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Ask HN: Good countries for American expats
112 points by gregd on July 18, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments
Looking to move a family to a different country for a few years, that may lead to permanent residence in that country.

What has your experience been?

What is your particular career?

What were your moving expenses?

How much is your rent or did you buy?

Where did you move to/from?

How are the schools?

Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome?

How long have you lived in this country? Are you a permanent resident or do you plan on moving back to the US?

What was the process like to become a permanent resident?

Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country?

What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why?

Living in another country is way, way different from going on a vacation in another country. You're removed from the tourist infrastructure that caters to foreigners and you've got to deal with all of the country's bureaucratic procedures and regulations (even simple things like renting an apartment vary ridiculously from country to country). The same places that are fascinating and fun for foreigners to visit are often stressful and annoying for foreigners to live in. Not speaking the native language makes this all the more stressful and bringing people with you that speak your language makes it a lot less likely you'll learn the native language well.

I'm not saying it can't be done, but there's a reason packing off to a completely different country and successfully 'going native' is usually done by single people right out of college who haven't yet experienced a lot of success in their own country. Yes, plenty of older, more-established people do migrate for economic or political reasons, but they usually end up living in ethnic and linguistic enclaves.

My advice? Pick another country that uses English as their primary language, so you don't have that stress going for you, and pick one that's economically developed, so you don't have that stress going for you. You'll still have to adapt to the local bureaucracy, but at least you'll have a fighting chance to understand it. Many English-speaking countries use a points-based system for immigration that favors skilled workers, so you'll also have a much better chance of getting permanent residency.

Yes. Very few people have the motivation to learn a language when they lack both free time (e.g. by virtue of being single) and the motivation (e.g. economic necessity or being single).

I've lived in China for 4 years. I know one married person who studies Chinese regularly and seriously. I know others who have come here to work, and are even married to Chinese people, who can barely say their own address.

The good news is, you can do it!!! You just need to be realistic about the time and effort involved. Also, if you're mid-way through your career, you may find the best job in terms of providing for your family is the worst job in terms of improving your language skills and learning the local culture.

Whichever country you choose, find expats who went before you, talk with them and understand where you can do better and/or where you will have the same problems as they did.

Great advice. I moved to Thailand last year by myself (and moved back in March). I absolutely loved Thailand, but there many stressful times trying to get things set up. I had a good friend already there (American who spoke some Thai), which helped immensely, but he was around only so much to help.

One of my funnier memories was getting set up for Internet. After I waited for a rep who could speak English well enough to help, I sat down and got her pitch for a 6 month up front payment deal.

I listened politely and when she was finished talking about the extras I'd get, I thanked her and declined the offer. Then she said that they require all foreigners to pay 6 months up front.

"Oh, well in that case I'll take the 6 month deal"

"Living in another country is way, way different from going on a vacation in another country"

Can't emphasize this enough. If you love traveling, emigrating somewhere may not be a great idea. Moved to the US from the UK a few years ago, and when I get vacation time I tend to use it to go back to visit friends and family.

That said, I made the move with a wife and child in tow, so it can be done - but obviously needs considerable thought and a strong partnership to make it work.

Conversely, I'm tightly tied to having a home and people I know - so I don't particularly enjoy travelling but love living elsewhere. That way I can get to know the culture and people more deeply, but have my own space and home.

> My advice? Pick another country that uses English as their primary language

While that's definitely easier, and not a bad idea especially if this is your first experience as an expat, going to a country where the main language is not English can be very educational. Furthermore, if you do it right your kids could end up fluent in two languages, which is very, very useful for them down the road!

(ideally most people in this country will be proficient in English though)

I'm building a website that seeks to answer this question and similar questions through user self-reporting of slow travel and expat experiences.


A post by a Brit who moved to Prague:


An American's experiences moving to Germany:


A couple of interesting posts about life in Japan:



There are only ~150 or so posts so far but I think there's already a lot of interesting insight and stories to read!

I'm moving to France in September and reading posts on this site has already helped me a lot! Thanks for putting it up. I'll be sure to post my own review once I've settled in!

Just finished Germany, Prague and the first Japan you linked to. All were informative and thoughtful, especially Germany.

It's a nice site. Enjoyed reading the reviews on Sweden. :-) Thanks.

Nice. I'll check it out, so bookmarked!

I'll give you what I know:

I moved to Norway almost a year ago from the midwest US: I absolutely love it here and have no plans on returning to live. I can't give much career advise as I'm not working, but there are tech jobs in oil and naval industries from what I can gather. Being from the US, you will need a job before you move. I didn't have many moving expenses because honestly, I decided it was better to give my stuff away than to ship it plus I moved for marriage, so I had less to consider. Schools are good and higher education is free as well. The process seemed simple to get my residence permit: The most difficult part was waiting. I don't get permanent residency until a minimum of 3 years: until then renewal each year, mostly a process of a form, an interview perhaps, and some waiting. We do rent, as do most people here - I think we are paying around 8,000kr ($1300USD) and that is on the cheap end - though I'm in Trondheim and housing is cheaper outside of the city. Everything is expensive - I gave up trying to convert to USD and just learned the economy like I would a game. Though the actual cost of living is more here, the quality of life I have is greatly improved. I can walk everywhere safely. Public transportation is excellent - not having a vehicle is definitely not all that restrictive. Healthy food is the cheap food and healthcare is universal. I'm not fluent yet. It is important to learn (I start language classes next month) but isn't always required in some industries. Eating out is a rare treat because it is always expensive - but on the other hand, a good latte is cheaper than a bus ride. Yes, I do choose to walk with coffee instead of riding a bus at times. Nature is absolutely free - it is almost too bad I wasn't more of an outdoors person. Some of these I'm sure carry over to other countries: I imagine most people don't have dreams of living in the arctic, which comes with its own advantages/disadvantages depending on viewpoint.

I moved to Norway recently myself, but from New York City, where I am originally from. It is something I wanted to do for a long time, in part because my grandparents came from where I am now. All these points are true (cost, permit, etc.), but it is not a shock to me when living in Manhattan in terms of prices. There are some things that are quite expensive. My wife would compare food costs to buying stuff at Whole Foods.

Summertime in Norway is holiday time. People can take up to the whole month off. There is this thing called feriepenger where the government mandates that 10.5% of your salary is saved for vacation. It really stinks for the first year. :)

Shops close on Sundays (except gas station stores and Joker) and there is one government-ran store for wine/liquor/"strong beer". I just came here a few months ago, and I sort of miss having a nighttime. These are little things though. Of course though, YMMV.

I have been pursuing new job opportunties here. Most software development jobs tend to show up in Oslo, Stavanger and Bergen (three cities I am not in, I am in Southern Norway.) It is easiest to get a job in Oslo, particularly if you follow FINN.no when you try to find dev work. So, I'd probably suggest one of those three cities if you want to come here. (Haven't been to Stavanger, but Bergen is the prettiest, but seriously rainy).

Of course, YMMV anywhere. Just remember, despite what people write in the US media: Scandinavia is not a socialist paradise. :D

(EDIT: one other thing, I love banking here. Internet banking in the US still is sort of a novel idea. I had to pay by check for my rent; now I just do it through the bank site, along with other bills. There is a bunch of things I wish I saw in the US that I see here when it comes to banking.)

>>Summertime in Norway is holiday time. People can take up to the whole month off.

As a fellow Scandinavian I should clarify this:

Despite all the jokes about spending an afternoon in bed sleeping off a hangover and missing the summer, the summer is longer than one month.

I should also say I loved Bergen, the little I've been there. Despite the weather. I see a suitable job there, I'm going to apply for it.

The biggest point for me about this vacation time is how slow things are when you need to find work. I got a lot of "we'll be recruiting after the summer vacation." Oslo is probably different, I bet.

Regardless, I am securing work now with a company.

Oslo was not that different. I was told at my company to take July off as little business would be done so there was no point being in the office.

I found that a little disappointing as I would typically travel abroad or holidays and would much prefer to leave mid winter for a month and have a break from the darkness.

I'm now back in my home country Australia but not sure it was the right move. Weather is much better for lifestyle but life seems more complicated and to have more pressure/stress. In Norway you knew the government would look after you and while I've never used that support, nor expect to it was nice knowing it was there.

You are asking a lot of questions but it would help people to understand what you are looking for (or what you are moving away from).

