By Ceri Wheeldon of Fabafterfifty.co.uk
How easy is it to start a new life abroad? Many of us may dream of a life in warmer climes, but does reality live up to the dream? I talked to a number of women who have done just that and taken up the expat lifestyle in the South of France. Were there things they wished they’d thought about beforehand? Absolutely! These are some of the key points resulting from my conversations.
1. Think ahead about how much you will miss your family. A number of the women I spoke to said they had underestimated the impact of not being close once the first grandchild was born.
2. Plan the financial side of your move carefully. Will you be able to afford to live comfortably — especially with the volatility of exchange rates?
– Be realistic about the cost of daily living in your new location.
– If you intend to supplement your income, make sure you have the required skills (including language) to find employment locally or set up your own business.
CERI’S TIP: Find out how easy it is to navigate the red tape in setting up a prospective business in a new country.
3. Start learning the language before your move. If you don’t do this you will be limiting your social activities to include only other ex-pats. On arrival you may find many local language schools – it’s always good to find yourself a homework ‘buddy’ to make sure you practice your new language between classes.
CERI’S TIP: Where possible arrange to meet your local neighbours and force yourself to practice your new language.
4. Think carefully about how you will spend your day. I have met a number of women who have actually said they want to return to the UK as they get too bored in spite of the blue skies and azure sea!
5. Find out about culture and activities on offer. If you enjoy theatre, cinema and concerts will you miss this aspect of your life if there is little of this type of activity to enjoy in your new location?
6. Be prepared for a flood of visitors. It’s amazing how many friends may wish to visit once you live abroad and many people I know who’ve made the move have said that they had underestimated the expense involved in having frequent houseguests. The extra meals, bottles of wine and trips out all add up!
7. What would happen if you lost your health? Would you still want to live abroad should you or your partner become ill? Again this was a reason some women gave for wanting to return home.
8. What are the consequences of getting divorced abroad? Check to see how a potential divorce locally will affect your settlement, the period before being permitted to remarry and even if it will be legally recognised in the UK at all.
9. If you retire abroad check the implications for your pension. If you retire in Europe, currently your pension will rise, but there are 140 countries where this is not the case and your state pension will remain frozen at the level paid when the move abroad was made.
10. Investigate expat groups. Before moving, investigate local groups/events aimed at bringing expats together and make contact with other expats to see how easy they have found it to settle into the area.
11. Rent before you buy. This is well worth doing just to make sure the life you dreamed of is as you thought before selling up and cutting too many ties. If you do decide to purchase a home abroad, be aware of the implications regarding inheritance — other countries’ laws are very different to our own in this area.
12. Will you be confident enough to drive? This is particularly relevant if your move involves driving on the ‘other’ side of the road. How limiting will this be for you if the answer is no?