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Ask HN: Location-independent entrepreneurs, where do you live and why?
122 points by dave1619 on Aug 1, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 116 comments
If you're a location-independent entrepreneur, please share where you choose to live and why.

Amsterdam. As an American (or Japanese) citizen you can get a residency card easily here if you start a business under the DAFT. You can also get a 30% tax break for up to 8 years as a highly skilled migrant, which is good because the highest effective tax rate here is 52%. Aside from those things, the city is very clean, extremely safe, cheap groceries, tons of green space, and extremely easy to navigate by bike or public transport. My wife and I came from LA where none of those things are true. Going out to eat is also about half as much as LA, and there is a lot of restaurant variety due to the multicultural nature of the city. Cheap insurance for individuals with a highly rated health care system. Downsides are the weather can be unpredictable, and definitely cold and gloomy in the winter. Also high rents in some popular areas, but that's probably true for most places. Overall though, we're extremely happy with our choice and considering staying long term. Also speaking only English is no problem.

Thank you for pointing out DAFT, that is pretty interesting. One question about starting a foreign corporation, Do the penalties and fees of the IRS regulations relating to US citizens owning a foreign corp. concern or worry you? For example, a $10,000 a month penalty for failing to report ownership interest in a foreign corporation. (Form 5471) This is the one thing that really stops me from considering owning a foreign corp.

I'm not a tax expert nor purport to be one, but I have a good US CPA and Dutch tax person and leave it in their hands.

Just an FYI, if you want to go through the effort of setting up a BV instead of a ZZP one, you get effective tax brackets of 40% after your first 44,000. Your BV will be profit-taxed 20% (I think) and then another 25% dividends (or the other way around). Set it up beginning this year with an accountant, if you're in the effective 52% bracket you might want to check (no idea how it works with the 30% break though!)

Even if you get a tax break in Amsterdam wouldn't you just end up paying that tax to the US? My understanding is basically your US tax still applies unless you are posting more in foreign tax than you would in US tax.

the 30% tax break holds also if you are a one man company (zzp) ?

Yes. All you need is a business registration and a bank account with €5k in it. Both easy to setup in a week or two. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/DAFT

No, this isn't correct. If you set up a ZZP you lose it forever, however if you create a BV and hire yourself into it, you can have it. Source: I did this.

Hmm, your right. Sorry about the mis information. I was confusing it with the knowledge worker status but that would only work if a company hires you and sponsors your application. So nothing to do with DAFT. Even as 'zzp' you still get a lot of tax benefits though. Especially the first few years. But if that does indeed invalidate your claim for the 30% ruling your method seems like the way to go.

Ah that's very interesting. Do you mind to have a chat? I'm in Netherlands and might be interested in doing that.

Hey, I'm also an American here in Amsterdam (I posted separately about it in this thread). Let me know if you'd like to meet up! Contact info at holovaty.com.

Vancouver, WA just across the bridge from Portland. Native Oregonian but mortgage on a condo downtown was less than $400/month, no state income tax & my profit-making side project is better protected by WA state IP laws (basically a copy of California's own time laws).

Worked for Google for many years, quit when I got a WFH job where I was guaranteed an "office" in Washington state.

Nowadays, just hang out with the friends I grew up with when I'm not working, saving money & hanging out with the wife (who also works from home).

Travel used to matter a lot but then I moved back home and realized I just hated living in San Francisco and people are way more important to me nowadays.

Basically the best thing ever and every morning I step out to get coffee & feel legit thankful I got escape the Bay Area and get back to my native biome.

What sucks about the Bay

If you didn't check already, see NomadList[0] for summarized information on a lot of cities. It provides a "score" in basic categories that would/could be important for people working remotely.

[0] https://nomadlist.com/

I've checked scores of few cities I've lived in and they look like they were based on stereotypes, not on real experience.

Santiago scored 1 on "Gay friendly" despite same-sex unions are legal in Chile and most people don't care (there are transgender and gay politicians).

2 on Weather (Mediterranean climate), 2 on Fun (huge developed city with all sorts of entertainment).

I don't understand this website, how could Vancouver, Prague, San Jose and Porto have the same cost of living ?

Spain, in the mountains. I do coding and management which require only 'ok' internet and I for sure am more productive here working on my mountain view terras than in some office with other office views. When needed I fly to clients or partners or meetings for a few days and a few times a year I fly to partners and hang around for a month. I try to avoid offices so we usually meet in nature hotel lobbies, hotel lobbies in general or bars and restaurants to work or talk. Location does not matter a lot because if I have a phone or skype for meetings and something to write code and docs on, I am fine. Have been for 20+ years now.

Nice. I spent a year in Pamplona when I first started living abroad full time.

It's cool in that it's a nice medieval walled city with all the infrastructure to handle tons of tourists. But those tourists all come at once for San Fermin and the running of the bulls, then they leave. The rest of the year you and the locals get the whole city to yourself, with the little pipe band playing in the square at night and everybody out dancing, then making rounds of the tapas bars and such.

A really nice pace of life. For anybody who likes a walkable city and has the freedom to be anywhere, it's a good place to be.

I'm also in Spain. In the mountains do you mean as a more or less hermit or just somewhere really high altitude?

Compared to most I guess it is both: highest village in this region and I live in a part from the village which has 40 people living in it: in winter less.

Just South of Paris, near Fontainebleau. Where they keep all the good bouldering.

It's all about:

  - Choose the thing you like to do most

  - Find the absolute best place in the world to do that thing

  - Find a house there

It doesn't always work out though. I spent years trying to find a place to live that was walking distance from a good surf break in the sun. Can't be done unless you're happy spending five million dollars on the house or are willing to live on a dusty scrap of land in Central America where you need to hire a guy with a gun to sit at the gate all night every night. Or want to strand yourself on a little sand and mosquito island a day's boat ride from Sumatra.

