May 27, 2014
"Kathleen, I read the Overseas Opportunity Letter every time it's in my inbox. I was wondering what experts in international legalities can I contact for specifics related to Canadians who want to retire or live overseas as I believe we have some differences from U.S. expats? Who may I contact in Canada to get information for Canadians? "Thank you for all the information. You all work very hard to get out to everyone considering this as an option in their lives." --Leslie T., Canada All information we provide is as relevant for Canadians as for Americans with one exception, which is taxes. The tax situation is different for Canadians than for Americans. The good news is that it is different in very good ways and much simplified.
When family and friends from the States came to visit, we'd take them to nearby Bantry Bay for the weekend or to Dublin for a day of shopping and museums. We'd do the tourist thing. When they went home, we went back to business. We traveled internationally often, then as now. We came and went so regularly during our time in Ireland that the immigration officials at Shannon and Waterford airports came to know and greet us by name.
It's no wonder, then, that we managed to remain tourists in our adopted hometown for years. If not for Kaitlin and Jack (born a year-and-a-half after our move), we might have lived our entire seven years in Ireland as visitors. Jack, though, was born Irish and welcomed at his daycare and preschool as a son of the Auld Sod. Kaitlin, too, made friends, participated in activities at school, and, long before the notion even occurred to Lief and me, she began establishing herself as a local. Kaitlin and Jack drew us into their lives. We met their teachers and the parents of their classmates, and we gained a glimpse of real Irish living.
In Paris, we made the same mistakes at first. This time I recognized from the start that we were depriving ourselves of a true Parisian experience, but we had no choice. Again, we were relocating a business, establishing an office, hiring staff. And, in Paris, we were working 12 hours a day with fellow English-speakers. We were fully insulated from the French-speaking world around us. It was not until our final year as Parisians that we felt we'd begun to penetrate the tourist level of this city. We improved our French, spent more time with local French friends, and joined in neighborhood activities--the annual June street party, for example, when our rue de Verneuil ropes itself off, lays red carpets on the ground, and sets up tables for pot-luck French-style--we hadn't had time for previous years. As my friend Rose explains, it can take a lifetime to penetrate the French culture, but, our final year living in this country, we enjoyed a clearer view beneath the surface.
In Panama, we've worked hard not to repeat the errors of our past lives overseas. Four years on in this country, we're more fully integrated than we ever were in Ireland or Paris. Here we arrived as full-time residents with an advantage. We'd been spending time and doing business in this country for more than a decade before we settled in more permanently. Again, we've established a business, hired staff, etc., but we had resources in place to help with this, local friends and contacts who made the getting-settled phase easier to navigate.
At home now in Panama City, we dine and drink where the locals do, and, in these places, carefully guarded secrets from the tourists, we're welcomed as regulars. We run into friends at markets and fairs, and we're invited to help them celebrate weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We still stand out as gringos when we walk down the street, but we're doing our best to blend in otherwise, and we're being rewarded with a chance to experience la vida Panameño.
The key is to make local friends. You want expat friends, too, of course. You want to know fellow English-speakers you can call for a round of golf, a game of bridge, or a drink after a particularly frustrating day in the land of mañanas and fiestas. But try not to give in to the temptation to spend all your time with fellow foreigners. They won't be able to show you what local life is really like. You can live overseas for years, as we have, without gaining that knowledge, but you're doing yourself a disservice. Why go to all the trouble of relocating to another country only to miss out on the chance to get to know what living in that place is really like?
How do you get started penetrating the tourist barrier? You understand and embrace the local customs and etiquette. This is a simple but effective first step. Much of the rest of the world is more polite and takes manners more seriously than do we Americans.
In much of the world, it's impolite not to greet everyone and anyone you encounter throughout the day. In France or Panama, for example, walking in and out of a shop, getting on and off an elevator, entering and exiting a movie theater, an art gallery, or a café, you'll be thought very rude if you don't offer the appropriate greetings and farewells.
Before you arrive in your new country, therefore, make an effort to know these phrases. Bonjour, salut, au revoir, a bientot, and bonne nuit...Buenos dias, Buenos tardes, hola, hasta luego, and ciao...know a handful of polite phrases and understand how and when to use them. Panamanians, for example, switch from Buenos dias to Buenos tardes around noon and to Buenos noches when the sun goes down.
