Developing Countries Showing America Up

A cynical school of thought holds that one reason America makes borders so unpleasant is to deter US citizens from traveling so as to preserve our sense of exceptionalism in the face of countervailing evidence. For instance, one colleague, a former city planner, came back from a vacation in the south of France and raved about how terrific the roads were. The Gilet Janues would assure him that in rural areas, they were neglected, but my contact’s point was that even in affluent parts of the US, you couldn’t find ones on a par with the ones he drove on his holiday. And I suspect that even the roads that are impediments to safe, fast driving in the depopulating parts of France are still better than those in Michigan.

But America is slipping even further. It used to be that it would come up short in infrastructure and social well being indicators compared to most European countries. We now have readers who are looking at what they see in the better parts of the developing world and are finding America coming up short.

Costa Rica has admittedly long been depicted as the Switzerland of Central America. It has become more and more popular with expats for at least the last 15 years. I visited there briefly on a client project in 1997. While the downtown section of San José looked worn, even there, the people on the street were neatly if modestly dressed. And when you went out to the suburbs, the country looked comfortable to prosperous, and it seemed as if citizens made an effort to keep their neighborhoods well kept, even in non-tourist sections. Oh, and the food was terrific, particularly the fish.

A more recent sighting from Eureka Springs:

Just returned from deep southern rural Costa Rica to rural N.W. Arkansas. Peace and quiet almost everywhere I go now. Unless it’s my own noise (music) which could not bother another.

The entire trip was quite the reminder of just how third world we the peeps are nowadays.

Internet was so much better there. No satellite dishes, except as modifications to them for use as roadside trash receptacles. Still no rural wired net in the U.S.. Cell signals were strong everywhere, yet I never saw people glued to a phone.

Public trans, brand new buses all up and down the countryside. Even many miles down dirt roads. Fantastic bus stops. No such thing as public transit in rural U.S.

A lot of people drive efficient 150cc motorcycles. The large bus stops seem intentionally oversized by design to co-serve as a place to pull under during rain. How civilized.

Grocery stores with real food everywhere. No chain stores best I can tell. Unless in larger cities. And a shockingly smaller amount of trash packaging. I would say for the same amount of weekly grocery consumption I generate at least three if not five times more trash in the U.S. Seemingly every few hundred people, never more than a mile, usually much less, have a store with produce and meats. I’m seven miles from a dollar store, two more miles to actual groceries. About the same population density in both places.

And then there is health care for all vs give me all you got, we don’t give a fk.

Don’t know but would wager their water tests much better across the board as well. Nobody consumes plastic water bottles. Even very remote beaches had little shards of plastic all along the water line though. No escaping it.

Schools did not look like prison at all. Kids were kids, with cookie stands, a work ethic, bicycles, laughter, no apparent phones, lots of soccer, some dirt on their fingers and toes. And laughter.

Poor to middle working class people did not look miserable, unhealthy, guarded and or afraid.

The chickens, dogs and cats were abundant though not overly so, well fed, healthy, roaming free.

Police were calm, not dressed to kill with body language fitting the peace officer description. CR has no military.

We have a choice and we are making so many bad ones. I feel like so many of my fellow US citizens don’t get this fact. And it’s a shortcoming of Sanders types by failing to paint this vision/picture. Even they are trapped in the downward spiral, knowing no other way from experience.

And Expat2uruguay seems to have adapted well to her big relocation. Ironically her big lament seems to be the cuisine isn’t terribly inspired and fish is hard to come by, but other advantages of living there seem to more than make up for it. From a recent report:

Since relocating to Uruguay I was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer. There was no bill whatsoever for the surgery. The entire cost of my entire treatment, including my monthly membership fee of $60 a month, was under $2,700.

That total includes 16 months of the monthly fee and all of my treatments, including six months of chemotherapy, 6 weeks of daily radiation, co-pays for medications and tests, $7 co-pays for doctor visits, and additional testing and consultation for heart damage caused by the chemotherapy. I also had a couple of problems during the chemotherapy that required visits to the emergency room, a four day hospital stay because of ultra-low defenses, and consultation in my home a couple times. They did a really good job, and they’re very good at cancer treatment here.

But the very best thing about Uruguay is the peacefulness, the tranquility, the laid-back approach to life. My stress levels are way down from when I lived in the US.

Several factors are likely at work. One is, as we’ve pointed out from the very outset of this site, that unequal societies are unhappy and unhealthy societies. Even those at the top pay a longevity cost due to having shallower social networks, having a nagging awareness that most if not all of their supposed friends would dump them if they took a serious income hit (can’t mix with the same crowd if you can’t fly private class, can’t support the right charities, can’t throw posh parties) and having to think about or even building panic rooms.

Another is the precarity even at high but below top 1% levels: job insecurity, the difficulty of getting kids into good colleges and then paying for it when they do, along with attempting to save enough for retirement. Even with steering clear of costly divorces and medical emergencies, the supposed basics of a middle or upper middle income lifestyle add up in light of escalating medical, education, and housing costs. And then some feel they are entitled to or need to give their kids perks in line with their self image of their status, like fancy vacations.

And we don’t need to elaborate on how hard it is for people who are struggling to get by. But it’s not hard to see that the status and sometimes money anxiety at the top too readily translates into abuses of those further down the food chain to buck up their faltering sense of power and self worth. Anglo-style capitalism is often mean-spirited and that tendency seems particularly strong now.

Specifically, which developing countries that readers know well give the US a lifestyle run for the money? And I don’t mean for for US expats bearing strong dollars but for ordinary people. And where do they fall short?

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    Just some observations:

    You need to be cautious sometimes in interpreting how life is in other countries. I’ve known people who moved to very orderly, prosperous countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany, Austria etc., and loved the first year or so and would rave about it, but would gradually become, if not disenchanted, but a little more aware as they became familiar of negative undercurrents – there always seems to be a price to be paid for having a very law abiding, neat orderly society. Likewise, moving to poorer, but more cheerful countries like Thailand or the Philippines, or perhaps Portugal/Greece also (for those people willing to learn the language and go deeper into the society, there is a downward curve as they discover the downside to the laid back attitudes and constant sunshine.

