On the road again...
November 25, 2004 7:08 PM   Subscribe

I have, ever since I was a kid, entertained the idea of emigrating to a new country. What with the national troubles, now (or at least within the next couple of years) seems like as good a time as any. I'm mid-twenties, about a year away from a BA in English, single and planning to stay that way. Anyone else emigrated alone? What countries should I look into? (I'm thinking fairly politically stable, not horribly expensive, and of course I'd need some kind of job...)
posted by cilantro to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Canada, of course. Presuming you can get enough points and so forth, it should be pretty straightforward. This link should help a lot.

Deciding where to go is, of course, tough. If you want big-city, you're basically looking at:

Montreal: In Quebec. You don't need to speak French here, but it'll help to pick it up. Nightlife here is legendary--people leave Toronto to party in Montreal. Also amazing bagels.

Toronto: Southern Ontario, 3hr drive (depending) from Detroit or Niagara Falls, so getting to the USA is easy. Probably the most multicultural of Canadian cities. Any country or ethnic group you can think of has a neighbourhood with incredible (and cheap!) restaurants, music, festivals and gatherings throughout the year... plus it looks like the various levels of government are getting their fingers out and something is finally going to happen on the waterfront. Huge student culture-- three universities inside the city, plus colleges and so on. The greatest city in the world. (Caveat emptor: I was born and mostly raised here).

Vancouver: Comes a very close second. The most beautiful terrain you can imagine; a place where it is theoretically possible to swim in the ocean in the morning, and ski in the afternoon. Very laid back place; pot culture. Beaches, mountains, forests. Vancouver Island a short ferry hop away, same with the Sunshine Coast, both great places for camping, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking. World-class restaurants and art gallery, amazing shopping, and a very pedestrian-friendly city.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:30 PM on November 25, 2004

I emigrated alone from the US to Toronto a few years ago and pretty much agree with the little summary above. I'd be happy to give advice if you'd like, but I'm guessing you're casting your eye a little farther out in the world?
posted by transient at 7:43 PM on November 25, 2004

i've done it (alone) twice-- from the US to the netherlands (amsterdam) in '99, then from the US to canada (vancouver) less than two months ago. i'm rather ridiculously fortunate in that i have citizenship rights in all three countries. if you want advice on these places, feel free to email me.

what's important to you in your daily life? what kinds of work do you see yourself doing? do you have any legitimate visa options based on your family background? are you most comfortable in an urban, suburban, or rural setting? any second (or third) languages? any friends in other places you can go visit to check things out?
posted by mireille at 7:48 PM on November 25, 2004

Why are you considering emigrating? Adventure? Change of scenery? Unpasteurised cheese?
posted by Prince Nez at 8:11 PM on November 25, 2004

Response by poster: I'm a pretty adaptable person. I grew up in the country, five miles from the closest neighbor. I loved it. I lived in NYC (Brooklyn) for a while, loved that too, but couldn't afford it after the relationship that took me there ended, since I didn't have a degree or much work experience. I work in a library now, I want to teach adults, in a college setting or even basic adult education classes. The school that I go to now has a distance learning English master's program that I'm going to start soon, so once that is underway I can go anywhere in the world. I'll only have to spend one week per semester on campus.
I think that affordable is my number one criteria(criterion?), regarding both the cost of immigration and the cost of living once I get there. I'm not poor, and I'm a good saver, but I just prefer to work as little as possible without being a drain on society, or my family or friends. I'm not the type to make my career my life. So I guess that a driven, success-oriented culture wouldn't be for me, and along with that, countries that require serious work experience from a list of certain occupations to even be considered would be out of the question, too. I've been an assistant librarian for two years now, before that I mostly bartended or didn't work at all. And as for family connections, I don't think anyone I'm related to has left the south, much less the country, since they got here about 150 years ago. I'm going this one alone.
Why am I considering leaving? Unpasteurized cheese would be great. But mostly I just crave the experience. And now that the U.S. is sliding so quickly towards an anti-intellectual theocracy I kind of want to get out while I still can.
posted by cilantro at 8:18 PM on November 25, 2004

Toronto and Vancouver are roughly comparable for price, when everything's taken into account (Toronto's more compact; easier to get around in, but Vancouver has better views and an altogether more progressive attitude). My roommates and I have a 3 bedroom 3rd floor walkup, $1200 (CDN)/month, doesn't include any utilities. That's the low end of average for Toronto. I used to live right downtown, and was paying $1400 for a two bedroom on the 19th floor of a building, heat, hydro included. Vancouver's comparable, but some areas (Kitsilano, f'r ex), can be painfully expensive.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:28 PM on November 25, 2004

You might consider China. It's an exciting place to live, constantly changing; the cost of living is very low; and if you're white and speak American English, you've got an instant advantage in terms of making money (you can teach English). Depending on where in China you pick, you may also be considered "exotic", which is nice if you're single. I know a fair number of twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings who have "retired" there - they just hang out, teaching English just enough to have a bit of money, and spend the rest of their time meeting people.

If you're living in one of the big cities (Shanghai, Beijing) you don't really need to know Chinese at first. Many people will speak English, and because it's such a foreign environment, the ex-pat crowd is particularly welcoming and helpful. In Hong Kong, of course, you don't need to know Chinese at all, but Hong Kong is expensive and its long-term economic prospects are dim. I'd recommend Beijing, personally - it's got a lower cost of living than Shanghai, and I think the food is better.

Rather than living there permanently, I'd suggest just going on a student's visa or something. If you don't like it after a year or so, you can move someplace else.