The French will think you mal-eleve if you do not offer a merci and an au revoir to every person you encounter when making your way out from a shop. Every single person, at least once. As you walk out the door, you might offer a final, general, "merci, au revoir" to the entire place. My friend John tells of an experience he had early on during his time living in Paris, when he offered but a single "merci, au revoir" to the cashier in the bakery where he stopped to buy baguette on his way home. He said thank you, good-bye, then walked out the door. The proprietress of the shop was so appalled by my friend's obvious lack of acceptable manners that she followed him out in to the street lecturing him on proper social conduct. In France, when in doubt, it never hurts to offer one more "merci" for the road.
The point is to make an effort to show your respect for the local customs. This small thing will ingratiate and open doors for you. It's the start of penetrating the tourist barrier and becoming part of the local scene.
Kathleen PeddicordContinue Reading:
"Everyone else? Everyone else looked bored...looked off into space...wandered out of the room for a bathroom break. Who wanted to establish residency in another country? Why would anyone need a second passport?
"It's a different world today," Joel continued.
Our Residency and Citizenship Workshop this morning was fully attended and carefully followed by everyone in the room. Joel was joined on stage by Lief Simon, Lee Harrison, Mark Nestmann, and Rainelda Mata-Kelly for a surprisingly spirited discussion about establishing foreign residency (as a retiree or otherwise) and obtaining second citizenship and a second passport.
The most user-friendly choices for establishing retiree residency today? Belize, Ecuador, Malaysia, Nicaragua, Panama, and Uruguay. Our panel walked attendees through the requirements, the process, and the associated costs in each case, sharing personal anecdotes based on their own experiences establishing legal foreign residency in these and many other places over the years.
"You can find the details for how to obtain a residency visa in Ecuador on the Internet," Lee Harrison explained. "When I was moving to Cuenca, I did, on a government-published website. I tried to follow the steps as outlined there. But what I found was that the process on the ground was nothing like what was described online. The reality of how things played out in person was completely different..."
Then Mark Nestmann, one of the world's leading experts in acquiring second citizenship and a second passport, detailed the best current choices if this is an objective--St. Kitts, Dominica, and the Dominican Republic.
"Residency and Citizenship" was the second of seven Big Issue workshops we conceived as part of this week's program. Each of these seven topics (from preparing your retire overseas budget to establishing foreign residency...from how to rent or buy a new home to how to manage your tax burdens and obligations as a retiree overseas...from choosing health insurance to dealing with the administrative challenges of establishing yourself in a new country and finding a way to supplement your retirement income overseas) is being addressed by a panel of hand-selected friends and experts with long firsthand experience.
The "Property Questions" workshop panel included the three top global property experts I know--Lief Simon, Lee Harrison, and Paul Reynolds.
"When Paul reviewed the PowerPoint I'd put together for this presentation," Lief remarked, "he called to ask me to explain something to him. I was so proud of him," Lief continued with a grin in Paul's direction, "because he'd never heard of a 'net commission.'
"A 'net commission,'" Lief continued, "is when an owner asks a real estate agent to sell his piece of land or his house for him. The guy tells the agent how much he wants out of the sale. The agent then adds some additional amount on top of that, maybe 20%, maybe 50%, maybe 100% more than the figure indicated by the owner. The agent makes the sale and then pockets the difference."
We concluded the morning by discussing the least fun topic of all: Taxes. Lief, Joel Nagel, and Mark Nestmann made up the panel for this workshop. They spent a lot of time talking about forms and filings. Horribly dry and boring stuff that has become the bane of every American abroad's existence.
The name of the game with the U.S. IRS these days seems to be tax death by filings. It's a whole lot easier to prove that you didn't meet some filing requirement than that you didn't pay some amount of tax you may or may not have owed. Why argue over the tax due, I guess they figure, when we can get 'em for a filing foul-up? The fines and penalties for missing a filing deadline and for not reporting some asset or some offshore bank account you're meant to report, according to the fast-changing tax code, are severe.
As I write, I'm sitting in the back of the room for the Panama Country Workshop. Up on stage, Panama attorney Rainelda Mata-Kelly, Panama entrepreneur Robert Kroesen, and Lief are entertaining the group with photos and stories of their lives and experiences in Panama.
"Don't mess with Carnaval!" Robert is advising the group.
"Yes, we Panamanians like our parties," Rainelda adds as she flips the projector to show a colorful Las Tablas Carnaval parade...
Kathleen PeddicordContinuing Reading:
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Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter.
Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
Read more here.
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