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Old 07-09-2013, 09:53 AM   #41
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What I miss in the USA is family and friends mostly. Also, walking in NYC. Bangkok is not really walkable although there are some intrepid souls who do manage it.

The main things you give up when you expat are the rights of citizenship. You will never have such rights anywhere else except perhaps in the unlikely event you establish citizenship in another country. In a place like Thailand you will never fully integrate into the local community, which is important for some people, not including myself.

But then there are advantages such as being challenged by a new language and culture. If you aren't looking for that it will be a huge pain. If you are, you have to go abroad to get it.

The other, huge advantage is escaping the US healthcare system. I just had to shake my head at the recent NY Times article about how the average, out-of-pocket cost of having a baby in the US is now $30k. Visits to the doctors here cost about the same as a US co-pay. Nevertheless, when I hit 65 I will have to sign up for Medicare just to hedge my bets and to cover the annual visits back since traveler's health insurance seems unavailable after age 66 or so.

It's also very refreshing to look at the world from outside the US.
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:56 AM   #42
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4) If you are happy living abroad, you will discover 'THE CURSE' of the expat. You'll love the one you're in but really miss aspects of the other, no matter which one you're in.

+1
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Old 07-09-2013, 09:58 AM   #43
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I don't know that I could ever be an ex-pat. I just feel too much of a bond to places I've lived in the past, and have a feeling that if I ever moved too far away from the area, I'd want to click my heels together and whine about there being no place like home!

Maybe I do need to get out more. I've never lived more than roughly 30 miles, as the crow flies, from where I'm at now, a family homestead that dates back to at least 1916. That's when my grandmother's uncle built it, but I'm sure the land has been in the family even longer. I've also worked at the same place, which is about 2 1/2 miles from home, for almost 21 years.

I do like going to new places, exploring, learning about them, etc. But in the end, I think I'd still want to come back home. Now, I might feel differently as I get older. Plus, "home" is slowly changing. More traffic, congestion, etc. What used to be farm fields is now housing developments. The road has been widened. Some long time neighbors have moved away. And, when my grandmother who lives across the street passes away, if we sell her house, it may change the vibe of the neighborhood for me.

Grandmom's cousin lives next door to me as well, and she's getting up there in years. She has a son, granddaughter, granddaughter's bf, and 3 great-granddaughters all living with her. When she passes away, it's a sure bet they're going to lose that house. So, once a lot of that familiarity gets yanked from under me, I might change my mind. Still don't know if I'd want to leave the country, over it, though.
Or Andre, you may feel less like likely to do it as you get older. As I have gotten older (already a semi curmudgeon before 50 )with more time and money, I want to explore even less. Certainly not outside the country. Big screen HD TVs have eliminated that need for me. I go on about a half dozen trips a year, and few of those locales already feel like a foreign country to me, so no need to cross the borders.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:09 AM   #44
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My goodness, there is a world of difference between never moving more than 30 miles from "home" and moving abroad! There are thousands of wonderful places to live right across the US and I'm sure there are quite a few in your home state.

Like it or not (and I speak from experience) moving to another country is an enormously disruptive and life changing move, even for a young person. Moving within a country is a lot simpler.
True, but that is exactly the reason many of us like the expat life. Things in the U.S. are frequently _too_ easy and similar. I love the U.S. and am proud to be an American, but having the same mini-mall on the corner no matter if you are in Detroit or New Orleans is not that interesting.

The expats that must have the American conveniences at all times are those that will not last overseas. Even in Europe it is not as convenient for the consumer as the States. Actually this is a success of capitalism and why our economy is the best in the world for the individual. However, sometimes challenges of new discoveries and people are very enlightening. It is really not necessary to have an overabundance of consumer choices for many. It is also rewarding to interface with people from dramatically different backgrounds and cultures and to leave them with a positive view of Americans. I always enjoy the opportunity to be an unofficial goodwill ambassador.

