Keep Connected but not Attached

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What do you Miss From Your old Country?

Many retirees often find themselves involved in discussions with other expatriates about what do you miss from your old country, or what things do you wish you could get here.  This is natural, even normal and learning about these things can help a potential newcomer to not suffer the loss. The items I hear discussed most often are the following:

  • Entertainment
  • Communication with friends and family
  • I can’t live without it
  • Correspondence

We will discuss each in more detail  below.


Entertainment is a broad topic and we have discussed a number of options here including finding adventure and the fact that retiring in the tropics means different things to different people.

The joy of dancing
Happy Hour
Happy Hour

To many of us finding a place we can go and spend time with the love of our life encapsulates entertainment.

Yet to others the party is at least as important as the quality time with another person.  Going out on a regular basis, meeting and getting to know new people over drinks and snacks counts as a wonderful way to cap off a day.

The all important Happy Hour circuit is critical to know.

Outdoor activities such as horseback riding, tennis, golf, scuba diving, surfing, rafting, rock climbing, hunting and fishing can all be found in many tropical locations and outdoor adventurers have already found most if not all of these.

Ok, some of us are just not that active anymore, so while we may go to an occasional Happy Hour and even fish from time to time we spend most of our time relaxing at home.  Many discover that the type of television and music they enjoyed in their former country simply do not exist from local entertainment providers such as television channels, radio stations or even cable providers.

watching TV
Finally Dancing With the Stars

Faced with this dilemma a few become horrified, but most will find alternative methods to access the elements of the culture they have left behind. We have provided a review of electronics that will bring you the television shows and music people could not find before in the Tropics.

You can take the first steps to reversing your longings to see Dancing With the Stars or hear Mississippi Delta Blues by clicking here.   Be prepared fellow couch potatoes your life is about to get a whole lot better!


After you have settled into your new home and have had an opportunity to meet new friends, explore beautiful new places and eat delicious food that you had never even heard of before, many of us have an epiphany that begins something like this (your results may vary),  Oh my goodness we haven’t spoken with our children since we arrived, or Dang it! yesterday was your brother’s birthday, we should call him, and so you do.

calling home
I am so sorry I have not called

The real epiphany occurs when you get your cell phone bill and you see the $47.00 cost of that 15 minute apology tour for failing to remember to call sooner.  While international landline and cell phone rates have fallen significantly they are still expensive.  That is the bad news.

The good news is internet based telephone systems have almost eliminated overseas long distance telephone charges.  We extensively review a number of less expensive, inexpensive and darn near free options, and you can read about those by clicking here.

I can’t live without it

Everyone has certain things in their lives that they have grown so accustomed to that life would just not be right without them.  Sometimes those things, at least some of them, can be found locally.  Others can be downloaded, but there are some things that just have to be bought online. For those of you who need to get your I can’t live without it items you can get them by clicking here.


With the advent of email, paperless online banking, shopping and

Mail truck
May or may not exist

birthday cards you would think the need for snail mail, except for that annoying junk mail that used to fill your mailbox, would be non existent in these times. Alas, there are always late adopters like the US government Social Security Administration.

Public postal service quality varies greatly around the world and in many areas it simply stinks. To solve this problem people decide that the lack of dependability in foreign public postal services is not acceptable and they opt to purchase private mail forwarding.

UPS is most likely the premiere mail forwarder and they do so through retail franchises serving as the delivery point for the corporate carrier.  Mailboxes Etc. and the UPS Store are two of the UPS subsidiaries that provide a central mail receiving location in the USA and then forward the mail to the individual mailbox lessee.  We personally use this service and find it to be pretty good, but if ordering something online, be sure to keep your tracking number from the shipper.  This has saved us a couple of times when they had “misplaced” our shipment.  They bill using a monthly rate that includes a fixed amount of weight received.  The customer is billed additionally for excess weight.

A Latin American alternative is AeroExpress which is also known as Airboxes Express.  Caution do not use the AirBoxes Express link to start your account, it is not secure, use it for information only, go to an office to register for service.  The main differences between the UPS subsidiaries and Airboxes is areas served with the UPS footprint being worldwide, while Airboxes concentrates on Latin America.  The other difference is how they bill.  As mentioned earlier with UPS you actually rent a mailbox whether you receive mail or not.  With Airboxes you pay no monthly rent, but their cost per weight is significantly higher.  We have not used Airboxes and we have heard both rave reviews and harsh complaints from those who do.

