Ever Want to Just Say "F*@k it" and Move to Thailand?

jankynoname's picture
Rank: Neanderthal | banana points 2,778

Lately I've been fantasizing a lot about moving out to Southeast Asia. I have a great job; it's challenging and pays me reasonably well, and frankly a lot of MBA's would probably love to be in this seat. But imagine just moving out to one of the islands in Southern Thailand (Ko Samui or Ko Pha Ngan etc) and spending your mornings surfing or diving, going for runs on the beach, or just kicking around through town looking for tasty beverages and cool people. You can literally live very comfortably in a place like Bangkok or Saigon for $15-$20k a year, and in peripheral cities like Chiang Mai or Phnom Penh, you could get by on like $12k/yr.

Through my old work, I could potentially do some freelance consulting work at ~$200/hr, which means I'd need like 8 billable hours a month just to get by...lol. How awesome would that be?! Spend 28 days a month dicking around the beach and work for two days (2nd day just to save up a bit extra for flights etc). Places like Bangkok and Bali have world class food options, beautiful majestic scenery, ridic hot women (or ladyboys if that's what you're into), international culture, and pretty much no b.s. obligations like we get constantly pestered with in the States.

Only problem is family. I have a baby so schooling would be an issue, and would almost certainly cost a lot out there. Wife probably not on board either. Maybe I could sway her with the $20 maid service. But damn... it's so tempting some days, amirite?

Has anyone else left behind a finance career to go be a bum? I guess if they had they would be unlikely to still be lurking these forums...

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Comments (48)

Jul 22, 2015

i live a version of this, it's become the new normal. There's never a boring day, but there definitely are downsides you may not realize until you're past the "honeymoon" stage. That said, the benefits for me definitely outweigh the negatives.

Some background info: I'm based in S.America (Buenos Aires) in I work a lot more than 2 hrs/week (but hours are generally pretty flexible), I didn't leave a finance job (ecommerce consulting instead), I was single with no ties when I left (26), and it had been a serious dream of mine for ~4+ years (maybe subconsciously my whole life) so I knew this is what I really wanted, and now I couldn't imagine living any other way.

There's a growing # of people like this who live abroad temporarily or for an extended period that i've had the pleasure of meeting. It's been fun following their travels on fb and meeting up wherever around the world.

Some of the downsides are obvious (losing touch with family/friends/home), some aren't so obvious and are different for each person, e.g. my mind is still adjusting to the paradigm shift of the new environment around me. Sometimes I crave nothing more than just a normal week back home (I try to come back each summer to feed this craving).

You mention becoming a "bum"... if you go this route and you're any bit ambitious you'll get bored VERY quickly, trust me. That said, ambitious/adventurous people can truly flourish in this way of life when done properly (i.e. lifestyle design). The majority of the brightest and talented people in my network i've met via this lifestyle.

So my advice... if the right opportunity comes up for you, take it. You mention you have a family, I've met numerous families doing the same thing, so the window of opportunity is still there for you, it just takes more preparation obviously.

Happy to answer any q's you have in this thread or over pm.

ps granted it's from 2012 and a bit outdated (i've since moved back to BA), but you can read more about my story here http://www.escapefromamerica.com/2013/08/expat-int...

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Jul 22, 2015

4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss deals with all these questions. The info on how to balance this with family obligations would probably be particularly interesting to you.

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Jul 22, 2015

I've seen a lot of people who moved to Thailand with this in mind. Usual life path:

  1. Marry a local Thai lady
  2. Buy property in Thai lady's name (as foreigners generally can't own property in Thailand)
  3. Get fat, smoke too much pot
  4. Have child with Thai wife
  5. Get shaken down by Thai wife's family for money (this can happen at multiple stages)
  6. Thai wife gets sick of your shit, family tries to shake you down more for what little cash you have left
  7. Thai wife and/or family kills you
  8. Thai police make half-hearted attempt to investigate
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Jul 22, 2015
SSits:

I've seen a lot of people who moved to Thailand with this in mind. Usual life path:

1. Marry a local Thai lady
2. Buy property in Thai lady's name (as foreigners generally can't own property in Thailand)
3. Get fat, smoke too much pot
4. Have child with Thai wife
5. Get shaken down by Thai wife's family for money (this can happen at multiple stages)
6. Thai wife gets sick of your shit, family tries to shake you down more for what little cash you have left
7. Thai wife and/or family kills you
8. Thai police make half-hearted attempt to investigate

Haha, Living (dying?) the Amer-Thai dream.

You could move to a 2nd tier Chinese city and be a celebrity assuming you're white. I know I could never handle being around millions of Asian people all day and their food, but that's just me.

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Jul 22, 2015
adapt or die:

SSits: I've seen a lot of people who moved to Thailand with this in mind. Usual life path:
1. Marry a local Thai lady
2. Buy property in Thai lady's name (as foreigners generally can't own property in Thailand)
3. Get fat, smoke too much pot
4. Have child with Thai wife
5. Get shaken down by Thai wife's family for money (this can happen at multiple stages)
6. Thai wife gets sick of your shit, family tries to shake you down more for what little cash you have left
7. Thai wife and/or family kills you
8. Thai police make half-hearted attempt to investigate

Haha, Living (dying?) the Amer-Thai dream.