If you are looking for almost USA that is not USA, then Canada. If you are looking for a good climate outside of USA then Australia. Or France, or Italy, but then you will need to learn the language. If you are looking for low expenses, then India, Thailand, or Vietnam. If you are looking for great social stability then Northern Europe countries, but these are notoriously hard to emigrate to... etc etc

(Creds: moved from Russia to Canada, travel a lot)

I'm always surprised to see Thailand on a list of cheap places to live. I live in Bangkok in the CBD just behind the Four Seasons. While that's admittedly one of the pricier neighborhoods to live in, I've also lived in some of the "artier" lower cost neighborhoods here. Overall, this is what I've found, compared to my place of origin:

1. Rent -- 0.5 - 1.0 what you'll pay in a top-tier US city.

2. Groceries -- anything resembling what you'd get in the US will cost 1.25 - 2.00 of what you're paying in the US.

3. Cars -- 1.5 - 4.0 what you'll pay in the US. Insurance is somewhat cheaper however. Ditto maintenance. Gas is about the same.

4. Eating out -- really depends but say $30 - $200 for two people, possibly with drinks. You can eat cheaper food on the streets. You may or may not want to.

5. Electronics, watches, designer goods, etc -- significantly more than what you would pay in the US.

6. Domestic help -- if from a neighboring country very affordable, starting at $20 - $30 per day for maids and nannies.

7. Health care -- pretty incredible value here compared to the US. It would not be insane to go to a top-tier hospital without insurance here. My wife and I just had our son here. Excellent care for a fraction of US prices.

In other words, anything you might save on rent you'll make up for on everything else, with the exception of healthcare and domestic help, which have very high quality vs cost.

I'm not as dogmatic as this could sound, but there's some truth to the position that if you're in Asia buying groceries resembling what you'd get in the US, you're doing it wrong. :)

(Seriously, native-style meals are part of the experience, and much more budget-friendly. In many countries you could even hire a cook and still come out ahead, depending on how many family members you're buying for.)

Compared to San Francisco, housing is about 70% cheaper in Bangkok. That's a big one. If I'm saving 1k a month on rent, that can cover the other things pretty easily. Also, public transport and taxis are much cheaper.

I lived in a really nice serviced apartment in downtown chiang mai for USD$500/mo. I think over the year and a half I was there I only spent about $25,000. I live in the caribbean now and spend that much in six months.

Interesting... Belize, eh? Is the internet reliable/fast? Can you fly in and out without going via the US? Do you live in Belize City or someplace else? How'd you wind up there?

The internet is, last time I checked, literally the most expensive by bandwidth in the world. I pay USD$200/mo for a 4Mb downlink. I think the only direct flights outside of the US are through San Salvador.

Belize City isn't the nicest place; most of the expat population is on Ambergris Caye. I was just coming through a few years ago and found that the location matches my personality, so I stuck around. I occasionally miss fresh leafy greens and electronics stores, but in general I'm extremely happy here and don't have any plans to leave.

Thailand is very cheap to live, if you don't try to live a life exactly like you lived in your western home country.

I moved from Australia with my girlfriend (now wife) about 20 months ago.

1. I don’t live in Bangkok (about 75km north in Ayutthaya, the old capital), but outside the city in the other cities/large towns (excluding perhaps Pattaya and Phuket CBD which cater to (sex) tourists), renting and buying a 3+ bedroom house can be very cheap. If you want to live right in the city in a Bangkok shoebox, yes you will pay for the "privilege".

2. The only time our grocery bill is anything like it was in Australia is if we a) go to the cash-and-carry store and buy bulk things and/or b) go to one of the 'upmarket' supermarkets to get imported stuff. If you go to one of the fresh markets to get fruit and veg (and potentially meat too) it's ridiculously cheap.

3. I don't know the US car market but generally they are slightly cheaper here than Australia, however that only works if you buy locally made. ANY imported vehicle automatically has 120% import tax.

4. If you eat in a local restaurant, $30 (~1000 Baht) will generally pay the bill for dinner for about 6 people. If you go to a western-ish restaurant (i.e. western style menu items but often with a slight thai touch, or adjusted ingredients) the same amount might cover 2 people, it might go up to $45 (~1500 Baht). $200 for two people is fucking insane, unless you're eating where all the hi-so Thais go just to be seen, and show they have money.

Your comment on street food tells me that you fall into the "not want to" category, and that is part of your expense problem. We regularly have street food, and I have only once had a bad experience (it didn't make me sick, I took a bite and couldn't eat it). If we get dinner from a street vendor its guaranteed we will pay less than $5 for both of us, for (generally) a meal made fresh in front of you, that is delicious.

To state that $30-$200 (~1000 - ~7000 Baht) to eat out is "normal" but that "you can get cheaper food on the streets, you may or may not want to" is like saying "there are cheaper toilets than this solid gold one, you may or may not want to use them".

5. Just like your $200 dinner for two, I think you're either shopping at the "hi-so" playgrounds (aka shopping malls), or you're paying the farrang (foreigner) tax.

As I learnt very quickly - if you want to live your western lifestyle, yes it will be expensive, because a lot of things you might want have to be imported and are thus * more expensive for the retailer * considered a luxury item thus worthy of higher markup * targeted at foreigners thus worthy of even higher markup

How has the recent coup affected life there? Would you discourage people from immigrating, with the country in its current state?

For me, it's meant getting into bangkok is no longer a game of "will the protestors block road X today" and "oh hey it looks like the police can actually enforce a few laws when the army tells them to".

I wouldn't tell people not to come (for a holiday or work) but I am also aware that western media loves to sensationalise things so many people would reconsider coming.

My parents sometimes get freaked out by their local news with stuff like "army coup in Thailand!" Followed by no other news about it.

I was a bit nervous the day it happened, as I had read about very violent clashes after the previous coup and had no idea what to expect but it's largely just life as usual for us.

The issue with many expat is they want what they get at home without embracing local culture. Stay home I say.

I want to experience another culture and I want my family to have a similar experience. Since I have really no idea what I'd be in for, I was looking for input on what others experienced. I haven't traveled much outside of the US but am really, really attracted to Europe. I work remotely currently so stable/fast internet is pretty much my only requirement and the country has to be expat friendly.

I wouldn't be to concerned about stable/fast internet. I currently work out of hostels and cafes in Medellin, Colombia. Free wlan everywhere and haven't had any more problems than back in Switzerland. And since I have a local cell phone, I can just switch to tethering if there are any.

Europe has a lot of amazing cities I could imaging to stay longer, but they have very different cultures and styles of living. In my opinion it comes down to personal taste rather than any other concern (except maybe cost of living).

Instead of moving all you stuff to one place it may be better to store it in your current place and just come to Europe with backpacks and travel for a bit until your family finds a place they feel like settling.

So, to recap: different culture, expat friendly, stable internet, and (I presume) safety for the family. There is a continuum with countries similar to US culture on one end and countries with very different culture on another end, but with various issues (safety, internet availability, language, etc). I would say somewhere in the middle of the spectrum are countries of Eastern Europe: they are beautiful, most of them are expat-friendly and have expat diasporas, stable internet, relatively safe. I would suggest you look at Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania (great internet connectivity BTW).

I saw a lot of American expats in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's much more laid back than Bangkok or the beach cities, and it's gorgeous up there. They seemed to be having a great time.

Those expats are there for a different reason.

what is that?

I think he's repeating the urban myth of American soldiers getting "black syphilis" and not being allowed home.

sex tourism. However the number in Chiang Mai is likely minuscule to those in Pattaya, or the "poor" (and thus can't afford to live in Pattaya or Chiang Mai) in Isan (an extremely poor part of the country well known for daughters being "sold off" to foreign husbands 2x or 3x their age)

> India, Thailand, or Vietnam

Getting a work permit in SE Asia could be a major pain, or so I've heard.

I can only comment on the process in Thailand. Note this applies specifically to western (and possibly non neighbouring asian) expats.

To get a work permit, you need a business visa (which requires a letter from either a Thai company or if you're lucky, a company in your own country stating why you need the visa), and a Thai company to offer you work.

They have to be able to show (but not always asked to) why they need to hire you (vs a local) and they need to have 4 regular Thai employees for every foreigner they employ.

The minimum wage for (western) foreigners is 50K Baht/month, compared to 9K Baht/month for locals. Graduate salary starts at around 30K Baht/month so you need to be worth it for them to even bother.

A work permit is specific to a company and a location - if you change location your WP needs to be updated (possibly replaced, haven't been through that yet). If you want to change job, you will need to cancel your old on and go through the process for a new one with the new employer.

