One of the positive side effects of a move abroad can be improved health for some people. For example, if you suffer from stress in your current job in the UK and you move abroad to a more relaxing place of employment, the positive knock on effects for your health could be massive. Alternatively, if you have arthritis and it’s made worse by damp living conditions, if you relocate to somewhere hot, sunny and not humid…again, you may enjoy improved health as a result.
However, the actual moving and relocating process can be quite a mental and physical challenge, and it should not be underestimated by anyone. Therefore, when you arrive in your new home nation it will be important for you to begin caring for your health now you’re abroad – and this report is applicable for all ages.
Whether you’re retiring to hopefully soak up some sunshine, or you’re moving with your family to find a new and better life overseas, healthcare in your new nation will be an important factor to consider, as will your requirement for health insurance – we will cover both in this report. However, one of the most fundamental things you can do is take an active interest in your own wellbeing, and so we’ll also be focusing on how you can stay healthy abroad.
Healthcare in Your New Nation Abroad
If you’re currently researching and trying to determine where in the world you would like to live, one of your key considerations should be healthcare - and the availability or otherwise of decent care in your chosen nation. If it’s too late and you’re already dead set on a move to a given country, it’s still important to retrospectively check out what’s available to you…so that if needs be, you can think about how you will access any care you could potentially require if it’s not available in your new country.
Most people don’t find out about the healthcare available in their new nation until they have to put it to the test – and in extreme cases, then it’s too late! So, we urge you to do your research, and if you have any medical conditions, to think long and hard before you move to a nation where care is rudimentary.
Most expat-favoured destinations in the world have very good health facilities – think France, Spain, Australia and Canada for example - but not all do. So, as stated, check and double check and have a backup plan.
Note, the NHS cannot be your backup plan if you’re going to become a resident abroad, because you will lose your right to free treatment under the NHS once you’re a permanent resident abroad. You can still return and opt to pay for treatment in the UK potentially, or in another nation closer to you, but you might not be in a financially viable position to do that.
Expatriate Health Insurance
One of the ways you can secure yourself treatment abroad is by having a comprehensive expat health insurance policy in place. Policies from insurers all differ – so, you can have a complete policy that will get you any treatment you need anywhere in the world, but that will cost you a significant sum of money! Alternatively and perhaps more sensibly, you can get quotes from a range of specialist insurers that you tailor to your own needs.
You will be able to keep costs down by limiting the countries you’re covered for healthcare in, you can reduce your outlay by limiting the number of conditions you’re covered for. Perhaps you’re in a nation where basic healthcare is ok and accessible freely to you, but where you may need to top up if you have a serious condition, and go private. Getting cover for such a situation in place may be affordable to you.
Other ways you can keep health insurance affordable is by increasing the excess you pay on any claim…and by staying healthy yourself. Which brings us neatly on to our final point, i.e., caring for your health abroad.
How to Care for Your Own Health and Wellbeing When You Expatriate
Expats and alcohol seem to go together like a horse and carriage! I.e., sitting around and boozing is synonymous with the expat lifestyle – whether you’re moving to work as an executive in Dubai or you’re retiring to Cyprus, whether you’re moving the whole family down under, or you’re pioneering and teaching in Japan or volunteering in Africa. However, as we all know, excessive drinking is bad for our health!
Alcohol in limited volumes can be fun, good for the soul, a relaxant and the oil on the wheels of social interaction – but you need to keep a close eye on the amount you imbibe each week! Sensible drinking is just that – drinking sensible amounts in a sensible way! Don’t become a boozy expat, there’s way more to your new nation!
Smoking is of course the other health time bomb – there are countries where it is far more acceptable and far cheaper to smoke than our own, but these should not be reasons for you to take up, extend or do anything other than kick your habit. Smoking kills – it says so on every single packet of cigarettes. It also adds on a massive premium to your health insurance policy every single month! So, save yourself some money and save yourself some quality living time on this planet and quit.
With those two obviously dangerous issues out of the way, it’s time to target stress – which is the silent wellbeing-eroding factor for expats. The majority of us choose to move abroad to get and enjoy a much better life – however, in the chaos that ensues as we uproot our lives and transport them around the world and plonk them down in a foreign environment, stress builds up. It may be relatively imperceptible at first, as we just increase the amount we sigh and we perhaps lose our temper a little more easily than we did!
But as we take on ever increasing challenges as we learn a new language, the ways of a new culture, the ways round a new city and the way into a new life, so stress can grow and cause damage to us internally. This damage can be physical and mental – and it can be lasting. So, you have to stop stress in its tracks. To do so is straightforward: -
1) You have to be careful you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Don’t take on too many tasks in one day. Yes, you could have mastered a whole list of chores in your old life, but this is your new life and it comes with more challenges…so go easy and restrict yourself to one piece of bureaucracy a day!
2) Ask for help from your spouse as and when you need it. You will both be coping with new challenges, but you can each support each other too. Don’t be afraid to ask – as a woman I know that we are constantly stunned that men can’t recognise when we need their help and support. But it’s not their fault! We have to openly, directly and politely ask!
3) Actively remember what it was about your new life you so longed for – and remind yourself that you have your dream every single day. Just actively saying ‘thank you’ for all the good things you have in your life actually helps. It doesn’t magically make the ‘bad’ stuff disappear, but it refocuses your thoughts on the positive, and that just makes life so much easier to live.
4) Don’t rush around – you don’t have to achieve complete integration in a day! You have the whole of the rest of your life to get everything in order, so take your time and don’t rush.
5) Prioritise – if you have a whole heap of tasks to complete, just prioritise them. Some will actually be more pressing than others – so complete them first and ‘worry’ about the rest later. Don’t hold everything in your mind – you will get breathless just thinking about your task list! It’s not necessary, healthy, feasible or sensible.
Perhaps you’re living in a country where the beautiful and great outdoors is more accessible to you because there is more of it, you live closer to it and the weather is just more conducive for you getting out there and grabbing life by the horns. So, what are you waiting for? Swim in the sea every day – or enjoy your pool in the back yard each morning before work. Take a hike in the mountains at the weekend – find a sport-based activity you can enjoy that will keep you fit and active. Even if it’s just walking your dog – because I read a survey recently that showed dog owners work out more in a week than those who have a gym membership card instead of a dog!
If you’ve retired overseas you have less of an excuse to keep active! And part of your activities need to keep your mind active too – yes, relaxing and enjoying life is part of being retired, but again, that doesn’t mean sitting by your pool downing margaritas all day long! So, get out and meet people, take up a hobby, join a class or a group, find what you want to learn about and find out how you can learn about it! Even if there is nothing to do in your new home nation – there are distance study courses from colleges all over the world. You have no excuses!
Making the decision to go abroad for a better life is a very good step on the road to improved wellbeing and better health – so don’t unravel it all by failing to check out the healthcare facilities, by failing to insure your health and by not taking all the positive opportunities available to you once you have relocated for enjoying a better quality of life!
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Fri, September 23, 2011 at 09:23 AM
Am 70 and have lived and am working in Germany for the past 10 years and have paid NH contributions up to 65. I am still working 25 hrs part time. My monthly senior citizen pension amounts to 300 each month which I find extremely hard to live on and have to rely on spouses salary. Medical expenses are covered by the OAK. I now have to pay over 800 Euro for glasses can I claim something towards the cost from the NHS your help would be appreciated.David Kerslake.