes as long as getting from one end of Britain to the other.

Eric Warren
Eric Warren set up home in Spain after just three weeks

There is, though, widespread concern about the exchange rate between the pound and the euro.

Sterling was weaker against the single currency at one point last month than it's ever been since the euro was launched - meaning every pound is buying less currency here.

For those on fixed, British based pensions, it's a big issue.

"It has been a very, very big problem to a lot of people," Eric tells me. "We are losing 10% or 15% a year at the moment."

So could that mean - I venture sceptically - that he could be amongst the minority of expats in the survey, who said they are eventually planning to come back to the UK? Would he consider heading home?

From behind Eric Warren's tanned smile comes an instinctive answer:


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