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Sandy Sandfort on going ex-pat

The friend I’ve written about before — the one who advocates going expat — is Sandy Sandfort.

Sandy is a writer, businessman and soi disant recovering lawyer. Currently, he’s getting ready to relocate from Panama to Chile to work on the Galt’s Gulch Chile community project. You’ll find contact information for him at the bottom of this post.

But first, Sandy offered to answer some questions about going offshore. I asked him a few — Q&A below. Please feel free to ask your own questions in the comments. Sandy says he’ll check in to answer, but won’t get into debates — both because he is, after all, a recovering lawyer and because going expat is yet another question people are going to make up their own minds about, no matter what anybody says.


Q. The arm of the U.S. government is long. It reaches clear around the world. Why do you think anybody might be more safe outside the U.S. than in it?

A. Good question, but it is based on the false assumption that just because the USG can do ANYTHING,* that it therefore can do EVERYTHING. Well, it can’t. It lives under the sames laws that underly all economic calculations — cost benefit analysis. With limited resources (and all resources are limited) you have to pick your battles carefully. Yes, any given target can be smashed, but that just mean other targets get off Scott free. So for all practical purposes, out of sight, out of mind.

Q. There’s a lot of truth to what people say about expats being welcomed because they have money (or because the locals think they have money). So this is a two parter: How vulnerable to do you think Americans abroad are likely to be in local hard times? And what happens to American expats if the USD turns to toilet paper while they’re living in another country?

A. First the assumption about why Americans and other expats are welcome. Sure some locals want to suck off the gringo teat. However, they can be easily avoided by living away from tourist and expat enclaves. I will soon be moving to live in my fifth country. I have acquired many genuine friends around the world. People everywhere like friendly, interesting people and expats are some of the most interesting people in the world … even Canadians.

As to hard times and the dollar’s decline, I would have to ask the questions why are you contemplating moving to countries that are headed toward hard times and why are you still holding your wealth in US dollars? There are countries with exploding economies, budgetary surpluses, low cost of living and (relatively) hard currencies, not to mention the availability of land, gold, etc.

Q. A lot of people mention age or health as reasons not to uproot and go to another country. What do you have to say to that?

A. Much of Latin America, Asia and Oceania have better and cheaper health care than the US. Google medical tourism. With regard to age, I am just a few months away from the 2/3 of a century mark. The reality is that old folks think old. What that means in practice is that they are unwilling (not unable!) to accept change. Well if that is you, brother, do I have bad news. Change is coming to you and I believe it will be far greater and far more devastating than moving to Uruguay or the like.

Q. Most people just don’t want to be foreigners, which is understandable. They are genuinely content where they are. They have a stake in their lands, homes, families, etc. Why are you so adamant that everybody needs to get out of the U.S.?

Q. First, who says you have to be a “foreigner”? I have found it surprisingly easy to become a part of every local community I’ve lived in. People are people wherever you go and you already know about people.

I am not adamant that everyone leave the US. However, if YOU personally feel it is to your benefit to do so, you should. Family and friends? What I advocate is that rather than everyone going down the tubes together, that you get yourself out, show the way and provided a soft landing for others to come later if they feel the need.

With regard to property, well a lot of Jews felt they should stay in Germany to protect their assets. Most ended up with neither their property nor their lives. If that seems a big overly dramatic or unlikely in your “free” country, okay, how about just the property. What guarantee do you have you will be allowed to keep it? The answer is none. In the US everything you own can be taken by the USG via eminent domain or executive order. Ditto for most other advanced western countries.

Consider the monkey trap. You bore a whole in a gourd, basket or whatever, that is just big enough to admit a monkey’s paw. You tie the gourd to a tree. Then you put a banana, sweets or whatever the monkey likes to eat, inside. When the monkey grabs the banana and tries to pull his hand out, he cannot, because his fist is now too large. When you approach the trapped monkey, you can simply throw a net over him. Right up until the net drops, he could easily escape simply by releasing the banana. Don’t trade your freedom for the illusion that you can hang onto your things.

Q. You’ve commented that a lot of reasons for not wanting to leave the U.S. aren’t real reasons at all. People are either just afraid of change or they’ve gotten a wildly distorted idea of what some other country is like via the media (e.g. Mexico is nothing but violent drug lords from border to border). What would you like to say to these people?

A. You have to be true to yourself. If you are simply afraid of the unknown, drop the rationalizations and admit the truth. Then if you still want to get out, make the unknown known and base your decision on facts, not dark fantasies.

To get the facts, turn your TV OFF. Do not read newspapers nor Department of State warnings. Instead, there are two things you should do.

First, go on line and look for expat blogs and mailing lists in the countries you are considering. There you will get the day-to-day reality from people who are living it. Sign up for the lists. ASK QUESTIONS.

Second, if at all possible, visit one or more of your target countries. The longer the visit, the better, but anything is better than nothing. Talk to expats, but be sure to talk to locals as well. Don’t know the language? You will probably find English-speaking locals who will fall all over themselves to talk to you in English (yes, really). You should also learn polite and inquiry phrases such as “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “good evening,” “how do you say?” (accompanied with a pointed finger), “do you speak English?” and of course the all important, “where is the bathroom?”

Q. Some people say, “Yeah, I’ll bet millions of people in Europe talked just like that when others were starting to up and leave. They were just making excuses for not wanting to take a risk.” Others say, “Sure, but back then there was someplace to go for genuine freedom. Now there isn’t.” Your comment?

A. The biggest lie in the world is “My country, (fill in the blank) is the freest country in the world. It says so right here in the government Cliff Notes.” Understand this, there are two “freedoms” in the world — theoretical and practical. Constitutions are theoretical, but as you already know, they are honored more in the breach than in the observance. Practice is what really happens in the street. Given a choice, I always choose freedom in practice rather than theory.


* In practice even the assumption that the US can do anything it wants is false. The Vietnamese kicked the US’ ass and the ragtag people’s army of Afghanistan is doing the same, just as it did to the Macedonians, British and Soviets before them.


For further information, you may contact Sandy at: ssandfort at galtsgulchchile dot com.


  1. Woody
    Woody February 14, 2013 3:39 am

    Hmmm….I went to the Galt’s Gulch Chile web site. It sounds like an ad for a timeshare in Florida. As a dedicated rural hermit the image it painted is not at all appealing. A guarded community gate!! UGH! Guarding against what? If I were seriously considering a move to a foreign country Gault’s Gulch would not be on the list of places I’d go.

  2. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 4:14 am

    Well, a gated community — anywhere — wouldn’t be my choice either, Woody. Even if I could afford it. But I’m curious about why you’d focus on that.

  3. Woody
    Woody February 14, 2013 4:50 am

    It seems to me that expatriation would be for the purpose of being more free. I personally don’t see a gated community as an improvement in personal freedom. Also wondering, if expats are so warmly welcomed, why a guarded community would be necessary or desirable? Galt’s Gulch Chile just seems like the worst argument I’ve seen for expatriation. Maybe I just need more coffee this morning. 🙂

  4. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2013 5:13 am

    And too, I’ve studied the history of Chile, and I don’t think it’s stable enough in modern times to expect that it will leave GGCP alone.

    While many reasons for not leaving the U.S. may sound like rationalization to those who have left, instead it may be facing reality for any given individual’s situation.

  5. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2013 5:38 am

    Besides – I’d hate to lose all those good libertarians in one “swell foop” if the Chilean (or any) government/organization came after them. I think an individual would have a better chance of ‘hiding’ or being left alone if he assimilated into a foreign community by himself.

  6. KenK
    KenK February 14, 2013 6:32 am

    Nothing personal against your friend Claire but I wish all these ex-pats would just get gone already and leave the rest of us alone. I get the distinct impression that a lot of these professional ex-pats are actually real estate developers looking for an new angle. Like with the sex tourism, eco tours, medical tourism, and that ilk. This guy is on his fifth country he says? What happened with the other four?
    I’d rather have a cold damp teepee or a crappy old house trailer in the woods of Michigan or the wasteland of some western desert where I can blend in and live on the sly because I know the customs and culture than be the odd ball foreigner somewhere always on the look out for La Migra or vulnerable to being shook down for bribes. Remember the Jon McAfee thing a few months ago?

