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Expat - Not for Everyone

Have you ever thought about living outside the USA?

Growing up in Fenton I never thought about being an expatriate or expat as it is frequently shortened to.

At that time, exotic was the doctor's wife who took an annual trip to Europe and the sister of a friend who traveled to Rome. But everyone always returned to the good old U.S.A. It was Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast that actually made the idea of living in another country sound possible, if not romantic. He lived in Paris with artists and intellectuals from America like Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as others like Pablo Picasso from other countries. The feel of that time is perhaps portrayed in Woody Allen's recent movie Midnight in Paris. Other books, including A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle and On Mexican Time, by Tony Cohan kept alive in my mind the thought of living in another country.
   
But there is also the other side. Why would anyone want to leave a country as great as the USA? Many people who live in the States cannot even imagine a good reason for living elsewhere. And in many respects, for them, they are correct. But the world is a large place full of fascinating things. On one website for expats, every member had a story to tell of someone in the U.S.A. who called them un-American or something similar. I had one lady tell me that only people with something to hide lived outside the country. Personally I do not know a single person living abroad who is trying to hide anything.
   
Today it is estimated that there are between three million to six million American expats. Most of those are for work reasons. That number, many believe, would be much higher if the USA was not the only first world country to double tax its citizens. However about a half million are retirees. The number making up that group is the fastest growing.

According to many major magazine writings the most popular countries for Americans to retire include Panama, Ecuador, Uruguay, Mexico, Costa Rica, France, Argentina and Italy. The main reason seems to be stretching of the dollar. A friend of mine lives in Thailand and for the amount of money he just survived on before, he now has a great apartment, a maid and a full time driver.

But even the savings can get out of hand if too many Americans retire to an area. The large American influence in those countries has given rise to prices so that you save very little over the USA. The gringo resorts of Costa Rica are far from being as cheap as they use to be. In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico prices have gone up tremendously. The idea now is to find the next great spot before others do and the prices go up. I have friends and relatives living in the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand and New Zealand. The best advice is to check out different places and go where you feel at home.
   
Living outside The United States is not for everyone. There are pitfalls to setting up in another county. Some Americans have built large homes in Mexico only to have the government take them. Others, including myself, have lost thousands because of the massive corruption in some countries. You may have to learn a new language, which is not always easy at an older age. Food is not always the same. But most important is that one has to have an adventure side as well as an open mind and an acceptance of other cultures. In that regards I have found Americans to be more closed minded than people of other countries. You need to embrace other cultures rather than trying to change them to being what you have or want in America. In reality, there is no other place in the entire world like America. But then again there is no other place like each of the other countries. Viva la difference.

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Mary Miettinen March 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
What an interesting and informative article! Many times I have longed for the sheer adventure of living in some exotic place, or just buying a travel trailer, a hibachi and a goat while following the sunshine. Most of all I think that a grand life can be lived anywhere you've a mind to, as long as you are willing to join in and not tell the local population that they're doing it wrong. Joe, I think you found your ahhhh and your wow, and it makes me smile. Mary
Joe Kershaw March 01, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Mary, Thanks for the beautiful comment. You seem as interested in the stories of Ex-pats as I am. In my research I found a site with some wonderful stories. Check out Eons.com (you will have to join the site), then go to the group titled "Living Abroad". There you will find one post titled, "How did you come to the decision to live abroad." Also in that group are posts about the best places to retire abroad and a discussion of what it takes to do such. Happy reading.

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