    There is also the simple advantage of laggards – they can learn from other countries mistakes and skip a generation of technology. I recall foreign visitors to Ireland in the early 1990’s raving about how good the phone system was. There was no magic to it – Ireland simply had fallen well behind, but invested in what was then the most up to date proven digital system in the late 1980’s, without having to go through the process of an incremental upgrade. You find this in a lot of developing countries – I remember being amazed when travelling in Tibet about 15 years ago that there was near perfect mobile phone signals even in very remote areas. It was simply that it was cheaper for the Chinese to extend mobile masts before land lines, so it made sense to roll out a remote network, when in other more ‘advanced’ nations your signal died as soon as you hit some hills. Sometimes, economically, there is an advantage to just using old established infrastrure (decades old airports, etc), which function adequately, rather than spending billions on brand new facilities which can only be built with significant opportunity cost.

    Anyway, having said all that, as a regular visitor to the US I’ve frequently been struck by just how poor the infrastructure can be, even in high tech places like New York. I don’t think the trek out to JFK from Manhattan would be considered acceptable in any other major world city. And poor areas of the US do have a sort of shabbiness you don’t see even in many countries that are unambiguously much poorer (much of Asia, for example). J.K Galbraith of course explained the reason for all this many decades ago when he wrote about private splendour and public squalor.

    1. a different chris

      >and loved the first year or so and would rave about it, but would gradually become, if not disenchanted, but a little more aware

      There’s a rule of thumb for this, you must know as any expat will rattle it off for you:

      1) The first year you love it beyond all words
      2) The second year you hate everything with the heat of a thousand suns.
      3) The third year on, it’s just where you live.

      1. The Rev Kev

        After WW2, Australia encouraged British people to emigrate out to here. It was called the Ten Pond Pom scheme as these emigrants would pay ten pounds but if they did not like it could return home while paying their own fares. But they had to be here a minimum of two years in order to get a ticket home free.

        The British picked up a reputation as whingers as they said that this was not how things were done in England or that is not what we believe back home. Come the two year mark, many left to go back to the UK as they thought the place would be just like England but with more sun.

        Funny thing was a very large section of them would after returning home start to remember why they left post-war Britain. Then they would work hard to save up their money to pay the full fare out to Australia for themselves and their families. The numbers were large enough to be a noticeable phenomena.

        1. jrkrideau

          In Canada in the 1979’s it was called the ten thousand pound cure — it cost about 10,000b quid to return to the UK and come back to Canada.

      2. Yves Smith Post author

        I very much liked Sydney the two years I lived there. But I didn’t succeed in getting permanent residence, so perhaps I had not quite settled psychologically.

        Plus Australia and Canada are American-tolerant and require less adaptation than any other countries.

      3. vlade

        Not my experience (and I lived in four different countries on average 10 years each, and spent enough time in a couple of others to know more than a “tourist”) – for me, it’s always “place where you live” with advantages and disadvantages. Each place I lived in was special in its own way – and had some significant problems (often well hidden from an occasional traveller).

        What I did see and considered interesting is that after the fall of communist regimes quite a few emigrants went home – and about half of those emigrated again within few years.

    2. thene

      The ‘advantage of laggards’ is fairly well documented in the history of technology and especially of telecoms. If something sort of works where you are, you tend to keep using it, while laggards who never got the last generation of tech might pick up a cheaper-better-faster option that doesn’t rely on existing infrastructure.

      Do you remember the transitions from 1G to 2G to 3G cellphones? How that might have affected you depends on where you were based at the time; basically America did terribly with 2G infrastructure and adoption (remember when Americans had to pay for inbound calls??) whereas Europe handled it much better and thus gave birth to the SMS cultural/linguistic explosion, but then America’s bad experience with 2G spurred them to embrace 3G.

      Electronic health records are another example…the US began adoption a long, long time ago – the most dominant US health records provider (Epic) was founded in the 1970s, and this is part of why the US has the worst electronic health records in the world. I was at a digital health event a few years ago where someone explained to the audience how EHR works in Zambia, and that it was stunningly superior to any American system.

      And people get REALLY confused about this. They assume that because a country is ‘developed’ or ‘hi tech’ it must have some kind of first-mover advantage, whereas in many cases existing infrastructure forms a stultifying status quo that impedes further development. It’s really hard to get your average American to accept that the countries in Asia that they like to look down upon have much better internet/telecoms and industrial tech than America does. I am forever fascinated to watch this technological leapfrogging happen, and I live in hope that the renewables boom leads to a wave of tech we haven’t yet dreamed of emerging in Africa & other places that aren’t yet choked by an anticompetitive status quo.

  2. Michael

    A big reason I’ve been living in Europe these last 25 years is because of my experience traveling in Andalucía while living a comfortable life with a well-paying job in Silicon Valley. While not developing world by any common definition, this area is and was relatively poor and unemployment hovered around 20% unemployment and yet somehow people were always out enjoying the evening at bars (not to get drunk, but simply to socialize). Little evidence of homelessness. I lived in Spain for a number of years after/because of that experience. A friend from the US who frequently travels to Spain for work confirms he’s never seen such road quality even in the poorest regions. I can attest that, for health care, I never saw a bill. The one time I ventured out of the gov network for a 2nd opinion from a private neurologist, the private expert confirmed the gov’t doctor’s diagnosis – in fact they knew each other and each respected the other’s work.

    1. Ignacio

      Just hope you to enjoy it! I can endorse all that you wrote. This is not to say there are of course lot of problems and things badly done. There is in place a push for privatization like elsewhere in the EU. I knew the guy that many years ago was responsible for developing infrastructure foe primary attention in health care in Andalusia and they did a good job.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Perhaps you can confirm this, but a doctor friend who briefly worked in Spain told me that the reason healthcare in Andalucia is so good is that it is in effect subsidised by northern European retirees. German and Dutch systems are happy to pay (lower) Andalucian prices for retired people in the South of Spain, while the local system uses the money to make a better system for everyone. I’ve never heard any traveller I know say anything bad about southern Spanish health care.

        1. Ignacio

          I don’t know about this. In the early 80s, with good old days PSOE governing, is when the primary attention was designed and it was done quite well. That is what I can say first hand because I met people involved and heard good critics by outsiders. When you have public servants who are capable and want to do things correctly…

    2. Calvin

      When I’m told “I haven’t met my deductible or that a procedure isn’t covered” I get down on my knees and thank God I’m an American.
      This is what freedom feels like!

