Thursday, December 12, 2013

We're back from New York ... sort of ... (pics)

Doubtless you've noticed the lack of updates recently. This was a combination of a significant work load, lots of work last month to get out the survey results (and I still haven't posted the last part) and a business trip to New York, the latter of which was a huge amount of fun but left me a bit wiped out. I was only there for a day and couldn't get many photos and had to apologize to friends for not being able to meet up with them (you know who you are).

The New York Stock Exchange

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Overseas Exile Expat Survey Results — Politics

Today is part 4 of the Overseas Exile survey results. It's all about that subject we love to hate: politics. The answers may surprise you. As usual, click on the images for larger versions.

If this is your first time reading the survey, see also:


Starting off with the last US presidential vote, 63% of expats said they voted. This contrasts with 57% of the general US population voting.

234 participants by voting in last presidential election

Monday, November 25, 2013

Overseas Exile Expat Survey Results — Emotions

Today's summary of expat results revolves around expat's emotional responses to being an expat. In other news, I'm learning more about Excel's pivot tables and am doing a better job labeling them. As usual, click on imagine for a larger picture.

See also:
Fully three quarters of expats are very or somewhat happy to be an expat. Only 15% of expats are somewhat or very unhappy.

234 participants by how happy they feel being an expat

Friday, November 22, 2013

Overseas Exile Expat Survey Results — Living Abroad

This is the second entry in my Overseas Exile 2013 US Expat Survey results. Click here for the first entry, covering "Personal Information" about expatriates. Click on any image to see a larger version.

The second part to the survey was about "life abroad". Slightly more than half of participants felt that the local's had a better quality of life than in the US, with slightly less than a quarter feeling it was about the same and only 20% feeling that locals were worse off than the US.

235 participants by local quality of life

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Initial Overseas Exile Expat Survey Results

Image by Mizunoryu
As of this writing, the US Expat Survey has 235 responses. That's after removing obvious "joke" responses and duplicate responses. Duplicates were determined by seeing all 50 questions answered identically, with freeform responses required as those require people to type in an answer and those are unique enough to say "yup, this is a duplicate". The survey's only been running for nine days, but almost all of the responses were in the first three days. I'll leave the survey up, but I don't expect significantly different results.

Keep in mind the following:
  • Internet surveys are notoriously unreliable
  • Publishing results is more likely to bias subsequent results
  • Internet surveys are notoriously unreliable
In other news, consider this information "fun" rather than useful.

Friday, November 15, 2013

An American's Adventures in London

The unglamorous Hayes and Harlington Train Station
Photo by Sunil060902
If you're an American living abroad, please complete the Overseas Exile expat survey.

It's not always glamorous being an expat. Rather than give you a proper post today, I'm going to take us back in time to March 2007. I was "living" in London (the quotes will become clear in a moment) and wrote a rather odd blog post. Back then, I was blogging to tell friends what I was up to, rather than blogging for a general audience. As such, the tone of my posts was considerably different from the material you get today. Before I share the post, I should explain the circumstances that my readers at the time understood.

I moved to Nottingham, a small town a couple of hours north of London, in June of 2006. Just over half a year later, the company I was working for announced they were shutting down the Nottingham offices and if we wanted to keep our jobs, we had to move to London. To make a long story very short, the company put all of us up in a hotel for three months — a hotel in Hayes, a suburb of London once described by George Orwell (yes, that Orwell) as "one of the most godforsaken places I have ever struck."

Case in point: shortly after we were herded into this hotel in the middle of nowhere, someone was murdered in the pub next to the hotel. The pub was packed, but there were no witnesses. Those of us in the hotel started referring to it as "the murder pub." We avoided that pub and either we made the long trek into London via the miserable Hayes and Harlington train station or we sat in the hotel bar, night after night, drinking. Sometimes startled guests would walk into the common area of the hotel to find my colleagues wearing pajamas, watching "footy on the telly" with a lager clenched in one hand and the remote in the other (to prevent people from changing the channel). Living in this hotel is how I came to write the following blog entry entitled "Gustatorial Adumbration and the Sheep of the Universe".

