Posted by: Kristen Hicks | May 17, 2010

Planning to Move Abroad

Step 1:  Choosing Where to Live

The first, and perhaps the most challenging step to moving abroad is choosing that one spot in the whole wide world that seems a good fit for me at this point in my life. I have a sort of makeshift list of criteria by which to determine a place that will work for me:

a) I must be able to bring my dog–this rules out countries with strict regulation on bringing animals in and, in my case, immediately eliminates Australia and New Zealand, countries famed for their natural beauty and laid back culture, but that would require that Prabu spend weeks in quarantine–which would be far too traumatizing for my already psychologically troubled little guy.

You couldn't leave him either

The Prabu.

b)  It can’t be too much of a “big city”–I’m not a big city girl.  I like having culture around, but not at the expense of buildings too tall to see the sky, constantly loud traffic, a rushed pace of life and the kind of big city mentality that often makes it much more difficult to start up a conversation with a stranger (I know that last one’s a bit of a gross generalization that has exceptions in any and all big cities, but there does seem to be more of a tendency to avoid eye contact and conversations with strangers in cities like New York and Rome as opposed to smaller-big cities like Austin or Florence).  This bumps Buenos Aires off the list, which had been a big contender before a recent visit made me realize how much it has that sort of big city feel that I know isn’t suited to me.

c)  There must be fast, reliable internet.  This became very important once my boyfriend and I both realized that we’re in the very lucky position of being able to take our current jobs with us when we move and work from home.  This plan absolutely falls apart if we go somewhere without consistent internet access.  Thus, this is a large priority item on our list.  We’ve heard tell that Chile and Argentina are the most reliable South American countries for this.

d) The currency exchange should favor us.  We’re not willing to increase our basic costs of living considerably, knowing that there are beautiful places that we can choose that would decrease our basic costs of living.  This rules our pretty much anywhere in Western Europe and has left us largely considering South America.

e) We aren’t interested in moving somewhere where neither of us speaks any of the language.  This rules out anywhere that isn’t primarily English, Spanish or Italian speaking.

f) We want to be close to beautiful natural spots.  Ideally, this would involve some kind of body of water like a beach or lake, but we’ll be happy with parks and mountains as well.  We certainly don’t want to end up stuck somewhere that doesn’t provide us any opportunity to escape into nature for awhile.

g) A city that includes a fairly large population of people in our age range is very much a plus.  As it is, the language barrier will likely make meeting new friends a challenge, we’d rather not confound that by living somewhere where no one’s our age or shares our cultural interests.

h) Somewhere that includes some population of English speaking expats isn’t a necessity, but it would be nice to make the general process of acclimating ourselves a bit less strenuous.

I think that about covers the general criteria we were considering in our research.  We began by casting a pretty wide net and trying to generally research online different cities in South America that might work for us.  We very quickly learned that this was not the best method for beginning the decision-making process.  There’s too much information on the internet, but not enough reliable information.  Our list of potential candidates was getting longer than we could reasonably deal with, in spite of a relative lack of dependable knowledge of any of the cities on the growing list.

We started to feel increasingly overwhelmed and recognized that we weren’t getting anywhere.  At this point, we decided to essentially start over with a new method.  Luckily, between myself and my boyfriend, we have a wealth of resources within the people we know who have spent time living in various spots in South America.  Therefore, we determined to set up times to have conversations with people whose experiences have provided them with informed opinions on various cities that we know we can trust.  Obviously, this method has the added perk of giving us a good excuse to meet up with old friends.

After a couple of weeks of regular conversations with friends about their experiences abroad, we’ve essentially narrowed our options down to two:

Cordoba, Argentina

Cordoba, Argentina (according to Google image search)

Vina del Mar, Chile

Vina del Mar (according to Google image search)

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