You could move to a 2nd tier Chinese city and be a celebrity assuming you're white. I know I could never handle being around millions of Asian people all day and their food, but that's just me.

Food? Yes. Millions of Asians? No thanks.

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Jul 22, 2015

You forgot a stage that usually occurs before step 4.

-Figure out your slam piece has a "lengthy" history of sexual reassignment surgery .

Jul 22, 2015
SSits:

I've seen a lot of people who moved to Thailand with this in mind. Usual life path:

1. Marry a local Thai lady
2. Buy property in Thai lady's name (as foreigners generally can't own property in Thailand)
3. Get fat, smoke too much pot
4. Have child with Thai wife
5. Get shaken down by Thai wife's family for money (this can happen at multiple stages)
6. Thai wife gets sick of your shit, family tries to shake you down more for what little cash you have left
7. Thai wife and/or family kills you
8. Thai police make half-hearted attempt to investigate

Haha, this seems like a life well lived to me. Fortunately i'm already married so unless i got really turned around at a Full Moon Party or with some hooker I don't really see myself falling down this trap.

The Asian ppl don't bother me at all. I guess I've done enough backpacking through Asia that some of the cultural stuff the bugs many westerners doesn't get to me. I love the food, I already eat some form of Asian probably five nights a week (wife is ABC), so going to seven doesn't seem like a problem. Also, most of these places I've mentioned will have all sorts of other international food options, certainly Bangkok or Saigon or Bali would have all kinds of italian, indian, seafood, burgers, whatever. Steaks are always not quite as good out there because the cows aren't on crazy hormones and aren't force fed like they are here, but otherwise the food is amazing. You're right though, I would prob get super fat out there like most of old bald expats you see.

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Jul 23, 2015

+1, SB

Congrats on 4k banana points :P

Jul 23, 2015

hahahaha I commented on this solely to give you a SB

Jul 22, 2015

Why would you marry people who are clearly getting in contract with you purely for money? I mean it's not like the men who are getting married are not aware of the people they're dealing with, right? they would have to be outright dumb or ignorant. Why would you settle with these kind of women, why would you do that to yourself?

I don't know if these questions apply to any members of this forum but from what SSits mentioned I would really like to know what's the profile of these individuals.

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Jul 18, 2016

Delete

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Jul 22, 2015

Tons of people enter into marriages with a partner only in it for the money. You think Melania Trump is married to Don because of his boyish good looks? That's one example among millions in America alone.

I would agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong.

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Jul 23, 2015

Marry someone in college
Become your spouse's dependent
Have a salary of ~0
Get full ride
???
Profit

But at any rate, some people are blinded by love (or lust or desperation) and will lie to themselves that the girl (or guy or whoever) is in love with them for them and not their money. She might get along with you, but that 7-digit salary might push her to the level where she'd be down to marry.

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Jul 22, 2015

Does anyone know if the price of living is similar in Hong Kong? Been thinking about making that move for some time now

Jul 22, 2015

I know it intimately. Are you US or non US? Paying US tax will make a big difference.

Jul 22, 2015

Yeah I'm from the US. Would the US tax really be that bad?

Jul 22, 2015
The Real Gordon Gekko:

Does anyone know if the price of living is similar in Hong Kong? Been thinking about making that move for some time now

Hong Kong is dramatically more expensive than these cities. Rent alone in HK can easily run you $3-$4k/month for a studio apartment. You can rent a luxury two bedroom in Bangkok for $400/month or in Chiang Mai for ~$200. I do think the dollar goes a bit further in HK for things like electronics, street food, massage, maybe a night out (??) etc. but it's not going to be anywhere near as cheap as Thailand/Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos.

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Jul 22, 2015

Check out Anton Kriel, I believe he does this too.. moves in and out between NYC, London and Thailand. Setting up a business based there apparently has similar tax haven features like the other tax shelters.

Jul 22, 2015

I preferred being surrounded by Chinese people in Hong Kong more than being surrounded by mainly white multicultural people in New York.

Mainly because my Cantonese wasn't good enough to understand people crapping on about their mundane lives.

No escape from that in English speaking New York.

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Jul 23, 2015
SSits:

I preferred being surrounded by Chinese people in Hong Kong more than being surrounded by mainly white multicultural people in New York.

Mainly because my Cantonese wasn't good enough to understand people crapping on about their mundane lives.

No escape from that in English speaking New York.

Where were the mainly white American English speaking people in New York?

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Jul 22, 2015

What about models and bottles? You are focusing on the wrong things. Do you want a happy life or do you want a yacht?

Jeez

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Jul 23, 2015

That's a great idea until some other WSO user's PE firm buys the island you're living on.