  7. just waiting
    just waiting February 14, 2013 6:43 am

    I’ve read AS a few times, but I don’t recall the chapter where Rand writes about Galt’s Gulch having “championship-caliber golf course, community clubhouses, tennis facilities, spa and fitness centers, hiking trails, horse facilities and trails, vineyards, underground storage facilities, downtown main street shopping, farmer’s market, 24-hour guard-gated security and many others.”

    Maybe that part was cut from the printings I’ve read, in the interest of keeping the book short? 😉

  8. A.G.
    A.G. February 14, 2013 6:48 am

    Interesting. Thanks for posting. These days it only makes sense to have at least one home outside the US.

  9. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 6:54 am

    Question for Sandy: In the emails we exchanged before this Q&A you mentioned a gun-rights issue that illustrates the difference between theoretical freedom and actual. I didn’t want to make the Q&A longer by asking about that then, but I am curious.

    Care to elaborate?

  10. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 7:11 am

    Why are so many comments being focused on the Galt’s Gulch Chile community? It was mentioned only as part of Sandy’s expat credentials in a post that is so much broader.

    Far as I’m concerned the GGC is 1) just another libertarian vaporware community project until it proves itself otherwise and 2) intended for rich folk, not thee and me. A minor concern.

    But everybody seems to want to focus on the GGC as if somehow finding that one thing objectionable justifies tossing out the entire idea of moving offshore.

  11. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 7:16 am

    A.G. — Thank you for the small voice of reason.

    Although I’m far from personally advocating “going expat,” I’m stunned at the reflexive way that our usually thoughtful, open-minded Commentariat rejects the idea out of hand.

    I’ve got no problem with anybody who wants to stay put. I might end up doing exactly that. But holy jumping SWAT-team, people. These are dangerous times — and I’m hearing a lot of purely knee-jerk reactions from people who are just looking for reasons to reject the entire rest of the world as being an unsuitable place to live.

  12. Woody
    Woody February 14, 2013 7:31 am

    Claire, Sorry for that. I actually think that leaving the country is probably a good idea for some. I have several people close to me who are doing that, and I approve. I have earlier commented on why I will not be doing it but I don’t think I rejected the concept out of hand (or at least I didn’t mean to). Regarding the GGC comment; the ad just seemed out of place in a post trying to encourage emigration for the sake of increased freedom. Kind of like a tick on a dog.

  13. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 7:31 am

    Read the Second Amendment. It recognizes your right to arm yourself and it forbids the government from infringing on that right. Pretty clear, isn’t it? So that is the theory. I will not belabor the point about how that right is NOT honored in just about everywhere in America.

    In Panama, on the other hand, the right to keep and bear arms is considered a “privilege.” Yet in practice, any Panamanian citizen or legal resident can get a permit to own a gun. That permit automatically allows the hold to not only own a gun, but to carry it concealed, without any further licensing. As a result, every Panamanian I know who would tell me, says they own and often carry guns. So in Panama vs. the US. practice trumps theory.

    Some variation of this theme exists in most of Latin America. And whether or not the right or privileged is recognized by their governments, it is recognized by the people. They obtain and carry guns with or without government approval.

  14. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal February 14, 2013 7:45 am

    Where would a completely broke fellow like me, who couldn’t even afford the official permission slips to get across the “border”, go?

    Should I sell my guns to pay for the trip? And then what? I could sleep in the jungle, I suppose. But I’m not really familiar enough with the local edible plants or local survival quirks, and I’m not sure I’d trust my life to information in books/online for that.

    I’m averse to “official” scrutiny. I have no interest in “applying” for a passport, or going through the TSA’s gate rape. Sure, if things get really bad, that scrutiny could come knocking rather than waiting for me to come submit myself to it. But in that case, maybe it would be best to just make my stand there.

    If I had money, I would certainly consider a second home in Galt’s Gulch Chile. (It would still be better than where I live now- even though my nearest neighbors here are libertarian, with some Tea Party tendencies.) I don’t think I would be interested in having that be my primary home. But my first choice would always be a cabin far from the nearest neighbor.

  15. Mic
    Mic February 14, 2013 7:55 am

    When I was younger I was totally open to going ex-pat. Now as I get older and my roots get deeper it becomes more a hard decision to make, but having said that I am open to it.

    One question I have is the friendliness or lack thereof of firearms in these countries. Shooting, hunting, shooting sports have become an important part of my life and I would not want to give that up.

    While I write that I realize the 2nd Amendment is under a frontal assault by Obama and his gun grabbing goons, but even so for now anyway I can still do what I want regarding guns in this country and I am not so sure about others.

  16. Karen
    Karen February 14, 2013 8:00 am

    I tend to think that this decision isn’t as much about facts as it is about personalities. I have little or no taste for adventure, and expatriation sounds a lot like adventure to me. So, I guess I’m one of those knee jerk folks. I just don’t want to. Talk until the cows come home and the bottom line is that I just don’t want to. Nothing about it sounds good to me. But that’s just me.

    The thing about this Living Freedom is that it isn’t one size fits all. Most of my friends think that our living 4 miles off road in the National Forest 40 miles from town and 65 miles from city is it’s own form of insane expatriation. Wherever you are, life has challenges. The freedom part is that I get to choose which challenges, sacrifices and adventures best fit who I am and the life I want.

  17. Matt, another
    Matt, another February 14, 2013 8:05 am

    Check out this young man who has a very different perspective on being an “expat.” Patrick Joseph LaLonde Falterman has a FB presence and has had a website or two. has been retired but it is available in archive form. Lots of interesting and fun reading.

    I don’t see the concept of a gated community in a foreign country as modern or innovative. It is as modern as the middle ages and serves the same purpose. It keeps the population in at night and undesirables out at night and day. In the modern sense it will keep out the poor and locals as well. I instinctively don’t like walled cities. Remember the Warsaw Ghetto? Historically they are fun to lay seige to and once the walls are breached often become a killing ground for the population. Not for me, I like to roam.

    I wonder why when the talk comes to Expat it seems to primarily focus on south/central America? There are communities of Americans in various Asian countries that are welcome and healthy. Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Thailand to just name a few. All those countries are cheap, easy to get to (air flight) and have lots and lots of jungle to get lost in as well as big cities and vibrant economies.

  18. just waiting
    just waiting February 14, 2013 8:16 am

    Claire, Sandy, sorry if it seemed I was dissing GGC. It was not my intent.

    Sandy, thanks for your insights. I do have a question about money. You mention getting away from the USD and into local currencies. I’m retired, and the pittance of a pension I get is paid by a US entity in USD. I don’t have a lot saved, so that check is my sustenance. Belize will take me tax free if I agree to have my checks deposited directly into a Belizian bank each month, but if something happens to the USD or the pension entity, I’m screwed. In country I have my long established networks and resources, and if the dollar fails I’ll be in the same boat as my neighbors. If I ex-pat, and the dollar fails, what might you see happening then? I can’t really expect to enter the workforce in a foriegn land at my age.

    Your thoughts on retirees and pensions that are paid in USD would be most appreciated?

  19. just waiting
    just waiting February 14, 2013 8:42 am

    And if I can bother you with one more topic?

    You mention becoming a part of the community in the countries you moved to. I’m going to assume you’re fairly friendly and outgoing. But many of the Commentariat seem to be like me, hermitic and private folks. We have communities and networks more out of survival necessity than the need for human interaction.

    Can you discuss being an ex-pat hermit?

  20. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 8:56 am

    Hi “just waiting,” my interview was about expatriation, not Galt’s Gulch Chile. It is one solution and it will work for some people, but there is a world of other expat options. If you have a pension, it will go very much further in much of Latin America and Asia. It also qualifies you for residency in most places. If you trust the US dollar, leave it in a local bank in a USD account. If you do not trust the dollar, convert your pension payments into whatever currency or asset you prefer. Most banks outside of the US offer accounts in several national currencies. In any case, get as much of your money and other outside of the States as possible. The more you have out, the less they can steal.

  21. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 9:03 am

    Expat hermits do exist. I am NOT outgoing, but I am friendly. I’m in my cave pretty much 24/7. I do not eschew social interaction, just keep it at a pretty low level. However, I take the bus, buy food in the local market, deal with tradespeople, etc. THAT is considered being a good neighbor in all the countries where I have lived. Good fences make good neighbors. As an expat, basically all you really have to do to get along with the locals is to say “buenos dias” and not be an arrogant gringo pr*ck.

