Recently it seems as though I’ve been stumbling across all sorts of reasons to expatriate — or not — from all sorts of different sources.
All the reasons, though, fall into one of two categories:
- running away from something
- running toward something
In general, the coaches I’ve been in touch with agree that your move will be more successful if you’re running toward something.
In an ideal world, I think I’d agree with them. This not being an ideal world, however, I’d hate to think that “running away” reasons would doom me to a terrible expat experience.
The author of the blog Regrouping recently posted her list of reasons for leaving — most of them of the running away variety. The post was extremely thoughtful and well written, and I’d recommend you read the entire post here.
Here are the author’s “running away” reasons:
- I do not want to be an old person in America.
- I do not want to pay insanely inflated US college tuition for my child
- I cannot afford to pay for healthcare in the US
- There is an unsettling level of physical and psychic violence in the US
- The economy
- There is a pervasive lack of genuine human connection in America
This list really resonated with me.
The Economy and Health Care
Although I’ve always wanted to experience life overseas, my timetable for leaving the country has been stepped up by economic events of the past 18 months or so. In March of last year my job melted away, and to say it’s been a scramble ever since is an enormous understatement.
The bottom line is we can’t afford to stay here any more. One of the biggest reasons is the cost of health care. Even if we were to move to a less expensive area within the US, health care costs would still destroy us.
The stress of knowing we’re one small illness away from losing everything we’ve worked our whole lives for is unbearable.
And I know I’m not alone. A majority of you responded to a poll here and here a few months back, stating that health care is either your primary or second reason for considering a move abroad.
How can the United Stated justify being the only Western, iindustrialized country that doesn’t provide affordable health care for its people? Even Rwanda has universal health care!!
So I’m definitely running away from an out-of-control economy characterized by a huge transfer of wealth from the middle class to the wealthy, aided and abetted by the government we elected to represent us.
The cost of college tuition is not a huge hot button for me either way. My youngest is starting college in the fall, but fortunately she has received a ginormous financial aid package. For those of you who want alternatives to high US college costs, I strongly recommend reading Maya Frost’s book The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education.
But don’t think for a moment I’m not concerned with education. Our educational system has been going to hell in a handbasket for years, and it’s getting worse. The more we emphasize testing as the end-all and be-all of education, the worse educated our graduates become.
Sadly, as our general population becomes less — not better — educated, scheming corporations and misleading politicians find it easier and easier to hoodwink the electorate, leading to further erosion and decay in our government. It’s a vicious circle, and I don’t see it ending any time soon.
I, too, don’t want to be an old person in the United States — especially in this economy. Not only is economic survival retreating farther and farther from grasp, but our society does not honor age and the wisdom that comes with it. ‘Nuff said.
We’ve also become a country of self-centered boors. Civility is a lost art and friendliness in many places is looked upon with horror and suspicion. A young man of my acquaintance recently expressed chagrin on Facebook:
“Is friendliness dead? I took refuge from a bit of rain in the same spot as an older lady, and she seemed genuinely surprised that I actually introduced myself and tried to make conversation.”
Frankly, I love the idea of living in a place where saying “good morning” is expected of everyone!
Workplace killings, road rage, school massacres. . . why are we so much more violent than our Canadian neighbors? When people tell me, “oh, I wouldn’t want to move to Mexico because of the violence there,” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Washington, DC, is statistically four times more dangerous than Mexico City, and most of the world views the violence here with absolute horror.
Am I Doomed?
So, am I doomed to a terrible expat experience? I don’t think so.
First, although my timetable for moving abroad has changed, it’s still something I’ve always wanted to do. Running away from the terrible health care situation here lets me look for a new home in a place with quality, affordable health care. Leaving the failed economy of the US behind gives me a chance to live at less expense elsewhere. Hopefully, I’ll be able to improve my quality of life at the same time.
Civility is important to me, so I can choose to go to a country where the cultural expectation is that folks will be polite to one another.
I don’t expect my new life to be perfect. I understand there will be adjustments to make, and lots of them. I anticipate I’ll run across some problems I hadn’t even considered beforehand.
What I do expect is that my health-care related stress will go away, and I’ll be able to afford the basics of life.
And it’ll be an adventure.
Thanks for referencing my article. I wanted to add that I agree with the view that “running away” should not be the only basis for leaving a country, especially when you’ve got kids.
There are some influences on my thought process that are left out of my article, such as the fact that my mother is from Japan, my stepmother is from Germany, and I spent a lot of time traveling when I was a young adult. I also grew up in an area (Silicon Valley) where many people are foreign-born professionals. As a child, I had classmates who were born in England, Australia, and India. All of these factors have definitely intensified my interest in traveling and living outside the U.S.
However, the couple behind We Move to Canada http://www.wmtc.blogspot.com *did* pretty much leave out of total disgruntlement with the U.S. and they did just fine.
No matter what a person’s exact reasons for leaving may be, I think the biggest mistake is to move to a place *only* because it is cheap, and not because you actually embrace the people and the culture.
One last thought: understanding the factors that you’re running from helps to clarify in your mind what it is that you actually want in life, and how you want your life to be structured. In that sense, it helps you understand what you want to “run towards”.
Expat 21 says
I always enjoy reading your posts. I also agree with all of your reasons for leaving. But I do agree with the first commenter, to make sure that where you decide to move TO really DOES attract you. Even when moving to the ideal place (for you) there are a lot of difficulties (even if you move to a new city in America), but those difficulties are worth it if you really want to be in that new place.
I think those people who ask if you are “running away” are those who are negative on expats and living abroad in general. Not always, but ususally.
As for me, I moved from the States because I was tired of running a business and just couldn’t cut my cost of living enough. For me escape to Thailand was perfect–a land of plenty, respectful, low cost of living, and always hot!!! I love my new life in “paradise.”