Thanks Pinky and Arnie for that run down on north and south.
I have always fancied the wilderness of Canada and would always choose New Zealand over Australia though I have never been to either. I was up over the boarder into Canada whilst working in the USA but made a big mistake: Just before going to Niagara Falls I was down in the Grand Canyon and since seeing it, everything else seems somehow small. I have a brother down in Aus who told me before he went " all I want is sunshine 5 days a week and a boat in the garden" and now he has both. What he never realized is that he would have to work so hard that when he gets home he's usually too tired to bother taking the boat out. I get the impression that in both countries they want grafters and not lazy immigrants.
Here in Germany things have been going down hill for 20 odd years. Actually the end was in sight before the reunification which gave the economy a short boost. Here we are 27 years after the event and those of us in the old East still get about 10% less wages than in the West, which has a knock on all the way into your pension expectations. The Krauts are odd people and tend to hide their discontentment, not like the Frogs who strike and demonstrate about anything and everything.
All of that said I don't think it matters where you live if you find a quiet backwater. In our village hardly anybody locks their doors though they almost all have big mean dogs. There are so many hunters here a thief would have to be suicidal to do anything silly. While building my new house I had a spirit level that was untrue and put it out on the pavement wondering how long it would stay there, on the third day somebody put it back inside my grounds. Sure there are incidents, once several 'new houses' were blitz robbed, all within ten minuets, probably a junky earning his fix. But that was once in the 15 or so years that I have been here. Even so I tend to play safe and it's not easy to enter my grounds and much harder to get out
I have considered going back to the UK but the property prices are insane. Here you can still get a half decent brand new house for under € 200,000. I sold my old farmhouse for just € 50,000 including grounds etc.. Here we get a better summer than Manchester and usually a real winter too and I like both. I think that the climate is perhaps the most important factor to make one happy and I sure would not want to swap with you Arnie and all that heat. Both ends of the world are too far away, what do you do when a family member is ill or worse ? From here, in a worst case, it's a hundred €uro's return on the bus and, if you can plan in advance, even less to fly. An hour on the train to the airport cost me just € 3,80. A good beer in a good restaurant costs under € 4,- and a meal between € 10,- and € 20,-. Sure you can easily give out much, much more but who needs filet steak every day ?
Work here is getting ever harder and wages have been getting reduced for years. I got more in my first job in 1989 than I get today. Thankfully I was self-employed for many years and so now don't have to graft, the work that I now do is honestly just for my own satisfaction. But the average guy is on a knife edge with his cash flow and ever more people are heavily in debt. I understand it's the same in the UK and pretty well everywhere in Europe.
Our philosophy is not to try and earn enough to live well on, but to reduce our outgoings to below our income and my wife and I both only work part-time and easily manage. What we are short of is time to get all of the gardening done and enjoy the animals rather than just feeding and cleaning up after them, such is life as a self-sufficiency freak.