With the autumn chill and threats of impending snow, our daydreams drift to warmer latitudes, where tropical breezes swirl around our frozen margarita while we lounge on golden sands. That means just a vacation for most folks. What if it were your day-to-day reality?
This is exactly what expats have discovered when they moved to Colombia, the northwestern country in South America that straddles both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean and famously produces coffee, emeralds, and magic realism.
Bringing us to the #1 reason why Colombia makes a retirement haven:
1.) Pleasant Climate
Colombia is just north of the Equator, meaning the climate is quite stable. No more wacky seasonal shifts of scorching 105-degree summers to winters of minus 25 with wind-chill.
How would you describe a perfect spring day?
Perfect is relative, but how about 75 degrees, sunny, with a mild breeze? That would be Medellín…year-round. The country’s second-biggest city, nicknamed “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera” is tucked inside a valley that creates an ideal climate for many. Though global warming may convert it into The City of the Eternal Summer, entirely tolerable with its low humidity and refreshing evenings.
Or is paradise for you a hot summer day relaxing by the water?
A clear blue sky and bright sun, 85 degrees yet not smotheringly humid and no annoying swarms of horseflies or mosquitoes. That’s just another day on the Caribbean beaches of Santa Marta or Cartagena. Exotic fruits abound to quench your thirst or make tropical cocktails. If you venture inland of Santa Marta or over onto the Pacific coast, tropical rainforests border the sea and beg to be explored.
Maybe you like the crisp air of fall best of all?
Nestled in the central range of the Andes mountains is Manizales, a small city surrounded by the coffee plantations and lush bamboo stands that characterize the Colombian coffee-growing landscape. Traditional locals wrapped in scarves sip hot mugs of black coffee while waiting for wisps of fog to dissipate in the early morning, giving way to a sun that brightens the rest of the day.
2.) Affordable health care
Ask any elderly expat why he chooses to live in Colombia, and inexpensive yet top-notch medical services will likely be the reason. Medellín is a leading health tourism destination in the region, where American-trained doctors perform procedures at less than half the cost up north. Evidence of successful cosmetic surgeries, notably in the form of implants and augmentations, can be seen on women everywhere.
The costs of health insurance with a public provider is tiered by income level, making it exceedingly economical for the lower social classes, and even private practice is quite favorable when compared to the U.S.
What with the warm temperatures and vitamin-packed fruit, you might not need to visit a doctor anymore.
3.) A rainbow of tropical fruit
Sure, you’ve eaten coconut, mangos, pineapples, and papayas (harvested days before, flown in from far away, and still crazy expensive even when they were in season, right?). But have you ever heard of soursop (guanábana), a gargantuan green spiky fruit with creamy white flesh, or goldenberry (uchuva), a bright orange berry wrapped in a delicate paper shell?
Here you’ll pay quarters for freshly picked fruit. Every standard lunch in a restaurant is served with fresh juice. You could drink a different juice with every meal and not run out of options for weeks.
Be sure to try lulo, a hairy orange fruit with green citric flesh that churns into a thick foam as juice. Minors like to call it their cerveza.
4.) Easy-to-understand language
In many Caribbean countries, Spanish speakers simply don’t pronounce certain letters (say, the ‘S’ in Cuba) or swap them for others (the ‘R’ for the ‘L’ in Puerto Rico). In Andean countries, a heavy ‘sh’ sound permeates all the words. In most parts of Colombia, on the other hand, the words are cleanly enunciated. Even with their soft lilt, paisas (people from Medellín and the coffee triangle) are the easiest for me to understand.
Spanish language schools in Colombia proudly advertise that they teach the most proper form of the language in all of Ibero-America. Since you’ve already mastered the complexities of English, learning the straightforward Spanish grammar should be facilísimo.
English is also being increasingly incorporated into slang. Don’t worry about learning hombre, just say ‘man’! As in, “¡ese man es un bacán!” (that man is cool!).
5.) Beautiful women
For those single men of retirement age who hope to live out your own “Modern Family” situation, the chances that a stunningly attractive younger lady will fall head over heels for you are…actually quite good! Gorgeous women do not walk only the catwalks; they strut the streets. I’ve seen tollbooth workers and garbage sweepers who could’ve passed for a model.
Likewise, Colombian men idealize North American and European complexions. Blonds, do not be offended if they call you mona. It’s how they describe fair-skinned, blue-eyed women. They’re not actually calling you a female monkey.
“The Top 5 Reasons to Retire in Colombia” is written by our featured world writer Carrie Hibbard Cifuentes for The Ria Exchange’s “The World We Live In” blog series. Carrie is a bilingual translator, anthropologist, and environmental educator from Minnesota, USA married to a Colombian coffee agronomist. She is fascinated by paisa folklore, porro dancing, and coconuts in costeño cuisine.