Let's Get Out of This Country
September 25, 2010 6:41 AM   Subscribe

Say I might want to leave America. (Maybe on November 6, 2012! Somewhat joking about that, so don't get too distracted.) Where would I want to live? It's Mexico, right? But where? And also, am I being crazy in not thinking more of Europe?

I like American cities like Oakland and San Francisco and Miami Beach and New York City and much of Long Island; I like a combination of urban and rural. I dislike Chicagos, etc.—all city, no non-city. I really do like being close-ish to the ocean but I also like being close to museums and a place with an active city life--newspapers, excitement, coffeeshops, things to DO, first-run movies, etc. Guanajuato looks lovely but seems too isolated and interior. Mexico City looks too hectic--I'm just not sure I could handle it.

So I guess what I want is:

Some place with some gays. Or near some gays. (I don't expect to have much of an American experience of gayness of course, but I also don't want to be like, stoned when me and another guy move into the neighborhood.)

Some place that does have American traffic. (As opposed to American trafficking. (Kidding!))

Obviously I will need a place in the world with reliable Internet.

Maybe someplace like Zapopan, which is a real city, but also not far from the ocean? Morelia (as found in this question) looks a little small?

I'd prefer slightly being closer to America for driving access but it's not necessary. (This points to Monterrey, maybe?)

I hate "gated communities" of all kinds and I would not be having a "personal staff," because, gross. So I'd want to live somewhere I feel secure.

Relatedly: should I give up on this idea and consider Spain, France or Italy instead? (I'd consider London but good grief, expensive and dreary. Weather is also why I'm ruling out all of Canada. Sorry, Canada. Love you but come on.) I like the idea of still being in North America, but in many ways, those European countries seems very easy to wedge yourself into, whereas Mexico seems more insular and its cities, in general, have less international immigrants.

Your experience with emigration and, particularly, experience with Mexico appreciated.
posted by RJ Reynolds to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What are you going to do for work?
posted by k8t at 6:55 AM on September 25, 2010

How about Puerto Vallarta? More of a town than a city, but it *is* a real, vibrant town beyond all the the ten-day tourist stuff. There are sizable immigrant and gay communities, and it's right on the water.
posted by timeistight at 7:08 AM on September 25, 2010

(Oh, sorry: I won't need to work locally.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:23 AM on September 25, 2010

> I would not be having a "personal staff," because, gross

You might want to reconsider that stance if you move. My family is American and we lived in a Third World country (as they were then called) for a while when I was a kid. Where before we'd had a cleaning lady come by every other week, when we moved we got a full-time live in housekeeper and a full-time gardener. It wasn't that we needed them (although I'm sure my mom was happy), but it was expected that if you had the money you would hire helpers and provide jobs for people who really could use the work.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:26 AM on September 25, 2010 [13 favorites]

Sydney. I'm actually surprised you're not there already.
posted by cromagnon at 7:34 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why Mexico or Europe and not, say Canada? Vancouver is a city that is also close to a lot of outdoorsy stuff. It's close to the ocean. It's gay-friendly. You can drive there from here.

(Also, if you want to live somewhere that will likely have less rather than more direct...involvement/interference from the U.S., Mexico should perhaps not be so high on your list. The increasing intensity of the narco wars - especially along the border - likely means that the U.S. is going to have more input into Mexico's security/immigration/military stuff and not less.)
posted by rtha at 7:49 AM on September 25, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding any city in Australia or New Zealand.

Also: Hawaii doesn't feel especially American to a lot of people, but you don't have to screw around with tax complications and visas, which may be a concern for Europe.
posted by SMPA at 8:01 AM on September 25, 2010

Some of Mexico's larger cities have at least moderate tolerance for gays and lesbians but I wouldn't count on finding many open/out gays, gay establishments, or gay meetup opportunities in many non-urban areas or even smaller cities in Mexico.

Not all of Canada has dreary weather. Seriously. Vancouver is an amazing, vibrant, intoxicating city with lots of what you're looking for, including great weather. I'd live there if I could. In fact, most Canadian cities would have what you're looking for. The weather sucks sometimes in parts of Canada, but come on, not always.

