A recent comment on one of our articles from a seemingly cynical non-expatriate really incensed us! The comment in question alleged that retirees living abroad just sit around all day long bored, boozing or bitching. But rather than being too upset about the comment, it instead inspired us to carry out some detailed research into what retired expats actually do all day long, now that they’re living their dream life overseas.
Whether you’re of a mind that those who retire overseas must get bored of the blue skies and the laidback lifestyle, or you too are contemplating following your heart and your dreams and planning your retirement overseas, but you’re concerned that being away from friends and family may leave you isolated with nothing to do…read on to discover just how much fun our retired readers have.
There’s a commonly held myth that expatriates really do just sit around all day long drinking too much and alienating themselves from the local community by failing to even attempt to integrate – however, we know that the reality is a million miles away from this misconception.
As a generalisation, expatriates tend to be strong-minded individuals – people who rise to challenges and who thrive in exciting, ever-changing environments. They are unlikely to be shrinking violets and wallflowers, rather they are curious and they want to get involved. These character traits mean that most expats always find activities to keep them busy when abroad, or else they invent and create groups, organisations or even work so that they become useful members of their new communities. Consequently, expatriates are seldom bored, have little time for drinking to excess and are too busy trying to improve lives around them to bitch about the way things would be if they’d stayed at ‘home.’
Take Linda as a perfect example – she is a retired American nurse now living in South America. She volunteers her nursing skills in the local community regularly, and the modest pension income she lives on affords her just enough spare each month to ‘indulge’ her love of animals.
Linda rescues injured and malnourished stray cats and dogs, nurses them to health, she pays to have the neutered and inoculated from her own funds and then she works to find them new homes.
In her spare time she travels by bus around her beloved South America – preferring to see more of the world and give a little back than bitch, booze or be bored.
Peter, a former military man also from the US has found a new home in Central America, and whilst he does drink occasionally but always in moderation, he certainly has no time for bitching or being bored!
Peter is self-sufficient, owning and looking after a small holding that provides him with all of his food each month, and which even allows him some left over to donate to those less well off than himself within the local community. He is also a DIY enthusiast and he regularly helps fellow retired expats to fix up their homes.
He does this as a way of making friends and helping people, and as a result he gets to meet many fascinating characters and make a real difference to their lives in some small way.
Thanks to his military days Peter is expert in survival skills too, which he teaches to local youngsters, and he even lectures at the local university about life and history in America. Peter proves that expatriates can still love their mother nation, whilst being able to live a happy and fulfilled life abroad.
Whilst both Linda and Peter seem unable to stop working even though they have officially retired from their former professions, there are those who are content to relax into their new life abroad.
Take Ann and Michael, British expatriates retired to the Mediterranean. Michael bought a small fishing boat with part of his pension lump sum and spends hours and hours out at sea with his friends, shooting the breeze and attempting to tickle the fish!
They don’t bitch about their new nation because it affords them an ideal lifestyle. They don’t booze because they’re too busy catching fish, and if they do get bored of bobbing about on the ocean beneath beautiful sunny skies, they come back onshore and ‘compete’ in the best garden stakes!
Michael’s could be said to win hands down because he lovingly tends to it for many hours a day. When asked about whether gardening is just a way of wasting time now that he’s retired, Michael answered: “I have always been a keen horticulturalist but I never had time to take my love of gardening any further than a few hanging baskets and a neatly trimmed lawn when I was working full time!
“Now that I’m retired I can spend as much time as I want in the garden, and fortunately Ann loves it as much as I do. What we did when we bought our property was spend time getting to know which plants species were indigenous, which thrived, which attracted butterflies and birds and then we designed our garden around what we wanted to achieve.
“We got to know so many local gardeners and our language skills really improved because we had a common topic of conversation that we were all passionate about. If I saw a tree or a plant in someone’s garden that I liked, I approached them to learn about it. Being direct in this way has really helped me to meet more people in my community, and for me, the more friends I have the happier I am.
“The competition between me and my expat friends is all nonsense, healthy rivalry at best. But more than that it means that we have an excuse for social ‘get-togethers’ to compare the size of our watermelons! It’s a way of spending quality time with those who enhance your life, now that you have spare time on your hands.”
Adrian, a Brit retired to live in South Africa, was so passionate about the landscape and wonderful natural environment in his new nation that he started up a bespoke travel service for likeminded Britons contemplating a move to the country, but who were unsure about where to live and how to manage their relocation…
Margaret, a Briton living in Northern Cyprus, gave up her early retirement to start a significantly influential animal charity that’s now supported by the British Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She’s an ambassador for animals on the island, and she works hard not only to protect and save cats and dogs, but to educate expats and locals alike about the best ways to look after and really care for their pets or their livestock.
None of the above expatriates have time to booze to excess, to sit around all day long bitching about their new nation – and if they have ever had a moment of boredom, they’ve now filled their lives so completely with worthwhile and interesting activities and commitments that they have no time left to ever encounter boredom.
Other examples of activities retired expatriates embrace with passion include establishing a local newspaper or providing copy or photography for the local press, setting up charities, offering their former professional skills for free to enhance their new community, offering a language exchange or learning the new language of their new nation. Starting book clubs or dancing clubs, enjoying coffee mornings and shopping trips, playing golf, fishing, walking or exploring.
In other words, retired expatriates do all the same things as retirees ‘back home’ do – they are no more or less likely to turn to the bottle to stave off their boredom, or bitch about the local government than they would have been had they not moved abroad! What’s more, expatriates have many, many added advantages because of their residence in their new nation.
- They have opportunities for experiences that their peers could never dream of.
- They have the chance to meet legions of new people from different cultures and backgrounds, different nations and different religions.
- They can learn new languages.
- They can discover new religions.
- They can travel extensively and see a whole new world from their new backyard.
- They can do good.
- They can make real changes.
- They can make a significant difference to their lives and the lives of those around them.
Living abroad has massive advantages – and these extend to those who retire overseas and who actually have more time available to them to get the very most out of their new nation. Those of us who are still earning a living abroad find that we run out of time each week – but retirees can take on as much or as little as they want, all the time ensuring that their lifestyle and life quality is top of the agenda.
To anyone wondering what retired expats do all day long and who think they waste their time in the bars, or sleeping off the excesses or dullness of their lives I would say, ‘how come you’ve got so much time on your hands to contemplate this point? Could it be that you’re jealous of those who have wonderfully fulfilled and fulfilling lives now that they’ve followed their dreams and made the massive commitment to start a new life abroad in retirement?’
About the author: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home.
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