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Anyone Thinking of Retiring to France or Italy?
Old 06-26-2010, 09:01 PM   #1
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Anyone Thinking of Retiring to France or Italy?

The idea is really starting to appeal to me. I think the Euros generally have a vastly healthier outlook on life and what is truly important. I think they are for the most part far happier and content than Americans. They value quality of life, culture, education and tolerance--and not just for those that can afford them. I honestly don't see those attributes in America much anymore.

I don't mind if I have to live in a smaller home, drive a smaller car, or own less in the way of material things. A simpler, more modest and less consumptive life appeals to me.

I wouldn't give up my citizenship, though--I love America--it's Americans I can't stand. (Just joking!).

France or Italy are the favorites now, but I could easily consider Spain or Portugal.

Actually, New Zealand would be my top choice, but I think there is no way I could convince DW to relocate that far away.

I'm sure there are probably some naturalized Americans from Europe on these forums who will tell me how awful Europe is. Anyway, this is what I'm pondering at the moment. Would love to hear everyone's thoughts.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:03 PM   #2
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I really liked spending time in rural France and rural Italy. I don't know what it would cost to settle there in retirement, but it sounds wonderful if it's possible.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:33 PM   #3
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I don't mind if I have to live in a smaller home, drive a smaller car, or own less in the way of material things. A simpler, more modest and less consumptive life appeals to me.
How would you deal with health care, unless you or your wife are EU citizens?

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Old 06-26-2010, 09:37 PM   #4
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How would you deal with health care, unless you or your wife are EU citizens?

Ha
Health care is very affordable in France or Italy, even for non-citizens (and the health care is ranked #1 and 2 in the world respectively).

Luckily, I will have health insurance from my job--it carries over into retirement.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:38 PM   #5
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I am from Europe (France / Switzerland), and I would never say that Europe is awful. Like any other place, there are advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I would love to live in Europe again, though I am very happy to live in America for the time being. However, I do not believe it to be true that Europeans value tolerance any more than Americans do. The far right has been making advances in almost all European countries over the past decades.

If you are looking for low cost of living areas in France, I would recommend the center of the country. Paris, border areas (especially near the German and Swiss borders) as well as costal areas (especially south, west and southwest) tend to be most expensive.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:42 PM   #6
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I am from Europe (France / Switzerland), and I would never say that Europe is awful. Like any other place, there are advantages and disadvantages. Personally, I would love to live in Europe again, though I am very happy to live in America for the time being. However, I do not believe it to be true that Europeans value tolerance any more than Americans do. The far right has been making advances in almost all European countries over the past decades.

If you are looking for low cost of living areas in France, I would recommend the center of the country. Paris, border areas (especially near the German and Swiss borders) as well as costal areas (especially south, west and southwest) tend to be most expensive.
Thanks for your response. Regarding the resurgence of the far right in Europe, you are correct, but their numbers are way way less than what we have in America. At least for now.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:57 AM   #7
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I don't live there but I have friends that did. One couple from Monteray CA lived in Antequera Spain for three years, just 40 miles from the coast in Andalusia.

Another couple, originally from Denver, hired a villa in Provence 50 miles from Nice.

Both loved the slower pace of life and family values. No steel and glass highrises to be seen.

We are trying Lucca in Tuscany in September. Renting a 3br villa with 2 other couples inside the walled town.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:18 PM   #8
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Thanks for your response. Regarding the resurgence of the far right in Europe, you are correct, but their numbers are way way less than what we have in America. At least for now.
The far right, like the far left, can be annoying in any country. But I assume that annoying people isn't the only reason that you're thinking of moving from the USA. If that were the case, you'd be disappointed no matter where you live.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:51 PM   #9
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Be aware that if you retire to France, you will hit a HUGE language barrier. Your peers will, for the most part, not only speak essentially NO English, they will also be able to read and understand no English either. Indeed, among a lot of French people over 50, not speaking English is a point of pride.

I doubt if things are much different in Italy, either, except perhaps for the pride bit.

You and your wife will need to really, really enjoy each others' company, because until you've learned enough French to be able to make friends - which is to say, way more than you need to know to be able to go shopping - you are going to be spending a lot of time talking to each other.

Of course, in all of the countries which you mentioned, there are substantial communities of retired foreigners, including few Americans but quite a lot of Brits. So at least you'll have someone who you can understand, although you need to know that Brits, and particularly older Brits, often hold some pretty boneheaded views about Americans. But if you end up in one of those communities, you could be surrounded by people who had more or less the exact attitudes which you wanted to get away from. Check out these bozos, for example.
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:15 PM   #10
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Be aware that if you retire to France, you will hit a HUGE language barrier. Your peers will, for the most part, not only speak essentially NO English, they will also be able to read and understand no English either. Indeed, among a lot of French people over 50, not speaking English is a point of pride.

