On Being an Expatriate

Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in Blog | 5 comments


I know a lot of expats. In fact, the bulk of my house-sitting assignments have been for expatriates from England, America or Canada. You might say that I make it my business to follow the expatriates. That is not an exaggeration. Once a person becomes involved in an expat community, it seems that lots of doors, literally and figuratively, are opened and house-sitting referrals begin to happen at an almost alarming rate, faster than one little international house sitter is able to say yes. But what about actually becoming an expat? What are the benefits and drawbacks to setting up full-time residency in another country? To address the  requirements of every country where establishing residency may be desirable, I would need to write an entire book. This little article on being an expatriate will not delve into the legal requirements of living abroad. However, sharing my perspective about why people may choose to live abroad is doable.

Why go?

Many expats choose to live abroad for three simple reason. The climate, cost of living and health care options are often winning determining factors. Once they are comfortably settled, they are often surprised by the additional perk of finding an active social life. Frankly, a good portion of the expats that I have met are retirees. Depending on where they have chosen to lay down roots, many end up living in a region where there is an existing community of expats and are able to establish a life that is enhanced by strong connections with other likeminded people. I have talked to a lot of expats who claim that their social life is much more active than the one they had back home.

Ireland, the land of rainbows

Some people look for the eternal springtime climates of the highlands of a country while others actually prefer the coastal climates, but most do not want to live where it is too cold. It is also a fact that there are wonderful places to live in the world where the American dollar stretches a lot further. But beware! Once an area becomes popular with expats, they tend to make sure that it is upgraded to meet many of their needs, and what often follows is higher prices. Lastly, health care costs in many countries are considerably cheaper. That doesn’t mean that you are trading quality for affordable prices necessarily. In fact, there is an entire medical travel business that is now emerging where people come from far and wide to have dental and medical work done while also enjoying a vacation abroad. I am sure that the allure of living abroad varies according to the individual seeking to do so, but living in a warm location, with social outlets , affordable health care and a lower cost of living are common reasons.

Expat home in Spain

Where do you want to live?

Americans and Canadians tend to expatriate to Central or South America. According to many living-abroad specialists, Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Ecuador are a few popular choices. Northern Europeans often move to Spain, Portugal or Italy. The weather is a big draw. However, Thailand keeps popping up on the radar as well. In fact, Thailand attracts a huge number of digital nomads, generally a younger crowd, who have created jobs that are not dependent on any particular location. I, for one, would love to live in Ireland. I have enjoyed six months of life in Ireland and have often thought that down the road, I could happily spend part of every year there. Deciding where to live is a personal choice. What suits one person would not necessarily suit another. The important part is doing sufficient research before making the move. Most experts suggest that a person live for at least six months in a country before deciding to buy property. Getting to know the lay of the land, social structure and pros and cons before making a a full commitment is wise.

More about why I love Ireland

Women Going Solo

Rest assured that being female without a partner is not necessarily a reason to fear living abroad. I have met countless women who have abandoned there lives in their home countries in order to establish a new life elsewhere, even far from home. The little town of Competa, Spain is a place that I feel comfortable calling my second home abroad. There a a number of women living there who have established  comfortable lives in this sunny location. Inge is a lovely German woman who moved to Spain years ago. She bought a small Spanish house in the village and happily pursues a quiet but interesting life. She is in her seventies. A good number of single women from England have done the same thing. In San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, there are lots of American and Canadian women who have chosen to live abroad. A number of these adventurous women have hired a Mexican woman to help around the house with the intentions of developing a long-term relationship. Their plans are to grow old in San Miguel. The relationship that they have formed over the years with their maid will eventually allow them to stay in their own home even when they may be too old to care themselves. Their maid and long-time friend will see to it that they remain comfortable to the end. For some people, this idea beats going to a nursing home or becoming a burden to their children back home.

Read more on San Miguel de Allende

How to Plan

Expatsblog.com is a great website that hosts a directory of some of the best expat blogs on the Internet. Is there any better place to find firsthand information about life as an expat than striaght from the horse’s mouth?

Falling in Love With San Miguel is a website started by two great gals, Norma and Carol. I love San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and have written several blog posts about my experiences there. Norma and Carol have lived there for a good long while and their website is a great resource. They have also written a book by the same title 
which chronicles their decision to move to Mexico. Their second book  The Best How-To Book on Moving to Mexico: Living Your Dream in Mexico (both books can be purchased by clicking on the pictures.)

Chickens, Mules and Two Old Fools: Tuck into a slice of Andalucían Lifefollows the lives of a couple from England who retired to southern Spain.

Until you can figure out how to support your lifestyle abroad, the dream of becoming an expat probably will remain a dream. That’s why so many expats are actually retirees. Applying for residency is much easier if you can prove an income that meets, at the very least, the minimum requirement. However, it is becoming more and more doable for younger people these days to live in a foreign country because of the Internet. If you can carry your office wherever you go, borders become less of a problem.

I have lived abroad over the past eight years in various locations and have developed a real connection with Spain, Mexico and Ireland. Although I may never choose to live permanently in one location, I can easily picture living abroad part time for many years to come, but for those who would like to settle in one location as a fully committed expatriate, there are tons people out there who can serve as inspiring role models.



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  1. I chose China for the tremendous career opportunities and the low cost of living. The additional benefits have been to much to describe. You are reading about some of them on this blog.

  2. I thinking being an ‘expat’ is going to be a continued trend as the world becomes increasingly more global, and new markets open up. I think that it is a great option for those who are willing. Great article Teresa, thanks for sharing!

    • Yes, Andy,
      While it does’t appeal to everyone, living abroad is more and more becoming a viable option.

  3. Hi Teresa, just love this website: http://www.expatsblog.com. Great reading, inspirational and a must for those of us who love to travel and write.
    I am also connected to another website: http://www.expatforum.com which deals more with questions expats have when relocating to another country.
    Both worth checking out.
    I now have some great reading to fill in a very wet and windy Saturday afternoon here in Canberra. This is suppose to be summer!
    Ciao. Best regards.

    • Thanks for the link to another great expat website, Rosie!

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