10 Reasons Why Retiring Abroad May Not be for You

Is there ever a time when retirement abroad is not right?

There are hundreds of articles and reports, eBooks and magazines all dedicated to the delights of living abroad in retirement.  They expound the merits and benefits of retirement overseas to a more laidback nation, where the sun shines more often, where a pension income goes far further, where one is taxed less and has much more time to enjoy pastimes and hobbies.

Such reports are generally one sided however, and they take it for granted that retirement overseas is the right option for the reader…for every reader.  However, is there ever a time when retirement abroad is not right?  The answer is absolutely ‘yes’- retirement abroad is not right for everyone every time.

If you’re currently contemplating whether you should perhaps go in search of new horizons or stay put, you’re wondering whether the grass will be greener overseas or whether you prefer things the way they are, read on for our top 10 reasons NOT to retire overseas!

Note: if you want to read about why retiring abroad is wonderful and how it can positively change your life, please peruse the other reports in our retirement abroad back catalog…this report is for those who are unsure, and who want the cons listed out for them to assess and perhaps personally consider.

1.  Homesickness

If you like the community and the house in which you live, there are no two ways about it, you will miss home if you retire abroad.  Even those people who are fairly impartial about their nation of domicile find that they miss aspects of home life once they relocate…so if you really do like living where you currently are living, you will suffer from inevitable homesickness if you retire abroad.

Homesickness should not be underestimated; it leads to many expatriates returning home every single year…the last thing you want to be doing in retirement is having to reassess your life plans twice in a short space of time, and having to move back home from abroad if you discover you can’t get beyond feelings of homesickness.

2. Loneliness

If you retire abroad you leave behind your family and your friends, and it can be very hard to make new friends particularly if you’re a stranger in a strange land.  Are you comfortable with approaching strangers in a bar or a supermarket for example; are you happy to join social events all by yourself in the hope that you’ll meet a friendly face?

If you’re shy, you don’t like being alone and you love your current friends, you may discover that you actually hate retirement abroad as it brings enforced loneliness with it.

3. Healthcare

As we age we inevitably acquire more aches and pains, issues and ailments. In many nations around the world healthcare available is sub standard, expensive, hard to access or even unavailable.  For those with medical concerns, healthcare issues or who just value their wellbeing very highly, retirement abroad could be a mistake.

Think long and hard and look very closely at the realities of healthcare in any country you’re considering retiring to – ensure your expectations and needs can be met affordably.

4. Affordability

Ideally everyone who wants to retire abroad will move to a nation where the cost of living is less.  Realistically however, anything and everything from real estate to tax, fuel costs to medical services may cost more than they do in your home nation.  What’s more, the cost of relocation itself is money down the drain, so if you don’t have money to burn, perhaps you shouldn’t stray abroad where you never know how high your living costs may spiral.

Overseas retirees also have to factor in changes in inflation and currency fluctuations too.

5. Integration Issues

Are you the sort of person who thrives on challenges or the sort of person for whom change is unsettling or scary?  If you don’t like making massive changes to fundamental elements of your life, you may not like living abroad and integrating into a new culture, religion, language and community.

Think long and hard about how adaptable you are before you relocate because you will have to integrate if you want any form of a decent life abroad.

6. Cultural Differences

Do you like your current way of life, do you rate and value the moral and social standards in your community and country?  How would you feel if you moved abroad and found that that which you hold dear is no longer valued by those living around you?

Cultural differences are inevitable when you move to a new nation. Ask yourself can you cope with them and learn to accept living with them?  You will be the person who has to change and adapt…can you realistically do that?

7. Accessibility

Can you drive, will you be able to afford a car when you move abroad and are you happy driving in a foreign country?  In order to get out and about when retired overseas you may need to have your own transportation as bus links or taxis, trains or trams may be unavailable.

You will need to think about local transport issues as well as your immediate accessibility needs if retiring abroad.  Consideration needs to be given to the fact that as you age it may become harder for you to drive too.  Furthermore, how accessible are the services and facilities, amenities and essentials that you will need for day-to-day living?

Finally, have you thought about how easy or otherwise it may be for you to travel ‘back home’ to catch up with family and friends?  Will you be able to afford flights and transportation regularly enough to satisfy your need to see your grandchildren growing up for example? And also consider whether you can face long a long journey back home and all that travelling entails.

8.  Language Barriers

If you’ve come this far in life and never learned a second language, there is nothing to suggest you won’t be able to – however, the odds are stacked against you!  If you’re thinking of retiring to a nation where the main language is anything other than your mother tongue, how will you cope?

You may be lucky enough to have enough words under your belt to get by at the supermarket, but when it comes to making meaningful friends or calling a doctor in an emergency, you don’t want to be struggling to make yourself understood.

Language can be a very real barrier between you having a good life abroad in retirement.

9. Alienation

If you have no friends, you don’t speak the language and culturally you find yourself alienated from your new community, you may have to live your life out on a limb all by yourself.  You may never forge deep friendships or replace the network of associates you once had, and this can make life very hard.

Prolonged and enforced alienation goes against the grain for most humans – and for a retiree living in a foreign land, it can mean abject misery.

10. You Like Your Current Life…

Finally, if you’re really happy living in the house you’re in, living alongside your neighbors in your community and existing side by side with family and friends in your current country, why rock the boat?  In other words, if you like your current life why risk changing it?

The grass is never greener abroad, it’s just different…so, if you like your life even just ‘quite a lot’ you need to think very long and very hard before you seek to change it so fundamentally with a relocation overseas in retirement.

In Conclusion

Retirement abroad will bring massive and very fundamental changes to your life – some of these will be positive and some of them may be negative.  As someone seriously thinking about moving overseas when they retire, you owe it to your future happiness to ensure it’s the right move for you to make.

Weigh up both the pros and the cons, and to help you make a decision about whether such a move is right for you, we have hundreds of articles and reports dedicated to the theme of retiring overseas here.

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. [ send her an email ]

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  1. Victor February 18, 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Good article !
    Europeans are adapted to changes ( languages, customs, values ) and so are better prepared.
    If you are a U.S. military person or are working for the State Dept , you are also better prepared
    If you are an overseas missionary, you are also better prepared
    If you worked for NGOs with foreign action, you are also better prepared.

  2. Shelley February 19, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Very clear and in depth helpful information. Thanks for showing the other angles to relocating. Health care especially is a huge thing to consider!

  3. Dean February 19, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I agree with all but one of these 10 reasons. Transportation, while in some places it would be a chalange to drive among the locals, public transportatin is everywhere in Latin America the bus services are much better and frequent. You can always rent a car for a day or two, but even better is to hire a taxi by the hour usually only $10. Walk to the supermarket and take a taxi home with all your purchases. It is alot less than buying and maintaining a car in Latin America.

  4. MP February 19, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Good for you for pointing this out. Everything else I have read is all go go go for it.

  5. Jon February 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

    I am seriously considering relocating to one of the Carribbean Islands. I lived in S Korea for a year and loved it but that was 30 years ago. Your thought provoking article was very timely

  6. Steven March 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Look at it this way: if you retire abroad you’ll no longer be exposed to idiotic rants such as this:

    “They retreated. It’s not like they reloaded, they retreated. Bless his heart, that Wisconsin Governor…”

    -Sarah Palin

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