A third option, US Global Mail, is best suited for those who do not do much if any online shopping.  If paid monthly their service costs $15.00 per month and they receive mail in the USA and scan the envelopes and email those to you.  If you desire to read the contents they will scan the contents for an additional charge per page and email those to you as well. Finally they have an additional fee for package reception and forwarding.

In Conclusion

Adapting to a new home can be stressful, regardless of where it is. Adapting to a new home, in a different culture, raises the bar even higher. To assist with this transition we discussed how to find culturally appropriate entertainment from your home country, how to call home for next to nothing, how to get stuff you simply cannot live without and how to receive snail mail from home.  We hope this post is helpful.



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No Your Birth Country is not Better it is Just Different

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I Miss My Home

Having been married to a wonderful woman I met abroad for many years and knowing her friends from the Latino

Do not let this happen to you

community in the United States I have heard why Perú, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama were better places to live than the United States.

Similarly, having lived in several countries outside the United States I have heard why other anglo  expatriates thought Great Britain, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States were better places to live than Chile, Brasil, Costa Rica or Panamá.

What the people are really saying is I miss my home.

Is There a Perfect Place to Live?

The short answer to this is no.  Everywhere we have lived had many good things, some bad things and things that were just different from what we were accustomed to.  The people mentioned above were concentrating on the things that were mostly different and to some extent the bad things about their current location.

We often forget the things about our previous home that were less than ideal and for those reasons when someone asks us if there is a perfect place to live the discussion begins with what makes a place perfect for you, and what makes a place intolerable.

Is Your Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

happy retirees
A new life

We have found every move we have made has lead to a period of adjustment, at first that was the adventure associated with discovery which shortly gave way to the anxiety associated with the unknown.  It is important to consciously address whether your glass is half empty or half full.

If your glass is half empty you only have complaining to other expats about how much you miss home and how hard it is to live here.  If your glass is half full a new life of friendships and adventures awaits ……. it is time to choose.


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If you have a partner you are not in this alone

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When Mama Not Happy Nobody’s Happy

Mamma not happy
This is not what you need

This is a pearl of southern wisdom that applies to living in the  tropics as well.  If you have retired with your partner to a new country, a new culture and totally different life each person has to be emotionally attuned to their partner.

Relocation is not easy even in your own country and it is harder in a new country.  Your partner must be your best friend and you both have to listen to the other.  Each person must realize that this move affects both of them and they need to listen to each other. This is really simple advice, but it really is important to happiness in your new home because when mamma not happy nobody’s happy.  Truer words have not been spoken.

If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

Residency Visa, Will my Mastercard Work?

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Permanent Resident Visa

Humor aside, before you can live legally in most foreign countries you have to secure a permanent resident visa.  Several locations to begin your investigation are a specific country oriented Facebook group such as  Expats in Panama or Gringo Expats in Costa Rica where you can ask questions and get a flavor about the lives of people who live in the country you are investigating.

I have seen many people refer potential newcomers to immigration attorneys they recommend in these two and other expat oriented Facebook groups.  Although is becoming less and less popular they also have groups devoted to people living in a specific country and you may well find good advice there also.

Finally a simple search for the name of the country you are investigating + immigration attorney  will yield many results.  Of the methods mentioned  we favor researching  country specific Facebook Expat groups.

What to Look for When Choosing Your Immigration Attorney

immigration attorneys
Find a great immigration attorney

Several factors are important to consider when choosing your immigration attorney.  Unless you are bilingual and know legal vocabulary in your new country’s native language, you want a bilingual immigration attorney.

Compare costs between several recommended attorneys while most are reasonable a few think being an attorney means legal robbery.

Inquire about their experience in the field of immigration and ask for a list of references you can contact.

Customer service, how rapidly do they answer your questions or attend to your needs.  Inquire what their service being quoted encompasses, and have them put that in writing.

Will you need an additional work permit, will you have to pay for other visas for family members, will you have to renew the visa and if so how often and how difficult is the renewal process.

These are all questions your immigration attorney should answer in writing before you hire them  Having the right attorney represent you during immigration will greatly simplify the process.


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Cha Ching Cha Ching How to Get Your Bling

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International Money Transfers Online

Without a doubt one of the first things you will need to do in your new home is get money from your previous home country.  The easiest way to do this is to set up a wire transfer from the bank that has your money to the bank that you will be using locally.   Many banks require you to visit one of their offices to establish this overseas wire transfer but after an in branch authorization you can make international money transfers online.