I worked in Australia as a consultant/contractor (operating as a sole trader) and to carry on here, have formed a Thai company. This was only possible for me, because my wife is Thai, and thus I have a pool of trusted Thais to rely on for things like 51% ownership of the company.

Americans have some other options I didn't have regarding company ownership (the rules on % of ownership are relaxed) but I still wouldn't call it "easy".

I've lived in 7 countries now and here's a quick review of them.

Australia: This is a great country to live. Great education, good jobs and awesome climate. I lived in Brisbane, which is located on the Northeast on the country. The only problem is that it takes forever to go anywhere. If you have a young family, this is one of the best place to raise them. Housing is apparently expensive now there.

Singapore: The living standard there is higher than the US. Everything is efficient, food is great and it has first class education. It is damn humid though. English is the native language there. It is located in South East Asia which makes many parts of Asia really accessible.

Czech Republic: I lived in Prague for a while. It is gorgeous, the public transport is efficient and it is cheap to live in. I have no idea about education. You can get by with English in daily life. However for paperwork you will need assistance from local. There are many expats living there.

Italy: I lived in Central Italy in Umbria region and my wife is from Ferrara. Italy has so many charming towns to move in and live although employment could be a problem. English will get you by OK and basic Italian is not hard to pick up. You will need assistance by local to do paperwork.

Indonesia: This is my country. It is a cheap place to live and you will get by with English as long as you stay in the big cities. It has fast growing economy and there should be plenty of opportunities for jobs. The international schools should be decent. In the capital city like Jakarta though you will encounter terrible traffic jam.

USA: I lived in Chicago when White Sox won the World Series. Enough said.

Egypt: I live here in Cairo now. It is both a very charming, surprisingly cosmopolitan and yet frustrating city. It is a very safe city. This is the most conservative city I've lived in terms of dress code and it is crippled by traffic jams. If you have adult children, Cairo is a fine city.

Just wondered what you're doing in Cairo? I lived there for three months and liked it, but agree that it's also frustrating.

I've noticed a lot of Americans moving here to Dublin, Ireland the past few years - most seem to be 30+ though and career focussed. I suspect younger Americans are attracted to destinations like California, China and Continental Europe.

I guess Americans who don't mind the rain and grey skies would find it easy to settle here - English speaking, high quality of life, great education prospects for children. I have to say though tech wages here seem to be about half what they are in CA but even within the US, tech wages are much lower than CA.

Tech wages in California aren't double those in the rest of the country at least not for a ruby on rails developer. My last job search, I interviewed for jobs in NYC, San Francisco and Atlanta. I was really surprised to find that the salaries I was being offered in Atlanta were just about the same as in NYC or SF. This seemed crazy to me as the cost of living in Atlanta is far lower but that was what was offered. I often peruse job postings and this still seems to be the case.

As an American expat who lived in Dublin for 2 years working at Microsoft, Ireland is garbage.

Can you be more specific?

Going to guess he lieved there during the bomb and was badly paid.

It's still "during the bomb" today, I was well paid and had a great role with Microsoft. I didn't say Microsoft was the issue at all, the country is just god awful.

Ireland is a third world country.

I find that hard to believe. I think you were suffering from the "working for Microsoft" part.

One of my favorite links I've ever seen on the subject is this:

Top 15 Cheap, Safe and Friendly Countries


Here are the top 15 cheapest, safest and friendliest countries:

    1. Macedonia 	0.99
    2. Georgia 	0.98
    3. United Arab Emirates 	0.82
    4. Morocco 	0.80
    5. Hong Kong 	0.75
    6. Montenegro 	0.71
    7. Malta 	0.68
    8. Taiwan 	0.67
    9. Ethiopia 	0.63
    10. Thailand 	0.62
    11. Estonia 	0.60
    12. Sri Lanka 	0.59
    13. Nepal 	0.55
    14. Bosnia And Herzegovina 	0.55
    15. Portugal 	0.46
(+ gregd, feel free to email me about this. I've been living outside the U.S. for years, and have applied for permament residency in 3 different countries. Happy to share any experiences and advice.)

oh my, goes to show that statistics might have good numbers, but no meaning.

Macedonia? Georgia? My god, Georgia just had a war with Russia, is the second biggest target after the Ukraine/Krim.

Ethopia? WTF. If you want to live secure, have western healthcare, etc. 3rd world countries are some of the most expensive countries to live in. And Ehtopia is an authoritarian regime, which tends to blow violently once in a while.

Macedonia is actually much safer than anywhere you've been to in the US. It's also very laid back. It borders Greece and has very little to do with Russian politics.

So yeah, it is a very reasonable choice for some people.

That list looks awful. If you do want to go the scientific route, you'll have to work this out yourself, based on the metrics that are important to you. You can find individual indexes (Healthcare, Journalistic freedom, political neutrality, risk of war, risk of natural desasters, etc.), then weigh them as per your preference and calculate a total score. The outcome may surprise you :)

Safety is based on crime index in that report. Some of those countries are definitely in regions with political or geopolitical problems. Not somewhere I'd go with a family.

Also, cheap only matters if you plan to continue to work remotely. If you eventually want to work locally to be near colleagues, Ethiopian prices may be low, but Ethiopian wages are also.

Given that he has children, I'd also think that the education system is an important factor.

Wow, that is one of the craziest lists I have ever seen.

Several of the places there would be interesting to live (I have a soft spot for Georgia, for instance), but I wouldn't recommend them to somebody coming from the US and looking to settle in easily.

I've lived in Both Australia and Canada (I'm American) with my family for significant amounts of time (currently in Canada). Both are great with very little "differences" from the US.

However, there are some major annoyances in both places as well. We Americans have come to expect things to be A. cheap B. quick and C. easy. See amazon.com. Those either don't exist or are 1/100 as useful outside of the US.

Other things are different as well, but nothing that is insurmountable and some are enjoyable as well.

BTW, I just got my perm residency in Canada and plan on staying here forever. The schools are better than where we came from (Phoenix), the people are nicer and the weather is much, much better (We live in Victoria; wife, 3 kids). Kids go to a francophone (not immersion, though there are those as well) school, ride their bikes everywhere and have parks around every corner. People still don't lock their doors sometimes.

That said, I probably would never live anywhere else in Canada other than Victoria....maybe Vancouver (though that is kinda pricey and doesn't offer the kind of lifestyle we are after). Rest of Canada has mostly miserable weather as far as I'm concerned.

You find the weather in Canada nicer than Phoenix?

I'm thinking that might only apply 5 months out the year. But I'm not a cold weather person.

I'm in Victoria, BC, which I find much more pleasant than Phoenix on average. I say we have two seasons in Victoria; spring and fall.

The winters in Phoenix were great, but the summers were brutal. Average them out and you get an ok year. Also, the landscape in Victoria is so much nicer that even during the rainy season (it never gets really "cold" in victoria, particularly by Canada standards), I can put up with more than I ever could the heat in Phx.

You found the US to be quicker and easier than Australia? Have you been to USPS??

Watch out for the whole double taxation issue. You will need to pay taxes to the US (there's a certain income threshold if I remember correctly, but you'd likely surpass it). If you wind up taking permanent residency, you may need to renounce your US citizenship to stop having to owe taxes Stateside.

(http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/U.S.-...) -- "Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside."

Even if you renounce your US citizenship you're still considered a US person for a few years, and still required to file. The most important thing to remember to do is file every year. The US is the only country in the World which requires it's non-resident citizens to file tax returns every year. Also, don't forget to do your FBAR, or face huge penalties like $10,000 fines.

I'm an American who has lived in The Netherlands since 2002. I engage a competent tax preparer every year and pay through the nose for him, you should expect to do the same. When I last lived in the USA my tax return was 2-4 pages. Now it's over 70 pages long and incredibly complex. It's just something you have to deal with if you live overseas.

The day you renounce your US citizenship, you are no longer a US person (unless the State Department has a valid reason to deny your renunciation).

It may take several months, or more than a year, for the State Department to issue you your Certificate of Loss of Nationality (CLN). However, the effective date of your loss of citizenship is the day you signed the papers and swore your oath of renunciation at the Embassy or Consulate.

