Gransnet forums

Ask a gran

Is living abroad all it is cracked up to be ?

(104 Posts)
NanKate Sun 11-Aug-19 14:54:15

My sister went to live in Italy in her late 20s she loved it at first but now would do anything to come back but can’t afford it.

Friends moved to southern Spain about 11 years ago and seem very happy but what happens when one of them dies I wonder ? They visit their family in the U.K. regularly. Does being with an ex-pat community lose it’s attraction when on your own?

I would never consider living abroad as I am a real home bird.

lemongrove Sun 11-Aug-19 15:26:53

I have no first hand knowledge NanK but know two people who did come back, when their DH’s died and one person who returned (after ten years) when his wife left him.They were all in lovely places in Spain.

lemongrove Sun 11-Aug-19 15:28:26

I wouldn’t consider leaving now, but we did seriously consider NZ about 27 years ago.

paddyann Sun 11-Aug-19 15:35:18

I think it depends how long been there and if they've settled and made friends.I have friends who went to Spain 30 years ago and although the wife died after 10 or so years the rest of the family decided to stay.Both children and dad have all married Spaniards and love living there

Bellasnana Sun 11-Aug-19 15:36:17

I’ve lived in Malta longer than I lived in the UK having moved here nearly 40yrs ago when I married my Maltese DH.

He passed away four years ago but nothing would make me want to return to the UK.

It is always good to visit, but Malta is home and I feel the England I left behind does not exist any longer.

RosieLeah Sun 11-Aug-19 15:38:57

One of my sons lives in Holland. When he left university, he had no choice as he couldn't get work in England. He has bought a house and is well-settled there. However, he has stopped short of giving up his British passport. His wife is Dutch and loves England. She would much prefer for them to move here.

Something I find parents and younger siblings emigrated to Australia many years ago. When my brothers were old enough to decide for themselves, they chose to move back to England.

Day6 Sun 11-Aug-19 15:39:23

We intended to buy a place in France but wanted to wait until the children had finished school.

If money was no object we'd do it, ensuring we had a place to come back to in the UK just in case the move lost it's charms. We holiday in carious parts of France most years.

We have friends who returned from France to be nearer their GC when they became grandparents. They firmly believed in integration in France, learned to speak French and have French friends/neighbours. One couple own the local B&B in the large village they left, so they go back to France regularly. They miss the more relaxed way of life.

Friends of ours bought a house in Spain off-plan when the complex was being built and we have had lots of lovely holidays there with them. However, they are thinking of selling up, but they'd lose out, price-wise. So many properties in their walled, gated urbanisation are empty or for sale though, which is very sad. Fortunately they still have a flat in the UK.

dragonfly46 Sun 11-Aug-19 15:41:52

I lived in Holland for 18 years and would go back in a heartbeat. We brought the children up there, made friends and integrated with the Dutch. They were the happiest years of my life.
Coming back to the UK has made me realise how the Dutch have got it so right.

It is a classless society, no private medicine, no private schooling. There is an excellent standard of education and health care.
We knew people who decided not to run a car but had a boat at the local marina. They went there by bike. Each family sits down at 6 to a family meal then they go to some activity, sports club or walking in the dunes etc as a family.

Unfortunately we were brought back here with my husband's job but we still have very good friends there. I would like to feel I could go back although Brexit might make that impossible.

Avor2 Sun 11-Aug-19 15:54:59

My DS has lived in Portugal for the past 20 years, has wife and daughter and his wife's family who are all very close and sadly for me he loves it there, and I must say it is the best thing he could have done, workwise and lifestyle is just right for him. My stepson and family are thinking of moving to Australia, they are going to check it out in November, but I think they will go, Do you think it was something my DH and I said??? smile We are thinking of getting a small place in Portugal so we can spend more time with DS but will keep a place in England because it is my home. Wherever you feel happiest is where you should live.

jura2 Sun 11-Aug-19 16:03:51

I came to live in the UK at 19, for 6 months, and stayed for 40 years, in several locations. And just loved it.

Now returned place of birth, with British OH born in Cape Town SA - and he has no regrets. We truly have 2 homes, we go home to the UK, and then we come back home here. Great friends and family in both places. Wherever we would live (and we may well be forced to move on because of Brexit) ... we would never ever choose to live in an 'expat community'- but integrate fully, learn the language, immerse ourselves. Cannot imagine anything worse that living in an 'expat community'.

