“The Expat Experience”

Below is a Gonzalo Lira Roundtable with Brian Berletic and Alex Christaforu on their lives outside their home countries. I was asked to join this conversation and didn’t because I was told that it could wind up hurting my emigration prospects in one of the countries high on my candidate list. Had I realized the focus would be so retrospective, I might have participated. Established readers may recall that your humble blogger lived in Sydney from 2002 to 2004 and very much enjoyed it, and was a borderline expat in 1984 on a horrible four month McKinsey project in London (I was too new to the firm to have realized that if a study was having trouble being staffed and they needed help from another office, there was likely to be a good reason that the troops in that office were finding a way not to be assigned to it).

The discussion covers some of the ways America falls short compared to some other countries, particularly in infrastructure, including architecture, transportation, and public amenities. To that list I would add health care (aside from very high end surgeries and cancer treatments) where the US does poorly in cost versus care, and public education.

The elephants in the room that this talk largely skips over are the hoops you have to manage in this process. You need a visa if you are going to stay for longer than the usual tourist visa of 90 days, and most countries do not take well to trying to finesse that by running across the border for a day and coming back.

The most common ways that Americans get foreign visas are through employment or spousal. If your employer sends you abroad, he will take care of the hassle of getting a visa and will likely provide some assistance, such as getting local bank accounts and referring the transferee to accountants to handle the local and US tax filings (Americans are liable for taxes on worldwide income, so Americans working abroad typically file 2 sets of tax returns). However, unless your assignment in that country is so long that you are able to apply for and receive permanent resident status, if your employer terminates your assignment (sends you back home), your visa also ends and you need will need to move or get another company to hire you pronto (which entails more cost and hassle for them than hiring a local; many countries require the employer to establish that they were unable to hire a citizen of the host country to do the job).

Some countries take a dim view of recently-married visa applicants. In Australia when I was there, you had to be married for over a certain length of time to apply for a spousal visa. On top of that, Australia would separate partners married less than a certain number of years and grill them each on all sorts of details, like what color sheets they had on their bed, who was the best man, what they did on their first date, what was their partner’s favorite sports team, what they do on Sundays, etc.

A finesse is that some countries like Ireland allow citizenship through inheritance, as in if one of your grandparents was born in Ireland, you can become an Irish citizen. That would allow you to live anywhere in the Schengen area.

Most advanced economies and even some developing economies are restrictive. Many countries take the view that furriners might be coming to try to mooch off their social welfare system and want to prevent that. Some like Canada use a points system that strongly favors young educated or otherwise skilled people, as in the host country wants them to make productive contributions well before they are old enough to be expected to make much in the way of demands on health services. Malaysia, which once had a generous ten year visa called Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H), just increased the income requirements fourfold, so applicants now have to have an income of over $100,000 a year. And Malaysia did not grandfather current MM2H visa-holders, so those who had MM2H visas and bought real estate are having their lives turned over.

Another route for becoming an expat is a retirement visa. Quite a few countries, particularly ones in Central and Latin America, offer retirement visas where a not-too-high Social Security payment would suffice. Many offer affordable standards of living, particularly if you are willing to live in a country town. But you are really not supposed to work on a retirement visa, so keep that in mind.

A final avenue is a digital nomad visa. They are typically only one or two years, although Indonesia is going against the Malaysia trend and has just started to offer a 10 year visa if you have at least $130,000 in your bank account. It’s a tempting option, but I spent 4 weeks and then 6 weeks in Bali in the early 1990s, and I am told it was ruined by the book and then movie Eat, Pray, Love. And although Bali offers a phenomenal range of alternative treatments, it’s not a good place if you need conventional care (I assume they can handle stabilizing stroke and heart attack victims due to regularly hosting big international meetings like the G20, but bets are off beyond that).

And in many places, you do need to become reasonably fluent in the local language to get by. For instance, even though Montevideo (Uruguay) has many tourists and visitors can navigate with English only, if you want to live there and take advantage of their very good medical system, you need to become at least moderately fluent in Spanish. One American who had some Spanish had difficultly in communicating with doctors, even when bringing a translator (the translator and the doctor would have a long talk and then the translator would say only a teeny bit to the patient). This American also reported that Uruguay doctors have a different attitude than American ones, who have a player-coach relationship and generally don’t mind having informed patients. Uruguay doctors expect patients to defer to them and not ask questions.

In addition, even though FATCA is a hassle for Americans living abroad and can make it difficult to get bank accounts, FACTA reporting thresholds are much much higher than when I lived in Oz.

Finally, there is a mini-industry of “Becoming an Expat” publications. They are very much focused on retired couples, and assume you either want to live near a beach or in Europe, or the fallback, a charming country/mountain town. They also tend to push subscribers to locations where they have deep connections, like Panama (which is a very low-friction destination for Americans) and sell additional services….like in-person seminars and hawking real estate investments.

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  1. bonks

    By the time I turned 30, I had lived in Singapore for 15 years, Australia 3, UK 1, China 3. The stark difference between the former three and China is that in China, you can start a modest business with a tiny capital, zero network and no family help, which was what I did. The existing technological and logistical infrastructure had been put in place to encourage micro businesses like mine to grow. Barriers to entry are lowered when transportation is affordable, shipping costs a mere pittance, people can make things at reasonable prices, and everything moves at lightning speed. And when I found hardworking suppliers and contractors it encouraged my work ethic to grow. Competition is so fierce I was forced to adapt and learn quickly. By the third year my products were competing with offerings from Nike, despite being a team of two. Life may not be easier in China than other places but it gave me the chance to be an entrepreneur without VC money, and til today I had never worked for any corporations other than mine.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I know a few people in the late 90’s and early 00’s who found it very easy to carve a good niche for themselves in moving to China, but from what I hear its entirely changed now. Its not just bureaucratic obstacles (far greater than before), but even for native born Chinese it seems to have become much tougher to get ahead as the first generation of successful business people have effectively closed the door to anyone who isn’t in insider circles.

      If I was in my 20’s and ambitious and looking for somewhere wild and open to try my luck, I’d definitely go straight to Vietnam. It has the vibe of China 20-30 years ago and they genuinely like foreigners who make an attempt to learn the language and fit in. And although deeply corrupt, the government is imo genuinely more socialist and open (at least in some respects) than China ever was – they have some very impressive rural development schemes and a vibrant ground level openness (although I doubt this will last). Plus, it has amazing beaches and a very rich cultural life.

  2. LawnDart

    Some like Canada use a points system that strongly favors young educated or otherwise skilled people, as in they want them to make productive contributions well before they are old enough to be expected to make much in the way of demands on health services.

    I’m racing against the clock on this one– next summer is “do-or-die” for me in terms of an opportunity that I identified. Given time, I probably could build enough assets for a retirement visa into a few locales elsewhere, but I’d rather rebuild now to live life over the years than trying to survive long enough to punch that ticket…

    Although not my choice, I’ve heard many good things about Mexico.

  3. Deschutes

    As the quality of life and political situation in USA continues to deteriorate, it is entirely understandable that more and more Americans are trying to get out of there. Speaking from direct experience, I urge Americans to NOT move to Canada. Here are some of the reasons:

    1) Terrible job market. If you think the U.S. job market is bad, Canada’s is MUCH WORSE. Canada simply does not have the job opportunities that comes with the much larger economy that the USA has by comparison. It is a much smaller country of 37 million. It is very common for skilled visa immigrants to NOT find work in their field and end up in low skilled service sector jobs. There is a cliché in Canada bandied about of the Iranian PhD brain surgeon who since landing many years ago drives a cab in Vancouver. It’s not an exaggeration. What’s more, will often not get a job you apply for because “you lack Canadian experience”. It’s their way of giving natives the first crack at job openings over immigrants.

    2) Anti-Americanism: don’t expect a warm welcome in Canada. Canadians will ask you, with a perplexed expression on their faces repeatedly “So tell me again why did you decide to move here”? Or “When will you be returning to USA?” Because the job market is so bad even for native Canadians, they are protective of what job openings there are–and understandably want those jobs going to native Canadians and not immigrants. There is a passive-aggressive resistance to Americans moving cross border into Canada. Why? See point #1. Canadians have a love/hate relationship with the USA. They love Americans visiting as tourists; they hate Americans coming to live and work in Canada.

    3) Everything is MUCH more expensive in Canada than in USA. You will pay more than twice what you currently pay in USA for groceries, clothing, phone plans (CA phone plans are among the most expensive worldwide), home furnishings, rent, auto, etc. FACT: as Canadians are well aware of how much cheaper consumer items are in USA, so they frequently make week long visits cross border to Seattle or Buffalo NY to stock up massively on food, beer, wine, etc and haul it all back home. They stay for a week because Canadian customs slaps a hefty customs fee on anything brought back over the border for a short 1 or 2 day visit to the States in order to stop Canadians from taking advantage of the massive savings to be had by shopping in USA. You’d better bring A LOT of money with you if you’re moving to Canada, and you’ll most likely run right through it.

    4) Foreign credentials not recognized: if you are a skilled professional, the Canadian immigration bureaucracy will not recognize your credentials, and you’ll have to submit your degrees, work history and references to a PLAR (prior learning and assessment recognition) center, where they will decide if your foreign degree and work experience meet Canadian standards, or whether you will have to do your education over again. Be forewarned: it will not be easy.

    5) Terrible weather: did you know that Vancouver is in a temperate rain forest? It’s true. What that means is you get 9 months of nonstop rain, and only 2-3 months of (sometimes) sunny weather. July and August are the only reliably sunny months in Vancouver. From September through June massive Pacific storm fronts dump massive amounts of rain on the city, quite similar to Seattle. You can easily go a month and never have a sunny day, or just have a few days of sun. Don’t believe all the bright, sunny images of Vancouver if you google the city: this is done deliberately to deceive you, to lure you in. Or take Toronto: bitterly cold winters, gray rainy skies predominate in spring/fall; and again just a short summer with sun–but often rainy there as well.