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Old 07-09-2013, 10:17 AM   #45
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I would never move to another country. I guess I am too much of a USA homer. There is SO much in the USA you can't take it all in even if you live here for a lifetime.

I find it interesting how some other countries bash the USA constantly, but keep holding their hands out for foreign aid from us........maddening.........
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:35 AM   #46
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A poster here mentioned the ease of communicating in idiomatic English. I'd add that I'd greatly miss the ease of life in general and how nice people are (ok, I live in MN, state of uber-"nice"--but it is essentially true!). I've lived abroad for long stretches (Rome, Austria) and while I love travel I'd never consider being an expat: things are so much easier here. I set my mind to do something, usually many things per day, and I get them done. Little red tape or nasty naysayers.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:49 AM   #47
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I'm seconding the Netflix library and also adding Spotify.

Both programs are available outside the US, but tons of shows, movies, and albums are blocked when outside of the US.
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Old 07-09-2013, 10:52 AM   #48
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Often times what you miss depends on where you are. Of course you can miss friends and family from anywhere, but other than that it depends on the differences.

I spent years as an expat in Latin America. I remember asking a fellow American in who had been in Buenos Aires for 5 years what he missed most about the US. His answer: 'napkins'.

(in Buenos Aires they have these non-absorbent wax paper things on the tables instead of paper napkins)
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:07 AM   #49
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Very interesting thread. I haven't lived outside the US, but have lived in many different states.

I am of the opinion that wherever you go, there you are.

That means if you found reasons to hate where you live, soon enough you'll find reasons to hate the new place. Attitude change needs to come from within.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:52 AM   #50
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There's different degrees of 'missing', from a rare wistful thought about how things were to a monkey on your back that gnaws on you every day. I've yet to meet a long term expat who still misses things beyond a trivial level.

While researching and contemplating life as an expat I made of list of things I'd have to give up. They've all been mentioned in this thread. I've learned to let almost all of them go. It surprised me how easy most of it went, but I've always been adaptable.

Turned out there were only 2 non-negotiable wants. First is peanut butter. I'd import it if I had to. The other is quality shoes that fit. In the US I was buying New Balance by mail since I can't remember. It's easy but slow and expensive to get them shipped here.

Being an expat isn't for everybody. The ones with reasonably realistic expectations about their new life and the ability to willingly adapt seem to be enjoying it the most.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:53 AM   #51
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I am of the opinion that wherever you go, there you are.
Ahhhh, could you be quoting from the great Buckaroo Banzai.....another classic bad movie.

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Old 07-09-2013, 12:15 PM   #52
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The main things you give up when you expat are the rights of citizenship.
I believe that if you are a US citizen living in another country you have all the rights of a US citizen, including being able to vote and having to pay US taxes.
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Old 07-09-2013, 01:06 PM   #53
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Often times what you miss depends on where you are. Of course you can miss friends and family from anywhere, but other than that it depends on the differences.

I spent years as an expat in Latin America. I remember asking a fellow American in who had been in Buenos Aires for 5 years what he missed most about the US. His answer: 'napkins'.

(in Buenos Aires they have these non-absorbent wax paper things on the tables instead of paper napkins)
+1 on the napkins. For some reason they had the flimsiest pieces of paper that they passed off as napkins. A year or two after we returned from Buenos Aires and Uruguay (just a long vacation), I found one of those tiny napkins in my backpack. About the same amount of paper as a sheet of toilet paper (and I don't mean Quilted Triple Ply). Not something that would come in handy if you were chowing down on say a big burger, rack of ribs, corn on the cob, or a big slice of watermelon (here in America).

For me I would miss the little things too numerous to count. But there are probably advantages to other countries that I'm not as familiar with living here in the US. Cheap labor costs for domestic help being one of them.
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Old 07-09-2013, 02:11 PM   #54
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I am of the opinion that wherever you go, there you are.

