Pursuing an ex-pat lifestyle is a popular choice these days. Many countries have a lower cost of living than the United States, which has made them popular places to live for years. However, before the remote work boom, the transition was not necessarily easy to make. You may have had to find a job in the expat country, learn the language and gain an understanding of cultural norms.
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This all changes with remote work. Now people can work anywhere in the world as long as they have a reliable internet connection. Learning the language in your country of expatriation is useful, but may not be necessary, especially if you live in a big city.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you still can’t search for opportunities locally in whatever country you choose. In fact, the better ex-pat countries have many opportunities in addition to the obvious advantage of being affordable places to live. I asked the experts which countries they recommend for middle-class expats, and they had a lot to say about which countries they would choose for the expat lifestyle.
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Costa Rica has become one of the top destinations for expats due to its endless beaches, excellent and affordable healthcare, and slower pace of life. “Residents of Costa Rica have access to free emergency care, inexpensive medical procedures, and free or nearly free prescription drugs through the country’s health care system,” said Rameez Usmani, director of the marketing at PureTuber.
“Costa Rica’s hassle-free residency programs, safety and security, and democratic stability are just a few more reasons to make moving to this beautiful country your retirement home,” Usmani said. He also noted that a monthly budget of $2,000 can support a healthy standard of living in Costa Rica.
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Panama is known for shipping goods through the Panama Canal, but these days the country is also a great place for expats. Stephen Curry, CEO of CocoSign, explained why Panama is the ideal destination for expatriates. “This country stands out among expat destinations around the world due to its strong infrastructure and proximity to North America. And, in terms of value and variety, Panama is second to none,” Curry said.
As Curry said, wages may be lower, but so is the cost of living. “Salary levels may be lower than elsewhere depending on your profession, but a low cost of living compensates for this. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center can cost up to $1,268 per month.
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Bordering Spain to the west is Portugal, a country that has become another haven for digital nomads and expats. According to Tanner Arnold, President and CEO of Revelation machines, the cost of living is quite low in Portugal, which is one of the main reasons expats love the country. “It’s possible to get by on less than $1,500 a month without sacrificing a lot of comfort,” Tanner said.
He also said it was easy to get a resident visa there and expats need not worry about double taxation. “Non-habitual residents are exempt from tax on their overseas pensions and other retirement income due to government policy.”
He continued: “Due to the hospitable nature of the Portuguese people, foreigners find it much easier to settle in this southern European country. It’s hard to beat Portugal’s combination of historic charm and cutting-edge modernity as a retirement destination.
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Another South American country, Colombia is gaining popularity as a destination for expats. According to Verónica de los Rios of ProColombia, the country has a lot to offer. “Colombia is the most biodiverse country in the world per square mile, offering expats an incredible variety of nature-based activities to enjoy while not working,” said de los Rios.
She also noted that the country has a world-class yet affordable healthcare system, which may appeal especially to older expats. Additionally, the country has a high demand for English speakers, de los Rios said. “Because many international companies choose to locate in Colombia, there is a strong demand for skilled English-speaking workers, as well as many traditional opportunities for expats in areas such as teaching or to become digital nomads.”
Thailand has become a popular destination in recent years for both digital nomads and expats. Located on the Gulf of Thailand, the country has grown in popularity as people seek to escape higher costs in the United States and Western Europe.
Marc Stitt, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of FMX, said there was a lot to love about Thailand. “Young professionals flock to Thailand for its limitless beaches, vibrant culture and awesome street food,” he said. “Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is home to both traditional floating markets and cutting-edge technology centers.”
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Turkey is a popular choice for expats who want the big city life offered by Istanbul and Ankara, but perhaps with a slightly warmer climate. “34,000 British expats call Turkey home, and it has long been a popular tourist destination for Brits looking to get a tan,” said Kevin Patel, founder and CEO of Convrrt. And Patel said there was more to love about Turkey than the hot weather. “Travel to the mountains, see the world famous salt pans or stay in the ancient old town of Mardin.”
Qatar isn’t always one of the first expat countries to enter the discussion, but it’s worth a look for several reasons. For example, Michael Butt, vice president of marketing at Vertai.ai, said the country has around 8,100 British nationals and the country relies on expatriates to deal with labor shortages. “Getting a job in this country is simple because of the high percentage of international workers and residents,” Butt said.
According to Butt, Qatar has implemented several new working practices following criticism around the FIFA World Cup. These include minimum wages for all workers regardless of nationality, easier job transitions for expats, and employment contracts.
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