Many of us dream of relocating to another country, perhaps to enjoy warmer weather, perhaps to experience a slower-paced lifestyle, perhaps because of a job transfer, or maybe simply because we are intrigued by a certain element of adventure and curiosity.
While moving to another country may sound like an exciting proposition, it is a very serious decision with major ramificiations, and there are many factors to take into account in making this decision.
I had a chance to talk with Phillip Townsend, author of the e-Book, Passport to Canada: The Complete Guide to Living & Retiring in Nova Scotia, and special e-Reports of living and retiring in Panama, the Caribbean and Cuba. For more information, visit: http://www.thegloballife.net.
- Please tell us about yourself and your background.
As an American who had a teenage fascination with Asian culture, after high school, I got a part-time job, saved my money and purchased a one-way ticket to Taiwan, Republic of China. After arriving in the Far East, I taught English and eventually landed an internship with SIDA, a German-based global risk consulting firm. After working as an intern and completing an extensive training program, my work took me to 13 East Asian countries, where I assisted corporate and government clients with international research and other consulting projects.
After returning to the United States, I opened and ran the firm’s U.S. office until the company went out of business several years later. Afterwards, my career shifted and I began writing freelance and consulting independently, Later, I was hired as stringer (correspondent) for Money magazine, America’s leading personal finance monthly. After leaving, I wrote a biweekly international lifestyle Q&A column for the International Employment Gazette, which also appeared monthly in Industrial Tradesman magazine. I have assisted the governments of Sri Lanka and Ethiopia on promoting tourism and trade (and was considered for an official diplomatic post with the latter). My articles and other writings have appeared in publications as diverse as GQ, the San Francisco Chronicle and Expat World.
Currently, I spend most of my time writing and researching. I’m also a Country Contact for American Citizens Abroad, representing the Switzerland-based non-profit organization in Nova Scotia.
I have always been a so-called man of the world, and don’t believe there is any single “best” country, but rather believe in reaping the unique benefits that each nation has to offer.
- You are an expert on living and retiring in various regions, including Nova Scotia, the Caribbean, Panama and Cuba. Please tell us about how you became an expert on these topics.
In addition to my experience living abroad and traveling widely, over the years, I have dedicated my life to international living, conducting extensive research and advising hundreds of clients on every aspect of moving abroad and strategic planning (offshore personal and financial issues). I’ve assisted people from all walks of life with moves to over sixty countries and six continents.
- Please tell us about living, retiring, travelling and investing in Nova Scotia. What makes Nova Scotia a great destination for expatriate or retirement living?
Nova Scotia is the type of place that can seduce you through its sheer natural beauty: The long stretches of picturesque coastline, a beautiful countryside, friendly people and a slower pace and reasonable prices make it one of the most livable places in Canada or anywhere in North America. The climate is another plus. In many places in Nova Scotia, winters can be much milder (with less snow) than in other places in Canada or the northern US. Also, Nova Scotia enjoys a low crime rate, with incidents of violent crime being remarkably low. Perhaps the most appealing benefit of living in Nova Scotia are the affordable real estate prices (some lots with ocean views can be had for as little as C$20,000).
- Please inform us about living, travelling and investing in Dominica. What should one know about living and retiring to this beautiful island in the Caribbean?
With no direct flights from North America or Europe, Dominica is welcome retreat of peace and quiet in the Caribbean’s sea of mass tourism. Roughly halfway between Martinique and Guadeloupe, the island is splendidly underdeveloped. A land of waterfalls, rivers (365 of them), hot springs, and lush rain forests, Dominica is the Caribbean’s most rugged isle. Instead of luxury resorts and long stretches of crowded white sand beaches, you’ll find volcanic mountains, intimate beaches, little-explored reefs and small hotels (some of which are for sale for a steal). Unlike most of the Caribbean’s islands, which cater to tourists and the high-end market, Dominica’s prices are refreshingly down-to-earth. For example, you can find oceanfront lots for prices ranging from C42,000 to C58,000, and build a home for as little as C$28,000 to C$47,000.