Fortunately, my (and my wife's) first love is climbing. We were worried we'd quickly "climb out" any crag we moved to, but Fontainebleau has just over 20,000 problems so it'll be a few years before we can get to them all. And they have proper French wine and baguettes and Paris 40 minutes away on the train. Sorted.

But yeah, if you can pull this whole location independence thing off, I'd highly recommend it.

>I spent years trying to find a place to live that was walking distance from a good surf break in the sun.

My wife and I just moved to Yamba, NSW which fits this pretty well. We're ~500m walk from 2 different beaches one of them a surf beach and about a km from another surf beach. I don't surf(yet) myself but my friends that do are all very excited to be in the area so apparently its pretty good here.

Peshawar, Pakistan.

It's one of the highest terrorist-hit cities of the world but my parents love this place and are unwilling to move anywhere else. Due to their age (and lack of better retirement facilities) I live with them.

Kudos to you. I'm in a similar situation where while working remotely I have decided to stay in my home town with family, so they don't age alone.

Riga, Latvia right now.

Our rent is about 200 EUR but we're thinking of finding something even cheaper... and considering living for free in a kind of legal squat that will be a culture house where we could stay and do a few hours of helping out every week.

I'm here because my girlfriend is here, it's cheap, and it's pretty close to my family and friends in Sweden.

Riga is also small and cozy in a way that I seem to like.

In the future I have a hunch that I'd like to stay in Estonia. It seems like a very forward-thinking country tech-wise and a great place to do something like a blockchain business.

Or Romania... or Holland... or Barcelona...

Vilnius, Lithuania

Same reasons mostly, except the city is having a big push to make the city a regional tech hub. There are already quite a few startups here such as Wix, Trafi, Vinted, TransferGo and bigger companies like Barclays employ over 1,500 IT staff in the city.

The city is small but has enough going on. It has a young vibe, as there are lots of students around. Plenty of cafes you can sit in all day and use the wifi. Public transport is good and taxis are cheap (phone or use an app to book them though: ETaksi, Taxify or Uber), or if you'd rather drive there are two car sharing schemes CityBee and Spark.

Oh and internet speeds... I have 100/100 fiber at home for €10/month (there is also a 600/600 option). Ping times to London are 40ms. http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/5458602528

Only negative would be winter. If you like sub-zero (C and F) it's fine. As a digital nomad just escape to somewhere else then. Summers are nice though, around 25c - 30c and there are lots of lakes for swimming if it gets too hot.

Cool, I'd love to visit Vilnius and Lithuania, and probably will in the near future.

Bangkok, because it offers all the amenities of a major city at less than half the cost. It has world class restaurants, nightlife that never stops, good public transport, and endless beaches an hour away. I traveled extensively and lived in the US and Australia before settling down here but I like big cities and there aren't a lot of nice ones like this where you can get a luxury condo with maid service for $1,000/mo.

I can't quite understand the appeal of Bangkok for westerners (compared to the rest of Thailand).

It's a hot, overcrowded, dirty city populated by people who don't really want to be there (Thais who come from other provinces just for work), or who only want to be there to be seen by all the people who don't want to be there (the irony of deathly-white hi-so girls shopping in a mall with a name that translates to "Brown people" is lost on most people)

If you're remote anyway, there are much nicer, cheaper places to be in this country.

As a westerner, there are other benefits to being outside Bangkok. The next time I do a 90-day-report (the smart mans alternative to a trip through immigration every 3 months) I fully expect to be in and out of the local Immigration office in less time than it takes to buy/brew a cup of coffee. By comparison the Bangkok offices are constantly overcrowded. For most things, if you're not in the queue by lunch time, forget about getting served that day.

Yeah, I don't get it at all either. I couldn't stand living in Bangkok. Traffic is abysmal, it's hot, dirty and muggy. I understand the appeal of living in a big city, but BKK would never be my choice.

Where else in Thailand would you recommend? I have traveled around the country quite a bit and still like Bangkok best, probably because I like big cities, but I'm open to trying other places.

Personally I've considered Mae-Rim, Cha-Om and Nakhon Nayok, besides where I am now (Ayutthaya, due to family). But there are lots of other places - it just depends what you want.

at this point I couldn't go back to living in an apartment, or even a town house - and I much prefer to live somewhere I can jump on my bike for an hours ride without worrying too much about motorbike taxis trying to kill me, rather than somewhere I can step outside and have 4 7/11s, a Mini Big C and a Lotus Express within spitting distance.

Waking up to the sounds of birds rather than the sounds of street vendors and cars/motorbikes is amazing, and because it's not Bangkok we're still just 10 minkes drive from the centre of town (eg for immigration, amphur etc)

Are you a US citizen, or Aus?

How do you deal with the visa?

I want to move to thailand for an unknown amount of time but the visa seems like more than I would care to deal with. Don't want to have to do visa runs and all of that.

> I want to move to thailand for an unknown amount of time

Have you visited before? Unless you're particularly adventurous I wouldn't suggest a move to Thailand without visiting first. I like living here, but its definitely not for everyone.

> but the visa seems like more than I would care to deal with.

You can hire a lawyer here to organise everything for you, it just depends how much you want to spend and what your situation/goal is.

> Don't want to have to do visa runs and all of that

Regardless of your type of visa, you will have to do something. I've lived here for close to 4 years, on a combination of business and now marriage visas, but I've only left the country twice in about 2 1/2 years.

Non-tourist visas get you a longer total stay (and some give the ability to apply for a work permit to work legally) but you still need to report to immigration every 90 days (resets each time you enter the country). As I said elsewhere, reporting in Bangkok is a fucking joke, in the provinces, its pretty quick and painless.