My sense is that Spain, France, and Italy are not easy to wedge yourself into if you're a foreigner (if by "wedge" you mean set up shop and live as opposed to being a tourist). In some ways Mexico may probably be easier in that respect. There are lots of US expats down there.
posted by blucevalo at 8:21 AM on September 25, 2010

Is Central America an option?
posted by bluedaisy at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2010

Vancouver is a city that is also close to a lot of outdoorsy stuff.

Yeah, had you not mentioned NYC, I'd let the no-Canada thing slide, but Vancouver has milder winters and less sticky summers than Manhattan, and is only a little rainier (and less erratic, weather-wise) than San Francisco. It's the world's most liveable city, says the Economist.
posted by holgate at 8:46 AM on September 25, 2010

What about puerto rico?
posted by milarepa at 9:20 AM on September 25, 2010

If you're considering Vancouver then you might as well put the UK back on the map. London has the same or better weather than Vancouver (cite1, cite2), including less rain. Heck, this summer in London this year has been better than many San Francisco summers I can recall. And London has more green space/parks than most major cities in the world.

And the UK is not the same as London. I hear Brighton is quite gay-friendly and it's right on the ocean. Needless to say, London and the UK is flooded with Americans.

Finally, to make my case, London is pretty easy to get out of with cheap flights to Europe and all. I live in London and have been to Italy twice this year and going again next month. To France - also going again next month to Lyon. Paris is a 2-hour train ride away. My family holiday (with my wife's family) was spent in the Portuguese countryside with sun and temps of 100 degrees. Also been to Netherlands, visiting a friend in Warsaw etc. etc.
Last year was about the same.

I am not super-rich. I am just doing ok. We rarely pay more than about 80 USD each way for a flight and cheap accomdation is easy to find.
posted by vacapinta at 9:21 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Guanajuato is beautiful. I spent a week there, visiting some friends who were living there for 6 months. I met another American there who had previously lived in Morelia. She said Morelia seemed unfriendly to outsiders, and it was hard to break in socially, while Guanajuato was much more welcoming. She wasn't just a tourist, either - she and her family bought a house in Guanajuato and live there full-time. Just one data point, but there it is. One reason may be that GTO is a popular tourist destination for Mexicans from other parts of the country. It also has a collection of Spanish language schools that attract international students, and a university. I felt pretty secure as a dyke traveling with my spouse. MeMail or email me if you want to hear more.
posted by expialidocious at 9:51 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Calling Brighton "quite" gay-friendly strikes me as an understatement - it's the LGBT capital of the country, even statistically speaking, as well as culturally. However, it's only 50 miles away from London so, besides the seaside factor, climate isn't going to be wildly different, and it's sometimes called London-on-Sea due to the cost of living being notoriously (near) equivalent. So, while I'd personally agree neither the weather nor the cost are honestly as bad as all that, if London is definitely out for those reasons, I guess Brighton would be too.
posted by Slyfen at 10:04 AM on September 25, 2010

Um, just thinking out loud but... is the potential for severe political instability in Mexico over the next decade or so perhaps a factor here?
posted by Bwithh at 10:05 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

You mention that you won't "need to work locally" which is great, but given the implication you've either got substantial assets to be disinvested or a revenue stream you seriously need to look at taxes. This will be true regardless of the country you decide to emigrate to. And don't be fooled; not all Developing Nations are low tax nations, when it comes to what locals might perceive as "rich foreigners" setting and living without paying income tax. Remember, rich is relative not an absolute.

That being said, Vacapinta is correct in that London is underrated by many for the weather - it actually isn't that bad! And its centrality, not just to Europe but also Africa, the Middle East and Asia are also attractions for me.

But you're going to have to be careful about taxes. Lots of Americans work here and because they lack stateside assets and generate either 100% or the greater bulk of their income in the UK, they don't have to pay US taxes as the marginal rates are higher here. However that's only part of the picture.

What they'll get you on here if you're not careful (voice of experience) are the funds you import into the UK for living expenses. They haven't been assessed of UK taxes. By UK law, if you're normally resident in the UK you are indeed liable for UK taxes not only on income you source from inside the UK but also on funds brought into the country. If you directly own those revenue generating assets, then any and all distributions (e.g., dividends, interest) will trigger a tax event. If you do any trades (i.e., sell) you'll trigger a tax event. These events will attract tax obligations under both the US and UK regimes. Not good for you, as in potentially expensive.