  3. Burns

    Taiwan. Cost.of living is generally cheap unless you’re buying property, which can get pricey. But, rent is generally low, food is very low and mostly healthy (they dont put much sugar in their stuff compared to America), healthcare isn’t free for non-citz but still stupid cheap compared to America and top quality, crime is very low (second lowest crime rate in the world after Japan) and you get to experience real Chinese culture instead of PRC propaganda. I could go on but those are the highlights for me. I view it as a truly civilized society, although it no doubt has it’s own problems. I encourage everyone i know to visit.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I cycled a little around Taiwan 10 years ago – it is a very well functioning country, very safe and friendly with quite a distinct culture somewhere between China and Japan (lots of Japanese retirees go to Taiwan). Public transport is excellent, the cities have good facilities and there are lovely surf beaches in the south – the mountains are amazing, especially when you have cheap hot spring resorts everywhere.

      The only negative is that probably because of their history many Taiwanese are super sensitive of anything that could be construed as criticism (even jokes). Oh, and that the towns and cities are incredibly ugly, even by most Asian standards. So much was just thrown up during the years of expansion, it will take a generation or two to make things a little better.

      They do have some infrastructure problems though, mainly because of their location right in the path of some of the worst storms the Pacific can throw at any island – entire main roads get completely washed away very regularly.

      1. thene

        It’s not the Japanese retirees, it’s the history of Japanese colonial occupation.

        Much love to Taiwan. Really hope to spend more time there in the future.

    2. Lindsay Berge

      The National Palace Museum is one of the great cultural treasures of the world and better than the British Museum in my opinion. A must see option for anyone visiting Taipei.

    3. Stratophile


      I’ve been here for 30 years. Your broad strokes are largely correct but leave out a lot of fine detail. One small point is sugar:

      Taiwanese puts TONS of sugar in drinks — coffee, tea, all the traditional summer drinks, snacks/chips of any kind. When you go to a 500cc place for a drink, they even have a chart so you can choose how much sugar you want — regular (= high), medium, and low (30% of the normal).

      Coffee or tea at 7-11 and Family Mart is always powdered and includes powdered creamer and sugar.

      As for food, Taiwanese LOVE garlic and leeks and are not averse to throwing in a lot of salt. Not to mention the cooking oil — lard or vegetable — that remains on anything that’s been stir fried.

      And Taiwanese LOVE deep fried food, traditional as well as MacDonald’s.

      As for “real Chinese culture,” watch out for that since many Taiwanese do NOT consider themselves Chinese, and many Chinese (PRC) and overseas Chinese look down on Taiwanese as somewhat low class.

  4. jackiebass

    This isn’t something new. The American people have been fed propaganda for decades to make them believe America was exceptional. It was the bed rock of our Imperialism. If you lookout at measures of well being, America was always down on the list in every category. About the only thing we led in was military spending. American exceptionalism was used as a tool to justify our bad behavior all over the planet. Our government is the biggest terror organization on the planet. We have killed or injured millions of people. All in the name of spreading democracy, something we actually don’t have.

  5. a different chris

    >America makes borders so unpleasant is to deter US citizens from traveling

    And if you do escape, and if you do bring back stories of how much better so many things are in said other country, you are lectured to as how the US “protects their freedom” and if it wasn’t for the fruits of your labor being mostly directed into trying to get the F35 to work that other country* would certainly have already been completely overrun by Communists! So shutupshutupshutup.

    *which is generally described as “ungrateful”.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      An American friend and former colleague, now a UK citizen and regulator, amused us with a story of how she was harangued at JFK for no longer living in the US when she began travelling on her UK passport.

      1. Ignacio

        A friend of mine, a business man, has always problems at JFK because his surname coincides with that of a Colombian drug dealer. He is always directed to a room and stays there for hours until they let him free (always equals two times to my knowledge).

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, Ignacio.

          My Sevillana BFF, now based in NYC, has the same problem. Apparently her name is the most common for mules.

        2. thene

          Oh gosh, that happened to my spouse once at an airport in the UK – he shares a surname with a Middle Eastern political leader.

      2. BlueMoose

        My wife and I got lectured several years ago coming through Atlanta from Europe to visit family in the states by the homeland Security agent. My wife hadn’t renewed her green card and was travelling on her Canadian passport. She has Polish/Canadian citizenship. I had to really bite down hard on my lip during the lecture because I did not want to miss our connecting flight. I told the agent since we were not planning to move back to the US, there was no need to waste so much money on renewing the card. Finally, I asked: are Canadian passport holders still allowed to enter the country? And if so, can we go now?

      3. hoki haya

        The worst border crossings are always upon entering the States. The pointless shouting and general vacuousness of the security – certain indications that you’re back among the Free – are comical to a point, until one sees how intimidated the Fins or whoever you flew in with are by this uncivilized chaos. I’ve apologized more than once on behalf of my country to a nice, non-English speaking non-terrorist being pointlessly harrassed by ‘security’.

        1. Kaleberg

          US Customs were always terrible. When I was a kid, we’d go down to the recently named JFK airport and watch the customs lines from the glassed in gallery above. I remember one agent finding some liqueur chocolates and jumping up and down on them. I didn’t know adults did stuff like that.

          1. Bern

            Alternate experience mine:
            While in Lebanon and Syria in 2004, bought a kilo of zatar, had it wrapped in multiple layers of plastic to preserve it, stuffed it in luggage and forgot about it. Upon returning to the states, went thru customs in SF. Agent said “what ya got in the bags?” We said “nothin”. He said “open up anyway” so I did. When he got to the bottom and found the (forgotten) spice he pulled it out and looked at me, and I laughed, and told him what it was. He said “Yeah, whatever”, put it back in the bag and sent us on our way…

    2. Oh

      I grimace when I hear that we are part of a “free world”. Ever since 9/11 there have so many curbs on our freedom and the mass surveillance by the 3 letter agencies and corporations make a mockery of the term.

  6. oaf

    Thank you for publishing this delightful article. What a shame that most U.S citizens get their conceptualization of the rest of the world from MSM. A friend lived and worked in various parts of Africa for years; he told me that when he announced plans to return *home*, his African companions asked him “why?…its SO DANGEROUS THERE!!!”
    My sister’s companion-with family in Israel- describes our local ( in upper Northeast U.S.) hospitals as: like something from a 3rd world country…
    There is nothing like immersion to generate understanding and appreciation for other places, people, and lifestyles.