You are only required to file taxes with the IRS for the year you renounced, and only for whatever you earned up to the date of your renunciation. Before the HEART Act of 2008, you may have been required to continue filing, and paying US taxes. However, that has now been replaced with a one-time exit tax on unrealized gains, for "covered expatriates" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriation_tax).

ianal but my understanding is that americans do have to pay us income tax on worldwide income, but they can deduct taxes paid to a local government. in other words, if you would have had to pay $100 in taxes to the us, but paid $75 to a local government, then you would only pay $25 to the us. if your taxes in the foreign country exceed the amount you would have had to pay in the us, then you don't owe the us anything.

Between the Foreign Tax Credit and the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion... You'd need a fair amount of US income or very low taxes in your new home country to generate a US tax burden. But. You still have to file.



A point: you can't renounce US citizenship if all you have is permanent residency. You have to have citizenship elsewhere before the US will recognize you having renounced its citizenship.

You can indeed renounce your U.S. citizenship and become a stateless person. See the State Department's Foreign Affairs Manual at http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/115645.pdf

I've seen it happen.

Not that I would recommend it, however.

Source: I'm an international tax lawyer and have 18 expatriation projects open in my office right now.

Actually, you can renounce with only permanent residency.

I personally know someone here in Paraguay who has done it. He's now stateless. The Embassy highly suggests that you have another citizenship. However, they will accept a renunciation if you don't have one.

It sounds scary but just like someone else pointed out it only applies if you're in a country with a lower tax bracket. Since federal income taxes are fairly low in the US it's not likely to be an issue unless you migrate to a country with even lower taxes. On top of that, some (Western) countries have a treaty with the US to avoid double taxation and exempt you from filing taxes in both countries if you reside in either country for the majority of the year that the taxes are filed for.

nah bro. set up a foreign shell corp and have your employer pay your shell corp. defer taxes until there is a tax holiday. then still pay nothing!

We have good friends that moved to Costa Rica a decade ago. The climate is nice, the scenery is amazing, the country is a stable democracy with no standing army. Land and housing was very affordable.

I lived in Costa Rica for 6 months a couple years ago, and it really is an amazing place. Land, housing, and physical labor are all super cheap there - most everything else is pretty similar to the US. The food for instance is about the same, it's just better.

I lived in Playa Avellanas, which was way off the beaten path, and I don't recommend that. It was cool learning Spanish to communicate with everyone but the logistics of living there soon became a nusiance (20-40 minute drive to the nearest place with an ATM, for example, and the ride costs about $50, the hospital being hours away).

I've heard it is kind of a pain in the ass to legally reside in CR as well - navigating the waters and finding 'lawyers' who won't just steal your money and run is kind of tricky.

If you are young, embrace the opportunity to learn a second language. Take a course before you leave, study your new language thoroughly, and bask in the joy of being accepted in a rich new culture. The culmination is when you can understand their jokes. The motivation is to bargain successfully in the marketplace (eg. Latin America) and not get taken advantage of.

I lived in Peru/Bolivia in 1968-69, taught high school physics in Spanish. One of the most enriching experiences of my life.

"and not get taken advantage of"

The trick, IMHO, is to have some local knowledge of what's what and then to be firm in everything (and not afraid to say 'no').

If the phrase "you can't bullshit a bullshiter" is taken into consideration, the appearance of having adopted such a stance makes one pretty much immune from being taken advantage of. For anyone considering LatAm, just let people know they can't pull the wool over your eyes (no pun about llamas intended).

Not "young" I'm afraid...in my 40s. But I feel young! Except every other day when I roll out of bed, aching in places I didn't know existed.

The Tropical MBA podcast talks about places like this quite frequently, so it's worth a listen. Here's a list of their top cities, most are international: http://www.tropicalmba.com/2014lifestyeldesigncities/

Living in Puerto Rico is a good way to see if you'll like living outside of the USA. It feels like a different country, but uses US Dollar and no passport needed. Puerto Rico will give you a taste of what it's like living without a lot of the conveniences you get in the states.

Canada and England are easy-mode for an American expat, in my experience. In addition to language, there are plenty of US firms already doing business there.

The easiest way to be an expat, by far, is to work for an American company who then sends you to work overseas. Ideally, an American firm with a large number of overseas US workers and an established program for that -- or a government organization like the State Department, entities like USAID, etc.

It's probably easier (in terms of not needing to make any decisions) to work for a US oil company and live on a compound in Saudi Arabia than it is to find your own way in a more permissive country. But less fun, I'm sure.

Not an actual expat, but travel a lot.

Lived in a small beach town in Mexico for a month. There were a lot of expats there, super cheap, safe, friendly town. Everyone there spoke enough English that I could get along easily without any Spanish. Quality of life was fantastic. Only downside was very slow/unstable internet access.

I'd seriously consider South Africa, a place like Durban. Great city, everyone speaks English, low cost of living, lots of culture/resources/fast internet, tons to do. Was just there for two weeks. Super nice people, very health focused society.

I've lived as an ex-pat in South Africa and unfortunately I wouldn't recommend it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great place to visit but the crime rate is ridiculous and that has many knock-on effects - for example, you have to drive nearly everywhere as people are afraid to walk places after dark. You often have to live in walled off houses/compounds with a lot of security. Drink driving is very prevalent there and vehicle accidents happen all the time because of the electricity going out/how people use intersections. There is a lot of fear amongst people but much if it is justifiable, as everyone seems to have a horror violent crime story. Eventually, the limitations caused by perceptions and realities of crime make the actual world where you live quite small (certain areas, towns, streets, etc) and we found it quite stifling (for people from Ireland). Occasionally there are hints of the old racism (often black vs black these days). Also, the culture of everyone having a maid and how the poor are treated becomes very uncomfortable (felt a bit like 12 years a slave sometimes) if your not used to it. Bureaucracy is a bit of a nightmare. Also the medium term prospects of the country because of the corruption now in the ANC don't look great TBH.

Still, it's well worth a visit, especially to the national parks, Cape Town, etc. If you get a chance go to Zimbabwe - weirdly that's actually a country I would choose to live in over South Africa, as criminal (not political) crime is a lot lower and you feel much more free.

I live in Playa del Carmen, MX a lot of expats live here and recently i have been meeting programmers or remote Startup devs working here, internet is unstable once in a while in depends where you live. There are a couple of coworking spaces and plenty of coffee shops where you can work close to beach.

Since I currently work remotely, stable/fast internet is a must...

I moved to Asunción, Paraguay 6 years ago, after having been here twice for language-learning-vacations. It took about 3,5 month to feel fluent but I will learn more language and culture all my life. I came from central Europe and enjoy the warmer weather and the relaxed live style. I put all my stuff in a container and paid about 7.000 USD to including all the packing which I never could have done that well myself, I also could live back home normally until 2 days before I moved. One monitor crashed on the way but the insurance payed for it. I live in a nice apartment of about 2.000 square feet with 24 hours guards, janitor and gardener for 1.000 USD/month.

Good education is expensive here. I meet later today with some US embassy workers and will ask what they pay for their kids.

I want to stay here and planning a marriage, it is really difficult to get a Paraguayan girl to live far from family for a long time. People here are extremely family oriented.

I thought it would be easy to find a job here as a Java/Groovy/Smalltalk/C++ developer, but it was not. You can find work here if you are into M$ technologies or maybe PHP. You will work many hours on boring projects and get paid almost nothing. If you work with a cooler tech stack there is no market here. Since I am here I have learned Scala, object oriented databases, search engines like Lucene and Elasticsearch, node.js and Meteor. All of that is not in use in the country. Finding remote work has never worked for me and only once I found a project for two month in Berlin. A friend who a Java developer is still employed by a German company and moved to rural Paraguay, he is married here and plans to become old here.

Living costs easily doubled since I am here. The quality of life is higher in some areas and lower in others, it always comes down to the compromises one is willing to make.

Last week I helped a guy from Tennessee to get his residency. A friend met him on a flight from Miami to Sãu Paulo, he wanted to get a second passport as an insurance to the limitations on civil rights going on in the US. We ran around for 4 days to get all the papers and seals the government asks for and now he has to wait for 90 days to get his permanent residency. After that he still has to apply for an ID card which will probably take another month.

Part of this is your definition of "expat". For me "expat" = person who gets sent by company and set up by that company in a foreign country. Most of those types get a sweet deal. The company pays their rent and usually tries to give them something close to what they'd have in their native country which could easily cost way more than they could afford on their own. Plus, since the company is paying it means an instant 20-30% raise since they no longer have to pay rent.

