New cities added on request

Posted By on 17/09/2012

Expatistan is a proudly crowdsourced project. It wouldn’t exist without users like you inputting prices from all around the world. The quality of the data is dependent on large numbers of people keeping prices fresh and accurate. For example, while four rolls of toilet paper will probably cost everyone in a given city about the same amount, dinner out for two in and Italian restaurant with wine and dessert could cost one expat couple more than another expat couple. With more prices, the average price of a good on Expatistan will more accurately reflect its true average in a city.

But just as Expatistan relies on lots of users, we also listen to and care about individual users. In fact, individual users help a great deal, such as by alerting us to errors on the site or outlandish prices.

Another way individual users can and do help is by requesting that new cities be added to the Expatistan database. Since there are tens of thousands of cities around the world, the database currently excludes many cities. But people regularly contact us to ask us to add new cities to the database, and we always comply. Here are the most recent cities we’ve added on demand:

  • Huntsville, Alabama (United States)
  • Darmstadt (Germany)
  • Charleston, South Carolina (United States)
  • Las Guaranas (Dominican Republic)
  • Palo Alto (United States)
  • Neuchatel (Switzerland)

The crowdsourcing that fuels Expatistan is not just a way to collect data; it’s also the site’s core ethos. We hope users participate with us as much as possible. That includes prices, of course, but it also includes requests for new cities, ideas for improvement, and feedback in general. If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, please always feel free to reach out by using the contact form on the home page or by emailing us directly.


Expatistan in the news

Posted By on 15/09/2012

Expatistan is gaining exposure around the world. We believe the site is very useful for expats and would-be expats—so we’re glad to see that other people think the same. Since Expatistan has appeared in media from several different countries, we figured no user would have seen all the recent press coverage, and we wanted to highlight some exciting recent appearances.

Most recently, Gerardo (who is Expatistan’s founder) was interviewed for a bilingual podcast in Argentina, “The Buenos Aires Podcast.” If you speak English or Spanish (or both!), have a listen to the interview. In it Gerardo explains Expatistan’s central goals and why some cities are much more expensive than others. His hosts also curse him for living in the Czech Republic, which, unlike Argentina, does not have runaway inflation. (The full episode containing the interview can be found here.)

Since last summer, Expatistan has been covered in every medium.

  • A few months ago the site was featured online, in MSN Travel UK.
  • Traditional newspapers, such as Chile’s El Mercurio, have covered Expatistan.
  • The site has also been on TV in Mexico.
  • And it has appeared in magazines, such as China’s Agenda Beijing, in the article “In the land of Expats” (PDF). In that piece, Gerardo explains both the history of Expatistan and the goals he has for the future of the site.

Around the world, people are using Expatistan to find useful information about cities’ costs of living. And reporters are taking note. Maybe you’ll find information on Expatistan in your local newspaper, or on the radio—no matter where you live. Keep an eye out for more!


Risks, rewards and perspectives

Posted By on 12/09/2012

This is the seventh and final post in a series about one expat's experiences. You can read the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, and here.

In this series of posts, I’ve discussed arriving in a new country, teaching English, life’s developments after a while in a new place, cultural differences between countries, and the professional flexibility that can come with being an expat. I’m happy that the topics I’ve written about are mostly positive ones, since they reflect my mostly positive experience as an expat so far.

Of course, being out of place comes with challenges, some of which I wrote about in an earlier post. In addition, there are risks to life anywhere in the world—as well as the risk of something truly unexpected happening, no matter where you are.

I don’t believe that being an expat is inherently riskier than remaining in one’s native country. After all, good and bad things happen everywhere. As an expat, you may be targeted, or you may end up victimized or otherwise suffer from lack of local knowledge. But bad things can and do happen to people in their own countries, and the upsides to being an expat—greater professional opportunities, more and new life experiences—show that remaining forever in one’s own country is itself a risk.

I’m glad I avoided the risk that I’d live forever in my native country. By moving abroad, I accepted certain risks, and I’ve had some negative experiences. But overall, my life is better for the risk I took by moving abroad.

Though many Expatistan users are expats themselves, I’m sure many other Expatistan users are not. But, presumably, anyone who takes the time to enter prices in the Expatistan database is at least interested in the phenomenon of expatriation, interested in being an expat or meeting expats or learning what it might be like to be an expat in one or another country.

