Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where do you want to go?

For those who don't want to read all of this, that's fine. However, I would love a short response explaining which country or countries you would like to move to and why.

Machu Pichu
Machu Pichu, Peru
Photo by Chang'r
Yesterday I asked Why do you want to leave? Today I'd like to know "Where do you want to go?"  Yesterday was about the "push" factors and today is about the "pull" factors. While I've heard stories about people throwing darts at a map, they remain stories. Everyone I've met I gone some place in particular, though not all were at the place they thought they were going. Different people seem to leave for different reasons, though "job opportunities" is one of the largest motivators. I left for a variety of reasons, though adventure was pretty high on the list.

I chose the UK back in 2006 because I speak English, I had companies willing to hire me there and I have two brothers and a sister living there. For me it was an easy choice. Today after seeing much more of the world and writing this blog, I think I might look at Asia or South America.

For those looking at a better social safety net, Europe is an obvious destination, whereas those merely looking for more money or jobs (not bad motivations at all!), will often cast there eye on the US or Australia. Inexpensive property, particularly to retire, often leads to Asia or Central and South America.

Whatever your reasoning, there's a huge world out there and if you could take a bit of time to tell me where you want to go and why, I can do a better job of trying to research some of those answers for this blog.


  1. I've spent a few months abroad, always on vacations, never working. I know that makes it harder to judge, because vacations are completely different than the workaday life. That being said, the country I am looking forward to moving to, at least for a couple of years, is Italy.

    My fathers side of the family is from Italy, and as such I've always had a bit of an affinity for it. I feel more at home there, the pace of life matches what I want out of life. I want to spend more time living, and less time working. As long as I make "enough" money I'll be happy. What is enough? Enough to feed and clothe my daughter and myself, and enough to pay the rent, with some travel as well.

    Italy is closer to most of the places I want to travel, than here on the north east coast of the US. (with the exception of south america, which is pretty far either way) I love the social safety net, and I would like my daughter to grow up in a culture that doesn't worship consuming.

  2. I'm still shopping. I plan to travel to several destinations to figure it out. Core factors for me are the following:

    Weather: My wife is cold all the time in Portland; if we're going to move, it seems like warmer should be where we go, at least for a while...

    Language: I speak Mandarin and Spanish and English already. If my wife is interested in learning another language, we'll consider relocating there (she liked Dutch, for example).

    Economics: Will living at a place pencil out? So far, the answer for London was: likely not. Housing and transport were too expensive.
    How is the economy faring? Do they need my skills?

    Ease of immigration: Speaks for itself.

    Food: how is food produced? What is common there? How do people eat? What does the food supply look like? Is there a tradition around food that agree with us morally/physically/health-wise? America fails miserably here.

    Architecture/aesthetics: London scored big here for me, for example, but Amsterdam was comparable in the inner core. Haarlem looked good from what I saw on line. Barcelona looks excellent.

    Museum/art: My wife and I are really into art; Portland lacks a lot of good art and musea here. I'm a musician; it would be nice, but not critical, to be able to play drums in a band and actually make some money on the side. Again, Barcelona?

    Energy-efficiency/greenhouse gas markets: It is what I do for a living; I'd like to work. I need to be able to make a living. It doesn't have to be what I make here in the US, but it shouldn't put us in the poor house. Iberdrola in Spain is doing a lot of renewable energy; I wonder what they're doing on the demand side...

    Exchange rates: This cuts both ways: If we leave, we'll rent our house out. The marginal revenue (I'm estimating about 750$/mo) from that could probably feed and house us in China or Thailand? Conversely, if I earn a lot in Europe, I could pay my house off in America very quickly. I plan on assisting my dad in retirement as well. The Euro is at 1.35$ right now, the yuan keeps appreciating agains the dollar. Those trends are important.

    Treatment of minorities and gays: Living in a racist, homophobic environment is bullshit. Sick of that. Would like to be free from that.

    Politics/worldview: How well will we mesh with the culture. The Netherlands seemed like a VERY good fit, for example. I am registered Green in the US. I'm considered a wing-nut.

    Religious fervor: I'd prefer to avoid religiously-dominated cultures, as I'm an athiest and semi-Buddhist. Buddhism as a philosophy I'm OK with, as a religion, it is just as annoying as anything else (see Nepal).

    War-torn/-prone: I'd prefer to avoid being shot at during my daily activities. This essentially rules out much of the Middle East for me. That and the language/religion thing.

    Corporatocracy: How much of the government is run by profit-seeking corporations; how many corporations are exploiting the labour pool in that country? I'd prefer to avoid this. America scores an F here, it seems that Britain scores a C.

    Engagement: How civic minded are the people? I like when people, say, overthrow corrupt governments in a grassroots movement (France, Tunisia, Egypt). That said, I'm not running to Cairo any time soon... :-)

    Healthcare: This is critical. How is the healthcare system organised and what are the metrics for success. Currently, in America, the rich get it and the poor don't, so everyone else has a de facto tax that is hidden in rates. That's nonsense and expensive and bad for society.

    I'll be flying through Amsterdam every time I visit Europe, so we'll see your kid grow up incrementally and I will be able to keep you updated :-)... assuming you will have me.

