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Is it cheaper to live abroad? Anyone done it?

(133 Posts)
Rexdog12 Thu 14-Sep-23 19:34:40

I'm 63. Husband 67. He has state pension plus small occpen. I have small occpen and still work part time until i get my state pension, 3 years away. Our total income feels too small to live comfortably into old age. We have friends who live in Spain who say they couldn't afford to live here now. Thinking of moving abroad to either EU or Non EU country for retirement. Has anyone else done this and do you think it possible to have higher standard of living abroad on a modest income than living over here? We have savings so could get health insurance elsewhere etc.

Siope Fri 15-Sep-23 08:50:00

However, thousands of retirees emigrate successfully every year, and it is possible - although infuriating, and I would think less fulfilling - to live for many years in some countries without ever learning the language, providing you choose somewhere that English (or any other language you are fluent in) is widely spoken. Generally, that means areas where there is a sizeable British immigrant population.

M0nica Fri 15-Sep-23 08:51:45

Rexdog Police overseas, in fact worldwide are very different to the UK - and not for the better.

In the UK the police are, and always have been, a civilian force quite separate from the military and the majority are unarmed and have a built in remit to be part of the civilian population.

yes, they are going through a very bad patch at the moment and are now more likely to be armed, but this is all very different from other countries, where the police come from the military, are trained and armed as a matter of course and whose primary purpose is to keep order. and also have none too good a reputation for brutality in keeping order.

For the last 30 years we have had a holiday home in France in Normandy. An area where property is vey cheap and you are close to the Channel ferry ports, but even after 30 years we still struggle with aspects of French culture. We spent 3 weeks in France this year, trying to get our phoneline repaired and the internet up and running again. We came home with the job still not done and after 4 visits to the Orange shop because their system would only recognise French mobile numbers. Now we are 80 we have decided with great reluctance to sell up in France as running a home there is just getting too complicated.

Food is more expensive there than in the UK and while we have always been on the best of terms with our neighbours, the French are slow to let you into their homes or into their lives.

Currently to live in France you will both need to have a minimum income of over £15,000, that is over £30,000 a year between you. You will find most European countries will have a minimum income requirement and you will be excluded from much of their social support programme.

When working out you income here you should take into account your entitlement to other benefits like Attendance Allowance, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Pension Credit. In some countries, probably not Europe, once you leave the country you cease to get increases in your State Pension as well. then there are the social support for older people in the UK: bus passes, social care, day centres. You maay well be excluded from these overseas, even if the country of your choice has such srvices

If you do decide you want to move, find somewhere you like, and rent a house for 6 months - a year and try living there and see how you get on before committing yourself to a permanent move. The sae advice one gives anyone considering a drastic move in the UK.

I think you are suffering from 'grass being greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome. The days when the English retired to Pau or Boulogne to live cheaply and mix with their compatriots went with World War 1. In any other country I think you will find that while some aspects of life may be cheaper - housing, possibly food, - it will be more than outbalanced by social costs, medical insurance, the lack of any kind of social support

harrigran Fri 15-Sep-23 09:26:05

DD lives in Belgium and it is certainly not affordable on a modest income.
The only way she can travel freely is by having dual nationality. The house next door to her went up for sale a few months ago, 1.3 million Euro, it was in an appalling state, nothing done to it since the 50s by the look of the interior photos.
DD does praise the health system though, she took ill at work and the paramedics apologised for taking four minutes to reach the office.

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 10:19:44

Sodapop thanks. Peaceful and rural is what feels unaffordable in the uk now

nandad Fri 15-Sep-23 10:23:40

I think Monica’s right about the grass looking greener.
We have 3 lots of friends who moved overseas and have since returned. The bureaucracy of trying to get even small tasks completed can be a nightmare. The cost of medication meant one couple found it cheaper to fly back to the UK to have prescriptions filled.
And, the police are just as bad in EU countries, favouring their own countrymen over foreigners, especially ones that don’t speak the local language.
We met a retired Belgian couple in Rhodes who now live in Turkey, they told us that their rent has nearly doubled in 2 years, food prices are cheaper than here but their utilities have gone up. They would like to return to Belgium but can’t afford to. They can’t become Turkish nationals easily and there isn’t a benefits system as such. They have to keep going into the bank to prove who they are because of some complicated system the Turkish banks have with overseas payments (their pension). This can leave them short of funds at times, so now they have to keep large amounts in cash in their home.
Brother is selling his place in Cyprus which he built for his retirement as he’s realised that it’s no longer cheaper to live out there.
Until you live somewhere you don’t need to worry about the infrastructure, once there you may learn there isn’t one!