An example would be someone sent to HK, Tokyo, Singapore, maybe Shanghai. I have less experience with Shanghai but just looking at the services available it looks like there's an "expat" crowd. Simply search for "apartments in ____" If you find several websites advertising expensive apartments for expats then that city is probably a place with lots of them.

Me, I've never been an "expat" by the definition above.

In any case, if you can get a company in your local country to send you you'll often not have much trouble. They'll take care of the visas and immigration issues. You won't be expected to speak the language. You'll likely get paid more than you would if you went on your own which can be a big deal.

You might also consider a country that speaks the same language. Their cultures are still different. England has a very different culture than the USA. So does Singapore. I'm going to guess so do Australia and New Zealand. Might not be as different as China or India but still different.

Wikipedia: "An expatriate (sometimes shortened to expat) is a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of the person's upbringing."

Wiktionary: 1. One who lives outside one’s own country. 2. One who has been banished from one’s own country.

In other words, your personal definition is more restrictive than the dictionary, and continuing to use it might result in some confusion.

As someone who's live abroad for 8+ years I can assure you there are two vastly different cultures. One of expats as I defined them above and other as people living abroad of their own accord.

If you mistake one for the other you're going to have a bad time. If someone from the group I mentioned above tells you living abroad is awesome but you then choose to move on your own you're going to have a vastly different experience.

One generally lives a carefree life. They are catered too. The bring family, put their kids in private schools, eat at the most expensive restaurants, live in large apartments, often have cars even if that's not common in their place of residence. And generally make 6 figure US$ salaries.

The other, in my experience, generally make less than US $50k, live in small inexpensive apartments, and have all the struggles that come with a lower income.

I'm not saying one is better or worse only they are different worlds and just pointing out it would be good to know up front which of those worlds you're moving abroad into.

greggman's usage is pretty common.

e.g. wikipedia: "In common usage, the term is often used in the context of professionals or skilled workers sent abroad by their companies,[1] rather than for all 'immigrants' or 'migrant workers'."

Not that my experience is that relevant, since I've only hopped to a neighboring country (Netherlands -> Germany). But maybe it's useful anyway ;). It's been a fun experience so far, because ~6 months after we moved our daughter was born. My wife is German, but had a preference for staying in the Netherlands.

What has your experience been?

More bureaucracy, more organizational hierarchy, but also a nice environments (close to the woods, mountains, etc.). People are a bit nicer/warmer here, but Dutchmen are more honest/to the point.

What is your particular career?


How much is your rent or did you buy?

We rent. Southern German university city. Approximately 900 Euro, 1100 Euro including garage and water.

Where did you move to/from?

Groningen, The Netherlands, though I commuted to Amsterdam for a while.

How are the schools?

Our kid only goes to kindergarten now. They are great. Less commercial than NL, much cheaper, nice personnel. I don't know about schools, but many German Bundesländer have free university education.

Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome?

I had German in high school, so I can understand the language without too much trouble. I can speak at a basic level. The percentage people knowing English as a second language is far lower than The Netherlands or Scandinavian countries. But since we live in a university city, it's not too bad.

How long have you lived in this country?

1 year, and a couple of months when I was a child.

Are you a permanent resident or do you plan on moving back to the Netherlands?

Not sure, so far I am leaning towards staying permanently.

What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from?

Pretty much the same, though the wages seem to be better in academia.

Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why?

Yes, there are more opportunities, since it's larger country with more cities. Also, it's easier to relax more here, given that nature is nearby.

Living in Peru (or most latin American countries for that matter) is vastly different based on the location and standard of living you are looking for, so it is hard to answer your specific questions.

Living on a "premium" district in Lima (Miraflores, San Isidro) can cost you as much (or more depending on your expectations) as living in the US (Dallas TX for example) but you get similar services, amenities, security etc, as you would there too.

Living on more peripherial area of Lima or out on a further away province can be dramatically cheaper.

I know of expats that earn/spend $10k+ a month in Lima, live on a 300m2 luxury apartment , their kids go to top private schools and drive a luxury vehicle.

I also know expats that live in provinces fairly well for one tenth of that.

Peru at the moment is in a good moment of it history, it is fairly safe, and there are plenty of things to do/learn fairly inexpensively. All in all I consider it a great place and experience for the whole family.

I work remotely (IT), so no issues with work or work permits .

Not not exactly an Expat, but I spent 6 months living in Rome as a student. This doesn't answer all of your questions but I hope it helps.

Pro's: - Great culture, great food. Groceries fresh and reasonably priced.

- Coming from english, Italian is a relatively easy language to learn and people are happy to speak it with you.

- Pretty good infrastructure. Good train systems to move around the country. Rome has a good subway system.

- Lots of walking/biking in daily life keeps you in shape.


- Anything ivolving the government is a beaurcratic nightmare. We applied for student permits in August and didn't get them till after we returned home in January. Never tried it but starting a business is probably a lot of paper work.

- Nothing in the city runs on a schedule Buses, People, any type of meetings. The saying that Mussolini did bad things, but he made the trains run on time definatly makes sense after living there.

- Cost of housing his high, though the outskirts of the city are cheaper.

All in all I loved my time there as an experience, but working there may be a challenge.

I'm an Italian living in Rome and I can confirm everything you've said.

> Never tried it but starting a business is probably a lot of > paper work.

It's not only a bureaucratic nightmare, it's also a losing proposition: we have probably the highest tax rate among the developed contries.

> working there may be a challenge

It's way more than a challenge, our economy went down the drain since 2008 and there's no sign of recovery. It's so bad that more than 250k Italians have moved to London since 2011 and it's gonna get worse. All in all, I wouldn't recommend an American to move here.

Wow, crazy to hear that its still like that. As an American, we take for granted that our economy tends to recover quickly.

Having all of your smart citizens move away has to be terrible for a country. What industries are hit the hardest?

Depends on the case:

a) Want to experience life - Find something totally different, leave everything behind. - Go to a place that does not use English. Think awesome countries such as Greece, China, Italy, South America or Japan. - Don't worry too much about answering the questions you posed. Just do a little planning, a little saving, a little networking, and get there.

b) Want to look for work without too much of a change - Go to Ireland, UK or any other language that uses English. - You can go to Canada too. I hear people are way nicer and they don't need to lock their doors! :-)

c) Running from the law - This is trickier. You want to buy a couple of books (use cash). - Cuba or Russia come to mind. - China too.

d) Want to break the law - Never break the law in another country. You will regret it. - Stay home. It's always annoying when people break the law while in a different country and they complain that the process or the rules or the treatment is not "like in America."

In case you're unaware, there's also r/IWantOut on Reddit, which is all about this kind of stuff.

I'm 'out' (currently Lisbon, previously both Rio long-term and short-term in Medellin) but since I've always tried to get away from native English speakers, in order to have a more 'authentic' experience, I can't say what's good for Americans. Key to me has been language. Get at least intermediate in the one that's spoken where you're going.

If you can be location-independent, it's quite worthwhile to go spend a month or three in some of your top picks but beware, a short stay can seem like a long vacation (meaning the expat 'honeymoon phase' might make you like some place more than you would if you actually had to live there).

I've had a couple of wonderful experiences vacationing in the Algarve. What's it like to actually live in Portugal?

I'm a Canadian, with a combined admiration and disdain for U.S. society. Actually, that was redundant :). Also, I have dual-Canadian German citizenship and am running a largely telework-friendly business.

I've spent a few 5 month winters down in the Algarve, mostly to escape the cold in SW France while still being able to grab some waves (surfer).

Weather's generally sunny, landscape (as you, the OP know) is surreal, and the people, both locals and expats, are generally friendly.

A bit insular compared to Lisbon area, not a whole lot going on (expect for summer when it's apparently a complete holiday zoo).

The language is next to impossible to grok (can get by well enough in Brazilian Portuguese but the dialect down here is just something else, they seem to swallow their words). Fortunately the Portuguese as a people generally speak decent English.

Dirt cheap in the off-season (was renting a massive modern apartment with 20 foot ceilings for 500 euros per month) and internet is decent for being out in the sticks, had @8mbs/2mbs near Sagres.

Can definitely reccomend the Algarve, just not sure about long-term, it's truly another world ;-)

I have yet to make it down to the Algarve but people I know have gone and loved it (though some have said it's largely British, even when getting something from the local market where the owner-counter person is a Brit).