I doubt if things are much different in Italy, either, except perhaps for the pride bit.

You and your wife will need to really, really enjoy each others' company, because until you've learned enough French to be able to make friends - which is to say, way more than you need to know to be able to go shopping - you are going to be spending a lot of time talking to each other.

Of course, in all of the countries which you mentioned, there are substantial communities of retired foreigners, including few Americans but quite a lot of Brits. So at least you'll have someone who you can understand, although you need to know that Brits, and particularly older Brits, often hold some pretty boneheaded views about Americans. But if you end up in one of those communities, you could be surrounded by people who had more or less the exact attitudes which you wanted to get away from. Check out these bozos, for example.
Big Nick, you clearly know this territory! Some odd things can happen. Sometimes the man, or the woman, will be much more outgoing and pick up the language much more quickly. Since language and communication is the nexus of life, the fast learner will to some exent draw away from the other. I had young retired friends who retied to Lyon. He did wonderfully, eventually was invited to join a weekly men's dinner club and other local institutions. She never really learned anything. She was Greek, and really learned very little English while they were living in the states.

To me at least, expat communities mostly consisting of retired people are about as appealing as nursing homes.

Ha
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:31 PM   #11
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Be aware that if you retire to France, you will hit a HUGE language barrier. Your peers will, for the most part, not only speak essentially NO English, they will also be able to read and understand no English either. Indeed, among a lot of French people over 50, not speaking English is a point of pride.
You are correct. We are a proud people, sometimes to a fault, I'll admit it. We are passionate about protecting our food, our wines, our language, our culture and our way of life. I think that if you are unwilling to share our passion, then you probably won't enjoy living in France very much.
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:39 PM   #12
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Retiring in France is something I have considered. As FD said, the cost of living is lowest in the centre of the country, and the quality of life is equally high. Ability to speak conversational French would be essential and one could become fluent with practice.

My principal reason for hesitation would be bureaucratic hassle. For example, leaving Canada would generate a significant tax bill. I am an EU citizen but would not be entitled to health benefits in France as I would not be coming from another EU country. However, even private healthcare in France is quite accessible and of a high standard....even if there is an overemphasis on medicating for optimal bowel habits and liver health!

I believe International Living magazine has some good info on retiring in France and has frequently rated it the best country to retire to.

I would certainly consider renting a villa for a prolonged stay before making any decisions.
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:41 PM   #13
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You are correct. We are a proud people, sometimes to a fault, I'll admit it.
Tiens, t'es français[e]? Rien vu dans ton profil...
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:44 PM   #14
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Old 06-27-2010, 03:00 PM   #15
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Don't see myself as an ex-pat. Might do a few months here or there, however.

I don't pay much attention to all the left-wing this, right-wing that. Never saw things in black-and-white, and don't watch the news.
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Old 06-27-2010, 04:07 PM   #16
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The idea is really starting to appeal to me. I think the Euros generally have a vastly healthier outlook on life and what is truly important. I think they are for the most part far happier and content than Americans. They value quality of life, culture, education and tolerance--and not just for those that can afford them. I honestly don't see those attributes in America much anymore.

I don't mind if I have to live in a smaller home, drive a smaller car, or own less in the way of material things. A simpler, more modest and less consumptive life appeals to me.

I wouldn't give up my citizenship, though--I love America--it's Americans I can't stand. (Just joking!).

France or Italy are the favorites now, but I could easily consider Spain or Portugal.

Actually, New Zealand would be my top choice, but I think there is no way I could convince DW to relocate that far away.

I'm sure there are probably some naturalized Americans from Europe on these forums who will tell me how awful Europe is. Anyway, this is what I'm pondering at the moment. Would love to hear everyone's thoughts.
I couldn't agree with you more. I've spent time in Europe and have many Europeans friend. In fact, I will have a french family at my house in a few weeks and I can certainly say that they know how to live life. They do not confuse having lots of material possessions with quality of life. We Americans love to view ourselves as having a superior life and living in the greatest country on earth but unless we are fortunate enough to leave these shores, we'll never know the difference. Wouldn't be nice to spend 4 weeks at the beach and not having to run back to work after one week?
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Old 06-28-2010, 03:40 PM   #17
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... unless we are fortunate enough to leave these shores, we'll never know the difference. Wouldn't be nice to spend 4 weeks at the beach and not having to run back to work after one week?
When we stayed in Antequera with our friends, their social circle was expat Brits even though they could speak Spanish. The natives did not want to befriend foreigners. It was not the language. It was the culture.

