“Older Single Women Shouldn’t Retire Overseas,” And Other Myths Busted

“I’m an older single woman looking for a change. Is overseas retirement an option for me?”

This is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently as publisher of Live And Invest Overseas.

There’s a misconception, especially among older folks, that it’s uncommon for women to explore the world, whether as tourists or expats, on their own.

I’ve been covering the live, retire, and do business overseas beat for more than 30 years and have advised thousands of expats on their international relocations, so I know from personal experience that this isn’t the case.

Older single women are enjoying expat life in countries across the globe, from Panama to Portugal, Colombia to Cyprus, and beyond.

And the potential of overseas retirement—to enrich your lifestyle while lowering your cost of living—is just as available to them as it is to everyone else.

To illustrate this, I’m busting five of the most common myths I’ve heard about overseas retirement for older single women.

Myth #1: Living Overseas Isn’t Safe For Women

Safety is a top consideration when it comes to moving abroad.

It’s generally more of a concern for women than it is for men. The issue is that women, especially single women, can be seen as easier targets for crime than men.

Unfortunately, this applies no matter where in the world women go. It’s just as applicable in the United States as it is in Spain or Indonesia.

That said, many countries are safer than the United States. You may lower your likelihood of becoming a victim of crime by moving to a new country.

The United States ranks #131 in the 2023 Global Peace Index, in which “Societal Safety and Security” is one of the three domains used to measure the state of peace across 163 countries.

It’s possible that any of the 130 countries that precede the United States in the rankings could offer a safer environment for single women.

Of them, I’d recommend Ireland (#3), Portugal (#7), Slovenia (#8), Croatia (#14), Spain (#32), and Italy (#34) as excellent choices.

Myth #2: Isolation Is Worse For Singles Overseas

Moving to a new country where you have no acquaintances can be an isolating experience for anyone, regardless of age or gender.

This is especially true if you move to a place where the local language isn’t English.

Not being able to strike up a conversation with the cashier at the grocery store, your neighbor, or anyone else you might casually come into contact with is a unique form of loneliness.

Even where the locals speak English, integrating into a new society and starting your social life over from scratch aren’t easy.

This is where single people have an advantage. They tend to be more proactive about getting involved and meeting new people because they haven’t moved with someone they can fall back on for company.

Couples, on the other hand, tend to be more insular. Each person in the pair can become the other’s crutch for social interaction. Comparatively, single people tend to integrate into new communities faster.

Myth #3: It’s Difficult To Meet New People At This Age

Leaving family and long-standing friendships behind when you move overseas can be difficult, but it also opens the door to new relationships—often with interesting people from diverse backgrounds.

For many of my readers, the new friendships are what they enjoy most about their lives overseas. And contrary to popular belief, starting your social life over from scratch isn’t impossible.

Here are my top recommendations for older single women looking to meet new people overseas:

  • Study the local language. A non-English-speaking environment can be isolating, but it also creates an opportunity to socialize through language classes. Take in-person classes if they’re available. Your classmates will be other non-locals and possibly also recent arrivals. You’ll inevitably chat as you practice your new language skills. Picking up the basics of a new language also enables you to interact with locals.
  • Practice your hobbies. Retirement is your opportunity to dedicate time to the things you love. Ideally, these are also activities that put you in contact with other people who have similar interests. You’ll find interest-based groups, like book clubs, women’s groups, tennis associations, knitting clubs, running clubs, dance teams, golf communities, and so on, all over the world.
  • Try new things. Go to the local community center and see what events and classes are available. Try something new, like a dance class, a mix and mingle event, a self-defense workshop, or a choir group. Say yes to every invitation that comes your way. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone to work towards the life change you were hoping for when you decided to move overseas.
  • Join online communities. Whether you’re a fan of social media or not, it’s invaluable when you move to a new place. It allows you to start connecting with people before you even arrive. Most destinations will have an “Expats in [place name]” page on Facebook, which you can join to connect with others, learn about upcoming events, and get an understanding of the challenges of that place.
  • Volunteer and seek out your affiliations. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, learn about the local culture, and foster a sense of connection to the place where you’re living. It can also give you a sense of purpose—something new retirees often struggle with after leaving the workforce. You can seek out equivalents for whichever groups you were an affiliate of back home, whether that’s a certain religious group, a political organization, the Rotary Club, or something else.
  • Try online dating. Online dating is a low-stakes version of the traditional way of meeting people. You can be selective and have many conversations before you ever decide to meet with anyone in person. You don’t necessarily have to be in the market for a new partner to make the most of it, either. Some online dating apps let you select “friendship” as a preference in your dating profile. At the very least, you’ll have a conversation with someone new, which is what socializing is all about.

Myth #4: Moving Abroad Is Too Expensive For Singles

Being single is more expensive than being in a relationship. You have to foot every bill yourself, rather than sharing it with another person.

Again, this applies no matter where in the world you’re living—the United States or otherwise. But many attractive destinations overseas offer the opportunity to start out at proportionately lower monthly costs of living.

Life’s necessities—rent, utilities, groceries, and so on—can cost less in certain countries, which lets you allocate more funds to discretionary spending on the things that make you happy.

I recently highlighted five Latin American havens where couples can live well on $2,000 per month. You can cut these budgets by a quarter to figure out what it would cost for a single person to live in these locales. So if a couple can live comfortably on about $1,400 per month in Medellín, Colombia, a single can live there on about $1,050 per month.

As an aging person, you might be anticipating higher medical costs. Again, many countries offer lower-cost, higher-quality medical care than the United States. If you become a resident of a different country (like Portugal, for instance), much of the health care can even be free.

Myth #5: Older Women Aren’t As Respected Overseas

It’s incorrect to assume that you’ll receive more respect as an older single woman in the United States than you will overseas.

Western culture places a higher value on youth than most other cultures. The overall trend in elderly care in the United States has most older folks removed from society at a certain point.

This is not how things operate in every country around the world. Other cultures, particularly Asian ones, have traditions of treating older people with respect and consideration.

The family is still the center of society across many Latin American, Asian, and European cultures, and older people are visible participants in that society. In Andalusia, Spain, for instance, it’s common to see groups of elegantly dressed elderly ladies socializing over drinks in the town plaza.

You might be on the receiving end of more of the standard acts of chivalry as an older woman living overseas. People may hold the door open for you or offer you their seat on the train, for example.

This might be viewed as a form of sexism by some in the United States, but in many other cultures, it’s a sincere form of courtesy and politeness.

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