- Please give us a brief overview about living, travelling and investing in Panama. What makes this a desirable place and what do we need to know about it?
Panama’s coast, both on the Caribbean and Pacific sides, is like Florida, but less crowded and with property prices about a tenth of the cost in many cases. Panama offers affordable real estate, a warm climate and great beaches. In order to attract expatriates, the Panamanian government has put together an impressive list of benefits in their pensionado program, including 20-year tax-free status and discounts on everything from public transportation to restaurants to doctor’s visits. Best of all, anyone over 18 can qualify for these “retirement” benefits.
Though Spanish is the official language, English is widely spoken and understood in major cities. Right now, the three best places to purchase real estate in Panama are Panama City, the capital which boasts First-world infrastructure and is home to virtually every large American brand-name chain; Boquette, a scenic and growing expatriate hideaway in Panama’s mountainous region; and the Pearl Islands, a chain of over 90 islands and 130 islets in the Caribbean.
- Please talk to us about living, travelling and investing in Cuba. What makes this unique island an interesting destination for foreigners thinking of living or retiring there? What do they need to know about Cuba before considering to move there?
Cuba is home to just over 11 million people, with more than 2 million living in the capital, Havana. The island’s Cuba’s rich culture, interesting political history, and continued economic hardship make it one of the world’s most eye-opening nations with a wealth of places just waiting to be discovered. The food, music, and, most of all, the warm hospitality of the Cuban people all combine to make it a great place to visit and potentially live.
U.S. officials say open trade and travel to Cuba would strengthen Castro’s oppressive government. But critics argue that the Cold War-era U.S. embargo, aimed at forcing a change in Cuba’s leadership, has not achieved its goals after being in place for more than 40 years. Despite the embargo, last year, 200,000 Americans visited Cuba (most through Canada or Mexico).
Though most would-be expatriates will wait until the fall of the Castro-lead communist rule, a few have already made an investment in the “forbidden” isle by putting down roots there, with the hope that property values and other investments will multiply after the fall of communist rule.
- Where are you currently travelling and what is on your agenda for the near future?
Currently, I’m in upstate New York, but will be exploring some interesting locales in South America and Eastern Europe. I plan to continue my ongoing pursuit of reporting on new and interesting expatriate destinations around the world.
- In general, what are your suggestions for anyone thinking of living or retiring abroad?
Many Canadians and Americans are lured abroad by a lower cost of living and higher quality of life. Some will want to return to their ancestral homes or to places where they once vacationed, worked or studied, and fell in love with a country. Others will be enticed by retiree perks and tax incentives. With literally dozens of appealing countries to choose from, narrowing the possibilities can be a daunting task.
No matter where you consider settling, the most important thing is to do your homework. Make an exploratory visit and stay for a few months before committing yourself by purchasing property. Be sure to talk with locals and expatriates living there. Most importantly, consult competent real estate and legal professionals before signing any contracts or other official documents.
While every place has it own set of rules and nuances, the process of buying abroad generally works like this: First, the buyer and the seller to agree on a price, a security deposit (generally, 10 to 25 percent) will probably be required to take the house off the market. Your attorney should then receive a copy of the title and verify that the property is free from any liens or claims against the property. They should also advise you of any strange archaic laws, like those in parts of Canada that allow anyone to fish on your land, those in England and France that allow sheep to pass through your property, those in rural Italy that give your neighbors first-refusal rights on any land used for agricultural purposes (which could leave someone else with the fruit in the vineyard or olive grove on “your” property), or historic construction bans that prevent you from making any external changes to a property (even installing a pool). Also, if you are buying anything in need of restoration (or more than a hundred years old), have a structural survey done.
Thank you, Phillip, for providing us with further ideas and important background information about a few interesting choices on living and retiring abroad.
ABOUT PHILLIP TOWSEND:
Phillip Townsend is author the e-Book, Passport to Canada: The Complete Guide to Living & Retiring in Nova Scotia, and special e-Reports of living and retiring in Panama, the Caribbean and Cuba. For more information, visit: http://www.thegloballife.net.
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