Escape From (your current country here…)

Some of long to get away from it all.  I don’t mean just visiting other places for a few days or weeks, but actually living abroad.  When you were a child watching old black and white movies, of, so some of them may have been in color but we didn’t have a color television set until 1964, thus everything was black and white, including the Wizard of Oz, foreign countries seemed like nea places to live.  What child of eight or ten or even fourteen didn’t think that life could be fun in places like Paris, Moscow (before it was over run by the undesirables of the red menace), Casablanca, Rangoon, Hong Kong, and Sydney.  Ok, so Syndey is hardly an exotic city.  Actually, I have never really thought of moving to that part of the earth, I was always afraid I would fall off if I stood on the bottom of the world.  Still, the young in age and those of heart often dream of moving somewhere different, and I don’t mean Philadelphia.

Now I’ve seen a few different cities and countries of the world in my life.  I’m not sure I want to go and be a Bengal Lancer.  But I did decide when I was in my late twenties that I would like to live in France.  Since I use to work for one of the telephone companies outside as a lineman and cable splicer I thought living in France might be a fun time.  I had read about how horrible the French telephone service was and how they didn’t seem to know how to keep their outside plant in good repair.  So why not fantasize about my going to France with my good old Ford ladder truck (I hated the new Dodge and International truck to replace the old Ford and GMC trucks) and spending my time fixing their cables and upgrading their service.  I mean, if you are going to dream then dream big, right?  The people would love me and show their appreciation by giving me cases of the finest French Bordeaux and Burgundies.  I would be given five star meals in all the best restaurants, I mean, if you are going to have a fantasy make it as outrageous as possible.  Of course I forgot the one fly in my ointment, the fact that the people in every country hate their respective telephone companies.

Over the years I kept an eye out for that perfect escape but there were always too many barriers in the way.  But then my current wife was working for a company that had operations in a number of countries and we discussed the possibilities of her obtaining a position in the London area or Scotland, perhaps Amsterdam.  That started my travels to a great many places around the world that included India and Singapore.  A new international company and new possibilities such as Hungary and France.  Or she might have gone to Brazil or Mexico.  Meanwhile, changes in my life came about and it was time to do some serious searching.  Time to do the research, so to speak.  Now before the world wide reach of the internet you would have been hard pressed to really understand the problems and solutions to living aboard.  Yes, people write books but such things are either too narrowly focused or far too general.  Of course you could spend a few weeks traveling in a country but even that is really not enough to enlighten you as o the feasibility of living there.

But in my travels I always made a habit of looking at real estate listings, going to food and dry goods stores to check prices, and driving, when I could, on the roads.  As Yogi Berra once said,”You can see a lot just by looking.”  Another way is to read about the history and the internet allows you to read about the local histories, the local politics, and other such valuable information.  There are a great number of web sites that cater to expats in every country and from every country.  I’m sure that if you live in Germany and are thinking about living in the US you will find an German expat website that talks about all the good thing in life here and all the bad experiences,  Now if you ask most locals, they can’t really tell you much because they have never lived out of their country and don’t have the slightest idea what a foreigner needs to know, we take so much for granted.  Where’s the local COSTCO in Mexico?  There are two, one in Mexico City and one in Guadalajara.  Live anywhere else in Mexico and you may have a very long trip for those super savings.  But hey, Walmart is everywhere.  Well, almost everywhere in Mexico.  In many states and cities were are use to being able to shop seven days a week.  Unless you live in Paris, no, very few shops are open on Sunday or holidays.  The same may be said for Budapest.

Real estate is a different matter for there are different standards.  If you come from California, no other country and not too many states in the US have the disclosure laws like California does.  In foreign countries it is best to remember what Dr House has said repeatedly.  People lie.  Did the seller tell you the house was connected to the sewer mains?  Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.  Maybe the mayor swears up and down that your house was connected.  Then you find out that it is only connected to a septic system that is old and in need or replacement.  Ah, but the regional government may not give you permission to replace it or perhaps you are within five hundred meters of an historic monument.  Sometimes what appear to be sound stone walls are in need of immediate repair.  What do you know about stone masonry?  Do you even know what to look for in an inspection?  What about electrical installations?  Well, most Americans don’t know the first thing about how electric service is suppose to be installed.  The line from the house consists of one hot lead, one neutral or return lean, and one ground lead.  From your fuse panel you should have a hot lead for each circuit with the appropriate size fuse and service wire.  There should also be a neutral lead and a ground lead.  Every outlet must have a ground and one must be able to use that three prong plug if an appliance has a ground lead in the service cord.  Now the ground at the panel for all those house circuits must be connected to the neutral.  The ground lead from the street is connected to a ground rod in the earth.  Thus, lightening strikes on the supply line go to ground and not to your appliances.  An inside wiring fault goes to the ground and back to the neutral.  I’ve had to rewire my house in France because the stupid French electrician didn’t know how to do it right.  Plumbing is another matter.

Luck for me I can function as a handy man and construction engineer.  So, what to do?  Research as much as you can.  Read all those expat blogs and ask questions of them.  As for employment, I can’t help you there.  If you have always dreamed of living and working abroad, don’t count on finding employment anytime soon.  Most countries do not want immigrants competing for work with their citizens.  You better have a way to be self employed.  And you better be aware of all the paperwork and taxes and fees that will be required to have your own work in another country.  Take a look at how income taxes and wealth taxes are collected.  Remember, if you reside within that country for 183 days (excluding leap year, then it’s 184 days) you are a resident and will be required to pay income and wealth taxes.  There may also be a tax for living in a city, a town, or a village.  You have to pay that as well.

On the other hand, for all the legal problems, the housing and what not, I do like living in France.  It makes for a nice three month escape, an extend vacation.  I have a couple of good friends there and we enjoy ourselves, all the simple things in life.  Escape is a good thing.


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