    6) Yes they have nationalized health care, and it’s a good thing–especially when compared to USA’s rapacious for profit corporate healthcare system. That said, there are extended waiting periods which can be a year or longer for non-urgent procedures. And it’s not free: in BC for example you will have to pay a monthly sliding fee depending on your income.

    It is very common for many left leaning Americans to project their hopes and dreams on Canada, thinking everything will be better over there. In fact, Canada has made an industry out of luring in immigrants into Canada to make money off of them in various schemes such as landing services, required Canadian training, orientation, etc. I once read at Statistics Canada that around 30% of adult immigrants to Canada leave a few years after landing.

    1. SES

      Erratum: The NDP government in BC did away with the monthly fee for the Medical Services Plan as of 1 January 2020.

      1. C.O.

        There is also no monthly fee on health care in Alberta. Southern Alberta, the Toronto region and extreme southern BC tend to really attract American immigrants, partly due to historical factors such that they have family ties in those regions.

    2. CanCyn

      Agreed. I wonder how much ‘free’ healthcare offsets those costs? The few Americans I know spend an awful lot of money annually on healthcare.

    3. Lex

      I lived and worked illegally in Vancouver for about 6 months. The literal 40 days and nights of rain I experienced in that time was enough. The Island seems to be better in that regard, but far fewer opportunities. In any case, I moved on to S. Korea which at the time was a hugely popular destination for young Canadians.

    4. Arizona Slim

      I experienced PLENTY of anti-Americanism while I was bike touring in Canada. Not just on the road, but off the road.

      OTOH, I also experienced hospitality that was off-the-charts wonderful. Among one of my most treasured bike touring experiences is being invited to sit at the mayor’s table in a Davidson, Saskatchewan restaurant.

    5. Bosko

      That’s quite a litany. Not that I want to move to Canada (though I’m spending a few days in Montreal next week…), but can you say a little (generally) about your own circumstances? Were you one of the starry-eyed, unrealistic Americans that you’re referring to in your post? Just curious.

    6. AdamK

      How about Cuba? excellent healthcare and free. Could attract the elderly who are seeking a comfortable retirement.

        1. BlakeFelix

          Plus if you are American there is the whole US trying to crush them thing. They were very nice to me when I was there but you never know if Congress will decide to freeze assets or ban travel or whatever. And they were damned near eating cats and dogs after their Russian subsidies stopped, which seemed absurdly incompetent to me, I don’t think that I have ever seen such unnecessarily fallow land.

    7. Paul Whittaker

      As an ex pat Brit, I emigrated to the USA and lived in Florida for 1 year as a Bike mechanic. I resented the segregation with black white sign on the doors of restaurants etc. I had no complaints as to the people I worked and moved with. Rode to Canada in 61 on my race bike “Triton” with a home built sidecar and all belongings in it. Never looked back, have been down numerous times since for race events starting in 62 when I rode the same Triton in the FIM event at Daytona (finished 10th). Healthcare has gone down hill with the push for privatization: make a system so bad that people will be glad to pay for special treatment. Eastern Ontario has excellent weather, we are in the snow period currently, a snow blower helps keep thing moving around my 50acres. My father always said “Snow is nice on picture postcards” it is what it is.

    8. Victor Moses

      As a Canadian – I’m not going to argue with much. But the anti-americanism is vastly overrated. Most Canadians feel closest to and most comfortable with Americans. Someone asking why you came to immigrate to Canada should not be construed as we don’t like you or want you. Canadians can project stereotypes in some instances and like many Americans don’t understand gun culture, fully privatized healthcare and general lack of care about fellow citizens. If you’re American – Canada will feel comfortable to migrate to – cleaner, more orderly, basics provided for most people and a less polarized political class. It certainly does have its drawbacks too.

      1. Joe Well

        Victor, sometime, just find some Canadians you don’t know and pretend you’re American. Count the minutes until the first totally off-topic anti-American remark. If you get to 20 minutes you owe them all a round of drinks.

    9. Mennis the Denace

      Hey Deschutes, Your description of the weather in Vancouver is what it was up to about 10 years ago. With climate change we now get quite long periods of little to no rain.
      One positive of moving from the US to Canada that you didn’t mention: we don’t pack guns, nor keep one under our pillows “just in case”. And the rate of mass shootings/killings up here is much less.

  4. Fazal Majid

    FATCA, not FACTA. It’s only a real issue in countries with surprisingly parochial banking systems like Germany.

    A bigger problem is that US Persons need to pay taxes in both the US and host country, specially if there is no tax treaty. The transportability and eligibility for the local compulsory state pensions (equivalent to Social Security) will also be an issue.

    Expatriation can also be a good idea for students. Germany or France offer high-quality university education without the crushing debt burden.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      sorry, my name dyslexia…

      In 2002, it was a Big Deal. More than $10,000 in a foreign bank account subjected you to FATCA reporting. Meant I had to pull down cash via an ATM over a series of days to pay my rent.

      Some countries take the view with digital nomads/other totally foreign source business income types that if you are not earning income their country/currency, you don’t have to pay local taxes (some have it on the books that they expect a tax return all zeroed out but I have heard from people in 3 countries with provisions like this that it’s not presently enforced and no one files the local returns). Basically you are regarded as a high end tourist who paid extra for a a long-dated visa while keeping your back-at-home business running.

      1. Revenant

        Every UK high street bank asks you if you hold a dual nationality and specifically if you have US citizenship. Dual nationals get the third degree (tax and compliance risks) and US nationals get the door slammed. UK papers are full of people with dual / US citizenship complaining about having their banking withdrawn overnight with no explanation (banks hiding behind money laundering provisions to avoid saying they have taken a collective punishment compliance risk assessment decision rather than an individual decision as required by consumer / financial regulation). Often they are in limbo because nobody will take them on.

        If you move to the UK, line up your banking with full disclosure before you come. If you are wealthy, the private banks may take you on, or the offshore branches of UK high street banks in Guernsey and Jersey, both types of bank being used to global customers. If you are not wealthy, good luck!

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The statement is inaptly written. I will correct. Americans are liable for taxes on worldwide income. But there is a “foreign income exclusion” up to $112,000, including things like education subsidies paid by your employer.

        1. Acacia

          Yes, and thanks for adding the exact amount. I would say the point to emphasize is that if you meet the conditions of 2555 (pretty easy if you are living overseas, even receiving income from a USian employer based in the US), you get to pay no Federal income tax on that first $112K. And since you no longer live in one of the fifty states, you in effect get a major tax break there as well. Of course, you have to reckon with the local tax authorities, but many of the destinations under discussion here have a rather favorable tax structure compared to that of the US. Not to mention, you won’t feel that simmering annoyance that your tax money is being used for all manner of grift and nefarious purposes.

          For anyone living overseas or considering it, I would say definitely look into this. E.g., I had a friend who expatriated to a country in the EU, and the IRS started hounding him for unpaid taxes. It was causing him a fair amount of stress. When I suggested 2555, he investigated, was able to file taxes, claim the exclusion, and placate the IRS while paying them nothing.

    2. Immigrant2014

      Well, living in France and having acquired French citizenship in the process, I guess I have to admit that France has a parochial banking system too. So does Spain, Switzerland and Portugal amongst the countries that I’ve inquired about opening an account. The key question is “Are you an American person?”. When you admit to it, you will likely be refused an acct. It’s understandable, the paperwork required as well as the sheer arrogance of American law, is a deal-breaker for the banks.

      In France, fortunately, the law requires that all personnes have the possibility of opening up at least one bank account. This generally means finding a brick and mortar bank, as online banks always refuse, although I don’t know how they find cover. FATCA is a real pain.

      One other things. Expats are white people with money or really good jobs who move to another country temporarily or forever. All others are called immigrants. Or exiles. This seems like an important distinction.

    3. Bugs

      Disagree on FATCA for France – one can be “fired” as a customer by an international bank even with French citizenship. I have two friends (twin siblings) who despite having spent nearly their entire lives in France, but who were unluckily born in the USA, that have an extraordinarily difficult time with banks, especially transfers outside SEPA. Every deposit over 5k gets a call from the bank. They wanted to give up their USA passports but that’s become a huge hassle as well, with a 3k payment and proof of no outstanding pecuniary obligations in the USA. Insidious.

      1. Immigrant2014

        Bugs, I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing about. I also don’t know what an ‘international’ bank is. Speaking for myself, I had already opened enough bank accounts in France (French banks, with offices all over the world. Are they international banks?) before FATCA, and have been able to keep them open. On the other hand, for the last 11 years I cannot open a new acct with a financial institution.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Its a fascinating subject and I think most people would be surprised at the sheer range of options available, all with their own peculiarities. In the last two weeks I met up/talked to a variety of people I know doing some variation on it. Just before Christmas I met with a former colleague who on retirement moved to Wuhan in China with his wife and lived there for five years teaching English to students who couldn’t afford classes (it was through a University based charity). Neither he nor his wife had a word of Chinese – at the time he was leaving, I introduced him to some Chinese friends who were fascinated/horrified that an ‘old man’ like him would do such a thing. But he and his wife loved it and are preparing to return (he had left Wuhan for a Christmas break just as the virus hit and was unable to return, all his possessions are still there in his apartment untouched). And yes, he now has pretty decent mandarin now, which has shamed me into getting back to studying it. I also very recently talked to a Brazilian friend who is a long term digital nomad, from Japan to Norway. She professed herself ‘bored out of her skull’ with Lisbon and is on her way to live in Paris. And in the past month my nephew and his girlfriend quit two excellent high paying jobs in Dublin to spend 2 years in Australia to see if they should move there. They had no other real motive except that they have lots of friends there and they want to try it out.