These blog posts have been a new way for Expatistan to explore expat life. Of course, the site remains focused on the data you submit and the Cost-of-Living Index. But we hope you’ve found something interesting in this series, and that you turn to this blog regularly for a different perspective, or some non-data information, about different aspects of expat life. As much as we care about the CoLI Index, we know it can’t tell as many stories alone as it can with this blog. So keep checking back here, and keep inputting prices into the database, for constantly fresh, diverse information about life in ci... (keep reading)


Many different experiences made possible abroad

Posted By on 07/09/2012

This is the sixth post in a series about one expat's experiences. You can read the previous posts here, here, here, here, and here.

As I wrote in an earlier post in this series, expats move to new countries under a range of very different circumstances. Some move for professional reasons, others for personal reasons, many for a combination of the two.

The personal reasons are quite varied—from an eternal itch to be in new places to a marriage to someone from a different country. But the professional reasons are similarly diverse.

In Bogotá I’ve met expats doing many different types of work in many different environment. They work in business, government, non-profits and NGOs, independently—and not at all. I’ve met people who were transferred here by multinational companies, people who came here to start businesses, people who came here and then got the idea to start businesses, people who have held several different jobs, people who study, people who don’t work, and people—like me—who freelance.

I’m interested in (and a little jealous of) all the expat experiences different from mine. The other experiences offer challenges I think I would find rewarding, such as trying to succeed and thrive when none of my colleagues are fellow countrymen, or trying to work through the practical and legal challenges of starting a business in a country other than my own.

But I can’t complain about my own professional experience. As I wrote earlier, I found after moving here that my native knowledge of English provided a steady and plentiful source of work. The demand for English instruction in Bogotá is greater than I had expected, and I’ve taken advantage of it by networking and looking widely for students. But being a freelancer has had another benefit too.

About a year ago, I began to tire of the daily lifestyle I had at the time. Since I was teaching three or four classes a day in students’ homes and offices, I spent four to six hours a day in class, three or four hours a day commuting to and from classes, and two or three hours a day preparing for the next day’s classes. The fullness of my schedule, combined with the hassle and unpleasantness of spending so much time commuting in a chaotic, overcrowded city, motivated me to seek more work I could do at home.

I knew I wasn’t going to immediately start doing all of my work at home, and I knew that, to make any professional transition, I had to use contacts and clients I had met... (keep reading)


Far from home, for better and worse

Posted By on 31/08/2012

This is the fifth post in a series about one expat's experiences. You can read the previous posts here, here, here, and here.

Living outside my home country is exciting and maddening. Culturally and practically, the distance between the United States and Colombia sometimes feels very small and sometimes feels very large. The large differences are the ones I notice more—sometimes because they make me happy and other times because they leave me wanting.

In some ways, life in my adopted country isn’t very different from life in my home country. Many fundamentals of society and culture are similar across much of the West. I also moved from one very large city, New York, to another, Bogotá, so the daily rhythm of life in the latter was familiar as soon as I arrived.

More practically, my new home is in the same time zone as my old home, so keeping in touch with friends and family is easy. And living in this century has made it even easier: Not only has email kept me in instant reach electronically; thanks to services like Skype and Google Voice, I can also talk on the phone, and even call cell phones in the U.S., for close to nothing. Some relatives back home on the East Coast of the U.S. joke that I feel closer to them in Colombia than I would if I lived in California.

But of course there are times when I feel very far from my home country and the things that are most familiar and comforting to me.

Some of that is, of course, social. Colombians do things Americans don’t do, and vice versa. For example, I can’t stand “Colombian time,” the habit of Colombians to arrive late—sometimes incredibly late, by my standards—to appointments, even professional ones. As an independent worker who charges by the hour for my teaching, writing, and editing, luckily my income doesn’t suffer when clients are late: I charge them for the agreed-upon time, even if they are late. But when I meet people socially, or for business meetings I’m not charging for, and they show up 15, 30, or 45 minutes later than they said they would, I’m simply waiting and losing time, so I have to try hard to hold my anger in.

Being an outsider cuts both ways. It’s often disappointing to sense that many people I meet feel great distance between us, but sometimes my being different is nice. Some people are fascinated by me, eager to get to know me, or quick to trust me because of my special status. Others, on the other hand, clearly disdain me, will never be interested to know... (keep reading)