We have promised our adult children, still in the UK - that should one of us meet our demise- the other would return to UK- unless they have moved here themselves (again due to Brexit- they have dual nationality and so have our GCs).

M0nica Sun 11-Aug-19 16:03:54

I think there is a big difference between 1) marrying someone from another country and going and living in the spouse's country and integrating into society there. 2) Moving there for career reasons, spending most of your working life there and making it your permanent home and 3) Retiring to another country, often for financial reasons, and living in what is often an expat community.

My experience from friends and family is those marrying a foreign national, almost invariably make it their permanent home. With those who work there it seems to depend on whether their children put down roots in the country and the third group are more likely to return home as they reach extreme old age and want to be closer to family members and the NHS.

Carillion01 Sun 11-Aug-19 16:04:37

NanKate, we moved to Brittany five years ago on a whim really. Had lived in Scotland, the North West and born in Sandsend. We wanted seriously to live in either Whitby or The Isle of Skye but my DH couldn't face anymore of being snowed in for two to three weeks each year so Skye was out and Whitby was expensive.

I took early retirement when DH retired because we wanted to spend as much time together as we could.

Brittany is smashing, climate like Devon and Cornwall, easy transport back to the UK and in fact have had more quality time with DS's and families since the move.

Not feared of Brexit, we'll take what comes and act accordingly. Very good points here is that we've had repeated evidence of what it's like to live in a republic and what that delivers.

However, we don't rely on an ex-pat community. We came with the plan of integrating with all our neighbours equally and it has been really very good.

We'd make the same choice. Health system is efficient. If I was being moany... All things ceasing for two hours at lunch everyday took some adjustment but even that has its positives.

glammanana Sun 11-Aug-19 16:12:09

I do wish we had never returned to UK and stayed in Spain,we moved there after our youngest left home and stayed nearly 10yrs coming back to UK when my DD had the youngest DGCs now they have left school and gone their own ways and don't need me around as much though I would miss my GGCs.
We had originally looked at moving abroad when our DCs where at school but never examined the Spainish Education system properly if we had we would have found it much better than UK that also went for their Health Service far better than here.I do think you can be lonely wherever you live be it abroad or in UK obviously speaking the language makes matters better a thing more ex-pats should be encouraged to do.I would pack up and go back tomorrow,watch this space this time next year one never says never.

Lessismore Sun 11-Aug-19 16:17:22

Can I ask please, those of you who live abroad, do you speak the language of your host country?

Maggiemaybe Sun 11-Aug-19 16:20:33

DH and I lived and worked in Hamburg for two years many years ago. We were fluent in German and if there even was an expat community we never found it (or searched it out). We loved it at first, saw only the positives, made good friends, fully expected to stay. But about 18 months in we were both itching to get back to the things here that we’d taken for granted. We were offered promotions at our German company and other incentives to stay, but we never regretted moving back. This is home. smile

glammanana Sun 11-Aug-19 16:26:41

Lessismore A lot of my immediate neighbours where Spanish and I soon took up the language and after 2yrs was more or less fluent,I spent a lot of time when at the market sitting and listening to the locals converse and picked it up so quickly,they where always willing to help if you had a problem they where pleased to see you trying,lovely people.

Witzend Sun 11-Aug-19 16:28:30

I'm sure it works well for some, but having lived/worked abroad for many years anyway, I'm happy with good old Blighty.

I know two couples who left 'for ever' - for Spain and Cyprus - but eventually came back because of health problems. Neither had kept any bolthole in the UK and prices had risen dramatically while they were away.

One of the couples took ages to sell their 'forever' home, and in the end were glad to get what they'd paid for it around 12 years previously. But it was still nothing like enough to buy a home in the area they'd left - and which they wanted to return to.

Someone else I know of had retired to rural France. She didn't drive and spoke no French, so after her husband died rather suddenly when she was in her early 80s, she was left well and truly in the merde.

