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Retiring to balmy Belarus
Old 06-25-2010, 11:43 AM   #1
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Retiring to balmy Belarus

I'm surely the only American ever to participate here who is planning to retire to the former Soviet republic of Belarus when I retire at 62 in 20 months. After losing my wife of 33 years to breast cancer, I met a woman in Minsk (by e-mail) through a weird series of family/friend connections. After having been warned by the American dolt who is married to her sister about the horrors of the KGB, the current dictatorship, and the general hellhole that he thinks the country is, I visited Belarus three times and absolutely loved it. The people and values seemed to me like the America I used to know. My wife's family could literally audition for the remake of Leave It to Beaver if they could speak English. And Minsk, a city of 2 million, is so clean that it seems impossible -- I am constantly apologizing to my wife for the condition of America, her principal observations being that America is unbelievably dirty and the people are unbelievably fat. The President of Belarus may not be Mr. Warmth and Political Correctness, but with all the atrocities going on around the world, it's hysterical to me that Belarus is one of the few countries on the U.S. hit list that prevents Social Security from sending your checks unless you go personally to the embassy in Minsk and pick them up each month. However, since my wife (a supervisor of social workers for 20 years) and her daughter (a government attorney) lived on a COMBINED income of less than $650/month, I don't foresee our finances as a major problem. My wife can't quite believe I actually want to do this and is mostly concerned that I'll hate the weather, but I'm pretty excited. There is a possibility of RV-ing around the U.S. for a year so she can see some of the national parks, but then we're definitely off to Belarus. Actually, we're off to Belarus in October, so I can investigate some practical aspects that I didn't previously. I don't mean to offend any gung-ho patriots, but I've lived in Arizona 62 years and am ready, as the Monty Python crew would say, for Something Completely Different.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:00 PM   #2
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I think it sounds great to me--we loved Mongolia (home of the coldest capital city in the world) when we went a few years ago and I could see spending more time there when we retire. Not everyone wants to retire to the tropics, think goodness, as if they did, those islands would start sinking!

I would say that the RV trip is a great idea--your wife needs to see more of our wonderful country than just the fat people.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:06 PM   #3
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Hey Runner....

How long have you been married to you lovely lady?

And my major question... do you speak the language

Do you already have a place there? One of the things that surprise me is the cost of living over there... You would think it would be cheaper with the low wages, but I was surprised to see that Moscow was the most expensive place to transfer an expat a number of years ago... I thought it would have been London or NY... don't know who is #1 now...
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:12 PM   #4
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Well, to each his own and maybe you're on to something. Good luck.

For me, if I wanted to leave the US and live elsewhere, I'm not sure that Belarus would be on my radar at all.
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Old 06-25-2010, 12:25 PM   #5
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Hey Runner....

How long have you been married to you lovely lady?

And my major question... do you speak the language

Do you already have a place there? One of the things that surprise me is the cost of living over there... You would think it would be cheaper with the low wages, but I was surprised to see that Moscow was the most expensive place to transfer an expat a number of years ago... I thought it would have been London or NY... don't know who is #1 now...
Married two years -- we are absolutely soulmates, to the degree that we literally sit around asking "How is this POSSIBLE" She speaks a fairly good chunk of English (not enough to hold a job anywhere) and I speak the Russian I've learned over the past three years. It's a difficult language, but part of my plan is to really immerse myself in the language for six months before we go over.

Moscow and Russia in general are in an entirely different league -- night and day. I don't speak from experience, but EVERYONE tells me that Moscow and all the major Russian cities are fantastically expensive. If something went haywire in Belarus, my bail-out plan would be Poland (western Belarus having been part of Poland for most of its history anyway).

We actually do have a place there. My wife's daughter is still there, in the tiny "apartment" (condo we would call it) they shared for 20 years. "Tiny" has to be seen to be believed -- I barely weigh 150, and I literally had to hold my arms at my sides and move very carefully to TURN AROUND in their bathroom. But anyway, my wife owns another similarly tiny apartment that is rented out. But what attracts me is the vacant family home in a village of 190 people. It has no indoor plumbing (outhouse, well, etc.) or heating apart from a wood-burning stove, but my wife and her many brothers and sisters were all raised there and I'd love to spend some time refurbishing it -- and her older brother, a successful contractor who is sort of the Godfather of the family, seems open to the idea.
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Old 06-25-2010, 01:28 PM   #6
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Moscow and Russia in general are in an entirely different league -- night and day. I don't speak from experience, but EVERYONE tells me that Moscow and all the major Russian cities are fantastically expensive. If something went haywire in Belarus, my bail-out plan would be Poland (western Belarus having been part of Poland for most of its history anyway).
My daughter is currently on a one-month study programme in Petrozavodsk, Russia, population 250,000. She reports that by Western standards, everything is cheap (Coke in a bar: 60c US, 15-minute bus ride: 30c US).

Good luck to you in Belarus. Part of me would be unhappy at living in a dictatorship, although how much less so it is than Russia is open to question. Part of me would be more interested in quality of life, which you seem to have found.
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Old 06-25-2010, 07:16 PM   #7
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i may be stating the obvious, but i wouldn't hold any large amount of money
in belarus proper or buy any significant real estate until i had been there for years
and could make a more informed decisions on issues like that.

there are a few people from belarus here where i work and , from what i gather, they
have no interest in going back. that's gives me a bit of pause..
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Old 06-25-2010, 07:27 PM   #8
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there are a few people from belarus here where i work and , from what i gather, they
have no interest in going back. that's gives me a bit of pause..
But maybe the difference is they are in the accumulating phase, and Runner would be in the capital preservation phase?

