Relocating? -- Best Countries for American Expats
If you are among the many, many Americans for whom this election caused massive anxiety, it might be nice to take a moment and fantasize about what your life could be like in a country besides this one.
There are somewhere around 9 million American civilians currently living abroad, which for scale is one New Jersey's worth of us out there roaming the world. Where to go, though, is an open question. Whether a country has a lot of English- speakers or a favorable cost of living or an immigration process that’s (relatively) navigable, some are easier for Americans to move to than others. Whether you’re thinking of Europe or Asia or South America these countries make a pretty compelling case to leave everything behind.
A little food for thought before you read on -- consider all the times you’ve heard the term “expat” applied to (predominantly white) people from Western countries, and “immigrant” or “migrant” reserved for (predominantly non-white) people entering Western countries. Living abroad is a great way to gain a new perspective not just on a new country, but in your home country.
A note on the numbers: We've used the price index from the website WorldData to quantify costs of living in each country. The global index is adjusted to a US cost of living as 100, so a country with an index of, say, 80 would mean that that country is 20% cheaper to live in than the US, while an index of 120 would mean 20% more expensive. If you’re curious, the highest index of the 101 countries rated is Bermuda at 180.5, while the lowest is India at 31.7.
Price index compared to US: 57.1
English-speaking proportion of population: About one-quarter Number of Americans already living there: Around 6,000
Why you'd want to live there: Downtown Prague may be growing more expensive thanks to a tourism boom, but it’s still a ways o from being the next Berlin or Amsterdam. Newcomers can enjoy the liberal European attitudes, the stunning medieval architecture, charming Christmas markets, and decide for themselves what they make of gentried neighborhoods like Z?iz?kov and Vinohrady. Even outside of Prague, the Czech Republic is one of Europe's most beautiful countries, packed with green countryside and spa escapes.
Price index compared to US: 107.4
English-speaking proportion of population: Almost everyone Number of Americans already living there: Around 20,000
Why you'd want to live there: it's easy to move to! Australia's funkier, less desert- y sibling is an entire day's ight away from America -- you can scarcely get further away on the planet. Yet Kiwis speak English, so you'll feel vaguely at home, especially if you're into hiking, scuba diving, skiing, winemaking, Lord of the Rings scenery, or the world's rst human catapult! Maybe you mostly want to use it as a home base for exploring Australia, Indonesia, and Oceania, but you can always stick around and work a while. There are a range of obtainable options for work permits and emigration visas, if you're under 56 and ready to relocate.
Price index compared to US: 90.3
English-speaking proportion of population: A little over half Number of Americans already living there: Around 110,000
Why you'd want to live there: Besides cheap beer and wine, schnitzel and the Autobahn, Germany's got much to oer weary Americans. Being smack in the middle of the continent, it's prime territory for weekend getaways. From Munich, a four-hour drive will get you to Switzerland, Austria, or Italy. A two-hour ight will take you almost anywhere in Europe. A diverse melting pot is thriving in Berlin, the fatherland's most international city, where a low cost of living meets a tech startup boom and parties galore. In gentried neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg and Kreuzberg, you'll hear English quite often on the streets -- sometimes even more than German.
What's the catch: Didn't you hear that ze Germans love bureaucracy? Americans can enter the country with a three-month visa on arrival, but an ocial move requires multiple visits to various government bureaus, where you'll need to provide streams of documentation. Simply opening a bank account or getting a mobile phone creates its own paper snail trail. Also, the secret about Berlin is out. The job market for foreigners is very competitive these days, and the struggle is especially real when it comes to nding a place to call your own. Showing up at apartment viewings to compete against 20 other hopefuls is just the way it is.
Price index compared to US: 74.1
English-speaking proportion of population: Less than 10%, but you’ll be able to use a little to get around
Number of Americans already living there: Around 120,000
Why you'd want to live there: Because it feels like California broke o from North America, headed south, and grew a rainforest. A steady democracy that spends its money on education instead of the military, Costa Rica has been chummy with the US for more than 150 years, making culture shock minimal. A million Americans visit the country every year, and the Ticos have put those dollars back into infrastructure -- reliable airports, deluxe highways, huge conservation districts -- that make the country easy to get around and easy to enjoy. It has volcanoes, mountains, beaches, and oodles of badass animals. The literacy rate is one of the world's highest. If you have a full-time job you get Aguinaldo -- an extra month’s salary at Christmas. Not surprisingly, the people here report being pretty dang happy.
English-speaking proportion of population: About one-quarter
Why you'd want to live there: Thailand is the most livable of tropical
paradises, with a storied history of friendliness to outsiders, strong infrastructure, and incredibly low living costs. Bangkok (the capital) is a vibrant, thrumming metropolis where $600 a month will get you a furnished apartment in a high-rise complex, with a pool, sauna, and on-site gym. Good thing rents are cheap because foreigners aren't allowed to own land in Thailand (though you could buy yourself a condo).
