Expat Grandparents: How to Make Living Away from Family Easier
Living abroad can be one of life’s greatest pleasures. It can also be one of its biggest challenges; especially when it comes to missing family members back home. Many people retire to places like Spain, Southern France, Italy et al., without really thinking about how they’re going to cope living away from family. What might seem like the dream relocation at first can quickly become an isolating experience, which makes preparing to live away from loved ones all the more important. To help you, we’ve put together a few tips on how to make living away from family easier.
We recommend taking at least a year to settle on retiring abroad. Deciding to live in a new country is often a decision one makes on holiday, when the sangria is flowing and the sun is shining. The reality is usually quite different; doubly so when moving to countries with fixed summer seasons. You could find yourself struggling in the winter months when many shops shut and the towns grind to a halt.
It all boils down to a simple fact: staying in a location for a two-week holiday is completely different to actually living there. Before you make the leap, you should try to visit your proposed destination multiple times throughout the year. If possible, consider a long-term stay so you can really get a feel for what the culture, weather and day-to-day life is like. Endless sunshine is bliss for a short holiday, but trust us when we say that actually living in temperatures exceeding 35° Celsius can be a challenge.
Another possibility is renting a property in the location you’re thinking of moving to. It also gives you a chance to integrate with the expat community and, essentially, get an idea of the home pricing. Expats getting charged way more for a property than a local is not unheard of, so learning what you should actually pay is very important to saving valuable retirement funds. Renting a property also gives you a chance to see how easily you cope with living away from family.
We’ve actually created a convenient international moving checklist, which you can click here to download. With it, you can tick the boxes, save when you’re done, and return to it whenever you need.
A great way to create lasting experiences for you and your family is to arrange a proper holiday in your new home. It sounds contradictory, but it’s often more difficult to get the grandchildren to pop over in your home country! Promise them sunshine and the allure of a pool and they’ll be on the plane in no time.
Generally speaking too, the cost of living is cheaper abroad than many of the countries expats usually come from. What this means is that you’re more able to give the gift of a plane ticket to family; imagine the look on your grandchildren’s faces when they see the tickets.
Nowadays, talking to a loved one face-to-face is simple, thanks to the abundance of technology available. If you haven’t already, why not set up a Skype account (or similar communication app) so you can easily talk to family members back home? It can be fun for grandchildren too, as video technology allows you to show them exciting things from your new home!
Getting stuck in with the expat community is an effective way to reduce any feelings of loneliness you may have. Tons of expat communities organise regular events and sometimes just making the effort to meet new people can make you feel more welcome.
Learn the local lingo
You don’t need to be fluent, but speaking a few key phrases of the local language can be an excellent way to become more integrated in the community. If you can stretch it to a basic conversational level, then even better! Oftentimes, people retiring abroad can become lonely at the lack of community engagement. A remedy is to move into a community of same-language expats, although our recommendation is to embrace your new country and speak to the locals as much as you can. Not only will it endear you to them, it also gives you a great sense of belonging. Finally, if something goes wrong you’ll be grateful to have a friendly local face to turn to.
A big concern for expat retirees is the costs of booking flights back home. One thing to consider is renting your retirement property for a couple of weeks a year. This way, you can fund your flights back home with the money generated from renting. It’s also added security too, as it means you don’t need to worry about leaving an empty house.