If you have already decided you are going to make the move and live abroad but are still undecided as to where you go you are not alone.
We receive many questions in our email inboxes but by far the most frequently asked is “where is the best place to live abroad”?
There is no “one size fits all” answer to this as much depends on you, your needs, your lifestyle and your individual circumstances.
Susan Beverley, Jamie Douglas and Julie R Butler are writers, world travelers, nomadic retirees and expats and they each share their own experience which they hope will guide you towards finding the best place in the world for you to live.
My own search to find the best place to live abroad was a little haphazard to start with. I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to many different countries and I have to say I liked nearly all of them at first, but after a few weeks, sometimes less, I began to have doubts that I could actually live in the country full time. Quite often it was a relatively trivial thing that put me off but it was enough to make me scratch a particular country off my list of possible relocation destinations.
After several years of getting nowhere with the trial and error method I sat down and really thought about what I wanted and needed from my new home nation. After all, you can’t get what you want unless you know what it is. I realized that there is no “perfect place” and that there would be some compromising.
This is what I did. I compiled a list of 3 criteria that were absolutely essential qualities that I needed to have and based my ongoing search around those. I also identified 3 highly desirable but not essential things my new home would ideally have.
My “must have three things” were:
- Access to good public education or affordable private education. I was relocating with two young children so this was very important.
- Access to good healthcare facilities at reasonable cost or affordable healthcare insurance which offered good coverage. Not only did I have my children in mind but I was also relocating with my parents who were in their mid sixties, my father being a diabetic, and they were going to need medical care.
- The weather! Yes, this was important. Originating from the UK where there are grey skies and rain for 95% of the time I needed the sun, lots of it. But not humidity, I can’t stand hot sticky humid days and nights and as much as people tried to tell me that you “get used to it” I was never convinced. Extreme temperatures (hot or cold) would not do either. So a temperate climate with seasons was what I was looking for.
In case you are wondering, my highly desirable list was:
- Lower cost of living. Economics is not a good sole reason for moving to another country. Sure things might be cheaper in a lot of places but if your fundamental needs are not there you will be better off financially but miserable and homesick pretty soon.
- Good infrastructure. Nice to have the electricity, internet and plumbing all working all of the time but in reality in a lot of places where you might be considering this isn’t going to happen. If the electric going off intermittently or the internet going down from time to time, or is not as fast as you are accustomed to, and this is going to drive you nuts then put “100% reliable infrastructure” in your must have list and then you can rule out 99% of countries you are probably considering.
- Low rates of serious/violent crime. This almost made it in to the 3 essential list – in place of the weather but I figured that I would be happier at risk of being mugged in the sun than at a lesser risk of being mugged while hot, sticky and very irritable. Although not so good for the mugger if I was irritable when they struck.
Bearing these three things in mind I was able to cross through many countries without doing extensive research or travelling to them and eventually found somewhere that checked all the boxes, essential and highly desirable. I have been here for over six years now and still very happy and content and glad I took the time to find the best place for me and my family.
If you sit down and think about your needs they will most likely be very different to mine and lead you to a different place. The best place for you.
Every year countless publications devote their resources to come up with a “Best Places to Live” feature. Is there really an answer that covers all bases? In my personal opinion, the answer to this question is based on many factors, and it is not a one size fits all discussion.
If you are from Birmingham (take your pick which one), and Condé Nast traveler informs you that the first class lounge at the Harare Airport in Zimbabwe is a great place to live, hold your horses!
First and foremost are family considerations, then the quality of life, infrastructure, schools, if you have children, cost of living, communications, climate and of course the big one, will the people in that place tolerate you as an outsider, and embrace you as a new arrival, or as is more and more the case, your acceptance is limited by the new wave of xenophobia that is sweeping the globe.
Personally I would pick New Caledonia, a French territory in the South West Pacific, for its scenery, climate, beaches, mountains and offshore islands. Having spent considerable time there, I know that living there is out of the question, even with a Swiss passport. The distance and remoteness make it very difficult to visit your former haunts, or to have parents or other relatives come visit, unless they are in New Zealand or Australia.
Then there is the astronomical cost of living, which makes Places like Zürich, Singapore or London look cheap by comparison. But there really is no addressing the issue of which is the best for you, as You and You and You are 3 different people, with no 2 having the same emotional requirements, to make you feel at home. Nothing will ever take the place where you grew up and where your family and friends are, your support structure in other words.
