Being here in what’s become known as Dordogneshire because of its popularity with British expats has made me reflect on one of my retirement dreams.
I’ve often thought I’d like to join the 7,500 “Rosbifs” – as the French allegedly call us – living among the rolling hills and rivers of Perigord.
Altogether 153,000 Brits are officially registered as living in France with Charente, Haute-Vienne next door to Dordogne, Côte d’Armor in northern Brittany and, of course, Paris being other popular destinations for Brits.
Now I feel forced to be here with not a lot to do because of the changes to our holiday plans there’s a little part of me that hankers for home.
Would I actually enjoy living here away from friends and family, unable to speak the language, living with the huge cultural differences and all the frustrations that brings.
I’d love the sunshine, of course, and what feels like a slower pace of life. I’d like the fact that a new base would open up a whole new world of destinations. Here, I’m just a few hours drive from the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts and not much further from Spain, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.
I thought I’d see what research has been done to see whether retired Brits are actually happier leaving behind their warm beer, chicken tikka masala and Daily Mail.
The short answer is ‘yes’ according to research by Natwest International, carried out in 2009, which finds that 71 per cent of expats who have retired abroad think they made the right decision.
67% of expats surveyed by the bank said they thought they were happier abroad than they would have been in the UK, while 58% agreed that their experiences abroad were better than expected.
The survey divided retired expats into two groups: “silver expats”, who spent their working life the UK but retired abroad, and “lifer expats”, who tended to retire in a country they had previously worked in.
The survey found that “silver expats” were more likely to retire in Europe, while “lifer expats” often moved further afield to places including New Zealand, the USA and Canada.
Interestingly, only 9% of “lifer expats”, said they would consider returning to the UK, while “silver expats” were almost twice as likely to consider moving back (16%).
And, despite the much joked about tendency of British expats to group together when abroad, 92% of retirees claimed not to live within an “established expat community”.
Dave Isley, head of NatWest International Personal Banking, said: “Our latest UK expatriate study has revealed that retiring abroad is still very much a popular choice and expats are happy with their chosen life paths.
“It’s encouraging to see that the majority of expats believe they made the right decision in retiring abroad and are living their chosen dream.”
That’s encouraging to read particularly the low figure for those who see themselves as “likely to consider moving back” which I think is the most telling question.
For me, right now, it’s a pipe dream because I know I wouldn’t want to up sticks and move without trying the lifestyle first. Owning two properties is unaffordable for me as my business income continues to drop and I want to make sure I’ve got enough to live on between now and when my pensions kick in.
It’s always there though in the back of my mind as an option though particularly come January when the British winter seems to be taking far too long.