Living and Investing in Europe
Europe has not been as attractive as an expat haven cost-wise as it once was. True Eastern Europe has better bargains than Western Europe, but the cost of living overall is greater in Europe than in South America or the Asia-Pacific region. What might be called ‘high culture’ is of course richer in Europe–it’s certainly more intellectual and diverse–but that culture comes at a price. If one reads literature, one gets the impression that in the 1920’s Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy & France were the most common destination of expats. Then after the 2nd World War, it remained much the same, but began to encompass the Balearic Islands, then Tangiers. Everything changed with the end of the cold war. The half of Europe that had been behind the so-called Iron Curtain opened up, and the race was on. Which spot provided the most ambiance at the least expense, which spots appealed to ‘super stars’ and rock stars, which were best suited as retirement havens? Europe has a lot to offer. More culture, with a greater degree of diversity than any other region of the world. Yes, what you pay for what you get requires much consideration, but what you get is unbeatable. Here is a sampling of what Europe has to offer:
Live In France
A French friend of mine, Roget, once said to me that to experience France to its fullest, you must live there, and not temporarily, but through each season of one year to see how the country, the people and the language change. Witnessing change is an important, if not imminent, facet of travel. We don’t often recognize that culture changes with the seasons, and why would we? Most of our travel is temporary and those places where we choose make our homes are often dulled by the unfortunate opiate of permanence. To a European, the notion of making a home elsewhere, as an experiment in adventure or romance, isn’t as daunting as it is for an American. As one of the largest countries in Europe, France features a rich and diverse history, culture, and geography. While the French are famously defensive about maintaining their “French identity,” it is not at all singular. Influences range from Ionic Greek in what is today Marseilles; to Celtic rein over ancient Gaul; to Roman conquest of southern France and the eventual spreading of Roman cultural influences throughout the country; to incursions by various Germanic tribes, most notably the Franks, from east of the Rhine; to Celtic Briton settlement of Brittany in the northwest. If you’ve ever dreamt of living in France, and you don’t want to live in the middle of nowhere where the sun never shines (northwest and central France) then Marseille could very well be your last opportunity.
There is much speculation in the property press at the moment about whether or not German property represents an excellent medium to long term investment commodity for those seeking capital appreciation and/or rental income. One unique opportunity in the eastern states of Germany is buying a castle which was run down during the Communist era. While prices have gone up, and the low dollar too contributes further to a price increase, they still can represent a good investment. If you always wanted to own a castle, then by all means you will be paying less if you buy in this region of Germany. It used to be that everyone wanted to learn about buying a castle, but very few went out and and bought one. Then the Berlin Wall fell, and numerous magnificent castles in Eastern Europe worth buying suddenly became available at reasonable prices. What better house could one ask for than a castle? That’s the top of the line in housing. Think of the businesses you could run out of a castle: Bed & breakfast, resort hotel, restaurant, spa, condominium project, joint ownership, time share… It is very clear to anyone with a modicum of imagination that there is money to be made with castle ownership.
Ranked #5 in a recent Forbes Magazine article entitled “The 10 Best Retirement Havens.” Ireland is praised for the friendliness of its locals and its relaxing quality of life, its natural beauty and its (relatively) low local taxes.
It’s a myth that all of Italy is overpriced and inaccessible when it comes to property. There are regions of this fabulously stunning nation where you can afford to buy real estate, such as Abruzzo and Calabria. Abruzzo is a coastal region, and Calabria can be considered to be at “the toe of the boot.”
An expat moving to Amsterdam should be prepared to live in a house or apartment that may be smaller than they are used to. The architectural character of the city has developed around trying to solve these problems. The canal was originally constructed to serve as water highways, keeping all parts of the inner city accessible. While still used for transport, the canals make for exquisite tours, and memorable walks along the banks. The city has something for everyone whether it is the extensive museums, scenic walks, or vibrant nightlife.
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