Perks like taxis, massages, and street food are all inexpensive here. And if you can do without city comforts and embrace a simpler life, there are even better deals on island bungalows. Thailand is rather centrally located in Southeast Asia, so it’s a great hub for exploring other countries (and with the budget airline AirAsia, you can do it for cheap). No wonder so many digital nomads call it home base.
Price index compared to US: 95.7
English-speaking proportion of population: More than one-third Number of Americans already living there: Around 100,000
Why you'd want to live there: Here's the norm in France: 35-hour workweek, 90- minute lunch breaks, wine at pretty much every meal, no open-container laws, unpasteurized cheese, great soccer... living the dream, in short. Grab a coee by the Seine to pass all the time you have o. In addition to the short workweek, French employees are given ve weeks of paid leave along with 12 federal holidays a year. Prowl the museums of Paris, but know that there’s so, so much besides Paris- the restaurants of Lyon, the beaches of Cannes, the vineyards of Champagne. As you work less in France, you'll live more.
What's the catch: The French aren't renowned for their embrace of foreigners. And no, high school French and an admiration for Amelie aren't going to help you cozy up to the cool Parisian crowd. If you don't have a French-born signicant other, expect some serious social isolation. Also, getting a work visa is notoriously dicult, so if you don't have full-time employment in France, prepare to live below the law.
Price index compared to US: 98.4
English-speaking proportion of population: Almost everyone, except in French Canada, where about one-third of Quebecois speak English
Number of Americans already living there: More than 300,000
Why you'd want to live there: It’s like a love-child of Alaska and Vermont. You'll probably already know the language and can skip a lot of the culture shock in favor of cultural immersion: get into fringe theater and circus arts in Montreal, explore the food scene in Toronto, or become a tree planter in British Columbia. The US dollar is still strong against the loonie, so your lower cost of living also comes with eco-consciousness, diversity, amazing food, low crime rates, excellent public education, healthcare, a stable economy, and most importantly, more nature than you can even bother to care about. (Canadians are so obsessed with nature that their version of The New Yorker is named after a sea mammal.) Wander around Canada's mountains and glaciers and beaches and islands to ski, surf, kayak, dive, hunt, hike, or just hibernate in a house on the prairie. And you can take your pick of several dierent ways to move to Canada.
Price index compared to US: 89.2
English-speaking proportion of population: Around half of younger South Koreans speak at least some English
Number of Americans already living there: More than 100,000
Why you'd want to live there: Between the enduring popularity of K-pop, K- dramas, and Korean Design, South Korea is having an ongoing pop-culture moment. But Americans love it here for the metropolitan behemoth that is Seoul, which holds home-grown treasures of the entertainment, culinary, and cultural varieties, as well as pleasures from home (Shake Shack, anyone?). This mountainous, low-crime nation is crazy modern, with some of the fastest Wi speeds in the world. Public transit is a breeze, with most signs in English, and you can get from Seoul in the north to the beachy Busan in the south in under three hours. Baseball and boozing are pastimes, with open-container laws allowing for soju in the streets. Housing can be pricey sans roommate, but otherwise, the cost of living is surprisingly low.
Price index compared to US: Not listed on WorldData, but Numbeo estimates the country’s cost of living to be around 19% lower than in the US. English-speaking proportion of population: Very low
Number of Americans already living there: Just a few thousand
Why you'd want to live there: It's the rare land in the Americas with a stable economy and almost no inequality or violent crime. It has a functional political system with little corruption, a highly educated population, and progressive LGBTQ laws and attitudes. Marijuana is legal to grow and to possess for personal use, and public transit in Montevideo (the culturally rich capital city) is good enough you won't need a car. The wine, the beef, and the national soccer team are all world-class, the Atlantic beaches are among the best in the world and the temps in the winter never fall below freezing.
A nation the size of Washington State, Uruguay has maintained its even keel during the political and economic turmoil of its neighbors Argentina and Brazil. Particularly since the 2010-2015 tenure of President Mujica who famously spent his term living in a humble farmhouse on a dirt road, the country has become the darling of the liberal world. Native Uruguayans will be the rst to tell you that their country is far from perfect, but they're an incredibly welcoming lot, so they'll tell you in the most friendly and helpful of ways.
Price index compared to US: 109.7
English-speaking proportion of population: Almost everyone Number of Americans already living there: Around 15,000
Why you'd want to live there: While it’s far from cheap to live in this magnicent northern land, Stockholm is still a bargain compared to, say, New York City. The nation has a strong economy with plenty of industries hiring, and your native English may actually be an asset in nding work. The Scandinavian country is absorbing immigrants -- many of the Syrian refugees -- at a commendable pace. And unlike the weak-kneed nationalists in places like France and the United States, the Swedes are making every eort to assimilate newcomers into a country that oers some of the nest education, healthcare, public services, and saunas in the world. Net result? Folks are happy here.
