5 Easiest Places to Retire Overseas in 2021: Best Havens for Fitting in Fast—InternationalLiving.com

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A new report from International Living pinpoints the top 5 retirement havens around the world where it’s easiest to “fit in.” IL’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2021 ranks and rates 25 countries across 10 categories, including “Fitting in and Entertainment,” which considers the character of the expat community, whether English is widely spoken, how easy it is for a single or LGBTQ+ person to acclimate, how welcoming locals are, and more.

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

"It’s important to feel comfortable in a new home abroad. But at the same time, settling in can be a challenge. And in some places, it’s simply easier to do than in others."

When planning a retirement overseas, many factors come into play. Low costs, affordable real estate, and high-quality healthcare are some of the main concerns…but what about being able to mix well with the community or make friends with the locals and other expats?

It’s important to feel comfortable in a new home abroad. Certainly, part of the adventure—and the attraction—of retiring to a new country is discovering new customs, new foods, new people. But at the same time, settling in can be a challenge. And in some places, it’s simply easier to do than in others.

The countries that rank the highest in the Fitting-in and Entertainment category of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2021 are….

5. Ireland

Ireland takes the fifth spot in the Fitting-in and Entertainment category of the Annual Global Retirement Index this year, scoring 86 out of 100. Known as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes, it not surprising to see Ireland scores highly.

Why move to Ireland when many other countries seem to offer more in terms of inexpensive living, easy lifestyle, warmer climates, and so on.

“Ireland has everything you could want and more,” says IL contributor John Morris. “An equable climate, never too hot or too cold, it is geographically quite small so you can drive anywhere in a day, and probably back too. This means that everywhere is easily accessible; whether it be the rugged beauty of County Cork, the award-winning beaches of Kerry, or the majestic Cliffs of Moher at the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean.

“Or perhaps you want the city life: theaters, cinemas, Michelin-star restaurants, coffee shops, world-class shopping, and pubs. In Ireland—the home of Guinness and other premier brews—pubs often provide live, foot tapping music, good wholesome food, and something else too, something not found anywhere else in the world.

“Here in Ireland we have craic (pronounced “crack”). This term rightly conjures up images of fun, partying, great gossip and wild entertainment. But it means much more than that; the Irish poet W.B. Yeats said, ‘There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.’ Which accurately sums up the warm and welcoming attitude of the Irish towards their fellow man. And this could be you!”

According to International Living, a couple could live comfortably in Ireland for around $2,700 a month.

4. Portugal

Long an under-the-radar destination, today Portugal’s low costs, historic towns, warm weather, and varied landscapes are attracting North Americans in increasing numbers.

With miles of coastline beach lovers can enjoy water sports like, surfing, body boarding, wind surfing, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. For those that prefer to stay inland there are trails that offer hiking, biking, jogging, and walking. Explore medieval towns, castles, palaces, Roman ruins, churches, and forts. Museum goers will love the wide variety of museums found here—many of which offer discounts to those over age 65.

“Fitting in here has been far easier than other countries where we have lived or visited,” says Terry Coles, IL Portugal Correspondent. “Europeans come in all colors, shapes, sizes, ethnicities, and speak many languages. And because there is such a large population of English speakers from the United Kingdom here, the Portuguese are accustomed to hearing English spoken.

“The first time we looked at a house to rent here in Portugal, we were greeted with double cheeked kisses by a short, chubby, older woman wearing a house dress. Although we had never met before and she spoke no English, she welcomed us with open arms. As we looked around her house, my husband, Clyde, and I had an immediate feeling that we were home. This is where we were meant to be.

“This is typical of how foreigners are treated in Portugal. The people are warm and wonderful, always willing to lend a hand or offer fresh vegetables and fruits from their garden.

“Portugal has a great infrastructure with perfectly paved roads, crystal, clear water to drink, shopping malls galore, and English is spoken by many. Some television shows that were originally broadcast in the U.S. in English, are shown here with subtitles. Movie theaters offer first run films, shown in their original language, usually English with Portuguese subtitles. The price of a movie is about $7 for a regular ticket and $4.50 for a senior citizen.”

According to International Living, a couple could live comfortably in Portugal for around $2,500 a month.

3. Malta

Picturesque Malta is anchored almost in the center of the Mediterranean Sea, 60 miles from the Italian island of Sicily. Malta is known for its warm and sunny climate, peaceful lifestyle, and rich cultural offerings—a coveted destination for centuries.

Malta takes third place with 90 points in the Fitting-in and Entertainment category of this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index.

“The Maltese are friendly, helpful, and welcoming,” says IL contributor Mary Charlebois. “Over the centuries, Malta has been conquered by twelve nations. Each left behind their language, food, religion, knowledge, and traditions; as a result, The Maltese are open and accepting of all cultures, nationalities, races, creeds, and economic status.”

