My life sucks
April 23, 2004 7:18 PM   Subscribe

My life sucks. But the one good thing about being broke and unemployed is that you can do it anywhere. Assuming I were debt free with no commitments, where's a nice new place to go to scratch out a subsistence living as either a plumber, a waiter, or a dishwasher? Anywhere on the planet, English- or French-speaking (or anything easier than Russian or Chinese -- I'll have a few months to learn a new language as I pay my way toward escape), must have at least paved roads and indoor plumbing, and if the population hates Americans, I'd prefer that they do so abstractly rather than overtly. Canada, Iceland, and Belize seem kinda promising....
posted by BitterOldPunk to Work & Money (45 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Canada--it's close and they have good social services and healthcare. And they're nice.
posted by amberglow at 7:56 PM on April 23, 2004

I second Canada, but there's a very large anti-American sentiment that's appeared/grown over the last four years. But, I do believe that it's quite possibly the best country in the world to live and work in.

With that said, I'm moving out of Canada soon, for reasons mostly personal. I'm off to the Netherlands, and that would be my second recommendation, alongside Belgium.
posted by Jairus at 8:07 PM on April 23, 2004

I betcha no one will ever yell "Yankee Go Home!" at you in Toronto or Montreal, no matter how anti-American they're feeling.

Amsterdam is great, but you have to get there, and find work (there are tons of other expats there), and a place to live (they have a very tight housing situation), and learn Dutch. It'd be much harder than Canada, I think.
posted by amberglow at 8:10 PM on April 23, 2004

If you're healthy and don't need education for your kids why not at least go somewhere with a nice climate. Jamaica or somewhere in the Carribean. You can live out your days being manager at a resort. Enjoying perfect weather on a beachside resort is not a bad way to end your life.
posted by geoff. at 8:23 PM on April 23, 2004

I'd take a second look at China or Korea. You can make a pretty nice living teaching English there. If you pick a major city (Beijing, Shanghai) you can get around fairly easily with no or basic Chinese. And you'll make lots of expat friends fast, because people who can speak english naturally bond together. If you feel like "dropping out" of the rat race, that's the place to do it, I think.

And while I don't know what your career background is, living in China for a while might help you get your next job, assuming you work for a multinational.
posted by gd779 at 8:24 PM on April 23, 2004

Netherlands would be much harder than Canada, agreed. Belgium wouldn't be too bad, as you already have French.

If you move to Canada, I'd suggest staying away from Toronto. It's a nice place (I lived there for a number of years), but I'd suggest Ottawa, Vancouver, or Montreal.

If you like smaller cities, St. Johns is a really, really wicked place. The friendliest city I've ever been to, easily. There's not much work there for IT people, but as a plumber/waiter, you'd do fine. My mother just moved, and she rents a huge five-bedroom house for about $900 CDN a month.
posted by Jairus at 8:27 PM on April 23, 2004

I guess those long nights of drinking bohemian beer and blasting Turbonegro didn't help, huh?

Anyways, Oregon is nice but unemployment is not very good here.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:35 PM on April 23, 2004

Since you're considering Iceland, you may be interested to know that it is one of the three happiest countries in the world. Supposedly.
posted by gd779 at 8:46 PM on April 23, 2004

Response by poster: *poring over Canadian work visa paperwork*

Hmm. Three years to dual citizenship. Decent beer, beautiful vistas, they drive on the correct side of the road....and I've always wanted to see Nova Scotia....

Anywhere on the Left Coast is out. (For reasons of sheer irrational bigotry on my part against a part of my country I distortedly view as full of smelly hippies.)

How about Vegas? I'm not sure if I'm kidding or not...

I'd also like, just once in my life, to stand in a flat empty field that stretches to the horizon in every direction. Not that I'd like to then live there, but I would like to do that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:02 PM on April 23, 2004

My experience living and working in the Netherlands was very long ago. You don't need to learn dutch. It would be nice if you did, but it's probably not necessary. The people are friendly. The food sucks. The food really sucks. Work is boring. The culture is liberal but the people are conservative. I still loved the place but it wouldn't be my first choice if I were to go somewhere to scrape out a living.
posted by rdr at 9:05 PM on April 23, 2004

BOP: What kind of activities do you enjoy? Music? Art? I've lived in a good number of cities up here, and I might be able to help suggest places that you'd like.
posted by Jairus at 9:08 PM on April 23, 2004

The "Big Island" of Hawaii was sure nice when I was a freshly-ordained high school graduate. Lots of sun and surf and a huge variety of terrain and climate to explore.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:10 PM on April 23, 2004

I'd also like, just once in my life, to stand in a flat empty field that stretches to the horizon in every direction. Not that I'd like to then live there, but I would like to do that.