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Red State France Is Doing Fine, Thank You

Released under GNU Free Documentation License
Standard and Poor's has cut France's credit rating, apparently concerned that France can't rescue itself from its current financial troubles. For would-be expats, this is important. When my wife and I were considering options other than Paris, Cyprus was one location that I was looking at because it looked great: it was inexpensive, great weather and part of the EU. And then the financial crisis hit and it looked, at one point, like everyone with a bank account in Cyprus was going to have funds stolen by the government. Cyprus would not have been a particularly brilliant move on our part.

So yes, you want to know if the economy in your target country is stable and many people may be legitimately concerned about France. In fact, I regularly get email from people who are worried about Europe in general. With half of the US poor or in poverty, it seems strange to think that Europe is worse off, but when S&P and others sound the alarm, people get nervous.

There's only one problem with Standard and Poor's credit rating cut for France: S&P is full of merde.

Unfortunately, to understand their error, you need a lot of background.

Monday, November 11, 2013

US Expat Survey

Image by Mizunoryu
If you are a US citizen currently living outside of the US, please complete the 2013 Overseas Exile US expatriate survey. Identifying information is not collected and if any is provided, it will not be made public.

Please share this survey with any other Americans living abroad, including on forums.

I will start publishing initial results as they come in. Full results will be published later when it's clear the response rate is dying down. Raw information may be made available, but only after I have removed any potentially identifying information.

Due to the nature of Internet surveys, the information shouldn't be relied upon. Further, it's a given that many US expatriates living in countries with limited internet access are unlikely to see this, possibly skewing the results.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Future Expats: Emigrating to Mars

Natural color image of Sol 52 on Mars
Photo courtesy of NASA
Forgive me for today's flight of fancy, but given that I love being an expat and I love science fiction, the two naturally converge from time to time.

There are currently two different companies who have long-term plans to colonize Mars. SpaceX, long-term, envisions a colony of 80,000 people on Mars. Mars One, on the other hand, plans to colonize Mars and use reality TV subscriptions to pay for it. With an increasing number of space-based companies, sooner or later someone is going to try to colonize another celestial body. As it turns out, expatriation to Mars has interesting social and legal consequences.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Are You Ever Going Home?

My home is wherever they are.
I'm routinely asked if I'm "ever going home". The presumption that people would know where my home is perplexes me. I've lost count of the number of times I've moved. I do know that by the time I had my first, clear, concrete memories — aside from fleeting will-o-wisps of memories of Japan — I had already lived in five "homes". By the time I had graduated high school in Texas, I had attended six public and one private school. My sister, Gayle, left home when I was 12 or 13, and I lived in the middle of nowhere without so much as a phone, so I lived in isolation for many years, with no long-term friends, knowing only that there's a huge world out there and I wanted to see it.

So no, I'm not "going home." I wouldn't even know what that is, aside from my happy life with my wife and daughter. Were I alone and to leave France and had to settle down permanently, I expect I'd go to the UK. I have lots of friends and family there (not to mention work), but in reality, I'd probably keep traveling.

I've already lived in Texas, Louisiana, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and now France.  But I want to see Malaysia. I want to swim in the Atlantic off the beaches of Montevideo. I want to see if Australian BBQ can hold a candle to what I grew up with in Texas. I want to live in a high-rise in Hong Kong. I want the rain pouring down as I walk along a neon-splashed Tokyo street, carrying bags of groceries. I want to see the look of joy on my daughter's face when she sees the start of the great wildebeest migration at Ngorongoro. I want to have a romantic dinner with my wife in Santiago.

I am home and I always will be, no matter where I am.

