06 March 2016

Suggestions for those who will leave if X wins the Presidency

It all goes back to that dark November night in 2004, when eventually a winner was called. I stayed up late to watch all the way through. It was a long day. At 6:15am as I approached the polling station, an advocate for one of the candidates rushed toward me - staying just outside the mandated boundary. I put my palm toward them, and said "Forget it, I'm here to overthrow the government".

So late that November night, well actually about 3am the following morning, I stumbled to bed. My wife woke enough to ask "What is the result"?

I responded "We're moving to France".

"Okay" she said, and went back to sleep.

Well, it is that time again, the US election cycle is heating up, and like good brewing beer, the scum is rising to the top. Unlike good beer brewing, the scum is not being scraped off and discarded, hosed away into the metaphorical gutters of history. The problem is that whoever wins, almost half of the US (and much of the rest of the world) will think that the scum won.

So as we lead up to the election, we are hearing again and again, "If (fill in the blank) wins, I'm leaving the country". Okay, good for you, but as someone who said that, and then did it, I have a few suggestions.

First, if it had been that easy. There was work to manage, property to find and (rent or buy), and attempting to find a way to economically survive post a move. And of course, the move needed to be legal, or there would be no difference between us and an economic migrant trying to sneak into Europe by boat.
So for those of you who really mean it, let me give just a few suggestions based on having actually said it, and then done it.

1. Make the personal commitment. Talk to yourself, you spouse, family. Make sure that everyone is, if not supportive, then understanding. But also test yourself - am I just saying this, or do I really, really mean it?

2. Plan. Long in advance. Get as much ready and thought out as you can. Depending on who wins, you may find yourself at the back of a very long queue of people who feel the same way. There may not be a million economic or political refugees streaming north and south across American borders into countries with makeshift refugee camps, but there will be a queue to speak to someone at a consulate or embassy, delays for passports and visas, and limited jobs already being taken by those in front of you.

3. Where? Not such an easy question. Canada; well maybe. But the real question is; where in the world will I feel at home, has what I need in infrastructure, and is politically acceptable to me (after all, you will be leaving because of a politically unacceptable outcome. One rule-of-thumb, you are NOT going on holiday, so if you've been somewhere on holiday and said "I could live here", you probably either cannot, or would not want to year round.

So what are your criteria? May I suggest the following:

a. Language: how important is language to you, or do you speak a second language, which will certainly help narrow down your choices. Learning a language is not easy, but is possible and can be huge fun. It can also be a huge hindrance to getting things done and enjoying yourself.

b. Political System: Are you happy with a totalitarian regime as long as they don't bother the foreigners, or do you demand a democratically elected government? Some very nice places are ruled by dictators or monarchs, yet are full of opportunity and fabulous people. Remember that you have NO say in that country, so be ready to leave your political opinions in the US when you leave.

c. Economy: If you are going to "retire" then the choices are much wider, but if you will need to work, you might want to consider developed economies. Associated with this is your ability to get a work visa or other authorization to earn a living in the country. Of course some countries are more "open" than others, and it does help to have a second citizenship.

d. Civil stability: Some countries have a higher potential (or current) for civil war, social unrest, or outright war with a neighbor. How safe do you want to feel? In some countries the overt oppression of minorities creates an environment of almost continual latent violence,  covered over by a patina of civility and culture.

e. Population density: Hey, we all want to be in the country, right? But realistically, most people live in cities, and some very attractive countries are effectively city-states. Remember also that Islands are wonderful, with beaches (most) and sunshine (many) but they are islands, and if you will suffer from "island fever". That applies to almost all islands, from the UK down to Singapore.

f. Weather: After all, if you want to ski and like winter, then Dubai probably isn't for you. Likewise, escaping winter seems to be a huge draw. Florida isn't full because New Yorkers can't get enough snow. I like some seasons, but not too much hot or too much cold. More important, my wife loathes the cold, so that is a major factor.

g. Distance: Never forget the tyranny of distance. If you need to be close to family and friends, then consider just how far you are willing to be, and how long it will take you to get "home" if that is what you will still call it. New Zealand may be heaven on earth, but it is 24 - 36 elapsed hours of travel from North America or Europe, meaning visitors effectively need to dedicate two weeks to make the trip worthwhile, and so will you going "home" for a visit.

You may have additional criteria of your own. Food, wine, sunshine, opportunities to work in IT, Risk, Accounting, Oil & Gas, etc.

4. Meet the Natives. Well, at least people from that country. Hear from them the pluses and minuses, and ask them why they do not live there. Your assumptions about a place will be reinforced or corrected by getting to know people - the kind of people that will be around you every day. These people will also provide you with great pointers on how to settle in, and with good contact in-country. Their networks will be invaluable to you.

5. Visit. So you've picked a few places (or only one), met and talked with people from there, now it is time to make your knowledge a bit more real; go there. Spend a week, or two or more. Do not look at it as a tourist, look at it as a resident. What do the supermarkets look like. Talk to local headhunters (if you are in an easily transportable profession).

You are now about as ready as you ever will be, and all that remains is for you to watch the November night results.

Of course there is the risk, that after doing all your prep, you may reach the conclusion that it doesn't really matter who wins, it is time to go.