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UK ELECTIONS

EXPATS

Why most UK expats will shun general election

The deadline for registering to vote in the UK general elections is fast approaching, but not all UK expats will be casting their vote. We talked to Brits around Europe about why they will be voting – or not.

Why most UK expats will shun general election
British Prime Minister David Cameron (L) and leader of the opposition Labour Party Ed Miliband (R) and British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (C). Photo: Dan Kitwood/POOL/AFP

On May 7th, millions of people will head to the polls in the UK General Election.

But for various reasons, a large proportion of the 5.5 million UK expats living abroad will not be casting their vote this year, The Local learns.

In some cases, expats said they felt the vote did not concern them and their lives as they were no longer living in the UK.

Simon Kilby, a British citizen who has been living in Vienna for the past six years told The Local: “I will not be voting, I see no point as I am living in another country.”

However he added that he does vote in European and local elections in Austria as they affect him directly (expats are allowed to vote in local elections in their adopted country).

Germany-based expat Adrian Robinson said: “I am no longer resident in the UK, and do not pay tax there. For me the government (regardless of politics) are no longer interested in me as a citizen.”

Like Kilby, Robinson said that he nevertheless took an active interest in the local politics in his adopted country because it has an impact on him.

Andrew McDonald was simply disillusioned by UK politics altogether.

"I am a British citizen and live in Italy but won’t be voting either here or there. No party has policies for me. They are all liars who just fill their own pockets! And cover up everything!"

For David Thompson in France, his decision not to vote was less complicated. “No, too much hassle. Besides I've not got any faith in anyone to vote for!"

But not all expats were singing the same tune, with some saying the UK elections were relevant to British citizens living abroad.

“As a British citizen living in the EU this election affects me as a large part of the electoral debate at the moment is focused on Britain's position within the EU, with potential referendums," Dan Purchase, an Austria-based Briton told The Local.

"I consider Austria my home and I have no plans to leave but I feel it would be dangerous to sever my ties to the UK," he added. "If the UK voted to leave the EU, they would obviously want to be part of the EEA which would allow a continuation of the free movement of people we currently see. But there is no guarantee that the EU would agree to this – especially in the animosity of a 'break-up'."

British expat Michele Fowler told The Local Spain that she is registered and will vote by proxy, a system which she describes as “more reliable than a postal vote, which doesn’t really give sufficient time if there is a delay on delivery."

Of course, not all Britons are eligible to vote due to the so-called ’15-year rule’ that prevents expats who have lived abroad for more than 15 years from voting in UK elections.

"After serving for 17 years in British government service abroad, we lose our right to vote after 15 years," Roger Owen told The Local. "Now there's gratitude."

Speaking to The Local previously, voting rights campaigner Harry Schindler, who has been living in Italy for nearly 30 years, said: “There’s no question that we’ve loosened our ties to the country.

“We have family and friends in the UK, we go backwards and forwards. I can get to London quicker by plane than an MP can from [the English city] Carlisle.”

Other Britons contacted by The Local were not even aware that they could vote in the UK elections with several requesting information.

"I am a British citizen, cannot vote here and was not aware I could still vote in the UK," said Italy-based expat Simon Carey.

Currently, as few as 20,000 people – a tiny fraction of the 5.5 million eligible expats – are signed up to vote in UK elections, according to the Electoral Commission.

With this in mind, the UK Electoral Commission has launched a recruitment drive to get some 100,000 Brits to join the voting register by April 20th, the registration deadline.

So if you’re one of the number who want to vote from abroad but simply don’t know how then here are some guidelines: 

How to register:

Since the elections last May, all UK expats can now register to vote online, making the process a whole lot simpler.

You just have to complete the registration form online here.

But bear in mind that to be eligible to vote you must have been registered in a UK constituency within the last 15 years.

If you were too young when you left the UK to have been registered then you can still register as an overseas voter if your parents (or guardians) were registered in the UK in the last 15 years.

All you need to fill in the form is your National Insurance number and your date of birth. If you’ve lost or forgotten your National Insurance number you can still register, but may be asked for some extra information by your Electoral Registration Officer. 

The registration deadline is Monday April 20th.

How to vote:

There are three ways you can vote from overseas: by proxy (you designate someone you trust to vote on your behalf in the UK), by post or in person.

If you want to vote by post, make sure you check that you will have sufficient time to receive and return your postal ballot pack. Postal votes will usually be dispatched a few weeks before polling day. For your postal vote to count, it needs to be received back by the Returning Officer by 10pm on May 7th 2015. If you live a very long way away it may be that a proxy vote would provide a good alternative.

For more information about the 2015 general election click here.

Will you be voting in the UK elections and if so how will you be voting? If not, let us know why. Please leave a comment in the comments section below.  

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EXPATS

Expat stories: How I made my closest Danish friend

Many foreigners living in Denmark struggle to make friends with born-and-bred Danes. We spoke to five who have successfully made the connection.