There is typically a fee charged by both banks that can add up to $100

Money is the bling that is king
Money is the bling that is king

USD or more so these transfers are best suited for larger amounts of money.  A huge benefit of this electronic transfer is the money is available in a couple of days.

International  Money Transfers the old fashioned way.

Surprisingly most banks worldwide will accept a check drawn on a U.S bank for deposit.  Whereas electronic international money transfers are the email of moving money abroad, depositing a foreign check in your local bank is not even snail mail, its speed is closer to the old pony express that used horses to move mail across the USA  in the 1800s.

The timeliness of access to your money requires advanced planning because three weeks to a month before the funds are available is not unusual.   The cost of this transfer is specific to each bank, but we have used BAC and Banco General, both of which have branches throughout Latin America and they both charge $25 USD per deposit, regardless of how many individual checks make up the deposit.

Cash Machines aka ATMS

These provide local currency on demand but between the local bank and the bank at home fees can add up to close to $10 USD per withdrawal. Withdrawals are typically limited to $500 USD per day so the cost of using these can add up quickly.  Two banks, Charles Schwab and Citibank mitigate this.  Schwab reimburses all ATM fees and Citibank allows  no fee withdrawals at all of its branches worldwide regardless of which country  your account was opened in.

Private Money Transfer Services

Two words, – last resort!  These are very expensive and should be avoided if possible.

US Tax Reporting Requirements.

US Tax law requires annual hard copy declaration of foreign bank holdings $10,000 USD at any time during the year.  There are two required, the first is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA and the second is Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

Due to their complexity and high non compliance penalties most US Expats simply refer to them both as FUBAR!  The tip here is if you can  avoid it, never have $10,000 USD in foreign bank accounts.  The laws and their reporting requirements  apply to all foreign accounts combined together, not each account individually.

Day to Day Living Financial Strategies

Each strategy here is designed to legally avoid US IRS reporting discussed above.  The first step is to prepare a budget for regular monthly out of pocket cash expenses.

Transfer several months cash expenses to your local bank plus a rainy day emergency fund because you will need it.  The most inexpensive way to do this is to deposit a check a month before you need the funds, in an emergency use an ATM.   Use a credit card issued by your home country to pay every possible local expense including groceries, cable and cell phone bills and use your home country bank account electronic billpay to pay the credit card on a timely basis.

The second strategy is to see if your monthly income can be deposited directly into your local bank account.  The US Social Security Administration has direct deposit agreements with banks around the world.

If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

Research online and on the ground

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Living in the tropics

While much can be learned about living in the tropics by studying online, particularly using social media groups of people living where you are considering as your new home, no research will be complete without at least one visit to the country.

Reading and dreaming about what it is like to live in the sun versus experiencing it on a day to day basis are two very different things.  I may be wrong, but I bet your dreams do not include a scorpion in your bathroom, so let us agree much can be learned from research on the ground.

Cheap tropical trips

Airport travelers
On the way to paradise

It would be a mistake to seek out tropical vacations or tropical travel packages, it will be better when planning your trip to concentrate on cheap tropical trips for several reasons.

The most important reason to prioritize inexpensive versus a travel package is to remember why you are visiting.  While a week spent at a resort by the sea would no doubt be relaxing and fun, you most likely would learn little about the availability of the medications you use, or the process of obtaining a residency visa.  The objective of this trip is to meet people who have already retired in the tropics and to tap their knowledge and experience.

Another objective is to see different areas of the country and get an idea of what area best fits your dream. Finally, investigate what day to day life would be like.  Go to the grocery store and mini markets, visit a hardware store,  go to a pharmacy, inquire about doctors and dentists,  visit recreational sites,  remember you are investigating your future happiness! A great way to do this is to housesit. We review Trusted Housesitters, the number one site that can help you live like a local and not pay for your lodging while visiting prospective retirement locations.

Personal friends of ours, Clyde and Terry Coles,  are avid travellers who have found a way to see the world far less expensively than staying in a hotel, even an economy hotel.  They run a wonderful blog named Travel the World Housesitting where they help people learn how to house sit and one of their blog posts is how to take a cheap vacation by housesitting.

Take notes

Before you visit make a list of things to investigate while you are there, take notes on that same list that detail what your learned and how or from whom you learned it.  Record contact information of people who helped you and those who you enjoyed meeting.  These notes will be invaluable to you once you return home and collect your thoughts and impressions.