I'll check this thread later, so if you'd like more information, just ask and then I'll put my email address in my profile.
posted by gd779 at 8:37 PM on November 25, 2004

Do you have any other citizenship, or any chance of establishing it? As a friend of mine once observed, "behind every Canadian in Paris there's an Irish grandparent." If you can stake out a passport to any European Community country it makes access to all those countries easier, although some, such as France, will still require something of a bureaucratic song-and-dance to allow you to work.
posted by zadcat at 8:46 PM on November 25, 2004

New Zealand?
posted by madman at 9:53 PM on November 25, 2004

Don't go to Canada - it's a great country, and I miss it terribly (born and raised there), but it's not different enough from the States for what you are looking for. Europe will be very different (you may experience culture shock - I did, even in Britain, a country which I have been reading about/watching and listening to media from my whole life). I don't know about South America, Asia or Africa, but I imagine they would also be very different. Go for the new culture - it will be more rewarding. Even Britain is more of a change (it's to do with size and age and history and the way people live and everything.)
posted by jb at 10:40 PM on November 25, 2004

I second the China suggestion and with your degree you could land a nice university teaching position. Demand is high with the Chinese feverishly preparing for the olympics in 2008. The school will take care of your visa requirements.

I have been here for two months and teach at a middle school, (think high school), in a small town of 1.5 million in Sichuan province. I am the only foreigner in the city. I have been having a great time and the students are great.

you can check out my blog if you want to read the specifics or feel free to email me if you have any questions
posted by geekyguy at 1:50 AM on November 26, 2004

for affordable, chile certainly fits the bill. it helps to speak spanish.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:26 AM on November 26, 2004

I would also seriously consider Eastern Europe. You can live very comfortably teaching English over here, and the costs of living are significantly lower than in the west. The pace is also generally more relaxed. I've lived in many places (including Brooklyn) but always felt very much at home over here.
posted by Ljubljana at 6:56 AM on November 26, 2004

Since you are graduating soon, you would be able to take advantage of BUNAC, which offers short-term work permits abroad for students and recent graduates. It would be an easy way to get your foot in the door working somewhere abroad. I signed up after graduation and got a 6-month work permit for the UK. It turned into a 2-year stint working/traveling in Europe. I did this on my own (my family and friends thought I was crazy) and simlar to you, I also grew up in the country.
posted by Otis at 7:15 AM on November 26, 2004

There are a few Central American countries that would be very economical to live in and could probably use somebody with your teaching skills.

Belize comes to mind simply because the official language there is English, though it doesn't hurt to know a bit of Spanish.
posted by SteveInMaine at 7:31 AM on November 26, 2004

and if you're white and speak American English, you've got an instant advantage

What if you aren't white?
posted by dame at 11:18 AM on November 26, 2004

What if you aren't white?

As long as you're an American citizen and you're not asian, my guess is that your economic advantage will probably be only slightly decreased. It's been several years now, and I have no personal experience with this, but that's my guess.

If you're asian, and particularly if you're ethnic Chinese, they won't always take you seriously as a foreigner. This means it's harder (but still very possible) to get a job teaching English, but at least you get lower prices at the markets.
posted by gd779 at 11:59 AM on November 26, 2004

I should point out that I'm speculating a bit to answer your question, dame. If you really want an answer, I have several friends currently teaching in Beijing and Shanghai that could probably answer you more accurately.
posted by gd779 at 12:02 PM on November 26, 2004

I'd just like to add that the China idea isn't a bad suggestion, but a lot of the people I met while there seemed stranded in this "foreign teacher" ghetto mentality. They were often the least appealing people to meet there.

Also, people speak English in Beijing, but way less than gd779 would have you believe. It's not like you can just ask random passersby things. I know when I first got there and tried to find my way around with very little Mandarin, the only people who could really help me in English were the non-natives. If you're emigrating there as a teacher though, I'm sure that's probably a lot better taken care of.
posted by Big Fat Tycoon at 3:28 PM on November 26, 2004

What if you aren't white?

I can't speak for China, but here in Korea, it's simply a matter of stone cold racism. Not white=not as good, for the most part, in people's estimation.

That said, I've known a couple (literally a couple, in 6 years in Korea) of non-white non-East Asian English teachers here, and although they both said they dealt with racist attitudes on a daily basis, there were also many people who were colorblind.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:19 PM on November 26, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all of this. Somehow, in spite of the fact that I've spent six years getting a bachelor's in English, it didn't occur to me that I could make a living teaching it overseas. I always tend to overlook the obvious.
gd779 , I would love to have your e-mail so that I can bug you for more information. And if anyone has anything about specific programs or schools that you could share with me, my e-mail is in my profile.
posted by cilantro at 7:31 PM on November 26, 2004

cilantro, you should receive an email from me shortly.
posted by gd779 at 9:41 PM on November 26, 2004

Cilantro, I haven't been in China but live nearby, and strongly agree with those proposing the idea of teaching ESL/EFL as a real alternative to working hard in the west. I have never looked back, never regretted the decision 10 years ago to say "no" to the consumerist rat race.

A university degree in English will get you work, but it won't be much help in giving you practical teaching skills. You need the CELTA or TESOL certificate as a first step to being a confident and capable practitioner.

(self-link follows) And it just so happens, if you are going to China, that you could come here to Kyrgyzstan first and take the TESOL course with me as your teacher trainer, in January or August of 2005, cheap cheap. Email me if you'd like to discuss things further.

By the way, being a foreigner instantly makes you 75% more intelligent and sexy than you are as a native.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:23 AM on November 27, 2004


An Irish person just told me that Ireland is 1% of the EU population, but gets 50% of American investment dollars. It supposedly has a booming economy and lots of U.S. companies are located there. I'm not sure how accurate this is, but it maybe worthy of investigation. Plus, you wouldn't have to learn a new language.
posted by Juicylicious at 8:46 AM on November 27, 2004

If you're still checking this thread, cilantro, you may find my essay-thing here useful.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:28 PM on December 2, 2004

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