PS: I'm looking for a new contract. If you're looking for a strong Perl developer with extensive database and testing skills, let me know.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Moving Abroad by Getting Married

Your author and his wife, married at Tower Bridge
Because I no longer live in the US, I've been called a traitor more than once. This is generally from people who probably give amusing definitions of what a traitor is. Were my French wife to live with me in the US, I wonder if they would call her a traitor too? Probably not. But at the end of the day, if you marry someone from another country, at least one of you is going to wind up living in a different country. Damned traitor.

In the years of writing this blog, I have never specifically written a post about moving abroad via marriage. Though it may come as a surprise to some, this lack has been deliberate. Not only did I assume that most people knew about this route, but I also didn't feel the need to write on some rather unsavory topics in this area, but I think the time has come to talk about it.

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to get a job in Sweden

Stotorget, Stockholm, Sweden
Photo by Mastad
Please share this post with any of your friends who would like to find a job in another country.

Yesterday I posted about a Swedish job site that was possibly a scam, but I know that many people would love to get a job in Sweden. For some reason, my 20 Things to Know Before Moving to Sweden is incredibly popular (in that it draws a lot of traffic), even though it's merely a link to another Web site, and I often get email from people asking me about Sweden. It's also well known that the Swedish people are very happy (as are Scandinavians in general).

So how would you go about getting a job there? Thanks to changes in the law in 2008, Sweden is actually one of the easiest countries in the world to get a job in if you're a foreigner.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This Swedish Jobs Web Site Is a Bit tvivelaktig (questionable)

This is not Simon Nordin
Note: there is a company in Australia named Swede Recruit. This post is not about that company. If you really want to get a job in Sweden, I explain the process here.

There are many people desperate to find work in other countries. There are, sadly, many others who are all too happy to take advantage of this. You'll find plenty of "we'll get you an overseas job" sites with dodgy credentials and it looks like there might be a new one in Sweden, apparently run by one "Simon Nordin, CEO".

It seems "Ecothegeek" on Reddit had his CV on Eures, the European job portal, and a company contacted him saying that they'd like to find him a job in Sweden for the low price of €195. Ecothegeek was a bit concerned and asked about them on Reddit's /r/IWantOut community. Something didn't seem quite right to me, so I started digging.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You Can Move to Pitcairn Island

Pitcairn Island Dock
Photo by Jens Bludau
On April 28, 1789, the crew of the HMS Bounty mutinied for reasons that are debated to this day. Some say it was harsh treatment by Captain Bligh; others claim it was debauched sailors attracted to the sexually liberal lifestyle of Polynesia. Whatever the cause, the mutineers split and some settled in Tahiti, while others settled on Pitcairn Island, perhaps the most remote settlement in the world. Today, over two centuries later, the descendants of the original mutineers still live there and they have a problem. With a rapidly declining population, they want you to move there.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Do It Yourself Expats

Nighttime shot of one of the towers of
The vieux port in La Rochelle
Note: click on the photos to enlarge them. They're photos of the town I live in and are unrelated to the post.

In a very interesting blog post, a man describes how moving to Thailand helped him launch a startup. The short version: by living somewhere that allowed him to keep his monthly expenses down to around $1,000 a month, he was able to have more money to build his business and because he didn't know people there, he was less distracted by his social life.

Here's the interesting bit: he didn't have a work permit. He just sold everything he owned and caught a flight. This is what I call a "DIY (Do It Yourself) Expat". We're going to be seeing more and more of them in the future.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Doing Business in La Rochelle, France

Afternoon on the Bay of Biscay
Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Life has really taken a strange and interesting turn. If you travel enough and leave yourself open to adventure, sooner or later things will happen. "Luck" usually involves hard work and perseverance, not just stumbling into good fortune.

Case in point, last Friday my wife and I were sitting in a boat, watching the last Olympic sailing trials in La Rochelle. We were surrounded by local business leaders, all of this paid for courtesy of La Rochelle and the local area governments.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

It's a great time to be an expat

Get out there and explore the damned world already!
Photo by Hartwig HKD
Note: Today's post is more of a philosophical ramble of ideas that have been crossing my mind. It probably won't do a damn thing to help you become an expat.