Expat stories: How I made my closest Danish friend
Fernando Secca (right) and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt (left). Photo: Private

Fernanda Secca from Brazil and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt 

When 32-year-old Fernanda moved to Copenhagen at the start of 2017, one of the first things she did was find a place to do pole-dancing, which had been her hobby back in São Paulo. Marie Peschardt, 29, was her teacher, and before long they soon realised they got on well.

“Coming to class a few times a week made us create a bond that was eventually taken to a personal relationship,” she remembers. “We now do everything together. We hang out several times a week. We go travelling together, we have dinner, we go to bars, we go dancing.” 

The two still train together at the dance studio. 

Fernando Secca (right) and her Danish friend Marie Peschardt (left). Photo: Private 

“I think the friendship was possible because we were both open to meeting new people and building connections,” Fernanda says, adding that she doesn’t think Danes are particularly difficult to become friends with.

“There is no secret. Danes are not aliens. I think finding something in common that you can bond around or relate to helps in the beginning, because people are more likely to respond to that than a random request or small talk.” 

“Also taking a chance, inviting a person you feel could be interesting for a coffee or a drink, can be something spontaneous or quick. Some Danes might even appreciate being spontaneous because no one here really is.” 
 
On the other hand, it is important for those from more free-wheeling countries to understand that Danes like to plan ahead, she adds. 
 
“Appreciate that they have their schedules and bookings weeks in advance and you might need to fit into that type of style as well if you want to build a connection.” 
 
 
Marcele Rask and her Danish friends Jasmine and Carina
 
Marcele Rask, 36, a manager at Danske Bank specialising in financial crime and sanctions, met her Danish friends Jasmine and Carina at her previous job because they all worked in the same department. She said the three of them shared a similar appetite for adventure. 
 
“One thing that connected us three a lot is the fact that we are all very curious and like to try new things. So we programme ‘adventure days’  where we go somewhere new, or that we like or something and spend some hours there or even the day,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be fancy, or crazy or anything, but something nice to know.” 
 
She said they tend to do this about once or twice a month, either two of them, or all three together.
 
“Just after Denmark started to open from the lockdown, we went to a Gavnø slot for their tulip festival, and afterwards we went to eat MacDonald’s by the harbour.” 
 
She says that both Jasmine and Carina are quite internationally-minded, which she feels made them more open to making friends with a foreigner. 
 
“Jasmin lived some years abroad and was an expat herself. Carina has worked on international companies and is used to the expats’ life, having herself another great expat friend,” she says. 
 
She said they now spoke a mixture of English and Danish together, but were speaking Danish more and more as her command of the language improved. She said she felt her own openness had helped her make Danish friends. 
 
“I think one thing that it is very important to be as an expat is open — open for anything and everything — and not just to sit around bitching about the country, the language, the food, and everything else.” 
 
 
Ashley Norval and her Danish friend Mia Garner 
 
Ashley, 31, met Mia, 28 almost as soon as she arrived in Copenhagen a year ago from Australia and the two were paired together for a group session during her university course. They have hung out together ever since. 
 
“I hear from her two or three times a week usually, and we do all kinds of stuff together,” she says. “We’ve travelled together, we catch up for dinner, we go to the movies, or just go to each other’s place. Sometimes we go walking or running, sometimes we just go and get an ice cream and sit in the park.” 
 
Ashley Norval (right) and Mia Garner at the Gisselfeld Klosters Forest Tower south of Copenhagen. Photo: Private
 
Ashley believes that many foreigners think, often mistakenly, that the Danish reluctance to impose themselves on others means they are not open to making new friends. 
 
“I think Danish people genuinely don’t want to encroach on your personal space and territory and I’m convinced that once you kind of invite them to something and show them that it’s fine, and that you do want to see them outside of your professional space or whatever, then it’s fine.”
 
She said that foreigners in Denmark needed to realise that they might have to make the move, and suggest going to see a film or get a meal. 
 
“If you make the effort to get to know any part of Danish culture, that is always well received with Danish people,” she adds, although she concedes that Danes might view Australians more favourably than people from many other countries. 
 
Camila Witt and her Danish friend Emilie Møllenbach
 
Camila, 36, met Emilie over the coffee machine when they were both working for a Danish payments company, but bonded over their academic interests. “Emilie and I had a I have a very strong academic background, so we just started to talk about different theories: physics, science and this kind of thing. And we connected over that and I think that the relationship grew from that.” 
 
They go for walks together, make chocolate together, go for dinner, or a cup of tea at a café. 
 
“Nothing really fancy, to be fair, just being each in each other’s companies and I think that both her and I share this perspective that we like we were there for each other and not to be on our phones.” 
 
Camila believes a lot of foreigners wrongly think that when Danes say they’re busy or booked up, that that means they aren’t open to a friendship. 
 
“Danes require more planning. I think that something we need to understand if we come from countries where you’re used to spontaneously say ‘let’ go out tonight, let’s go out after work and just have a beer’. 
 
“It’s really important to you know, proactively invite them and not take them saying, ‘I don’t have time this week’ as them shutting you off because in all honesty, many times they are booked. So it’s about finding that slot of time. It can happen in three weeks, but it will happen you know.”
 
 
 
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