OTOH I know another couple who've retired to their holiday home in very rural France, but have very sensibly kept a reasonable bolt hole here - in case.

jura2 Sun 11-Aug-19 16:30:51

yes lessimore- imho living in a country without making a massive effort to learn the language, is extremely rude and arrogant. Not perfect command of sophisticated grammar- but good communication. I make the effort to learn a bit of the local language wherever I go on holiday too - just basic words like please and thank you, good day and good night and a few expressions. People are always so so happy when you do.

I never attended any course of lessons in English from the day I arrived - and was bilingual in about 3 months. Took OH a bit longer as we came here when he was 63, and he had not studied French since he almost failed O'Level - he still has a lovely British accent and makes mistakes - but everyone here love and admire him for his effort. No expat community here, lol, and very few people speak any English- so no choice anyway.

Luckygirl Sun 11-Aug-19 16:33:38

We came within a hair's breadth of moving to Brittany - had a house lined up and everything. We had researched choirs and other ways of pursuing our hobbies. I had A-level French and OH came from a family of linguists, so integration would have been our aim. We pulled out at the last minute because a grandchild was on the way and we felt we wanted to be near family - well, I did - I was in some serious trouble with OH!!!

Thank goodness we did not go because shortly after OH started with PD and the presence of family around us has been very precious.

But in some ways I regret not going - I was ready for a new challenge and the chance has passed us by.

Other factors that were on the "cons" side were my awareness that there were some Brittany dwellers who had mixed feelings about the invasion of Brits - I had enough French to understand the asides and muttered comments!

We also had friends in the Dordogne who virtually lived in an English enclave - not for me!

Carillion01 Sun 11-Aug-19 16:43:29

Glammanana, I always say 'you never know'!

Lessismore my DH speaks French and mine was 'O' level but I've tried hard to learn from our neighbours rather than classes and feel much more comfortable now.

I realise however, that you think speaking the host language makes a big difference to your existence and I'm sure you are right.
It is true, the French appreciate you making an effort with the language. The only people I have found don't want to make a reciprocal effort are the staff in the local hospital in one particular department ...not sure why as everyone else we've conversed with has been very kind and accommodating.

GagaJo Sun 11-Aug-19 16:43:59

I've lived in the US, China and Spain.

I found the US a racist, violent place, although New Mexico where I lived for a year is beautiful. I will never go back although I'm still in touch with my ex in-laws.

Spain I disliked because the Spanish are sick of Brits and treat us the way racist Brits treat immigrants here. I had no desire to live as an ex pat, so gave up on Spain despite loving my job in a perfect, utopian, little school.

China I both loved and found hard. I made lifelong friends there, and want to go back because they've become part of my family. But the pollution was hard and the sheer sense of distance from home freaked me out. As a teacher, the enormous respect for education and teachers was like a warm bath after education (not the students, the system) in the UK.

Out of all of them, China was head and shoulders above the rest because of the people. I loved them.

Mamie Sun 11-Aug-19 16:55:36

We have lived in France for fourteen years, speak the language, most of our friends are French and we are very much part of our wider local community. I think after about five years, coming back to France became "coming home" and the UK started to feel a bit alien in some ways. We go back to see family about four or five times a year and enjoy our visits, but are always glad to get home. We will downsize soon and move further into our local town, but have no intention of returning to the UK.

Lessismore Sun 11-Aug-19 16:57:08

I am very interested in the way people have learnt languages. Unfortunately DH loves and believes those " Place in the Sun"type programmes.

Any time we have been to France, which he obsesses about, I have to rummage around in my memory for 50 year old failed O level French.

jura2 Sun 11-Aug-19 17:07:41

so would he like to move to France then, and you have 'stopped' it from happening?

Personally I just do not believe in the 'OH I am not good at languages' mantra. Perhaps you were not good at it at school, because of the way it was taught then, all writing and fancy grammar- but anyone can learn 'communicative' French (or whatever). Keep away from Brits and British TV- go for full immersion.

kittylester Sun 11-Aug-19 17:12:11

DH worked for the nhs and we seriously feared that it was on its uppers in the late 70s so we went to Australia. We missed so much about the UK- friends, family, being British and even the failing nhs - that we came home pretty quickly.

We have friends who bought and lived in Cyprus, hated it and came back much poorer and our son in law's parents are dying to do the same.

On the other hand, dh's brother lives in South Africa and, despite the many difficulties they encounter, is happy to call it home.

Another of his brothers lives in Thailand- he's having a ball.