Deciding to retire abroad can seem a little daunting, no matter how long you may have dreamed of doing it.
Leaving behind the culture, manners and language you know best can be difficult to handle, and you may worry about finding new friends at your destination. Even the language barriers may seem insurmountable when you first consider moving. However, the number of Americans already living in foreign countries can provide you with a welcoming place to land.
These expatriate or “expat” communities can be found the world over. Some contain more Americans than others, but the attitude of expats even from other countries is always welcoming to other international arrivals. You can use these groups to find friends who will be able to show you around and help integrate you into the larger culture of your chosen country. Fortunately, there are many different places to choose from when retiring in another country. Read on to learn about the countries with the biggest American expatriate communities.
Portugal is one of the top retirement destinations for international retirees and has a huge expatriate community to prove it. The cost of living is fairly low, and the quality of life is high. There are a number of areas you might consider moving to in order to find other Americans. The large cities, such as Lisbon, may be desirable for those who want to experience European art and history. You might also enjoy the culture of the northern university town Coimbra. Many Americans choose to live slightly outside these cities, in large homes with some land attached, but you can also find relatively inexpensive city homes.
Some of the most popular destinations are along the coastline, as the expatriate communities take advantage of the country’s beautiful beaches. The town of Cascais is a particular favorite for American expats, as it allows for enjoyment of a quiet and secluded lifestyle while also providing access to larger and more exciting urban environments.
The region of the Algarve is perhaps the best known of Portugal’s retirement destinations, and it boasts over 100,000 U.S. expats within the area. As a result, there is a wide range of social opportunities available to those who choose to retire there. If you are in search of a quiet location, however, it is advisable to be careful when choosing a spot in the Algarve. The area’s popularity as a vacation destination can make it a little too crowded for some.
Mexico is a popular expat retirement destination not only due to its proximity to the U.S., but also as a result of its scenery, climate and friendly culture. Some areas, such as the popular Puerto Vallarta, have drawn expats for several decades. The area has all the trappings of a tourist town, but these amenities can also be enjoyed as part of your everyday life should you choose to move there. The medical facilities are also very highly ranked, with many Americans choosing to travel there just for their health care. Aside from large resorts like those in Puerto Vallarta, you may find significant expat communities in many other seaside locations along the Mexican coast.
Aside from seaside resorts, there are notable expat communities throughout Mexico more suited to those who prefer a different style of living. Historic, brightly colored cities such as Merida and San Miguel De Allende are well prepared to welcome arrivals from the U.S., with many expats already settled in. The expat communities in these areas may be more integrated into the local community than those in large resorts. As a result, there might be a greater requirement for you to learn Spanish. At the same time, this will give you an opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture while making American friends.
There are many U.S. expats living in Malaysia, enjoying the low cost of living and friendly, welcoming culture. Many Americans may choose to live in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, which offers modern amenities and an exciting lifestyle. You may wish to enjoy this kind of hustle and bustle, as well as the opportunity to make friends within the city. However, many retirees seek out a slightly quieter way of life, as well as the cheaper cost of property in the country’s smaller towns. For this, you have the option of several other locations where there are many American expats.
A high number of international expats can be found on the island of Penang, in the city of George Town. This area is quieter than the large capital city but is home to approximately 40,000 expats. Not all of them will be from the U.S., of course. However, the international community can provide you with support as you settle into the area, and you may be far more likely to find fluent English speakers than in other areas of Malaysia. There are many social activities available for the members of the expat community, allowing you to maintain fitness and find entertainment as part of your new lifestyle.
It is worth noting that Malaysia, while often very welcoming of diverse groups, is unfortunately quite conservative in other areas, so Jewish Americans and LGBT expats may not find it as welcoming.
Ecuador has become an increasingly popular destination for U.S. retirees after its city Cuenca was rated the best city for foreign retirement in 2009. This city has accordingly become a top destination for retiring expats, breeding a significant number of social opportunities for its expatriate community. It is particularly well known for its arts and culture, while also remaining easily navigable as a smaller city.
In general, Ecuador is known to be a favorite choice for retirees, given the discounts and tax refunds available to those over the age of 65. Many retirees can appreciate a country that truly values senior citizens. Many more locations around Ecuador are also increasing in popularity and growing their own expat communities. These include towns such as the warm, elevated Vilcabamba and the quiet and mountainous Cotacachi. Larger cities, such as Quito, are admittedly also popular for expats. However, these locations might not be as desirable for retirement, as they tend to be much faster-paced or even dangerous.