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 10:41:21

Thanks everyone for your collective words of wisdomsmile. I recognize all the very valid points here. TBH i feel sometimes as though the UK has become totally divided and people seem obsessed with themselves. I long for a peaceful slower more authentic way of life. Having a small income feeds into my sense of peace as i feel all the changes that are coming here will impoverish those of us with the least ability to pay, the most. For example all the charges and fines for having the privilege to do things we used to take for granted eg driving, going on holidays, even having the ruddy heating on etc. Someone warned a change of government could affect a country and i totally agree. But it's like that here. I think our government, which i used to trust, red or blue, no longer care about us, only themselves. And the bullying tactics they are employing to get us to do their bidding, like with net zero, fills me with a sense of dread. I think posting this has made me realize it's not just money but the way nothing here works any more is making me think about living abroad. I know all countries have their problems but rural life does appeal to me and itv feels unattainable here, mainly due to house prices but basic utilities like council tax water etc eat a huge amount of most ppls income. Our friends who live in Spain pay next to nothing for their utilities. Why is everything so expensive over here?

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 10:49:27

M0nica thanks for that, it helps to have some different perspective

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 10:50:58

Harrigran, i think the northern eu countries would be too expensive as well

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 10:53:40

Nandad, i agree it is a worry to move and burn your bridges. I too know of ppl who cant afford to come back to uk. That is scary. For this reason think would rent uk house and rent somwhere for a while. This way can get feel for different places

M0nica Fri 15-Sep-23 12:04:50

Rexdog peace and rural is abundantly available in the UK, but, as everywhere, you really need to go out in the sticks. Rural Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, the Cheviots, Pennines, central Wales, Scotland, all away from tourist areas, much of Lincolnshire and parts of Norfolk, away from the Broads are all cheap for property and will give you rural peace.

But there isa price to pay: a long way from towns, shops,, supermakets, doctors, hospital, difficulty with deliveries.

You are looking for a past world that no onger exists and probably never did. The countryside has always been home to the worst poverty, unemployment and sickness.

Mamie Fri 15-Sep-23 12:27:58

We have lived in France for eighteen years and I would say that overall we do live more cheaply here, because we live more simply and consume less. French people are sometimes slow to get to know you, but we have found that when you are accepted and welcomed into their homes they become good friends for life.
The administration is hard work and over-complicated, but you get used to keeping massive dossiers going back years. We know very few English people around here and fluent French is essential. The health service is excellent. We have come to understand that France expects you to be a good citizen, to understand the values of the Republic and in turn you are supported by the system.
It has undoubtedly become more difficult for people to come here since Brexit.
We have spent time in southern Spain where our son lives and my impression is that it would be possible (but not desirable) to manage with minimal Spanish in the big British / Scandinavian communities.

CountessFosco Fri 15-Sep-23 13:03:19

the French are slow to let you into their homes or into their lives.

Sorry but we cannot agree : our French neighbours were wonderful, and have actually since visited us in their camper van in Herts, whereas our neighbours here have not even invited us over their doorstep, but keep us standing outside. This after 2 years 3 months of offering them help and giving them produce from our small garden. An Englishman's home is his castle comes to mind.

Chardy Fri 15-Sep-23 13:14:51

There's a woman in her 90s who moved to Canada on retirement, to live near her daughter. Her pension was fixed at the rate it was when she left UK, some 30 yrs ago. She has organised protests to get that changed.
I think it's only certain countries it applied to, and the rules may have changed - does anyone know?
It always seemed so cruel as obviously she had contributed, but never received, elderly care, both social and health, and I think had contributed to the war or post-war effort.
If she's still alive she must be over 100 now.

pascal30 Fri 15-Sep-23 13:19:22

I spent a year in South africa, near Cape Town.. it is significantly cheaper, has a lovely climate, the people are lovely and mostly speak english and it has stunning scenery.. I worked and travelled all round the country working with people from every background and did not feel unsafe, though I wouldn't have wanted to live in Johannesburg..

grandtanteJE65 Fri 15-Sep-23 13:25:54

Unless you know the country you would be moving to, moving at any time of life, but perhaps especially at our time of life is risky.

