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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.

Joseann Sun 17-Sep-23 14:24:00

It's all relative to your lifestyle and how you want to spend or economise. I've just paid €17 for a gin and tonic abroad, but tomorrow I'll be back to a lunch of grated carrot and beetroot which costs next to nothing.

Anniel Sun 17-Sep-23 14:24:34

As many of you realise I spend a lot of time in the Caribbean as my son has worked in the wine/rum industry for many years. When I live here I pay for food and other incidental tasks around the house. Food is expensive and a normal food shop can cost £150-£200 a week. This week son received the monthly charges for electricity and water. Water was £210 which is ridiculous ( we need to check for major leaks) and electricity was £450 made high due to 24/7 use of AC as I am at home a lot and it is exceptionally hot this year. Life in the Caribbean is very expensive but very relaxing! I need to make a decision for my future. Will I move permanently or continue to stay in London over the summer months. Hard decisikn.

Fleurpepper Sun 17-Sep-23 14:33:07

Yes, hard decisions. And even the best plans can go astray big time. We certainly never ever expected Brexit, and for it to change things so massively. Or for Sterling to tumble and lose 60% of its value against some currencies.

cc Sun 17-Sep-23 15:01:56

Sorry, have not read all the thread, this may have been said already.
I think it's important to think about how you would feel if just one of you was left living abroad. Often you would not be able to afford to move back - this happened to the mother of somebody I know - and you might feel very isolated if you were living there on your own.

cc Sun 17-Sep-23 15:05:00


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.

A couple we knew wanted to emigrate to Canada but could not get permission because her health was not good. They had plenty of money and could easily pay for insurance or health care, but were still refused.

Starlyte Sun 17-Sep-23 15:24:22

I've been living in France, the south, for about 44 years now. I now, obviously, speak French which does help.
I am now alone and moving to a wood cabin lost in a mountain village.
Houses are much cheaper here, depending on the region. If you shop for fruit and veg, and cheese etc I the local markets, it really is much cheaper. Wine of course, too.
The temperatures have, risen over the last few years and will continue to do so, imo.
Looking around for houses to rent or buy, if you DIY you can find something from 50 to 60 thousand euros.
To rent from 4 or 5 hundred a month.
I got a Brexit visa, and the same for my driving licence.
I am in the south west now. It's not always easy to make friends you need perseverance or a place where there are other foreigners. I'm a bit of a hermit. Trees, birds, a nice view and not too many neighbours and I'm happy.
There's an enormous variation of countryside here if you have the travel bug.
I have my adult son and grandchildren in th UK, it's certainly cheaper here than there if you take all into account.
Think carefully though.

Hithere Sun 17-Sep-23 16:01:09

Also think about how natives may perceive your moving - there could be some hostility

I have read plenty of threads here how posters are mad about how many benefits newcomers get in the uk and how that money would be better invested in schools, nhs, etc

Hithere Sun 17-Sep-23 16:36:10

How some portion of the native population - clarification

NotSpaghetti Sun 17-Sep-23 16:44:44

What about the Philippines?,lower%20than%20in%20the%20UK.

Suzyb Sun 17-Sep-23 16:44:54

We became Spanish residents under the Withdrawal Agreement in 2021 but only actually went to live there in January this year. We have had a holiday home there since 2006 and are both now 73 & 76. The main reason we took up residency is because our son, daughter in law and young family live in the Netherlands and visiting them as often as we would like, coupled with using our home in Spain would have been too complicated with the 90 day rule following Brexit.
Our health care is excellent in Spain and because we draw a British state pension it is paid for on a reciprocal agreement with the NHS. I would say that supermarket shopping is roughly the same price and utilities not much cheaper. What’s far cheaper though is our Community charge which is about a quarter of what we pay in the U.K. We do still keep a property in the U.K. but rent it out to supplement our income as flights now within Europe are very expensive. Obviously the weather is an asset and we have far more of an outdoor life than we had in the U.K. We cycle, walk every day play Padel and play golf now and again. We go to Spanish classes once a week and do our homework. All in all we have a very fulfilling life and our neighbours are English Dutch Norwegian and Spanish and we all live in harmony and help each other out when required.
I’d say give it a try but definitely keep your home in the U.K. and rent wherever you decide to live. Carpe Diem.

Mollie3 Sun 17-Sep-23 16:55:13

I lasted one year, two weeks, four days (I have forgotten the hours and minutes) when I emigrated. My late fiancé who lived all over the world during his working life said "If you ignore the politics there is no country in the world that has better geography, history, climate or people than the British Isles.

