According to US government nine million Americans live in other countries. Why?
The Unitarians of Alamosa will welcome Judy Burrell and Peter Weiss to explore this intriguing question. Both have been part-time expatriates abroad for years. They agree that as Coloradans we love our Valley. For some of us it is inconceivable to move ourselves and our families to another country. Yet, there are those who do this with great enthusiasm. We won’t tell you about the nine million but we will share our experiences of more than 20 years.
Let us begin with the “whys.” We remember people cautioning us not to move to a different country because we didn’t know anyone there. That’s exactly why we wanted to go. Experiencing a different way of life; making friends who aren’t just like us; and learning a new language were at the top of our list. Let us caution you - it’s not for everyone.
There are certain ‘comfort points’ that Americans seek in other countries. Food is a big one. Twenty years ago we found that Mexico did not have horseradish for our shrimp cocktails. Our city now has Walmart, Sam’s Club and McDonalds. We don’t often use these but it’s a comfort to know they are there. News - It used to be a big activity of the day to go to the center of town to get a newspaper in English flown in from Mexico City. Now we get American television - something relatively new. Ordering from the Internet - Amazon delivers to our door. Religious attendance - there are Quakers, Presbyterians, Mormons, Catholics, and Jews.
Beyond finding comfort points there are many different motivations. Some are easy - others are complex. The cost of living is about half of the United States. Apartment rentals start at $300 and up. Those are big ones.
Support groups are many: different religious groups, American Chambers of Commerce, women’s and men’s breakfast groups, American and international schools, Republicans and Democrats Abroad, Alcoholics Anonymous AND the Oaxaca Lending Library. It’s a center for the expatriate community.
Healthcare is a big concern. Competent doctors are available. Plastic surgery and dentistry are big industries. Hospitals are plentiful and inexpensive. Medicare is not available outside the United States but inexpensive national insurance is. Also – many healthcare professionals were educated in the United States.
So why go? Some families want to expose themselves and their children to other cultures.
Others start businesses and conduct them electronically. Learning about the culture and language are big priorities for many people
Serving potential expatriates and those already living abroad is big business. “International Living” is a huge multi-national organization with seminars, exploration visits, on-site representatives in almost every country plus enticing ads promising great deals. Embassies and consulates are located in every country. They’re there to help.
But the joy of being an expatriate. - definition - to withdraw oneself from one’s own country is real. Life is often disorganized, time is truly relative and things are not tidy but respect for another culture and history, and just plain fun are real. Note: Peter and Judy continue to live in Oaxaca, Mexico and Jaroso, Colorado - six months apiece.