Apart from the problems of not holding an EU passport, health insurance etc. the cost of living has risen in most European countries due to the war in Ukraine.

You also need to take into consideration that you may well need to re-write your wills if you move, to make sure they are valid both in your new country of residence and where the benificiares live.

Funeral arrangements should be considered too, while we are on the subject of our latter end!

Care homes are not cheap anywhere, so look into that too - hopefully you will never need one, but no-one can promise you that.

In 2016 when I was last in France the prices of food in supermarkets was nearly double that of the prices in Germany or the Netherlands, so if France is your choice the cost of living will be high. On the other hand France and most other European countries has cheap rail fares for those over 60.

Another point: language - unless you speak the language of your chosen country well, or are still able to learn a new language properly, you will be at risk of being very isolated, and need a notary who speaks good English for all and any purchases, tax matters etc. It is a myth that English is understood everywhere - it is certainly spoken, but not always good enough if at all for dealing with doctors, pharmacies, income tax inspectors, bank managers and the like.

Hithere Fri 15-Sep-23 13:59:00

Please stop idolizing Spain

The electricity skyrocketed a while ago and families are struggling to pay for it - forcing them to change their habits to be able to afford laundry, for example

Not saying this is you - Pockets of population who move and refuse to learn Spanish, adapt to the country and living in tight groups of their own people create resentment in the native population - rightly so

The political environment in Spain is not that stable

Don't dream of the grass being greener there

Part of the illusion why it is cheaper to live in Spain is because some items ate partially covered by the taxes paid by Spaniards- and you will benefit without paying a single penny
That's another rightfully source of resentment of natives towards snowbirds retiring in other countries

Be grateful for what you have and prepare for your future where you have a support network

MrsKen33 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:39:26

We have a widowed friend, who because she had a very small pension found it nigh on impossible to live in the UK. She moved, on her own, to Turkey and has made friends, locals as well as ex pats. She has a very enviable life noe, although I believe she may be a little homesick as she cannot afford to visit the UK very often

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:41:51

Mamie you quote :"We have come to understand that France expects you to be a good citizen, to understand the values of the Republic and in turn you are supported by the system." Exactly you have pinpointed what i feel is wrong with the UK now. No one seems to expect any kind of standards here and the poorer the community the less interest the state has in you

maddyone Fri 15-Sep-23 14:44:50

It’s not cheaper to live in New Zealand. It’s more expensive!

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:45:54

M0nica, you do speak wise words. But wherever you live here, the fixed costs feel more and more unaffordable. For example the average council tax bill and water rates alone have become a millstone round a lot of ppls necks. These costs are no matter where you live in the uk but i suppose ppl with decent incomes just absorb them as inevitable

fancythat Fri 15-Sep-23 14:48:01


Nandad, i agree it is a worry to move and burn your bridges. I too know of ppl who cant afford to come back to uk. That is scary. For this reason think would rent uk house and rent somwhere for a while. This way can get feel for different places

Rent or buy a campervan and travel around, 3 months in one country, 3 monhts in another?

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:48:29

Chardy, its a good point and i think that rule still stands

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:51:16

Pascal 30 thank you for sharing this. Somewhere i hadn't considered before

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 14:53:48

Grandtante, i agree the northern eu countries would be as , if not more expensive

Rexdog12 Fri 15-Sep-23 15:05:56

Hi There, thanks. I agree with what you say. I have some spanish and am thinking of relocating to a mountainous region where we have friends who have lived there for differing times, up to 20 years. Pre brexit i know. Most of them have at least some spanish ranging to fluent. Although the language varies from north to south so i know we couldn't go to the Catalan region for example. I like the idea of Spain as we know some people there , have been going for many years and i would make it my own mission to become (semi) fluent! I know all countries have their problems but from what i have seen of the Spanish government, they seem to have invested heavily on their infrastructure, and supported their population through covid better than the uk one. Also I believe the tripartite system of policing there seems to keep far better orderv there than in the UK. I think there is a lot to like tbh