Dream of retiring abroad but afraid it'll be too complicated and costly? Never fear; the folks at InternationalLiving.com have compiled a list of the top five overseas retirement destinations "where expats can most quickly and easily integrate into the community, ... connect with existing expat networks, ... and feel safe, secure and at home," according to editors at the retirement and relocation website.
"A satisfying quality of life for retirees abroad often hinges on their ability to fit in, to learn the ropes and to mix well with the locals in their adopted communities," said Dan Prescher, senior editor. "Language, culture and community support from locals and other expats can have a dramatic effect on how happy and comfortable retirees feel in their new homes." These data on "ease of integration" for American retirees in particular destinations were culled from InternationalLiving.com's Global Retirement Index 2017 report. CNBC.com shares these top five retirement spots — from Europe to the Caribbean to Southeast Asia — on the following slides.
— By CNBC.com's Kenneth Kiesnoski
Posted 1 March 2017
One of the most common observations made by visitors to Ireland is how friendly and welcoming the locals are. Communication is also easy for Americans, as English — albeit spoken with that lovely, lilting "brogue" — is the language of the vast majority in Ireland (although the endangered native Irish tongue, a Celtic language virtually unrelated to English, can often still be heard, particularly in the west of the country.) And talk about payback: Ireland has sent millions of emigrants to the United States over four centuries (some 34.5 million Americans now have Irish ancestry), so it's only fitting some of us finally return the favor!
"As a nation — but particularly in the countryside — Ireland takes a small-town approach to life," said Eoin Bassett, international executive editor at InternationalLiving.com. "It is a country where it is still considered important to know and interact with your neighbors, be involved in your community and to do your utmost to make sure that it is an easy and welcoming place to live for all its residents."
Probably the nicest retirement spot you've never heard of, Roatán is an English-speaking subtropical Caribbean island that is actually part of Honduras, where Spanish is the mother tongue on the mainland. Most expats on this gem of an island live in one of its four towns, each of which reportedly sports its own vibe. The locals are friendly, and expats band together with them — and each other — in a lot of community service and joint activities, expat resident Deb Crofutt recently told InternationalLiving.com.
"Monday blues are a thing of the past in my new home on Roatán," said Crofutt, who moved to the island in 2013. "In fact, in winter, when all the snowbirds return, we have a social gathering we call 'Mondays Don't Suck' at a stunning, secluded beach on the island. Just a bunch of expats from all over the world who have made this beach paradise their home."
Another English-speaking outpost in a region dominated by Spanish, French and indigenous languages, such as Maya, Belize offers North American expats ease of communication and, thanks to a British heritage, a familiar lifestyle and culture of conducting business and law. Natives also happen to be open and friendly, making new connections as simple as helping a neighbor or attending an event.
Former San Franciscan and InternationalLiving.com correspondent Ann Kuffner reports that her relatively smaller and less cosmopolitan adopted home of Ambergris Caye, Belize, offers far more social connections than the Bay Area. "We've been surprised by how much our social horizons have expanded," she said. "Meeting people is often as simple as taking a trip into town."
Kuffner added, "Ambergris Caye is an active community. People get involved, and they enjoy the outdoors."
We're detecting a trend here: English proficiency for Filipinos (the Philippines was once a U.S. colonial possession) is a major plus that makes this destination another obvious choice for expat American retirees. Other positives include a friendly local culture, Western-standard conveniences and facilities (from shopping malls and movie theaters to hospitals and high-rise condos) and a world of housing choices, from urban apartments to mountain bungalows.
You'll also have plenty of expat company, said Asia correspondent for InternationalLiving.com Kirsten Raccuia. "There are expats living throughout the Philippines, so you won't have to go far to meet some new friends," she said. "In most areas, there are expat clubs, happy hours, forums and even charity groups to join, all geared toward meeting new people."
This is an even less obvious choice than the Philippines, but Malaysia is actually a good — if surprising — fit for American retirees hunting for a new home abroad. The country is both friendly and an ethnic and religious melting pot that's always welcomed new inhabitants of all stripes. The Muslim faith of the majority might give some Americans pause, given today's global geopolitical atmosphere, but it shouldn't, say InternationalLiving.com editors. And English is understood by enough Malaysians to make integrating less difficult than imagined.
"Malaysians are some of the friendliest people that I have encountered in Southeast Asia," said Keith Hockton, InternationalLiving.com Malaysia correspondent. "We live in an apartment block where all the neighbors talk to you.
"We talk food," he added. "People in Malaysia love their food. Often we will talk lunch after just having breakfast, and dinner after just having lunch. Food is definitely the most discussed topic here."