I read your book. Great stuff, thanks for writing it! My wife and I currently live in the San Diego, CA area. We’d like to move away from here. I know that you moved from South America to Spain. With your knowledge of S. A. can you recommend any countries in either S. A. or C.A. that would be a good place for an American to be an expat? We’re looking for a place to retire with a lower cost of living but don’t want somewhere that hates “gringos”.
Since you liked my first book, I suggest you get my second one which is specifically about this topic called “Bugging Out and Relocating”. In it I go further into detail and explain why in most cases Latin America simply isn’t a good idea.
I have met all kinds of people. Very rarely did I find an American or European that was truly happy living permanently in 3rd world conditions. The smells, the poverty, the crime it all gets old very fast. Very few Americans enjoy living that way. Even for the more adventurous they get fed up after a year or two once the “Honeymoon” period is over.
The novel expat may love the foreign and colourful places and situations. You may even know expats that live in much nicer homes than the ones they would have been able to afford stateside. Trust me, its all makeup. I’ve lived my entire life in south America and I know you can’t escape a country’s poverty by living in a nice gated community or country club. Eventually it gets to you. As soon as you leave those gates the true reality of the place surrounds you. Eventually you realize that it’s you the one that is living behind golden bars but bars none the less, while the true nature of the place isn’t the one that was sold to you but the one that is out there.
Panama and Costa Rica are two of the most popular expat destination and you will find a community of Americans there. Some may actually be happy about living there and not regret their decision years later. Still, what I explained above still stands: A third world country, with crime like you wouldn’t believe, with corruption and bureaucracy that will drive you nuts and you’ll simply never get used to.
My advice for those that want to move to Latin America for the great climate, cost of living and easy going lifestyle is to move to Spain instead, specifically the south of Spain in Costa del Sol. Fantastic weather and beaches? Check. 1st world quality of life (sure, with a Spanyard twist, but still)? Check. Safe? Check!
You mention lower cost of living. The cost of living in one place compared to another is a topic of some heated debate. Some will argue that cost of living in Central America is very low. I’d say that so as to live safe and within American middleclass standards of living the difference of cost between Spain and central America is negligible. Sure, here in Costa del Sol property is far more expensive, and eating out or grocery trips may cost more, but then again you cant put a price on the peace of mind you enjoy here. Murder rates in Spain are almost a third of what they are in USA. Central America on the other hand has three to four times more murders than USA. I just don’t see the point in moving to a country that is several times more dangerous than the one you already live in right now. Medical care, infrastructure, its all much better in Spain. The expat community is also huge. Its mostly British, Germans and people from Nordic countries but you have lots of Americans too.
Think about it. You move to this tropical paradise, but you cant go for a walk on the beach at night because of the crime problem? Here you can go for a walk at 3am if you wish. Walk for miles in any direction without coming across any ghettos or shanty town like you do in Latin America.
You also mention not being hated. Latin Americans in general resent “gringos”. That’s why they call them “gringos”, which isn’t much of a friendly way to call someone. Costa del Sol in the other hand has to be one of the friendliest places in the world for foreigners. Everything is written in English, and English is required for any kind of job involving customers. Radio stations, the train station even announcements in the supermarket its all both in English and Spanish. You even have bilingual public schools, where most subjects are in English.
I know its not what magazines and blogs recommend, but for anyone wanting to retire to Latin America, hands down my recommendation is Spain. For even cheaper cost of living (although you give up a few things) Portugal would also be a better option than a 3rd world country.
Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.