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Retire Overseas: Do You Have What It Takes?

Retire Overseas: Do You Have What it Takes?

More and more people, it seems, are retiring overseas than ever before, and they’re doing that for many different reasons.

But all of them, no matter why they’re moving abroad, have one thing in common—they’re all moving away from a place and culture they’re familiar with to relocate to one that’s new to them.

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Cascais, Portugal (Photo: InternationalLiving.com)

Even if they’ve vacationed in the community they plan to relocate to and feel familiar with it, there is a huge difference between spending a few days, weeks, or months in a foreign culture and actually becoming a part of it.

And every U.S. and Canadian citizen (or anyone, for that matter) who pulls up stakes and moves to another country and culture will bump up against expectations and assumptions they never knew they had. Our cultural assumptions are formed from the time we’re born, and most of them are unconscious. After living in a certain place for a certain amount of time, we simply get used to the way things work. We don’t even think about it anymore.

Moving abroad is a great way to find out what those unconscious assumptions are and how different they can be in other countries and cultures.

So what do you need to make a successful transition? After 15 years of living abroad, we have some pointers…

There are a few fundamental things that lead to success:

1) Money… at least some. Everyplace costs something to live, even if it’s a fraction of what you might be spending now, and there are always start-up costs—visa and legal fees, rental deposits, furnishing costs, etc. And even if a country has a great public health system, you may not be able to join it until you get your residence visas. And you may need emergency care sooner than you anticipate, so emergency medical funds are crucial. It’s true that you really can cut your monthly budget in half or more when you retire overseas. But it doesn’t happen the minute you walk off the plane. Plan ahead, and have a reserve.

2) Patience. Let us repeat that. Patience. The first thing that happens when you leave home…the place you’re used to…and move to a new culture, is that things don’t go as you expect. How could they? Your expectations are based on where you used to live…and you don’t live there anymore. Using the telephone will be different. Going to public offices will be different. Standing in line at the grocery store will be different. Driving will be different. Passing other people walking on the street will be different. Everything will be different to some degree. If you can’t be patient until you figure things out and start doing things like a local,…

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