  22. Pat
    Pat February 14, 2013 9:48 am

    I don’t think these are knee-jerk reactions. Many of us have thought about it for months or years, and have arrived at some answers and/or determination of what we plan to do (though still may be open to ideas, depending on circumstances that arise).

    GGCP was the example (and link) given as a place to ex-pat. The response (in my case) was “no planned community” – and I question it would work anyway: jealous or bullying locals often react to what they don’t understand. Foreign people in a group are more threatening than one alone, and GGCP would be the ‘foreigner’ there.

    I sometimes have to remind myself that Galt’s Gulch was _fiction_. I doubt Rand herself would have lived there. There is no perfect community, and no perfect political environment (and no such thing as a NON-political environment, even in Libertopia). If we are – individually – to find some contentment, we have to make it ourselves, and should get on with it.

    Yes, I am afraid of where the U.S. is headed, and I am afraid for my family. But I can’t change their course, and can only do what is comfortable for me. Being a ‘foreigner’ is not comfortable for me at my age.

  23. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 14, 2013 10:12 am

    “In practice even the assumption that the US can do anything it wants is false. ”

    Maybe some are forgetting this. No matter what “laws” are passed, or how hard the federal (or any other) government tries to control people… they are not omnipotent. They do not have limitless resources. They don’t have the cooperation and good will of most of the people either…neither in the US or much of anywhere else. In some places it’s better than others, but even in California, lots of people I know personally don’t actually run into statist hell on a daily basis.

    Seems to me that self ownership, self responsibility, being a good neighbor, adhering strictly to the law of non-aggression, along with active noncompliance and – when necessary – active resistance to tyranny of any sort… all these are the only way to live free no matter where you are on earth. Or in the universe.

    I want to “ex-pat” to the stars, myself.

  24. Latigo Morgan
    Latigo Morgan February 14, 2013 10:15 am

    I’ve dabbled in the ex-pat lifestyle since I was a kid. My dad did a lot of work overseas. I’m certainly not averse to visiting various countries and cultures, but my home is here – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    Currently, my little brother is working in Vietnam. He loves it there. He feels a lot more freedom in that communist country than he had in Seattle. He said he hardly ever sees any cops and nobody hassles him. However; the corruption among government officials is such that it is difficult to undertake new ventures without the right “connections”.

    That’s a pretty damning testament to the state of this country.

  25. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 10:17 am

    Kent, you asked, “Where would a completely broke fellow like me, who couldn’t even afford the official permission slips to get across the “border”, go?”

    First, let me offer a little Freedom Fighter Philosophy: Pick your battles carefully. Nobody has infinite resources so pick the battles you can win and let go of the others. My guess is you have a state-issued drivers license and state-issued plates on your vehicle. When it comes to getting a passport, why is it finally “this far and no further”? With a plantation pass… excuse me passport, you can get out of Dodge and into someplace else. Without that, your options are very limited (though never zero).

    Once you get out of the country, how can a “broke guy” make money? Lots of ways, but I am not going to write a book here about it. (However, I am working on a book about an ingenious yet fairly simple way (ways actually) to bug out. In it will be a section about making money in other countries without any sort of “make-money-on-the-internet” hooey. BTW, contrary to popular belief, some countries, such as Chile, have no problem with employers hiring foreign workers. (I will ask Claire to let you know when the book comes out.

  26. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 14, 2013 10:41 am

    As I said before I have no problems with anyone who wants to bail.

    However I am very doubtful of the predictions that going expat are inherently any safer than staying put. When things go bad, the last thing you want to be is a despised minority, or a minority that can be cast that way when the ruling class is looking for scapegoats.

    The fact is, we cannot read the future. It MAY be safer in some countries than others. It MAY be safer in some parts of the US than others. We just have to make our best guess. And one can’t live a real life by being concerned about safety only. Hell, even posting here could be unsafe.

    Some people don’t go expat because they are afraid of the unknown. And some don’t go expat because they are not afraid of the known. Fuck the government, and all the parasites in it.

  27. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 11:35 am

    “GGCP was the example (and link) given as a place to ex-pat.”

    I see that I probably created a wrong impression by putting Sandy’s mini-bio and that link at the top of the piece, rather than tucked discreetly below.

    The link was not intended as an advertisement, an endorsement, or even a suggestion of a place to “go expat.” I intended it only as part of Sandy’s credentials. I’ve got no connection to GGC and would never recommend a community — until one actually existed and had a track record.

    Anyhow, whatever anybody decides to do or not do, I’m glad to see the discussion angling away from GGC and focusing on the broader picture. Thank you all for that.

  28. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 11:58 am

    I said I was not going to debate, but I will have to challenge some wild assumption. Paul wrote: “When things go bad, the last thing you want to be is a despised minority.” Holy-moley! Where did THAT come from? I do not suggest relocating to Pakistan. Americans are generally like a lot in all countries I have seen. The US government, not so much.

  29. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 12:00 pm

    Pardon the weird grammar and such. I have been carrying on simultaneous conversations all day. I am distracted. :o)

  30. Mara
    Mara February 14, 2013 12:30 pm

    I am a fifty something single woman and have seriously looked into becoming an expat (Ecuador or Panama). I am mostly self-reliant and have moved several times far from family to do what I love doing in a more temperate environment, I am not AFRAID of change! I speak passable Spanish and have truly enjoyed assimilating into different cultures in my youth, but I will not be moving south of the border soon.
    The locals I have met have been wonderful and generous for the most part. But from a sociological standpoint, women are second class citizens in the ‘machismo’ Latin society. Rape and abuse, both familial and not, is a huge and under-reported phenomena so I, as a single woman, feel an added burden of ‘niggling’ concern for my own well-being. I am not going to give up my lifestyle of living simply on acreage with a garden, canning jars, chickens, rabbits, a deer in the freezer, to go live in an apartment complex or gated community to be ‘safe’, while not being able to grow my own food and not eating anything that cannot be peeled, or buy bottled water because ya still don’t drink the tap water…
    I truly understand how ugly it could actually get in the US. But I am willing to keep my head down and ‘seem normal’ while I go about enjoying my sustainable lifestyle in an environment that I mostly understand and can blend into. For how long? I don’t know. And, I DO have contingency plans if SHTF, why keep your eggs in one basket? Banks in said countries still take out of country deposits.
    I step back from my planning/doing to make sure I am not being reactionary or the frog in the pot, and at this point I am confident of my choices… Ask me again in a year… ok, maybe 6 months from now. Y’all may be getting updates from Ecuador!

  31. Pre-press veteran
    Pre-press veteran February 14, 2013 12:58 pm

    Well, mobility certainly has it’s tactical advantages. But when someone suggested to me, a few months before the election that the “smart move” was to ex-pat, I’ll admit I was shocked at the idea.

    It seems so extreme; sort of a “never look back” kind of thing. (And it doesn’t escape me, that as eager as some in the US are, atm, to welcome immigration… a time could arrive when the borders could close up like a steel drum.) I don’t think I’m ready for that. And I know my hubs resists any travel whatsoever, unless he can drive there. Even having a BOL is problematic – because of travel & trying to take care of two places at one time.

    So I’m kind of resigned to making the best of things where I am. For better or worse. I can definitely think of places that will be a lot worse off than where I am right now. Of course, if there’s ever an Atlantic tsunami aimed at the East Coast, with a 20 ft or better wave… well, it was nice knowin’ ya! LOL.

  32. just waiting
    just waiting February 14, 2013 1:20 pm

    Thanks for your answers Sandy. Moving out of country is an ongoing discussion in my house, so I truly do appreciate your thoughts.

    I tried looking at some ex-pat blogs like one commenter suggested, but the folks who write them don’t seem to be folks anything like me (us).

    So some more questions, if I may: When you first moved to a new land, what were the most serious hardships you faced, and how difficult was it overcoming those hardships? And, did you ever experience any outright hostility about being a newcomer/american? Thanks again

  33. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 1:56 pm

    “I tried looking at some ex-pat blogs like one commenter suggested, but the folks who write them don’t seem to be folks anything like me (us).”

    I’ve experienced the same thing, JW. One of the things that really puts me off re some expat blogs and many “retire to _______” sites is the emphasis on how you can be some sort of lord of the manor: “On an income of just $2,000 a month you can have a 4,000-square-foot house with a maid, a cook, and a gardener!” That sort of thing.