You might try North Dakota. That's where I got my fix on that particular experience. Not real high on the life-affirming places to live list, though. But then, I doubt Vegas is either.

Other ideas: I see ads all the time telling me I should go and teach english in Korea. There are a number of users here who rave on about Korea...

I'm personally thinking of going to South America as soon as I'm done with my degree.
posted by kaibutsu at 9:28 PM on April 23, 2004

"I'd also like, just once in my life, to stand in a flat empty field that stretches to the horizon in every direction."

You might also consider working for Wall Drug for the summer season.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:30 PM on April 23, 2004

Response by poster: Korea is hugely expensive, tho, isn't it?

And Wall Drug scares me. (On reflection, I'm not sure I'd like to spend much time in that featureless empty field...)

Jairus: I'm a simple guy. As long as there is a library, places to bike, and access to the net, I could get along anywhere. It'd be nice to have somewhere to fish and a decent restaurant or two (especially if I'm going to be working in one of them), but I'd settle for small, scenic, friendly, and not completely frozen all the time.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:20 PM on April 23, 2004

Enid, Oklahoma is pretty nice, if you don't mind the occasional tornado. The main selling point is that it is very inexpensive, as is most of Oklahoma. Friendly folk, too, and not too crowded except in OKC and perhaps Tulsa. Plenty of space, low cost of living, good scenery, usually 3 and sometimes 4 seasons.

Oh, and they tend to LOVE Americans, FWIW.
posted by davidmsc at 10:59 PM on April 23, 2004

your zip says alabama, right?

Anywhere on the Left Coast is out. (For reasons of sheer irrational bigotry on my part against a part of my country I distortedly view as full of smelly hippies.)


california isn't all smelly hippies. areas outside of LA and SF tend to be fairly cheap, lots of food service gigs. Mostly farmland surrounding suburban mini-metros. Cheap JR colleges if you get bored and want to take a class. lots of dive bars out here in the central valley with cheap drinks and live music.

or there is the mountains...mellow winters, great scenery...tahoe, columbia, heavenly, yosemite.

myself, i'm getting ready to move to the coast, but there are lots of hippies there, so i wouldn't recommend it.

regarding the Big oldest brother lives there, in the jungle, and he pretty much loves it for the sleep in a lean-to simplicity.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:02 PM on April 23, 2004

*poring over Canadian work visa paperwork*

You're thinking of doing this legally? You almost certainly won't be allowed to, except maybe to the far east where you might teach English. There are enough under/unemployed waiters and plumbers in Toronto and Amsterdam already; why would they want you adding to it? Almost everywhere will insist on your having a job in hand, or having mad ph3ar-able skills, or being hitched to a local, or being a refugee.

If you're going to try and do it under the table, pick someplace such that you won't mind too much if they find you, kick you out, and don't ever let you back again (ie, not Canada or Europe).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:11 PM on April 23, 2004

Or just move someplace else in the states. If you want to scratch out a subsistence living, I wouldn't recommend any of the really big metroplexes just because of price (though here in D/FW isn't bad, and ISTR that St. Louis is fun and not stupidly expensive).

Where do you have friends you could crash with for a good few week while you start subsisting?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:20 PM on April 23, 2004

My life sucks . . . Assuming I were debt free with no commitments . . .

Wait . . . how does your life suck again?
posted by dgaicun at 11:23 PM on April 23, 2004

Response by poster: There are enough under/unemployed waiters and plumbers in Toronto and Amsterdam already; why would they want you adding to it? have a firm handshake and a pleasing smile?


*poring over Korean work visa paperwork*

(dgaicun: note use of subjunctive)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:50 PM on April 23, 2004

Hey, isn't stavrosthewonderchicken an english teaching ex-canadian living in South Korea right now? You might want to email him for the full lowdown on S. Korea.
posted by mathowie at 11:54 PM on April 23, 2004

Or at least read this here comprehensive(ish) guide to ESL in Korea, from the dear fowl's blog.