It's easy enough to take Thai language classes and get a student visa in Thailand, though they appear to be getting more strict with their checks to validate that you are actually learning Thai. I say that, because some people just get the student visa and never actually take the classes.

You can also get a student visa (in Chiang Mai at least) for hand-to-hand combat training with the military police. You just take two lessons a week on Saturday and Sunday afternoons for two hours. http://chiangmaibuddy.com/services/chiang-mai-visa-services/....

You're spot on though - doing visa runs all the time gets old fast.

I believe that in Bangkok the Thai language schools currently require 8 hours of study a week to qualify for a student visa, which is more than it used to be but is still incredibly lenient. In the provinces I hear the requirements are even lower. Anyone who intends to stay here for more than a year without learning at least basic Thai is shooting themselves in the foot anyway IMHO.

If I remember correctly, I think it was 6hr/week in Chiang Mai. About 40% confident about that number.

If I were 10 years younger & without kids... Hand to hand combat with the military police on a weekend sounds awesome!!!

Never understood westerners who live in Thailand (or any non-english, Asian country) but don't bother to learn the language. It's not as if you need to be fluent or even that good at it...

I have held various types of visas during my time here. One of the perks of Thailand, immigration-wise, is that while it can be a hassle (visa runs, bureaucracy, or both), there is always some way to stay here legally for as long as you want.

You can get a tourist visa in your home country and then just show up. If you decide you want to stay for a long time you should start researching your options early on and developing connections with people who live here. This is true in any country--connections with locals make everything, including visas, a lot easier.

I started with the visa run every 30 days. I liked the excuse to go do a weekend trip somewhere.

Getting 1 year multi entry visas for business visa are pretty easy. And then your visa runs are down to once a quarter.

I really enjoyed my year and a half stint in Bangkok. But. It also taught me that I value climate pretty highly when choosing my next location.

Sofia, Bulgaria (my wife is Bulgarian). Working remotely as a sysadmin, I push code to GitHub and do server maintenance from coffee shops and my couch. Fantastic internet in Bulgaria. Very cheap, awesome food, beautiful mountains here. Language a bit of an issue with older people and outside the capital.

Are you learning Bulgarian, though? It's not a terribly hard language and it's generally a positive things to the locals if you speak it, even if you have a terrible accent.

Да, аз уча български език. Сега мога да говоря малко. (Yes, I'm studying Bulgarian language. Now I'm able to speak a bit). Learning to read/write Cyrillic has opened many doors, and even though I only speak like a five-year-old child, I can understand much more contextually.

Same here, for almost the same reasons (down to wife being Bulgarian). I would add that the girls are quite hot too (it has been a driving force in my life up to before marriage).

I moved to Amsterdam with my wife and kid eight months ago.

(I'm American, from Chicago, and I run Soundslice, soundslice.com.)

We chose Amsterdam because:

* The DAFT program makes it easy for American business owners to get a Dutch visa.

* Everybody speaks English (which is a double-edged sword, because it's tough to learn/practice Dutch!).

* The biking is second-to-none. I'm spoiled for life.

* It's safe. I feel much safer than the U.S.

* It's beautiful.

* Great scene for Django music (gypsy jazz), which I play.

* Easy travel to other parts of Europe.

* It's very international -- in day-to-day life I meet people from all over Europe and the world. A very cool experience (especially for an American).

* Liberal policies make for a culture that we personally agree with more, even compared to liberal Chicago.

As for weather, people complain about it -- but it's better than Chicago. So it's a net win. :-)

Libourne, France

You can rent a 110m2 house for around 800 euros a month in a small town 30 minutes away from Bordeaux by car or train. The town is nice and getting better with new projects coming to make it more attractive for wine tourists (Saint Emilion is 10 minutes drive from it). There is a train station where you can get 5 trains per day to get to Paris in 3 hours. There is High school and hospital and all what you need for basic stuff, and if you can't find something you can still go to Bordeaux to get what you want.

I live there with my wife and kids mainly because it's cheap and not too far from our families and friends and because we wanted to get a not too small house (by french measure) with a nice garden for our kids in a nice area. As I see more and more people from Paris coming here so I think we made the right choice.

Can you define what a "location-independent entrepreneur" is? Does it mean running a business where everyone is a telecommuter? Perhaps running a business that depends heavily on outsourcing, or even a one-man (no employees) business?

I do know someone who ran a business where he subcontracted all work to people overseas and basically functioned as a technical manager. He lived in the mountains outside of Silicon Valley. When I saw how he interacted with his friends, and the things he did, "why he lived where he lived" was obvious: He had lots of friends in the area, and was an active participant in the local culture.

It helps that he's close enough to a tech hub that he can drive in any time he needs; although a daily commute would be prohibitive.

I've also signed up for online source control and bug tracking (before Github really "won,") and found that it was a one-man business run by a friend-of-a-friend in Hawaii. The reasons for the owner living in Hawaii, or any area where there's a lot of recreation, are probably obvious.

As far as why people choose to live where they live; the usual reasons apply: Close to friends and family, lots of recreation, culture, and reasonable cost of living. Choosing a place within a large radius around a tech hub might also be important. For example, a ski bum could live in Tahoe or New Hampshire, but still get to Silicon Valley or Boston when needed.

Nelson, New Zealand. Beautiful nature all around me, the town is just big enough and it's a really awesome place to have a small kid. My folks are a short trip away so we see them every month, and the pace of life here is totally relaxed.

Downsides: basically zero tech scene, and it's getting pretty expensive these days.

Nelson's lovely, but I can't get over Wanaka as the place to be in NZ. I've only visited there a few times, but I always leave thinking 'this would be a great place to settle down'.