    1. eg

      I had drinks with a US professor from Iowa last week and he expressed how surprised and impressed he was with Canadians’ interest in and knowledge of US and world affairs. I gave him a version of Trudeau pere’s line — “when you are the mouse sleeping alongside an elephant, it behooves you to pay attention to every twitch …”

      1. LifelongLib

        Many years ago a public radio station here in Hawaii would broadcast a Canadian radio show “As It Happens”. I was struck that the host could (say) mention the name of a politician or government official and just assume that the audience knew who they were. Of course I don’t know who the target audience in Canada would have been, but very few broadcasts in the U.S. can count on their audience being that well informed…

        1. lordkoos

          Other countries have to pay attention to what goes on in the USA, as the saying goes, when the USA sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. I recall being impressed in Jamaica with how knowledgeable some local people were about world events, people were pretty up-to-date about African politics, US politics, etc.

  7. sporble

    Berlin, Germany – not exactly developing world. Met a German woman while backpacking in SE Asia in ’95, came here in ’96, been here ever since, got German citizenship (along with US) in 2017.

    Berlin is a bit like NYC in that each city is special, and neither is a particularly representative sample of what the rest of the country is like. So with that caveat: The stress level here seems much lower than in the US; there’s great public transport, perhaps the world’s strongest privacy and employee-rights laws and not much fear of violence (from fellow citizens or police). And there is no reason for anyone to lack health insurance: everything is covered, with extremely small out-of-pocket expenses and health care is excellent.

    That said, neoliberalism’s ravages can be felt here, too: wages have been stagnant for 20+ yrs and German politicians are obsessed with “das schwarze Null” (literally, “the black zero”; i.e. “being in the black” or “getting out of the red”). Rents have skyrocketed and not nearly enough affordable/govt housing has been built in the past 20+ yrs.

    Among the people I know/deal with, precarity seems basically non-existent, perhaps as a result of everyone knowing that govt welfare/etc. – from which people can live without fear of homelessness, losing their health insurance or going hungry – is available as a last resort, though the housing situation is getting quite precarious.

    All in all, I’m very happy and grateful to be able to live here. As a freelancer, I don’t benefit from it, but I still think vacation policy here is fantastic: all employees get at least 4 wks off in total (everyone I know gets at least 5 wks) + each employee is entitled to take a 3-wk-long vacation.

    1. Misery

      Unfortunately, there is enough misery in Germany to even have a weekly tv-series about it Armut in Deutschland = Poverty in Germany divided in the all too common categories: Old people poverty, Child poverty, Working poor etc.

      Another thought, when discussing poverty it is really important to consider that the psychology (seeing that you cannot afford anything) and physiology (not affording good food so you get fat from salt, fat, sugar-based food from Lidl) of poverty is relative: you compare yourself with the people that you are surrounded by and purchasing power is relative to the country where you live.

  8. oliverks

    I was in a very non touristy part of Jamaica last year. The roads were pretty poor, with sections washed out. I would say the overall quality of roads was lower than the USA. In fact they were so bad, bit of plastic started falling off my rented car.

    However, people were much happier. Just for starters, the rental agency was completely fine with a few bits of plastic that shook loose. No problem!

    The food was fantastic, and inexpensive. The market in the local town just sold meat without any refrigeration. This is Jamaica, it was hot. Yet the market smelled fresh, the meat looked amazing, it was clean. Everything just moves so quickly there seems to be no time for stuff to go off. The veggies were amazing and plentiful.

    The school children seemed to wear uniforms. They hung out together. They socialized and talked and well seemed like children. Engaged and full of life.

    There was a funeral in a building near by us, and they chanted and sung all night until sun up. That meant it was a little loud (as out place didn’t have any glass in the windows). It was sometime haunting, sometimes joyful, but people really celebrated the life that had passed.

    The younger people, say less than 30, were all very tall. It seems like nutrition and health must have improved a lot over the last 30-40 years, as the old were much shorter.
    So I wouldn’t call it first world by any stretch, but you could do much much worse in many parts of the USA.

    1. Ignacio

      I witnessed a funeral in Belize and was similar experience. On the other side of the road some guys having fun playing soccer barefooted. Mosquitoes make Belize the hell if not in the shore where wind keeps them apart.

    2. lordkoos

      I spent a lot of time in Jamaica in the late 80s and early 90s. It was life-changing for me in that I was not a particularly happy person at that time, and it was the first time I had spent time in a so-called 3rd world or developing country. I met people in Jamaica who had nothing compared to most Americans, but they were happier than I was. This even though I was on top of the food chain, being a white American male. It made me rethink a lot of stuff. I agree about the food there, I loved it, and the people too.

      There is a dark side to Jamaica however, which you will come upon if you stay there for a longer amount of time. I don’t know what part of JA you were in, perhaps a small town or in the countryside? It can be very pleasant in the country, but I spent a lot of time in Kingston, and there is some of the worst poverty in the hemisphere there. Better than Haiti and some other places, but still pretty harsh. Lots of unwed teenage pregnancies (younger teens), with the fathers MIA. A lot of homophobia and macho attitudes. Politics can become violent. There are also some serious environmental issues, and climate change will not be kind to the West Indies.

      1. oliverks

        I was vacationing and stayed in the blue mountains away from Kingston or tourists. I have heard Kingston can be rough, and crime can be a problem in other big cities. The biggest touristy place we spent any time in was Port Antonio, and I never felt unsafe or threatened there. I didn’t even see that many tourists there but we were off season.

        1. lordkoos

          Port Antonio is very nice, I stayed there for a few days. It’s not all built-up like Montego Bay and Negril, etc.

  9. carl

    I have a passing familiarity with Colombia of late. Although the minimum wage is low, employers are required to provide such benefits as vacation, sick leave and payments into the pension system. In addition, workers are eligible to visit special holiday facilities for recreation and relaxation. Unlike in my US city, in which public transportation is infrequent and inconvenient, Medellin has an overhead heavy rail system. There is a public healthcare system, which is good at covering basic needs, and a private one which, while less affordable for ordinary people, is of European standards of quality. Although admittedly the country has been wracked by violence in past years and there’s still much inequality, people are happy and friendly.
    Note: my Colombian in the family approved this message.

    1. lordkoos

      I have a friend (not a wealthy person by any means) who lives in Lima Peru with his Peruvian wife and their young daughter, and he loves it there.