However, if you resemble my wants and desires, which are on the selfish side, then there is a long list of places in the running. Do you want to live in the tropics? Fight mosquito’s flies and cockroaches, and be subject to various diseases, while never having to wear more than shorts, a T-Shirt and flip flops? Middle earth is for you then, situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. Or perhaps you are craving the solitude the Argentinean Pampas or Australia’s outback can offer, where you can see visitors coming for miles by the dust cloud they raise.
Like Asian food? You can combine your love of the tropics with your lust for all the fine dishes you will find in this poly cultural region, which has so much ancient history to offer the curious seeker.
Like temperate climates? Most of Europe and North America, as well as North Eastern Asia might be suitable for you, offering the best of everything.
So where is the best place to live? It is the place where you are happy and content, where you are safe, where your friends are, where you can stay in touch with loved ones, in short, the place you feel comfortable to call “Home sweet Home”!
Wherever you go, there you are. Enjoy the journey!
Julie R Butler
Where is the best country in the world to live?
While the criteria of climate, culture, language, cost of living, financial incentives, health care, distance from loved ones, safety, and stability will top any list of important considerations to take into account in deciding what the best country is for you, perhaps a little different way of assessing your priorities would be to first decide what your basic underlying attitude is toward your new life abroad.
If you wish to retire to a sunny location where you can hire household help and spend the rest of your days enjoying well-deserved rest and relaxation after a long career of hard work, then an expat “retirement hotspot,” where there will be plenty of other like-minded people around, would be a good choice. Many of the trials and tribulations of living in a foreign country will be somewhat mitigated by the fact that there will be people around who can help you find your way. The easiest case, of course, would be to move to an English-speaking country. But even if you choose a country that speaks a foreign language, if you go to a location with a well-established expat community, you will be able to get by without having to learn much of the local language, especially with the help of a good English-speaking lawyer and someone who can act as your interpreter.
If, on the other hand, your goal is more along the lines of reinvigorating your life with a leap into something completely different, if you live for challenges and would rather be fulfilled than comfortable, if you are an individualist who enjoys interacting with people who come from dissimilar experiences and you are willing to put in the great effort it takes to learn to navigate strange cultural understandings and different points of view, then you will be liberated from the relatively small set of locations on the globe that cater to those who are simply relocating rather than exploring life.
In any case, in my opinion, finding a culture that you can at minimum, be interested in, and at best, be inspired by, is the key.
Even if your plan is to find a quiet corner of the world in which to disappear from the rat race and commune with nature, or you will be joining an expat community of some kind, interaction with local people will be inevitable, and if you find that you do not respect those people, however differently they may go about living their lives, however complex or unsophisticated their culture may seem, however prideful or humble they may be, then you will be plagued with frustration.
If, however, you are committed to enriching yourself with their culture, then you will be more willing to try new ways of doing things, more appreciative of different perspectives, and more likely to enjoy meeting the challenges that expatriation to a foreign land present.
Do you disagree with our answers? Do you have other options or opinions to share with our readers? Where in the world is your best place? Please leave a comment.
Every week, we receive numerous inquiries covering a variety of subjects that are important to you. Now, we would like to invite all of you to participate in our new feature by submitting questions that are relevant to expat living, whether you are planning to retire, work abroad, study, wander, or are just curious about life as an expat.
We encourage you to submit your questions to us, and our answers will be published on Expat Daily News on Fridays. This is an effort by your editors, all experienced travelers and expats, to serve you better, and have you share your curiosities with your fellow readers.
We are looking forward to hearing from you.
About the authors: Susan Beverley is a writer and editor for Escape From America Magazine and also writes for and maintains Expat Daily News – the expat news blog for EscapeArtist.com. She traveled extensively before becoming an expat herself having found a place to call home in South America where she has lived since 2005. She understands the concerns, needs and difficulties that expats face from first-hand experience and is dedicated to supporting and encouraging anyone who is looking for a new nation to call home. [ send her an email ]
Jamie Douglas is an Adventurer, Writer and Photographer with an amazing array of Nikon equipment, and a lifetime of experience traveling and documenting. To contact him for assignments and new adventures, email: jamie.douglas [at] yahoo.com
Julie R Butler is a traveler, blogger, freelance writer, and editor who has authored several books, self-published as eBooks, including Nine Months In Uruguay and No Stranger To Strange Lands (click here for more info).
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