    On the reverse side, my friend who has a small business helping Chinese people settle in Ireland has reported a big increase in interest from wealthy Chinese, HKers and Taiwanese. There is a loophole in Irish business visa laws that allows an investment into a charity to count and this seems to have attracted a lot of interest, especially from HKers, most of whom seem desperate to leave. I suspect that some Chinese business people see the social status of a charity investment as more useful than owning a restaurant or whatever. My retired professor brother in law is busy putting together a business plan for a research unit extension on this basis. I’m told through the grapevine that Trinity College in Dublin has raised many millions from this.

    For the less well off here dubious marriages are very common – usually not on the basis of money, just people doing favours for each other. My Vietnamese friend, who worked for a social media company in Dublin employing a very wide range of SE Asians and Brazilians says its quite normal now (the Irish authorities rarely check the bona fides of marriages). She casually mentioned that her boyfriend has a Vietnamese wife – it wasn’t transactional, they were just friends and he did it to help her out, but is now worried it might have consequences if she changes her mind about a divorce. My friend isn’t bothered about it as she had a similarly casual marriage with a friend as a backup plan if her passport plans didn’t work out.

    I know a few Americans who settled in Ireland – one couple I know have a mixed race child and they felt Europe was a better option for raising her. I don’t think they regret it – its gone very well for them career-wise – but they do express a lot of frustration with the health system here for the reasons Yves alludes to with respect of Uruguay – the flip side of a more socialised(ish) medicine is that you have to take your turn and accept your doctors advice, and they find this very frustrating (my friend is a biochemist with a long term immune disorder – she has found doctors here refusing to accept her experience and input). For all the horrors of the US medical system, it can be very disruptive to move. A retired nurse cousin of mine from NY has delayed her planned return to Ireland because she feels it would be too disruptive to her long term post-cancer treatment. She had a very rare and aggressive cancer which she survived mostly thanks to her knowledge of how to get the very best treatment in NY (very good indeed), but worries that she will not get the same degree of attention in an Irish rural hospital if she has follow on issues, and she is certainly right about that.

    One option which I know quite a few people are attracted to is ‘visa hopping’ especially in Asia, which combines the option of fairly easy going casual work (like English teaching) with a good medical system. For some retired or semi-retired people I know, just spending a few months in each country works out very well for them. Its a long way away for me yet, but my current hope is to mix short term visas in Japan and ROK with cheaper times in SE Asian countries as a way to explore and upgrade my language skills. The downside of this approach is how to deal with a major medical issue that needs long term attention.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I can’t talk from personal experience, but the people I’ve met who do it say the trick is to live very ‘light’, i.e learn to live with an absolute minimum of possessions and rent/buy what they really need in their new temporary home. Counterintuitively, I think one way to minimize the stress of moving around is to do it ‘slow’, by train and ship, and avoid flying. As a bike tourer I’m pretty good at living for weeks with only clothes/kit that can be stuffed into a pair of bike panniers, but I don’t know how sustainable it is long term.

        Personality wise, that type of lifestyle would suit a dedicated rootless introvert like me, but I can see its certainly not sustainable for most people.

      2. ObjectiveFunction

        20 year expat here (5 countries and counting), emerging from lurk mode to weigh in, FWIW and happy holidays.

        The following questions may be useful to you and other Americans considering the same. These aren’t all specific to expat life, although there are options overseas not available to US non-0.1%ers….

        1. How do you like your environment to be, day to day? (that includes WFH)
        – Do you need your ‘clutter’ and books around you? or is a generic furnished rental ok?
        – Do you require good order and dependability (goods and services)? or can you handle some ‘meiyou/mañana‘ day-to-day?
        – Do you prefer a view? Body of water? Trees? City streets with people walking? Golf course? (jk lol)
        – Do you need a personal outdoor space? (balcony, patio, garden)
        – Do you entertain at home regularly?

        2. How important is it to you to get out of your home, e.g. on a daily or weekly basis?
        – Do you need a ‘there there’? Outside your door, or is driving ok? How far?
        – What needs to be ‘there’? Sidewalk cafes? Vegan yakitori? Arts? Lectures? Activism? (NB in many countries it’s illegal for foreigners to be ‘political’)
        – Is personal safety something you think about a lot (when outside the US)?

        3. What level of personal care do you expect to need (assuming a longtime move overseas)?
        – How close do you need to live to world class medical facilities? World class care is a moving target of course, severe illnesses aside.
        [This one is what Lambert calls ‘the deck’]
        – In non-Western countries for much less than a US car payment you can hire a trained some-English live-in helper who can also shop, cook, keep house (this can be a great arrangement for the helper as well) and help you ‘live local’.
        But it is also sharing your life, like family, with both the caring and the drama. Choose wisely….

        1. Oh

          If someone wants to leave just because the politics here does not suit their tastes, they have to be sure that they should refrain from readings about politics in the USA in order wash that out of their system – you can take the boy out of the country but you’ll never take the country out of the boy!

          It’s better to do a trial stay in a prospective country before you become an expat err. permanent resident. I plan to do that to get exposure to the culture and other environmental factors. Besides, I look at it as an life experience rather than a move.

          My most important factors are food, friendliness of people, weather, transportation, ease of adaptability, privacy, red tape and closeness to a major airport. Healthcare is important but is not the overriding factor.

  6. Martin Oline

    Thanks for this post. I had seen most (2/3?) of the ‘Crazy Money” expat talk I think your introduction may have been more informative than the show. I am sure the comments today will expand on that. I enjoy Gonzalo’s self-effacing manner and humor and watch him when I can.

  7. SocalJimObjects

    As someone who lives in Indonesia, the country has never been a destination for medical tourism, we have Singapore and Malaysia for that. There are good hospitals in the country, but they are primarily concentrated in Jakarta (because it’s the capital). For conventional diseases, I think you’ll be able to get adequate care at hospitals in Bali, but a little bit of warning, nurses here lack professionalism and they often expect family members to share the burden of watching over the patient. In second tier towns, nurses in “top” hospitals won’t even make sure that patients have taken their medicine, that responsibility often falls to family members and/or patients themselves.

    Older doctors in Indonesia also expect patients to defer to them in all matters, but younger doctors are quite willing to listen to patients, and often times they would even leave their phone number with you which I’ve found to be useful especially when you are dealing with a fluid situation.

    TL;DR avoid coming to Indonesia for long term stay unless you are still young.

  8. Louis Fyne

    IMO, for a random collection of Americans who are looking at ex-pat life, the majority are better off leaving (presumably city-suburban life with nominal pre-existing international connections) for rural middle America/Great Lakes state versus another country.

    Pros: better-than-baseline public infrastructure, civic institutions (think: finding a town with an old Carnegie library and/or a college);
    lower cost of living—savings can be applied to medical tourism;
    less cultural transition than moving to a different country;
    reasonably access to family.

    some of these states/municipalities-counties will have big fiscal cliffs in the future.

    1. CanCyn

      I suppose in a way that is what my husband and I did in leaving the huge metropolis that is Canada’s most populous area, the Greater Toronto Area, for more rural eastern Ontario after we retired. We moved to a small municipality less than 30 mins from Kingston ON, a university town with a decent arts and culture community. We are a 3 hour drive or train ride from Toronto or Montreal and about 2 hours from Ottawa. I wanted a quiet life with easy access to city amenities when I felt like it. The quiet part has worked out very well, the access to urban amenities and activities remains to be seen as our move happened at the beginning of the pandemic. I have high hopes though. Our little village itself has a decent grocer, library, liquor store and bakery. Local meat and dairy are not far away. All that said, I found it hard enough to find a new doctor and dentist. I can’t imagine doing all the research (online and in person visits) we did to find this area and our house (all done during the last two years before retirement) about a foreign country. I would find an house I liked on realtor.ca and then my husband would use Google maps, satellite and street view to check out the surroundings. We didn’t want to be near a big farm or a gravel pit (lots of those in our area). One house we really liked turned out to be near a mechanic’s business, run out of his home. My husband saw the business name on Google maps and our drive by was to the sound of the loud drilling noise of a tire change. I don’t know how you’d do that stuff in another country. I guess you rent for a while before making a choice, which is something we considered.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, that is false. Cost of living in US is way higher. To pick an example, in Green Bay, most one BRs are >$1000, while there are plenty of places where your entire cost of living is below that.

      Medical care is terrible even in secondary US cities. IM Doc reports medical care breaking down on a widespread basis due to staff shortages v high level of infections and likely Covid-related rise in other health issues like autoimmune diseases. One reader in Pacific NW reported 2 day+ wait to be seen in ER and disasters after admission.

      1. JEHR

        Right now Canadian cost of living is going up at a great inflationary rate. Rentals which were about $800 per month will now cost you double that. If the province has put a cap on rental rates, you may be allright; otherwise, check to see whether rentals are capped. Housing prices are coming down gradually. Groceries are still going up in price and will go down when summer comes and local farms begin selling produce. The Canadian dollar is worth less than the American dollar which adds to the cost of things bought with Canadian dollars.

          1. JEHR

            I can understand the provinces banning foreign buyers from purchasing property as some companies (and maybe private equity) have been buying up rental properties and have put the rents out of sight for Canadians that once rented them. I have also heard that there are some Canadians opposed to this law. Different provinces may have other rules re foreign buyers. Of course, salaries and wages are not keeping up with the inflation and many Canadians are finding themselves homeless or looking for low rentals which are scarce.

      2. playon

        The medical care issue is concerning.

        We have decided to move from a small town in eastern WA to a small city in western WA for the warmer climate and to be nearer to friends and better medical care than we can get here. Even though the housing prices are inflated in western WA, they are coming down with the higher interest rates.

