Retiring in another country can be a daunting experience. From the culture shock to the new language, picking up the essential skills to survive in a new country can be a real challenge, especially during your retirement. From East Asian mega-cities to the beach destinations of Southeast Asia, it can be hard to adjust to new surroundings.
However, a lot of the difficulties of retiring in an Asian country can be overcome by picking a good destination. While country living has its obvious advantages, it can be a lot easier to ‘transition’ to a new lifestyle in a major city. This is particular true in a city with a large English-speaking community and useful modern conveniences.
These five cities satisfy the ‘expatriate criteria’ – widely spoken English, convenient transportation, modern shopping conveniences, friendly people, and great food. For an East Asian retirement destination that won’t leave you in complete culture shock, try one of these convenient and charming cities.
1. Bangkok, Thailand
Thailand’s capital offers one of the best combinations of modern convenience and developing world affordability that we’ve ever seen. This huge and vibrant city has some of the world’s best restaurants and bars within its borders, as well as a huge selection of large public parks, great shopping malls, and convenient transportation.
All this in a city with an incredibly low cost of living. While Bangkok is undoubtedly growing more expensive as the years go by, it remains one of the world’s cheapest cities when you consider its sheer size and economic might. From hundred-dollar apartments to million-dollar penthouses, Bangkok offers something for everyone.
While Thailand’s native language is difficult for foreign retirees to learn, many of the capital’s residents speak passable English. Street signs are written in dual Thai and English characters, public transportation is announced in both languages, and life is routinely conducted in both English and Thai in this vibrant mega-city.
2. Manila, Philippines
The Philippines’ capital city may not win any awards for natural beauty, but it does score well on the cost of living scale. One of the cheapest large cities in the world, a luxury condominium in Manila can cost as little as a tiny bedroom in New York. This vibrant city is growing up quickly, but it’s still a popular spot for foreign retirees.
Manila’s largest advantage is its Western-focused culture and its huge community of residents that speak fluent English. One of few destinations in Southeast Asia with a truly giant English speaking population, Manila is an easy city to integrate into as an outsider – something that can’t be said for many other East Asian cities.
However, Manila does have its downsides. While the city is generally affordable, the popular districts such as Makati City are growing increasingly expensive. Due to the high crime rates of many other city districts and the general low standard of living, most expatriates and retirees are willing to spend more for a good location.
3. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Known for its beautiful skyline and fantastic food scene, Kuala Lumpur is home to a vibrant international community made up of retirees and working expatriates. One of Southeast Asia’s few truly international cities, Kuala Lumpur is home to several ethnic and cultural groups, all of whom make up Malaysia’s greater culture.
Kuala Lumpur is a great choice for retirees that want the ‘big city feel’ of Bangkok or Manila without the wild nightlife of the Thai capital or the crime issues of the capital of the Philippines. Malaysia’s biggest city, both economically and numerically, Kuala Lumpur is truly the nation’s center of culture, shopping, and general living.
With numerous beautiful parks, an efficient and inexpensive transport system, and some of the cheapest housing in a major city anywhere, Kuala Lumpur is a city that is both livable and affordable. From the Petronas Twin Towers to the exciting Bukit Bintang district, Kuala Lumpur offers modern style and fun, albeit tame, nightlife.
4. Hong Kong, China
Despite the high cost of living, Hong Kong is still a great choice for retirees. Home to some of the world’s largest companies and international firms, Hong Kong provides an international lifestyle that just isn’t popular in some of Asia’s other cities. With its beautiful harbor and iconic skyline, Hong Kong is a great city for a fun lifestyle.
Hong Kong has several major advantages for retirees. Firstly, it’s one of the world’s lowest tax zones, with virtually no taxes levied on foreign-based income. This low-tax status has made it a great location for high-earning retirees with ample assets.
Secondly, Hong Kong – despite its reputation as a concrete jungle – is home to many country parks and natural reserves. From beautiful beaches to lush jungle, this huge city is also a great place for nature lovers, hikers, and outdoor photographers.
Hong Kong’s major downside is its cramped living spaces and its high cost of living, particularly for retirees seeking a home in the inner city. However, this region’s low taxes and great international connections make it the ideal location for high-income retirees with major investments.
5. Singapore, Singapore
While Singapore scores no points for living costs, this beautiful island gains a lot thanks to its large English-speaking population and international links. A rapidly growing financial hotspot in Southeast Asia, Singapore’s relatively open foreign immigration system makes it an easy country for wealthy retirees to move to.
For retirees with the budget to enjoy its best locations, Singapore offers fresh air and convenient living that’s tough to find in other Asian cities. This island city has one of the highest standards of living in the region. Finally, Singapore is one of the region’s biggest air hubs, making travel to and from other countries very simple.
Despite its high cost of living relative to many other destinations, Singapore is a fairly affordable city when compared to Europe’s big population centers. With a great food culture, good entertainment, and fantastic cleanliness, Singapore is a wonderful city for foreign retirees seeking a simple yet convenient life.