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Want-to-be Expats; taking a dip in de-nile

Updated on November 15, 2011

Tall Buddha, Sanya, China

This standing Buddha is over 300' tall and is identical viewed from land or sea. It is dedicated to sailors.
This standing Buddha is over 300' tall and is identical viewed from land or sea. It is dedicated to sailors.

Listen Carefully

I am an Expat, or at least I have been referred to as one. In the last 6 years I have spent a total of 2 months in the US. I lived for years in China, Colombia, South America, and spent time beyond what would be considered by most to be a vacation a few other places.

I don’t really follow any particular blogs but I drift through and try to answer people’s questions in subjects that I am familiar with on a few.

I have written a book on traveling, more on travel safety.
Anyone interested can Google “Smart Safe Traveler”.

The one thing that strikes me, rather often, is that people would rather follow their Pollyanna misconceptions than hear honest truths when it comes to living in foreign countries.
I can see that it isn’t so much fun to have someone deflate their balloon a bit; but is that more important than the truth?

A week or so ago I answered a question that went something like this;
“I want to live in Colombia or Venezuela on $685 a month but I don’t want to be hassled with visas and such. Can anyone make a suggestion?”

My first thought was just to answer “Stay home, you are clueless!”
But I decided to give them the benefit of my experience.
I explained that it might be possible to live in one of the “Pueblitas” (tiny towns in the countryside) on that amount of money. But they would be living a extremely low key lifestyle.

I then explained that both countries require special visas and that unless they could show more income they would not qualify.

A couple of days later I got a PM from them.
“Thanks for responding but I don’t want to live in a place that doesn’t have good nightlife and I really want to live in Medellin, Colombia.”

“Oh and I think I can just live there without a visa because that would be easier for me.”

I replied that I happen to live in Medellin and there is no place for a Gringo (white foreigner) to live safely in the city for the amount you stated.
And, sorry, but you can’t live here without a visa, unless you want a suit in one of the fine jails we have down here.

I didn’t expect to hear back; but I did.

“I think I can live in a neighborhood that I think is called a “0” area, that should be cheap right?”

RP; “I believe you mean an Estrada 1, which is the ghettos, and no you can’t live there without becoming a victim of crime,,, frequently!”

“Well live and let live right?”

I didn’t reply because it was a waste of time.

You can swim in the river but there are crocodiles and hippos in there, and they will see you as either a meal or an intruder either way it doesn’t work out very well for you!

There have been so many similar exchanges over the years that I’ve lost count.
I remember one person saying that they thought that after they got a 60 day tourist visa they could just add a 1 to the front and make it a 160 day visa. I hope they enjoy the food in prison!

My point to all of this is that it takes a tremendous amount of planning and researching to move to a foreign country. If there are requirements that you can’t meet that doesn’t mean you can ignore them.
At the very best it will be a true test of your patience, temperament and abilities to think on your feet. If you trip or fall there isn’t going to be anyone to catch you.

I suppose this may be as close to venting as hubbing, but the message here is that if someone who has been-there / done-that offers advice; listen. If that advice is contrary to what you want to hear; listen even more carefully.

One time I carefully explained to someone how to get the right visa and pointed out that they need to speak the language to get by.

They accused me of wanting to keep the country to myself…

Right; you busted me; after all there is just me and 1.3 Billion Chinese so yeah, its my little secret.


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    • Borsia profile image

      Borsia 6 years ago from Currently, Philippines

      Hi MW; Thanks for commenting

      There are ways around most problems and probably some arrangement can be made to carry mandatory insurance. But I am not familiar with Canada's system and every country is different.

      Healthcare is always a big consideration. You never want to be without some sort of coverage. Medical systems are expensive no matter where one goes and as foreigners we usually aren't covered by state systems. They may be far, far cheaper than the US but medical bills can still be devastating to your bank accounts.

      Unlike the US if you are in a foreign country and have a problem without coverage you are often just flat out of luck. They won't have any regulations requiring a hospital or other medical facility to stabilize you in an emergency situation. In many 3rd world countries you will simply be denied any help and turned away.

      In some countries things don't make any sense to us. In some countries if there is an accident nothing can be moved until the authorities have cleared the site, even the injured can not be moved or aided.

    • MobyWho profile image

      MobyWho 6 years ago from Burlington VT

      Hey readers, Listen to Borsia! The grass does seem greener elsewhere, but then, mowing it can be hard. I wanted to move to NB, Canada - my father's birthplace and family's homestead. I wrote them...No Way! They don't want me for more than a short vacation. I'd have to prove I would never need their healthcare system, etc. I'm sorry: they're smart! and living under cover would not be pleasant for long.