Where in the world will you go?
Once you decide you want to move abroad, the next question is where? Before deciding on Costa Rica, we went through a long process to decide where to move. It is very exciting going through the process of selecting in which country you will continue the next phase of your life. Furthermore, once you decide to which country you will move, you need to decide on a city, town, or neighborhood. You have to decide if you want to live in the mountains, or in a beach town, or in a big colonial city. The process can be very overwhelming. Usually, where you end up will depend on a variety of factors that I describe in more detail below.
Places to where you have been
Many expats move to countries where they have been to before and loved. Check out Mandy in Morocco and Erin in Costa Rica. They came, they saw, they conquered. Sometimes one visit is all it takes for you to fall in love with a small part of the world. My case was completely different. I had never been to Costa Rica before moving here, and Chris had been here for about one week in college as part of a Tropical Ecology class…….20 years ago! I don’t recommend you do this however. I believe we are not the norm. Most expats do end up moving somewhere with which they are more familiar.
The benefits of moving abroad as part of a job are enormous. First of all, you have an income! That is a huge bonus. Also, when your move is job related, your company will take care of a lot of the leg-work, such as visas, relocation services, housing, schools for the kids, and expat coaching. If your move is military-related, like some of our friends who have lived in Germany and England, you will also find a ready-made support group in your destination country. Soon after we decided we were moving abroad, Chris and I applied for jobs with School for Field Studies in a remote section of Panama, and I was really hoping we would get it just so that they would take care of all of the logistics. He also applied for positions with his company in Poland and Bangkok, which did not work out obviously, but in the end it was a blessing because we ended up here in the land of Pura Vida. The downside of a job-related move abroad is the lack of choice for your destination. I was not especially keen on moving to Poland or Bangkok, though I would have packed in a jiffy if it meant a steady income. If you have the opportunity to move abroad for your job, go for it. Though you may not have as many choices, you will save yourself a lot of the exhausting, stressful, time-consuming chores of the move.
Cost of Living
Your finances will have a huge impact of where you will move. Before you move, you must have a good idea of what cost of living will be in your destination country and arrange your financial situation to match that cost. For example, if Chris had not been allowed to telecommute with his job at Laureate, we very likely would have not ended up moving to Costa Rica. We would have ended up in Ecuador, where it is much cheaper to live. Personally, I would have loved to have expatriated to Europe, specifically Spain or France, which are places I have been to and adored. As a wannabe-writer, I am such a Europhile! I am enamored with Stein, Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their glamorization of expatriate life in Paris. I think that is why I am such a literary snob! Unfortunately, we decided not to include Europe in our list of potential expat destinations fairly early on because of the high cost of living. We also wanted to simplify our lives and decided that unless we had a really good reason (ie, job opportunity) we preferred to move to a developing country to teach our children to live with less.
The infrastructure of your destination country will also make a considerable impact in your decision. If your goal is to unplug from the rest of the world, you probably don’t need to live somewhere where good roads and reliable, high-speed internet are readily available. If you need to telecommute or plan to conduct some type of business during your move abroad, like us, then you do need to find a country with good infrastructure. This not only includes internet capabilities, but your access to computer equipment/repair services, road quality/airports in case you need to travel for business, and banking services.
Many expats move somewhere else because they want to learn a new language, and immersion is the best way to learn. So of course if you want to learn French, move to France. If you want to learn Spanish, move to Latin America. If you want to learn Chinese, move to China. Can you believe I am actually giving out this valuable advice for free?!.……In all seriousness, this will be a huge factor in your decision to move abroad. If you are American or Canadian and don’t want to learn a new language, then you have just limited yourself to other English speaking countries, such as England or Australia. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I have been to England and Australia and love both of those countries. I think you can still have a life-changing cultural experience moving to a country where your native language is spoken. But I also think you will be missing out.
If you are moving with children, the educational opportunities offered in your destination countries will have a huge impact on where you move. Though I was not particularly keen on moving to Poland and Bangkok because of the blaring detail that these are not Spanish-speaking countries, I was more than willing to overlook this detail because the educational opportunities for the kids in both of those countries were amazing. One look at the British International School of Gdansk and Patana International School in Bangkok, and I was hooked. On the other hand, had we ended up in Bocas del Toro, Panama if we had gotten the jobs with School for Field Studies, we definitely would have had to home school. There was nothing available in the area where we would have been. So make sure that you research this extensively before you decide where to move. Your child’s school will be a major focal point in your life as an expat, so it is important to make this decision very carefully. We have been so lucky because we love our children’s school in Monteverde, Centro de Educacion Creativa. We have made good friends amongst the families at the school and the kids love it there.
Where did you decide to move abroad and why? Let me know in the comments below?
- What Does the Expat Need to Do to Ease the Transition? (puravidafamilia.com)
- What Does the Expat Need to Know Before Moving Abroad? (puravidafamilia.com)