        If we were younger we might have chosen to go back to Thailand as we loved living in Chiang Mai but it’s very far from friends and family. Thailand has good infrastructure, excellent and affordable medical care etc. However Bangkok at some point in the future will be underwater at as the city is below or at sea level. I have expat friends living in Costa Rica, Ecuador and Mexico who love it.

        1. playon

          I forgot to mention that Thailand has a pretty good retirement visa program if you are over 50 and it’s easy to open a bank account there.

        2. judy2shoes

          Just out of curiosity, where in Ecuador are your friends living? I am seriously considering moving there if I am able to get all my ducks in a row, so to speak.

        3. Jorge

          Kaiser Permanente has a site in Spokane. I’ve been scouting Spokane in general; I’m from Sacramento, and felt a calm familiar vibe in Spokane. They’re both regional hubs started in the late 1800s.

          Note that Spokane is 1800 ft above sea level. Neither glacier melt nor Cascadian fault will wash over it any time soon :)

      3. Discouraged in WI

        I wonder if Green Bay is influenced by the Packers and also the proximity to Door County. I went on-line and checked Eau Claire, also has a state university, and found a number of listings between $500 and$1000 for 1-2 Bedrooms.

        1. MaryLand

          We have driven through Eau Claire, WI many times. Clear blue skies and rolling green hills with cows give a happy vibe in the summer. Mighty cold and snowy in the winter. Very little diversity though. It’s about 90 minutes from Minneapolis for bigger city amenities.

        2. Yves Smith Post author

          An advantage is that due to the Packers, it has a lot of flights for a city that size. It is also the biggest city serving the Upper Peninsula (~300,000 people) so I assume it has more services than you’d expect given its population.

      4. Janie

        Yves, re terrible medical care: let me be the second reader in the Pacific northwest to report a two day wait for treatment of a fast-moving infection requiri
        ng IV antibiotics. I’m in admitting now.

    3. anon in so cal

      That is my husband’s view, wrong or right, mainly because of his childhood fondness for northern MI. My husband lived in Australia for two years, I lived in Mexico for one year. I despise the US government and I think the US is finished but we have never been able to identify countries we would want to move to on a permanent basis. Pre-pandemic, we used to travel all over the world. Many, many places are wonderful to visit, including long-term, but not on a permanent basis. We have acquaintances who are much, much better off financially than we who have second homes in France, India, Mexico, etc. That might work but it has its own set of negatives.

  9. DJG, Reality Czar

    I do not call myself an expatriate, although I have been an inhabitant of Chocolate City in the Undisclosed Region of Italy these last sixteen months.

    No, it isn’t Tuscany. Yves Smith mentions Eat, Pray, Love, and if I recall, that book has the obligatory chapter on Tuscany, the favored destination of Anglophones and their book clubs.

    I agree that many persons get Italian citizenship by marriage.

    Yet there is a thriving “industry” of lawyers and services that specialize in getting Italian citizenship for Americans of Italian descent. I was lucky: My mother saved everything, including my grandmother’s “alien registration card” from 1940, which indicated that my Sicilian grandmother never became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

    Italy doesn’t have birthright citizenship, like the U.S.A. One still inherits citizenship (jus sanguinis). So I inherited citizenship and was recognized as such by the August Comune of Palermo, where my grandmother was born.

    Yes, it is a bit of a labyrinth, but many Americans of Italian descent may just be able to follow the thread to give themselves another option. The process is also explained quite clearly at the site of the Italian Consul General in the U.S. (I used the consulate in Chicago, where the staff egged me on even further once I had word from Palermo.)

    And I can vote in Italy: And I do.

    It isn’t all chocolate and hand-made shirts, ne.

    1. Revenant

      It will not help with the visa (although thete might be an interplay, so don’t take my word for it) but Italy has a very generous flat tax system for wealthy immigrants. Plus Italy still has great civic and public services and healthcare (in the North, the south is third world, only the diet keeps them alive!). However, there is an immense bureaucracy to obtaining any of this but it may be better in retirement when the labour law does not apply. The tax office never gives refunds,they just credit next years assessment, unlike the UK where they taxman sends you a cheque!

  10. .Tom

    I haven’t listened to this conversation yet but the title itself draws my attention. First, there are a lot of expat experiences and even at the most generalized level I think there are two that we should distinguish: expat and self-exile.

    I exiled myself from the UK in 1990 at the age of 25. I had wanted to since my mid teens and finally got the chance. At evening class I met a wide and interesting variety of adults with the shared need to improve their local language skills. I soon noticed how easy it was to distinguish those who know they are going home, sooner or later, from those who know they have committed themselves to a radical rupture. Their motives started to interest me and continue to.

  11. Wukchumni

    I was immediately smitten with NZ, it was love at first sight.

    The NZ of the early 1980’s had really big import duties on cars, the more cylinders-the higher it went. I’d see a 1978 Trans-Am with 30k miles selling for $30k in adverts, for a car worth 1/10th of that in the states.

    How to cash in on this ‘carbitrage’ opportunity?

    My way in was via matrimony, were I to immigrate to NZ as a newly minted Kiwi i’d be allowed to bring in 1 car duty-free, but I never met her.

    My mom is a lapsed Canadian and I could file for dual citizenship, but frankly i’m not leaving my Elysierran Fields, this is where I was meant to be, and if need be i’ll back up into the wilderness if push meets shove in polite society.

    My hiking partners often are a French ex-pat couple from Brittany & Marseilles, who decided on Godzone as their perch, as he’s a software guy for a French multi-national firm that does automated fruit sorting, and they grow a bit of fruit in the Central Valley. They’ve been here 13 years and love the Sierra, but they talk of eventually going back, sooner if their hands are forced by social unrest here.

    They’re terrified of the Walter Mitty Sobchaks with guns at the ready, and so am I.

    1. playon

      When it comes to social unrest, France is not the country I would think of if I wanted to get away from that.

      1. Wukchumni

        France’s pressure cooker is allowed to vent heat and does so frequently, while our pressure cooker is clamped down tight with everybody packing heat.

    2. ChrisPacific

      New Zealand’s problem is the Public Finance Act, which essentially entrenches austerity in law (though with an exception for crisis and recession spending) and prevents proper investment in infrastructure, public sector salaries etc. without raising taxes, which both parties are allergic to. So we end up with the classic MMT issue where things like healthcare and water infrastructure are suffering from massive underinvestment, and spending on them would produce a many-fold return by almost any metric you care to name, but somehow the money can never be found to do it.

      Neither of the major parties is willing to do anything about this, and sadly the Greens don’t understand public spending either (their ‘answer’ is quantitative easing). The only party that comes close to getting it is unfortunately a minor centre-right party which is beset by clashing personalities and has been largely unsuccessful in gaining any traction.

    3. Jaduong

      As an Australian citizen who has voluntarily moved to NZ to live, I find that there is just one rule to ensure a happy life

  12. Stephen

    Love your McKinsey reflection. I spent over two decades in the industry, albeit from the 90s onwards. Most of that time was with a firm that was founded by the first business partner of James O McKinsey, and some of it with another firm that sees itself as a peer of McKinsey, a belief may or may not be reciprocated!

    The dynamics you describe are timeless. I had an expat experience of six months in Cape Town at the turn of this century. I was inexperienced too and thought that Cape Town would be paradise. Worst engagement I ever did: pretty much seven days a week for the whole time. Scoped by a bunch of people who just wanted to sell it and then move continents. Should have asked myself why they needed to ask people to go to such a dream location!

    To add insult to injury, Cape Town is (how can I say it) not a location where people prioritise work. At least not in my experience. Seaside places always seem like that. I had spent time in Johannesburg too and even by that benchmark Cape Town business life was shall we say laid back. So consider working the equivalent of extreme New York or London or even German (typically by far the hardest consulting location in all firms) work rates but against a backdrop of pretty much everybody else in town enjoying the beach and their braais (barbecues) while we were writing PowerPoint.

    Despite security concerns, which are potentially manageable, Cape Town seems to have some popularity with European retirees. Especially Germans, I believe. Might be a bit far and awkward to get to from the US but it could be worth thinking about. Has a first world infrastructure. Health facilities can be first class if you have funds for them. No language issues either. Have no idea about visas. Back at the turn of the century it was all quite casual but suspect there are more hoops to jump through today.

    By the way, I do not expect anyone on this site to be sympathetic to consultants and their first world problems. I am aware of all the criticisms of the industry and agree with many of them.

    1. MarkT

      A family friend became a stock broker in Johannesburg in the eighties. His favourite joke about Cape Town was that the only days of the week you could do business with them was Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because on Mondays they were still getting over the weekend, on Wednesdays they were resting, while on Fridays the weekend had already begun. Cape Town had its revenge on him at its renowned nudist beach, Sandy Bay. He spent his visit there lying face down on the sand without any sun protection, and was so badly sunburnt that he was unable to sit for the two hour flight back to Johannesburg.

      1. Stephen

        Brilliant joke and story.

        The business culture in Joburg (I spent a year there) was itself laid back or “relaxed” by US / northern European standards.

        So Cape Town really is something else. As I get older, it is increasingly attractive actually.

    2. Thuto

      Went to varsity in Cape Town, live in Johannesburg, I concur. In stark contrast to Joburg, the vibe is pretty laid back in Cape Town, and the locals have an unhurried approach to life (and work) so it can be quite a culture shock for unsuspecting high achievers parachuting in from buzzing financial centres overseas to complete work assignments to adjust to. You’re right about its appeal for western expats (contrast with Joburg which is currently a magnet for African Americans wanting to escape the US) with the real estate market on the Atlantic seaboard having another bumper year in 2022. According to a friend who runs an apartment hotel in the city and is well connected in the property market, it seems both retirees and people in our age group (35 – 45) from mainly UK, US, Germany, Australia, and increasingly France and Switzerland, are coming in on three month visas to dip their toes in the lifestyle and search for property investments at the same time, and most are choosing to transition to long term stays with a view towards permanent residency. Though we are currently going through an energy crisis of sorts with daily scheduled power cuts (mostly 2 hours at a time), you’re right, the infrastructure is first class, the medical care is first class, the private school system is first class, the banking system is super first class (was largely insulated from the brutal fallout of 2008) and security is, with a common sense approach, largely manageable.