“Life in Malta is easy going. Family life is central, and the community spirit is strong. Don’t be surprised when someone you’ve just met invites you to their home for a cold drink, or to join a table of locals in a sidewalk café.

“Malta is a sociable place with deep cultural roots. Art, music, food, history, village bands, sports, walking groups, nature lovers, expats, even American car lovers have clubs, associations, festivals, celebrations, presentations, classes, and more.

"Find a group that shares one of your interests and join. You’ll be involved in your community and something you love and fitting-in like a local before you know it.”

According to International Living, a couple could live comfortably in Malta for around $2,300 a month.

2. Costa Rica

When researching the possibility of moving abroad, the top drivers for people are typically a lower cost-of-living, access to affordable healthcare, and better weather, among others. However, it is also important to consider how easy it is to fit in. Leaving a social circle of family and friends back home, can leave a void, so it may come as a relief to understand that Costa Rica is an easy place for expats to fit in.

“There are several factors working in your favor when searching for your ‘tribe’ when you initially move to Costa Rica,” says Kathleen Evans, IL Costa Rica Correspondent.

“There have been North American and European expat pioneers to Costa Rica for the last several decades, paving the way for retirees and those seeking a new adventure abroad. Over 27,800 North Americans have obtained their legal residency in Costa Rica and easily another estimated 27,000 are part-timers, vacation home owners, or investors. This community makes life for new arrivals easy for meeting new friends and finding a number of activities. These folks have been through the adjustment period and, for the most part, will be very helpful.

“Of course, it is not just the expats who will be great resources. Costa Ricans or ticos are known for their warm and welcoming personalities. It is part of the pura vida culture. So, don’t be surprised when your new neighbors invite you to their child’s birthday party or when they surround your car when it breaks down in order to help you fix it. They are simply lovely people that way. Plus, it never hurts to have an interpreter friend if your command of the Spanish language is challenged.

“If you shop at the local stores and markets, it is easy to meet the vendors and owners who will make time to chat with you. Every sizable town and city host a weekly feria or farmer’s market. This is always a great opportunity to stock up on produce, sundries, bread, etc., but also to socialize with your local community. It is a much a social event as a shopping trip.”

According to International Living, a couple could live comfortably in Costa Rica for around $2,000 a month.

Winner: Mexico

Mexico claims the top spot in the Fitting in and Entertainment category of this year’s Annual Global Retirement Index, scoring 94 points.

Retirees and other expats have been settling in Mexico for 60 years or more. There is a long history of Americans and Canadians traveling to the country, or living there full or part-time, including many snowbirds. This all means that Mexican people are used to having foreigners around and that things are “set up,” so to speak, for new arrivals.

Other factors at play here are that the U.S. and Mexico share a very long border, the two countries are a huge trading partners, and the proximity means that people have gone back and forth centuries, along with their culture, language, traditions, food and more. Americans know a lot about Mexican culture and vice-versa. Living there, expats find many familiar brands, products, and stores in Mexico, everything from Home Depot to Skippy Peanut Butter.

Finally, due to the influence of tourism and the fact that many Mexicans have lived and worked in the U.S., means that there are a lot of English speakers in the country, from doctors to shopkeepers, especially in popular tourist destinations. Transplants who don’t speak much or any Spanish won’t be totally lost.

“The large and welcoming expat community make it an easy transition,” says Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor.

“There are an estimated 1 million expats from the U.S. and more than a half-million from Canada living in Mexico full- or part-time, with plenty of people from other parts of the globe too. They come from different parts of their respective countries, have different backgrounds… there are families, retirees, businesspeople… yet, everybody pretty much gets along. And when you move to Mexico it’s easy to integrate yourself in not just the local culture but also the expat community.

“These communities are very active. There are happy hours, Saturday morning breakfasts, sports leagues for pickleball and tennis, card games, book clubs, hiking clubs, volunteer work… no shortage of things to do and places to meet new friends. And that’s just the start. Go to any expat hotspot, and you’ll find the hangouts and a whole host of activities to take part in.”

According to International Living, a couple could live comfortably in Mexico for less than $2,000 a month.

More details on the top five countries in the Fitting In and Entertainment category of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2021 can be found here: 5 Great Places to Retire Where it’s Easy to Fit In.

International Living’s complete 2021 Annual Global Retirement Index can be found at: The World's Best Places to Retire in 2021.

Members of the media have permission to republish the article linked above once credit is given to Internationalliving.com.

Further information, as well as interviews with expert authors for radio, TV or print, is available on request. Photos are also available.

For information about InternationalLiving.com content republishing, source material or to book an interview with one of our experts, contact Editorial Director for Web Content, Social Media, and PR, Donal Lucey, dlucey@internationalliving.com.

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About International Living

Since 1979, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has contributors traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

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