Increasingly people are making the decision to move abroad in retirement in order to enjoy a better standard of living in a safer environment where their social security income will go far further. The decision to move is perhaps easier to make nowadays, thanks to the Internet’s ability to deliver all the information you could possibly require about a given nation before you even visit it.
However, no matter how much research you do into a country’s viability and suitability as a desirable retirement haven, you cannot prepare yourself in advance for integration solely by reading about what others think of living abroad in your chosen nation.
One person’s experience of life living in a given country may be a million miles away from the next person’s – with differences created and exacerbated by everything from one’s financial position to whether you speak the local language or not. So, whilst it can be useful to use forums and even social networking websites to connect with other foreign residents in your chosen nation, you cannot base your thoughts about what life will be like for you when you retire abroad solely on others’ experiences.
Making the decision to retire abroad requires a great deal of confidence – and whilst the advantages, benefits and positive gains you will undoubtedly enjoy as a result of committing to the relocation will be great, it’s also a fact of life that elements of your journey towards integration may be hard.
Therefore, with the understanding that the path towards complete integration is a personal one which no amount of research in advance can necessarily prepare you for, and accepting that integration can also be difficult at times, is there anything a would-be overseas retiree can do to really be ready for the entire process?
The good news is that yes, you can actually benefit from others’ experiences – albeit indirectly – and you can prepare yourself so that you have the best chance of smooth integration success. We have compiled a 10-stage plan towards integration abroad for retired persons, basing our guidance on personal experience and commonsense so that it is realistic, accessible and achievable.
1. Learn the Local Language – you may believe that everyone in the world speaks at least some degree of English; you may even have been told that the people in the country you’re moving to all speak English. Well, unless you’re moving to Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland or Australia (i.e., nations where English is the national language), you need to get to grips with the local language if you want to get the most out of your new life abroad.
Not being able to openly communicate with your neighbours will prevent you from making deep and lasting friendships…and the one thing all expats need is friends. What’s more, if you cannot comfortably communicate in any situation, you will be vulnerable if ever you need help, support or advice. Think about how you would deal with an emergency dentist visit, or how you would cope in the event that your house flooded? If you couldn’t communicate, and you couldn’t understand others who were trying to help you in a stressful situation, how on earth would you cope?
Therefore, make your life much easier and learn the local language when you retire abroad.
2. Take Your Family Too – research from the British Institute of Public Policy Research shows that the expatriate citizens who are happiest living abroad have family within reach. So, if you’re thinking about relocating overseas, do you have family members already living abroad, close to whom you could perhaps live in retirement? Or, if you want to retire abroad do your children and grandchildren want to emigrate too?
Of course, for many people relocating their entire family abroad is just not possible, practical, feasible or even perhaps advantageous – but it is worth knowing that extensive research has been done into how expatriates successfully integrate. The research shows that the happiest expats don’t move abroad alone.
3. Make Making Friends Your Top Priority – no man is an island, i.e., we cannot thrive alone. Everyone needs social contact with friendly, like-minded people on a regular basis, but when you retire abroad you can inadvertently cut yourself off from such contact initially – which is why it is essential that you make making friends a priority once you relocate.
Whether you go to the local drinking hole and look for friends, or you join a sports or social club, whether you use an expatriate network like EscapeArtist.com to find local friends, or you just make the effort to speak to and befriend your neighbours, you must make the effort to make friends.
Shy people can find it very hard to reach out and make social contact – but if you want to retire abroad and be happy living your new life you will need friends. What this means is that you need to prepare yourself in advance for the effort it will take to get out there and make friends. There are no short cuts…