One of my targets for the next couple of years is to sample life on every continent in the world, including a (very) brief taster of Antarctica.
I spent the last 8 months living in Bangkok which made a great base to explore South East Asia. Now that I’m back in Europe and the novelty of catching up with friends and family has passed, I’m already daydreaming about new adventures. Guybrush Threepwood eat your heart out, I’m ready to conquer the seas.
Expats regularly discuss the sensation of returning home after an extended period of traveling. It’s a strange feeling.
If you’ve spent your entire lifetime in a single city or state, only to one day decide to go traveling, it’s amazing how so little seems to have changed when you finally return home. The uncertainty and adventure is replaced with familiarity and a grinding restlessness. There must be more to life than life as you know it.
Thailand was my first taste of settling in a foreign country. As much as I enjoyed my time, there are things I would have done differently and efforts I would have made if I could go back and do it again. The temptation, of course, as a guy who makes his money from the Internet, is to do exactly that. Go back and do it all again.
I thought I’d draw up a list of countries I’ve considered moving to, for anybody else out there with the restless desire to travel and dump themselves in to the unknown. Let me know if you have any other destinations that I’ve missed. I’m no expert in the field, just a guy who spends too long pissing around on Wikipedia and Google Images.
The 10 Best Countries To Live In
Argentina – The next country on my hit-list, and regularly touted as the Mecca for expats seeking the best standard of living at the lowest price. Everybody I know who has experienced Argentina, has loved it and wanted to go back for more.
Buenos Aires, the capital and gateway, regularly tops polls as the most popular destination for expats. Simmering subtropical weather, luscious food and a vibrant atmosphere are just a few of the descriptions I hear thrown around. Sounds like the perfect remedy for British autumn and winter.
By all accounts, learning Spanish seems like a pretty good idea before planning a move to Argentina. As I learnt in Thailand, language is often the decisive factor between loving a culture, or respecting it from afar, and between making close friends, or merely lots of smiling acquaintances.
Thailand – I spent 8 months living in Bangkok and it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the Land of Smiles. Thais are incredibly friendly, gracious and welcoming… even if like me, your control over the native language is somewhat sketchy. Thailand is not as cheap as I was expecting, but considering I wedged myself in a luxury apartment in downtown Bangkok, the standard of living to the dollar was immense.
Certain products are dirt cheap (DVDs, electronics, clothes), but replicating your western way of living will rack up the expenses. It’s a country where immersing yourself in the language will reap the benefits of avoiding a tourist economy. Admittedly, hiring a maid for £80/month to do your grocery shopping is a good alternative.
The economy is corrupt and you will undoubtedly find – for better or worse – that money will buy you just about anything in Thailand. Herpes included, so don’t be a dumbarse!
The many beaches scattered around Thailand are simply out of this world. I’ll have the pure white sand and crystal clear waters burnt in to my retinas for the rest of my time on this planet. Little else can compare.
Canada – A friend of mine is moving to Canada next year. I’ve never been, but I deal with a lot of account managers based in Canada who seem a whole lot more cheerful than their American counterparts – so there must be something uplifting about the world’s second largest country! What really strikes me about Canada is the balance between urban familiarity and untouched natural beauty.
Canada always scores highly on standard of living polls, and it probably helps my attraction that most Canadians I’ve spoken to, I’ve gotten on with very well. Let’s not forget how much easier it is to move there as opposed to the draconian measures necessary to enter the USA without getting your arsehole cross-examined for a visa.
Czech Republic – If you fancy a slice of bohemia, grab a plane to the Czech Republic. Prague has a reputation for offering all the charm of Berlin and Paris at a fraction of the cost. It’s one of the cheapest places to settle in Europe, and rapidly becoming one of the most popular. Known as the City of a Hundred Spires, you’ll find history dripping from every street. Students and tourists flock here, along with a growing number of expats.
I have to stress that for anybody visiting Europe from afar, prices are not cheap across the continent. The further north you go, the deeper in to your wallet you can expect to reach. The Czech Republic has the benefit of being nicely located if you want to jump on a train and see the rest of Europe. Small countries, huge diversity…one of the great attractions of moving to this part of the world.
New Zealand – My reasons for moving to New Zealand hinge on the fact that it looks fucking awesome. There’s not much more to it. New Zealand is a hot destination for students here in the UK, which probably has something to do with it being the adrenaline junkie’s capital of the world. My friends who’ve travelled there tell me that Wellington and Christchurch are better choices than Auckland for settling down. But the country seems to attract expats all over.
The cost of living is rising in New Zealand, but unlike many other popular expat spots, moving here requires very little adjustment. The language is the same, the people are friendly and there’s already a strong presence of other nationalities. New Zealand and Australia are seen as the traditional landing ports for pissed off Brits seeking a better quality of life.
