Single Overseas—8 Things To Know Before You Go
Last issue, I shared the following reader question with you:
“I would appreciate some articles specifically about single women retiring to countries in Europe (perhaps in Spain and Portugal and anywhere else deemed suitable) and the types of support (social networks, medical facilities, recreational activities, suitable areas to live, safety, etc.) available?
“I find the whole subject of single women retirees is very neglected in articles about retirees moving to Europe.”
–Robyn N., Australia
As promised, here follows an exploration of what it means to live overseas as a single…
It might seem that retiring overseas as a single could present additional challenges…
That taking this big leap on your own could be harder than making such a big move with a partner.
In fact, I’d say that moving to a new country solo comes with upsides.
Retiring overseas can be an isolating experience for anyone, single or not, especially if you move to a place where the language isn’t English. No matter your circumstances, you’ll have to make an effort to make friends and become a part of your new community.
However, if you’re going without the cushion of another person you can rely on for interaction, you’ll have to make an even greater effort to meet people.
Couples tend to be insular (I speak from experience). Going solo can speed up the process of integrating. If you’re in the market for a new beau, dating a local will turbo-boost your assimilation…
Still, making an international move all alone can seem like an intimidating idea.
Here are eight tips we hope will help make your transition as a single expat easier and as stress-free as possible:
#1: Pursue your hobbies
What better time to do the things you most like to do than in retirement? It’s a great way to meet people who share those interests, making strangers instant friends. Consider, say, salsa, which is a very social hobby that’s also fun and can be a great form of exercise… or maybe golf, which is normally played in foursomes and incomplete groups will ask you to join…
#2: Enroll in language classes
This is a number-one way to meet other expats overseas. Speaking/interacting is what language classes are all about, so you’ll quickly get to know your classmates. My husband made some good friends in his French classes who we still see regularly years later—one of the couples has since moved to the south of France and we now visit them at the beach.
Many language programs offer opportunities to network with your fellow students, like happy hours, field trips, dance evenings, etc. Even if they aren’t formalized, though, most language classes go out for a drink after class every now and then.
You’ll find many opportunities for this in all of the places where we direct your attention. Volunteer agencies in developing countries, in particular, will really appreciate your first-world skills and experience…
#4: Seek out your affiliations
Find a church to attend. Join the local community center. The Rotary Club. The women’s group. The local library. The Harley-Davidson Enthusiasts Club… whatever! Libraries offer book clubs, conversation groups, and lectures… community centers and churches offer mix and mingle nights, card games, fitness classes, dance, self-defense workshops, knitting circles, and more…
#5: Join dating apps
If you want to change your single status, join any of the many dating apps and websites out there. It’s another way to meet people locally, and, again, dating a local is the fastest way to learn a new language and integrate into your new home…
#6: Attend local events
Attend local events to do with gardening, art, music, dance, etc.—that relate to your interests. Again, this is a great way to connect with like-minded people…
#7: Stay active
I mean this both literally and figuratively… look for English-speaking fitness or yoga classes, they’re a great way to get to know new people and build a weekly rapport with them.
And less literally, just get out and about. In today’s post-Covid world, it’s easy to have life delivered to your door—avoid this at all costs. Go out to eat or do your shopping instead of ordering in—you’ll begin to build relationships with local vendors and spot neighbors. When I’m feeling blue or out of place, a trip to do errands in my neighborhood—folks smiling when they recognize me or stopping to chit chat with someone I’m acquainted with—is sure to put a smile on my face.
#8: Sign up for everything—even if you wouldn’t usually
You never know what will lead to what—you need to keep a more open mind overseas in order to embrace all possibilities. Sign up for embassy updates from your country’s consulate, sign up for the city’s email blasts if they do them, join every online expat group you come across. And then follow through—go to the mixers and the potlucks, participate in the online chats and forums, and generally put yourself out there. It can take some getting used to, but it becomes more natural. After a year or so, you’ll be able to weed out the activities that aren’t keeping you hooked long term, and you’ll be left with a nice condensed roster of groups you can’t wait to hang out with.
The second concern that you might have if you’re considering moving overseas as a single could be related to your budget…
Retirees in the United States right now are worried or even panicked about rising costs. Inflation is making it harder than ever to feel confident your retirement nest egg will carry you through.
That is not the case many places around the world, meaning retiring overseas can be the number-one way to beat inflation worries. Both the costs of living and the rates of inflation are far lower many places we spotlight than in the States.
Remember, too, that you have control over your cost of living anywhere you decide to move. Many places we write about, for example, offer free events, exhibitions, museum days, etc.
I wrote recently about the best free things to do in Paris, for example.
You could look into house- or pet-sitting, both easy to arrange, especially in places with big vacation travel markets. This could even be a way to earn some side income.
The bottom-line point I’d like you to take away is that being single is definitely not a reason not to pursue a new life in a new country.
Expat groups abroad are welcoming—probably more welcoming than any group you’ve lately joined back home. They reach out to newcomers. We’re all in this same expat boat together, and for this humbling reason, there’s a generosity of spirit that seems like a rare thing these days…
I find most non-expat communities are equally welcoming… if you speak the local language.
In a big city (Paris, for example), being a foreigner isn’t unusual… but if you’re not moving to an international city, being the only foreigner garners attention—people want to come and talk to the exotic newcomer from strange lands. Locals are eager to befriend you.
You won’t regret retiring overseas on your own…
The greatest risk, I’d say, is that, once you’ve made the move, you’ll regret not having made it sooner.
Editor, LIOS Confidential