top of page

Retiring abroad - the good, the bad, and why I did it

Updated: Oct 29, 2023

I retired abroad. It's not something that many people do, but it might be something that lots of people dream of. In this post, I'll look at some of the reasons why retiring to a new country might be tempting and talk a little more about the reasons that were particularly important to me. They will be the plus points, the reasons for doing it. Then I'll touch on some of the challenges, the things that might be more difficult - why retiring abroad might not all be sunshine and rainbows.

Why retirement abroad can be a good idea

To enjoy a better climate

As I write this, it's grey and rainy outside. I'm sure many of us can understand the draw of good weather.

Benefit from a lower cost of living

Relocating to a lower cost of living country can accelerate a retirement date by years - if it's a super low cost of living location, retirement could be moved forward by as much as ten, twenty or even more years! Alternatively, a higher budget in a low cost of living country might offer a more luxurious life than would be affordable in the home country.

To live a dream or an adventure

Maybe you've always dreamed of waking up with a view of the sea while drinking your morning coffee, or of living on a tropical island, or in the mountains, or just want the adventure of doing something new and different.

For a new lifestyle or to experience a different culture

Is the carefree life of a surf-bum for you, or maybe immersing yourself in a new culture is an attraction. It can be difficult to get this in the place you've lived your whole life, but it's certainly an option when retiring abroad.

These can all be good reasons to think about retiring abroad. If you've seen my blog before, you may know that I lived in a number of different countries before relocating to France in my early retirement. Based on my experience, I can say that the topics of climate, cost of living, living a dream, adventure, lifestyle change and seeing new cultures are all real. What's also real is that it's difficult to tick all of the boxes in one location. For example, a great climate might not offer the lifestyle or the type of culture you want. Or perhaps you find somewhere that has a low cost of living but is too hot and humid for you. We have to pick our priorities.

What can make retiring abroad difficult


Being away from family is difficult, whether it's missing grandchildren or not being around to help out with other family members as they get older.


Similar to family, you'll probably miss your friends. On the other hand, a new location can be a chance to find new friends, but it can take time to find your social circle. It can depend on the type of person you are and the location you've moved to, but it might take longer than expected to find your friendship group and sense of community.


It can be a challenge if you don't speak the language. Things that you've taken for granted as being simple, such as phoning for pizza delivery, visiting the doctor or arranging a plumber can become difficult and perhaps stressful situations.

Health and security

Does the country have good healthcare, and is it affordable? What is the crime situation, is it safe to walk in the evening for example?


Depending on the country you choose, how easy or difficult is it to get a visa to allow you to stay there?

For work, and now in retirement, I've lived 23 years away from my "home" country. Based on this, one piece of advice I'd give is to allow enough time to settle in and get over teething issues. Many times, I've seem expatriate families arrive in a new country, perhaps feel homesick or struggle to find friends or adapt to the culture, but to then find they are still there years later and loving life. On the other hand, I've also seem some return home very quickly, the fastest was within 48 hours of arriving! Allow a good amount of time, perhaps at least a year, to settle in and find your feet.

Why I chose to retire abroad and why I chose France

To be honest, it happened mostly by accident. We were buying a vacation apartment in the French Alps with the intention to use it for four weeks during the summer and a week during the winter. Outside of this, we'd rent it to generate some income. At that time, we had no plans to retire, let alone thoughts of moving to France. A little later, I fell out of love with my job and decided to retire early. With work no longer dictating my time, I figured it would be fun to spend a snowy winter in the Alps. Three months from December 2018 until February 2019 was our plan - it seems we forgot to leave because, five years later, we're still there.

Why have I decided to stay abroad for my retirement rather than return to my native UK? There's no one single reason, it's a combination of liking that retiring abroad is different and not what most people do, I like the challenges that come from it, that it's not boring, I enjoy the scenery of the mountains, the snowy winters and beautiful summers, I like meeting others who have similarly relocated because they are all interesting people with something about them (because if they weren't, they wouldn't have made the move), and I also like that it's not too far (relatively speaking) from where our children live.

In terms of challenges, language tops the list. Because we live in a tourist town, a lot of English is spoken, but there are occasions when I need French and I find those situations difficult and stressful. I'm trying to learn, but safe to say I'm not a natural! Expanding my friendship group/social circle has taken quite some time - it has gained traction over the past year but is still a work in progress. As to integrating into the French community, we haven't really got off the ground on that score. And, by the way, our particular location in France is most certainly not low cost!

Is France my forever home? The jury is out - I feel I need to crack the language and have at least some integration into the French community. I enjoy my life in France, but it doesn't yet completely feel like home, and I think my difficulty with the language is a big part of that.

I haven't mentioned Sally too much in this post, but she would like a warmer climate.

An alternative?

Some people might be lucky to live in a country that offers a halfway solution i.e. a different place in the same country where you might still be able to tick some of the cost of living, climate, lifestyle, dream and adventure boxes while staying within the country system and language that you understand. Just with retiring abroad, there will probably be compromises, it's difficult to get one hundred percent of your wishlist in the same place.

If you'd like to read about other people who have retired early abroad, you can dive into Andrew's early retirement in Thailand and Mr and Mrs G's low cost early retirement in the Philippines


Recent Posts

See All


Oct 29, 2023

Thanks for sharing this. I’m curious as a Brit what visa you’ve used to stay in France post brexit? Do you have dual nationality?

Replying to

Good question, and our fortunate answer is that we arrived before the Withdrawal Agreement date (which I think was 31 January 2020), and Article 50 of the Withdrawal Agreement meant that we were entitled to remain in France and therefore received a visa that way. I think the French are sometimes known for their bureaucracy, but this was a very simple and smooth process.


Oct 29, 2023

Hi David,

Thanks for sharing this post! I hope it wasn’t my comments in your last post that made you write this. Nevertheless, it is insightful and gives me a good insight into how you came to be where you are.

I do agree with all your points around the difficulties of living abroad. And it is something I have thought about a bit. When I first started thinking about living abroad it was in the context of working, as well. I do think living abroad whilst you are working certainly makes it easier than just retiring to an exotic place. Being able to meet people in the context of work, and potentially making friends. Not necessarily with the people…

Replying to

Hi Tony

It was my YouTube feed that got me thinking about writing this post. For some reason, I have recently found various videos about the "best" countries to retire to, and I thought that I could talk about my own experience of moving countries, both the positives and the challenges.

You're quite right in that relocating with work will often be easier as it provides an instantaneous group of people to mix with and to meet other people through. It also means you have, most likely, a sociable aspect to the majority of your waking hours (I'm counting work as a sociable event here). If the move is with kids, they also provide a good route to finding friends…

bottom of page