Wanaka is really beautiful; for people who haven't been there you can get a reasonable idea of what it is like by watching almost any of the outdoor scenes from Lord of the Rings / Hobbit movies. I first went to Wanaka in '94 long before the rest of the world discovered it. Warbirds over Wanaka is great too if you're into WWII aircraft (and others besides). The skiing is great there too (Cardrona, Treble Cone). And Hilary's first major ascent was Mount Aspiring which is about 1.5 hours drive by 4x4 from Wanaka.

> Downsides: basically zero tech scene

That seems to be a common theme across the few places I know people working in tech in NZ. Wellington and Auckland are exceptions obviously (well, based on my very superficial interactions there at least). Christchurch has a decent amount of tech but the "scene" is quite humble and close-knit, which I think is more representative of most other places I know of in NZ. I'd probably chalk it up to raw population numbers and population density really.

Awesome country to raise a family though; you're totally right.

Valdivia, Chile

It's a cute small city with all the necessary services (shopping, restaurants, healthcare, optical fiber with 10-15mbps to California) and a vibrant community created by hundreds of students from local universities.

There're a coworking space, small tech meetups, and game jams. You can also take a one hour flight to Santiago for bigger tech events and meetups.

Renting a good house is $600-700 a month, the climate is mild (only rains in winter). Average lunch is $6-8, we spend about $350 for food and $150 for health insurance for 2 persons. Chile is quite safe in general but here we can walk in night without any worries. The city is trying to be bike-friendly, it just got some bike lanes.

Startup and business visas are too complicated here but you can get a "rentista" visa for any kind of passive foreign income or work visa for a contract with a foreign employer. There're many expats coming, we know a team from the US building a tech village near the city.

Downsides: you will need to learn Chilean Spanish (though many young people know English, especially developers), there's smoke pollution in winter in the evenings since wood stoves are used for heating.

Taipei, Taiwan.

* Clean and modern.

* Very safe.

* Nice people.

* Excellent public transportation.

* Good housing (relatively inexpensive).

* Great restaurants (extremely inexpensive).

* Low sales tax.

* Mandarin is a fun language to learn.

Also, $150-200 buys you a round-trip ticket to almost any other major city in Asia, so experiencing a new culture is just another way to spend a weekend. Taiwan's Eva Air and China Airlines are also excellent.

Living in Taipei also and I approve everything mentioned above :) Plus:

- Taipei is a green city - easy to meet interesting people - Very foreigner friendly - Good and cheap healthcare

I agree, Taipei is a nice place to live and Taiwan is an amazing island. But do you work completely remotely (for a US company)? Do you have any experience with local businesses or starting something in Taiwan? I've lived in Hong Kong and I'm interested in your insights. My email is in my profile.

Assuming that by "location-independent entrepreneur" you mean that I could run my business from anywhere (as opposed to "digital nomad", referring to someone who does run their business from all over the world): Vancouver, Canada. Because it's my home; it's where most of my friends live; and... well, if you've ever lived in Vancouver you'll understand why I don't want to live anywhere else.


Aside from the obvious ease of doing business bit, I like the rule of law, weather, food, infrastructure, people and values (both Singaporean, and the expat community), low COL (for a developed country), international outlook, English as first and main language, ease of flying to cool places including the PRC and Japan, and the jungle in the middle that you can trek in any time also has a place in my heart. It's a great "home".

> low COL

It's been a few years since I've been there but is that really the case? I've heard the rent is close to SF level and buying a car is supposed to cost a small fortune in taxes alone.

Just from walking around and eating out there, it seemed more expensive than any European city I've been to.

Rent: It's coming down at the moment. Depending on how far you're willing to commute it can be very reasonable.

Car: You can live here without a car. The public transport is exceptional and for times when you must go quickly/directly taxis are dirt cheap.

I can eat a decent quality filling lunch of Hainanese Chicken Rice for $2.50SGD (about €1.70 or $1.90USD) in my local hawker, prices I have never found in Europe unless you are willing to eat potentially hazardous materials.

It's true you can easily spend hundreds of dollars eating out if you like however there are plenty of options to keep expenses down. In CBD I can get lunch for less than $5 but usually spend around $8.

Cars are optional and aren't even the fastest way to get around (public transport + taxicabs + bicycle/e-bicycle is fastest). Rent can be low as well, depending on where and how big.

Low crime stable environment with strong regulations for food, water, housing, industrial safety, etc, means that necessities tend to be cheap and accessible even to the poorer part of society.

Status goods like cars, luxury cars, fine dining, strata housing, are as expensive as you want it to be. If your status referent group is based on the people around you, it will be as expensive as their income, and many Singaporeans have a lot of income.

It's become more expensive.

Rent is expensive. But if you only rent a room, you can go within 500-1000. Food isn't cheap compared to neighbouring countries, but there are neighbourhood eating places (hawker centers) that are ~US$5.

> I've heard the rent is close to SF level and buying a car is supposed to cost a small fortune in taxes alone.

The trick is not to drive in Singapore. Uber/Grab/cabs and other public transport options are much cheaper unless you need to move around a lot daily. E.g. in sales.

Rent has been dropping here, compared to a couple years back. Food can be really cheap if you dine at food centres rather then cafes and restaurants.

Current budget:

- SGD 2,400/month for 80 sqm, 2 beds, on the other side of the hedge from the Istana (the Presidential residence). Mango tree outside the window. Couple of hornbills live in the neighbourhood. A further SGD 150/month for electricity and water. Managed building, so everything is new and works and can get replaced free if it breaks. I know people paying less to live in landed houses but they are very good at searching. Rents drop fast outside the centre; I saw a 120sqm 4 bedroom in Bukit Panjang (~1h from CBD by MRT, 20 minutes Uber) which was going for SGD 1,500/month in 2014.

You can also pay over SGD 15,000/month for a super penthouse in the best condo; there's quite a bit of demand for these because Americans with a high enough salary can offset their tax bill with it, so instead of giving it to the IRS they live lavishly.

