You May Not Need to Buy That Car

Posted on 04/11/2012

As I insinuated in my last entry, it’s relatively easy to approach a major geographical relocation with the wrong mindset and then end up being stressed out, as a result. So I’m here to tell you right now – relocating to a foreign country “ain’t easy”. That’s because of a peculiar mental trick that people like to pull on themselves, without ever being aware that they’re doing it. You see, when you first take a good look, at your new home of choice, subconsciously there’s a lot of fear and initial trepidation. So here is something that no one else will tell you. When you’re looking over your potential new surroundings, you will be looking for similarities to your original home without completely comprehending the differences. It’s only when you’re actually living in a new country that the real dissimilarities hit home and “wham”, you suddenly find yourself a stranger in a strange land. You can feel even more isolated when the locals, that surround you, don’t understand why you suddenly find everything so disorienting and bizarre. Case in point – the Philippines.

For anyone who is paying an initial visit to this country, everything will seem strikingly similar to the United States. Of course, there’s good reason for that. You can start off with World War 2, the American occupation and then observe how much the local population seems to want to emulate the current U.S. culture. I got a sense of that when I first made my way out into the “streets”, on my way to the marketplace (palengke). Immediately, a group of young people began waving and shouting “Hey, Joe!” (circa WWII) They were all wearing t-shirts with strangely inappropriate slogans in English. Seriously – “I Support Single Moms”, on a t-shirt, looks rather odd on a twelve year old boy. Anyway, I got the feeling that I was going to have to adapt – and fast. This promised to go way beyond the cold showers, regular power outages and being constantly stared at, as if I had suddenly spontaneously combusted in the sunlight (which, in retrospect, seemed a reasonable possibility). So, here’s my first suggestion for those who are seriously contemplating attaining the lofty title of “expat”.  

Determine the mindset nuances of the locals

Possibly the biggest mistake that you can make has nothing to do with neglecting to research the fact that swamp alligator hunting and seppuku are less hazardous than driving on the local roads. The biggest mistake that a newbie expat can make is to assume that people from other cultures think like they do

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Relocating to a “life of leisure” in a far-off land, the truth of it.

Posted on 01/11/2012

Interested in relocating to a “life of leisure” in a far-off land while avoiding the current hassles of your home country? 

Well. As an expat, living in the Philippines, I have had the opportunity to see things from a completely indigenous perspective. This means that I didn’t decide to grab onto my life savings, rely on that old social security check, marry someone young enough to be my daughter and hide out in some gated community in a Philippines province. Oh no. I decided to take the “Ernest Hemmingway approach” and dive right in to the “belly of the beast” (except without Ernest’s money, fame, knowledge, whatever…). Was I satisfied with the results? Well, I can say this much – I’m pretty confident that I could set up shop, so to speak, in just about any corner of the world and find some measure of peace and contentment. I even know how to correctly exchange currency. Imagine that. Plus, unlike Mr. Hemmingway, I’m still breathing.

But here’s the thing. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone attempt this sort of kamikaze approach without doing a heck of a lot of research. That’s why blogs, such as this, exist. In my case, I managed to amass a wealth of experience that I really had no initial intention of accumulating. And, to be honest with you, I think that I have a few items that I can share that are pretty applicable to anyone who is considering a complete overhaul of their life. A sort of “do-over”, if you will. It can be done. The best part is that you will have the freedom to direct your life the way that you want – towards the outcome that you desire.

The “not so best” part? It involves a lot more than you may expect – and that’s why I intend to present to you “the man behind the curtain.” Or, in other words, the things that you may not have heard from those who either don’t know how to express themselves adequately or who just want to be envied for their ability to think out of the box. Those guys are sipping a tropical beverage and being waited on, hand and foot, by their many servants. How wonderful – a tropical paradise obtained without a care in the world. Right. So, without further adieu, here’s the straight scoop (or at least the beginning).

First of all, you will encounter enough drama without getting caught up in the small details, so plan your entrance carefully. Believe it or not, visa details can be the most exasperating things you may ever encounter. Because, let’s face it, you’re a foreig

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Expat News Roundup - week 44, 2012

Posted on 30/10/2012

Economic doom and gloom is a continual theme across the globe. It’s hard to escape tales of tax rises and price increases. This week’s news roundup includes details of Portugal’s punishing 2013 budget, the content of which is sure to leave expats reeling.

Travelling East, Cyprus is another country where expats need to brace themselves for possible tax hikes. Larger bills will be all but guaranteed should the country find itself needing to seek an EU bailout.

Meanwhile, Together magazine has reported that more and more couples are conducting long distance relationships. With unemployment rising in many countries, it’s likely that an increasing number of expat couples will have to spend time apart – often as a result of the need to seek job opportunities in other countries.

