Tuesday, January 21, 2014

About Those Plans to Become an Expatriate... (reposted from original location)

article from January 2, 2014
By Jamie Douglas

As we enter another new year, many people in the Northern Hemisphere are taking stock of their lives, looking to better their situation and location, and in the deep freeze of winter they are dreaming of the easy life on a tropical beach with coconuts, pineapples and bananas.

But wait – there is much more to that equation. All of us who have successfully migrated out of our nest-countries have had to make sacrifices we did not plan on. Some of those are what are referred to as “comfort items,” like foods. You will not be able to find a Waffle House or bagel shops, and there is probably no Marmite, fish ‘n’ chips or instant gravy mixes in any flavor you like.

When you first start your inquiries at consulates about residency, you will be overwhelmed at the amount of hurdles you have to clear in order to get that cherished residency in Parador. And when you finally do and arrive in your dream destination, which you have hopefully spent some months getting to know, you might not be too charmed by all the bureaucracy and graft to outright corruption and extortion you might encounter, depending on where you go.

Of course, if you chose a country like Uruguay, the process is, as Mark Mercer at Uruguay Expat Life puts it, a comprehensible, fair, attainable process (they have more great articles about Uruguay residency and other such technicalities, too).

There are some things you must however be prepared to leave behind: first and foremost are your friends and relatives. The further away you are, the more difficult it will be, and making friends in a new place is not easy. You will always be looked upon as the strangers, even long after you live in a place.

Getting a job is not always easy, even if you have great IT skills, as the locals have acquired them as well, and they are doing the work at a fraction of the cost and are, of course, perfectly fluent in their native tongue as well as the computer languages required to write code.

If your wealth allows you to maintain a standard of living such as what you had back home, you will be the envy of your neighbors, so make sure you live in a neighborhood that you blend into to reduce your chances of being victims of crimes. The best deterrent is to try to be modest in your display of wealth.

If you have kids going to school, they will make friends quickly and get acclimatized to the culture faster than the adults do. And it is normal to see expats dragging their kids along to translate for them.

Primarily, you should keep in mind that you left your familiar surroundings to be exposed to a new and adventurous life.

I have been an expat on and off for over 50 years, changing countries and continents frequently, never getting bogged down by property ownership. Having spent years in adventurous nations where property ownership may change from revolution to revolution, I have never had to abandon it all because of civil unrest or a coup d’état.

I have had to rush out of a few locales with one or two suitcases, leaving behind my appliances and a few personal items. (How I remember those adventures in Fiji, New Caledonia, Bolivia, Guatemala, Papua New Guinea, South Africa etc...) I never had to go back and fight military juntas to get my property back; but I got some great stories, from climbing off the back of a truck into an idling Braniff DC-8 on the takeoff runway in La Paz, Bolivia, to rafting from the Isle of Pines to New Caledonia on the South Equatorial Current (watch for these to come!).

It has certainly been an exciting ride, which was made all the easier by my lack of attachments to just about anything with the exception of exposed film. I actually do not recommend some of my wild times to most people; but in these unsettled times, we never know what tomorrow’s headlines bring: Todos yanquis fuera de Parador!

Jamie Douglas
La Paloma, Uruguay

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.