Pinkhousegirl Sun 17-Sep-23 16:57:45

greetings fro m Northern Provence. It obvs depends of where you are in a country, but here property is much much cheaper that the SE England - hard to compare as so dissimilar, but, f or example, a 4 bed/2 sitting room with land would be about E300k. Brexit was awful, but the French authorities now have it sorted. It cost around £3k for required papers, changing car plates etc. When you have residency you will have access to the health system, which, while not as good as it was, is very much better than the UK. Ins for this is around E40pm. Food is of a much much higher quality, somethings are cheaper (fruit and veg in season) and some are the same, and some more expensive. Overall, I would say expenditure is around the same, but the quality very much better. The only caveat I would suggest is it would be insane to move anywhere where you don't speak the language or were prepared to learn. You do not want to be in one of those dreadful English ghettos who meet for rosé and a whinge every evening at the apéro hour! The Internet has transformed out life here - we can speak easily to family and friends int he UK, and can access all UK tv channels and streaming services. Returns to the UK are fast and cheap with the excellent railways. If you decide to do it there are many orgs who can help you with the logistics for France and, I would guess, with other EU countries . Best of luck!

DrWatson Sun 17-Sep-23 20:35:45

Some very interesting points on here, re the various aspects of such a move. But then I found this really daft one, from 'Skate' which said :- "Only one thought - too blinking hot!! Bad enough in the UK on some summer days, but Spain?? No thanks!! The climate anywhere else but the UK would make it impossible to contemplate a move.".

WHAT??? "Climate anywhere else but the UK would make it impossible"? Total twaddle - ruling out the entire rest of the planet due to extremely ill-informed guff re weather patterns?!

Sure, lots of places are too hot, or too cold, but plenty have no more issues than here. Northern Portugal & Spain are on avg just slightly warmer than here, less chance of the cold winter spells we can get, and a higher rainfall that the touristy south, so greener and more pleasant scenery. Holland & Denmark are terrific countries, well organised and civilised, and generally quite grateful to us re WW2. They have very similar weather to here (I've no idea re EU entry issues, I doubt they get many Brits asking?). Further across Europe, northern Italy can get cold, but no worse than here unless you're up an alp. Croatia, Montenegro, etc, wouldn't get the same summer heat as the likes of Cyprus and Malta, winter avgs are fine.

Further afield, sure, Australia is often too hot (and/or humid) but Tasmania is fine, and so generally is New Zealand (the accent may get you though?!).

And across the Atlantic, much of USA and Canada gets too hot, or too cold, but lots of the west coast is perfectly temperate, from the likes of Vancouver and Victoria Island down to Southern California, where perhaps San Diego would be perfectly OK for us Brits.

Oh, and I forgot the Azores and Madeira, perfectly equable for us. And I expect some South Sea islands would be fine too?! Hope that helps.

ALANaV Sun 17-Sep-23 20:56:31

I lived in Menorca and then France, for over 25 years;;;;loved them both ...but living in France now is difficult for a non EU person, following BREXIT need a minimum level of income (a basic state UK pension is not regarded as sufficient to live on in France) need medical insurance, registration with the French impots, an application for residency, and taxes are VERY high, especially for 'foreigners'. I left France after my husband died during the Brexit process, and some things I miss but chose to live near a city here, as rural France, although great for us, would have been difficult as you get older and have to stop driving (licence is for LIFE in France, not 70 and then re apply !) there is NO transport system for kms around ! Health Service was EXCELLENT ....were provided with everything (as I said, you have to have compulsory medical insurance)....taxis were provided free of charge to hospital appointments (our biggest city hospitals, in Bordeaux, were over 100km away you can imagine the cost to the French health service !)....even an electric riser/recliner chair when my husband had Parkinsons, was free on prescription ! Would I move back ? yes but would have to be somewhere nearer to a town or city with transport systems .......once you have done extensive research, and definitely learned French, then why not ! We get one life !

Poppyjo Sun 17-Sep-23 22:28:57

I moved to New Zealand 6 years after my husband died to be near my son and grandchildren. I moved about an hour away from them to be independent and give them space. I was very lucky as the move went smoothly. The down side of course is once you are on your own it can feel very lonely. Certain things are more expensive ie cat food. I am lucky as I joined a church and we are like a family. Before hand I went on holiday with family to try the life and it’s wonderful I am so very lucky.

Go for a holiday. Ie self catering to get an idea of costs, especially health insurance,

Good luck with your decision

I took my three cats with me too which helped.

vegansrock Mon 18-Sep-23 01:44:55

You could try Ireland. Not cheap but after 4 years you could get an EU passport.

Mamma66 Mon 18-Sep-23 03:22:05

My late parents worked very hard and consequently were in the fortunate position of being able to retire at 50. Having loved France they had holidayed there every year. They bought a house in rural France (very cheap) but retained their U.K. house. They lived in France for half the year for the next 25 years.

