Instead of thinking you can only retire to a country like France, because you learnt French a bit at school, or Spain, because you know parts of it from holidays, you'll find a much more enthusiastic welcome if you move to Germany, especially the former East Germany. Here the population is dwindling for lack of jobs and property prices are about as low as they'll get. An upturn is just beginning and now is the time to buy, either to let, or (why not?) live in yourself. Pensioners don't need to look for jobs, so unemployment rates don't have to be depressing, particularly when you consider that the cost of labour in the building trade is very low, while the quality of workmanship is extremely high. True, fewer people speak English fluently, but all but the over 60s have had some English at school and they are so keen to use it, that their enthusiasm makes up for any gaps in vocabulary.
Much of this site is devoted to the City of Mühlhausen (just north of Eisenach on the roadmap) and to showing you how easy it is to set up home here, thus escaping the expensive housing market in Britain. Especially when you become a pensioner and start the really adventurous time of life! Mühlhausen is, literally, exactly in the middle of Germany and thus within easy reach of places like Dresden, Berlin, Prague, Cracow, in the east, Munich and Nuremberg in the south, and Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Hanover in the west.
When I decided to move here from Britain the first thing I did was ring up the German Advice Centre (in English), and talk to the very helpful people there. They gave advice on all sorts of matters such as health insurance in Germany, how to get your pension there, how to go about finding somewhere to live, etc., and generally answered any concerns you put to them, or told you where to get further advice, on legal matters, for instance. Financial constraints unfortunately forced the Centre to close in November 2009, but the German Welfare Council is continuing to give advice on the following matters:
EU Advice (e.g. moving between Germany and UK); Pension/Compensation Advice; Long-term Support; Applying for grants for people in financial crisis; Life Certificates for German pensions
They can be found at:
German Welfare Council 35 Craven Terrace London W2 3EL Tel.: +44 (0)20 7262 2463 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.gwc-london.org.uk Reg. Charity No. 288538
The German Embassy can be found at 23 Belgrave Square London SW1X 8PZ, website:http://www.london.diplo.de
No need to worry about getting your pension in Germany: both state and occupational pensions can be transferred to an account you open at one of the local banks. There is a Double Taxation Agreement between Britain and Germany in order that you are not taxed on the same income twice. HM Revenue & Customs has a section called the Centre for Non-Residents http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cnr/index.htm who will ask you to fill in a form and then tell you your new tax code which shows that you mostly won't be paying income tax in the UK.
Unless you have a very large pension coming to your German bank account when you live in Germany, you will find German income tax kinder than British. Don't be put off by the prospect of trying to fill in tax returns in Germany - there are a number of very inexpensive tax advice organisations with local offices who will do all the work for you and give excellent advice for an annual subscription of about £60, and probably get you a tax refund too, as the German taxation system allows you to deduct quite a number of expenses from income tax. If you are worried about the exchange rate affecting your British pension there are ways of transferring to a German scheme. That depends what kind if pension you receive and needs qualified advice which I wouldn't attempt to give.
The health service in Germany is in practice not much different from the National Health in the UK. In the former East Germany there was a great deal of investment in new hospitals after Re-Unification. Mühlhausen has a brand new one with the very latest equipment, and the city is well supplied with general practioners and specialists, mostly within walking distance of the city centre. I have no trouble getting the prescription medicines that I was taking in England - most are from the big international drug companies anyway. The medical insurance is run by a number of semi-independent organisations (Krankenkassen) who seem to be fairly generous in paying for such things as physiotherapy, though not much better than the National Health as regards dentistry. However, there is no shortage of dentists here to choose from, unlike certain parts of Britain where National Health dentists are as rare as dinosaurs. The German Embassy site is also very helpful on these matters.
If you felt like going to language classes for German you could attend one of several courses for German as a foreign language in the local Volkshochschule, adult education school. This institution is quite unlike the rather amateur evening classes frequently offered in England as it also provides a large number of officially recognised vocational courses. It is not expensive and you might feel tempted to try other languages as well or maybe an art class. The online course programme is at http://www.vhs-uh.de/kurse/webbasys/.
Moving house from the UK, in my case the south, to central Germany is something a whole lot of expatriate sites give plenty of advice about, though they seldom refer to that part of Germany beyond where the Iron Curtain used to lie. Since I came to Mühlhausen I have seen only a handful of British here, and I know of only one who actually plans to live here, but not till he retires, apparently.
I looked at three local removal firms and chose one on the basis of personal recommendation. As I was taking some fairly fragile old furniture I made sure that the van would be driving all the way with the same team and not passing my property on in a container to another shipping company. Winchester Removals were a family firm and very pleasant to deal with. All the packing was done for me. As I soon learned, that is quite a science, much better left to professionals. Two of their men drove the huge green van all the way over to Mühlhausen without a hitch, caused a minor sensation by blocking the narrow street where I had a temporarily rented flat, and delivered all my bulky bits and pieces including about 30 boxes of books by the afternoon of the next day. No damage was done to anything and the final bill was lower than the offers from the other firms. The entire business of moving the contents of a five-bedroom home with the accumulated contents from 60 years of family life cost about £3000.