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8 Reasons UK Millennials Should Try Working Abroad (and particularly in Asia)

8 Reasons UK Millennials Should Try Working Abroad (and particularly in Asia)

Photo taken in Johannesburg after the 2013 One Young World summit

One of the reasons why I originally started travel blogging, and publishing stories about my travels and different spells living in foreign countries, was because I strongly believe that it’s had a tremendously positive impact on my life. Travelling and living abroad has taken me down routes I would never have imagined, and opened doors to opportunities that would be otherwise unobtainable. The reality is that living abroad isn’t nearly as impossible as it might seem at first glance, and I’d love to think that this blog of mine might have helped persuade someone, even if only one person, of the virtues of living/working/studying abroad. I believe everyone in the UK should at least experiment living abroad for a while. Some will love it and discover a whole new world available to them, and others might not love it, but as a consequence they will at least discover where they belong and learn to appreciate their homeland. Either way, it’s a beneficial experience and will help them develop personally. On this theme, below is an article I wrote recently on the ‘8 Reasons UK Millennials Should Try Working Abroad (and particularly in Asia)’, an article which first appeared on the Telefónica Global Millennial Survey website here:


Great Britain is traditionally viewed from outside as an isolated little group of islands that keeps to itself, and it’s understandable why this perception has arisen. For a start, only 25% of us Brits can hold a conversation in another language, we refer to ‘Europe’ as the rest of the continent, Britain provides far fewer participants for the Erasmus scheme than we proportionally should, and a worryingly large portion of the UK population even thinks we should exit the European Union. On the other hand, early Brits were some of the most adventurous of all, ruling the seas and growing to build the largest empire in history.

We have an incredibly diverse population living in Britain, but the various communities and cultures living on this little archipelago can hardly claim to be integrated or live in complete harmony. The under 30s living in Britain are the ones with the power to change this reality and defy the foreign perception of an introverted and isolated nation.

Generation Y, also known as Millennials, were born between 1983 – 1995 and are the key to improving Britain’s future. As one of the few Brits to have persevered with learning foreign languages and to have moved abroad to study, live and work, I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of taking that leap and moving abroad. Those who do try moving abroad are acquiring invaluable life skills and much desired employability skills, they’re broadening their horizons and setting themselves up for successful careers. More than ever before, looking beyond our borders, and even beyond the limits of the EU towards Asia, is where young Brits will find the opportunities to succeed in their careers. Moving abroad for 1 month / 6 months / a year is a fundamentally good idea, no matter how you look at it. Still don’t believe me? Maybe these 8 reasons from Telefónica’s Global Millennial Survey will help convince you:

1. It has never been easier to learn a foreign language. A whopping 90% of UK millennials agree that technology has broken down language barriers, with a myriad of language-learning apps, widespread access to foreign cultures through the internet and free voice-over-IP international communication services like Skype and Viber to have language tandems with literally anyone in the world. Our parents’ generation never had any of this and instead toiled away with textbooks and huge tomes of foreign dictionaries. Our multi-cultural and globalised world gives us no excuses – now is the time to learn a foreign language and move abroad to perfect it.

2. Speaking a foreign language is a great USP in the job market. Despite how many employers are demanding language skills and how easy it now is to learn languages, very few Brits actually speak another language. So if you move abroad and manage to learn one, you’re gaining a rare skill that employers are crying out for. The thing is, only 7% of young Britons consider studying a foreign language important for ensuring future success, meaning we’re starting out with completely the wrong attitude. Buck the trend and you’ll see your efforts pay off.

3. We Brits aren’t actually that attached to our homeland, giving all the more reason to move abroad. Over a third of Brits between 18 – 30-years-old “don’t feel very close” to their country, so it’s clearly not an emotional bond that’s holding the majority of us back from exploring overseas.

4. Believe it or not, we do say that we’re willing to work abroad. 68% of us say we’re either ‘very willing’ or ‘somewhat willing’ to work abroad, which largely matches the global average. It shows that our minds are open to the possibility of moving abroad – perhaps we just require a bit more encouraging and more role models to lead the way.

5. But when we do manage to move abroad, we’re playing it safe in Europe or North America and missing the big opportunities in Asia. Of those who would be willing to move abroad, 48% want to work in Europe, 32% in North America and only a feeble 13% of us dare to dream of Asia and step out of our comfort zone.

6. We’d be wise to look more to Asia as Europe’s economy is doomed, but Asia’s is booming. 66% of European millennials think the region’s economy is headed in the wrong direction, with a rocky road to recovery. However look to the east and it’s another picture, with 65% of Asian millennials saying the complete opposite, that the Asian economy is heading full steam ahead in the right direction.

7. The UK’s economy slips further down the world rankings each year, with China set to overtake the US in the next few decades. Over two thirds of millennials worldwide admit that Asia will be the biggest growth driver in the world economy in the next 10 years. Only 20% believe Western Europe will lead growth in the global economy and I’m sad to say that that 20% most likely live under a rock.

8. Ever-increasing globalisation has created more opportunities, but not for everyone, meaning it’s essential to make sure you’re part of that select few who are reaping the benefits. 61% of UK millennials feel that the benefits of globalisation aren’t available to everyone in society, and those who are left out will suffer. So it’s time for younger generations to embrace globalisation and use it to their advantage. Moving abroad is one sure path to making it into that select group that are positively impacted by this global trend, that isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

         In summary, more of us should be spending time working abroad to expand our skillsets, improve our intercultural competence and safe-guard our future. We can’t rely on the traditional prosperity of the UK and Europe alone to continue and we need to branch out to developing countries such as China. I’m kicking myself for not studying an Asian language (instead I studied a Bachelors degree in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese) and for spending my time working abroad in relatively ‘comfortable’ and ‘familiar’ places: Chile, Italy and Spain. All signs point further East and as such, more UK millennials should be plotting a spell in Asia into their career plan. For more articles on the topic of languages and intercultural competence, head to

What’s your view on young Brits working abroad? Do you see the value in international work experience or have you already tried it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.


  1. Reblogged this on Worldly Minded and commented:

    Here’s an article I wrote recently for the Global Millennial Survey website on the 8 Reasons UK Millennials Should Try Working Abroad (and particularly in Asia). What’s your opinion? Have you experienced working abroad and do you think it’s beneficial?


  2. …I feel like it’s there’s the same need for young people everywhere–especially kids from the States…Honestly, a lot of the arrogant “We’re #1–go U.S.A.” tosh would go out the window if the people here were more informed, and that entails a lot more international travel, particularly for the generations coming up…

    How strange it is that many Brits don’t consider themselves “European”…Call me ignorant, but I’ve always lumped ya’ll in that group!!…


  3. Ahh, this post was so encouraging for me to read right now! I just moved to live in Hong Kong a month ago, I love it here and I definitely think that more people should branch out to Asian countries. The experience you gain here is absolutely priceless, especially right now when the economy in Asia is booming. Seriously, it’s developing so fast you don’t even see it.


    • My goodness I am so envious of you, I’d love to live in Hong Kong! It’s one of my absolute favourite cities. Good luck with everything over there and I hope you’re still enjoying it.


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