I'm a strong supporter of work all you can and save all you can so you can live/give all you can. Just make sure you've saved enough.

Jul 23, 2015

Lived in Lombok & Bali for around a year all in (hence the username). Plan to return at some point. Did Japan for a bit too and have some good friends living in Malaysia atm.

My daily life involved dropping my girlfriend at work on my Kawasaki KX with board strapped to the side. Then I'd surf for the morning, followed by a nap. Then I'd surf again. Pick her up, dinner, done.

It was amazing for a few months. Then I got bored, built a website, read lots of books and ultimately went back to uni.

Key problems with moving to SE Asia broadly. 1) Land ownership 2) Instant target 3) Assimilation more broadly (I had enough language to get by) 4) Pervasive corruption gets irritating quickly.

Personally, I would never move to Thailand.

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Jul 23, 2015

Not a chance I would make this jump...however a friend of mine recently quit his job and is planning on living in Southeast Asia for a bit and pretty much just exploring for a year or so. I give him credit due to the fact that he went alone and is basically just winging it. OP Considering you have family already I would just take a month guys trip or something if you can swing it....you may regret raising a kid in Vietnam.

Jul 23, 2015

love this

Jul 23, 2015

I would love to take a year off and travel around Europe and hangout not giving a sh*t, then get back into life. I sort of did this after high school, I played a sport with the British team along with people from all over. Then one weekend I'd go to Paris just because I could. God I miss that life! Next time I go I'm def going to hit up some festivals and enjoy some "stuff." Maybe if I get around to 50 I could live in Europe for half the year then the rest in the states.

Greed is Good!

Jul 23, 2015

All professional considerations aside, I think the family warrants significant consideration. I think it's completely do-able and you can always move back to a first world once your child hits school age. More importantly if you move abroad you'd want to make sure there is a good medical system (and hospital) relatively nearby as well as it being a relatively safe place for a family / children. Once those two are figured out, then I'd focus on school options longer term (or decide that this is not a long term thing and only a few years at the most). If you are able to work more hours at that rate, you might want to strike a more reasonable / middle of the road balance so you can keep finances healthy for an eventual return. I'm sure your wife would be open to it if you show her your kid(s) can be raised in a good environment and she gets to enjoy tropical life.

That being said, you mentioned you have a baby, so I assume your child is relatively young (ie not a toddler yet). Just make sure this isn't first time parent adjustment where you are just looking to change something because you are restless and still adjusting to the demands of fatherhood. ie make sure you're thinking clearly for the whole family and not just looking for your 'freedom' again...

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Jul 22, 2015
globalmacro:

All professional considerations aside, I think the family warrants significant consideration. I think it's completely do-able and you can always move back to a first world once your child hits school age. More importantly if you move abroad you'd want to make sure there is a good medical system (and hospital) relatively nearby as well as it being a relatively safe place for a family / children. Once those two are figured out, then I'd focus on school options longer term (or decide that this is not a long term thing and only a few years at the most). If you are able to work more hours at that rate, you might want to strike a more reasonable / middle of the road balance so you can keep finances healthy for an eventual return. I'm sure your wife would be open to it if you show her your kid(s) can be raised in a good environment and she gets to enjoy tropical life.

That being said, you mentioned you have a baby, so I assume your child is relatively young (ie not a toddler yet). Just make sure this isn't first time parent adjustment where you are just looking to change something because you are restless and still adjusting to the demands of fatherhood. ie make sure you're thinking clearly for the whole family and not just looking for your 'freedom' again...

Yeah these are all great points. My wife worries about earthquakes out there, which is funny since we live in the SF area where the 'Big One' is most certainly right around the corner... I guess construction quality is worse on average out there so that's prob what worries her.

To your last point, I'm almost definitely looking for an "escape" or going through some sort of new fatherhood crisis. My daughter means everything to me, but i'm almost certainly still struggling with the loss of independence to some degree. That's why I think I'm going to wait it out at least another six months to see how that evolves.

Anyways, appreciate the insights!

Jul 23, 2015

Yeah I've been there, I get it. It gets way better though and then just becomes awesome to be honest. Just don't let it get you down too much and realize it's getting better all the time. Those kids become so much fun and you can travel with them and do all sorts of cool stuff still. It's different, but you start to appreciate that difference and it becomes great.

I was stuck in a job that I hated at the same time, which was a bad combo. It took me leaving (with significant upside left on the table) and everything changed. Traveled for a few weeks with the kid, came back to a new job, and everything was different and started to just fall into place. Hard to explain, but couldn't be happier...

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Jul 23, 2015

I think spending a short amount of time in Thailand, especially if you're white, will change your mind. I've been to Thailand and spent a good amount of time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket training in Muay Thai and know that living here isn't very glamorous for very long. In the beginning you might feel like a superstar being pulled left and right by girls but you have to realize that they're really interested in that "farang" money. Touts, trannies, and general street thugs will target your for your money as well.