- SGD 400/month for food including frequent "nice" restaurants (sometimes every night). This is helped by going to wet markets instead of supermarkets (in my case Tekka Market just down the road). I could probably cut that to SGD 50-100 by cooking every meal or eating only in hawkers (SGD 2-4/meal).

- SGD 200/month on Uber, mostly out of laziness. The MRT is ultra cheap (SGD 0.8 a short ride, maybe 1.2 for a 1h ride) and about as fast but requires an extra 5-10 minutes walk both ends. The 25 minutes ride from the airport to my flat cost me SGD 17 last night at 3am with a 2 minutes ETA.

- SGD 40/month for health insurance, this is for AIA gold max whatever (I asked for the best coverage they had) although only covers hospitalisation. Wife has corporate insurance which covers me, so GP visits etc. are free anyway.

- around SGD 500/month for flights. Both the yearly/bi-yearly flight home (usually around 1,000 return) and the various trips to Sydney, Tokyo, etc. which at the moment are every month (around 200 return, thanks budget airlines!). I typed my original comment from Sydney. I think I spent almost 50% of the year abroad in 2016.

- I "get back" around 1.5 extra rents thanks to the ultra low income tax rate (between 4-8% for a typical developer salary).

As far as I know, I could not get that quality of life for that money whilst being as central in any of New York, Sydney, Paris, Geneva, Zurich (maybe just, because of the high salaries), London or LA. I think it was doable in Berlin when I was last there (2010 or thereabouts) but have heard of skyrocketing prices since; also, Berlin is damn cold in winter. It's probably doable in secondary US cities like Chicago. I'm not familiar with SF but based on the rents I've seen, it's definitely not doable there.

Costs skyrocket when you have children if by then you do not have PR; in particular, the frequent pickups and drop-offs mean you either need to buy a car (which costs more than an American house) or take a lot more Ubers. House prices are comparable to capital cities in countries with equivalent GDP per capita; if you can't afford a flat in New York, Paris or London, you can't afford it in Singapore.

It's also quite expensive to drink due to high alcohol taxes. In my experience France, Italy and Spain and perhaps Germany are cheaper; the UK and the US are about the same. If alcohol is important to your social life, that can also rack up quickly.

> It's a great "home".

I love visiting Singapore (from Thailand) but I can't imagine living there for any more than about 12 months at a push. What are the chances you will ever in your life be able to afford to buy anything bigger than an apartment/condo (aka a house on a piece of land) in Singapore?

Maybe it's OK from an American perspective but I can't imagine anything worse than living your entire life in a box surrounded by other people in their own little boxes.

> What are the chances you will ever in your life be able to afford to buy anything bigger than an apartment/condo (aka a house on a piece of land) in Singapore?

About the same as in Paris, London, New York or Tokyo. The difference being there's no "outer suburbs" where you can get a landed property cheap at the cost of a 1h+ commute. At the end of the day, where you live is about acceptable trade-offs. London hedge fund managers bid millions of pounds on houses in SW7 that an accountant in Ohio would pass for $200,000.

I have many friends in Bangkok raving about the quality of life there, but I think it's for an earlier stage of life. At this point in time, I value the rule of law, equality before the law for citizen and foreigners, stable infrastructure, stable non-corrupt government, etc. much more than I used to, and cities like Bangkok (or any PRC city) whilst a bit more exciting are just too much work.

In terms of actually running a business, every company I know of that has its owners in Bangkok somehow has incorporated in Singapore or is owned by a Singapore holding company. I think that has to do with farang ownership restrictions, again, didn't look too deep into it.

Again, it's a very personal outlook and if I could go back in time 10 years, I would head straight for somewhere like Bangkok or Beijing.

The other thing is that when I get box fever (which is rare, my box is comfortable) I just fly somewhere. You can rent a 2 bedroom bungalow steps from the (deserted) beach on Rottnest Island offshore Perth for around $120/night. The flight takes 5 hours and the ferry another 45 minutes. One of many options, including Thailand and Bali.

> About the same as in Paris, London, New York or Tokyo

So.. slim to fuck all?

> I have many friends in Bangkok raving about the quality of life there.

For reference, I'm not advocating for Bangkok either - frankly as a city-vs-city comparison Bangkok is less liveable than Singapore.

There are limits on foreign ownership but its definitely possible to base your company here.

> I think it's for an earlier stage of life

> when I get box fever (which is rare, my box is comfortable) I just fly somewhere

I don't understand how these two phrases fit into the context. To me, living in a shoebox apartment in the middle of a city without a car (which could be either BKK or SIN) "is for an earlier stage of life". When I moved out from my parents place, I moved into a series of small apartments, which progressively got bigger until now when we're back in a real house on a piece of land, and our child(ren) will grow up with a garden to run around in like I had as a kid.

I came here from Australia, so while I understand what you mean about stability of government and rule of law - I've come to appreciate the freedom that a lack of red-tape provides. Yes, I have to be more personally diligent and responsible, and yes I get some weird looks because I've put on a seatbelt, or used a car-seat for a child, or worn a bicycle helmet, or used a drill and screws rather than a nail to hang something on a concrete/brick wall, but I'm ok with that.

I don't particularly need a police officer fining me for driving 5km over the speed limit on a highway in the middle of nowhere to understand the benefits of a car seat for a child.

No mention of Singapore is complete without mentioning the climate. Some may like it, but it's definitely not for everyone:



Foremost because it's always been 'home'. I grew up here and it's where my family and friends are.

There's plenty of space to explore and enjoy outside. I love having so many great beaches, places to mountain bike and go bush walking.

There's clean drinking water, unpolluted air, have a pretty decent healthcare system and healthy work culture. Speaking of culture, I'm yet to come across another culture that's as laid back and easy going.