Despite my writing about the doom and gloom that is the impact of the poorly thought out FATCA law, it's a fascinating time to be an expat, particularly one from the US. While times might seem hard right now, adventures are things that we often don't appreciate while they're happening, but create great stories to share after the pain has faded. And the world is going through a grand adventure right now and I fully believe that whatever emerges isn't going to be what was. The reason for this is simple: the world is finally reacting to a uni-polar world. The following will seem like a strange ramble, unrelated to expats, but bear with me.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Countries You Can (cheaply) Buy Your Way Into

Retire in Bangkok!
Photo by Mike Behnken
A few days ago I posted about countries that will let you live there if you show a modest income from abroad. I got curious and asked Reddit's /r/IWantOut community for more information. While many of the suggestions were unsourced, some provided references and they're awesome. Got $20,000 US? Are you 35 years old or older? Retire in the Phillipines via the SRRV program.  Hell, my wife and I could cash out our brand-new business and probably survive quite nicely in the Phillipines. (My wife would kill me for suggesting this, though).

Monday, September 30, 2013

Why did I leave my home country?

Your (pudgy) author in Bermuda
(If you think the contrast is bad, you should
have seen it before I started fixing it)
Over on the Franco-American flophouse blogs, Victoria Ferauge explores ideas about why some people leave their home country. It's a beautiful read and I highly recommend it, but I must admit that my motivations are different from what is explored there.

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Innocent until proven guilty": The US versus France

Charges were later dropped.
Used under Fair Use.
There are some people who read this blog who may know the background of what is below. Please do not post any links to it. At all. This post is not about the people I'm referring to in an anonymous manner, it's about the difference between how the French and US legal systems deal with the accused.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Move Abroad by Working Remotely

The view from our bedroom in
our home in La Rochelle, France
Did you know that many countries allow you to live there even if you can't work there? I've hinted at this when I wrote about moving to Uruguay, but this is a more widespread thing than you would realize.

It works like this (with lots of hand-waving because different countries have wildly different laws): you have residence permits, and work permits. You usually get the former with the latter, but not necessarily the other way around. If you have a work history of working remotely and can show a decent income, many countries will allow you to apply for a residence permit.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Global Family

A few days ago I was in London on business. To my surprise, I appear to have taken far fewer photos than I realized, but that's probably a function of working hard and also spending time with my two surviving brothers in London.

This was my first flight out of the La Rochelle airport and while I knew the airport was tiny, I didn't think about the fact that I was going to be flying on this:

The plane I flew on
If you fly frequently, you know what that means.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A trip to Metz, France, with photos

I'll be moving to La Rochelle, France on Friday and be in London on business next week, so this will be brief and the blog will recommence as soon as I'm able. As usual, you can click on the photos for larger versions.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mailbag: A beginner's guide to moving to another country

Another mailbag post! A friend emailed me about someone about to lose her job and stated that she was interested in moving abroad, particularly Europe. Since she has no background, I decided to give her an overview of the process. I thought it might be useful to repeat this here. There's nothing in here that I've not written about before, but I thought a recap might be a good idea for new readers.
Public Domain Image

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sixfold increase in Americans giving up their passports.

The ignorant view of renunciation
Image in public domain
Bloomberg has a gloomy article about a sixfold increase in the number of Americans giving up their passports. Unfortunately, it starts out with the following sentence:
Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship surged sixfold in the second quarter from a year earlier as the government prepares to introduce tougher asset-disclosure rules.

Expatriates giving up their nationality at U.S. embassies climbed to 1,131 in the three months through June from 189 in the year-earlier period, according to Federal Register figures published today. That brought the first-half total to 1,810 compared with 235 for the whole of 2008.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Trip to Kiev (with photos)

As usual, click on the photos for larger versions.

I've had trouble updating lately because I've been traveling quite a bit, including trips to La Rochelle, here in France, Kiev, Ukraine, and Metz, France. Below are a few photos of my trip to Kiev. For some reason, my phone and computer have conspired to subtly alter the timestamps on many photos and they were added to my computer in a vaguely random order, thus meaning that it's very hard for me to know exactly when most of these were taken and making it much harder to provide a narrative.

