Have you considered retiring overseas? It is a dream for many people, especially if they live in colder, wetter northern climates, which is why you come across enclaves of British, Scandinavian, German and Belgian retirees in the world’s hotter spots. Southern Spain is a favourite retirement location for a number of reasons, including the fact that it is only a short flight back to any European destination and because it has sunshine year round and an infrastructure plus amenities that makes life for the overseas resident as close to that of their home country as it gets. Other prefer more exotic destinations, such as Thailand, whilst others look to Florida where the English-speaking culture makes adapting to a new country easier, especially for British folk.
Most people choose their retirement abroad location based on previous knowledge. However, it is worth remembering that living somewhere is quite different to enjoying a holiday break. It seems idyllic when you’re on vacation and don’t need to worry about utilities and healthcare (particularly if you have invested in holiday insurance) amongst other things. So, here are some tips for making sure that everything goes smoothly if you’re retiring abroad.
Build a money reserve
Your choice of retirement location may be less expensive in terms of daily living costs, but there may be things you need to pay for that you don’t at home. Healthcare is a good example and it is wise to thoroughly research what is available to you via a public system and if you must pay for private health insurance. Local taxes and the cost, for example, of either changing your car to local plates, as is required in Spain, or changing the car’s log book if you buy a car locally, may bring unexpected fees. So, it’s a good idea to make sure you have a financial reserve to pay for these and then you won’t panic when they arise.
Have some patience
Life in another country never quite proceeds as expected. The culture is ‘foreign’ to you and they do things in a different way. It is best to be prepared for this and not arrive expecting that it will be just like at home. It can be frustrating to find that there is only one cashier at your bank and you’re in a long queue, or that the shops are closed from 2pm – 5pm for example. Be patient and integrate into the local community at your own pace. I’d also add – avoid telling anyone that you do things better in your own country!
Keep your sense of humour
This can be very important in relation to the previous tip. It is better to laugh and shrug your shoulders at the queue in the bank or supermarket than bitterly complain about how inefficient these services are. You’ll probably need it on the road as well, as you are likely to find that although road regulations may be similar to those in the UK, the driving style is somewhat different. Humour and patience together are much more likely to make your new home country a much more enjoyable experience.
Be tolerant and keep your perspective
This is an interesting one. An American blogger writing on this topic mentioned that Americans are taught to think that their country is the best on earth and are surprised to discover when travelling abroad that the people of other countries also think their country is greatest. It isn’t just Americans who think like this, and as visitors, even if resident in another country, we need to be respectful of another country’s national pride.
Embrace the challenges
There are lots of these, especially when you’re learning a new language, which can be a challenge in itself. Finding out where you can get tools and what they are called, how to ask for certain cuts of meat or how to explain to the hairdresser what you want them to do is all part of the experience. If you can see the challenges as an opportunity, rather than as a barrier, you will have a much more fun-filled life.
Develop your sense of adventure
Make plans to explore the local culture and the historic sights. Look for ways to mingle more with locals rather then confining yourself to expat communities. These are very useful when you need help and want to socialise in a way you are familiar with, but don’t miss the opportunity to discover more about your new home country and have a later-in-life adventure.
Retiring abroad is a big step and must be approached as one and if you follow these tips, you’ll unpack a whole new way of life. What could be more rejuvenating than that?