At the same time, I take advantage of being 'location-independent' and travel frequently. In the past year I've explored Vietnam by motorbike, been surfing in central Australia, gone skiing in New Zealand, road tripped around California, Nevada & Arizona as well as spending some time just soaking up the culture in Japan.

Surfing in central Australia?

Central on the east coast (north of Sydney) :)

There's not much going on in the middle of the country.

> Central on the east coast (north of Sydney)

I don't think anyone ever in the history of the planet has described that location as "Central Australia", before you.

My bad, was referring to the Central Coast :)


Whereabouts in AUS?

Melbourne and Geelong in Victoria

Oxfordshire countryside in England. I tried working from a small flat in London and I got totally burnt out. I like being able to look out the window and see trees, fields and a river - I've been working full-time for myself for 7 years now, I'm personally finding it's hugely important to be able to keep stress under control and get some perspective... and for me, being able to get outside really helps.

Ideally I'd move to Wales where it's cheaper and prettier, but realistically I need to be able to get to London and airports relatively quickly, as well as to not be too far from friends and family.

Vermont, because if you've ever been here you'd know there's no place like it. I like living in the middle of no where and having access to great outdoor activities, great food, and great place to raise a family. Not to expensive, but not cheap, and the extreme winters keeps the riff raff away...

I'm trying to talk my wife into Vermont. What kind of business do you run?

Vermont's sort of my goal. I've talked to a few people about Vergennes, but do you have a different perspective for a place to research?

I live in the backest of backwaters in England, rural Lincolnshire. We're a company of 10 but most of our customers are in SV and we work in $.

The why: My wife's from here and I've grown to like the culture and how much further money stretches. Luxury outside of London versus living in a shoebox is no real contest for me (but is a legitimate one for others).

Must be pretty handy to be paid in $ around now :-)

If the wife didn't have a job and didn't like being close to family I would not mind living in Nice France. I was just there recently (luckily before the attack) and loved it. It is like San Diego but with French+Italian cuisine and warmer water. That being said San Diego, Miami, Vermont, and Colorado are some solid choices.

I live in Atlanta. The cost of living is low, quality of life is great, and there are tons of local companies to sell to. The culture here is to prioritize work-life balance[1], and it honestly seems to make everyone happier and more productive.

As far as startup culture, people really admire and encourage lean bootstrapping, which results in far more B2B companies than B2C. We do have an incubator[2] working to change that, but I actually prefer it this way. The SV culture of equating raising money with success is completely opposite of my own beliefs.

1. http://www.fastcompany.com/1840856/how-southern-tech-workers...

2. http://www.switchyards.com

Anyone in Cascais Lisbon? I'm fortunate to have location independent income, following the Brexit result which disgusted me, I will definitly leave within the UK in the next 6 months. Portuguese tax looks v good for entrepreneurs, only €500k investment (includes house) required to get EU passport, great climate, cheap living, great food, large city close by with access to Tech Talent, international private schools for young daughters. Thought about Malaga aswell but wealth tax puts me off and Spaniards seem less freindly towards Brits. Also thought of Berlin or Munich but they are more expensive and have more immigration pressures, France Italy too anti- business, so Lisbon seems best option to me. Any comments or critiques of my logic would be appreciated, it's a very big decision after all!

I'm in Cascais, ive been navigating the NHR program since I arrived last year, its a loverly place, lisbon has a cool scene, they hosting websimmit this year which will put it on the map totally. You can get me at this address support / linkaudit.co.uk

No one has mentioned it yet, so if I could ask, what about Hong Kong?

I'm an American living state-side but I have done some research on relocating to Hong Kong. I work from home with a salary that would be at least semi-respectable anywhere in the US (though of course not luxurious in high CoL cities), but it doesn't seem like it would be enough to furnish a home or lifestyle in HK that is anything like what we have now.

Immigration seems like it will be a problem without employer sponsorship, and employment opportunities for programmers look terrible (though, to be fair, I don't know much Cantonese yet so I can't search in the native language).

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that the only realistic way to get there would be a career shift into finance and specifically targeting the type of jobs that often end up being exported to HK (along with luxurious compensation and relocation packages).

Anyone here run a biz from HK and want to share some details? I see several of its neighbors have been mentioned: Singapore, Taipei, Bangkok, but no HK. Is that just luck of the draw or is there a reason that entrepreneurs avoid HK?

I have an indirect acquaintance, someone I just barely know enough to follow on Facebook, who opened an office in HK. He's been there for 3 or 4 years now, but just announced he and his family are relocating over the border into Shenzen to open another office there (as I understand it, his HK office is still operating, and, for the record, his company primarily does Wordpress sites). I thought this was interesting. I don't know the guy well enough to ask him directly about what motivated him, but is this something people are seeing a lot of? From my reading, it sounds like the only benefits of Shenzen are cheaper rent and more protections from hostile Western governments (HK more likely to extradite and/or honor civil judgments issued by Western countries than mainline China), and there appear to be many additional limitations despite Shenzen's status as a Special Economic Zone.

I do. I think the most important question is: If your business is truly location independent and you don't have other reasons to be in HK, why choose to locate it in the city with the world's most expensive real estate?

There are many things I love about HK, but the control of the property market by a cartel of local families permeates every aspect of life.

There's zero sales tax in HK and goods are manufactured nearby, and yet a nice TV from a retail electronics store will cost you double what you'd pay in the US, because they need to cover the rent.

Even something simple like finding a cafe to sit down, enjoy a coffee and read the paper becomes a nearly impossible challenge at times given the inability of a cafe to support its exorbitant rent from customers spending an hour sitting around.

To put some numbers on it, the average rental per per square foot at the high end is $0.55/hour [1]. Assuming you're serving customers 12 hours a day, and you have nothing but customer seating, with one square meter per person, that's $12/hour in rent alone for every seat.

