First of all, let me state that I’m a big fan of International Living. Their magazine and their daily postcards are gold mines of information, and I’ve also bought several of their country books.
But last week, they just floored me, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it comes back to the profit motive. Because IL is a business, and they want to make money, they gave some advice that I really disagree with.
Somebody wrote to them, stating that they thought everything they read in IL makes sense, that they thought financially they could retire overseas, but they were “not sophisticated, not wealthy, not bilingual and have never traveled abroad.” And they were “scared stiff.” (My emphasis.)
The advice they got was to “take the plunge” by planning a trip to a destination not so different from the US, someplace where they wouldn’t need to speak Spanish, then follow it up by attending an IL conference. Recommended spots to visit were Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende or Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
So far so good.
The next bit of advice is what got me. “If you’re still apprehensive, though, and really want to ease into this, I’d suggest you start by attending one of our conferences. In fact, start in the U.S.–we’ll be hosting our Live Overseas Conference in Las Vegas.”
So, here’s a couple who like the idea of saving money by moving abroad, but they are “scared stiff” and have never traveled internationally. Sorry, IL, but a single trip to an expat haven is not going to help these people figure out if they’d be comfortable living in another country.
They need to visit a lot of different places, and not just expat havens. Even if they do decide to “take the plunge” and move to a gated expat community in Mexico or another country, they will still be living in that country. They need to travel in the country, they need to visit several areas, preferably for extended periods of time.
Going to a conference where they can meet people who have made such a move might make them more comfortable with the idea of expatriation. But they’re already comfortable with the idea. They just don’t see themselves there. And they won’t see themselves there unless they put themselves there often enough to either increase their comfort level with actually being there, or to realize that it’s not for them.
While I don’t know how old these folks are, their mention of retirement leads me to believe they are close to retirement age. Frankly, if they’ve lived this long without ever setting foot outside the USA, I’m sceptical they would be happy living in another country. And that won’t change, no matter how many conferences they go to.
Throw in your two cents. Click on the comments link below.
Ellen Schultz says
I’ve been a very long term subscriber to IL although I stopped reading it for about fifteen years when I was young enough to believe I could live the rest of my life here in the States comfortably. I re-started my subscription in 2000 and have been searching for the “perfect” country to re-locate to since then.
I thought I found the perfect country for me and my elderly parents mostly through reading IL and other expat publications online. I went to Panama for the first time in July 2005. I liked Panama City, the only place I was interested in moving to and spent a little time there. I had made some friends online and contacted them and a lawyer recommended by IL. I went to the lawyer’s office and I also had a lovely lunch with her so she could introduce me to an area I was interested in living.
As IL was having its live and invest in Panama conference in September of the same year, I went and spent another lovely week in Panama City. I liked PC, but realized that I, being a New Yorker, was going to have issues with most cities, particularly very small cities like PC.
The IL conference was good and quite informative, but my focus was healthcare for my parents and myself. I heard a lot about the cost of healthcare and medications and after another week there, I was convinced it was a good match for us. I based it on the many articles I had read in IL and the conference in PC.
A few months after I took my two elderly parents, my father in end stage of Alzheimer’s to PC, ostensibly to make the move. I followed their physician’s advice and took them to see a doctor in PC to establish a relationship and for my mom a follow up as she was on a new medication. The doctor in PC was wonderful and only charged $45 for each person for an in depth, first visit and consultation. She wrote the prescription for my mother and I went out to fill it.
First thing I found out was that all pharmacies don’t carry all medications and might not be able to get them. I also found out that you don’t need to surrender the prescription after having it filled. The last and most shocking thing I found out was that my mother’s medication would cost more money in PC than it would cost without insurance in NYC.
I looked into the cost of mom’s medications in PC and despite what IL and other expat ezines told their readers, the cost of meds is higher in Panama, especially for those of us who have insurance. One could factor in the cost of insurance to come up with a real cost for medications, but I found the cost to be considerably higher still in PC. We spent five lovely weeks there and turned around and came home. There was no way we could afford to live in Panama because of the cost of medications.
To this day, when I bring up that issue to publishers of expat ezines, they say the cost of meds is lower in PC. However, as another ezine publisher recently told me her only experience with medications in Panama was for an antibiotic that was probably a generic. She and her family are in their early 40s and below (children) and will not require cholesterol and heart medications and if they’re lucky no cancer curing drugs anytime soon. Many of the people going to Panama or any other country for that matter are going to lower their cost of living because they’re close to retiring or can’t afford to live here in the US anymore.
My long winded point is that I take what the IL people and other expat ezine publishers say with a very big grain of salt. They are indeed in business and they are indeed painting a slightly rosier picture of many places they profile. Obviously, they’re going to suggest those people you mention attend their conference because that is a big part of their business model. I was crushed when I found that out, naive me. I realized I needed to do my due diligence other ways because they were going to point me in the direction most advantageous to their bottom line. That despite it being a pretty good publication. I just don’t believe everything I read although often I want to.
Ellen, you are right on. With all the positives about Panama, the cost of some of the late-in-life medications is an important factor for many of us. I was not aware it might be such a big issue. I suppose if you’re young and relatively healthy, it’s not. . . but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can ignore it.
And, yes, IL is definitely a business. Sigh.
Sandeep Sharma says
Just goes to show that a company like IL has no interest in providing factual cultural and economical information to its readers if all they can do is recommend them to attend a conference. I absolutely agree with you when you say that they should travel to the destination they have shortlisted and check out all the facilities that they need are available. Language is another great barrier to a successful relocation . Having lived in Mexico myself I know for sure that one needs to learn Spanish to have any chance of communicating with the locals, even in areas like San Miguel de Allende which has a substantial expat population.
Don’t know that I’d go so far as to say IL has NO interest in providing information. In fact, I believe they do, but in this instance their self-interest got in the way bigtime.
How long did you live in Mexico?
I was in Mexico for almost 5 years.
Sandeep, did you know Spanish before you went there? Did you learn it there?