5. Ireland | Score: 88
Known as the Land of a Thousand Welcomes — which just about says it all — the Emerald Isle also boasts energetic nightlife. In this English-speaking member of the EU, retirees can engage in everyday life without feeling part of the expatriate community. They can join local clubs and societies and easily engage their neighbors in conversation.
4. Malta | Score: 90
This southern European island country in the Mediterranean Sea has been a member of the EU for 16 years. Valletta, the capital, has the warmest winter temperatures of any capital city on the continent. English is widely spoken. Malta’s café culture has an Italian flavor. The country is abuzz with opera, rock concerts, food festivals and craft beer tastings. Perhaps most important, the locals are friendly and down to earth.
3. Costa Rica | Score: 91
This Central American country is a longtime destination for expatriates, their communities spread across the country, especially in the Central Valley (the epicenter for museums, theater and ballet, art galleries, sports and on and on) and beach areas. The native Costa Ricans — they call themselves “Ticos” — are welcoming, especially to those who are open to speaking some Spanish and embracing their traditions. Social media makes it easy to learn about what’s going on locally.
2. Portugal | Score: 91
North Americans are discovering Portugal’s low costs, historic towns, warm climate and varied landscapes. This EU country is rich in culture, from Gothic cathedrals to well-preserved Roman ruins. Retirees can visit its superb wine-growing regions, laze on the sands of the Portuguese Riviera or cavort in national forests. Health clubs and spas are scattered around the country.
1. Mexico | Score: 96
More American expatriates flock to Mexico than to just about anywhere else in the world, some moving to the country full time and some in the winter months — U.S. citizens can stay six months at a time on a tourist visa. Upward of 1.5 million Americans and Canadians make their home in numerous destinations around Mexico. Retirees will have no trouble making friends with fellow expats and their Mexican neighbors. Activities abound wherever they may settle, from traditional celebrations and live-music festivals to clubs for every activity.
So, you’re an American about to retire, and you’re thinking it might be nice to live abroad. You’ve found a desirable country, and you’ve done your homework: visas and residence, check; cost of living, check; health care, check.
But one question remains: Will I fit in with the locals? How long will it take?
International Living understands this concern, and includes it as a factor in compiling its annual Global Retirement Index, a tool to help people looking to live abroad.
The index’s Fitting In and Entertainment category points to locations where it is easiest for retirees to get comfortable quickly, make friends and connect in the community. It considers the character of the expatriate community, whether English is widely spoken and how easy it is for a single person or member of the LGBT community to acclimate.
“It’s important to feel comfortable in your new home abroad,” Jennifer Stevens, executive editor of International Living, said in a statement. “Of course, 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.”
See the gallery for the five countries International Living ranked highest on a 100-point scale as the easiest destinations for retirees to fit in.
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