    I’m sure Sandy would point out that that’s not so terrible — that the maid, cook, and gardner would be glad to have the work. But that thinking grosses me out on such a visceral level that it doesn’t matter how anybody explains it. To me, that’s an “ugly American” perspective.

    Still, I’ve been on some expat listservs and visited some expat forums that are very different than that — and much more down to earth.

    In one heavily expat community in Panama, expats and locals have combined to build what they say is the first free lending library in Central America (don’t know if that’s true). That’s pretty neat, I think.

  34. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 2:04 pm

    Costa Rica–Zero hardships. Taught English, wrote for a US investment publication, had a girlfriend, had monthly parties for my students, expats and travelers.

    Singapore–Zero hardships. Had a great apartment in Bukit Timah, took my girlfriend with me, worked on an investment project, appeared in a Chinese-language TV mini-series, spent some time in the Malaysian Cameron Highlands.

    Panama–Zero hardships. Currently living inside the crater of an old volcano; it is paradise and I will miss it. Even more, I will miss local and international friends (however, they are all invited to visit me in Chile.)

    Hostilities–Never, ever experienced any hostilities for being new or an American. In fact, the opposite has always been true. People enjoy approaching me to use their English and discuss world events. NEWSFLASH: Most people in the world respect, admire and genuinely like Americans. If they hate anything it is the US government, but even then they do not take it out on Americans. I wish more of my fellow Americans were as magnanimous.

  35. Jorge
    Jorge February 14, 2013 3:39 pm

    Funny, Sandy and I share three countries in common, although in a different order. Panama was the first foreign country I lived in. Singapore the fourth, Costa Rica the fifth and current.

    Very few problems for me as well, everywhere I have lived and traveled. In fact the two biggest, and scariest, problems I have encountered were in Fort Stockton, TX and Kansas City, MO.

    There are many ways to make a living. I have been making one outside of the US since 1989, longer if you count the six to 10 month overseas consulting gigs I had before then.

    As far as “hardships” go, different people will have different views. A lot of people have a real hard time adapting to the local food. If you insist on having Triscuits(tm) (for example), I understand they cost triple here. So food can be a real hardship for some. Never was for me. Some people get very frustrated that they cannot understand, and worse cannot make themselves understood, to the locals. I have a sense of humor about these things. When it becomes clear that I have totally miscommunicated I usually end up laughing and learning. There are other areas as well, but basically, if you have a sense of humor and a flexible approach to life, no hardships.

    Likewise no hostilities. As Sandy says, often the exact opposite. I can’t count the times people have asked me if I need help when I appeared to be lost. All over the world.

    Concerning retirees and pensions that are paid in USD , this one can be tough. The problem is that we do not know exactly how the USD will collapse or when. If your pension gives you legal status then it will continue to do so even if it has become worthless. If you count on you pension to live you may be in trouble, but that will be true (and may be doubly true) in the US as well. Where ever your are get yourself another source of income. If you are outside the US get it in the local currency. OTOH, if the downward path is similar to the slow and meandering one followed by Japan then you will be OK for quite a while, both in the US and out (as far as money goes). The other important thing in this context is community. If you have a good support network then this will help you through any problem, anywhere you are.

  36. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 4:19 pm

    Jorge, I’m from Kansas City, Missouri. I so miss going into the Argentine district and buying Perez tortillas. What happened to you there?

  37. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 4:22 pm

    Thanks for adding another voice of experience, Jorge!

    And many dittos on having a sense of humor. When I was in Panama three years ago my friend and I spent some time on an island in the Kuna Yala where only one person (one of the village chiefs) spoke any English — and I had to grab most of my Spanish out of a guidebook. Yet somehow we all managed — even when I had to give a rather elaborate apology to one of the chief’s daughters for accidentally offending her. Involved liberal use of the guidebook, many ridiculous gestures, and quite a bit of humbling myself physically before her imperiousness.

    I had to keep reminding myself that the English word “embarrassed” would translate in Spanish to “pregnant” (“Don’t say that, don’t say that, don’t say that!”).

    But we got it and she forgave me.

  38. Jorge
    Jorge February 14, 2013 5:02 pm

    @Sandy, I was working on contract and had driven there from NYC. 2 cops decided I ran a red light, when I declined to take their hints 2 more cops showed up and suggested that my car was stolen and my drivers license (no picture in those days) was fake. I spent the night in jail before a lawyer got me out. Fort Stockton was worse. But I am alive and I learned, a lot.

    Yeah embarazada is one of the words my wife had to tell herself over and over again not to use 🙂

    Sandy, don’t use “cajeta” in Chile. It means something very different in el Cono Sur than it does in Mexico/Central America.

  39. Kurtz
    Kurtz February 14, 2013 5:21 pm

    I have a quick question regarding this…

    Say I merely wanted to go to a place where I could feel at peace. Didn’t want a house or a whole lot of material goods. Maybe some nice tobacco every once in a while. Do any of the farms or plantations down south offer board to their workers? Is such a setup feasible or safe? Would it be odd to see an expat come and work in agriculture as opposed to something that might have a higher pay grade?

    As for personal defense (and this is a bit of an unhealthy obsession of mine) what manner of weaponry could I expect to have access to? I’d be more than content to have a decent machete if that’s all there was to be had. Just as long as I had something to defend myself with (I have this preposterous notion of fighting for my life: I don’t care if I die, as long as I die resisting the sons-of-guns trying to out me!)

    I like gardening. I love tobacco. I know it would be hard work, but the current place I’m in leaves me feeling…uneasy. Being away from my friends would…well it would be miserable. But if I could find a place on this earth where I can attain some semblance of contentment that that’s as much I could hope for I suppose.

    I’ve been reading Treasure of the Sierra Madre recently. Perhaps such notions of being a stranger in a strange land have gone to my head. So my apologies if this all seems tangential or out of the blue.

  40. jed
    jed February 14, 2013 5:26 pm

    I suspect I’d mostly do OK as an ex-pat, but having to kow-tow to the cheiftain or his daughter wouldn’t sit well with me, so I’d have to avoid that environment.

    Things is, when the poo hits the rotor, we’re going to become ex-pats in our own country anyway, in a sense. So maybe in some unimportant official sense, the U.S. will still exist, e.g. as a country recognized by the UN. But there will balkanization, splinter groups, city-states, etc. I suppose that getting yourself sorted as an ex-pat in a well-planned fashion in Central or Southern America, or Asia, could be preferable to finding yourself suddenly in the middle of the Federation of Flyover States, but maybe not, and a lot of the same things will end up being important.

  41. jed
    jed February 14, 2013 5:35 pm

    Cajeta sounds pretty good to me. Yeah, I found the other definition. Reminds of the websites I’ve found describing how various hand gestures are taken differently around the country, and other customs which will trip up the Gringo abroad. For example, we think nothing here of exposing the soles of our feet towards another person.

  42. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 6:35 pm

    Kurtz, every place is different. That is why you have to do your homework which may include a visit. You asked, “Do any of the farms or plantations down south offer board to their workers? Is such a setup feasible or safe? Would it be odd to see an expat come and work in agriculture as opposed to something that might have a higher pay grade?”

    Why not shoot a bit higher? Agricultural land is quite cheap in much of Latin America. Incorporate a small farming company, buy some land and hire yourself to manage it. Or sell your agricultural consulting services to locals or expats with farms. That could be real or just a wink and a nod in some cases. Being a gringo gives you status in LatAm. In many cases, it would be a feather in the cap of your employer.

    If you would be content with a machete, you would be in luck most anywhere. Outside of cities, people carrying machetes down the street do not get a second look. With guns, things are a little more complicated, but almost always doable.

    For what it’s worth, my bet is you have the personality type that could not only hack expatriation, but would thrive. Good luck if you give it a go.

  43. Claire
    Claire February 14, 2013 6:58 pm

    Jed — “I suspect I’d mostly do OK as an ex-pat, but having to kow-tow to the cheiftain or his daughter wouldn’t sit well with me, so I’d have to avoid that environment.”

    Well, you’ll probably never have to worry about that environment. It’s a pretty obscure one. Until recently (apparently) the rule was no non-Kuna in the village overnight. FWIW, the chief was a nice guy; very proud of his heritage, but very down to earth. But hooboy, those Kuna women can be imperious, chief’s daughters or no. Was actually pretty funny; I towered over them by a foot but they could make me feel sooooo small when they had a mind to.

