Relocation overseas – Tip #1

Last week, I wrote about the relocation (often called “emigration”) of Americans to other nations, not as short-term tourists, but as residents. I did not focus that essay on the general public, but on those who already have an interest in relocation outside their home nation, whether “home” is the US or any other nation. Everyone is welcome, but these are the people I am talking to now.

I am now going to follow-up with a series of short posts, each dealing with one or two suggestions for consideration by potential relocators. Having lived in several nations and worked in more than forty over the last 45 years, they reflect my personal observations and experiences.

They may or may not be appropriate for you and they are not meant to be exhaustive. They are meant as food for thought. Just take each one, roll it around in your head, and think about it. You can’t lose. If you are going to relocate for a number of years to another nation, you will be taking many, many steps. Don’t get hung up on one step. Just consider it. And if you follow my posts to come, I will share as many as I can, each derived from my 45 years of experience working professionally and often living in more than forty nations outside my home nation.

Choosing which nation or nations to consider for relocation can be a real challenge. There are so many possibilities and so few of us have sufficient experience or current information to make it easy to select. I emphasize “current” because the world is changing so rapidly that an experience of even five years ago in another nation may not adequately describe it today.

But most of the time, you will have no real living experience in your list of possible nations. Then the danger (and it is real) is that you will have images of those nations based on articles or books or movies you may have read or seen in the past that no longer reflect reality. Added to this is the simple fact that most media, including the Internet, focus on problems or crises that may reflect a portion of reality for a moment, but do not really represent the nation and what it is like to live there over time. Finally, too much of the “information” out there is commercially-biased and wants to sell you something. Be prepared to discard out-of-date or biased information quickly as you come across it…and you will.

Okay, so what is one factor to consider in choosing a potential new home? Today, I will focus on nations that are “emerging”, as opposed to the so-called “advanced” nations. One factor that was important to me, but is usually never considered by most relocators is the size of the nation, literally.

I prefer a nation where I can set off by car shortly after dawn and arrive pretty much anywhere I want to go in the nation before the sun sets.

Why? Well, it’s nice to be able to get to know your new nation easily, whenever you want to, without having to set aside a week or more to do it. And if I have two days, it’s also nice to be able to set out early on a Saturday morning, drive four or five hours, have lunch at my destination, spend the afternoon and evening doing and seeing whatever there is to do and see, stay overnight, take Sunday morning to check out things I heard about on Saturday, eat a leisurely lunch if I want to, then head home and get back before dark. Four or five weekend trips and I have an idea of where I want to spend more time and I already have a better understanding of the nation. It works that way too for people checking out a nation for the first time to see if they’d like to live there. But this is not the reason why I chose this as a factor for my relocation.

If you follow this series, you will discover that I put a heavy emphasis on living (not “touristing”, something very different) in a nation whose people are reasonably happy and positive about their lives. There are many factors involved with that and I will discuss some others in the future, but there is one situation I like to avoid.

I have worked in some nations where there is no way you can get very far in a car or a bus in a few hours. If it’s an island nation like the Philippines or Indonesia, boats and ferries may be critical. In most of these nations, the good jobs and the sort of activities enjoyed by young adults everywhere are found in large urban centers. It may take multiple legs and three or four days, even a week, for the country guy or gal to make it to the big city, and it can cost an arm and a leg by their standards.

In nations like that, I have met too many young adults who made it to the city, poorly educated and unfamiliar with urban life, only to fail to get one of those “good jobs” before their money had run out. Now they are trapped. Getting home is too expensive. It not only costs money they no longer have, it has emotional costs too. Who wants to beg money from their family to go back home a month or two later, a failure? No one I know. What do they do? Too often, the only thing they can do. They turn to crime. If you meet them, you may not meet them under pleasant circumstances.

I live in Panama, just one of several dozen “small” nations. It only costs a few dollars and a few hours for someone to hop in a bus and arrive in the Panama City metro area, home to half the nation’s people and probably three-quarters of its money and its “good jobs”. The result? Young adults come for a weekend or a few days on vacation, visit relatives perhaps, check out the city, and go home. No big deal. They do it several times and eventually they identify a job and living arrangements that fit their needs.

When they arrive in the city for more than a visit, they are ready to go to work. If things go wrong for any reason, a few dollars and a few hours and they’re home again. But far more of them are successful than would be the case in the Philippines because they know the city and they are way better-prepared to fit in and make their own relocation work. They don’t have to turn to crime if they don’t like the city or lose their job, they can just go home and, when things get better, try again, if they want to. It makes all the difference in the world to them, and to me, their new “neighbor”.

That’s it, just something to think about. Does that mean you should avoid “big” countries? Of course not. My goal is simply to offer observations based on real experience that may get you thinking. Whether or not any one of them is important to you is up to you. If not this one, then perhaps some of those to come. Food for thought.

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I write when time allows, about once a week, perhaps twice. If you wish to be notified of new posts, just enter your email address at the upper-right of this page. I have no use for email addresses. I already have too many in my “address book”. Rest assured, yours will be kept private.

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One Response to Relocation overseas – Tip #1

  1. I also live in Panama, in the Bocas del Toro area on one of the outer islands. Panama has a lot to offer and their is a wonderfully supportive local and expat community here on the islands as well as on the mainland. Your money also goes a long way which of course makes us all feel that much richer for choosing this location to live in. Choosing a ‘small’ country means that you still feel like you have a say in what is happening.

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