Further complicating matters: the tax years don't precisely overlap and marginal levels for different assets differ across the two countries (i.e., holding periods - long / short term, as well as what assets are taxable and what aren't). And there are certain US based retirement vehicles that Inland Revenue still hasn't rendered opinion on regarding their status under the UK tax regime. It is these complicates that will cause problems down the road if you migrate here and expect to "deal with it later".

I've been living in England since 1997 and have never seen the degree of scrutiny Inland Revenue now exhibits towards "non doms"; folks that live in the UK but are domiciled elsewhere for tax purposes (yeh, thats currently me and would be you should you just move here). The UK has a serious budget deficit, and they're metaphorically looking under the seat cushions for money.

So here is what you've gotta do: any assets that either currently generate revenue or might trigger capital gains have to get wrapped into a vehicle of some sort. We're talking either a Trust or a Private Foundation that is parked outside of the UK; the Caribbean seems popular for offshore trusts (*cough*), but I've got a buddy who has shielded his assets in a Private Foundation registered in Amsterdam. These vehicles are expressly designed to shield you from direct ownership of said assets, while allowing you to benefit. They may not totally eliminate your tax burden, but they can reduce your overall obligation.

Now choosing and structuring such a vehicle isn't a Ask.Metafilter type question (as much as I respect the place), nor is it something to be undertaken via one of those dodgy "click to purchase and download some forms" type of websites.

Since you've got ample time to plan and it appears you have some assets you'd like NOT taxed into oblivion, I suggest you find a local CPA and integrate their expertise into your selection of an appropriate nation to live in.

I've been living and working outside the United States for about one third of my adult life, and know, literally dozens if not well over a hundred American ex-pats and some of the stories I've heard about folks who didn't know the local laws, didn't plan, well let me just say this - when you've got two greedy government both sticking their grubby hands into your wallet, you can easily hit the 100% tax threshold if you're not careful about your affairs. And I personally know of a gal that made a hasty move to a Nordic nation and for her haste (as well as lack of planning) got whacked over 100% tax on some transactions.

You don't need a surprise like that. Talk to professional, then find a nation and structure your affairs so you can play the two tax regimes off against each other. Approached properly, you can reduce your total tax burden to well less than 10%, even in the UK. YES. Even in the UK. But as I said: approached properly. It will take some planning but it can be done.

Best of luck! MeMail if I can answer any followups you might be reluctant to post.
posted by Mutant at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2010 [10 favorites]

Yes, if NYC suits you, it's hard to see why London or Vancouver wouldn't.

Vancouver weather is probably better than New York, certainly less extremes to contend with, and access to outdoorsy stuff and the ocean is vastly superior.

If "active city life" is what's important, London might be the only place that really compares with New York in that regard. I don't know why you think it's dreary unless maybe you haven't been to London for the last twenty years.

I'm finding it hard to see how any of the places you mentioned in Mexico tick your boxes, unless the really important criterion for you is "hot climate", and that trumps the other things you mentioned.
posted by philipy at 10:52 AM on September 25, 2010

I'd look into Merida. I don't know too much about the city but it seemed great when I visited! It is fairly large, close to the coast, and not close to the drug war activity. The people of the Yucatan are really friendly & warm and there seemed to be quite a lot of cultural activity. Each Sunday the plaza becomes a big salsa party for a few hours, there are museums, universities, great nightclubs. I'd definitely check it out!
posted by newsomz at 11:08 AM on September 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

As expialidocious suggested, Guanajuato is a good possibility - more specifically, what about San Miguel de Allende? Significant gay (expat) population and a community used to dealing with American residents/part-year residents. Also, the weather's beautiful.
posted by catlet at 11:46 AM on September 25, 2010

Hmm, thank you all! Each of these is great. This is all very interesting.

Also I've changed my positions on 1. Parts of Canada and 2. live-in household staff and 3. how to deal with CPAs. Heh. Very mind-broadening!
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2010

seconding guanajuato. haven't been there, but have heard great things about puebla as well. i don't believe either of these cities have the cartel issues that more northern states have.

puerto vallarta has an established gay community, and it's not all spring breakers all the time.

also, mexico city. vibrant, cosmopolitan, diverse, and cheaper than any major american city.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:50 AM on September 26, 2010

« Older Trying to get my act together   |   What's the new *69? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.