    Great senses of humor, though. That’s another thing that came across despite the language barriers.

    Wouldn’t even remotely want to live in that part of the world. But even within one small country like Panama there are a lot of different environments and cultures to choose from.

  44. Vrsovice Rebel
    Vrsovice Rebel February 14, 2013 7:06 pm

    Another sometime expat chiming in here. The notion of freedom in theory versus freedom in practice was a constant theme of the year I spent living in Prague, a magnificent city to which I hope to return as soon as possible. Besides the fact that the Czech Republic is very “free” from a theoretical perspective, it was also a practically free locale. For instance:

    1: Drugs- Small amounts of -everything- are legal. To wit:
    15gr of dried cannabis (or 5 plants of any size)
    5gr of hashish
    40 “magic” mushrooms (caps only or caps and stems)
    5 Peyote cacti
    5 tablets of LSD
    4 tablets of Ecstasy
    2gr of amphetamines
    2gr of Methamphetamine
    1.5gr of Heroin
    5 Coca plants
    1gr refined Cocaine
    Possession of amounts greater than this, but obviously intended for personal/non-commercial use is subject to a fine equivalent in both amount and seriousness to a parking ticket.

    2: Guns- A licensing scheme does exist. However, licenses for collecting, sport-shooting, and self-defense/CCW are all “Shall Issue” upon proof that a person is not a known lunatic, has not been convicted or served time for a serious crime within the past 3 years, and can hit the broad side of a barn from -inside- the barn. Hunting licenses require a written test on local wildlife and safe hunting practices. However, all of this is strictly pro-forma and regarded as more of a legalistic nuisance to appease pencil-pushers in Brussels than as anything the Czechs or their government actually put any stock in. The Government officially recommends CCW for self-defense (and provides a list of other recommended weapons for those unwilling to carry a gun, such as knives, tazers, gas-guns, etc), and brags that their liberal gun laws are responsible for one of the lowest rates of violent crime in Europe. Machineguns, SBRs, etc are all available on collector’s, sport-shooter’s, and self-defense licenses. A self-defense (Category E) license is also an unrestricted CCW- the only place where it is illegal to carry a firearm is at a political demonstration. Carry your Skorpion into the courthouse, a school, or on the train: nobody gives a rip.

    Taxes: Personal incomes are taxed at a flat 15%.

    Corruption: Genial and universal. Getting into serious trouble requires a very serious offense; most stuff which doesn’t involve theft or damage to property, or injury to a person (and sometimes it depends on the severity of the injury) can be bribed or talked away. Cops are easy to get along with and usually unobtrusive.

    Snitches: Having lived under both the Communists and the Fascists, the Czechs -loathe- informers. You wanna destroy someone socially in the CR? Call them a snitch, then stick a fork in ’em- they’re done.

    Government: Usually very weak, tends to be split between coalitions which don’t get along very well which results in very agreeable gridlock. For seven months while I was there, the country had -no- Federal government due to this kind of situation. Everyone got along fine, and my pub-mates considered paying politicians to stay home a very good deal.

    Prepping: Nearly universal. Rural folks raise every imaginable crop and critter, and urban folks buy houses and cottages in the country so they can do the same. Prague empties out at the start of mushroom, apple, and pig-killing seasons so everybody can go home to the country and stock up. Czechs were horrified and amazed to hear that Americans don’t do the same.

    On top of all this, I found the Czechs to be amazingly warm, easygoing, splendid people. They take a while to get to know a person, but once they’ve decided they like you- you are -golden-. The people I met opened their homes, their hearts, and a couple of times even their pockets for me. The hospitality was rough-hewn magnificence, their generosity had to be seen to be believed, and their freedom of mind, word, and deed was a revelation. I had ten times more culture shock on my return to the US than I experienced over there.

    And yet, in spite of this, people still seem to think the CR is a crumbling Communist wasteland run by the KGB, infested with horrid diseases, rife with crime, and hostile to foreigners. Insane.

  45. Mic
    Mic February 14, 2013 7:30 pm

    @Sandy, I am guessing my question is case by case specific, but I would love your thoughts. If I had a nice gun collection would it be difficult to keep or move around with it? I guess as I get more into shooting and also get older parting with my toys seems much less palatable.

  46. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 14, 2013 7:56 pm

    Mic, you are correct, gun laws and practice can only be answered on a case-by-case bases. Having said that, while “moving around” with a gun collection might be difficult, once you have residency someplace, you might be good to go. Most countries have some special provisions for rare or antique gun collections. However, if by “collection” you just mean a whole bunch of guns, well, it may depend on the guns. Some places have some restrictions on military weapons or autoloaders (semi-automatics), but no problem with revolvers. Some have certain caliber restrictions or other distinctions between weapons.

    My advice is, pick the country or countries you are otherwise interested in and start doing your research about what is really happening on the ground with regard to gun ownership, carry and so forth. The laws may be of some help, but you will probably get a better idea about practice by contacting expats (blogs, newsletters, etc.), local lawyers and local gun dealers.

  47. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 15, 2013 10:46 am

    “Paul wrote: “When things go bad, the last thing you want to be is a despised minority.” Holy-moley! Where did THAT come from?”

    From history.

    I agree, Americans are generally liked pretty much NOW. Notice though, I said “When things go bad.” When the dollar crashes and brings the rest of the world economy down with it, we will be in a different kind of reality. People go hungry and anything can happen, including a search for scapegoats. It’s irresponsible to simply dismiss this possibility.

    The other thing to think about here is the desire to be the last man on the lifeboat. Guess what, you are not safe if you arrive in some strange place (whether inside America or out of it) one week before the economy crashes. It needs a year or two to build up relationships within a community. Sometimes it is better to sit tight where you are.

    We have been advocating for a long time, the movement of freedom lovers to Wyoming (google “Free State Wyoming”). It is still a good idea but the “last man on the lifeboat” problem applies there as well. I think Wyoming will be a lot safer place to be than Chicago. Whether it will be safer than Mexico is another question. For someone fluent in Spanish, maybe not.

  48. KenK
    KenK February 15, 2013 10:58 am

    How do you weed out the smooth talking doomsday entrepreneurs from people who really have something to offer? I’d think a little cabin on the Pacific shore of Canada along with a bolt action rifle or three would be a hell of a lot cheaper and easier to arrange than fleeing to some banana republic or island in Asia that’s one coup away from deporting you and the rest of the gringos when your money runs out or becomes worthless. Any thoughts on that?

  49. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 15, 2013 12:48 pm

    The last two posters seem to know a lot about things they have never experienced nor have given any historical evidence for. I am not here to debate the uninformed or misinformed. Get your facts straight and then we can talk.

    I find it interesting that 100% of the posters who dismiss expatriation out of hand have never lived abroad.* On the other hand, 100% of the posters who have lived abroad (and therefore know what they are talking about from first-hand experience), report positive or very positive experiences. Why do you suppose that is?

    One aside that is relevant here. During the US government’s violent invasion of Panama to get THEIR boy, Noriega, his “Dingbats”** were searching out gringos to beat and imprison. They had a hard time of it though, because so many ordinary Panamanians took the gringos in and hid them from the Dingbats. If you haven’t been able to flush your toilet for over a week, how willing would you be to take in people whose government caused your misery?

    * I will leave it as an exercise for the student to figure out why tourism and military service abroad don’t count.

    ** Noriega created a cadre of thugs called the “Dignity Brigade” to harass and beat up opposition leaders and their supporters. The gringos and others twisted that name into the Dingbats.

  50. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 15, 2013 2:02 pm

    Well, Sandy… I lived in Mexico for a while more than 30 years ago. It was a great place to visit, but I would never even dream of going back there to live permanently. Someone else might find it wonderful, of course. I just don’t belong there.

  51. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember February 15, 2013 2:12 pm

    Vrsovice Rebel wrote. “Carry your Skorpion into the courthouse, a school, or on the train: nobody gives a rip.”

    I’ve been thinking about that all day.

    Wow, if that’s true, the place seems miles more free than any state in-between montana and texas.

    It’s kind of shocking, the czech republic , where People from montana and texas can go to be free?

    Man, that’s just bizarre to write that thought.