      1. carl

        Peru is an amazing country: beautiful scenery, amazing food, inexpensive, and nice people. I sprained my ankle last year in Lima and deliberately found the most expensive clinic in Lima to treat it. English-speaking doctor, full x-rays, medication and foot bandage put on by the doctor herself. Total: $200 US.
        Pro tip: get your prescription glasses in Arrequipa. There’s at least 500 optical stores in the historic center. Super cheap.

        1. lordkoos

          I have another friend who relocated to Ecuador along with his girlfriend. He’s a retired optometrist and gives away hundreds of reading glasses to the locals, who much appreciate them.

  10. tegnost

    Regarding highway infra, in the PNW at least any new improved road gets tolled so that it is actually made for the people who can pay the tolls. I’m certain this makes zero tax amazon happy…
    Oh Look!

    two tiered society…Interstates limited to self driving delivery/important people in 3…2…

    1. lordkoos

      The interstate toll lanes on I-405 are terribly undemocratic. Regular working commuters who can’t afford the toll passes are forced into three over-crowded lanes, while in the two left toll lanes the BMW & Lexus drivers zip on by. I’m guessing a bunch of the wealthy tech people east of Lake Washington used their clout to get that accomplished.

  11. Ford Prefect

    I spent some time in Costa Rica. Everybody seemed quite happy. The impression that I had was its government actually liked its people and was not afraid of them. The people seemed to return the sentiment.

    There may be a lesson in that for the US.

    1. carl

      Costa Rica has the highest level of education and lowest birthrate in Central America; no standing military since 1948. Not a cheap country to live in anymore, compared to the rest of Central and South America, and rampant theft problems (probably because of very light penalties for such), but on the whole, you could do a lot worse.

  12. Colonel Smithers

    Mauritius, whence my parents came, is worth considering. The standard of living is good for most people, especially if qualified or with particular manual skills. The average salary is nearing USD12k pa.

    Public services are well funded by the government and free at the point of delivery.

    It’s interesting to observe how many migrants who are not francophone and do not specialise in the island’s four pillars, financial services, textiles / light manufacturing, tourism and agriculture (including power generation by sugar mills) are now making the island their home, not just for a secondment of some years. I have come across Italian jockeys and tilers, doctors and teachers, IT specialists, hotel managers and other staff from around the world.

    There’s a good mix of accommodation. One need not live in a gated community. These were in the main designed to part South Africans and even French from their money, a ploy that appears to be working such is the amount of construction that would not look out of place in the south of France or US sun belt. The island is safe. lists vacancies.

    The Rev Kev has visited the island and can provide further insight.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Thank you for the shout out Colonel. I must admit that I visited Mauritius during my salad years some forty years ago so I will try to recreate my impressions from that distant era. After spending several weeks in the waning apartheid days of South Africa, I found Mauritius exotic to say the least. Whereas the cultural boundaries of SA were fairly firm, I found Mauritius to have a kaleidoscope of different cultural elements such as English, French, Indian and Creole and you would never know what part you would encounter next. The parts I saw in my brief time were of great beauty and I remember thinking that it would take months to explore all the different parts there.

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Kev.

        You should return and compare how things have changed. Also, please visit Rodrigues, the one of the world’s least known islands and a delight.

        The island really took off in the 1980s, once the generation that led the island to independence was turfed out in a landslide and the IMF bitter medicine of 1979 had been overcome.

        The island has become more cosmopolitan since. One example is the 10K plus South Africans on the island. Afrikaans is often spoken on the west coast.

        Unfortunately, the environmental decay is also plain for all to see.

  13. hoki haya

    Tho easily discernable, I hesitate a bit to name what has become the truest home I’ve known, as I can recall what Prague was like 20 years ago compared to the mini-Paris it became after tourists got ahold of it (major crime increase, higher costs of living, general succumbing to the european monoculture, as has happened throughout europe).

    In any event, life is better (to my taste) outside NATO-aligned countries & the Schengen zone. Glad that the military jets I hear and see are Russian, as is the base. I was stunned when first arriving to see children happy, safe, walking the streets of their city without a need for adult accompaniment. In fact, the children and elderly people here restore my faith in humanity. When the initial newness wears off after a year or so, it just gets better in terms of comprehending the culture and enjoying the people, along with seeing the problems more clearly. I lived for extended periods in Germany, Portugal, Denmark too, enjoyed each place (far and away higher quality of genuine living than in the US), but indeed there is a certain pretension to false happiness there, no need for that here, as the wheels came off long ago, thus humor, family, friendship and other pillars for endurance are stronger, softer, more genuine.

    On occasion, I’ve done some teaching here (ain’t never been no trust-fund traveler, pshaw!), and students (good Syrians and Iranians in the mix with the sweet locals) are shocked when I answer their questions honestly about how America treats its elderly, how much education costs, gun violence, police brutality, the general state of the family, etc.

    There is a difficulty in getting paid fairly, tho that’s largely nothing new comparatively. One must write or edit an article or 2 each month for a company based outside the local economy if one hopes to sustain oneself; I’ve been fortunate in this regard. An average person here relies on their family; all work together to survive. Conditions can be spartan (tho again, compared to what?), but the things that make one endure and appreciate the substance of life are in no short supply.

    And the food is off the charts – affordable and healthy, as it should be everywhere.

    Literature and traditional music are living currency here, as is respect in general. May it always be so.

    1. lordkoos

      I’m curious as to your feelings about Portugal, as we have considered it as a place to live. I’ve had a lot of friends visit, but don’t know anyone who has lived there for an extended period.

      1. hoki haya

        My feelings of profound love for Portugal and the Portuguese are of course difficult to summarize, but suffice to say I preferred it to Germany or Denmark, tho it didn’t quite suit me as well as Armenia does. The primary ways I relate to a country initially are through its literary and musical traditions, and the Portuguese soul’s expressions are deeply beautiful, poetic, and retained.

        I spent two years there, in Sintra and in Porto. Sintra is paradisiacal, Porto a hidden gem becoming increasingly well-known. Drawbacks for me were the same as in all Europe: a political bent toward following their NATO masters/western propaganda/Hollywood, and, on the street level, more crime (tho not too bad) and agressive drug dealers, things you just don’t see in Yerevan (and used to not see in Prague). But on the whole, many friends became like family there, it’s less expensive than the mainstream hubs of Europe, and the Moorish impact, coupled with modern migration from north Africa, results in a vivacity and a fluid, positive moroseness I’d not experienced before. The microclimates are dynamically diverse and well worth experiencing. Certain flowers and mountain mists never evaporate from the mind.