Everywhere you go you will get the "farang" price and your experience of everything will be equally farang. Things improve drastically if you can speak their language but it's hard to learn and a very ugly language. Honestly, you'd be better off in a less seedy southeast Asian country like Malaysia or Indonesia.

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Jul 22, 2015

Farang that brah

Jul 22, 2015
shera:

I think spending a short amount of time in Thailand, especially if you're white, will change your mind. I've been to Thailand and spent a good amount of time in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket training in Muay Thai and know that living here isn't very glamorous for very long. In the beginning you might feel like a superstar being pulled left and right by girls but you have to realize that they're really interested in that "farang" money. Touts, trannies, and general street thugs will target your for your money as well.

Everywhere you go you will get the "farang" price and your experience of everything will be equally farang. Things improve drastically if you can speak their language but it's hard to learn and a very ugly language. Honestly, you'd be better off in a less seedy southeast Asian country like Malaysia or Indonesia.

Yeah, this makes a lot of sense to me too. I haven't spent more than a few days in BKK, and never really made it outside Khao San Rd., but def got the sense that the expats are going to be treated as locals when it comes to pricing / inclusion etc. I guess my whole thing is if even the farang price is still way cheaper then who cares... I mean it'd be frustrating for sure, but it's still much better than U.S.

Jul 23, 2015

Just realized I think I know the OP, though it's been like three or four years since we last spoke.

You may be developing burnout. Maybe it's time for b-school. Or some sort of graduate degree. (I am not going to pull a Brady4MVP here). Or spending a two year stint as a park ranger or a teacher or federal reserve employee or something else.

I think you do deserve a break. I think there are better ways to go about doing it than permanent retirement, and I think there's a way back from a break for someone who has spent a few years doing something productive but less stressful.

We have a 40 year career- maybe 50 years depending on peoples' longevity. And most people on this site are less than 10 years into theirs'. There may be fewer people with jobs, but those who work full-time are expected to work harder than they were expected to 30 years ago. It makes sense that there ought to be occasional periods of rest.

I just wouldn't send you to Thailand. Find something productive to do that gets you out of your current sprint and just has you walking for a bit (not completely stopped) just so you can catch your breath. I found myself in a similar situation before I went to grad school, and although an MFE was a lot more work than an undergrad engineering degree, it was the change of pace that I desperately needed. (TBH, being a highschool teacher or ski bum or food truck guy would have worked just as well.)

Start talking with your wife about ways to cut back on expenses. If you need to take a break from work, then your current income is also unsustainable, so you need to start thinking about saving more money.

C'mon janky you live on the West Coast now. If you're working too hard, you're doing it wrong.

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Jul 22, 2015
IlliniProgrammer:

Just realized I think I know the OP, though it's been like three or four years since we last spoke.

You may be developing burnout. Maybe it's time for b-school. Or some sort of graduate degree. (I am not going to pull a Brady4MVP here). Or spending a two year stint as a park ranger or a teacher or federal reserve employee or something else.

I think you do deserve a break. I think there are better ways to go about doing it than permanent retirement, and I think there's a way back from a break for someone who has spent a few years doing something productive but less stressful.

We have a 40 year career- maybe 50 years depending on peoples' longevity. And most people on this site are less than 10 years into theirs'. There may be fewer people with jobs, but those who work full-time are expected to work harder than they were expected to 30 years ago. It makes sense that there ought to be occasional periods of rest.

I just wouldn't send you to Thailand. Find something productive to do that gets you out of your current sprint and just has you walking for a bit (not completely stopped) just so you can catch your breath. I found myself in a similar situation before I went to grad school, and although an MFE was a lot more work than an undergrad engineering degree, it was the change of pace that I desperately needed. (TBH, being a highschool teacher or ski bum or food truck guy would have worked just as well.)

Start talking with your wife about ways to cut back on expenses. If you need to take a break from work, then your current income is also unsustainable, so you need to start thinking about saving more money.

C'mon janky you live on the West Coast now. If you're working too hard, you're doing it wrong.

Haha that would be cool if I actually knew you irl. Not sure tho b/c I already went to b-school, and don't have any "Illini" friends that i know of... although i did live in Chicago for two years (2010-12) so it's certainly possible.

Appreciate the thoughts. I def think changing gears at some point will make sense but I feel like my career is just starting accelerate now so jumping off for something more sustainable feels premature. I really think my options are either put my head down and grind for 5-10 more years, or just quit now and do something completely different/reckless (e.g. Thailand).

Best Response
Jul 26, 2015

Living in the region, I think you can basically split major cities in these categories:
1. big important global hub (NYC, London, Tokyo),
2. smaller "suburban" like first world (Sydney/Melbourne, SF, Chicago, LA, Singapore),
3. second world (Shanghai, Beijing, HK, maybe Bangkok and KL, Manila and Chengdu at a stretch) and
4. third world (Mumbai, Delhi, Jakarta...).

Each "downgrade" has its own improvements and disadvantages. The main downsides: you get fat and lazy and you can't cut it back home anymore (nor are you driven to). Which can lead to regrets later. And you miss family.