    Vrsovice Rebel wrote. “people still seem to think the CR is a crumbling Communist wasteland run by the KGB, infested with horrid diseases, rife with crime, and hostile to foreigners.”

    I am going to have to look into this place a bit more. The cold war era did a number on People, that’s for sure. Er, still is.

    I despise few things more than having to remove my belt, empty my pockets for inspection, and leave my 2″ pocket knife at home so I can go to the forced job of jury duty and other stupid reasons for going through the metal detector to go into the court-house.

    Also, Sandy Sandfort, thanks for the effort and patience. It’s been really interesting reading this thread.

    I’ve read in numerous places online that Panama requires a drug test and a physical to get a carry or ownership permit, is that true?

    I despise those tests, not too mention they are kind of gross.
    I’ve yet to read about a latin american country doing forced blood draws at check-point Charlies like they do in the unitedstate, have you encountered anything remotely like that?

  52. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 15, 2013 2:16 pm

    MamaLiberty, where did you live in Mexico and how long did you live there? What of aspects of living there (more than 30 years ago) did you find unsatisfactory? I know some expats have difficulties, so discussion of your specific issues might be helpful to people who are contemplating expatriation.

  53. IndividualAudienceMember
    IndividualAudienceMember February 15, 2013 2:23 pm

    I was reminded of this bit while reading this thread:

    Machismo Is Dead.

    Random Thoughts Regarding Machismo, If Any

  54. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 15, 2013 2:33 pm

    IndividualAudienceMember asked, “I’ve read in numerous places online that Panama requires a drug test and a physical to get a carry or ownership permit, is that true?” I have no idea, since I never bothered. I certainly have not heard anything like that, though who knows. I do know of one funny new requirement for ownership (which always includes carry). You have to have a doctor examine you and determine if you are too non compos mentis to own a gun. A $30 visit to your dermatologist will do the trick, assuming, of course, that the dermatologist does not think you are as crazy as a bed bug. In other words, it is strictly pro forma.

    I have NEVER heard of blood draws. Hell they don’t touch you and you have to try real hard to get even eye contact. Once, a Canadian immigration Nazi was slightly brusk, but that’s it. My guess was he wasn’t getting any at home.

  55. KenK
    KenK February 15, 2013 2:46 pm

    Yeah whatever. The question was: “How do you weed out the smooth talking doomsday entrepreneurs from people who really have something to offer?”

  56. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 15, 2013 2:51 pm

    IndividualAudienceMember, I have to go with Fred on this one. The Panamanian women I know are nobody’s victim and are well represented in the professions. Some of the trappings of machismo may still be there, but I believe this is only done to protect delicate male egos. When things are important women do not take a back seat. Heck, I’m not sure they ever really did. Long ago, Latin women learned the art of leading from the rear. Now it’s just more honest.

  57. Jim Klein
    Jim Klein February 15, 2013 2:59 pm

    “I have little or no taste for adventure…”

    I’m mostly the same way, Karen, but it doesn’t matter. Unless you’re very VERY wealthy, you’re going to get adventure no matter what you do, or whether you stay or go.

    It’s not our choice any more. That’s the whole problem.

  58. Jorge
    Jorge February 15, 2013 4:53 pm

    @KenK, Not sure what your question is: What are you looking to buy?

    When I have researched a particular location before the Internet I started with the standard tourist guide books, looked for some other publications and people who had lived there, then went to visit the place.

    Pretty much the same process now, but I use the Internet, which gives us access to a vast amount of information, including the Yahoo groups, blogs, etc.

    Anyone who is trying to sell anything I take with a very big grain of salt.

    When I get to a new place, I do not make any major purchases until I have figured things out. Check the newspaper for car prices before buying one. Buy from a large established firm the first time, rent for at least a year before you buy a house, do your residency through a local lawyer, who comes recommended by former clients, buy in supermarkets so you have a baseline price when you go to the farmers market, etc.

    Basically the same way you avoid the snake oil salesmen back home.

    Does that answer your question or have I completely misunderstood?

  59. Claire
    Claire February 15, 2013 5:37 pm

    Glad you chimed in again, Jorge. I was going to answer KenK’s question by saying you separate the doomsday con-men (or the hopeless dreamers) from the real deal the same way you do it in any other endeavor; you use your common sense, your experience, your gut instincts, your research, etc. But you said it better.

  60. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau February 16, 2013 8:26 am

    “I find it interesting that 100% of the posters who dismiss expatriation out of hand have never lived abroad.*”

    I lived in Paris for a year, working for a computer company all over Europe, in Israel and even Libya. My wife is from Hong Kong so I’ve experienced that culture as well.

    I don’t know why you say I dismiss expatriation out of hand since I specifically said I don’t do that. Just because I have reservations about it (exactly like I have reservations about staying put) is not the same thing as dismissing it. I am doubtful about cheerleading, that’s all.

    It is far from controversial that minorities sometimes have problems. Armenians in Turkey, Jews in Germany, Kurds in Iraq, it’s a theme that is common in history.

    “During the US government’s violent invasion of Panama to get THEIR boy, Noriega, his “Dingbats”** were searching out gringos to beat and imprison. They had a hard time of it though, because so many ordinary Panamanians took the gringos in and hid them from the Dingbats.” This seems to prove my point rather than yours. That’s precisely the kind of thing I would want to avoid. How do you think people will react when America brings the world economy to its knees? And it ain’t just the American government; many expats will be drawing Socialist Security, one of the things that will cause the crash of the economy.

  61. Karen
    Karen February 16, 2013 9:07 am

    This sure has been a wonderful discussion! I’ve followed it closely as I did back when Vrsovice Rebel was posting his Prague experiences at TMM.

    Although I’m one of those dismissive ones, I only dismiss expatriation as an option FOR ME, and even then, I never say never. Like many things in life, some of us just aren’t suited for various activities and opportunities. However, I believe the subject is timely and valuable and we never know when the information may become necessary for any of us to know or to be able to share with others. As future challenges start arising and coming at us with greater strength and frequency, information is one of the most important resources we will all have.

    I’m grateful to Sandy, Jorge and Vrsovice Rebel for taking the time to share their experiences. As Sandy rightly surmised, I haven’t lived abroad. The longest time I’ve been outside the country in any one place has been a month, which does give a taste of the country, but that taste is the appetizer, not the meal.

  62. Old Printer
    Old Printer February 16, 2013 9:20 am

    Before jumping off a cliff and moving to a gated city in Chile (which will probably never materialize) read a little history about J. Orlin Grabbe and his connection to the Laissez Faire City project in Costa Rica.
    Atlas Shrugged was a novel, fiction, make-believe. Get it?

  63. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2013 10:01 am

    Old Printer — I don’t think anybody here is thinking about jumping off that cliff. The experiences of Laughably Fake City, Minerva, the floating-platform fraud, etc. are all very instructive. Anybody who hopes to move to a promised community established by somebody else should surely examine them all.

    Still … someday somebody’s going to succeed at creating a free community.

    And it’ll last until the cats decide not to be herded.

  64. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2013 10:03 am

    Karen — Well said! And huge thanks to Sandy, Jorge, Vrsovice Rebel, and everybody who contributed voice of experience.

  65. Woody
    Woody February 16, 2013 10:18 am

    One complication to leaving the country that I wonder about is *what do you do with your dogs?* As I explained before in another thread I intend to stay where I am for other reasons. I have four dogs that I would not be just tossing aside when they become inconvenient. Claire, should you decide to leave the country how would you deal with leaving your dogs behind?

  66. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2013 10:43 am

    Woody, that’s a question I’ve thought and thought and thought about. Like you, I wouldn’t even think of leaving them behind, but even with home-quarantine (widespread in Latin America, I gather) rather than some sort of awful lockup, the expense and complications are absolutely grim.

    For me, if I were to do this, it could only be when time has, for good or ill, solved part of the problem. I figure I could afford to take one dog with me. So nothing happens until after Robbie, who is 12 now, has left the world.

    With four? Wouldn’t even think about it!

  67. furrydoc
    furrydoc February 16, 2013 4:07 pm

    Lots of interesting discussion here. In most cases, you would not have to leave your animals behind. They can often be taken along if all the “I” are dotted and “T” crossed properly. Here is the link to the USDA web site where you can find the import requirements for various countries If you go down to the bottom you can find a listing of counties by letter of the alphabet. Choose your country, then your species. I have helped many clients move animals all over the world. The island countries seem to be the worst for getting through the regulations. It is usually doable though. The veterinarians on military bases are sometimes a good resource too. They do this paperwork all the time.