      Re: visas, I know the government has worked hard to remove a lot of the unnecessary red tape from the critical skills visa application process, and an African American family I follow on Youtube had theirs approved and ready within 90 days. Not sure about retirees and the process thereof.

      1. Thuto

        And I might add the natural beauty of Cape Town is otherworldly, and perhaps best of all for anybody considering a move the dollar/euro/pound goes a loooong way here.

        1. Stephen

          Right. It’s fantastic.

          Agree about the banking system. The only point I noticed recently when I was in Cape Town was that if you pay by credit card (especially in a restaurant) then it takes slightly longer for the connection to go through than I am used to in London. But that is a seriously minor and totally trivial point. The fact it is noticeable sums up how first world the core infrastructure is. In fact, Wi-Fi typically works better than I am used to.

          1. MarkT

            The last time I was in Cape Town (a few years ago) I ended up with a mild dose of the runs because of the water crisis. And had to shower while standing in a bucket to save the water to make our toilet flush. I wouldn’t get overexcited about Cape Town as an “expat” destination in the context of climate change. Unless you are wealthy. And no, I’m not being overly negative. I lived and worked there for 13 years. Of course if you can pay for bottled water, you’ll be fine.

  13. Tom Pfotzer

    Every so often when the outrage boils over, I go hunting for another place to live. Lately I checked out South Africa, and Chile.

    I found Chile fascinating. Plenty of climates to choose from, and an economy that’s oscillating in a generally upward trend. Natural world is phenomenal. Society seems stable, and the people seem friendly.

    There’s farm land for sale – land that’s not that productive now, but readily could be.

    There seem to be many business opportunities, especially with moderate-tech equipment like greenhouses, solar plant and equipment, light manufacturing, modular / prefab home components, and the like.

    There’s a lot of small-scale importing happening, so getting a territory or franchise to sell some useful stuff, like construction tools, LED light fixtures, and so forth might be also work as a decent way to make a living.

    General point is the real economy there is growing, and bringing in tech or materials that materially advances the real economy seems like a good bet.

    I thought house / land prices were generally pretty reasonable, esp. out of the major urban areas. Word was the health system was good, and affordable.

    1. Stephen

      Agree on Chile. Struck me as fascinating too when I was there.

      Uruguay might be worth a look by the way. When I was there in early 2020 it struck me as being very first world in all respects that would matter for an expatriate. Similar sense of historic culture that neighbouring Argentina has but seemingly without the problems. Not sure how the cost of living compares to the US though.

        1. Stephen

          That rings true. I think they call it the Switzerland of Latin America. Being relatively expensive is definitely part of that moniker.

  14. The Rev Kev

    That was really a great talk that about their experiences as expats and what they had to say about some expats was just bizarre. But at one point early in the conversation they were talking about how the place you live in tends to affect your mood and Lira here was comparing Paris to LA. He says that the US has fantastic scenery but for some reason, the cities are typically depressing to live in and it has an effect on you if you live there. And this is true not only of the United States but other countries as well and there is much to think about here. Check it out in the video itself about the 19:30 minute mark.

    1. anon in so cal

      LOL at Gonzalo Lira’s take on Los Angeles. Disgruntled because he had to drive a mile at midnight to get a quart of milk at the grocery store? Is his issue that local zoning regulations won’t permit stores in the middle of residential areas? Maybe I missed something.

      1. JBird4049

        >>>…the cities are typically depressing to live in and it has an effect on you if you live there.

        The very late 19th and early 20th century architecture was a reaction to the Victorian excesses as well as a desire to use new techniques like steel girders and later concrete. After each world war, there was a need for simplified construction to replace all the destroyed buildings as well as a continuing simplification for its own sake. Then with the new level of international travel, there was a desire for commonality of architecture to keep the new international business class happy.

        However, much of this created bland, not ugly, buildings. The new post war desire for the latest, most space age, modern look instead of the most human or livable cause the building of oversized, isolated, plain, if not just ugly buildings. Add the destruction of public transportation and the imposition of the car as the exclusive means of travel added to the trend and to the destruction of the city center. The destruction of all the small towns with their compact, human-friendly centers add to this.

        Finally, the growing wealth and egos of the political leadership, the rise of neoliberalism and its commodification of everything, plus the rise of star architects, let loose the building of all these ugly mega-buildings as well as the isolated stores and shopping centers.

        Human living is not the goal, but making money and pleasuring the ego is.

        1. anon in so cal

          “The destruction of all the small towns with their compact, human-friendly centers add to this.”

          I think David Harvey referred to this as the “serial monotony of late capitalism.”

          Small town centers decimated because of the proliferation of big box and chain stores on the outskirts. Every so many miles, the same repeating set of malls and big box stores.

      2. The Rev Kev

        I think his point was that in earlier years, you would have things like corner stores and the like at easily walk-able distances. But now many cities do now allow mixed small business/residential suburbs which has not only led to those massive malls in the middle of nowhere but the proliferation of door delivery services to make up the shortfall. Even Steve Martin “had a dig at LA culture in his film “LA Story” when in one scene, he went to visit a friend of his. So he went out the front, got into his car, drove about 20 yards, stopped, got out and went to his friend’s house which was about three doors away.

        1. Maximaxi

          This video is wonderful! Going to the shops for fresh produce every few days also means the goods are refreshed regularly in the stores rather than relying on methods to extend their shelf life. Living in a regional town in Australia our lifestyle is not dissimilar. Since the city lockdowns, and ‘tree changers’ moving here to work from home and have cheaper property options, we have more of these small store options – Asian grocery, Organic Fresh food and this makes for more interesting dining as well. We also have a circular settlement so schools, work, hospital and entertainment are all only a few minutes away from home. It can be a different experience if you are a ‘sea-changer’ as the strip development on the coast is not easy – you have to drive everywhere.
          Lifestyle choices should drive decisions for where you live. Money is just money (once you have all you need in a secure community as you age) whereas we don’t know how much time we have in our life. but then, as Mark Twain said “If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.” ;)

  15. PaulArt

    This is a great article! Thanks Yves for posting this since it helps me a lot in my retirement planning. I paid FATCA every year (India) till I split my bank accounts into 3 and escaped the $10,000 limit. It is outrageous that the limit is so low. I am in my late 50s and tried moving to Canada for the healthcare – landed a job in Vancouver in a tech firm that makes WiFi cards but the work culture (what I could evince from the extremely hostile and combative interview process) scared me off. I can definitely relate to commenter Deschutes information about how tight the Canadian job market is and how parochial the Canadians are when it comes to considering non-Canadians or recent immigrants for their jobs. The salary I was offered in Vancouver was ridiculous to say the least. I actually had a long chat with the receptionist at that firm before the interview and she told me that it is impossible to buy a house without a million dollars. It was more or less confirmation of my research. I also know of the high home prices since we have close family who moved to BC from Oman after buying a house for around $800,000 in 2008 or so. At one time I think the Canadian points system gave you points if you owned a house here. Its legal to buy a house in Canada even if you are not a citizen but as Yves says – you get to live here only for 180 days a year) so we ruled out Canada some time back as a retirement option. I am seriously researching options elsewhere- I would like to move back to India because the dollar goes far, you get good low cost primary health care and if you know the right people in the Physician community then you can get good second opinions and even excellent care in some very good Christian Hospitals run by extremely dedicated Physicians. Unfortunately my wife will not move back since our kids will be too far away in America. I live in the mid-west and commenter Louis Fyne is right about the low cost of living but real estate prices are going up here too (Indiana). I see at least 3 cars with California license plates everytime I go out and the suburb where I live is teeming with Software Engineers from India some of whom have moved here after a long stint in California. Our home has almost doubled in price from 2017 to present which does not delight me at all since I once dreamed of helping the kids buy houses here. Options seem limited everywhere.

  16. Vit5o

    I wish North Americans and Europeans stopped using the word “expat”. It’s a fancy way to avoid recognizing that you can also be MIGRANTS. A term that applies to most long-term cases, especially when a new citizenship is involved.

    1. El Slobbo

      Exactly. To me, “expat” implies “expat package”, where you go somewhere your company sends you and in all aspects are supported by said company. And when I was doing that in Singapore, said company warned me that if I got a permanent visa, I’d have to renegotiate my position as a local hire; in other words, I’d be a well-off migrant.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        That is not correct. You appear to be too close to the corporate world. Gonzalo, Brian, and Alex applied that term to themselves when they never were in that category.

        Expat is the term also used for retirees and people like me, who moved abroad all on their own. I have regularly encountered expat groups named as such in places I am considering that consist largely of retirees + some a bit younger spousal expats. If you use the horrible Faceborg, put “Expat” in and you’ll have it confirmed. I have been referred innumerable times to FB expat groups.

        1. El Slobbo

          I agree completely that the term is used as you say. I should have been clearer that that this usage is a personal pet peeve, a foible, and I am aware that it makes me look like I’m jousting at windmills. But still I continue with my jousting exercises.

