Posted: Aug 14, 2015
Some have breath-taking scenery, others have great food, but all will make you feel at home. Make sure you pick a location where a welcoming smile comes as standard when buying abroad.
Friendliness comes in many forms. It might be a simple smile. It might be an offer to help with directions or it might even be an invitation to lunch or dinner. But there is a world of difference between countries where you are made to feel at home and countries where you might get the “cold shoulder”.
These things are very subjective, but we have pinpointed the friendliest locations. Here is our pick of the best places where you are likely to be greeted with a warm welcome.
It used to be just the super-cheap property prices luring Brits to the beach resorts of the Black Sea and ski resorts in the mountains. But an increasing number of visitors have been struck by the warm, relaxed outlook of Bulgarians. They know how to let their hair down and do not take themselves too seriously. The ski resort of Bansko is particularly appealing and still offers outstanding value. You can find a one-bedroom ski apartment for less than £50,000.
You should never, ever take a friendly welcome for granted. It is important to do some preliminary research, such as learning a few useful phrases in advance. But get off the plane with a smile on your face and you should not go too far wrong if you are thinking about moving to these places.
As every traveller to the country knows, there are two distinct parts of Frances: Paris, where the people can seem a bit rude on the surface, but they are lovely once you get to know them, and provincial France, where people take time to get to know each other. You cannot go far wrong with one of those picture-postcard French villages – perhaps in the Dordogne or Brittany or the less fashionable Auvergne – with a bar and a baker and a charcuterie. But, if you want bang for your buck when house-hunting, avoid Provence and the Riviera and target better-value areas such as the Languedoc, when you can get a three-bedroom house in a pretty village for around £150,000.
The relaxed ambience is the best possible advertisement for a small country blessed with some stunning mountain scenery and an admirable outlook on life. Slovenians embody Europe at its bright cosmopolitan best. Property prices are attractive, too. You can buy a stylish two-bedroom apartment in the centre of Ljubljana for around £300,000.
17. St Kitts and Nevis
You get two islands for the price of one in St Kitts and Nevis, each delightful and each a great advertisement for the charms of the Caribbean. If Nevis is the more exclusive, with property prices to match, St Kitts offers a wonderful blend of beaches, scenery and easy living, with some exciting new developments in the pipeline. The capital, Basseterre, is one of the prettiest in the region. Expect to pay around £550,000 for an attractive three-bedroom property in St Kitts, £700,000 in Nevis.
If you love the Mediterranean, but are not confident with foreign languages, Malta is a great option. You can find superb apartments in the heart of the capital Valletta for less than £400,000. The Maltese have strong historic ties with Britain, which explains the island’s enduring popularity with British expats. Those drawn to Malta by the mixture of sun and affordable property include the late Sir Stanley Matthews.
When visiting Poland expat Brits are given an extremely warm welcome. The old medieval cities of Krakow and Gdansk are more compact than Warsaw and probably offer better value. You can pick up a two-bedroom flat in Gdansk for less than £80,000 - and buy the estate agent a vodka with the change.
14. South Africa
Just start talking about sport, and be prepared to put up with some good-natured teasing, and you cannot go wrong in South Africa. The locals are not just sports-mad, but unfailingly hospitable. In the little university town of Stellenbosch, in the Western Cape, it always seems to be one long party, with fine wine on tap. Property prices are highest in and around Cape Town, as you would expect, but it is worth paying the premium. For around £200,000, you can get a two-bedroom apartment in the fashionable Camps Bay area, where welcoming smiles come as standard.
There has long been a love affair between Britain and Portugal and you can expect a warm welcome in this corner of the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon trumps Madrid in the friendliness stakes, and Cascais, west of the capital, is even better. The Portuguese economy may be brittle, but the Portuguese way of life – affable, easy-paced – is hugely attractive. You can buy a stylish contemporary two-bedroom apartment in Cascais for about £400,000 and a good three-bedroom golf villa in the Algarve for under £350,000.
If Budapest is a city of surprises, full of quirky enclaves, rural Hungary has a wonderfully mellow feel. The area around Lake Balaton is deservedly popular. Hungarian is a hard language to master, but property prices compare pretty well with Western Europe – you can get a swanky two-bedroom apartment in Budapest for around £200,000 or a three-bedroom villa on Lake Balaton for under £120,000. Hungarians never seem happier than when lingering over long, laughter-filled lunches.
