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International Living’s Facebook Q&A on Moving Overseas

See the video below, where Dan Prescher answers some of your questions posted on the International Living Facebook page this week. Feel free to post your questions on living overseas here.

Q. This week, Kristyn Foxworth asks: “I am considering moving to Barcelona in a year… for about a year longer if I fall in love with it. What would you think are the hardest things to overcome, coming from California life?”

A. Kristyn, it’s hard to say what you personally will find most challenging about moving from California to Barcelona, but I can say this for sure… you’ll find almost nothing California about life in Barcelona. I’d say, pack a load of patience and learn as much Spanish as you can, and be ready for everything to be very different than you’re used to. It will be an adventure. But it’s sure to be a rewarding and cultural experience. Good luck and have fun.

Q. Joseph L Cooke asks: “How do I find out about gun laws in various countries? The US is getting to restrictive.”

A. Joseph, short answer…don’t carry a gun as a foreigner. Most of the rest of the world is far more restrictive than the U.S. when it comes to firearms, and if by some terrible fluke of fate you actually shoot the citizen of a foreign country while you’re in that country, you’re going to have a very rough time of it. You can find out about gun laws for foreigners in specific countries by contacting the embassies or consulates for those countries.

Q. Danusia Lachowicz says: “I’m planning a move to Northern Italy. I’m looking to rent something for an extended period of time. I have EU citizenship, I’d like to know what would be my best possibility for searching and finding a great little place that is pet friendly and furnished. My intent is to move their permanently, but I’d rather rent first, just in case something changes in my final decision. Hope you can assist.”

A. Danusia, a quick Google search on “Italy, Rent” turns up several hundred thousand hits. Most of these will be short-term vacation rentals, though, so my advice is to do what a lot of seasoned travelers do and rent short-term in the place you think you want to spend time, then pound the pavement. Look for local “for rent” signs, read the local paper, talk to shop keepers, local real estate agents, other expats. You’ll probably find your best and cheapest deal after a week or two on the ground. As part of your research, be sure to go to IL’s section on Italy on our website.

Q. Richard Whiteman asks: “What jobs are available in Latin America for non citizens? Seems like a lot of real estate agents are from the US and Canada.”

A. Richard, working in Latin America isn’t really an option for foreigners on tourist or pensionado visas. These countries are as concerned about preserving their local jobs for their citizens as folks in the U.S. are. But jobs that require special skills, like facility in English, can be exceptions, and if you get a permanent resident’s visa or acquire citizenship in a particular country, the job outlook changes. In many cases it’s possible for foreigners to start businesses with local partners, but be careful that you have good local legal counsel, who can help you draw up an employment or business contract that is favorable to you and enforceable. See our section on the IL website on Making Money Overseas.

Q. John Wood asks: “What do you do about the devaluing US dollar? Read your articles, no help.”

A. John, you must be missing quite a bit of what we publish, because we cover the falling dollar several times a week through our website and through our free postcards. The basic strategy is to diversify out of the dollar into other currencies. There are dozens of ways to do this, and one good one is to simply hold foreign real estate that is valued in something other than dollars… for example, your Brazilian property is valued in reals, and your Mexican property is valued in pesos. Lots of other suggestions to, as you’d see if you were subscribing to our free daily postcards.

Q. Sarah Streeter says: “What about retiring when you still have young kids who need to attend school and want to live out of the U.S.?”

A. Sarah, we’re hearing from more and more younger families who need schools for their kids, and in general, the larger the city, the better the schools. Also, in a place like Panama that has had an American presence for a century thanks to the canal, you’ll find lots of education options. But you’ll want to actually visit a school before sentencing your children to go there for any length of time, so visit the country you’re interested in and start visiting the schools that other expats in the area are saying the best things about.

Q. David Rebecca Rice writes: “We are going to Cuenca, Ecuador in January and February. We are trying to locate a short term apartment. Or condo rental. And suggestions where to look for these.”

A. David, there are two places to look for short term rentals in Cuenca… in Cuenca itself, and on the Internet. One of my favorite short-term rental resources is VRBO, vacation rental by owner, at www.vrbo.com. You’ll be able to dial right down into Cuenca and see what people are renting their own houses and condos for.

Q. Be Love says: “What about vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists, and animal lovers? Where are the best areas especially in a hot sunny beach?”

A. Be, in my experience you can find rice and beans on almost any beach on earth. But if you’re looking for someplace that specifically caters to vegans and vegetarians, you’re going to find prices are going to be higher. Unfortunately, strict vegetarianism is still an “alternative lifestyle” in most places, and restaurants, hotels, and B&Bs that cater to vegans and vegetarians tend to charge a premium for the privilege. However, I’ve seen more veggie and health food restaurants in Tulum, Mexico than I’ve seen in many other places, and the beaches are excellent. You might try there.

Q. Robert Herrmann asks: “Which Central American countries are the most friendly for same-sex couples?

A. Robert, as you may know, Argentina recently legalized same-sex marriages, and Mexico has passed laws requiring individual state to recognize same-sex marriages. That’s South America and North America… in Central America I’ve seen gay communities in Panama City, San Jose, Costa Rica, Managua, Nicaragua, almost every city with a large population, but I can’t point to any recent specific laws or legal recognitions. In my experience, most of Latin America is extremely tolerant of personal lifestyle choices of any kind… as long as they remain personal.

Q. Finally for this week, Joanne Dufault says: “We may be interested in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, etc… but when we look at the crime rate for each of these countries, it concerns us. I would love to have honest information for Americans and Canadians looking to live in these countries full or part-time.”

A. Joanne, this is something I’ve been dealing with for a few years now. Country crime statistics are misleading, because in most countries, the U.S. included, crime occurs disproportionately. It’s almost impossible any more to talk about the safety of an entire country. It’s even hard to talk about the safety of cities… you almost have to take a look at individual neighborhoods.

For example, there are some great places in Washington D.C. to live… and there are some places where the murder rate is among the highest on the planet. Same with the rest of the world. There are places in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Brazil, where you could fall asleep in a park at night with your wallet on your forehead without a worry. There are also places you wouldn’t go under any circumstances.

I live in Mexico, and in my town of Merida, I’ve never even heard a gunshot. But there is a terrible drug war going on in other parts of the country that make people think I’m crazy for living here. But I’m no crazier for living in my part of Mexico than someone is for living in Wichitaw, Kansas, with all the crime in Los Angeles and Detroit. Don’t let crime statistics fool you… listen to people who live in the places you’re interested in, or better yet, see for yourself.

If you have any questions regarding your new life overseas, get them up on the International Living Facebook page, and we’ll answer them.

Editor’s note: Sign up for IL’s free daily postcards to learn more about topics like these and lots more information about moving overseas.

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