  68. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 16, 2013 5:28 pm

    Woody wrote: “Well scratch Singapore as a potential ex-pat destination.” Yeah, that protest by .05% of the population is a real deal killer. Of course, those same statistics also say that 99.95% of Singaporeans did NOT protest more foreigners. But better safe than sorry, eh Woody? I think you better stay at home and pull the covers up over your head. :o)

  69. Woody
    Woody February 16, 2013 5:46 pm

    Yeah, I already said that’s what I’m doing, and why. You seem to be a bit defensive lately. Are you selling something that people here just aren’t buying? Feelings hurt, maybe? You may have the last word.

  70. Claire
    Claire February 16, 2013 6:40 pm

    Um … if people are going to get personal with each other, I’ll have the last word(s), which will be “comment thread locked.”

    Not locking it now. It’s really been an interesting and I think worthwhile discussion and sure, people have strong feelings about this topic. But everybody breathe … breathe …

  71. Jorge
    Jorge February 16, 2013 6:58 pm

    @Paul Bonneau, & Sandy, I disagree with Sandy on this one. I have met plenty of people, American, Brits, Germans, Japanese and others that were absolutely miserable outside their home country. If you read the CostaRicaLivingList on Yahoo you will find plenty of people who live in CR and hate it, or dislike some aspect of it a lot.

    Leaving home is not for everyone. Even in the face of impending doom. Not to be morbid, but death is an option. Many commentators have effectively said that it is their choice. They face it with their eyes open. It is a valid and honorable decision, when made consciously.

    The head-in-the-sand and Pollyanna types frustrate me, but that does not apply to anyone commenting here.

    Paul, Gong Hay Fat Choy! My wife is a Cantonese speaker from Malaysia, we lived in Honk Kong for three years.

    @Woody, the article is a bit thin. Look deeper. If you read some of the Singaporean blogs, AsiaOne, and a few other publications, you will find that the focus of the protests is immigrants from the PRC. Singaporeans perceive them as their competition. Westerners in general are perceived as a good thing, because they hire Singaporeans. The prejudice works in our favor there.

    I lived in Singapore for nine years. My brother-in-law (an immigrant) still lives there. I have many friends there.

    I would only recommend Singapore only to those who want to do business above all else. It is great for that and absolutely horrible if you care about any freedom other than economic. The only way I stayed sane was by traveling out of Singapore a lot.

  72. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 16, 2013 7:24 pm

    Jorge, your views are always refreshing and usually dead bang an. I do think I need to remind you and others that I never advocated that 330,000,000 people leave the US. What I have been saying and continue to say is that expatriation is an option that should always be on the table. Those who dismiss it out of hand are only limiting themselves. In many cases, it will be a blind spot that may come back to haunt them. No matter, adults take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

    With regard to Singaporean freedom, you are right, but the same could be said for every country on earth. There are NO free countries in the world. They differ only in which freedoms they restrict and how much. So you have to go where the “the weather suites your clothes.” The things that get the Singaporean government’s panties in a twist are non-issues for me. I don’t spit on the sidewalk, fail to flush urinals, litter, commit graffiti, jump the queue, urinate in elevators, etc. (I did jaywalk in Singapore, but the coppers never got me.) So Singapore was very free for me with regarded to how I wanted to live. YMMV

  73. Laird
    Laird February 16, 2013 9:19 pm

    I’d like to add my thanks to Sandy, Jorge, Vrsovice Rebel and others for their remarks here. Expatriation is something I’ve been thinking about for a while, although I’m yet not ready to pull that trigger. (Family, property to which I’m emotionally attached, the need to make a living, etc.; all the usual reasons/excuses.) I’m not afraid of moving per se, having lived in some very different parts of the US, but the language issue does give me pause. (I had to chuckle at MamaLiberty’s comment about Mexico; I feel the same way about Boston!)

    Sandy, if you do ever write that book I’d be very interested in reading it.

  74. Pat
    Pat February 16, 2013 9:55 pm

    “There are NO free countries in the world. They differ only in which freedoms they restrict and how much.”

    And I think this is the problem facing us now in America. We (at least this group) know how America began, and what we should have become, and the freedoms that are being removed _en masse_. We are watching the distortion of our philosophy, and the removal of our rights by the politicos on a daily basis. It hurts… it frustrates… and it angers us. And it’s scary.

    Noone should be forced out of his home (or off his home base) because some two-bit, self-appointed (or pork-appointed) excuse of a “leader” – at local, state or federal level – thinks that passing laws will solve problems. We’ve never experienced our four boxes of liberty (soap, ballot, jury and ammo) being so blatantly disregarded before – disregarded and bragging about it, and challenging us to ‘like it or lump it’. We don’t know how to handle this.

    The last stance comes at the ammo box, and TPTB are now attacking that. What do we do about it? Some say stay, some say go. We each of us have to make that decision.

    This dilemma is about freedom (for ourselves and our families), and about our freedoms (which are restricted and by how much) – but it’s also about who has the right to make that decision (THEM or US), and what we choose to do about it.

  75. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 17, 2013 5:25 am

    Laird, I feel that way about most places outside of my home here in Wyoming. 🙂 I’ve never been much of a traveler, and would rather stay home than almost anything.

    Sandy, I lived in Baja, Mexico for several months. I stayed with friends who had leased land on the beach about 60kl below San Felipe. It was more of a “snowbird” colony, but there were some permanent ex-pat residents.

    The people there were very nice and we all got along well. I wound up practicing medicine the whole time, extremely illegally, since there was no medical help of any kind for at least 100kl in any direction – and that seldom reliable or competent (according to the folks who lived there). And few of the Mexican people had money to pay for it or any kind of transportation anyway.

    The Mexican people lived in such abject poverty it made my teeth hurt… and there was zero incentive for any sort of industry besides primitave fishing, since using even a net was “illegal.” Yes, many ignored that law, but the risk was real. A jealous neighbor might put some family’s breadwinner in jail for many years. And I don’t think anyone needs to be told about Mexican jails.

    The extent of the gov. corruption there is really hard for us to even imagine… and I can’t but think it’s gotten worse in 30 years.

    It’s going to have to get AWFULLY and seriously bad in Wyoming for me to even consider going anywhere else. For now, I can’t think of a better place to be. 🙂

  76. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 17, 2013 7:57 am

    MamaLiberty, you provide us with an interesting mixed bag. Perhaps I missed something, but it does not appear that you MOVED to Mexico. Sounds more like an extended vacation to me. I am intrigued by the fact that you practiced medicine “illegally.” And that the locals regularly violated the law. Again, practice trumps theory.

    Then we get to the wiggle words, “A jealous neighbor MIGHT put some family’s breadwinner in jail for many years.” (My emphasis.) Were such an unlikely scenario to occur, why wouldn’t the fisherman just pay the corrupt cop to let him go? Corrupt cops never ask more than their victims can pay. (Ask me about the Coca Cola bribe.)

    Did a “jealous neighbor” report you for practicing medicine? Did any “jealous neighbors” rat out someone who was breaking some stupid law while you were there? I bet not. Do you know why? Here’s a little gedanken experiment for you. Let’s say you are a “jealous neighbor” who lives in a small village 100 kilometers from anywhere. Your community largely survives on fishing, either directly or indirectly. Then your fisherman neighbor pisses you off for some reason. Do you (a) do nothing, (b) discuss the problem with the neighbor, adult to adult, (c) secretly poison his dog* or (d) report him to the cops? I’m betting you would go with (a), (b) or (c) but never (d) unless you are tired of living.

    Finally, I remind you that your experience visiting Mexico is 30 years out of date. You dismiss this fact with this glorious non sequitur, “The extent of the gov. corruption there is really hard for us to even imagine… and I can’t but think it’s gotten worse in 30 years.” Mexico has changed almost beyond recognition in the last three decades. Health care, education, incomes and overall standard of living have improved dramatically. Do you have any evidence that (a) corruption is worse now and (b) if so, that it has made life more difficult for Mexicans? Corruption or not, life is profoundly better now for most Mexicans.