  17. JW

    Ex-pat Brit, lived in Switzerland ( too expensive), Malta ( far too small), SW France ( still here after 8 years).
    Now Mrs JW and myself ( 65 and 70 yrs) still have wanderlust, wish we spoke Spanish.
    Have looked at MM2H in the past, got round to applying, accepted but never went to ‘complete’ in KL. Travelled in Malaysia and a bit concerned about humidity day after day. Now after Malays seem to have got the ‘Thai’ bug about looking for wealthy people and no grandfathering, glad I didn’t.
    Panama has been on radar for sometime, and Uruguay has more recently captured my attention through son’s contacts. Ideally keep house in France for ‘summer months’ and find somewhere for ‘winter’ 6 months.
    A ‘UK specific’consideration is the double taxation agreement with prospective country. Panama doesn’t work from UK taxation point of view as the DTA specifically allows UK to tax all pensions etc arising in UK. However Uruguay does work as the DTA only allows the country of residence to tax pensions etc, which would be zero. Thought I could get round the Panama problem as it used to allow UK passport holders ( like US/Canadians) to spend 6 months without visa, but changed that for all Europeans and included UK from Sept 2021. Now back to the usual 3 months.
    Going to check out Montevideo and learn Spanish!

    1. c_heale

      If you put any effort in, Spanish is an easy language to learn. Maybe not to an very advanced level, but sufficient for most things.

      I spent 10 years in Madrid. It’s a great city, a little slower paced than some others, the main problems being Spanish bureaucracy, and if you don’t have a good job when you arrive, or potential openings for a good job, then the pay isn’t that good.

      Now in Korea, where the opposite applies to the language and the bureaucracy.

  18. Joe Well

    A big consideration for quality of life is the fellow foreigners in that area, because few countries are as open as the US, Canada, and Australia (beware of people who just want to use you for English practice). I know this makes me a snob, but it is important enough that it is has to be said: I am having trouble imagining where on earth would be a good fit for the fascinating people of the NC community.

    Please listen to my sob story before it becomes yours too.

    I am currently in expat-land in Mexico. I picked the place where I am now because it had so many people from the US and a number of other countries, to avoid the xenophobia that pervaded middle-class Mexican society when I lived mostly among Mexicans (which you won’t notice if you don’t speak Spanish). Not that most middle-class Mexicans are xenophobic, but way too many. I just ended a promising acquaintance-ship because of their rabid antisemitism; I’m not Jewish, I just couldn’t respect him because of that.

    I regret the choice of location. To paraphrase our former president, the US is not sending its best people to this corner of Mexico, nor is Canada. So many of them are unbelievably out of touch with the local community partly because their Spanish is basic or nonexistent but mostly because they won’t make the effort to look into local sources of information, including talking to Mexican locals. They either see everything through rose-colored glasses (“crime in Mexico is no worse than anywhere else on earth!”) or whine about minor annoyances, like with taxis wanting to overcharge.

    Conversations have the intellectual level of a corporate training video or a sitcom. There was a “philosophy discussion” meetup and it was basically about a self-help topic and the comments were below middlebrow.

    The place has filtered for expats who want to improve their creature comfort level above all else.

    Fortunately I will be leaving at the end of March so if anyone has any recommendations, I’d appreciate them.

    1. Victor Moses

      Funny story. Of course most of the folks going to Mexico are those trying to make US/Canada based incomes go further – poor things. Thus – I wouldn’t expect them to be the most sophisticated or cosmopolitan of individuals. Have you tried some of the more expensive colonies in Mexico – San Miguel De Allende etc? It’s rather a good question – where do self declared intellectuals departing for warmer climes congregate?

      1. Joe Well

        They aren’t poor, they’re like the people you’d meet at a Chamber of Commerce mixer. A ton of them were big into crypto.

    2. JGK

      Similar experience for me. Where are my people, the NC types, MOA, New Atlas…ongoing…I received my permanent residency in Mexico, Summer, 2022. Spent 2 months thinking, yes I could live Lakeside, in the mountains, one hour below Guadalajara. Hummm, well…not yet. Sure enjoyed my stay, took in many cultural experiences, Spanish Language, volunteering with the dog rescue groups, etc. did not find the right vibe. Early 60’s, I have time. I will return. Somewhere, sometime…

      1. Joe Well

        I am waiting for Yves to announce the location and we can all head there. /s

        Seriously, I cannot stress enough to Americans, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders: you will always be marked as an outsider in other countries in a way no one is an outsider in our countries. Like, in the eyes of many people, not fully a human being or just a curiosity, the way perhaps East Asian people were seen by some people in our countries until the 1990s or so. Acceptance is a basic human need in Maslow’s hierarchy. You need to have access to other foreigners and a carefully curated and vetted set of locals or you will lose your sense of self.

  19. playon

    In places with good-sized expat communities there is definitely a thing trying to ripoff newbies who are often ignorant about local costs etc. I’m not talking about the locals (although some of them participate in it) but westerners who know that people who are new are more easy to exploit and separate from their cash.

    When we first went to Chiang Mai we rented a condo that we had found online for a few weeks. It was expensive by Thai standards but we were able to use it as a launching pad for a few weeks to find an inexpensive studio apartment that we liked. However the property manager of the condo (an American) would try to set us up with locals who were basically in on the scam of overcharging for everything. We only fell for that once before wising up.

    1. ArvidMartensen

      Yep will second that. When we went to Brunei years ago, the supremely arrogant Britisher who sold us a car as he was on his way out the door, ripped us off hugely as we found out later.
      And his heavily pregnant wife, who had delicate china knick-knacks at child height all through their living room, told us that if she had a child like our son she would dispose of it (because as a very active, squirming 2 yo he couldn’t resist touching said knick-knacks, while we frantically tried to sit him down).
      They talk about “the ugly American”, but the upper middle class/PMC British have this game won.
      So this is another downside of ex-pat life if you end up in an enclave of class-conscious, arrogant, social climbing ex-pats. Luckily we found people of other nationalities who were much more genuine.

      1. c_heale

        As a native Brit, I couldn’t agree more about arrogant snobby upper class, upper middle class Brits. They’re not all like that of course. But there are sufficient to make me wary of my countrypeople when abroad. A friend of mine who spent time in Hong Kong said the place was full of this kind of person.

        1. JW

          Seconded. In rural SW France you can pick a spot that is comfortably 20 km from the nearest Brit. Although we have met ordinary decent compatriots, the PMC types like to congregate in certain villages/towns. Its partly this that puts us off the Chiang Mai/Penangs of this world.
          Part of the attraction of moving further afield away from the usual haunts of such types, not many in Montevideo I understand.

  20. jax

    When I turned 66 in 2012, I researched every country in Eastern Europe, but all had financial requirements I couldn’t meet. Turning to the southern hemisphere I looked at Ecuador, Medellin, and Panama before I reluctantly turned toward Mexico, because it hadn’t been on my radar. At the time one needed only to prove $1200 in monthly income to obtain a long-term visa which had to be renewed yearly. After five years one could take the test for Mexican citizenship (if you were fluent in Spanish – which is actually a difficult language because I’m sure they have at least 25 tenses!) Cut to May 2012 and I moved to San Miguel de Allende for its cultural reputation. I spent a year and a half in SMA and learned that Mexicans are MUCH more gracious than Americans [you never hear them say ‘Speak Spanish!’] completely family oriented, the hardest working people on earth, and downright jovial if a foreigner makes even the smallest attempt to speak their language. Mexico has managed a national health care system which is decent, but you can’t use your Medicare there and if your health problems become problematic, you’ll need an interpreter unless you have *exceedingly* expensive ex-pat insurance. The country itself is gorgeous with micro-climes, jungles up to the beaches, mountains, valleys of unsurpassed beauty, with a people who, as I said above are gracious and lovely. It is also a nation attempting to protect itself from governmental and criminal predation, so every window is barred and the streets in small towns are empty at sundown. There was then, and I’m sure it hasn’t changed, an incredible gap between the poor and everyone else, including a relatively impoverished American like me. A horrid reality you can’t escape because it is so blatant. Eventually my health became problematic, and I returned to the states for Medicare (as much as it sucks, it’s better than being the third wheel at a conversation where your intestines are being discussed by two native Spanish speakers and slowly translated over to you.) When I left in late 2013 Mexico had raised the minimum monthly income to $2500 probably by looking north and seeing the writing on the wall. Impoverished American seniors who hoped for a better quality of life. As far as I know, it may have been raised again since then. One other note. Mexican civilization is profoundly Catholic with the patriarchal hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church running through all of its relationships. Oh, and if you’re an animal lover, you’ll have your heart broken on a daily basis.

  21. barefoot charley

    I was excited at the prospect of getting a Polish/EU passport thanks to my grandmother, who was definitely Polish, back when there was no Poland and national borders came and went over the heads of peasants. But reconstituted Poland has retained the patriarchal structures of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires: my grandmother married a Russian, and it is his nationality that determines hers; until she married she had no nationality, being female. No doubt the EU could withhold a few billion euros more to push Poland toward European laws, but they have so many bones to pick already . . . can’t wait for the EU to swallow Kosovo, just think what bones they’ll choke on!

  22. JCC

    Right now I’m into about a little over half of the video (1:20 of the 2:13). Having some experience overseas (Korea and Central America), so far I’m finding most of what they say very accurate, including the short discussion on Amtrak.

    Right now, however, they are discussing the F-35 program costs. They put it at $1 Trillion and mention that this amount of money would “cover Universal Healthcare for all Americans and a city on Mars”.

    They are partially wrong… the actual total cost of the F-35 Program, according to the GAO, is $1.7 Trillion ( “The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program remains DOD’s most expensive weapon system program. It is estimated to cost over $1.7 trillion to buy, operate, and sustain.” – https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-22-105943 )

    Not only are about 60% of these planes grounded, and for months at a time, but it looks like we could add a couple of more cities on Mars. :-)

  23. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    Two and a half years of lawyering in South Korea – probably the absolute best time of my professional life.

    If the won hadn’t crashed in ’97 and cut salary in half I’d probably still be there.

  24. dbk

    As a “permanent” expat, I feel I should chime in here. But it’s complicated.

    I have been in Greece for 44 years, having acquired spousal dual citizenship.