Living in Portugal is great, in my opinion. Being low-cost really helps, too. Lisbon is one of the prettiest/lovliest cities I've ever lived in (though it took me over 6 months to start to see it). And the short day-trips are well worth it (Arrábida+Cabo Espichel, Sintra, Cascais, etc). Renting a 1-bdrm in the city center is US$500/mo so it's hard to complain. Porto is awesome, too, and cheaper than Lisbon.

I would say Denmark or Sweden.

Everyone speaks English, 5week vacation, 1 year maternety (often paid), free healthcare, good quality of life, low crime, good summers.

Only cons are gray winthers & high taxes.

I'm an expat in Copenhagen and definitely find it comfortable, almost embarrassingly so. It feels like being in a foreign country on "easy" difficulty level. Not only does everyone speak English, but at least in Copenhagen, English seems to be everywhere without even asking for it explicitly. Many things from the government (websites, forms, etc.) are published bilingually in Danish/English. And it works smoothly, often over the internet; very little difficulty navigating the bureaucracy. My workplace is also probably 70% English, though I work at an IT university, so that may be non representative.

There is also a lot of "public life" that uses English as the lingua franca, so someone who doesn't speak Danish doesn't end up isolated in just a little British/American expat bubble. Any bar in the city center will have at least 15-25% of the people speaking English (partly because there are a lot of foreign students). And cultural events at museums, universities, & hackerspaces are often in English to accommodate visiting speakers, expats, foreign students, etc. Many tech events are in English because even many Danish companies have non-Danish founders or cofounders (especially true for game companies). It's interesting in part because there is so much English but the majority of people speaking it aren't native English speakers, it's just the language multinational groups end up with for practicality. That also makes Copenhagen a good place to meet many European nationalities. I've met a lot of German, Polish, and Spanish people in particular (in addition to Danish and Swedish people). Especially a lot of Germans, and except the ones who stick to all-German groups, or those who have assimilated and speak good Danish, they mostly end up in mixed groups speaking English. I think I would actually have had a hard time meeting this many Germans if I had lived in Germany; here we have some being-foreigners-in-Denmark thing in common to break the ice, and an English-speaking-by-default environment to make it easy to connect.

Of course there is a whole Danish-speaking cultural scene someone who doesn't speak Danish misses out on, and Copenhagen would be even more interesting if you speak both languages. But for a country that isn't officially English-speaking, the amount of English-language cultural stuff going on is surprisingly large.

(Oh, and the prices aren't bad. Eating out is very expensive, but rent is way cheaper than urban/walkable American cities. I moved from the SF Bay Area and rents in Copenhagen are hilariously cheap in comparison to SF. Also cheaper than NYC or Boston. Maybe roughly on par with Midtown Atlanta, to pick a point of comparison.)

I recommend the Turks and Caicos Islands. English is the national language (though many people also speak creole), the currency is USD, there are no income taxes and you can get residency with a real estate investment of as little as $75k. It's also one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. Cost of living is comparable to the midwest (they do have 15% sales tax), and the internet is fast. Great place to do a tech startup.

Check out New Zealand. It's clean, safe, environmentally secure, relatively educated and great for families, and if you hang about awhile they practically throw citizenship at you. Rent is expensive, tax is high, and income low... but coming from the US you'll like the relaxed lifestyle and plethora of holidays. When the kids grow up they can always hop the water to Australia and/or onward to Asia for some more excitement.

> if you hang about awhile they practically throw citizenship at you

New Zealand's one of the very few countries in the world where non-citizens vote. After 1 year of permanent residency, residents can register to vote, whereas only after 5 years of residency can they become citizens. A stark contrast with nearby Australia where only citizens are allowed to vote, but it's also one of only a few countries where they must vote.

For some entertaining looks at this. You might want to watch a season or two of house hunters international. It's not real in-depth, but seeing what living conditions look like in many places, and what they cost, can be very helpful.

I've learned from that show that Paris proper and most of London are absolutely off of my list of places to live.

You'll find American ex-pats of every stripe living all over the map, often in some of the most random backwater places. Remarkably, their new location seems to perfectly suit their individual personalities. Areas to explore: Are you drawn to a particular culture/language, climate, urban or rural setting?

German expat in the UK reporting in.

> What has your experience been?

Mixed. Do your research first. It was difficult to get a bank account and rent a flat without references or fixed address (I stayed in a hostel the first few weeks).

I once got evicted from a flat (with 10 days notice) because of a legal loophole. The landlord was insolvent, bank repossessed, my tenancy agreement was declared void because landlord hadn't sought permission to let it out from the bank. As a tenant, you have no way of checking this upfront. Generally tenants are treated like shit and you need to be really wary. I was ignorant of any of this until it smacked me in the face - now I'm sufficiently up to date to give tenancy advise to the natives.

Compared to Germany, recycling here is barely known, which took some getting used to. You can't get a proper sausage in this country, but there's new exciting foods to compensate for it, and a wide variety of popular foreign dishes.

Other than that I like it, apart from the worrying rise of xenophobia, anti-EU sentiment and increasing internet censorship and monitoring. There's always Scotland though, after the breakup.

> What is your particular career? > Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country?

I was offered a job as CTO, which was the opportunity to move I needed. If you do not have an offer letter in your pocket, it will be even more difficult to get a bank account and rent a flat (but search for "HSBC Passport").

> What were your moving expenses?

A flight for me, and a couple hundred euros to transport a few of my most important belongings. Do not bring more than this. Definitely don't bring furniture. Do not bring bed sheets or anything that is sized to fit certain items of furniture, it will not fit.

Then the price of a few weeks of temporary accommodation while I searched for a flat. I went cheap (£40 a night) because I wasn't sure how long it would be for, and ended up in a hostel where the shower didn't work reliably. Found a flat after two weeks.

> How much is your rent or did you buy?

Rent in the UK is obscenely high, and so is buying (especially in and around London), and one of the things I still struggle with is the generally poor quality of available housing (ancient heating, drafty single glazed windows, "period" buildings).

> Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome?

Yes. I spoke English before, or thought I did, but the language barrier was still immense. English has many variations (I ended up in a meeting with an Irishman and couldn't understand a thing) and there's a lot of slang in use. It took about a year before it got acceptable, and after 5 years I can cope with almost all of it, including Glaswegian and Scouse.

> What was the process like to become a permanent resident?

Depends on where you come from. After a few years of legal residency, you can apply for naturalization and do a test that every person born in the country fails (but you just study for it and then you'll pass). As EU resident, there's no huge advantage in becoming a citizen (well, you get to vote if you like).

> What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why?

Considerably higher cost of living, all due to the high rent (other factors about the same). I'm not sure about quality of life, but I can tell you it was the most important thing in my life and everyone should live in a different country for some time (actually live there, holidays don't count).

As American, please consider that you will be made fun of by some, you will need to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road and how to use a stick shift.

In general, be prepared to accept that things aren't like home and miss some food.

I can imagine the huge difference in rental culture from Germany to UK. I'm an American living in the UK (but actually have been most of my life) and for a while I was a double Expat by living in Hamburg for a year on ERASMUS exchange ;)

As you say, tennants in the UK have so few rights, unlike what you are afforded in Germany where it's almost as good as owning the place you live in.

Being an american expat to anywhere is getting increasingly difficult as the US GOV puts more and more requirements of other countries hosting US Citizens. For instance a requirement that all foreign banks with US account holders report to the IRS any American held bank account activity. many european banks are responding to this by not doing business with US nationals... And yes, getting UK bank accounts as an Fresh-Off-the-Boat expat seems like one massive chicken and egg situation involving residential addresses and job details. you generally need two of one to get the other. Job and bank account to get a flat, address and job to get bank account, bank account, address and work permit to get a job.

"Compared to Germany, recycling here is barely known, which took some getting used to. You can't get a proper sausage in this country,"

My German-o-meter has confirmed a German here :)

> A flight for me, and a couple hundred euros to transport a few of my most important belongings. Do not bring more than this. Definitely don't bring furniture. Do not bring bed sheets or anything that is sized to fit certain items of furniture, it will not fit.

Exactly this, and this is valida for short/long distance relocation. Don't bother bringing any "commodities" (furniture, TV, car - depends, etc)

Oh and really, the "Irish accent" (there's no such thing, it's a variety of accents) but go from very understandable to absolutely impossible

> As American, please consider that you will be made fun of by some, you will need to learn how to drive on the wrong side of the road and how to use a stick shift.

Correct. They maybe should learn how to stick shift before leaving, so it's only one thing to learn at a time

Forgot to mention Internations, a social network for expats. You can sign up there and read the forums of your choice destination. There will typically be a thread with advice for interested immigrants, and helpful people to answer your questions.