Price index compared to US: 49.5
English-speaking proportion of population: Very low
Number of Americans already living there: Unconfirmed; about 450,000 a year visit
Why you'd want to live there: You'll eat lavishly, every meal of every day. Lima, Peru's capital, rocks a food scene as good as anywhere, with a mix of Chinese, Andean, Japanese, and enduring Incan inuences. Put it this way: no country that cultivates 5,000 dierent varieties of potatoes is anything but deadly serious about food. When you stand up from the table and head out into the country, you'll nd a beautiful and incredibly diverse land, dotted with the incredible history of the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, and Nazca Lines. Plus plenty of Pacic beach towns. Under Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, the mild-mannered centrist who served as president until earlier this year, the relatively stable democratic republic has invited business investment and tourism dollars. Quality dentistry and medical care are bargains, especially in Lima. If you want to go kick the tires for six months, you can; your tourist visa is good for 183 days. And above all, Peruvians seem to genuinely like Americans.
Price index compared to US: 71.7
English-speaking proportion of population: Around one-quarter Number of Americans already living there: 3,000+
Why you'd want to live there: The country’s two largest cities, Porto and Lisbon, give you what so many places like Berlin and Prague can’t: panoramic seaside views and endless secret beaches. Gobsmacking Atlantic beauty isn’t the only reason to consider moving there, but it doesn’t hurt. Both cities played a signicant role in the country’s proud seafaring tradition and, like many port cities, both Lisbon and Porto are accustomed to welcoming travelers from across oceans.
5 Things you should know about being an American expatriate
When deciding to move abroad and become an expatriate, about 83% of the US Americans are generally satised with life elsewhere, according to a recent survey by InterNations. Among the American expatriate respondents, over two-fths want to stay in their destination country forever. As more and more Americans tend to live around the world, we are going to discuss some tips and facts to help future and current long-staying US expatriates to better prepare for the steps into the unknown.
Make Sure You Know American Expatriate Taxes
One of the most important things that US expatriates should know about is US Expat Taxes. The US is few of the countries which require tax ling to its residents after they have moved abroad, even if you are paying tax in your destination country. To prevent penalties and earn a tax credit, American expatriates must le US tax obligation on time. Special regulations may apply when using foreign taxes paid as a credit against US tax obligations. It is essential for future and current US expats to understand US tax programs and talk to an expat tax professional.
Take Advantage of Social Security Agreements Between the US and Your Destination Country
According to US International Social Security Agreements, The US has established many bilateral social security agreements that allow American expats to only pay social security taxes to one of the two governments. Eligible countries include Italy, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, France, Chile, and Japan.
This regulation can help eliminate dual social security taxation. However, the exact regulations may have specic exclusions and rules such as self-employment rules and territoriality rules. American expatriates should examine their destination country’s agreement descriptions to make sure that they are covered while living abroad. Again, talk to your tax and legal adviser.
Applying for a New Driver’s License in your Destination country may be required
If you are thinking about driving in your destination country, please be aware that road conditions and driving regulations can be dierent from those in the United States. Insurance and a valid driver’s license are required in most countries. Many countries may not accept a US driver’s license, so you may want to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a local driver’s license.
One of the most important considerations for American expats is obtaining global medical coverage, especially where local plans may be non-existent or adequate medical care may not be available. Your domestic health plan in the USA probably won’t cover you abroad, so you will need to search out an international plan assuming you will become a non-US resident. Therefore, it is critical for US expatriates to purchase an international health insurance plan. A good plan should provide a sizeable direct pay medical network, so you and your family won’t have to pay the out of pocket fee in multiple currencies. In addition, many global health insurance plans providers oer international medical networks with English speaking doctors and medical sta.
If you are an American expatriate who is living abroad and often travels back to the United States, it is also important to get the American coverage option in your international health insurance plan. Most American expats residing abroad will seek out a global medical plan that includes the USA because if they suer a serious medical illness or injury, the expat will most likely want to seek medical treatment back home in the USA. It is essential to cover your international health insurance needs with an expat insurance expert such as Expat Financial and weigh the costs and benets of having an international health insurance plan that provides full coverage in the United States of America.
You May Have to Report You Foreign Bank Accounts When Living Abroad
Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) is a report of foreign bank accounts that based solely on your overseas account balances. This may be the case if you have a balance that exceeded $10,000 or more in your foreign bank accounts at any point during the year.
Expat Financial oers independent advice, solutions and excellent service and support to clients around the world and we have extensive experience in sourcing medical cover for individual American expat employers worldwide. They oer a variety of excellent global medical plans that can meet almost any need and budget. For more information and to review the plans that they oer, contact the oce or visit the international health insurance page. If your organization has a group of two or more expatriate employees, the rm can source international insurance plans. Note that the above tips are for informational purposes only as we are not tax advisors. They strongly recommend that you talk to a qualied tax accountant or lawyer to discuss your situation and requirements as these can dier from individual to individual.