Portugal’s Austerity Budget

Expats in Portugal are enduring a relentless run of tax increases. Money earned during 2013 will be subject to an additional 4% “extraordinary tax, ” similar to the 3.5% surcharge applied on 2011 earnings.

This, sadly, is just the start. Standard income tax rates are also to be increased, and tax bandings simplified, the result of which will be many people finding themselves in higher tax brackets.

These measures are required to meet the terms of the financial bailout Portugal received from the IMF / ECB “troika” in 2011, but are being widely condemned as a step to far in a country where a deep recession shows no sign of abating and unemployment continues to rise.

More information: Portugal Unveils Controversial 2013 Budget Plan (The Wall Street Journal)

Cyprus Faces a Potential Bailout

Cyprus is one of the few countries in Europe that still offers favorably low taxes to expats. Unfortunately, these rates may need to increase if the country has to seek a financial bailout of its own.

Cyprus is experiencing financial difficulties, in part due to its close links with Greece, a country going through a well-documented fiscal crisis.

In common with Portugal, Cyprus will be required to impose harsh tax increases on citizens as a likely condition of any emergency loan funding.

Currently, Cyprus expats enjoy a maximum income tax rate of 35% and a generous tax-free earnings threshold of €19500.

More information: Cyprus bailout may cause tax headache for expats (

EU Countries Tightening up on Residency Requirements

Although EU citizens have freedom of movement and residence in any EU country, some member states are imposing strict requirements on those registering their presence.

Each EU mem... (keep reading)


What Every American Expat Should Know About… US Expat Taxes

Posted By Gerardo ( on 06/10/2012

This is a guest post from Greenback Expat Tax Services.

Sandy beaches, pristine ocean views, snow covered mountain tops, exciting new cultures, or even a career change…Whatever your reason is, sometimes you just have to pack up and go. Fortunately, living an expatriate lifestyle has so many rewards!

Another thing that comes along with the move, if you’re an American Expatriate, is expatriate taxes. While it might not be in the same category as sandy beaches, it certainly doesn’t have to be a nightmare!

US citizens and Greencard holders are in a unique situation. The US is one of the only countries (the only other one is Eritrea, in case you were curious) which continues to tax its residents after they have moved abroad, even if they are already paying tax elsewhere.

This article goes over the main points you should understand, from a US expat tax perspective, before moving abroad (or, if you have already moved, go over these points to make sure you’re on track).

Will you have to file a US Expatriate Tax Return while abroad?

In almost all cases, yes, you will be required to file an expatriate tax return. All US citizens and Greencard holders are required to report their worldwide income to the USA every year.

The only way you will not be required to report your income is if you fall below these income levels (current for 2011):

  • Single - $9,350
  • Married filing jointly - $18,700
  • Married filing separately - $3,650

Don’t forget about that home state of yours!

Even after you move, some states will still require you to pay tax on your worldwide income! Some of the worst states for US expat taxes are California, South Carolina, Virginia, or New Mexico-If you were a resident of one of these states before your move, you are going to have to work very hard to prove your non-resident status in order to avoid tax there as well.

Some states, such as Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, have no state income tax. As such, you will not be required to pay any state tax at all as an expat.

If planned well enough in advance, you can work to change your residency to one of these more favorable states. It will be a bit of a chore now, but when your tax bill is thousands less later on, you will be glad you put in the effort!!

There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

The US government wants to encourage its citizens to live abroad and learn new things, wh

... (keep reading)


20 most sought-after cities to relocate

Posted By on 23/09/2012

At Expatistan, we can’t actually know where our users are moving, and we can’t actually read minds, but we can gain a little insight into what our users are thinking about by looking at how they use the site. For example, we reckon we can tell the cities that all of you most want to relocate to by looking at what you’re searching on the site.

Specifically, we’ve looked at which cities are used as comparisons against users’ home cities most often. For example, if you live in Frankfurt and compare Seoul’s cost of living to Frankfurt’s, Seoul is the comparison city—and we’re guessing you may be a little bit interested in moving there. So we’ve looked at all comparison cities over the last six months, and here are the cities you, collectively, are most interested in:

1. London
2. New York City
3. Paris
4. Singapore
5. Sydney
6. Toronto
7. Berlin
8. Buenos Aires
9. Tokyo
10. Madrid
11. San Francisco
12. Los Angeles
13. Dubai
14. Melbourne
15. São Paulo
16. Vancouver
17. Moscow
18. Zurich
19. Hong Kong
20. Barcelona

London is far and away the most sought after comparison city. It has 36 percent more searches than New York City—as well as twice as many as Paris and four times as many as Barcelona. After the top few cities, however, the number of searches is more even. For example, the 36 percent difference between London (No. 1 on this list) and New York City (No. 2) is the same difference as between Berlin (No. 7) and Barcelona (No. 20). Does anyone not want to move to London?