Without zoning, the highest bidder wins. So food and beverage have been pushed up into the high floors of office buildings where rents are cheaper, and the pedestrian areas are instead lined with jewelry and watch shops.

Although HK has a lot of nice forest (as only 25% of the land is developed), within the developed areas, this is what passes for a park:


There are many great things about HK, but it's important to be aware of the space issue.

[1] http://www.mingtiandi.com/real-estate/china-retail-real-esta...

Thanks for your answer. Can you elaborate on your general experiences in HK? Are you a native or a foreigner? Are you running a business or working for someone? What are conditions like generally?

I'll admit that legal troubles are what initially got me interested in HK. A corporation with a lot of influence in the U.S. threatened to sue my startup for violations of the CFAA, thereby shutting us down. I started to look for other places in the world where the law was less ambiguous and from where I may be able to operate my business.

The telecommunications law in HK seems to make it somewhat-explicitly more legal there, though it's still probably not a slam dunk. We have to personally relocate, can't just re-incorporate in HK, because this company will sue me in the U.S. if I resume operations. Relocating a) provides an additional layer of indirection between American court systems and my personal assets and freedom, and HK specifically makes further retreat from Western influence more feasible, should it become necessary, given its proximity to PRC and other countries that are not US lapdogs; and b) makes it more difficult for an American court to establish personal jurisdiction over my activity, though I have no doubt that BigCo's lawyers would get it easily.

HK is a modern, high-tech city with fast internet and easy access to everything, including a lot of the brands that we're used to in America (I understand the HK versions may be substantially different). It's reported to be very safe and very clean. English is an official language (though I read that only about 5% of locals have more than the most basic proficiency in it), which would make it easier to operate than other areas of Asia as signage in English is available, official business can be conducted in English, etc. It's a great base for further exploration of the region. There is a large and apparently vibrant community of American and English expats. There's a culture of hard work and there are very low taxes. The weather is not necessarily ideal, but reasonable. I also believe that there would be developmental benefits for my children, including but not limited to the opportunity to fully immerse in Cantonese.

In the course of my research, I learned that Snowden's first preference for refuge was Hong Kong, and it's easy to see why. Singapore is probably the only other comparable candidate. Europe is out of the question in general due to their social and political stances, but it has even worse computer access laws than America if you can believe it.

Realistically I understand that HK is not a practical refuge with regard to my specific legal issues. There's nowhere in the world I could go and be safe from the wrath of one of the world's largest and most recognizable companies. In any modern country, they'll easily outlawyer me, and the laws on these matters are not completely unambiguous; it'd take me millions of dollars to mount a defense, and even then, there's a substantial likelihood that they would prevail.

In any developing country, the officials will be far too easy to buy off, and most likely all this company would have to do is ask, because the officials would much rather have their goodwill than mine. Look at the Pirate Bay guys; even though what they were doing was completely legal under Swedish law, the US State Dept pushed for their prosecution at the behest of a cartel of large companies, Sweden held a kangaroo court and convicted them, they fled to Cambodia/Laos/Thailand (basically the only countries with computer access that don't extradite on command from Western nations) and still eventually got caught at border crossings and sent back home to serve their time. Moral of the story appears to be that if BigCo wants your life screwed up badly enough, they will relentlessly pursue until it's done, and petty things like the laws of the nation-state are not relevant. Ultimately, money talks, no matter where you live.

I also don't really want to become an effective exile from my own home country, which is what would happen even if there was a country that would shelter a little person like myself. Criminal charges are possible under the CFAA and there would be an arrest warrant issued if a criminal case was brought, probably meaning I'd get arrested at the first American border stop. There would certainly be a standing civil judgment against any assets I own within American boundaries, which means I would never be able to have a bank account or own a home without resorting to identity theft. Not good stuff, and my little business is absolutely not worth all of that.

Even though I understand that there is nowhere on Earth that would allow my business to resume operations, after the research I've done, I still believe it'd be good for my family to spend a few years in Hong Kong for the reasons enumerated above. I continue to be interested in learning as much as I can from people who have experience there, especially experience with the entrepreneurial scene and/or raising a large family as an expat.

HK is a modern, high-tech city with fast internet and easy access to everything, including a lot of the brands that we're used to in America (I understand the HK versions may be substantially different). It's reported to be very safe and very clean. English is an official language (though I read that only about 5% of locals have more than the most basic proficiency in it), which would make it easier to operate than other areas of Asia as signage in English is available, official business can be conducted in English, etc. It's a great base for further exploration of the region. There is a large and apparently vibrant community of American and English expats. There's a culture of hard work and there are very low taxes. The weather is not necessarily ideal, but reasonable. I also believe that there would be developmental benefits for my children, including but not limited to the opportunity to fully immerse in Cantonese

I have no input on your legal woes, but your points above are pretty accurate. It's a very easy, safe (excluding the air pollution) and convenient place to live. The only point I'd disagree with is in raising a family there, but I imagine that's a personal preference. I'd also suggest that Mandarin would be immensely more useful for your children than Cantonese.

I don't want to turn this into a discussion, so i wont reply here again, but I'd direct you to the following popular forum for expat families here, which should contain a lot of relevant information and where you can ask questions of other HK expats:


I live in HK, and have for 4 years. I lived in Shenzhen for 4 years prior to that, and Hong Kong is much better. It is nearly impossible to immigrate here without employer sponsorship, however you can look at their new startup immigration scheme, which allows startup founders a special visa provided you have a business plan, and plans to hire local people. Programming jobs abound, look up some headhunting/placement companies, and they will bend over backwards to place you. I work for myself, but my wife is HKese so that's how I manage. I love HK, it's a modern vibrant city, however it's offing expensive. Income tax is very low, but rent is hilariously overpriced, so this makes everything more expensive here. That said, if you want to live more locally, you can get by relatively inexpensively for things like food. Public transport is cheap and phenomenal so there's no need for a car. That said, unless you're in fintech or have a very good reason or big desire to be here, there are probably better places to go.

