Picking a new Country for a Long-Term Commitment

China? Brazil? Tanzania?

Where would you decide to settle for the next five to twenty years?

We are going to talk a bit about expatriate thinking this month with a series of posts about living abroad for the longer term.

Life abroad can be pretty addictive and many of us who have spent more than three or four years abroad often end up overseas for twenty or more years.

There is an initial hump of two or three years that sends most people “back home”.  That “hump” will be the topic in a following week.

RULE #1:  Don’t fall too much in love with the first place you land.

Too many people arrive in one country and never leave it.

They arrived in Brazil, fell in love with it and never left.  What they never found out is that they would have loved Japan, China, Costa Rica or some other place even more.

Give a few other countries a try too.

Part of what is happening is that people are falling in love with the experience of living abroad, which is pretty d*mn exciting all by itself.  But in the process they attach that love and excitment to the specific country in which they are presently living.   In other words, the same thing would often likely happen in almost any country in which they first landed.

I was lucky when I started out as I had decided I wanted to see many countries and live in more than a few.  So I spent about two to five years and more living and working in Botswana, Korea, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Korea.  That way when I decided to settle down, I had a much broader base of information to call upon for the decision.

Korea was my home twice for three academic years each time, but ten years apart.  It was strange to see so many long termers there that had never left and experienced living and working somewhere else while I have the good fortune to experience two additional countries and cultures in depth during that time.   Don’t misunderstand, Korea is a wonderful place, but don’t limit your options so early in your expatriate experience.

If you intend to work abroad only for a year two, then yes, one country is about right.  The cost of moving and changing jobs is a bit much to do it more often than about every two years.

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Don’t close out your options.  If you are going out to “See the World” – go see it and experience it.  LIVE and WORK in more than one place so you can get a broader sense of the real world out here.

Teaching Internships in China