We were only there for a few days for a conference, so this was very much a business trip and we didn't have much time to go sightseeing. The city itself looked lovely, though many places were in a curious state of disrepair. Fountains, streets, buildings — all seemed to have bricks missing, grass growing through the sidewalk and innumerable individuals hawking individual packs of cigarettes (for €1.50 a pack!), guessing your weight for money, or trying to get you to pose with tame pigeons for photos. So much of Kiev was a curious mixture of rich and poor.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti
The view across from Maidan Nezalezhnosti
The conference itself was lovely and they even arranged a river cruise on the Dnieper River for us. It was several hours of food, alcohol, and sight-seeing.

Mother of the Motherland, Kiev
For the geeks: yes, that's Larry Wall
Near the end of the cruise
Me (on the left) and a friend
Walking in a park in Kiev
At the Mafia Restaurant in Kiev
Walking around in Kiev
My lunch on the second day was curious. I had pot and beer for lunch. Literally. The menu listed the beer as "Dark beer" and one item was called "pot". It was described as a small and tasty miracle, so naturally I had to try it. Potatoes, dill, mushrooms, cheese and some unidentifiable meet.

Lunch, day 2: "pot" and beer

My wife and my daughter at a fountain
A restaurant we ate at.
Lunch time at the conference
The entrance to the conference venue
At a park in Kiev
My daughter riding a pony.
Luggage handlers wrapping the luggage
That last photo above was luggage handlers wrapping luggage in brightly colored plastic. If you don't travel much, you may not be familiar with this practice. The idea is that it's still easy to get into your luggage if security needs to do so, but you will see instantly that this has happened. Further, it makes opening your luggage just difficult enough to stop baggage handler thieves.

Who are these thieves? Airport employees! Can you name for me any other industry which charges a premium for your service and then you pay extra to help minimize the chance of the industry's employees stealing from you? How has our society gotten so messed up that this is considered normal? Instead of the airlines figuring out a better way of protecting your luggage from their theft, you get charged a small, extortionate fee to help minimize the chances of you being stolen from.

If you have the chance, I would definitely recommend Kiev. My wife and I stayed at a the Dnipro Hotel, a four-star hotel in Kiev. We had a small suite for the cost of a regular hotel room back in France. The staff were very friendly and the city in general was inexpensive. Pleasant restaurants offered steaks starting at €6! The mixture of Soviet-style "we have no personality" architecture along with some beautiful Ukrainian architecture, along with a fascinating history make Kiev a very interesting city. I only wish I had more time to explore it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer

Image of a beach in southern France.
The beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is a small town on the southern coast of France. It's also the capital of the Camargue region, Western Europe's largest river delta. It's a lovely area famous for its horses, flamencos, and vicious mosquitos which could probably exsanguinate a cow were they not so busy draining my wife, daughter, and myself of blood. I have welts all over me and they're nothing compared to what my wife has. And that was with mosquito repellent. Missing the slightest bit of skin with said repellent is not a good idea.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Photos of Arles, France

We've been in Arles, France visiting friends for the past couple of days. Rather than give an extensive post, I'll just share some photos (plus, our flat in Paris has been robbed while we're here, so I'm not terribly keen on writing today).

Arles has a rich, rich Roman history. I'd write more, but as mentioned ...

Click on the photos to see larger versions.