Move away from 1 to 2, you'll miss the intellectual depth of every conversation, the fact that the news in most things that matter and are advanced (i.e. not wars) come from there, living next to the people who decide the fate and direction of the world, even if you're 10 blocks away. This is especially true for New York because Americans are just so much more accessible and open to strangers, and less classist than Brits. Tokyo is only on par with these cities if you not only speak Japanese but are familiar with the culture (honne vs tatemae, etc.), otherwise it's just some kind of giant fun yet alienating amusement park.

In exchange you get a more comfortable and affordable life. Moving to Chicago from NYC keeps you in a relatively advanced city but with a considerably better lifestyle. Sydney is a strange place in that whilst it's numerically big, it's split into people just chilling and enjoying life in the massive suburban sprawl, and a spattering of extremely smart and fairly successful expats either retiring or taking a "year off". It's also very international with over a quarter of the population first or second gen immigrants, but you will take literally a day to get into any other country (and plan a full 20 hours to get back to the US). It's insanely expensive and a stupid move if you're already cash flow constrained.

Singapore has as far as I'm concerned the best quality of life per earning (yay for $2 cooked dinners), but I'm OK not having a car and living in a flat in exchange for a very efficient life and proximity to a dozen great locations, I really admire LKY's philosophy which is very strongly present amongst the locals, and I'm comfortable integrating in the melting pot of the dozen or so cultures and threads of history that make it "Singaporean". I think it's a great starting point for Asia and not too dumbed down compared to other cities in the region (including HK, which is IMHO changing for the worse since the GCT and is a lot "dirtier").

Cities in 2. do speed up your move from "starved fresh grad" to "comfortable middle class lifestyle" but they also hinder - imo - your progress towards "greater" goals. I know I put SF in 2, because it is except for tech, but if you're in tech, moving to SF means raising a 1m USD seed round instead of say 100k USD in a cat 2 city. So, you give up access to resources and great networks when you move out of cat 1 and you should be very sure that you're OK with that. Think of it that way: how many 10bn USD funds are there in Atlanta vs NYC? It matters.

2 to 3 has the most massive quality of life improvement for Westerners. In those cities, the GDP per capita is about 1/10th yours, but without the significant disadvantages of the third world (which I'll summarize in cat 4). Relatively clean streets, usually non-deadly tap water, roads with relatively respected rules and no pack animals, safe taxis, educated people. You definitely give up any hope of achievement except for temporary taking advantage of a local bubble by virtue of being the local representative of a massive flow of FDI (e.g. if you're expatriated to Shanghai for 500k/year by your pension fund employer to help manage their China investments); even then this will count against your career vs cat 1 city time (arguably less so than voluntarily moving to cat 2 which shows wanting "work/life balance", whereas cat 3 is "taking advantage of opportunities where they are").

If you are male you will enjoy spectacularly good looking women very easily (I've seen 40+yo Americans with a BMI in the obese territory enjoying Vogue China cover girls) and you will be unable to enjoy dating back home again because your standards will have shifted so massively; on the downside they're pretty damn stupid, less educated and with dodgy values (survival > trust). It's not due to race - in my opinion race has no bearing on potential - but on the environmental factors that shaped the development of their mind. No or little stimulus (beyond "learn to look good and snag rich guy") = really stupid. If you are female it's more complicated. I've seen happy marriages with "locals" (particularly $30m in the bank account locals who can "provide", particularly if you're a former model) but equally there is a staggering number of frustrated western women in Asia because, well, they're not really in demand just due to entitlement and weight issues vs the local market. You cannot get away with becoming obese in Shanghai the way you can in Atlanta or Manchester. These cities are ruthless and I've seen so many "white" couples break up in months after arriving...

3 to 4 is a stupid move unless you have a very compelling reason. Maybe you want adventure (sign up for the Legion Etrangere kind of adventure), maybe you want to go back to your roots and help India move from third to second world, maybe you have serious connections and you can access jobs you wouldn't anywhere else (definitely seems to be the case for the "local office" of some prestigious names in finance). Cat 4 cities just SUCK in so many ways (I've lived in one for 3 months and changed my career plans as a result). The tap water is toxic, might contain cholera and def has dysentery. The air can be so polluted your kids might just get lifetime health issues if they survive their childhood. The road is a constant source of stress and vehicle size is directly correlated with survival probability. Power brownouts are a frequent occurence, so are floods and the streets cannot cope (often, something bad happens and thousands of people just die and nobody cares). You can get nice expat packages but let me tell you, it's not worth it and your family (especially wife) will hate you as they are one of the ~300 families like you and need bodyguards to go shopping at night. On the upside, it makes you a lot tougher and less entitled, and it's kind of "fun" due to the adrenalin. On the downside, it has a tendency to make you incredibly politically incorrect as you have had exposure to reality that few people at home have. When you've seen corpses rotting in the street, it's hard to take people seriously for being pissed off that their metro is 5 minutes late and has no seating space. I think you can go further than cat 4, if e.g. you go commodities trading in war-torn countries (say, you're buying metal ores and the deal is happening in a diamond camp in the DRC, true story).

