Every four years, when the presidentialout race rolls around, folks say “If (fill in the blank) wins, I’m moving to Canada!” Or maybe Bolivia, or “anywhere but here.” With that in mind, we recently ordered the latest edition of Getting Out: your guide to leaving America. For many reasons, I’m not going anywhere, but I thought it would be interesting to have a look and indeed, it was. After some introductory info about how the book came about and who it’s intended for, the meat and potatoes appear. First a section on different sorts of visas as well as gaining foreign citizenship (which is usually pretty difficult unless you marry a native or have oodles of money). After that, different methods of supporting yourself overseas, including the Peace Corps (if you don’t mind going wherever they send you) and other volunteer organizations, retirement, working for the U.S. government, entrepreneurship, etc.

The next section is the largest and, to me, the most interesting.  Lots and lots of info on different countries, including which ones speak English, which ones are least/most expensive, how corrupt the governments and police are generally, who has good/bad infrastructure including roads and internet, where crime is high or low, etc. Interspersed all along the way are bits of info from expatriates who have relocated to lots of different places. Some of them are really eye-opening, but mostly they boil down to “remember it’s not the U.S. and you’ll be happier.” Some people really like their new homes, whether temporary or permanent, while others put up with various issues simply to live where it’s cheaper or more aligned with their worldview or because their spouse is native and they accompanied them home.

After the general information on statistics and culture, we finally come to the country by country list of places you might consider and a short list of places not to consider (Somalia, Chad, Haiti, Sudan and a few other notable places best avoided). For each of the sixty countries listed, there’s an info box about climate, form of government, population, currency, major languages and religious groups, ethnic groups and a comparative cost of living. That’s followed by a overview of “living there” including a bit more on governance, quality of infrastructure and internet, healthcare cost and quality, how likely it is that you might be able to work there, the tax situation, and a bit about crime, whether or not you can buy real estate, and whether abortion is permitted as well as gun control and marijuana laws. Something I found a bit troubling in spots is the snippet on “Women’s Issues.” While it’s certainly worth knowing if you might be taking yourself (or your wife or daughter) to someplace rife with sexual harassment, I think that stating “Domestic violence is a problem in Aboriginal communities” in Australia seems to imply that the European descended folks are all peaceable and well-behaved.  The section on “Moving There” goes a bit more deeply into who can/can’t take up residence in the country. Sadly, just about anywhere I would consider going won’t take me unless I win a sweepstakes or lottery (and I’d need to anyway in order to afford the cost of living in those places).

By the way, if you’re interested in high-tailing it out of the country to avoid the long arm of the law, there’s a list of countries with no extradition treaty with the U.S. The book concludes with a section on web resources for up-to-date and more in-depth information for those who are more than merely curious about becoming an expat. At any rate, whether merely curious or itching to get overseas, you’ll find plenty to inform yourself with here.

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