        Plenty of retirees from wealthier countries set themselves up there quite comfortably, but those people are rarely part of my experience.

        1. Ignacio

          Same feelings here! When you compare Portuguese and Spanish the biggest difference you find, apart from language is in politeness.

          1. hoki haya

            Having a decent grasp of Spanish, I was surprised it lent itself to a less intuitive grasp of Portuguese than I imagined it would. Both languages are beautiful, with Portuguese being softer in an expressively melodic way.

            And yes, I agree, the politeness, dignity, ease-in-the-body qualities found in people there is, in my experience, second only to the grace that operates as the norm for conduct here in Armenia. Many similarities between the two – the unbreakable importance of the family, the style and role of humor, the rightful place literature and music inhabit in one’s soul and disposition, etc. My Portuguese friends felt at home here, as if meeting heretofore unknown cousins for the first time.

            Nothing against Spain, tho – it was my first love and destination. Catalonia. But yes, in general, interactions were more formal and businesslike there, less relaxed than when inside the generous, creative calm (including explosive boisterousness!) of Portuguese.

      2. carl

        We visited the southern coast of Portugal last year to explore the idea of moving there. It was not a success: too many Brit expats, more expensive than we’d been told, and the real estate market is completely crazy. The country itself merits a look.

        1. hoki haya

          Indeed, the Alentejo has become overblown, party central, prime strips for the elite, etc. If one can brave the less glamorous climes, such as Sintra’s winters of cold rain and bonechilling fog, there are delicacies to be enjoyed at half the cost, in the north as well. I look forward to returning many times.

          I’m recalling Jerez, now, up-north mountain-land with its own unique mythology, where local drivers (on fine if narrow roads) have more frequent trouble encountering a bull or flocks upon flocks of chickens than oncoming automotive traffic. I think one bull drove us backward for half a kilometer.

  14. Calvin

    “They hate us for our freedoms”; to be strip searched at the airport, toasted with the skin cancer X-ray machine, have our devices downloaded, license plates scanned on the way home, the data sold to an advertiser, to have to pay mandatory fraudulent medical “insurance,” borrow money at 29% to pay for medical needs, lose our homes to other scams, have to compete in the job market with imported peons, that we subsidize with tax dollars, then see over half of our tax dollars go to losing wars and to subsidize billion dollar corporations and then be told it’s to protect us against the “terrorists”.

    Still a pretty good country and the only one we have, so it’s worth fighting for.

  15. Expat2Uruguay

    I have lived in Uruguay for 4 years now. The things that are much better here than in California are public transportation, internet service, culture, and small business penetration. I can walk a half a block to a small store that’s open several hours a day. I can walk 4 blocks to a store that’s open 12 hours a day. I can walk ten blocks to a full-on mall with a large grocery store. There’s also one or more bakeries, butchers, vegetable sellers, hardware stores, barbers/hair stylists, and restaurants galore within a quarter-mile radius. And I live in a quiet neighborhood! Oh, there are also three fantastic beaches within a 20 minute walk of my house. I love my location!

    Society here is very laid-back, parents are indulgent of their children and it is legal to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in the public places and streets, But don’t drink and drive, there is no legal limit, aka zero tolerance. Yet culture is vibrant here. There’s an excellent music scene with lots of low-cost or free live music. Jazz, blues, and electronica are surprisingly popular. There are people who play music on the bus for donations, and not just guitar players, but also saxophone players, operatic singers, rappers, violinists, and accordion players. There are people that meet weekly in the downtown area to dance tango on the sidewalk. There are almost weekly practices all over the city of Candombe, which involves large groups of synchronized dancers and drummers parading through the streets for an hour or two. There are so many beautiful parks large and small all over the city where lovers kiss, families play and groups of friends drink mate or beer and often smoke marijuana. There are 50 museums in Montevideo, and at least 35 of them are free. The ones that cost money are less than $10 and usually include a tour. There are ballets, symphonies and lots of theaters, all of which are very inexpensive. They love sports here and are quite interested in maintaining physical fitness. Lots of soccer balls getting kicked, volleyball games on the beach and bicyclist and runners on the Rambla. The Rambla! It’s a UNESCO world heritage site that goes for 20 miles along the beach, a wide paved Boardwalk that is very popular when the weather is nice, especially during sunsets. Full disclosure, the beach is for a river, a really huge river – You can’t even see the other side. On the other side of the river is Buenos Aires, just in case you get a hankering for a big city. Or you could travel a few hours to Punta Del Este, playground of the Rich and Famous.

    But Uruguay is relatively expensive, the most expensive country in South America. This is not a place where you’re going to come and live like a king among the peasants. The prices in restaurants and grocery stores are similar to the prices I paid in Sacramento, California. But the wages here are much less. So this is a good place if you can get your income from somewhere else As a retired person or a remote teleworker. But, oddly, even though the locals here struggle with the difference between wages and prices, it’s quite common for them to have second houses along the coast that they go to during their frequent vacations. It’s also typical to employ a house cleaner.

    Uruguay is a small country, with three million people and half of them live in the capital city of Montevideo. Because of this, nearly everyone here knows everyone else. Uruguay is the safest country in South America with the largest middle class and least income inequality, along with being the most stable economically and politically. People here enjoy discussing politics, and voting in elections is mandatory. But what about the downsides? There are some. First off, you’re not going to be able to order a bunch of stuff on Amazon. In fact, you’re going to have to give up on finding many of the spices and foods and little trinkets that you’re used to acquiring in the US. Consumers beware! Also, flights back to the US or destinations outside of South America are very expensive. And, because it’s so laid back, it’s difficult to find good workers on household projects or to get good service in a restaurant or at a public counter. You just have to be really patient. Finally, the sidewalks are a mess! Since each resident is responsible for the sidewalk in front of their own house or business, sometimes they can get be a bit dangerous if you don’t watch your step. You wouldn’t want to scoot around on one of those elderly mobility scooters here! And then there’s the dog poop and the trash… Oh, well, no place is perfect!

    I’m sorry, this is so long, I usually don’t talk much about my life here, especially on Facebook, because I don’t want to cause resentment and look like I’m bragging, but today I’m making an exception, obviously.
    (By the way, I’m happy to host visitors, In fact, I let couchsurfers stay in my home for free.)

