Americans Retiring Abroad

Why Would An American Want To Leave The United States?

People ask us all the time…and, on our recent extended U.S. tour, we got the question a lot, from family, old friends, people we met at cocktail parties:

Why would an American want to leave the United States?

I’m not in the business of persuading someone to make a move like this if the idea doesn’t make sense to him. From where I sit, after living outside the States for more than 14 years, my real response to the question is, why wouldn’t an American consider leaving the United States?

But, again, I’m not trying to convince anyone. I’m just trying to help those for whom the idea appeals consider, evaluate, and act on the opportunities.

And that’s the real answer to the question. The reason for anyone to think about moving from whatever country where he happens to have been born to some other country is opportunity. More, better, new, emerging…

Thinking practically, the biggest reason people consider this idea is cost. Sometimes you can live for less money in some place other than where you happen to be. That’s one kind of opportunity–to reduce your cost of living.

Another, important to me, is to enjoy more freedom.

After my extended tour across America with my family these past few weeks, my position on this has been clarified and solidified. I’d say that most Americans are blind to the lack of freedom in the United States at this point. With freedom comes responsibility, and maybe that’s a big part of the problem.

I was in New Mexico last week visiting family. New Mexico is a fairly liberal state. One ex-governor wanted to legalize marijuana. Medical marijuana is legal. I was last in this state probably 15 years ago. In the New Mexico I remember, a minor could have a sip of wine in a restaurant where he was having dinner with his parents, for example. That’s changed.

At dinner at a restaurant in a small town, we finished our meal without having finished our bottle of wine. I asked the waitress if she could bring us the cork so we could take the half-full bottle back to our hotel with us. She disappeared into the back, then returned to report that the bartender wouldn’t give her the cork. Our re-corked bottle of wine would constitute an “open container” and couldn’t leave the premises.

We do this all the time in Panama City…Medellin…take partially finished bottles of wine home with us from restaurants.

Many who read this will write in to tell me that that’s the law in New Mexico. No open containers of alcohol allowed on the streets or, especially, in an automobile. And the law is there to protect everyone, right? Sure, we need laws. But too many people rely on the laws, the government, and the courts to take care of them. In exchange, they relinquish the freedom to take care of themselves.

An article in the newspaper last week explained that a 22-year-old girl is suing a bar, the state department of transportation, and a few other state departments. When she was 20, it seems, the girl went into the bar she’s now suing with friends to shoot pool. She ordered drinks. The bar didn’t card her (she alleges) and served her. She drank, presumably too much, then she decided to drive herself home. She had an accident and is now a paraplegic.

In her suit, the girl blames everyone named for her accident. If the bar had carded her, she wouldn’t have been drinking. If the state had better maintained the shoulder she swerved onto, her accident wouldn’t have been as bad as it was. If the farmer had cut down the tree she ran into, she wouldn’t have been injured as seriously.

My take? If the girl wasn’t an idiot, none of this would have happened. But she was, and now she needs to take responsibility for her actions.

An acquaintance visiting Panama last year was walking along the sidewalk and fell into a big hole. He was busy looking up at the buildings and not watching where he was walking (even after we’d warned him that Panama sidewalks are an obstacle course). The fall broke his leg. A friend went to visit the man in the hospital. The man’s first comment to our friend when our friend walked into the man’s hospital room?

“Who can I sue?”

It seems people have forgotten what responsibility is.

In some countries, they may never have known. Years ago, when we were running a business in Ireland, an employee told us in conversation one day that the government was there to take care of people if they didn’t have a job. If they did have a job, the company was there to take care of them. The mentality was shocking to us, but we came to understand during the years we were in Ireland that this is how much of Irish society sees things. They don’t recognize any responsibility to do a good job for their employer in return for a fair wage. All they have to do is show up, put in their hours, and, in return, they expect to be “looked after,” as one employee put it.

It is possible to enjoy much greater levels of personal freedom many places in the world today. But freedom means taking responsibility for yourself and your actions.

Embrace that perspective, and you can find many more opportunities around the world than you can at home.

And that’s the point.

Lief Simon

French Course Online