Travel in Peace Protect Your Health

car wreck
Make sure you are covered

Many people do not realize that when they travel outside of their home country their existing health insurance does not provide coverage once they leave the country where they purchased it.

The consequences of being uninsured in a foreign country are significant ranging from having to pay for medical care on the spot out of pocket to being denied care when you really need it.  Fortunately an inexpensive solution exists, and that is to buy a travel insurance policy.  You can investigate and purchase a policy by clicking here.


If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

Investigate personal safety

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International Travel Safety Tips

A good place to begin investigating if a country is your potential paradise or a living hell on  earth is to investigate

a crime scene

how safe it is to visit.  Two great places to begin to investigate international travel safety tips are the US State Deñpartment warnings and alerts and the US  State Department country specific information.   A third option for a deeper country specific background is the US Central Intelligence Agency.

We recommend you use all three sites at the beginning of your research.If you have not done so already, joining the US State Department Smart Traveller Enrollment Program is a great way to notify the local US Embassy of a visit to or permanent residence in a foreign country.

Research and join facebook expatriate groups

Another excellent source of information about life in the countries you are considering is to join a facebook country specific group.  This will allow you to read experiences, challenges, joys and sorrows of people living  in  the country or like yourself investigating a life there.  Remember not everything you  read on facebook is accurate or true but it will give you a great place to learn about the culture of the countries you are considering.


If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

Medical Concerns to Consider

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Quality of Healthcare

Probably the most important health related concern is what is the quality of health care that is available in the location you are planning to relocate to.  If there is a specific medical condition research into the availability of medications and medical services specific to that condition is vital.   To a lesser extent the cost of health care in your

Medical Care
Check the Quality of Medical Care

new location is also a concern, but this one can be mitigated with affordable international health insurance.


Quality of Care

Almost as important as the quality of health care is the quality of care for other services such as hospice care and nursing homes.

Affordable International Health Insurance

In many locations local health insurance is available even to people with preexisting conditions.  These policies are most often underwritten by international insurance providers and even though they are underwritten by international insurance companies the policies are applicable to services acquired only in the country of residence.

A far more flexible option is to purchase an international health insurance policy that covers medical costs in all or a select subset of countries around the world.  The best way to begin your research is to compare international health insurance options by clicking here.


If you have any suggestions, ideas and or questions please leave a comment below.

Investigate the foreign countries that interest you

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How to live in a foreign country

If this is the start of your journey your research should be broad.  Areas to investigate would include how to live in a foreign country, the advantages of living in a foreign country, the effects of living in a foreign country, and living in a foreign country pros and cons.  While these may seem to be very general areas to investigate they will provide you with finer grained ideas for making your investigation more specific.

Determine the things that concern you and if you have one, your partner.

Are there medical concerns to consider?  Do you want to live in a warm climate, or a cooler mountainous climate?

Tropical mountains
Cool temperate tropical living
Tropical beach
Sand sea and palm trees

Do extended periods of rainfall drive you crazy?  What type of recreation do you need regular access to?  Does currency exchange worry you?  Is political instability a factor?  Is ease of entrance to and exit from your adopted home important?  Is the expense and difficulty in obtaining a residency visa important?    These are some of the items you may wish to investigate in the beginning.


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Should I learn the language?

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students learning a foreign languageThe research is complete and the preparation is set to begin.  Now you ask yourself  why should I learn another language?

Every person who moves abroad has most likely asked themselves that same question and most have received the opinion of others as to why you should learn a foreign language.  Advice can be helpful but to answer why should I learn another language it is best to depend on your own independent research.

First it is most important to have a clear idea of how you want to live in your new country.  Do you want to live in area that is largely expatriate and associate with others who already speak your native language.  In these areas, and there are there are many communities like this, you will  depend on those who are bilingual to assist you with doctor appointments, plumbers and most services you will need.  Alternatively do you want to be able to go shopping, see a dentist or make reservations without depending on other people to do it for you?

Second are you willing to invest your money, time and energy in order to learn another language?  To most the case is clear, life is fuller and much more independent when you do learn the local language.

At this point the next question is how to learn a new language?

There are many ways to answer how to learn a foreign language including self study courses. online schools, classrooms and private tutors.

Please visit our Reviews page to learn more about foreign language courses.




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