    * This sort of action is called “baja del suelo.” It refers to a cowardly, anonymous attack against someone you know.

  77. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 17, 2013 11:12 am

    Sorry you think my reaction is “cowardly.” You asked, I told you. Yes, it’s 30 years out of date. And YES, one of the “neighbors” called the federales and one of the Mexican fishermen went to jail. As far as I know, the helpful “neighbor” was not identified, but the folks there might well have other ways to deal with it.

    I don’t remember enough details to debate it. And it was a long time ago. No, it was not a “vacation.” I lived with those people after the death of my husband for reasons that don’t enter into this discussion.

    Let’s just say that my experiences there, and my experience HERE convinces me that I don’t ever want to go back. Has nothing to do with trying to paint them in a bad light, or to discourage others if they feel differently. As I said, you asked.

  78. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 17, 2013 11:18 am

    “Do you (a) do nothing, (b) discuss the problem with the neighbor, adult to adult, (c) secretly poison his dog* ”

    Just saw the asterick and realized what you meant. I take that “cowardly” comment back. Sorry.

  79. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 17, 2013 1:09 pm

    No prob about missing the meaning of the footnote. I get misunderstood all the time. :o)

    Just one tiny note more. You wrote: “Let’s just say that my experiences there, and my experience HERE convinces me that I don’t ever want to go back.” Even if you wanted to, you can’t go back (unless you have a time machine). That Mexico is long gone. The really sorry part is that you cannot go back to the American we grew up in either. It is long dead as well. Maybe it will be reborn in Wyoming or maybe Chile or maybe everywhere, which is my most heart-felt desire (and secret prediction). In any case, keep fighting the good fight as you perceive it. You sound like good people to me.

  80. leonard
    leonard February 17, 2013 5:53 pm

    Well if it weren’t for corruption I couldn’t have brought my S.O. and two dogs back from Central America nearly as easily.

    Corruption is just a way to get around stupid laws for the most part.

  81. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 17, 2013 6:19 pm

    Bingo, Leonard!

  82. just waiting
    just waiting February 18, 2013 2:41 am

    I never thought this would such an emotional, hot button issue. Back in the 60’s, my dad’s cousin joined the Peace Corp and went expat instead of going to Nam. He lived in Laos and Cambodia for many years, married a Laotian, etc.
    After the war ended, he stayed in humanitarian aid (joined the Red Cross) and eventually moved to Africa. He and his team were the first in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Somalia, all the hot spots of genocide and human suffering. And when I say he was there first, I mean it was him who called the UN and said “These people are dying, they need help”

    I remember a conversation with my dad at the time. I asked why does Uncle Joe call Uncle John a coward and unpatriotic, just because he doesn’t want to go to war? I asked “isn’t helping people better than shooting them?” I remember the response being something about your obligation to serve your country when it called.

    I’m seeing the same thread in some of the responses here. I see the same “you don’t leave your country, especially in her time of need” attitude being expressed. Well, America has left us, we didn’t leave it. What’s left of America bears little resemblance to the America the founders fought for.

    For those of us who are still here, aren’t we but expats in our own lands?

  83. Woody
    Woody February 18, 2013 3:35 am

    Just Waiting asks: “For those of us who are still here, aren’t we but expats in our own lands?”

    I think you have that right. I haven’t noticed a lot of knee jerk patriotism in this thread. I have wondered about the meme that if you opt to stay you must be cowardly and in denial about the government and the economy we live under. I find that insulting and counter to reasoned conversation.

    There are a lot of personal reasons on both sides of the argument that are perfectly valid for the individuals involved. My personal impression is that many expats are trying to sell the idea to me rather than just explain the reasons for their choice. Also, the expats I know often seem to be the type who travel light and don’t tend to set down roots or amass personal belongings. For them the the life of a perpetual tourist is perfect and fulfilling. There are other folks who tend to sink roots in a community and are not inclined to move around a lot. I think we have a lot of this type personality commenting on this thread. I don’t think they are cowards, or worse. Whatever one’s lifestyle choices are it helps to understand that others have made different choices that are equally valid for them.

  84. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty February 18, 2013 9:14 am

    “The really sorry part is that you cannot go back to the American we grew up in either. ”

    Don’t want to go “back” to any time, even if it were possible. I was born in 1946 and lived through the “good old days” so many seem to crave. If you ask me, only the technology has actually changed much.

    I was a Marine “brat” and a Navy wife. I have made 40 lifetime moves – to all sorts of places.

    There are two kinds of people: those who want to control the lives of others, and those who do not. The controllers comprise the majority, even if they only “control” by proxy of the “vote” and entitlements in their symbiontic, incestuous relationship with the politicians and bureaucrats.

    The idea of being required to do MORE butt kissing to get around MORE “officials” in a MORE corrupt political climate doesn’t appeal to me in the least, even if it is possible to live that way.

    I’ve found far, FAR less need to do any butt kissing in Wyoming, and I will never, ever go unarmed again for any reason, so I’ll call this home for the rest of my life. And, if push comes to shove and “gun control” comes to us here in the boonies, then I guess I won’t live very long.

    But then, that’s just me…

  85. Jorge
    Jorge February 18, 2013 3:02 pm

    MamaLiberty, I can’t speak for Sandy, but in my experience, I have had to do far less, as you put it, “butt kissing” outside the states than I ever did in it. I remember trying to renovate my house in NYC. What a nightmare. Here I just did it, no permits, no talking to officials of any kind. That is just one example of what feels like hundreds.

    I’m with you on this one. I do not want to kiss any government butt. That is one (but only one) reason I left. I suppose I could have gone remote in the US and achieved the same thing. Outside the US I can be in a more cosmopolitan environment and still be left alone.

    However, the most interesting bit, and the one that really differentiates us, is your penultimate sentence. If push comes to shove for me, I’ll just leave. I am not tied to any piece of soil, or any material possessions, so much that it is worth dieing. My wife and I still think CR is a good place on balance, so we stay, but we check out other places every couple of years or so, just in case.

    We certainly do not travel light. When we moved to CR we shipped two containers from Singapore, so we need to plan ahead if we are going to do it right.

    Our philosophy has always been, “we are here until there is a good reason to leave.” We keep an eye open for next place to go.

  86. Jorge
    Jorge February 18, 2013 3:27 pm

    Just Waiting, you ask, “For those of us who are still here, aren’t we but expats in our own lands?”

    I would use the term “foreigner” as opposed to expat, since, at least in current times, expat tends to denote leaving ones home country willingly.

    It seems to me that if one is a foreigner (expat), and one is not an immigrant, then the land they are in is not theirs. Therefore, they would be more willing to leave it. Of course, given the right circumstances.

    The big thing for me is that in the US I felt like a target for some government goon or other. I do not feel that way here, and have not felt that way anywhere I lived outside the US. This is especially true after the grossly misnamed “USA-PATRIOT” act.

    If I every had to go through a TSA checkpoint of any kind, flying, train, etc, or if I was stopped by ICE in the constitution free zone that makes up a huge part of the country I would probably do something really stupid. At the very least I would not keep my mouth shut.

    For this reason alone I am much better off in a place where this type of intrusion does not occur.

  87. Sandy Sandfort
    Sandy Sandfort February 18, 2013 6:58 pm

    Jorge is right. This idea that you have to kiss butt in foreign countries more than the US is ludicrous. I have had to kiss a lot more butts going through US immigration, dealing with US cops, etc., than I have in any other country. Mostly, the locals are friendly or they ignore you. In Latin America, at least, Live and let live seems to be the order of the day.

    BTW, there is a dishonest form of argumentation called the “straw man” fallacy. It sets up a false attribution then defeats that rather than what was actually said. If anyone can point out where I said anyone was a “coward” for not being expatriate, I’d like to hear it. I have referenced thinks such as “fear of the unknown.” However, being fearful is not cowardice. Anyone without fear is a fool. It is how you handle your fear that counts.

    Now if someone were to say, “well you didn’t SAY coward, but that is what you meant,” I would have to attribute that thinking to what in psychology is called “projection.” Whereby you think you see in others what you fear you see in yourself. :o)

  88. leonard
    leonard February 20, 2013 12:17 am

    No one is a coward for wanting to leave or for leaving. More power to expatriates and best of luck. Because as someone said My country is where liberty dwells. Where ever that is for you or as close as possible is where you should be.

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