Exterior of the Roman Arles Amphitheatre

Monday, July 29, 2013

Want to move abroad? Trace your family history

Is he the key to you moving abroad?
Public domain photo
I've regularly spoken with people who say "I would love to move abroad", but they've done absolutely nothing to make this happen. While there's a big difference between talking and doing, it's an easy transition to make. For every would-be expat who isn't sure how how to move abroad, there are several steps I recommend them to get started:
  1. Get your passport.
  2. Read Why you'll say "no" to moving abroad.
  3. Read the Start Here post to figure out your next moves.
Now I have to add a fourth item to that list: research your family tree.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Ugly American

Image of American tourist, wearing plaid swim trunks and a sombrero, smoking a cigar and carrying a liquor bottle in each hand.
"The Ugly American"
American tourist in 1950's Batista-era Cuba
I'm sure that you've heard the "ugly American" stereotype before. It's prominent enough that it has its own Wikipedia page. Booming voices, plaid Bermuda shorts, mocking the locals. In fact, I've witnessed this abroad (down to the Bermuda shorts) and people are more likely to remember Americans who stand out like that. I still vividly remember standing in line at a store in Amsterdam and having a pair of American women yelling at a cashier because the women were mad that they had to weigh their own vegetables. Sadly, the "ugly American" stereotype can apply to expats as easily as tourists.

Exceptions like those yelling women aside, the stereotype is not only a bit unfair, but on those occasions that it is fair, it's not always entirely the American's fault. The US is a rather insular culture. It's expensive to see other cultures firsthand so we don't get this experience except by television or movies — and no, watching every episode of Monty Python or Dr. Who doesn't count. And it's not entirely the US media's fault, either. Strange things (other cultures) are challenging and don't drive as much revenue to the profit-maximizing entertainment industry.

So, relative to other countries, you have a rich, isolated culture whose people are often completely unprepared for the outside world, right? Well, not exactly.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Grab Bag of Expat Related News

Image of Buddhist Monks at the Reflecting Pool of Angkor Wat temple
Angkor Wat
Photo CC by Sam Garza 
There's a building going up near us. They workers have torn down an old, crumbling building and they're putting up a new, shiny building. And cutting a cable to our building along the way. One of these things is not nice.

So for the past couple of weeks, I've been limping along with little to no internet service. It's unclear who actually owned the cable that was cut, but our (former) internet provider, free.fr, insists that our service is working fine and no, they have no record of a repair request from us. In fact, our entire building is almost completely without phone, television, or Internet access as those services tend to be bundled together and there's a lovely note on the front door saying "please be patient, no one knows what's going on, no one is sending repair people and please keep hassling your ISPs."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Buying A Second Passport

Over at avaaz.org, there's a charmingly naïve online petition for the UN to start issuing a "globally recognized world passport". It claims it needs a million signatures and as of this writing, it has a whopping 310 of them. I'm not sure what impact anyone thinks such a petition would have. It's not just that governments would ignore the idea: citizens of most countries wouldn't want that passport if it acted as a real passport and allowed the holder to live and work in the country (in this case, the world) that issued it. Can you imagine how many major country's social services would collapse under the weight of unlimited immigration?

As it turns out, there are plenty of "second passports" schemes out there.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Our trip to La Rochelle in Photos

The waterfront at La Rochelle
Click on any photo for a larger version.

Last weekend my wife, daughter and myself visited La Rochelle, on the West coast of France, with a sea port opening to the Bay of Biscay. We might move here. We're considering moving outside of Paris, but we've decided to stay in the country this time (Malta, Belgium, or the UK were our most likely destinations). The village is absolutely gorgeous and prices are much more reasonable than Paris. Since we've started a company that, amongst other things, does international IT recruitment, we find ourselves in the luxurious position of being able to move.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Citizenship and Residency Services for the Rich

Image of a mansion.
Wealth Has Its Privileges
CC Photo Courtesy Brian Harte
Note: this is not a paid post and I've never been in touch with Henley & Partners or any associates of theirs. I'm merely familiar with their reputation.

Generally when I write about how to become an expat, I focus on things like the UK Entrepreneur Visa, teaching English, or the European Blue Card. These and many other strategies are broadly applicable to people who are determined to get out, but don't necessarily have lots of money, a marriage proposal, or other easy means of moving abroad.

Today I'll talk about Henley & Partners. They're a firm which specializes in providing those with spare money the opportunity to move abroad.