    Greece is quite difficult, but is also wonderful in its way. I was interested to hear what Alex Christoforou had to say; he’s in Athens, the country’s only cosmopolitan center, and having gotten about half-way through the discussion, I can affirm that he was right about the rather sui generis expat culture created by the Embassy and its sphere of influence. On the other hand, Athens is the capital, and its cultural offerings can’t be matched anywhere else in the country.

    I am in a smaller northern city, where expat culture is more limited. This means more or less that if you want to engage with the outside world, you need to learn Modern Greek. And it’s not an easy language to learn.

    When my husband passed away recently, nearly everyone here (and back in the U.S.) assumed I’d return to the States. But really, after 40+ years? Apart from the fact that my closest friends and all my adult memories were here, I was stopped by (a) the costs of healthcare in the U.S. in particular and (b) the cost of living more generally.

    If you can get Greek NHS insurance through your employer/spouse, it’s pretty good. Not all the bells and whistles touted in the U.S., but affordable (free in many cases) and decent for most of one’s needs. Friends can get in to see their internists – and in many cases, specialists – in a few days or a week at most; lab tests are run (if you’re insured, they’re mostly free) and you have same-day results mailed to you and your physician. For major medical – you’re covered, period.

    For retired folks and others who are financially well-off, the Greek Golden Visa is going from 250.000 to 500.000 euros on Jan. 1. There’s a lot of demand for such visas, and Greece is promoting them.

    For digital nomads/ the under-40 set, you can obtain renewable visas (I think after the initial period they’re for two years). You need to prove you have an income of around 35,000+ euros to apply – but for many this isn’t difficult.

    Remote working conditions are good here – Internet speeds are increasing yearly, fiber optic is being laid in cities, and the market for such services is quite competitive. I probably pay half of what U.S. residents would pay for comparable services.

    Life can be lived outdoors here 7 months a year just about anywhere. In every neighborhood there are small local restaurants that serve fantastic food for 10-15 euros per person; there are plentiful cinemas and musical and other cultural offerings in all the cities (Athens / Thessaloniki / Volos / Patras / Ioannina to name just five) and of course, wherever you live, you’re just an hour or two from either the sea or the mountains.

    Greece is a small country (about the size of Pennsylvania), but there are considerable differences from region to region. Some nationalities (English, Swedish, German, for example) have gravitated to Crete (where it’s summer practically year-round) – in fact, there are old, semi-abandoned villages on the island that have been gobbled up by retired people from these countries. There’s a significant number of English-speaking spouses (British wives, mostly) on Corfu in the Ionian Sea. It’s a spectacular island, but it’s … an island. However, it’s close to Italy. The Halkidiki (a northern Greek resort region) has attracted large numbers of Ukrainians and Russians and Bulgarians and Serbs and Romanians. Many come just for summer vacation, but those with means are purchasing homes there and hoping to retire to them.

    As Christoforou noted, Greece leans Anglophone, but one can’t do all one’s business in English; the average level is, well, average. But in the cities, one can find people to converse with in basic English – that helps. A lot of menus/ guides/ resources (e.g. all the Museum sites, even Greek online banking sites) are dual-language. Also, many professionals (esp. doctors – dentists) have trained abroad, so they speak decent professional English in their area of expertise.

    In other words, Greece, despite the fact that it’s permanently broke, still offers a good quality of life to those who can afford it – expensive overall, yes, but many services still come cheap (even, gasp, university education – no tuition).

    That said, the Greek state / bureaucracy / public services can be a nearly-impossible course to navigate for foreigners / expats. Think of a core of Roman (not Anglo-Saxon) law underlying superstructures of Byzantine law, overlain by 450 or so years of Ottoman-imposed law. It’s not fun.

    Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d be the first to acknowledge how hard it was/is.

  25. Carl

    Yves doesn’t mention her time in Japan. I’ve lived in Japan for 40 years, have permanent residency and never leave. This is a paradise for introverts with poor survival skills. The language is a major hurdle but it is also fascinating to study.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      You are so kind to remember! But I actually never lived there. I had a very unusual inside-outsider experience. I was hired by a then extremely prestigious bank as the first non-Japanese in the Japanese hierarchy in a pretty senior position. The bank did have some other Westerners in important posts in their international operations, but they were in a special gaijin (foreigner) hierarchy. I went to Japan often on long trips, but that’s not the same as being a resident.

      However, as one of my close allies said when he took me out to lunch my first week there:

      Our bank is like the Kremlin. If you are a visitor to the Kremlin, you eat caviar, you drink Champagne, you stay in a nice hotel, and you have no idea what is going on.

      If you are inside the Kremlin, conditions are severe and there are many spies.

      You should be optimistic you are so badly treated. It means you are very well accepted at our bank.

  26. eg

    Many interesting stories here. Moving to another country is so difficult that it’s remarkable when anyone has a positive experience.

    I’m 5th generation here, and the 1st through 3rd generation never left the community where they first landed in the St John River Valley. Generation 4 moved us to the Golden Horseshoe in Ontario — it could be generations again before anyone leaves.

  27. Kfish

    USians coming to Australia should be aware of the taxation issue – there’s a nasty trap where the Australian employer’s superannuation (401k equivalent) contributions, about 10% of salary, are not taxable in Australia but are taxable income for US citizens. The double tax problem’s so bad that there was in 2019 a queue almost a year long at the Australian consulates to surrender one’s American citizenship. My friend went to Auckland to do the necessary interview more quickly.

  28. Don

    Didn’t watch the video yet, but there are a lot of interesting viewpoints in the comments.

    I’m mostly going to respond to Deschutes post:

    1, 2 & 3) Job Market and Anti-Americanism: we sold our business very recently, but before we did, we were hiring anyone with a pulse for 25% more than the generous wages we had paid a year earlier, so wages are now not too bad at all. That being said, white, educated, middle-and-upper-class Americans will probably earn less here, and non-white, working class Americans will earn more, probably much more, depending on the region. (We are a racially-mixed couple and live in Vancouver, which is a majority Asian city.) I would dispute the claim that Canada is anti-American — we are chock-a-block with totally integrated American immigrants. A very significant percentage of the Americans we interacted with in our business were US visitors or immigrants, who won’t shut up about how welcome they are made to feel here. Canada is definitely more expensive than the US, but except for the billionaires (don’t thing we have any) the standard of living overall is higher: our rich are a little less rich, but richer than they should be; our poor are poorer than they ought to be, but a lot less poor than in the USA.

    4) Canada like the US, is slow to recognize foreign professional qualifications, but the situation is probably worse here because the governance of our public institutions is mind-bogglingly inefficient and stupefyingly slow— it can take up to 6 months for a Canadian citizen to get their passport renewed.

    5) Weather: We are a very large country, much smaller than Russia but bigger than the USA, and we have a great collection of the stuff. For obvious reasons it is overall colder up here, but since the vast majority of us live within 100 miles of the US border, most of the weather we experience is about the same as, say, the northern half of the US. We do have palm trees in Vancouver though; Toronto is further south than the Oregon/California border; Canada is a major wine producer; to get to Detroit, we have to drive north — if you like the climate in Seattle or San Francisco you will like Vancouver and Victoria; if you are happy in the Californian Sierras (or NZ), you will like BC, if you like Martha’s Vineyard you will like PEI. Oh, and we get generally only get the puny tail-ends of your hurricanes and other such systems.

    6) Healthcare is free. (There may be some jurisdiction that I’m not familiar with where there is a very small monthly fee, but if there is, it will not apply, or be refunded, if you are not reasonably well off). Wait times can be bad, but this is largely a function of the aforementioned appalling inefficiency of our public institutions: Canada spends more per-capita on heath care than many other countries with better systems, but astonishingly, not nearly as much as the US, which tops everyone — and our outcomes are dramatically better than the US. Don’t take my word on it though, check life expectancy, mortality rates for covid, or any other metric you like. A bigger issue here is the shortage of GPs/family doctors — if you are lucky enough to have one, as we do, wait times are reasonable (like everyone else, doctors network).

    Non-itemised) 30% of immigrants leave after a few years? Seems implausibly high, but if true, it is likely because there is pattern of well-off immigrants (and many are very well off) establishing legal status for their families here (for education, safety, culture…), whereupon some family members return to businesses and/or professional careers in their home country. Canada allows dual citizenship and doesn’t tax foreign earnings — there are hundreds of thousands of dual-citizenship Canadians living and working all over the world, including in the US.

    But aside from all this, a disclaimer: We are in the process of relocating from this ‘worldly paradise’ to central Mexico, where we will be immigrants* (permanent residency permits next week). Although the friendly, welcoming, prosperous, non-tourist, high dessert, wine country town where we have bought a house has near-perfect weather year round and is stunningly beautiful, these attributes, wonderful as they are, were not our primary motivators.

    We’re outta here, because, if you peek under the diversity/inclusion/the-world-needs-more-Canada/blah,blah,blah surface to reveal what Canada has become, you will find it just as bad as the good old US of A. If we had the same level of power, Trudeau and Freeland would be as raving mad and dangerous as Biden and Nuland.

    If you are looking for America with a fig leaf, you will like it up here. If not, I recommend Mexico, which by the way (although it is far higher than Canada’s) does have a much lower crime rate than the US.

    * I hate the term expat — it suggests having one foot back in wherever you came from, with most of your weight still on it.

    1. tevhatch

      6. Healthcare isn’t free if you pay for the medications, many tests, and some non-trivial procedures (Ontario). What’s more worrying is, per Trudeau and Freeland, neo-liberalism is the strong flavor of the day and the government is studying hard how to emulate UK’s milling down of NHS.