You mention the whole Digital Nomad idea. I think a lot of people do this (I live a version of this, running my own company from Singapore and moving to an interesting city for a few weeks when I get bored). If you truly move to the third world countryside, you're going to get hopelessly bored very quickly. You should try and set a level of financing that allows you to travel to cities and meet people every so often.

Regardless, expatriation's worst downside is cutting you off your family. They'll age so fast, and change so fast, and you just can't keep up because the 16h flight back and 6h jet lag is such a hassle you do it once, maybe twice, eventually thrice a year. Marriages happen, babies are born and grow into children and men, grandparents go senile and die, parents see their strength wane and their hair whiten and their character change as they learn to cope with their own parents being gone, and it's like you get snapshots of the whole thing as if it was playing at 32x speed (and the same for them, and your life). You start asking yourself "maybe if I had gotten a job in London, it would just be a 1h flight back home every weekend and I'd have had a chance to speak with Grandad before he bought it. In his last 2 years I spoke to him 10 minutes. And I didn't know his dog had died 4 years ago, feels like yesterday he was jumping on me and stinking up my coat." Same with friends but in my experience it matters less than family, and they're better at keeping up over email (plus, new friends take their place).

And you know your kids won't know what it is like to run around in the Alps or taste real food from home like you did cos they'll grow up on variations of "meat with rice" and find it totally normal to be surrounded by people from 50 nations and 10 races with English as the lingua franca. And you wonder if they'll have much in common with you, but at the same time you know it's the new normal just like your own parents are unable to use electronics and you're constantly hooked into the web via several screens.

And then you give a good hard look at yourself vs who you were 10 years ago and you realize you've profoundly changed and you're not really a citizen of anywhere anymore. Not this "citizen of the world" BS by expats who live pretty much the same life everywhere hopping from managed apartment to condo in business class, but because you've seen so many things and experienced so many things that are out of whack with what your friends and fellow citizen are used to that you can't relate to them anymore and get frustrated at their "lack of understanding of how the world works". Even your family seems a little more distant, although they listen to you and try to understand you at least. You have to avoid drinking at parties with friends back home because when you start being honest, it shocks people into silence [1].

[1] edit: I think the best way to explain it is, read Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It's an excellent book anyway, and quite short. It's funny how the theme of the outsider penetrating a, shall we say, less than perfectly functioning country (there taken to an extreme) is still relatable today. I recognized a lot of characters from that novel. Now imagine being Marlow returning to London:

I found myself back in the sepulchral city resenting the sight of people hurrying through the streets to filch a little money from each other, to devour their infamous cookery, to gulp their unwholesome beer, to dream their insignificant and silly dreams. They trespassed upon my thoughts. They were intruders whose knowledge of life was to me an irritating pretence, because I felt so sure they could not possibly know the things I knew. Their bearing, which was simply the bearing of commonplace individuals going about their business in the assurance of perfect safety, was offensive to me like the outrageous flauntings of folly in the face of a danger it is unable to comprehend. I had no particular desire to enlighten them, but I had some difficulty in restraining myself from laughing in their faces so full of stupid importance.

not to mention (and this is not about women)

It's queer how out of touch with truth women are. They live in a world of their own, and there has never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether, and if they were to set it up it would go to pieces before the first sunset. Some confounded fact we men have been living contentedly with ever since the day of creation would start up and knock the whole thing over.

and especially (spoiler hint) what he tells Kurz's wife at the end. That was beautiful. There is so much unsaid, yet understood, as with much of British literature.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/219/219-h/219-h.htm

Jul 26, 2015

Damn, I spent a good 20-30 mins writing out a post/response to this thread and got a site error when hitting submit. Don't feel like typing it out again but solid post. I feel like you too left a lot unspoken about your experiences outside of the states, so if you ever feel like sharing, I'm sure quite a few people would be interested in reading.

Jul 26, 2015

Some day when I retire, I'll go through my 40GB or so of emails from the last decade and try and patch it together into a blog. Occasionally, I read back emails I sent friends as time passed (the 2 page variety) and it's funny watching my own mindset evolve. Emails are the best because you don't have to be politically correct (I'm taking a risk being doxxed here) whereas in the public sphere, you're not even allowed to discuss the reasons behind political correctness and the interests that might have shaped public discourse accordingly away from a more, ahem, observant view of the world. One conclusion might be that this will be a disadvantage for the civilisations most affected which will result in their decline. Time will tell.

Jul 22, 2015

Post was incredible - thanks! I've read through it once but feel like i'll need to re-read it a couple times to absorb everything, but those are tremendous insights from someone who's been living the expat life!

What you wrote about family ageing really fast etc. is something I've thought a lot about too. I'm almost sure I wouldn't be able to see my folks more than about once a year, and given that they're already late 60's, things could start moving really fast. It would probably crush my Mom to move her only grandchild so far away... That part is realistically going to be tough.

