Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is Expat Retirement for You?

100_3306.jpg by klsterndahl
Chapala: Little Corner of Love
I'm really glad I decided to retire in Mexico. I absolutely love it here. I've become fluent in Spanish and I plan to become a citizen (with dual citizenship) as soon as it is possible. But the life down here is not for everyone.

I first came to the Lake Chapala area in February of 2004 to see if I would like it here. I did, so I went back home to sell the house and most of my furniture. Five months later I was back. I temporarily left my car up north and packed two boxes, each with 49.5 pounds (what the airlines allowed with a tiny bit of wiggle room) of the things I thought I would want for my first six months down here.

I leased a house for six months and started looking for something to buy. I was surprised when realtors told me that almost 50% of the clients that they worked with bought a house on their first trip down here. The real surprise came when I found out that a large percentage of them "came to their senses" back home and never returned.  The houses went back on the market.

So many people are just not cut out to live in a foreign country.  They want everything to be done just was it was back home, wherever that may be. There are many issues to consider before you commit to living in a foreign country.

Do you speak the language? Some places, like here, you can get by just fine without Spanish because there are so many English speakers, but that is not the case in many places. Can you get English TV? How about internet access?

What is the housing like in the place you are considering? Most houses here have no heating.  It's not usually an issue, but it can be pretty cold in January and February. And the maintenance needs of houses are much different here than up north.

My boyfriend and I have considered moving if we could find an area we like better, so we have visited some of the places where other expats are living. We thought Boquette, Panama, was too small and too primitive.  We couldn't see much to do but drink. 

We tried Cuenca, Ecuador, because a good friend of ours moved there a couple of years ago. We were too out of breath and way too cold there. We've seen hundreds of photos and everyone is always wearing a jacket.

We seriously considered Antigua, Guatemala, where he had lived almost twenty years ago.  It's a great place to visit, but again, there is not much to do there but drink! And there is a long, slow trip to the airport.

Anyway, please think it through carefully before you make a serious move like this. Travel around. Stay in each place long enough that you can make an informed decision. If you can be comfortable leaving family and friends behind and are sure that you can adapt to a different lifestyle, welcome to the life of an expat!

No comments:

Post a Comment