    2. Chasman

      Hi Don,

      I appreciate your comments about Canada’s change over time. I have suspected in my research looking for another place to spend retirement that despite being a great country for the reasons you described, it was unfortunately following in the steps of the the U.S. May I ask what reasons you considered Mexico and where you landed? In looking at Mexico, I have had a difficult time convincing my wife that certain areas are relatively safe, especially in contrast to cities in the U.S. Any information or research you have done would be much appreciated! Thanks!

      1. Don

        Hello Chasman,

        They don’t give a complete picture, but a good place to start are statistics. There are lots of places on the web which provide numbers for major cities in the US, Mexico and Canada. For example, Time Magazine reported that there were between 21,300 and 24,600 homicides in the US in 2021, with Memphis with 306 and a rate of 48.7 per 100,000 topping the list, followed by Detroit with a rate of 47.9, Milwaukee with 34.3, etc. Some cities in Mexico are key drug trade nexus and are consequently ridiculously dangerous: Tijuana with a rate of 138 per 100,000 tops the list, followed by Acapulco at 111, Ciudad Victoria and Ciudad Juardez at 86… Coatzacoalecos at number 10 has rate of 48, about the same as Memphis.

        Now, this not to say that one cannot be safe in Memphis or Coatzacoalecos, but obviously there are parts of town you should avoid in both these places, as there are in most if not all cities. The thing about crime in Mexico is that is is so tightly linked to the drug trades that it is relatively easy to avoid: All but 9 Mexican cities (none of which are likely on your list of destinations) are safer than Memphis Tennessee. The nearest big city to our home is Queretaro, A World Heritage Site with a population of about 1,250,000 and a murder rate per 100,000 of 8. For comparison here are the rates of some similar sized cities in the US: Dallas, 16.5; Phoenix, 12.2; San Antonio, 11.6.

        Mexico City, with an official population of about 10,000,000 and an actual population that is probably at least twice that has a rate of 10. Our Mexican town, with a population of about 27,000 is very safe and people, including us, feel entirely comfortable walking anywhere in town at night. Canada is much safer than either the the US or Mexico: Metro Vancouver, which has a significant drug gang presence, had a rate of about 2.25 in 2019.

  29. YY

    Expat-ism runs in my family life. Mother and three of her four siblings were born in Sydney, returning to Japan in her teens just before the great depression. Father spent his last years in university in Germany, having been fished out of Univ of Tokyo before graduation by the Japanese foreign office competing for personnel against military service. In the post war Japan they married and proceeded to raise family with diplomatic postings dragging me along. I lived in America on three different occasions and in West Germany as a dependent. Strangely enough, Germany was in many ways more of a condensed America than anything else. A small town in Germany (that’s Bonn) has next to it a community called Plittersdorf. This is little America where there were Americans with PX privilages, Americans without PX privilages, and foreigners who were diplomats. The American School on the Rhein had students mostly American but some foreign. There was a surreal situation where flag duty at the school of raising, lowering, and folding the American flag fell on three boy scouts of Troop 56 Trans Atlantic Council, who happened to be Japanese (me), Icelandic (my best friend), and Jordanian, another friend (His father bought the Plymouth Valiant that my father had driven in the US and shipped to Germany, a car then very rare in Germany). The school also had a contingent of students bussed in every day from Koln, who were children of Americans at the Ford operation in Koln. These were the only kids who did not live within 5 minutes of the school, the American club, movie theater, etc. It was actually a great time.

    As an adult I’ve lived twice in US, once in Britain and when the company sent me here to Australia, I decided to get off the international moving thing and stay. I’ve now been out of Japan for 40 some years and 32 of it in Australia.

  30. thoughtful person

    Has anyone considered living on a small boat?

    Certainly there are expenses but same with all the other options. Big benefit of ability to move.

    If I am able to move from central Va, I would want to learn the local language. Imersion is more effective and fun than text books!

  31. mvac

    ”You need a visa if you are going to stay for longer than the usual tourist visa of 90 days, and most countries do not take well to trying to finesse that by running across the border for a day and coming back.”
    Georgia (the country) is likely an outlier, they give Americans a YEAR long visa on arrival, just stamp your passport when you land and your good to go- you can buy a one way plane ticket and they will let you in. Given how long the visa is I seriously doubt they would care if one did a border run to Turkey or wherever, but do not know for certain. One visa run a year would be no problem, go to Istanbul for a few weeks and come back. That way you can avoid the hassle of income requirements/bureaucracy completely. You are a forever tourist. Cheap country cost of living wise-although Tbilisi is getting more expensive bc of immigrant influx due to war. Air pollution in Tbilisi is pretty bad, but if you have to wear an N-95 for SARS all the time anyway…Last I checked there was a mask mandate on public transport, but no idea about compliance. Internet is good. Other areas have less air pollution. I think water quality is generally good, can drink from the tap as long as pipes in building aren’t crappy. Food availability looks decent from random youtube videos Ive watched of walking around cities. Train system is affordable. Might be nice to live on the black sea for cheap. On the downside, english may not be widely spoken outside of major cities, from forums I read health care system is probably mediocre but maybe there are better medical facilities in Turkey? Not too far away in a medevac-type emergency. But I know nothing of healthcare in Turkey so just speculating (sorry for so much speculation too much reading I wish I could offer more useful info on all of this) I think the ruling party in Georgia is Russia-friendly, so maybe good long-term for not being cut off from the cheap energy spigot? Also they are big wine producers(!), rumor is you get a little bottle of red as a gift when you get off the plane. This is all info I have gleaned from the internet no personal experience- so take all with a big grain of salt and do your own research. Good luck I know it is so f-ing stressful just to find where to go, let alone actually doing it

  32. Savita

    I posted about Australia now being very available for skilled workers for permanent immigration but the comment has been lost it seems. Oh and Ireland is really very flexible if you have some ancestry, its so open they allow you to skip the citizenship step and go straight to the passport! Even children can become Irish by default if you obtain your ancestral citizenship before you have them.

    RE comment above. I don’t know about Georgia specifically but the Caucasus generally is said to have personal security concerns for anyone looking well fed or ransomable.
    Kidnapping used to be a situation for travellers there I’m led to understand.

    RE: Language acquisition. You must read Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner! It is a methodology. It’s a way of acquiring a new language. An app has been developed over the last few years designed to implement all the advantages of the method. But DO read the book to comprehend how and why the app works the way it does – and to implement the method on your own terms if you don’t wish to rely on the app. I’m not a shill for the product, I’ve just studied it and applied it and am convinced it is hands down the ultimate and best way to take a new language into deep long term memory.
    It’s all based on research into neurology. Forming new neural pathways.
    The author is an opera singer who was required to not only learn new languages for stage but have a perfect accent. It IS harder than other methods you may have been expsoed to. But it is more thorough. And absolutely provides definite results in the shortest possible time, because all time and study invested is applied in the most efficient and effective way possible. Certain languages are more complex and take longer, thats all. The Foreign Services Institute (FSI) has a roadmap for calculating the comlexity of a language for a native english speaker, which is sort of interesting. Korean, Russian, Farsi, at the top of the list. Spanish and French at the lower end of the scale. There are about 4 tiers from memory.

    And in the book, certain myths are cut through – for example, the myth its easier for children to learn a language ( it’s easier for adults because they have all the skills and resources including a developed brain) . Or, the myth immersion is a sure fire way to learn instead of books (not really. it’s not automatic. it’s easy to be lazy and find work arounds. it depends on how much you apply yourself. And it doesn’t provide technical accuracy like study does. It’s explained better in the book though)

    Oh another myth ‘grammar is so hard’ . Actually according to the author the brain has a grammar crunching computer, which works very well and takes the hard work out of it, if the raw materials are presented in the correct manner.
    And so on and so forth.

    The Fluent Forever method has a specific approach. So the ears are trained first and foremost Then pronunication. Only then once that is fully locked in is vocab commenced. By the time you start out on vocab there is already a sense of being comfortable and aware of the concepts of the language, like you actually feel a sense of home around it without even knowing any words! Simply because the ears and mouth are trained.

    And -the method uses no translations! No translations ever. Which sets it aside from pretty much every other system like Duo Lingo or whatever.

    PLEASE do put the book on your list if you are serious about studying a language, you will not regret it! It’s a best seller and well respected text.

  33. JustTheFacts

    I am curious why you want to move, Yves. Stretching your money? The wish to live differently? The growing instability in the US? The change of culture?

    I am also curious whether anyone here has moved to Russia. If so, do you have any experiences to recount? Is it easy to move/get work there?

  34. Altandmain

    Like some of the other commentators, I do not recommend that anyone consider Canada. Given the high inflation, high housing costs, and other high living costs, it’s not a very attractive place. The government is corrupt and both major parties are in bed with the American neocons. I find the American left tends to idealize Canada a bit too much.

    Although American experience will be looked upon more favourably than other experience, it might still be a step back in one’s career. Canada’s social democracy is in decline and it seems that the worst parts of American capitalism are moving northward. The same seems to be true in Australia, which like Canada was a more egalitarian society compared to the US.

    I think that some of the comments are missing one big thing about Germany and the other European nations. Without cheap Russian energy, the Germans are going to deindustralize. The Germany of the Cold War or the social democratic years is over. Europe is in serious danger of finding itself a much poorer place than compared to before the sanctions took place. Not to mention, like in Canada, the European leadership is completely in bed with the US. They were not even smart enough to realize that the sanctions would backfire.

    It all depends on how the war in Ukraine ends. So far though, the mood in Russia has become more hostile to the West, as the true intentions of Balkanizing Russia have become apparent. If there is a serious reduction in the flow of gas after the war, then Europe is in serious trouble.

    To be honest, a non Western aligned nation like Thailand, where Brian Berletic is currently staying seems like a far more prudent option. I’m not saying that living in Asia will be perfect, but it’s a far more likely bet than the Western world. Yves, I think you should speak more with Brian and similar people about moving.

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