I do see a ton of optionality in those Cat. 3 cities. I could easily move out there thinking i'll just make a go of this consulting business, but after a year or two might end up going a completely different direction. It seems like there is so much growth that there will be a ton of business opportunities for anyone with half a brain to capitalize on.

On friends - how have you found making new friends out there? I guess in Singapore you get a ton of long-term expats, but I'm guessing in Bangkok or some town in Vietnam you have ppl coming out to check things out for six months or a year and then they're off somewhere else. Probably tough to lay down lasting friendships like it is in the States... I taught English one summer in Taiwan back in college, and remember thinking all the Westerners were basically just 'passing thru'.

Thanks very much for your detailed post!!

Jul 26, 2015

Friends depend on who you are and your values really. I've met thousands of people, I know where to poke to get people to show their colours quickly, and if they align with mine we usually keep in touch.

The great thing about Singapore especially is how little race matters (and other groups, such as religious). So you can befriend "natives" relatively easily (and other expats from non-white groups) provided you share some values. In my case, I consider Lee Kuan Yew to be the greatest politician of the 20th century, and I can justify it at length, so that's something I share with a lot of Singaporeans. I happen to know quite a bit about Japanese culture - not speaking Japanese, but understanding their philosophy, their history and the reasons for things being the way they are - so that's a quick way to link up with Japanese expats, at least those who have lived abroad long enough to be willing to open up to gaijins. There's still some white groups - the "passing through", only here to clock my 1-2 years in Asia lot - but I don't really get in touch with them except professionally, we don't have very much in common. My Western friends (I say white, but some aren't, you get French Algerians, Eurasian Germans, black Brits, etc. - but culturally "white") tend to be long term expats who settled in Asia and are taking up the opportunities, and this is our common mindset. I think the point of no return and quickest way to ID these folks is when they are married to someone who grew up on a different continent. You quickly find that - especially in Asia - girls like to be close to their family. This becomes a real factor in how often you get to go home and see yours..

And then when you have friends of friends moving there, naturally the network activates and you are introduced, so you go for a drink and you poke and you figure out if that could be a good friend. It's always fun to show an American just how high quality of life can be here. The best is when they move in December or January (long enough into the winter to really be hating the snow and short days) and you go have a beer watching the sun set on Siloso beach, with hot girls playing volleyball right in front... "yeah, it's like that all year".

In the third world I found it much harder to make friends. I was younger and lived in the "areas without white people" (working for a local corporation) so I couldn't really afford the time if not the cash for a 2.5h drive to the expat area (only 15km, but that's real traffic for you). And the expats were completely insane anyway - think Kurz type characters who enjoyed going into the desert building roads in 50 celsius heat, or hopping on a bike alone and visiting villages in multi-week tours dressed in local garb to "understand the customer". Some folks at work took me under their wing in a way, and I spent many a night on the back of a motorbike without a helmet slaloming between holes and 6-lane traffic on a 3-lane highway at 80kph to go drink beer and eat way too spicy meat with their friends; but I could never bond because the gap in life experience between us was too great. I kept one friend from that period and when I visited the place again, he came up to see me in the 5* hotel. Security followed us up to the room and asked if everything was OK, sir. We decided to eat out. I've tried to keep in touch with him by email but the dude can barely spell. I think he emigrated to the US eventually, I gave him the idea (most third world folks never cross their own borders because a flight might be a year's salary).

FWIW I don't travel to the third world anymore unless I have to. I find the brokenness (what tourists find "charming authenticity") to get too much in the way of enjoyment. Yay for Japan, Australia and at a stretch China. Clean streets, safe food, smart folks. Perth is about as long a flight as Bali and you don't need to deal with Indonesian customs, and the tap water won't put you in hospital, and the food is way better. Although I did see someone get shot in his car in Perth - still unsure if it was a movie, since the hole in the window was pretty damn real looking.

Jul 23, 2015

This is gold!!! Later in life I wouldn't mind taking a higher position and living across the world...

Greed is Good!

Jul 29, 2015

This....this is so...accurate. Never have I ever found a post that speaks so much to me like this in all the time I have spent on the internet.

The part where you experience your family aging 32x faster is correct. Since I left my country 3 years ago to pursue a Finance education in the US, I have only visited my family twice, for a total of six weeks, because it's too expensive to go back. Since then, my mom opened a little gift store, her all-time long dream, and grew a noticeable amount of grey hair. I've seen my grandma grow older and weaker and "old-people back hump" getting stronger and the skin on her face becoming wrinkled like those of farmers in third world countries.in the black-and-white portraits.

My dream is to travel, and backpack, the world, go to places where not many humans have gone, and to experience what only a lucky courageous few were able to experience (go to Antarctica, space, walk the wall of China, and be a monk in a Tibet temple for a year).

I am currently living in the Midwest and doing an internship in an investment bank here. However, I am very geeky, love computers, technology, and people who are not afraid of taking risks. So, I want to move to SF. On the other hand, I know that if I went back to my home country, I would be able to be closer to my family and most likely work for any company that I want, because I have an American education.

