Recently, I posed the question What Kind of Expat Are You? I attempted to categorize expats into various categories.
Here’s what I said before about a type of expat I categorized as an Economic Escapist:
Based on a recent exchange of ideas with James Carenza, owner/developer of an active-adult master-planned community, in the LinkedIn group “Retiring Baby Boomers Latin America,” I thought I should add to the discussion on Economic Escapists. James pointed out that a lack of sophisticated active adult communities such as The Villages in Florida and those built by Del Webb throughout the US, is a hindrance to American baby boomers retiring in Latin American countries. (I should note here that my in-laws live in a Del Webb community and seem very happy there.) I suggested he shouldn’t assume most of us are looking to move from one gated community to another, and he responded with some valid points.
- Most baby boomers are looking to move into well thought out active adult communities. This is supported by comprehensive studies on the wants and needs of boomers, and the fact that the planned active adult communities which offer the most social amenities like clubs are far outselling others, gated or not.
- He also called me out – and rightly so, I have to admit – on my personal bias against gated communities. After noting that I negatively described a situation that doesn’t work for me, using language like “shut themselves up inside,” “lock myself away” and “US-style” used as a negative, he stated:
“I don’t think the people buying in these communities have this view. I think they are buying in these types of communities, not to get away from something, but to go towards something they desire (i.e. relationships with new friends that share the same interests). And I think it is safe to assume that people that purposely elect this lifestyle in another country do want to experience the culture and meet and develop relationships with people from other cultures, otherwise, why go? However, in addition, these people want the social clubs, events, planned activities, amenities, perceived security, etc.. Let me give you one example. A friend of mine has purchase a lot to build a home and an existing home in Panama on two different golf courses in gated communities. Obviously, his wife and him enjoy golf. At the same time, he has explored the whole country, the islands, Costa Rica, spent days in the jungle with the indigenous people, performed volunteer work in the community, and developed a plethora of relationships with people in his communities and outside his communities, learned to surf, etc.”
I have to admit, I have a prejudice concerning those who choose to live somewhere while forming their own little enclave in the middle of it. Probably a holdover from all my reading about the heyday of the British Raj in India and the attitude of British expats for years that they were “superior” to those of other ethnicities.
It’s an attitude not exclusive to the Brits. The oldest American cities, Boston and New York for example, were well known for their ethnic neighborhoods inhabited almost exclusively by Italians, Irish, Jews, Portuguese or some other ethnic group. Plenty of American religious missionaries and others have attempted to recreate their little slice of the USA in the middle of the jungles, the tropical islands, or in China in the early 20th century, with disastrous consequences (see Boxer Rebellion). Several European countries today are experiencing problems because large numbers of immigrants from certain areas are forming their own exclusive culture within the country while shutting themselves off from the people and society they live among.
So if you’re retired in another country, or planning to, I’d love to hear from you. What are the pros and cons for you about the type of community in which you live in your new country? Condo? Apartment? House? In a local neighborhood? In a mostly expat development? Please weigh in by clicking the comment link below.