That means if you found reasons to hate where you live, soon enough you'll find reasons to hate the new place. Attitude change needs to come from within.
For some reason the old Paul Revere and the Raider's lyrics...

"Don't you see no matter what you do
You'll never run away from you"

always stuck with me. I guess it's the same basic attitude.

I'm actually pretty happy where I live, for the most part. And one of my friends made a really good observation. I've been back in the house for about 10 years now, getting the yard the way I want it. Had a 4-car garage built, and between fences, trees, shrubs, etc along much of the perimeter, it's quite secluded. And a lot of those trees and shrubs, I raised from babies. Or, well, acorns and seeds and saplings. To get something else like that, I'd probably have to move way out into the boonies, or spend a lot of time and money to get the fencing/landscaping up to the way I want it to get the seclusion I want. And, I'm also convenient to work, DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, shopping, etc.
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Old 07-09-2013, 02:34 PM   #55
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Thanks to all for your thoughtful answers. You articulated what I sensed I would miss but couldn't quite come up with the answers; maybe I was just so stunned that she should she wouldn't miss anything! And yeah, it can be as small as just missing ice cubes in a drink to medium (not being able to communicate readily with people you encounter or not getting Netflix---didn't realize that) to huge (civil liberties we have here).

Andre, your life sounds perfect---especially for you. Meets your needs. And aren't you the lucky one---fully happy where you are.

The woman who intends to move to Ecuador painted a very rosy picture---but it did seem very simplistic, with no shades of gray. Ecuador = paradise. US = H*LL or at least purgatory. Some what she said almost seemed patronizing, like that the natives were so happy and well-adjusted that there was no crime and everyone treated each other nicely. Aren't people people, regardless of where they live?

Possibly she is bitter. Seems she feels (and possibly, she IS) forced out of retirement in the US, with no pension and little money saved (the latter being a result of decisions she made and the spending she did up to now---I can say this because we both were in the same low-paying human service field, but I was able to retire well at 52---of course, I am married and she is not, so we could live on one income and bank the other).

What was really ironic was that the other woman at the dinner who was agreeing about the US being awful and wanting to move cited how people don't socialize and just stare at electronic screens. After her diatribe, guess who took out her cell phone and started to play with it?

The bottom line is, while there are many things that can lower our mental, emotional, and physical health in the US, we can fight against it and still have a decent---even good---quality of life.
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Old 07-09-2013, 03:12 PM   #56
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As someone who currently is a full-time expat, I especially resonate with Kramer and Papadad's posts.

I live at Lake Chapala in Jalisco, Mexico, which is probably the single largest American and Canadian expat enclave in the world. It's long-established and while definitely still very Mexican (we gringos make up well under 5% of the population) it is definitely "Mexico with training wheels" due to lots of amenities and goods for expats, much English spoken (though some Spanish is still necessary), etc.

Being here, for us, is primarily a financial choice. It would be impossible to have weather anything like we have here in a place we could afford, but far more important are the health care and insurance costs, which are a small fraction of those in the U.S. Obamacare looks to make that less of an issue, and of course Medicare eventually, but that's many years down the road for me.

Thing we miss about the U.S., in no particular order:

1. Solitude in nature on foot (hiking) and on bicycle. My frame of reference is years in Colorado and New Mexico, which are admittedly paradises for these pursuits. Hiking here is limited, steep and dangerous (the trails are covered in pea-size gravel), biking suicidal.

2. Easy access to esoteric consumer goods. We replenish on our U.S. trips, but it's nothing like being a click away from an Amazon.com order or being able to shop Trader Joe's or Costco on a whim.

3. The rule of law still means something. Live in Mexico or anywhere else in Latin America for any length of time and you quickly adopt the local mindset, which boils down to (translating the Spanish) "nothing good ever comes from an encounter with the police." On a practical level we are certainly less likely to be victims of violent crime here than in any major city in the U.S., but break-ins and petty theft are rampant AND - this is the important part for those who actually live full-time rather than visit such countries - there is just knowing that there is NO recourse if you are a victim of crime here - none. Not even any point in reporting property crime here, as the locals will be the first to tell you.