Also Expatistan for looking up cost of living comparisons: http://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living

You can't get a proper sausage in the UK?

I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that....

> What has your experience been?

Great, I really like it here. Mostly because for the most of my careers I've been working next to highly educated people, so my perception is that the Dutch are much smarter than the English. Plus I'm usually not the smartest person in the room (thankfully!). None of that small-minded idiocy that I see at home.

The culture is great; they're direct like the Americans, commercial like us Brits and diplomatic like the Scandinavians. The directness suits me, and I can use my British politeness when needed too. More tools in the toolbox.

> What is your particular career?

Software Architect (the good kind, who can code) though I'm trying to start up for myself.

> What were your moving expenses?

About 10k EUR, moving was 1k but you need 5k for a cheap 2nd hand car and 1k for health insurance and other costs.

> How much is your rent or did you buy?

Buy, 1.2k EUR a month mortgage on a house in an average town.

> Where did you move to/from?

UK to Netherlands to be with my dutch girlfriend (now wife). That was 8 years ago.

> How are the schools?

Excellent, because they're split by capability (vocational, technical, university).

> Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome?

I'm fluent through a combination of not fearing saying something stupid and investing 3k EUR in courses at a local university.

> How long have you lived in this country? Are you a permanent resident or > do you plan on moving back to the US?

I want to bring my baby up here. Much better than the UK.

> What was the process like to become a permanent resident?

EU to EU is very easy.

> Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country?

I had a low-level job arranged, found a better job within a month.

> What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality > of life improved or not? How and why?

Cost of living is much higher: the social system here is better, the taxes are higher and more progressive. My income is high enough that it means that I'm paying about 25% more tax. Plus in the UK I could probably earn more because I could easily switch to Sales.

I've worked in the UK and Germany. Both are great for American expats and quality of life is high!

Check out this website (started by some a16z guys): http://teleport.org/

India - they almost worship expats. Plus if you can speak well, you'll probably get a high paid job (not as high as US or EU).

1. What has your experience been?

Incredible! Extensively checked out all the major European Cities for 2 years before making the move. Government & Commercial Aerospace R&D funding fell off a cliff in 2003 and that triggered the move.

2. What is your particular career?

Safety critical Air & Space Flight Control Systems Design & Certification. Commercial, Military, Space.

3. What were your moving expenses?

$11,000 dollars in 2003

4. How much is your rent or did you buy?

1143 Euros per month or $1545.85

5. Where did you move to/from?


6. How are the schools?

AMAZING! I had 3 young children (3,7,10) when we moved in 2003. The Vienna Bi-lingual Schooling project is a world famous education initiative. My 2 school age children had no difficulties. My 3 year old went into 2 years native German kindergarten.

After 4 years, both of my 2 older children moved to the German schooling. They have native Viennese accents, without any US detectable accent.

Education in Austria is intense, compared with the US. Up until the 9th year, kids go to school only 4 hours a day, and no homework!

The emphasis is entirely different. In the US, emphasis is on the 1st 4 years of gaining solid BASIC competency, at which point intensity goes to zero.

In Austria, the first 4 years are used to expose children to a large variety of subjects, and then the student decides where their interests are, and then attend the schools focused on that subject.

The 5th - 13th(HTL) years are intense. With the 9th year, students are taught the equivalent of college courses.

My oldest already knew what she wanted. BioEngineering! When we de-registered her at school, they gave us her education records, which contained testing results showing that she was 5 years ahead of her age in math and science! She attended HTL Rosensteingasse. A world renowned school of chemistry. http://hblva17.ac.at/

My middle son is at HTL Spengergasse which focuses on computer programming. http://www.spengergasse.at/

My youngest also starts at Rosensteingasse in the fall.

Higher Education is 100% free! So anybody who can pass the Matura(a tough school leaving certificate test founded in 1851) is guaranteed by law a free higher education.

7. Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome?

Yes, our entire family is fluent. German is a challenge for native English speakers. As Austrians are proud of their english lanugage education in school. They want to impress you with it, and practice it, wherever you go. They immediately pick up on your being a native English speaker when you talk German. You have to be polite and insist on speaking German with them, if in anything other than a shopping experience.

8. How long have you lived in this country? Are you a permanent resident or do you plan on moving back to the US?

We have lived here for 11 years. We are all permanent residents. Vienna is home for all of us. We have fully integrated.

I love my country (USA) but hate my government (USA).

Every American deserves the quality of life that Austrians have, thanks to the structuring of the Austrian Constitution on the US Constitution after WWII, Austria is the country that the USA used to be when I was growing up. A government of virtue, and a nation of "self interest rightly understood". A land of safety and security. A land of highly educated and intelligent people.

Now, its a nation given over to legalized (legal is what you can get away with (Bill Clinton)) piracy (take what you can, give nothing back(Captain Jack Sparrow)), kleptocracy and crony capitalism. Dog eat dog, everybody for themselves, and buyer beware. Injustice is everywhere you look. Crime is rampant. There is no "America" or "Americans" any longer. Just selfish spoiled brats who never grew up, and their victims. The rare exceptions can be found in the "flyover states" places like Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, and Missouri where we lived before emigrating to Austria. However the disease has now infected these once sheltered areas, and taken hold in a majority of the population. There are a few isolated pockets such as Boulder Colorado, however the signs of infection are now visible here as well.

The USA is a majority population of Apostates (who have perverted the rule of law, the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Urinating on wisdom of the founding fathers.

Most egregious examples:

1. The "American Stazi" (NSA,FBI,CIA).

2. The Toyota software/hardware defect coverup & conspiracy http://www.eetimes.com/author.asp?section_id=36&doc_id=13216...

3. The killing of Aaron Swartz.

I am proud to be an American. I am embarrassed and ashamed of my government, and the people who disgrace our proud heritage as cowards who tolerate the destruction of this once great and proud nation.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

Where is the outrage. Where is the revolution? Only a "second republic" of the United States of America will solve this problem.

I am a 3rd generation US citizen with all of my genetic heritage from Ireland.

I now live in a land with a terrible past (NAZI Genocide in WWII) which learned the tragic mistakes of the past and now respects life, and personal freedoms more than the victor of WWII and the worlds only superpower. I respect the Austrian Government far more than the government of the United States of America. This is a personal tragedy.

At this moment it is deeply painful even thinking about possibly giving up US citizenship (Hold out hope of revolutionary change). I regret that this however has become inevitable. The USA shall not recover its virtue in my, nor my children's lifetime. The people have to be willing to fight for it! FREEDOM IS NOT FREE. Citizens must hold its government accountable to the rule of law. US citizens choose not to given the cost of personal sacrifice. A Napoleonic "DIVIDE AND RULE" has poisoned our people and our politics.

We should be Americans first, but sadly we are now Americans last.

9. What was the process like to become a permanent resident?


I was classified as a "Very Qualified Worker" which substantially reduced the red tape.


Permanent residence in Austria also conveys permanent residence in the whole of the European Union.

Permanent residence requires B1 level German competency.

After 5 years of full time employment in Austria, exceeding a minimum income requirement, one can become a legal permanent resident of Austria and the EU.

10. Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country?

Yes. In 2003 this was the case. However this is no longer the case with the Red-White-Red card (EU blue card)

11. What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why?

The European Union spends far more money on Aerospace R&D than any other country in the world. Its why Airbus is the world leader in commercial aircraft, and Ariane is the number one satellite launcher. NASA is a hollow political bureaucracy compared to world leaders DLR & CNES.

Weather: mild winters and summers.

Skiing and climbing in the Alps.

Austria is a country which tries its very best to eliminate "uncompensated externalities"(subsidies and privatizing gain while publicizing losses are extremely rare, but do exist here but in lower proportion). Actual costs (healthcare, pollution etc.) are incorporated in product pricing. Most things, as a result, cost more than in the US.

Austria is a "social" country(not socialist/communist). Over 50k in income taxes are 50% or greater, and very few tax deductions are allowed.

My quality of life has skyrocketed in comparison. Vienna & Zurich Switzerland for the past 40 years have had the highest quality of life in the world. I gave up my McMansion in a gated community in the USA for paradise on earth. My children have the very same freedom I had as a child growing up in the early 70s. Children here as young as kindergarten travel unaccompanied on the public transportation system to school. There is virtually no crime, especially violent crime. There is no poverty.