I think the reason the snowbird locations work so well is that everyone there is from somewhere else, and associating with other snowbirds is no problem. In coastal Spain, it is the Brits.
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Old 06-30-2010, 09:02 AM   #18
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My wife and I have spent much time in France and Italy over the years, though none in the past few with the prohibitively high Euro (though have been licking our chops lately). She was an au pair in her college days and speaks pretty fluent French, while I am way behind.

We had long conversations about retiring over there with a French woman and her American husband who live full-time in the Lake Chapala are of Mexico. They pointed out that for the most part those of us who visit, say, Provence or Tuscany in the spring or fall are already having the best possible experience of those areas. Living there is another matter entirely, for several reasons:

1. Outside of big cities (e.g. Paris, Lyons, or, say, Milan or Rome) the culture in those small villages so lovely to visit is insular in the extreme, often working class and uneducated, and as an outsider you will never fit in or be truly welcomed - even if you are fluent, which is mandatory (and unlikely).

2. Winters are long, dreary, and rainy, and unlike the U.S. where we are used to climate-controlled everything you will most likely freeze your butt off in winter (and broil in the un-airconditioned summers).

3. While health care is indeed far cheaper and better, other costs are much higher than in the U.S. If you're coming from San Francisco or NYC this will not apply, but otherwise be prepared to spend twice as much on food and drink (albeit for incomparably better quality) and to watch your utility use like a hawk. Not having a car, or buying a beater will help you fit in and save $, but that's sometimes a difficult transition for we car-crazy Americans.

If you stick to big cities some of these problems are mitigated, but most people we know fall in love with small villages or towns, where you are unlikely to find expats except as tourists during the warm months. The thing is even if you master the language (which for Americans is extremely unlikely) there is a huge cultural divide that is difficult to overcome. The rule of thumb we discovered living in Mexico I think applies anywhere you might live as an expat: your long-term happiness with the locale will mostly be a product of what sort of friendships you have with people from your home country who live in your chosen expat community. There are exceptions of course, and marrying into the host culture changes everything.
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Old 06-30-2010, 11:01 AM   #19
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1. Outside of big cities (e.g. Paris, Lyons, or, say, Milan or Rome) the culture in those small villages so lovely to visit is insular in the extreme, often working class and uneducated, and as an outsider you will never fit in or be truly welcomed - even if you are fluent, which is mandatory (and unlikely).
Yep. We bought a house and lived in a village of 500 people for 13 years. Towards the end we were on first-name, "tu" rather than "vous" terms with perhaps 20 people. Pretty well everyone else had been to school with each other, as had their parents, as had their grandparents. And we are both totally fluent in French - as in, we work in French, all day, every day.
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2. Winters are long, dreary, and rainy, and unlike the U.S. where we are used to climate-controlled everything you will most likely freeze your butt off in winter (and broil in the un-airconditioned summers).
Heating is generally OK but A/C is pretty much unknown in European homes. I'm not sure if "long, dreary, and rainy" is much worse than in Michigan or Maine, though. In the South of France you can often sunbathe - until 3:30 pm, anyway - in November and March.
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3. While health care is indeed far cheaper and better, other costs are much higher than in the U.S. If you're coming from San Francisco or NYC this will not apply, but otherwise be prepared to spend twice as much on food and drink (albeit for incomparably better quality) and to watch your utility use like a hawk. Not having a car, or buying a beater will help you fit in and save $, but that's sometimes a difficult transition for we car-crazy Americans.
I was surprised to see in another thread people complaining how dining out can "top out over $100 for 4 people". When we go out on a Friday to our local restaurant, we will generally spend (total charge) close to $100 for two, with a main course each (lol @ US use of the word "entrée"), sharing a starter and a dessert, and wine. Of course, it's a nice meal, but it's nothing special. Once a year we splurge and go somewhere like this (that's about $200 per person for the "blow out" menu, but there's no point in having anything else!), for which there is no equivalent anywhere...

On the car thing: gas right now is three times the US price (pushing $7.50 per US gallon) over here. If oil goes up a lot, the percentage difference will drop, because so much of our gas price is tax. But even with the better mileage which you can expect from a European-spec car (a 2-litre engine is still considered to be at the desirable end of the range for most people), you will be lucky to spend less than $0.25 per mile on gas.
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Old 06-30-2010, 11:14 AM   #20
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1. Outside of big cities (e.g. Paris, Lyons, or, say, Milan or Rome) the culture in those small villages so lovely to visit is insular in the extreme, often working class and uneducated, and as an outsider you will never fit in or be truly welcomed - even if you are fluent, which is mandatory (and unlikely).
You could write the same thing about small American towns and probably most of the world's small towns. Heck, last time I visited a small Appalachian town, I was greeted with shot guns.
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