  3. @thedr9wningman: it seems you seem to favour the Netherlands. Don't be fooled. In a lot of issues, there's only a little difference between the USA and the Netherlands. For instance, you find the America fails for you when it comes to food production. Rule out most of Europe: the food is produced by the same, or similar multi-nationals as in the US, driven by the same consumer demands: cheap, cheaper, cheapest, with the same type of supermarkets playing the third party. And if you want to move away from "racist, homophobic environment", some parts of Europe may be slightly less homophobic than the US (we're maybe 20 years ahead of the US, not that much in the grand scheme of things), but at the moment, one sixth of the Dutch parliament seats are taken by a party whose main issue is "anti-islamic", and they're likely to become the largest party if elections were to be held today. I don't think there's an American political party that says "Well, you may be born here, be an American citizen, but since your parents were born in different country and you also have that countries nationality, if you commit a crime, we'd like to strip you of your American citizenship and kick you out". We do have such a party, and 1 in 6 of the Dutch people agree with that.

    Politics/Worldview? When it comes to foreign politics, the Netherlands has the most loyal ally of the USA. Never wavered from its side since 1776. As for meshing with other peoples culture, the Netherland has been described as a country of "merchants and preachers". That is, our foreign policy is to tell others what they should do, unless we can make money by doing otherwise.

    And while the Netherlands isn't much of a religious dominated country (although we are the only Euro country that inscribes Euro coins with the text "God be with us", and you'd better not be a non-protestant if you want to marry into the royal family), one of the main issues in society is driven by religion: we're increasingly becoming anti-Islam. If you only care about how it influences yourself, you'd be safe as an atheist. If you care about others, perhaps the Netherlands isn't the choice for you.

    As for green/renewable energy, yeah, some European governments spend a lot of money on subsidizing it. It remains unclear how much it's actually saving in terms of fossil fuels. It's not cost effective, but you can make a living by replacing your windmill every couple of years, due to the subsidizing money. Under the population there's a lot of NIMB attitude: wind energy is fine, but we don't want to see the windmills. So we spend additional billions of Euros to build them in the sea. Meanwhile, while everyone thinks it's good for the environment if their neighbours reduce their energy usage, cars get better mileage and factories reduce emissions, we all want more electronic gadgets like laptops and smartphones, we buy bigger (or second) cars, and cheap products from China. (Yes, it's just a fancy way of saying we're hypocrites).

    As for "corporatocracy", there isn't so much (openly) lobbying in the Netherlands as in the US. And politicians do not have to run their own campaigns, so there's less need of campaign funding. But the Netherlands have a very favourable corporate tax-regime, the country is often described as a tax heaven.

    I don't think the Dutch have ever overthrow their government, although Belgium successfully succeeded in 1830. Perhaps the last significant reform in government happened in 1848, when the monarch (scared of all the revolutions in other European countries) relinquished much of his personal political power. Now, it doesn't mean people haven't tried, in past, there have been large riots. But the government has always managed to surpress it using enough force.

    I wish people stopped looking at Europe through pink tinted glasses. We aren't that much different from the USA.

  4. I've been looking to leave for a while, but I've never had somewhere especial to leave for. I've considered Japan, though the missus isn't terribly keen on that idea due to the language/culture barrier.

    More recently we've started talking about heading off to Greenland. The leading motivation for starting to investigate Greenland? They file spanking et al. under child abuse and respond promptly to it; and in general they seem to be very keen on bringing children up happy. We don't have kids nor especially plan on it, but given as we both had abusive childhoods (not to mention recent pedophilia scandals in the States and elsewhere) we figure it's a good start.

    Any chance of getting your take on Greenland? I'd be aiming for academia (linguistics and computer science) though I can investigate that angle well enough on my own.

  5. @winterkoninkje: I'd have to do some research on Greenland. Right now, with the book, many of my posts are things I come across or personal experiences rather than research. Research takes a long time and most of my research is for the book now.

    Though I'd love to write an expat HOWTO book at some point. I'd call it "America, Love It AND Leave It" :)

  6. I'm a 19 year old exchange student living in Germany for a year with a scholarship from Congress. Being away from America has compelled me to keep up with what is going on back at home, and now that my time here in almost up, I feel a strong urge to return in the next few years.
    I already have a spot in a fine liberal arts university for next year, but if finding a job afterwards might not happen, then what is the point of wasting my parents' money on a degree? If I follow my dreams and get into medical school, become a doctor, and work in America, I'm going to face a severely flawed system that conflicts with my morals, not to mention impossible student loans.
    Besides the prospects of employment, it pains me to read about the daily blatant stripping of Americans' civil rights without their knowledge. Having just ended my teenage years, and having experienced the differences between middle-class life in America and Germany, I can say with conviction that Germany would be a better place to study, work, marry, and raise children.
    My only question is how. I have no qualms about leaving family, moving, etc., but as I have just begun to culture this thought of returning for good, I need help in finding out how one goes about changing citizenship/finding work/having Bachelor's degrees recognized and such.

  7. call the us consulate or embassy and ask citizen services. In Germany, you can go to any city hall and ask at immigration. They will tell you how it works, To get a US college degree recognized you need to contact the MInisterium für Wissenschaft und Kunst. It is not an easy process. If you have solid German language skills stay in Germnay and study there. No tuition!
    The quality of life really is better than Iin the USA

  8. Would love to go to Germany. I love studying and hubby and I would like to do our Masters degrees together @ a German facility. Very little tuition in a beautiful country. And of course, lots of beer :) Plus, they seem to be growing their IT industry which should give us some options after completing our studies.

  9. Somewhere in West Africa, the Maghreb, or maybe even southern France all appeal to me. I'd like to take my French from "intermediate" to fluent, and wouldn't mind picking up some Arabic. I'm not Muslim, but I miss living in a city where I can hear the call to prayer.