In Austria the private funding of political campaigns is illegal. The government funds 100% of the costs. As a result, the government belongs to the people. In America, nothing short of a revolutionary civil war can eliminate the corruption of the government by wealthy individuals and corporations.

Quality of life has a high price that Americans are just not willing to pay.

"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society" US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Children most easily adopt languages before the 12th year of age. Between the ages of 12 and 14 language acquisition becomes more difficult, with the majority failing to obtain native(accentless)fluency after the age of 16. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_period_hypothesis

Children and adults have been shown to retain this ability for the acquisition of a third language until the age of 50, if they have obtained accentless fluency in a second language before the age of 16.


Panama is a great place

Japan checking in.

> experience?

Japan is a country that suits some people very well, and others not at all. It's not great if you like driving, lots of personal space, fitting in, etc. Personally I find it almost entirely very agreeable. It's such a homogeneous society that some things might depend on your background.

> particular career?

Miscellaneous web/front-end/content development; later tech evangelism.

> moving expenses?

Minimal, but that was ~15 years ago and I had very little stuff. I brought two suitcases and shipped a few boxes by sea. It was under $1K, perhaps half that.

> How much is your rent or did you buy?

Tokyo center is on par with downtown S.F. - i.e. egregious. But due to unbelievably never-want-to-leave public transport, you can live well outside the city comfortably. My rent is around $1300/mo; commute ~40 minutes.

> Where did you move to/from?

From midwest US to Tokyo environs.

> How are the schools?

Mixed. Japanese schools are excellent at many things - fostering discipline and responsibility, math/science, work ethic. Having students fetch/serve/clear up their own lunches, sweep their own corridors etc. is something I wish I could export. On the other hand schools here are terrible with initiative and English. International schools are super pricey - possibly beyond the reach of a typical programmer.

> fluent in the native language, language barrier difficult?

Yup and yup. You can live in Japan easily with very little language skill; career-wise being bilingual is a massive, massive boon. I sailed into my first tech job purely because I could speak very basic Japanese, and I could learn the tech faster than some other guy could learn the language. The language has a high initial hump, but is relatively sane and has very few rules to learn. (Apart from kanji, which are hard but for some purposes optional.)

> How long? Permanent resident? return to the US?

15 years or so, and yup for PR. I could see myself returning if there was a good reason though - I don't think it's very useful to try to plan such things very far out.

> process to become a permanent resident?

Easy if you meet a few well-defined requirements, impossible otherwise. I vaguely recall it being: 10 years residency if single, 5 years if married to a national, but there are a few addenda.

> already have a job when you moved?

Nope - just arrived as a tourist and poked around. With tech skills and a smattering of language ability you can trip over an entry-level job; with one but not the other it's doable but might take some looking. If you're a senior person with no language skills, it's still very possible but having several leads before arriving would be well-advised.

> cost of living? quality of life?

These are subjective, but for me, absolutely. Clean, safe, amazing public infrastructure, etc. It's fairly pricey but salaries tend to be commensurate. If I was more bohemian I might hate it - I've known people who came intending to live here and left within three months. But I'm not sure it's possible to know what you want until you try living with it.

Do hope this is helpful!

I moved from the US to Uruguay for almost a year. Three years ago I moved to Paraguay, where I currently live.

What has your experience been? - Mixed. There are good things and bad things. But, overall, I'm happier here and plan to stay.

What is your particular career? - .Net back-end programmer, back in the US. However, I'm trying to do other IT-related things here that don't involve me sitting in someone's cubicle for eight hours a day.

What were your moving expenses? - Just the price of the plane ticket. I sold everything, packed a few bags, and left.

How much is your rent or did you buy? - I'm renting a tiny apartment in one of the nicer neighborhoods in Asuncion for about $300/month. I highly recommend that you don't buy until after you've lived in a place for at least a year. It will take you that long to see if you really want to stay there, and also figure out the local real estate market.

Where did you move to/from? - US. Chicago and Texas.

How are the schools? - I don't have any kids, but I've heard that you'd probably want to send your kids to private schools here.

Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome? - I've become a little bit better than "functional", but nowhere near fluent. Unfortunately, it's easy to get lazy at this point. You'd generally need to be close to fluent in Spanish, to get anything done here. However, since I mostly hang out with Paraguayans who are educated IT people, many who have learned English. Since they're usually better at English than I am at Spanish, we often end up speaking in English.

How long have you lived in this country? Are you a permanent resident or do you plan on moving back to the US? - Just over three years here. I've had permanent residency for two and a half years. I plan to apply for Paraguayan citizenship at the end of this year (when I'll first be eligible). I don't plan to return to the US.

What was the process like to become a permanent resident? - Fairly easy. Get some documents from the US (birth certificate, police background check, etc.), have them legalized by the Paraguayan Embassy/Consulate in the US, deposit $5000 in a local bank (to prove financial solvency), and hire a local "gestor" for about $800 to deal with getting the paperwork stamped and submitted, dragging me around to the required appointments, etc. Six months later, I have my permanent residency and applied for my "cedula" (national ID), which took about a month to receive.

Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country? - Nope. But I had a decent amount of savings (emphasis on "had").

What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why? - I live on around $1000 a month. I could live cheaper if I cooked at home more often. I could live more expensively, if I rented a bigger/nicer home. Overall, I'd say my life is better - even when you include the stress of still trying to get some business idea to work. I lost about 25 pounds of excess weight, from eating better and walking more. I feel less stressed, since I'm not being constantly bombarded by wars/bad economy/etc. I'm in a place that I believe will grow and improve over the next few years/decades (something I can't really say for the US).

I'm presently living in South Africa. I'm young, and left the corporate world behind to pursue a master’s degree abroad. I was getting dangerously comfortable, so I wanted some excitement. Jokingly I've called this a mini retirement.

>What has your experience been? It’s been wonderful. As a kid I lived in Germany for a few years, but this is my first time living abroad since. There are pros and cons with every place. No place is perfect. Living abroad you’ll learn to appreciate the positives you can enjoy in each place.

>What is your particular career? Mechanical Engineer

>What were your moving expenses? Single 1 way ticket - $1000 - $1500 Visa - $1500 deposit (refundable on return…. Fingers crossed) Everything I brought fit in two suitcases. Import taxes are high…

>How much is your rent or did you buy? I pay $350 a month to share a three bedroom, 1.5 bath town home with two others. Water is included. Electricity is slightly higher per kwhr when compared to the states.

>Where did you move to/from? From Colorado to Cape Town

>How are the schools? You get world class private schools to third world public education. A lot of the schools are a mix of public/private entities. Similar grade system to USA. Can’t really talk about this though, don’t have any youngsters…

>Have you become fluent in the native language and was the language barrier difficult to overcome? English is common, but learning one of the local languages would be a fun task. The Afrikaans language is similar to Dutch. The native African languages would be more challenging to learn coming from English.

>How long have you lived in this country? Are you a permanent resident or do you plan on moving back to the US? I’ve been living here since January. My visa is temporary, 2 years. Not sure what will happen or where I will go next.

>What was the process like to become a permanent resident? N/A… But the visa process not fun, lots of documents, medical records, and the return envelope I sent went missing which delayed things further.

>Did you have to already have a job when you moved to that country? N/A… Although I would say that I already had a connection here. Moving to a new place one way ticket style without visiting or talking to anybody may be a bit more exciting.

>What's the cost of living compared to where you moved from? Has your quality of life improved or not? How and why? The cost of living here is cheaper. Quality food and eating out is cheaper. McDonalds prices and Burger king prices are similar to back home, and taste the same surprisingly… I’m definitely earing less money now than I did in the states. In general basic necessitates are cheaper, but luxuries are more expensive including cars, electronics, bicycles, etc.

Nevada. Pretty cheap. Not crowded.

Bingo. That is the right answer. I live in New Mexico for the same reason. It's close enough to third world for me. And we can always drive back to the actual US if we need to. And some of the people here even speak English!

I traveled a bit in Mexico and Central America in my 20's. (Never been to Europe or Asia). And personally I don't see the benefit of relocating permanently outside the US. The devil you know and all....

But some people I guess enjoy it... more power to them.

You do realise that Nevada and New Mexico aren't countries, right?

Ya I do. They are each bigger than many countries.

New Mexico: 121,599 sq miles.

Nevada: 110,567 sq miles.

UK: 94,525 sq miles.

Ireland: 84,431 sq miles.

Denmark: 16,621 sq miles.

Macedonia: 9,781 sq miles.

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