The woman who visited Ecuador was clearly naive, but I can tell you that there are many down here (and more coming all the time) who whether through misfortune, bad planning or a combination thereof find themselves at retirement age trying to live a decent lifestyle on what amounts to a Social Security only income. That is do-able here and many other places with great weather, fresh fruits and veggies at half U.S. costs, medical care out-of-pocket for what amounts to U.S. co-pays and - perhaps most important later on - the option of assisted living/nursing home care in excellent facilities for ~$1200-2000 a month total. Certainly there's a minority here and in other retirement hot spots in México who could afford to live anywhere, but for most I've met it's somewhere in between La Jolla weather on an Omaha budget or living independently among adventurous expats here on a budget that would dictate sharing a mobile home in a redneck backwater while dodging mosquitoes and hurricanes back home. If cost were no object (and universal health care were the law of the land) I can only think of a handful of expats I've met who would choose to be based anywhere but in their native country.
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Old 07-09-2013, 04:46 PM   #57
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that said, my worst bit of inequality and unfair treatment was at the hands of an over zealous commander of the missouri state highway patrol. This trooper cuffed and stuffed me for no cause what so ever. Cost me a thousand bucks and really soured my taste on "how fair" america really is (or is becoming). My victory moment was when the district attorney looked to the commander and told him if he ever did something like that again, she would personally pull his badge and toss him in jail for between 3 and 5 years. I felt vindicated....but still ..... this great nation is becoming a police/nanny state that we need to defend.
Ugh. Reminds me of a video posted for a 4th of July DUI checkpoint. This kind of thing infuriates me. I'm not saying any other country would be better, but we can't let up on limiting the power of law enforcement (and also 3 letter acronyms):
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Old 07-09-2013, 05:22 PM   #58
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If I expatriated I would miss having a real home ---

And then, there's the food....
Yes sometimes Kansas City can be tough ---- but I found a Vietnamese store near City Market that makes a Po-Boy bread that comes close.

Alas I cannot convince a certain 'un-named ' Italian Deli that Muffs are round - round, ROUND! not sub shape.

heh heh heh - they taste ok though but just ok.
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Old 07-09-2013, 05:30 PM   #59
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Never expatriated myself but both kids have. Daughter in London w/ 3 kids, son single in Tanzania, was in SA and before in Mali (total of ~6 years for him). Daughter was in London first for 2-3 years until 2008, returned two years ago.

The money thing isn't an issue for either of them; her husband in finance and son running large engineering projects; so no incentive to be there for either other than jobs they like. We visit London regularly for the grandkids, have been to Africa four times. What's the common theme from both? That it's so much easier living in US. I do believe daughter prefers the very expensive private education available in London. They've had good experience with healthcare there (public) but they do have private insurance backup. This with two births, one infant with unusual heart condition.

As has been said, it all depends on the individual doing the expatriating/traveling; more so than the location IMO. We can't afford to move to London (do miss the grandkids) but if THEY were where my son is in TZ I could almost see it. However, my requirements are lower than DW. Poor meat (but incredible vegetables), power and internet on/off all the time, impossible to get car repairs done, water likely ok but use bottled anyway. No real entertainment to speak of unless you want to see wild animals regularly in the nearby game reserve. As much as I say I could do it, in all likelihood after a few months I'd be done. Language is a big deal, and I'm not good at learning them.

If we could afford where they are in London, I couldn't handle the density of life. Stores, sidewalks, everywhere is just crowded. Manhattan seemed spacious.

Just my random thoughts and observations. It's great for some, wouldn't work for many.
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Old 07-09-2013, 06:01 PM   #60
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Ahhhh, could you be quoting from the great Buckaroo Banzai.....another classic bad movie.

Never heard of it until today. But, man does it look bad! So bad it's good, I bet...
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