(Oh, and if you do decide to go to Canada, BOP, don't worry, we're much too polite to vent our prejudices to your face.)
posted by arto at 1:20 AM on April 24, 2004

Just to confuse the offering, I'll add French Polynesia to the mix.
- That 'never-never land' sort of idyllic, dreamy existence.
- They speak two languages that it sounds like you already know: French & English.
- The natives are extremely friendly.
- There are expat's around, and yes, they do trade books.
- The cost of living is one of the highest in the world as everything has to be imported. Hopefully, this would be offset in context by the wages you earn from a tourist resort, the islands' main employer.
- The French expats are very typically French.
- Even paradise becomes overrated at some point.

For more, the Island Chronicles is a good read.
posted by jazzkat11 at 4:55 AM on April 24, 2004

The U.S. is so huge, there must be somewhere you can escape too without the major hassle of moving countries. How about moving to the mountains and mediating for a few years? If you do decide to try another country, the experience, good or bad, will definately broaden your outlook and is well worth it.

And I'm still thinking about that recent MeFi story about the guy who moved to a deserted island for a number of years. Awesome!!
posted by Meridian at 5:30 AM on April 24, 2004

Right now my sister is having a blast selling timeshares down on the Baja peninsula in Mexico. She says she works for 5 hours in the morning and has the afternoon off which she spends reading books, sipping tea and floating in her house's swimming pool

She says her best friend / co-worker there pulled in $120,000 USD doing that.

I don't know anytihng about the procedures one would go through to get into such work, she get it from knowing a few people and switched to doing that from working at a resort. (which was also a decent living from what she tells me)

/Meanwhile I had a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast today. Stupid grad school can bite me.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:22 AM on April 24, 2004

Alright, if you're considering Vegas, why not try Albuquerque? Rather small town, most people speak English as at least a second language, GREAT tech access, warm weather, and lots of outdoorsy things to do (I don't DO outdoorsy things, but I've heard). Very laid back (sometimes called the "land of manana" for the relaxed approach to time management and scheduling).

I do warn; the local joke refers to the "land of entrapment," a play on the "land of enchantment" on the license plates. People tend to stay here far longer than they'd intended.
posted by answergrape at 7:18 AM on April 24, 2004

Curacao. It's a Carribean island with a Dutch government. Think "Amsterdam in the Carribean."
posted by NortonDC at 7:40 AM on April 24, 2004

If it were me, I'd buy a van, trick out the inside, invest in some camping gear, a few PO boxes and a cel modem/laptop combo and go tour the US for a few years. Get all the old issues of Dwelling Portably [a zine that helps you live cheap and/or on the road] and move with the climate. You'd join a whole generation of RVing seniors who gets jobs with Habitat for Humanity, National Parks and other seasonal employment. You'd meet new people, get to know your own country, live fairly cheaply, work when you want to, and see some spectacular scenery. I found that one of the big problems with travelling abroad was that all the tricks I knew for getting by [where the cheap food is, how to find places to take showers, stay cheaply, see good music, talk your way out of trouble] I had to relearn, often slowly. Not that it's not cool to meet people from other cultures and language backgrounds, but you can do a lot of that in this country as well. Plus, if you find a place you like, you can always stay there.
posted by jessamyn at 8:22 AM on April 24, 2004 [2 favorites]

Maui. You're not really lower class as a waiter, because there are only two classes, and you can look down on the tourists. It's very pretty and very simple.
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on April 24, 2004

Anywhere on the Left Coast is out. (For reasons of sheer irrational bigotry on my part against a part of my country I distortedly view as full of smelly hippies.)

Please say you're kidding. Yeah, I hate California (on average - I know it's a big state :P), but think of Oregon, or Washington.
posted by abcde at 9:17 AM on April 24, 2004

How about Vegas?

Because of both an unusually high average table hold in its casinos and the strength of the Las Vegas economy, Caesars Entertainment on Thursday posted record earnings and beat all Wall Street performance projections.
Caesars reported 2004 first-quarter net income of $79 million, or 25 cents per diluted shares, up 93 percent from $41 million, or 14 cents per share, a year earlier.
Caesars Entertainment President Wally Barr said in a conference call with analysts that his company set records for net income, earnings per share, cash flow and revenue, driven by surging demand for leisure travel and the performance of its Strip properties.
"They had a fantastic quarter. Not only are they benefiting from the overall strength of Las Vegas, but they're turning the corner and some of their investments are paying off," said Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone.
"If they can continue their run rate, they'll exceed all expectations on the Street (for the year as a whole)," he said.
Joe Greff, gaming analyst for Fulcrum Global Partners, an independent Wall Street investment research firm, noted that Caesars Entertainment's performance was a different story from the other major operators that have recently posted record results.
"This is still a turnaround story and it's proving the Caesars (Palace) brand, Paris Las Vegas and Bally's are all moving in the right direction," he said.
However, Goldman Sachs analyst Steve Kent pointed out that Paris Las Vegas and Bally's both say gaming volumes declined despite strong hotel operations.
Nevertheless, he added, improved casino operations at Caesars Palace more than compensated for that slippage.

