Have you been thinking about retiring abroad? We don’t blame you - we loved the idea so much . . . we did just that! We retired in Portugal!
But, we didn’t make the decision to retire in Portugal without first doing a lot of research. So, if you’re looking to retire abroad, I’ve got some tips for you. In fact, I have ten things for you to do: Ten of the most important things to do before you relocate to a foreign country.
Scope Out the Healthcare System
The lower cost of living, particularly the low cost of healthcare, are two major reasons so many people choose to retire abroad. But in my opinion, using the medical and dental system in your chosen country is an absolute must before moving! It’s all well and good to do your research, but you don’t know what it’s like until you have first-hand experience.
It’s vital that you get familiar with the medical facilities in this new country, particularly if you have special medical needs. Getting to know the public healthcare system is especially important if you are moving to a non-English speaking country. You want to be sure you understand all of the cultural differences in medicine that may get lost in translation before you move.
Try To Interact with the Local Government
Amon once got a parking ticket in Spain and came away from the experience understanding that even something as simple as paying a parking ticket in Spain isn’t nearly as straightforward as it is in the U.S.
Obviously, I’m not telling you to get a parking ticket just so that you can interact with law enforcement! But there are other ways you can find a similar experience, like visiting the local city offices. Dealing with local government is a true test of what it will be like to live in a new country, so I recommend you get some first-hand experience to understand how things work.
Get To Know Some Local Expats
This tip is so useful, and one that many other ex-pats will recommend too. Meeting with other ex-pats in the country of your choice will teach you something immensely valuable - not necessarily how much they love the country, but more so the struggles that they’ve faced while living there.
When moving to a foreign country, it’s important to be realistic and acknowledge the potential drawbacks of wherever you’re moving to. I’d also recommend meeting up with an ex-pat from your own country, as they’ve probably faced the same challenges you might face while relocating.
Visit Your Country’s Embassy
That is to say, your native embassy in the country you’re planning to move to. While most embassies essentially operate the same way, there can be different work cultures within embassies. You want to know what the work culture at your particular embassy is like before you move.
Say a natural disaster occurs in the country you’ve chosen to retire in, and you need to potentially relocate or leave the country as quickly as possible. You want to know that your embassy is going to be as responsive, helpful, and proactive as possible in a difficult situation.
Visit Local Schools
This is more applicable for all the parents (or soon-to-be parents) out there with school-aged kids! If you’re relocating with kids, you need to get a feel for the country’s educational system. This will help you to understand whether your kids will get a suitable education in local schools - and what better way to understand this than actually visiting schools?
This is true even if you’re planning to homeschool your kids, as in some countries it’s required by law to register your kid with the nearest school.
Make Sure You Can Keep Doing Your Hobbies
It’s sad to admit, but a lot of people’s hobbies are simply not that transferrable to other countries, or they can be really difficult to do. For example, when we were living in Japan, Amon wanted to pursue a hobby of restoring old Airstreams. Unfortunately for Amon, Airstreams are pretty difficult to get a hold of and extremely expensive to renovate in Japan.
Hobbies are a significant part of life for a lot of people, so it’s important to think about this before you make the move.
Visit The Country In EVERY Part Of The Year
Most people love to vacation during their favorite time of the year. If they love the snow, they want to vacation during the winter. If they love the beaches, they want to vacation during the summer. This makes perfect sense . . . for someone on vacation.
But remember, if you’re going to retire somewhere, you won’t be in vacation-mode there! When you retire somewhere, you’ll be living there all year-round. So you have to visit that country . . . all year-round! Don’t just visit it during the time of year you love the most. The truth is, when people talk about the moment they ‘fell in love’ with their country of choice, it usually happened during an optimal time of year. But if you’re going to live somewhere rather than visit, you want to know what it’s like during every season.
One example would be our time in Seville, Spain. In the summer, Seville is unbearably hot. You honestly would never know it if you never visited during this time, especially because it’s quite a bit hotter than other parts of the country.
There are countless similar examples, especially touristy places that have bustling communities during the summer but turn into ghost towns during the colder months. The last thing you want is to move somewhere like this, where services and infrastructure are really limited during most of the year.
Remove Yourself From the Tourist Areas
Living like a tourist and living as a local are two very different realities. If you’re moving to a foreign country you probably don’t plan to live as a tourist, so when visiting make sure to venture out into areas with no tourists and no tourist attractions. This will give you a much better idea of how locals in that country really live. And on that note . . .
Stay In a House, Not a Hotel
In most places, hotels are going to have the best amenities in the area, and everything is going to be in good working condition. Staying in a house is going to reveal some of the quirks of local buildings that you won’t get in a hotel. You should do this at least once since a hotel is never going to be an accurate image of how normal living is in the country.
Drive a Car
That’s right: Rent out a car and drive it wherever you want (though preferably in the area you want to live in)! This is especially true if you plan to drive in your new country, because the way you drive may very well look different.
While living in Japan, for example, we discovered that many Japanese roads are quite narrow and it can be difficult to maneuver your car while driving. Another example would be European countries where many car models are manual, which may be difficult to pick if you’re used to driving an automatic.
These are just some of the ways you can get to know your dream retirement country before you move. Relocating to a new country, especially for the remainder of your retirement, is a huge decision and one that requires lots of research. Make sure you do extensive research so that you feel comfortable with your final decision. I know we did!
I Retired Early & Bought Land In Portugal - Now Watch Me Build a Homestead