    1. Lorenzo

      thank you. I visited for vacations once as a teen, I hope I can spend more time there in the future. All the best from Buenos Aires :)

    2. hoki haya

      Thank you Very much for taking time to share this detailed, valuable account, and all respect to your journey.

  16. EMtz

    Central México. Year 4. In spite of the crime I like it here and would not go back to the US. The culture is rich and deep, and the aesthetic is quite refined. The food! The amazing natural beauty. And the colors! And the biodiversity! There is a balanced perspective on life, not the despair or rage that increasingly underly US culture. I live simply and modestly, and find my Social Security can almost pay all of my monthly expenses. My stress levels have dropped tremendously and my BP is at levels I haven’t seen in 40 years. Quite honestly, I’m ramping up my Spanish so I can pass my citizenship test and may renounce my US citizenship because I am fed up with having my hard earned $$ underwrite corporate welfare and killing people. I’ve embraced México as my home and am grateful to have been welcomed in return. Coming here is far and away one of the best things I’ve ever done.

  17. PuntaPete

    After his famous rant about people coming to the U.S. from “shit-hole” countries in Africa and other developing countries, Trump asked why more people from, say Norway, were not emigrating to the U.S. I may have missed it, but I don’t remember any politician or anyone with a public voice telling him, “Look, Mr. President, compared to the other two dozen or so advanced industrial countries the United States is a shit-hole country”.

  18. deplorado

    Bulgaria, observations from one of the two big cities on the Black Sea coast:
    – excellent bus service across the city, from airport to industrial zone; articulated airconditioned busses, everyone uses them, young people read books while riding, space for mothers to latch strollers, doors are wide and steps low so mothers in fact prefer the bus to using personal vehicle
    – municipal children’s kitchen: delivers free to a local distribution booth 2 meals 5 times a week at very low cost by local standards, or free for families with large number of children 1-3yrs. The meals are home-cooked level, tasty and healthy, delivered in your own glassware (like used pickle jars for example – simple!) – so no throwaway plastic. Ive tried private kitchens, quality was lower and cost 2-3 times higher
    – a very large city park along the beach starting just off downtown – one of the best things in the whole country actually: it’s everyone’s family playground – old and young, there is a new public pool, carnival booths, restaurants, fish stands, icecream stands, open air theater, public hall overlooking the beach, restaurant and club on the beach – for the wide public, not exclusive, in the evening young and old dress up and take walks leasurely and just talk and hang out
    – the city is dense and everything is walking distance, within a 20 min walk you will pass by every service that a life needs, from a hospital to police to stadium and trainstation and cobler, not to mention stores and restaurants

    – like Uruguay and other similarly positioned countries, incomes of working people are generally low for the local living costs. However most people own a home (I think ~80% or even more) – and with low birthrates many inherit more than one funcitonal home – so that helps a lot. For someone on a US SS check, average I think ~$1300 a month, is plenty for TWO. Local professionals earning the equivalent of $40-50k a year, especially a 2 such income households, live a higher and less stressful standard of living than any tech professional I know in coastal US (not to mention 4 weeks mandatory paid time off).

    – lots of professionals – doctors particularly – leave for Western EU countries where they earn more, particularly specialists; for GP’s though, staying can be much better as they still make a decent living and only refer people for anything more serious than a cold

    In general, I think Bulgaria is good for retired expats if you pick a good spot like the city I described, unless you have a serious health issue which requires specialists, and those may not be available in Bulgaria. But even for things like stents, even cardiac surgery, MRI scans, those are done now and by doctors who specialized or were educated in the UK, Germany or the like – so the issue is more general infrastructure and availability, rather than quality (cost is a fraction of US costs, even paying out of pocket)

    1. hoki haya

      Appreciate this account. The ‘bus-culture’ sounds similar to Yerevan’s; it makes public transport truly a pleasurable part of one’s day (tho we do have the dreaded, indefatigable marshrutkas – are they used in Bulgaria?).

      The municipal children’s kitchen! I wonder why there isn’t something comparable here, tho I’ve seen scant evidence of anyone going hungry. One always shares with one’s neighbors: part of the built-in, practiced and practical ethic.

  19. lordkoos

    I was pretty impressed with the infrastructure I saw in China 20 years ago. Brand-new airports and train stations, good new highways mostly, although I saw some failed projects on the island of Hainan, where the roads were like a bad roller coaster, it seemed like a proper bed was not laid down before paving. (I was told that the guys who built those roads had skimmed off the highway budget to line their own pockets, and were later shot for doing so.)

    Malaysia looked good too when we were there for 10 days, and inexpensive. Most Malaysians speak English which is nice for visitors, and they have one of the best retirement visa progams.

    Thailand’s infrastructure is getting better all the time, we were there for more of 2012, and the way you could cheaply get around Bangkok amazed me. A city of 11,000,000 people, but most of the public transport was very well integrated – airports, buses, elevated rail and subways all connect with each other.

    What struck me about most of the “developing” nations I’ve visited was that the quality of life seemed higher than the US, as far as access to good food, general happiness of the people, and access to decent health care, especially in Malaysia and Thailand. I saw some eye specialists in Thailand and was very impressed with them. We ate from street vendors all the time in Thailand and were never sick from the food, which was remarkably fresh. The air pollution in Chiang Mai and Bangkok is a problem however.

    We are seriously considering leaving the USA should things go badly in the upcoming election, we’re considering Mexico, Ecuador etc and also SE Asia, although the latter is awfully far from friends and family.

  20. ObjectiveFunction

    Very interesting topic, but it’s also very large so the below comments are brief and therefore overgeneralized, apols in advance. My own area is Southeast Asia, where I’ve lived for much of the last 30 years, but I get the sense that the below obtains in much of the world….

    1. (Caucasian) expats remain a privileged class, even in Singapore which is now significantly more advanced than the US across the board, economically and socially. On the other hand, you’re a guest in all these countries, there on sufferance. Any rights of property or residency you may enjoy largely come via your employer/business, or from a local spouse. While this may seem trite, it’s important: an expat life just isn’t that of the locals, even Westernized local elites, and even when you’re married in and living simply as some retirees do.