I really have no advice (other than keep your options open if things don't go as planned), but it seems like Runner has thought this out, and it sounds fascinating to me. Please keep us informed on how it goes.

-ERD50
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Old 06-25-2010, 10:03 PM   #9
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Hey, it's your life- if moving to Belarus is what you want to do, then do it. Sounds like you have thought this out and have empirical data to support your decision. All the best to you and your new wife in your new life together in Belarus, and glad to see you found happiness the second time around. Not everyone gets a second chance; enjoy the ride.
WS
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Old 06-25-2010, 11:31 PM   #10
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my bail-out plan would be Poland (western Belarus having been part of Poland for most of its history anyway).

Can't speak to Belarus, but I have an American friend who married a woman from Poland and lives there now. He's dual citizenship (American and British) and decided to live in Poland over the US and the UK.

So you may be on to something...
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Old 06-26-2010, 12:38 AM   #11
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Don't we have a ER person in Estonia or Latvia or someplace like that. I was in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Moscow for a month in Oct and Nov back in 1991. I must say I prefer Hawaii's weather... Although, Chernobyl has some hot spots I hear.
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Old 06-26-2010, 01:23 AM   #12
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Don't we have a ER person in Estonia or Latvia or someplace like that. I was in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Moscow for a month in Oct and Nov back in 1991. I must say I prefer Hawaii's weather... Although, Chernobyl has some hot spots I hear.
Trek lives or did live in Tallinn, with his Estonian wife. He seems to be very happy there.

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Old 06-26-2010, 07:25 AM   #13
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Good luck. Living among people who like having you there and learning the language could make all the difference in the world.
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Old 06-26-2010, 08:15 AM   #14
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The President of Belarus may not be Mr. Warmth and Political Correctness, but with all the atrocities going on around the world, it's hysterical to me that Belarus is one of the few countries on the U.S. hit list that prevents Social Security from sending your checks unless you go personally to the embassy in Minsk and pick them up each month. However, since my wife (a supervisor of social workers for 20 years) and her daughter (a government attorney) lived on a COMBINED income of less than $650/month, I don't foresee our finances as a major problem.
Are you going to give up your social security benefits? You worked hard to earn the benefit and it would be a shame to let it go. Seems like there should be a way around this. If nothing else, I'd have the checks deposited in a bank somewhere - either the US or a nearby country such as Poland.

It sounds like you found a good life and I wish you all the best. Just because you're doing something few others would doesn't mean it's not right for you.

Even so, I think it would be wise to consider an exit strategy just in case things don't turn out as envisioned. After a couple of years, you should know if this is where you want to spend your life.
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Old 06-26-2010, 09:51 AM   #15
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Trek lives or did live in Tallinn, with his Estonian wife. He seems to be very happy there.

Ha
Yup, I'm still here in Tallinn and very happy indeed. No plans to ever move anywhere else (well, maybe the suburbs).

Estonia and Belarus are two totally different ballgames though. Estonia is a free, democratic, fiscally responsible European Union / NATO member with low crime, low corruption and a much higher standard of living than the CIS countries. We're even switching our currency to the Euro on January 1st, for better or worse.

Nothing against Belarus, just saying you can't really compare the Eastern European / CIS countries as they're all remarkably different. Some people who don't know better like to lump anything "formerly Soviet" together like they're all the same somehow.

In any case, closest I've been to Belarus is Bialystok, Poland driving to Germany and back. I'd certainly rather live in Belarus than Russia from what I know of the two countries. I have no doubt the OP can make a nice life for himself there as he has money as well as good connections (via the wife and family) in the country, the latter being even more important.

I'd certainly be interested in hearing more about daily life in Belarus and how the OP gets on with living there. I'm totally interested in folks that take the road less traveled so to speak.

Good luck and keep us posted!
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Old 06-26-2010, 02:49 PM   #16
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As a US citizen, you don't lose your social security check no matter where you live. The safest would be to just have it deposited electronically in a USA bank account that you can access. Maintain more than one bank account in case something happens to one of them.

I would suggest maintaining a USA forwarding address and (virtual) USA phone number for your financial institutions and other sorts of mail. This is what I do.

Kramer
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Old 06-26-2010, 03:09 PM   #17
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Runner - what is the healthcare situation like over there? Will you have access to decent healthcare?

Like Trek, I am always interested in people taking the road less traveled - especially if it's cheaper!
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Old 06-26-2010, 07:06 PM   #18
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Yo, Runner,

It looks good to me.

But, like Major Tom, the only thing I would be concerned about is health care. I hope it has improved since the former soviet union.

Cheers,

Gypsy
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Old 06-26-2010, 11:11 PM   #19
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best of luck to you, but maybe you should go spend the winter there before you make up your mind.
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Old 06-28-2010, 08:14 AM   #20
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Yup, I'm still here in Tallinn and very happy indeed. No plans to ever move anywhere else (well, maybe the suburbs).
Anytime I hear about Estonia in the news I think of you and your family. So glad you are doing well! And all the news I hear is positive stuff about your economy and the great job your government is doing. Nice stuff!
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