If you love the Caribbean, but find Barbados property prices daunting, Antigua makes a great better-value alternative. Expect to pay between £400,000 and £500,000 for a good-quality three-bedroom villa. The island famously has 365 beaches – one for every day of the year. But it is the super-relaxed lifestyle, culminating in an exuberant Sunday night ‘jump-up’ at Shirley Heights, that is Antigua’s trump card. There are no strangers here – only friends waiting to share a rum punch.
Anyone who has travelled to the Estonian capital Tallinn, is likely to have been as impressed with the friendly people as with the stunning medieval architecture. Bigger capital cities can be bland and anonymous, but Tallinn manages to be lively and intimate, with great neighbourhood bars and restaurants around every corner. Property prices are tempting, too: around £200,000 for a cool city-centre pad.
9. The Netherlands
Because the Dutch climate is little different from ours, the country is not a natural magnet for Brits looking to move overseas. But the Dutch outlook on life is wonderfully laid-back by northern European standards. It makes for a warm human environment. The small town of Middelburg in the west of the country, has a particularly festive feel. Expect to pay £250,000 for a family home in medium-sized towns such as Leiden, Delft and Gouda.
Thailand is a revelation: a land of smiles, great food and breath-taking scenery. You can buy simple apartments near gorgeous beaches for less than £50,000, and if you take the trouble to learn a bit of Thai, you could be in for the adventure of a lifetime. The island of Koh Samui is particularly recommended.
If it is good enough for Rihanna, Wayne Rooney and other celebrity villa-owners, it should be good enough for anyone. What is so charming about the island once known as Little England, is how it has retained its human warmth. Bajans are fabled for their friendliness across the Caribbean. The best-value properties (e.g. £230,000 for an old mill house in the parish of St Lucy) are to be found in the north-west of the island, not celebrity-rich St James.
6. New Zealand
New Zealand is a place of spectacular beauty and understated charm – epitomised by delightful small towns such as Nelson and Marlborough. Considering how far New Zealand is from Europe, a remarkable number of Brits have moved to the country, seduced by its cocktail of sea and sun, great food and wine, and eminently sensible property prices. You can get a family home in a popular suburb of Wellington for around £300,000.
Greece’s future might be hedged with uncertainties, so you might think twice about buying property there – although you could just snaffle the bargain of the century. But the Greeks themselves remain as delightful as ever: big-hearted, perpetually optimistic and renowned around the world for their hospitality. You want to see Greeks wreathed in smiles? Then head for the main harbour in Mykonos in May. Some of the unsung Greek islands are Naxos and Paros, where you can pick up a traditional Cycladic house for less than £50,000.
Australians are particularly friendly, their down-to-earth approach to life is a breath of fresh air. If you can meet their residency requirements, it is a great place to live. Brisbane’s Gold Coast is a bit tacky, but you can buy attractive beachside properties in New South Wales or Victoria – particularly along the Great Ocean Road, west of Melbourne – for about £250,000. Another example of a cheerful Antipodean community that lays out the welcome mat to visitors, is the old mining town of Ballarat.
You will never get the best out of Spain if you just hang out with the expats at the golf club and do not learn a word of Spanish. But make an effort and people will be warmly appreciative. Segovia, north of Madrid, has to be one of the jovial small cities in Europe. The Spanish property market is still recovering from a bout of boom-and-bust, but there are plenty of bargains to be had on the Costas, as well as inland. Andalusia is always a good bet. In Cordoba, which is delightfully laid-back, you can get a beautiful three-bedroom villa with a pool for £300,000 or less.
Canada is such a vast place that, if you move to one of the more sparsely populated provinces such as Nova Scotia, your next-door neighbours will probably be moose. But Canadians are great talkers, they are always happy to put themselves out for visitors and they are blessed with some wonderfully relaxed cities, notably Vancouver and Quebec, which would make any country proud. You can get penthouses in downtown Vancouver for not much more than £1 million – peanuts compared with Manhattan.
La dolce vita is so ingrained in Italian culture that you can expect flashing smiles everywhere you go. For Italians, life is all about enjoyment and shared pleasures. The big cities can be a bit daunting for the outsider, but there are friendly small towns the length of Italy – Bergamo, Cortona, and Positano – where anyone with the right attitude could expect to prosper. For property bargains, it is best to look south of Rome, where you can pick up an old farmhouse in Puglia for as little as £100,000.