Our friend Larry tipped us off to an article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal that addressed the topic of retiring abroad. The newspaper contacted about a dozen of their previous contributors who had written pieces about moving from the US and settling elsewhere in the world. Because most of those original articles were so optimistic about this big change in life the editors were especially interested to see if that initial enthusiasm continued years later ranging in time from 4 years to 14 years in residence. Some discussion suggestions were provided such as what’s changed since you’ve moved and what advice do you have for others considering living outside the country, but to get things rolling they asked everyone, “How did your decision to retire overseas turn out?”
Eleven responses came from around the globe and had they been mailed in using the postal service all but two of those envelopes would have borne stamps from countries other than the US. It didn’t surprise us to read that the couple who described themselves as “senior gypsies” are now back in California after 5 years of moving at least every two months to a different destination in many parts of the world. Despite never really unpacking and facing multiple languages, cultures, and daily lifestyles, the two say that they “lived like locals”. The other couple that returned to the US lived in a small Irish town where they found it difficult to access specialized healthcare and are now in Texas near their daughter. They used the world “glorious” to describe their time overseas and recommend investigating medical services before moving.
There were replies from Spain, Chile, the Netherlands, France, the Caribbean, Costa Rica, the Philippines, New Zealand, and Peru. The similarities were amazing to the point that if you covered over the name of the town you might not know if you were in Europe, Asia, or South America. Oh sure, there were negatives like overcrowding from too many tourists or missing family who still live in the US but we had to smile when one person wrote that the quality of life more than compensated for any drawbacks.
The advice centered on adapting: being flexible, patient, and learning the language. Be open to the diversity of foods, cultures, values, styles of living, and all types of celebrations. The gentleman in Chile summed it up by saying, “Being respectful works wonders.”
While we certainly found the responses from US citizens living in other countries fascinating we naturally wanted to read about the experiences of someone here in France. Nancy and John moved to a small farm in 2012 in the Périgord region, about a 2-hour drive north of us. Their priority was to assimilate into their new surroundings, “to understand and adapt to” the culture and people of France. They have immersed themselves into the local environment and are grateful to be living here.
We moved to France almost 4 years ago and like the people described above, even those “senior gypsies” who never stayed in one location very long, we feel like locals. What’s the secret? All I can do is repeat that wisdom coming from Chile, “Being respectful works wonders.”