    2. ASEAN countries are all *very* unequal societies by Western standards/ideals. Even Singapore, which provides excellent public services to all citizens, also relies heavily on a low cost migrant labor force (on weekends you see Tamil laborers in the parks flirting with Filipina housemaids). These migrants make far better money than at home and thus remain docile, but also have no path at all to residency status unless they can marry in. Foreign helpers are also becoming common in Thailand.

    3. In the other countries, as a local friend put it, ‘either you have servants (5 – 15%) or you are one (the rest)’. Having a maid/cook and in trafficky places a driver/errand boy gives a family a fundamentally different daily life not comparable to the modern West. Labor laws are rarely enforced on locals (expats need to take care, you are sheep for shearing)

    4. Most non-Western societies assume that successful individuals in all classes subsidize their less successful relatives, via remittance or inheritance. State safety nets consist of primary education and basic health care, which are basically free but very patchy in covering special needs (that’s cash).

    5. As in the West, a stable income is as or more important than a high income; it’s hard to put down roots or plan for the future without that. In most of ASEAN, c.USD 3500 a month still buys a comfortable life for a family: a townhouse with aircon, a number of motorbikes and many of the same Chinese consumer gadgets Americans have, as well as the aforementioned domestic servants. But, see next….

    6. To me, social mobility appears quite low. It’s hard for the broad peasant/servant class to ascend to the middle class, even via police or military. Foreign workers support their extended families and build a house in their home village; they rarely start their own businesses with savings.
    Again, overgeneralizing but it seems most of the ASEAN ‘middle class’ (the 5-15% PMC) are (grand)children of:
    (a) the officials who took over from the colonialists, or (b) mercantile families, predominantly ethnic Chinese.
    Thus, that 10% also draws on some kind of inherited income / family support on top of their salaries to maintain their lifestyles, cover emergencies and ensure their own kids can obtain the needed credentials to keep themselves in the PMC.

    Anyway, I hope this is useful context for this rich topic. Again, a broad brush, YMMV.

    1. lordkoos

      In most of ASEAN, c.USD 3500 a month still buys a comfortable life for a family

      Very comfortable, I’m sure. $42k a year is more that millions of Americans earn. Singapore is probably the most expensive SE Asian country.

      What struck me about living and travelling in SE Asia was realizing how Americans are being ripped off in comparison to many other parts of the world. In Chiang Mai, we were paying $200 a month for a clean studio apartment with no real kitchen (rent included decent internet and all utilities), $20 a month for cell phone service, and about $20 a day on eating out (for two people). Transportation was also inexpensive. After seven months of living so cheaply, when we came back to the US it felt like we were hemorrhaging money as soon as we hit the airport.

      1. oliverks

        My wife is refusing to buy anything right now. We got back from staying in Europe and she is shocked at how expensive everything is here. For us it started at the Hilton in the airport as we had a very early departure time to flyout. It was a splash of cold water.

        1. lordkoos

          Yep. I have a musician friend who did an artist-in-residence gig for 6 months in Germany with his wife & two kids joining him. He said the same thing (they live in NYC). He also said not only were groceries cheaper, they were better quality as well.

  21. Anon1

    The article is about developing countries and France is developed, not developing. Weather has huge impact on roads and comparing roads in south of France to Michigan is not a fair comparison. I have driven through France extensively and the roads are good but parts of the US and Canada has much better roads. I would say Arizona or Utah has waaaaaay better roads than any part of France, especially the north.

  22. Harbottle Grimstone

    Operant word: “developing”. AKA a region experiencing the upswing. Shiny new industries, new infrastructure, new institutions. Growth. All nations have a finite socio-political lifespan before re-configuration; the US is no exception. Idealism’s parametric in America-2020 is at a nadir compared to the fire-eyed certainty of magistrates in Colonial America-1620. The waterwheel of fortune is philosophy’s consolation: rise-up on its spokes if you like but do not complain when you plunge back down into the depths. The tragedy is also the hope: bad times always pass, as do the good times. Rinse-repeat-return to the wilderness. — Answering the question, Ahmedabad, Gujurat has great food but prohibits alcohol.

  23. Edward

    This country has spent its productive energy producing MBA’s who specialize in sucking money from people. It has a political system based on bribery and is no longer a “nation of laws”. Given the non-response to the 2008 crash, the surprise may be it is not in worse shape.

    Costa Rica is the one country in South/Central America that was spared CIA “help”, presumably because they don’t have a military. This is what South America would look like if the U.S. left them alone.

    The U.S. probably has the solutions to its problems, but people with solutions, such as college professors, are excluded from government decision making. In my experience, average people tend to be smarter then the geniuses on the boob tube and in Washington.

    I don’t know what the big problem is with public colleges. You can get a good education at a public college.

  24. Another Anon

    Is there anyone here who has anything to say about living in Chile ? I visited Chile back in 2007 and enjoyed myself. I spent most of my time in Santiago
    and was impressed by it being clean, a nice subway
    and interesting architecture.

  25. Norbert Wiener

    Great thread.

    I am three years into my escape from the US. 50 countries of wandering in three years. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why I would go back to the open-air prison of the US.

    Quality of life in places as diverse as Plovdiv, Bulgaria; Penang, Malaysia; Brno, Czechia; Kanazawa, Japan; Kunming, China; are literally off the charts for half the cost.

    The other thing I’d add: the wife and I made $480k per year in our last few years. A decent middle-class income in Manhattan.

    After taxes and various contributions to Fed-pumped Ponzis and ‘healthcare’ our net take home was around $240k per year.

    All so we could be good goys and pay another 5k a month for a shitty 1-bedroom condo with hollow doors and ride a piss-smelling subway up to offices we sat in meetings for 6 of our 10 daily hours and then fake pointless outrage over whatever new political offense the dear leaders had perpetrated over $17 cocktails and then come home and fall asleep to Netflix and sleeping pills.

    Outside the US, we’ve maxed our income to 220k total (all untaxed), so we’re only down 20k or so from our Manhattan highs. And we can do this from anywhere we have an internet connection. We interact with locals. We eat staggeringly good food. When we get bored we hop a plane and fly somewhere new.

    I’m 40. Maybe at 50 this will all grow tiring, but I doubt it.

    1. oliverks

      I assume Norbert Wiener is your “nom de plume” or are you related to the Norbert Wiener?

      This is what we are finding. You can go to almost anywhere out of America and live for much less with much better food, life style, and people seem much better adjusted. Hell even London seems cheap in many ways when you consider the quality of what you are getting.

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