My dilemma is that I live in a tier 3 country (Brazil), will have a stable/somewhat successful life if I stay in the Midwest, feel like I would be driven if I moved to SF (but did not network there much, and missed opportunities for FT recruiting), or abandoned everything and went onto explore the world and learn unique things.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom? Also, what material (like the book you mentioned, which is beautifully written), would you recommend?

Jul 26, 2015

Well, for maybe 2-3k from the Midwest, you can fulfill two of your dreams already. The Great Wall is a 1-2h minivan ride from Beijing, so you can go walk amongst the massive crowds and admire the nothingness on both sides. It is somewhat worth it, although I wouldn't go to Beijing just for it (luckily Beijing has a thousand more interesting things, watching the sun set over the Forbidden City with the weird amateur choirs singing in the park is pretty memorable in my books).

Tibet is expensive and filled with Eat Pray Love types. If you want a similar, but more "genuine" experience (i.e. you don't mind sleeping on the sloping floor of a tent warmed by dried yak crap and eating flour-milk-cheese balls mixed by the hands of the person who just collected the yak crap), land a Jiuzhaigou which is a worthwhile place to see anyway, and take a 12h bus to Langmusi. Personally, I liked the mountains but don't think much of the philosophy - I think that rationalism is the best philosophy and the mystics, whilst able to cope well with crappy living conditions, are basically wasting their life. Another thing you can't really say at a cocktail party... And I see a temple, and as a former engineer all I see is that none of the lines are straight... well, they are impressive pieces of work anyway, like the pyramids, just from the sheer manual effort required. But the Alps are just as deserted if you know where to go, and a lot less of a pain to go to.

I think everyone has different values and priorities and you need to figure out what you want out of life. For some, it's living close to their family and expanding it, regardless of living conditions. For others (myself included) there has to be a direction of improvement. In the latter case, nothing is free, and you have to make sacrifices, so you tell yourself to appreciate every moment you get, that others have it worse (I knew Aussies in London who came home once every 3 years) and that it's worth it so that your kids can have a better life than you had with more opportunities and all the lessons you learnt. Once your direction and values are clear in your head it's just a matter of execution; you sacrifice family time for your kids' future and your own.

Jul 27, 2015

I personally would much rather strive for 500k NYC than 12k Thai land. To each his own.

Jul 26, 2015

If money is your only metric, you should consider Asia:
- decent talent is scarcer (although this is changing) which both means easier promotions and easier performance reviews (I'm just off a meeting with a 50yo American who complains he'd just be reaching C-level age in the US, but reached it 20 years ago in APAC)
- waaaay many more opportunities (you're talking about countries with 10-15% growth pa and whose GDP per capita is going from 2k to 30k with as many people going from pauper to middle class as there are people in the States period; you're talking about markets of hundreds of millions of people with way fewer competitors)
- crazy salaries are acceptable and almost expected (e.g. I know a dude who cleared 600k USD per annum with 4 years experience doing basic portfolio rebalancing for the Shanghai office of a massive fund)
- it's both easier to start a business, and much easier to run it - no competition! (although funding is harder to get)
- cynically - it's bubble land, there's many bubbles of all sizes, shapes and duration for the savvy bubble surfer to catch, if fast money is what you want.

Then you can fly back in first class to NYC when you feel like it and buy up a 5th Ave pad... just like all the other PRC families you're now working with.

(your point still holds for Thailand)

Jul 22, 2015

I think this is probably one of those things where my idea of what it would be like to live in Thailand, and the reality are probably two completely different things. Sure, for the first three or six months I'm sure I'd go cruising around the countryside on a 250cc motorcycle, island hopping and drinking frilly shakes and drinks out of coconuts, do a few dives with whale sharks etc... but eventually like anything else I would probably settle into some kind of normalcy. It would always feel oppressively hot and muggy and I'd probably spend most of my time indoors, on a computer, not unlike what I do now. I'm sure I'd always be amused by the cultural idiosyncracies. Grabbing a tasty dinner for 3-5 USD wouldn't get old either. And the ability to use Bangkok or somewhere similar as a launching pad to travel around SE Asia would be pretty amazing.

I guess the biggest temptation is just to save up enough so that you technically could get by out there without too much work or stress, and just having that optionality to say "fuck it, I'm out." Realistically that is still a few years off for us. But I'm trying to be aware of it because I don't want to go plop down $1.5mm to buy some shitty two bedroom condo here in SF, and be saddled with a giant mortgage payment for the foreseeable future. If instead I skip the homeownership decision entirely and just save/invest in a disciplined fashion, I think this digital nomadacy might be a more stimulating and rewarding option. It will absolutely result in us raising our daughter in a non-traditional way. But frankly that may be a good thing, as she'll be much more open to working in another culture, and probably will be more creative than most of the SAT zombies they train out here.

Anyways, thanks for all of the amazing responses guys -- some really good stuff in here!

Jul 22, 2015
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