Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Why we flee

Yes, this blog post is horribly misnamed. It has something to do with a morning alternating between writing a paragraph or two and going back to my daughter who is at the "I need plenty of attention stage". She falls asleep every 20 minutes or so or else I would never have gotten this written.

This blog has been going strong for about four months now. It's getting more and more followers, the number of comments is increasing and I've been getting email from folks who are actually trying to get out. For those who are new here and want to understand what's going on and for those who've been around for a while and need a reminder, I think it's time for a quick recap of what we're trying to do here.

In short, this is for people who want to move to a new country. You don't give a damn about discount tickets to sex museums or Eurodisney's hours. Spending two weeks somewhere on vacation and living there are simply not the same thing. You have, however, two serious problems:

  • Getting there
  • Staying there

Getting there

Getting out is hard. As I've written about previously, one study shows 10% of US households wanting to emigrate to another country with another 10% considering it part time. Those are huge numbers. What's stopping most? Knowledge. They just don't know how to do it. That's why I keep offering different strategies for you whether you're a skilled worker and need to know how to get a work permit, an unskilled worker who's willing to teach English overseas, or maybe you have a small, permanent income stream and you're looking for countries who will let you move there if you have income, such as Uruguay.

Barring convicted felons, people with major communicable diseases like tuberculosis and a few other things which vary from country to country, you can probably get out. You don't have to be rich. You don't have to be skilled. You do have to be willing to compromise. Many would turn down a job in Lima, Peru because they want Paris instead. I can't help you there.¹

The main thing to getting out of the country is that you have to take action make it happen. If you don't understand Count von Europe and why you'll say "no" to his offer of a job in Europe, you're not going anywhere. I recently had one friend tell me they could get ready to go in a couple of months. I knew the obstacles they faced and argued strongly that they already set themselves up for failure by not putting themselves in a position to leave immediately. When your think "I'll get around to getting myself ready to leave" sooner or later, it means that you probably won't do it. When I spoke my friend later, I was not surprised to hear them say "one or two years" instead. Their reasons are perfectly valid, but the reasons we put forward often are. It's a question of how bad you want this.

Staying there

Wanting to get there isn't enough. If you find you can't handle it, you may be pretty upset with yourself if you tuck tail and run. However, many people do. The number of expatriates returning home early from overseas assignments is as high as 68% in some cases. If you can't adjust to your new culture, that combined with homesickness could easily drive you back. That's why instead of just telling you about how to get out, I also try to give you insight into some of the challenges you'll face, from cultural difficulties to struggles with food.

In short, after you plan to get out, you have to actually make that escape and stay there. It's a lot more than just "hey, I gots me a job!". It's about turning wishful thinking into a concrete plan of action. That's what this blog is about. Now get off your tail and start looking for a new country.

1. As I get constantly reminded, when people say "I want to live in another country", what they often mean is "I want to live in Europe". That's fine, but they have to realize that this is often harder to pull off. Does Montevideo not appeal? Is Seoul not sexy enough? There's a good chance that it's just because you don't know them.