Dad absolutely loved it. Mum confessed to me after many years that although she loved France she missed being away from my brothers and I and her Grandchildren - even though we would all go to France too in summer. Our last time in France together was in 2011 and was wonderful.

Mum became ill and sadly died in 2012 (in the U.K.). Dad would occasionally go to France with my brothers, but never back to the house as it didn’t feel right without Mum. He made the decision to sell the house. What they don’t tell you is that the French legal system in relation to selling houses is murderously slow and complex (even with my elder brother being a partner in a U.K. law firm). It took us years (literally) to sell the house.

If you wanted to come back to the U.K. for any reason, please bear in mind that if you sell your U.K. home returning to the U.K. might not be that easy. Also, you still have to pay all the water rates etc. in France whilst the sale is going through.

Mum and Dad loved France and were happy there, but having experienced their lunatic process of selling property, I would never buy there myself. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

Mamie Mon 18-Sep-23 05:18:07

I think that must have been issues related to that particular house Mamma66. We have moved twice (the second time during Covid) and it all went through pretty smoothly. I especially like the "compromis" arrangement, so you don't get people backing out at the last minute without a financial penalty, also buying "au prix" so a full-price offer must be accepted with no gazumping. There is a lot of paperwork, but a good estate agent and notaire should help you through that.
I also don't agree about French taxes being higher. Our income taxes would be more in the UK and our council tax for a three bedroom, two bathroom house near a major town is 500€ a year.

arum Mon 18-Sep-23 06:45:17


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 uk house and rent somewhere for a while". I know a couple who opted for this, but now have problems trying to evict their tenants. In the end they now have a camper van, which really cannot be a permanent solution.

Joseann Mon 18-Sep-23 07:05:03

I disagree with the "rent your house, keep a bolthole back home in case" philosophy, because if you're committed enough to move abroad you need to go the whole hog and not have your heart in two places. But that's just me.

M0nica Mon 18-Sep-23 07:29:53

In my turn Joseann I disagree. I had a friend who did that within the UK. In retirement she moved from the South East to Yorkshire, a region not unknown to her, hence the move.

The move was a a complete disaster, but having burnt her boats, sold a house in the south and bought a much cheaper one in the north, plus funding the move, she could not afford to move back and this disastrous move was, I will always believe, a prime contributor to her premature death, only 3 years later.

Like all her friends we had advised her to rent out her house down south and rent for a year in her chosen area, so that if it did go wrong, she could regroup and rethink, but she was absoutely certain she was doing the right thing and wouldn't listen.

Joseann Mon 18-Sep-23 08:31:56

Yes, it's interesting how different people make different things work M0nica. Firstly I would never buy anywhere cheaper, but always try to move up, so if it came to selling I could recoup enough. We bought a rural hamlet in France,but realising property prices wouldn't increase there at the same rate as the UK, we also bought an appartement in a posh French seaside resort so our finances were safe. That latter property saved the day.

Joseann Mon 18-Sep-23 08:34:42

I think what I mean is that if I am going to properly live abroad I don't want a get-out option or I wouldn't be throwing myself 100% into the whole idea.

Jaxjacky Mon 18-Sep-23 08:59:52

I know quite a few people who live in France and keep a UK property to use as a base when they visit, so the house is empty for the majority of the time. What a waste.

Truddles Mon 18-Sep-23 09:03:42

I live in Costa Del Sol. I am 62 and my husband is 67 and has a comfortable pension. We have lived here for 15 months. We went through a lawyer to get our non-lucrative visas. It cost around €7000 but we had unusual circumstances (my husband lived in Canada for about 45 years; I am British).
We rent right now until we find a place where we want to settle. The rent is quite high but we live in a place we couldn’t afford to buy.
On the whole, it’s cheaper to live in Spain.
Apart from that, the weather is fabulous and we have a very outdoor, healthy life. I speak a bit of Spanish (which is really appreciated) and we have signed up for (free) Spanish lessons with the local town hall. It’s not a must; I know lots of people here who don’t speak much Spanish, so it’s not a barrier to living here.
Spain has a fantastic landscape - real natural beauty.
We had to get private health insurance as a requirement of the NLV, but it works out at €20 a week each, and there is no waiting, beautiful hospitals and excellent care. My husband had an accident six months ago and only waited two days to have a hip replacement.
I love it here but I do miss my family in the U.K., but I go back for birthdays and holidays, and of course they come over here quite often. Budget airlines have all sorts of offers and sell offs, so it’s realistic to go back and forth. It’s very depressing in the U.K., in my opinion. I am always glad to come home.
Apart from my family, I don’t miss anything about the U.K.
Waking up to a blue sky most mornings lifts the soul. It might not be important to everyone, but it is to me. I have become so much fitter and healthier here, and I have taken up several interests and met plenty of people. I am hoping my family come out to live here one day, but until then we’ll make it work.