posted by matteo at 10:19 AM on April 24, 2004

If you're legal to work there perhaps you could consider the tourist parts of Spain, a fair amount of brits get by there without any Spanish, working in bars/catering and generally servicing the British tourist market.
posted by biffa at 10:25 AM on April 24, 2004

Rather than frittering your time away, why not volunteer to do some work with an organisation like Voluntary Service Overseas.

I suspect that after some time using your skills, be they tech or plumbing, you'd come back with a rejuvenated outlook on your life. And hell, if you really like it, you could stay, subsisting and helping.
posted by dmt at 11:36 AM on April 24, 2004

I second Albuquerque, or perhaps one of the smaller towns within an hour's drive of ABQ (Socorro, Belen, Bernallio, etc.) I'm biased toward Socorro, since I went to college there - it's a tiny town, but full of tech people, with a great bar and restaurants, and a reasonable amount of friendly types. Albuquerque is only an hour away by car, and has tons of shopping and a (marginally) international airport.

The great thing about New Mexico, outside of the Santa Fe/Los Alamos area, is the extremely low cost-of-living. I paid less than $100 per month for room rental in Socorro in 1999, for example. And you certainly won't meet many "smelly hippies" outside of the aforementioned Santa Fe - I'd say the majority of the people living in NM are blue-collar conservatives, with a smattering of white-collar techies.
posted by vorfeed at 12:12 PM on April 24, 2004

Have you considered working on a cruise ship? Try the "man without a country" option for a while. It's easy to get a job and you could visit a few different places before you pick one to settle in. It's hard work and can be lonely at first, but you get to visit exotic locales for free, and it's usually easy to save up for your final move. Also, if you pick the right one, you will probably meet some foreigners with in-roads to residency.
posted by milovoo at 12:34 PM on April 24, 2004

dmt: I checked out the VSO site, and it looks like they only take people from the EU and nearby territories. Know of anything similar that takes USians?
posted by kaibutsu at 1:06 PM on April 24, 2004

maybe something from here?
posted by amberglow at 1:30 PM on April 24, 2004

Please say you're kidding. Yeah, I hate California (on average - I know it's a big state :P), but think of Oregon, or Washington.
Isn't Oregon even more full of smelly hippies than California? Or is that just Eugene?
posted by Gortuk at 3:43 PM on April 24, 2004

check out the site again
-Canada and The USA
posted by Iax at 1:16 AM on April 25, 2004

In defense of Holland, yes the food seriously sucks but you are near to France and Belgium if you need to pig out. You don't have to live in Amsterdam, which is a butt-ugly big city compared to places like Leiden and Utrecht. And they give "sofi" numbers out relatively easy. Sofi is the tax number given to a worker. Go and work on a farm picking strawberries and you get a tax number. Once you have that you can legally work anywhere in NL, get residence, and apply to stay.

Me, I live in Hungary. Big flat spaces. Crap pay and a weird language.
posted by zaelic at 2:13 AM on April 25, 2004 [1 favorite]

Thailand, that's your place. You can teach English, or if you're good looking, you can do modelling (lots of agencies in Siam Square, Bangkok). You can't compete with the locals for unskilled/ manual jobs as the salaries are very low. Dirt cheap to live if you forego luxuries.
posted by Pericles at 4:43 AM on April 25, 2004

I am planning on doing this in the next few years:


That way, you can try many different places to find one you like, without the hassle of work permits and whatnot.
posted by annathea at 6:29 AM on April 25, 2004

you could also try doing what this guy is doing. (from a MeFi text ad)
posted by amberglow at 2:00 PM on April 25, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the wonderful suggestions!

(Isn't Curacao where they make that blue stuff?)

An e-mail to stavros is a really good idea.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2004

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