Costa Rica – In many expat eyes, this is the gem of Central America. Costa Rica is the oldest democracy in Latin America, and generally accepted as the safest country in the region. It’s a peaceful, friendly country with a tropical climate and the kind of scenery that takes your breath away. Volcanoes, rainforests and natural fauna… you name it, Costa Rica has it.
Living in Costa Rica can be very cheap if you limit yourself to the bare essentials. But in keeping with many expat hotspots, you will pay a noticeable premium to retain your western way of living. Expect your diet to improve with a rich invasion of fresh fruit and veg, although I would suspect getting a pizza delivered could be difficult if you choose to immerse yourself in the secluded paradise spots.
Costa Rica has been hit by a swarm of North American expats in recent time, making it proportionately, the most heavily populated country by US citizens outside of America itself. What does this mean? Starbucks…coming to a rainforest near you.
South Africa – A stunning country with the strongest economy in Africa, you probably remember clips of natural sublimity from last years Football World Cup. I’ve always had a soft spot for South Africa, being drawn to the incredible safari experiences that are available throughout the country. Obviously living somewhere is about more than encountering lions in the wild, but some of the landscapes look unmissable to me. When it comes to crossing off Africa from my continents to experience, I’m pretty sure it’ll be here that I decide to base myself.
South Africa comes with a few risks attached. Safety issues on the streets are well documented and there are some places where you simply cannot risk walking around on your own at night. There are plenty of tourist horror stories to shit your pants over but ultimately, being sensible and acknowledging the risks should be enough to avoid them altogether. Housing is cheap, food is priced reasonably, but don’t be fooled in to believing that costs are low across the board in the major cities. One look at the forum posts reveals that they’re not, and they’re rising.
Singapore – Seriously Singaporeans, how do you do it? I only spent 5 days in this buzzing metropolis, and I managed to spunk my way through close to £1000 on some pretty standard expenses. Okay, admittedly, Andrew Wee inflated my bill by coaxing me in to buying a shit ton of imported chocolate on the last night, much of which I ended up eating to be able to get back through customs unscathed. But let me put it out there… Singapore is not cheap.
It’s certainly no retirement destination for the old hack making tuppence on his state pension.
That said, Singapore is spotlessly perfect. It really is one of the tidiest and most attractive looking countries you’re likely to find. This is made much easier by the fact that it’s so small. Imagine Wales, with civilization thrown in for good measure.
If you’re a city dweller who likes to be in the thick of fast moving urban life, Singapore will definitely appeal. It has a thriving economy, excellent infrastructure and the comfort of the English language. Just be prepared to sell multiple body components to pay your rent.
Panama – Were you not paying attention during Prison Break? Panama is the perfect paradise for criminals on the run. So as an affiliate marketer, I should fit in just fine.
Wedged in the heart of Central America, Panama brings the freedom of two different oceans on your doorstep. It’s a destination that is exploding in popularity for the tourism industry. Many Americans and Europeans alike are drawn to the country for the higher standard of living and feisty climate. You should tackle Spanish before committing to a Panama move. Once conquering the language, you’ll find a passionate and friendly population that is known for being very welcoming towards expats.
Crime is always something you want to consider before relocating to this part of the world. Historically, Panama has developed a reputation as one of the safer countries in Central America – if you don’t take up employment in the drugs trade, you should be fine.
I don’t like to get bogged down in what some biddy in her rocking chair misconceives to be a violent nation on the other side of the world (It’s a bit like the argument, “Thailand? Don’t the women there have dicks?“), but I know it’s a sore spot stereotype for many people looking to move.
France – I’ve been told that the south of France would be the perfect match for my personality. Whether there’s any truth to that remains to be seen. I’ve never been. Paris has never appealed to me. Londoners and Parisians couldn’t be further apart, despite their geo proximity. But the south of France looks to be a different story. Glorious food, regular t-shirt weather and a lackadaisical attitude in getting from A to B. On second thoughts… where’s my passport?
So what of London? Having moved back here in July, would I recommend the city to other individuals looking to sample life abroad?
Yes and no.
London is a brilliant place to visit. Full of things to do, sights to see and with the cultural back-catalogue of history nestled in to every bustling corner. The spontaneous individual with a sufficiently fat wallet can never get bored in London.
But as a home, it can be overwhelming and underwhelming in equal measures. I have obvious ties to the city. Most of my friends and family live here. It’s always felt like home to me, but that’s only because I can’t afford to uproot my loved ones and bung them in the back of the plane to be relocated to the destinations above.
I like to mock the state of Britain (and it’s pretty easy given our recent riots), but as far as sense of humour goes, the Brits are the best in the world. No matter where I travel, I always miss the laughs that come with some self-deprecating banter over a beer and a burger.
Of course, Brits are good at traveling – even better at burning themselves to shit in the process – so it’s not hard to track them down abroad. But as the old adage goes, there’s no place like home. Or is there? I want to collect enough passport stamps to see for myself.
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