For American seniors retiring abroad, transitioning into a new culture, surroundings, language and way of life can be challenging. Retirees may feel isolated, culture shocked or nervous about immersing into daily life of their country of residence. Others may simply want to meet fellow expatriates or get tips about how to thrive within their new environment. Luckily, there are options available for transitioning seniors to make the most out of their experience retiring abroad.
Expatriate communities are an option available in many countries to assist retirees during this period of adjustment and provide comfort and connection among members. There are pros and cons to expatriate communities, but they are generally a good way for retired seniors to adjust to a new lifestyle and country. To learn more about expatriate communities and find some examples of popular communities around the world, consult the sections below.
Benefits of Expatriate Communities
As a retired senior abroad, being part of an expatriate community can make a country feel more welcoming to you. This is especially relevant when natives in the country are unwelcoming to foreigners, creating tension and safety concerns for retirees. A shared sense of community among expatriates can be helpful in making the new country seem less intimidating and scary by providing you with tips and tricks for adjusting to the new culture.
If you do not know or understand the language spoken and/or are unaccustomed to the cultural practices in the country, you may feel a sense of isolation in your new home. Expatriate communities can help you feel comforted and less alone by providing you with connections to individuals who have gone through or are going through similar situations.
Expatriate communities can help you find your way around the new area, learn about events that other expatriates are attending and find out general information on living in the country. This makes it easier for you to get your bearings in the unknown surroundings. In some countries, expatriate communities create a large impact on the economy by growing the real estate, entertainment, food service and goods and services sectors.
Issues with Expatriate Communities
While expatriate communities have many benefits, there are some issues about these communities that retirees should be aware of. At times, expatriate communities can become exclusive and prevent you from becoming immersed in the new culture. For example, if a retired expatriate makes their time living abroad revolve around the expatriate community, they can miss out on having authentic experiences and getting to know the real culture in the country. Only small amounts of authentic immersion can be felt while remaining within an expatriate community.
Expatriate communities sometimes create tension within a host country. This happens when locals do not welcome an expatriate community because of the cultural distance the community creates. Or, locals may just feel unmotivated to welcome expatriates because of how briefly they remain within the culture. To avoid issues with expatriate communities, retired seniors should make sure to experience their new country of residence out of an expatriate community. Although these communities are helpful for initial adjustment into a culture, they can eventually hold you back from becoming fully immersed in your surroundings.
How can I find expatriate communities?
To find out about expatriate communities, doing research early will provide you with a wealth of information and help you prepare for your big move. Generally, searching online for expatriate communities in your new country of residence is the best way to find communities that fit your needs and desires. You can build connections, discover tips about the area as a new expat, find out real estate information and more through an expatriate community before even relocating to the country. Researching these communities can help you decide on the best place to retire, depending on your desires and needs.
For many, initial research and contact with an expatriate community helps calm the nerves involved with making a big lifestyle change. Some seniors may be even be geared towards moving to a place where the expatriate community is very large, allowing for an easy transition into retiring abroad.
Examples of Expatriate Communities
While expatriate communities of different sizes and development exist all over the world, the following examples of expatriate communities highlight some popular and well-developed groups for expats in different countries. These examples can give you an idea of the benefits of expatriate communities in finding your place within a new culture, people and surroundings.
The expatriate community in Algarve, Portugal is very large, at over 100,000 people. As political stability within Portugal has grown, expat communities in the country have been able to thrive and become well established. Within the community are amenities such as beaches, golf courses and tennis clubs that are known as some of Europe’s best. The expatriates in Algarve seek to integrate into the culture of Portugal through local community and charity work. Many members of this expatriate community have reported an easier time settling into the country through the community.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
At over 40,000 people, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is another well-known expatriate community. There are many services available in the city catering to the needs of expats, including restaurants, fashion, health care and more. Many luxury hotels and amenities are available within the expatriate community. Retirees can integrate into the local culture easily, as many local residents can speak English. Furthermore, the exchange rate in Mexico has allowed for housing to be extremely affordable to foreign residents. Puerto Vallarta is known to be accessible for senior expats due to developing infrastructure, so this city is a good option for retirees.
Another retirement destination with a large expatriate community is Barcelona, Spain, with over 35,000 expats living within the city. There are places and events designed specifically for expatriates, many of which are listed in the Metropolitan magazine. These events promote social interaction between English-speaking expats living in Barcelona. Many multinational corporations are part of the city, providing familiar products that are often found in the U.S. This familiarity helps retirees transition into the culture more smoothly. Because the general lifestyle of Barcelona residents is mellow and the locals are friendly toward foreigners, the city is great place for retirement. This big city also offers consistent appealing temperatures, along with mountains and the ocean as beautiful scenery for retirees to explore.
By Melanie Henson –