Retirement Abroad, the good and the bad
The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is all in your attitude.
While planning for a retirement overseas, we would wager that most people occupy themselves with practical concerns: language barriers, resident visas, banking, renting or buying property, medical care and the like. From our experience, these issues are the easiest part of making a lifestyle change.
It’s the emotional and psychological aspects that are the hidden challenges in adapting to a foreign lifestyle. If not met with flexibility and compromise, it can destroy your dream of retiring abroad, and in some instances it even destroy relationships.
Many people trip themselves up by believing that they are going to live just like they did at home, only cheaper. We want to tell you that no place overseas is just like home. Customs, foods, weather cycles, housing codes, the treatment of pets, laws—if you don’t embrace them you’re bound to be unhappy.
We have seen folks love the quaintness of their new town but then they fall apart because they discover that market day involves stopping in six locations, all the while fighting traffic and vying for parking spaces. They find this situation to be time-consuming and annoying, and they carry the frustration with them all day.
Animals in many developing nations are not commonly thought of as “family members.” Homeless street dogs are common, and if your heart is easily broken, this will definitely pose a problem for you. While we have seen foreign nationals adopt up to a dozen unwanted dogs, there has to be a limit. One could become involved in animal rescue, retraining, and home placement, but even that will not solve the overall issue. There has to be a certain level of acceptance here or you will be miserable.
The seemingly lackadaisical attitude of workers could drive you up the wall. A repairman might tell you he will come tomorrow to fix something and instead show up several days later. Finding responsible service people, such as a maid, a gardener or a plumber, could take some extra effort. Once again, if your personality tends to an uptight and precise view of things, life in a foreign country will be a continuous challenge.
One of the best attitude adjusters in your emotional toolbox is a flexibility of mind. If your blood pressure rises because your sense of timing is different in your newfound country, take a deep breath. Step back. Enjoy what your new life has to offer and realize that it’s a package deal.
Shorten your daily “to do” list instead of tackling eight errands and various other tasks before noon. You are retired! Enjoy the leisurely pace instead of battling it. Practice your communication skills with your new local friends, vendors, maid or gardener and reap the benefits of learning a new language.
In foreign countries, celebrations will occur on dates that have no meaning to you. Processions will assemble, stopping traffic and shutting down streets. Banks will close. Fireworks will be set off at odd hours of the morning and evening perhaps disrupting your sleep. Neighborhood dogs will bark, interrupting your peace.
While we were living on the tropical paradise island of Nevis, in the West Indies, a local man tied his donkey outside our bedroom window. This donkey brayed early every morning and throughout the day. What an unexpected sound!
You can allow these things to rupture your contentment, or you can roll with the events and choose to be unperturbed. Focus on the fact that the weather is glorious, the prices are affordable, medical care is abundant and accessible and you actually have domestic help to make your life easier.
Some expatriates become frustrated because they can’t find familiar food brands. In a foreign country, these brands are now expensive “imported” products and often only available in specialty shops. Read, your cost of living goes way up! One solution, adapt your palate and discover the flavors of foreign foods. You may be surprised how quickly you’ll grow accustomed to local cuisine.
Even though you might have dreamed for years about living in a tropical climate, life in the tropics might not be exactly what you expected. Many countries have two seasons, wet and dry. During the wet season, buckets of water will drench the landscape. It’s far more beneficial to one’s lifestyle to focus on green hillsides during the rainy season and the spectacular sunny and cloudless skies during the dry season.
A friend of ours says the difference between an ordeal and an adventure is all in your attitude!
REVUE article by Billy and Akaisha Kaderli photos by Mercedes Mejicanos
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, “The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement” and “Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.”