Greece, Dodecanneso.

Why? maybe the best sailing area in the med (we live aboard a 11mt old/cheap sailing boat), cheap, easy, great weather, great & cheap internet (mobile) everywhere. Winter not aboard anymore (electricity is getting too expensive), so maybe will join some of you in wintertime

Andorra, small country in the middle of Pyrenees. Beautiful mountains with decent skiing in winter, all year around nice sunny weather, great food, almost all homes have fibre to home, close proximity to Barcelona. Cost-wise very affordable + only 10% income tax.

On the flip side there is no tech ecosystem or it can sometimes be a bit boring, you need to travel to BCN to get your culture fix :) It can also be a bit hard to get out since closest airport is BCN.

Do you manage to live there speaking only Castellano or is Catalán necessary?

Tokushima, Japan.

Not a particularly inspiring environment, besides the good beaches and view of the mountains. Non-existent developer community. Sufficiently sized city (200k) to have everything you need. Fun festivals.

For our family of two adults and a baby, our living cost is very roughly $3000 / month. Biggest cost is my health insurance, second highest expense is rent, our place is $720 / month. You need a car to survive.

At first it seemed that taxes would be much cheaper than Finland, but actually there are many varieties of fees and when you add them all up Japan is about the same. Putting a child through the schooling system would tip that in favor of Finland, where they actually pay you to study.

I wrote this ages ago, been meaning to update it: http://www.bemmu.com/what-it-costs-to-live-in-japan

Hey Bemmu! A couple questions after reading your blog post:

1. Any noticeable societal differences between living in Tokushima and Tokyo?

2. Assuming you are still renting, do you eventually plan to purchase your own property in Japan?

It seems property costs outside of Tokyo are really cheap. I've been contemplating moving near Kamakura as it has a beach and it's still reasonably close to Tokyo.

Bucharest, Romania

Being Romanian, it wasn't really a tough choice, having family and friends here. Quite happy with the quality of life, cost of living and income taxes. The city has been changing for the better in the past 10 years, feeling very cosmopolitan these days and open to foreigners.


- Sunny most of the year

- Small EU capital but lots to do, beautiful cities countrywide

- Walkable

- Almost all young people speak fluent English

- Cheap (though this is slowly changing)

- Very multicultural (if you know where to look)

- I rent a big room w/ an amazing view of the city and my total monthly bills are under $600 (includes going out several times per week).

I've been popping around quite a bit recently. Some recent destinations in no particular order: Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, USA, Australia, India, Kenya, South Africa, Germany, Norway, New Zealand. I stay for a few months (usually 2-6 months) at a time and move on.

Currently in Bali because it's cheap, the weather is nice, I'm right on the beach, there are solid coworking + cafe options, and the Balinese people + culture + architecture are absolutely splendid.

You mind emailing me (in profile)? I'm looking for some Bali specific info - just want to work and surf basically :)

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So, how do you decide where to go next?

I have a tentative plan of the next few places I want to go next. That changes (just about every week) based on people I meet, the conversations I have, what other people's stories get me excited, and the timezone I want to be in.

The more I make solid friends with other long-term travelers, however, the more I prioritize the locations where I know those friends will be.

Berlin, because it's where my social life is, with a week/month working somewhere else (Barcelona, Rome, Istanbul ...) when it gets too cold or boring.

Can you clarify what you mean by "location-independent"? Do you imply that the person is traveling, or does it mean that the team is all remote?

By "location-independent" I mean a person doesn't have to be in a certain location to run their business. Meaning, they can run their business from anywhere.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia. My wife's work requires her to work abroad, and this is the post that made sense for our family and her career. It's a nice enough place to live and work, very cheap, all modern conveniences are available, great expat community. We'll stay for a couple more years, then move somewhere else (she gets re-posted every 2-3 years).

Do you mind sharing what your wife does? I was recently in Phnom Penh and really liked it.


It's important that the time I don't spend working be fulfilling -- a value that Parisians all seem to share.

Cheap (if not free) museums, cultural events, and small gatherings in which people talk about life are what keep me here.

I am in California for health reasons. The dry climate and low levels of ragweed are good for me.

I like California for a lot of reasons, but the deciding factor is my health.

Austria and San Francisco, as we have office locations there. I'm splitting my time every month between the two locations.

Krakow, Poland. Because Poland is one of the very few EU countries with low enough business requirements to get a residence.

Thessaloniki , Greece . Because no other place can match the beaches of Chalkidiki [inside joke for Greek readers :)].

Marbella: beach. :)


Home. In Lyon, France, because my friends are the most important asset.

I've also chosen my coworking space ("Ecoworking") based on the awesomeness of the community and the variety of entrepreneurs (NGOs, architects, book writers, motion designers, etc). I'm a software editor.

If it were only for the quality of living, I'd be in the south of France (Nice), but the coworking space I met there wasn't friendly. Besides, the cost of living is much lower in Lyon, notably because the car isn't necessary.

As an American who hadn't been out of North America until 10th grade, my student exchange to Lyon was very enjoyable and showed me how absurd life can be in America sometimes.

The beautiful old architecture paired with modern public transit made it an excellent city for adventures. We could be anywhere we wanted via bike, scooter, skateboard, and metro in almost no time, and there was so much to see. Coming from living in a car-centric US suburb, it was extremely liberating.

One of my fondest memories was when my exchange student was here in the states, and we were eating at an Applebees. The waitress took his 3/4 empty soda glass away, and he swore at her in french. She just shrugged and returned with a free refill. His jaw just dropped since drinking that much soda, and free refills, was totally foreign to him.

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