The grass is greener…on both sides

Many of us live in the greatest country in the world. If only we could decide which one it is.

The past two years have allowed us to view other countries with intense scrutiny. This leads to inevitable comparisons, some favorable, others not so much.

How are they handling things over there? Wish we could do things like that…Thank God I don’t live there…

Pesky pandemics aside, it can be interesting to weigh up the pros and cons of living in another part of the world.

We’ve often wondered what it might be like. As good as your place of residence may be, is it possible other locations are just as good?

It comes as no shock that there is no perfect place to live but based on quality of life indicators here are some of the top contenders.

You can make up your own mind. Stay put or start packing.

CANADA

One thing about Canada is there’s lots of it. The world’s second-biggest country in terms of size is renowned for its laid-back way of life and lunatic hockey fans.

You’ll have to get used to…

No surprises here – the weather.

We’re talking about winter here and Canada has some decent ones. Obviously, the further north you go, the colder it gets. The poor devils in Winnipeg put up with -18° ( that’s Celsius folks) and the same goes for most of the country.

If you’re a beach-lover then you’ll be seriously underwhelmed in Canada. Sure, you can technically surf in British Columbia on the west and Halifax on the east, but your heart won’t be in it.

This is a winter sports country, where people patiently wait out the summer for the real action to begin.

Citizenship please

Canada boasts a free, open and multicultural society with suitably impressive healthcare, education and infrastructure.

Canada is a progressively liberal country and was one of the world’s first to legalize marijuana. Tick! It’s a highly urbanized country with 80% of Canadians living in a city.

Which brings us to one of Canada’s big selling points. There’s a great diversity of cities for you to choose from. You can opt for the laid-back, West Coast feel of Vancouver. Lots of outdoors, hiking, snowboarding, squirrels and nude beaches. Then there’s the big city vibe of Toronto. Plenty of jobs, plenty of people. For a more cosmopolitan and European feel you can always settle in Montreal. You don’t have to speak French to get by in Montreal but you’ll be less ignored if you at least try. Magnificent night life and stunning architecture – one of North America’s most underrated cities.

Then there’s the people. They tend to be well-informed and refreshingly down to earth. The dry Canadian sense of humour sees them hit it off with pretty much visitors from all over the world.

Germany

Germans just get things done. Whether it’s holding the EU together, winning World Cups or dancing on tables in beer gardens, these guys enjoy their lives seriously.

You’ll have to get used to…

Germany’s income tax rates are typically around the 47% mark, which might seem a tad high. Unless of course, you’re from Denmark which boasts a hefty 55%. Yikes.

Depending on how you roll, Germany could be a great fit. If your idea of arriving on time is anywhere around a 20 minute window then it could be a tough slog. German society revolves around a strict adherence to punctuality, discipline and appearance.

Gliding into work 10 minutes late with “chill out peeps, I’m here aren’t I?” won’t cut it.

Citizenship please

There are ample reasons for living in Germany. As mentioned above, it’s a fantastically well-run country. Transport systems are excellent – punctual, well-serviced and numerous.

The EU’s biggest economy pays its workers well and there are plenty of jobs in a wide range of industries. These range from mechanical engineering, I.T, finance and education.

Germans work hard but know how to let their hair down. Respecting those around them means they can be trusted to legally enjoy a beer or wine in the park which they certainly do.

The beer gardens are famously fun and cities like Berlin are regarded as world-class nightlife destinations.

Germans are proud of their country, making it clean and generally safe. There’s plenty of green in the cities and some magnificent rural settings to choose from.

Perhaps most interesting of all is the concept of schadenfreude. Loosely translated, it means “taking malicious pleasure in the downfall of others”. But wait – this isn’t gloating over hapless souls in underdeveloped countries. Rather, it’s chuckling to yourself when that arrogant wanker who lives across the road treads in a freshly laid dog turd.

Any country that specifies such a darkly glorious situation is surely worth a look.

Japan

Japan really turned it on as hosts of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The fans and media hordes that visited gushed about what a great darn place it was to anyone who’d listen back home. Tourism was poised to go to the next level with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics lined up and then…yes, well.

Japan still remains a destination that doesn’t come to mind immediately when thinking of top places to live or even visit. That’s as much to do with previous governments’ reluctance or ambivalence to promote it, however it’s starting to get the attention it deserves.

You’ll have to get used to…

Not being Japanese. Japan is one of the world’s most homogeneous societies with around 98% of the population being Japanese born or of Japanese heritage. Racially diverse it ain’t. This isn’t to say xenophobia is a problem but foreigners are still a novelty in what is one of the world’s safest countries.

It probably stems from a 200 year isolationist policy that lasted until the late 19th century. Japan cut itself off from the rest of the world and many politicians continue to reinforce the “one nation, one culture, one language” rhetoric today. That said, selected immigration is on the rise for economic reasons and English is regarded as one of the more important subjects in schools.

Take the stares as a compliment – you’re special.

Citizenship please

Japanese people are highly receptive to anyone bothering to utter a simple “Konnichiwa” and welcome any effort with open arms. Beyond the perceived image of serious workaholics are warm, fun-loving and ridiculously considerate people.

Japanese society functions smoothly because there is an understood respect for those around you. As a result, it’s safe, clean and has hands down the best service in the world, with the possible exception of staff at London’s Underground stations.

If you’re not fluent in Japanese and are hoping for a job other than teaching English, your best bet is with a multinational company in one of the big cities. Banks, media companies and the hospitality industry offer plenty of positions for those who can at least order a bowl of ramen in the local tongue. It’s not hard – “Ramen kudasai” will do the trick.

Not unlike the UK, Japan has a lot to see in a relatively small land mass. The shinkansen zips you around the country efficiently and peacefully.

Healthcare is universal and rates are decided by income earned, which seems fair. Best of all is it’s surprisingly affordable. A bottle of water costs about $USD 1.10 in a 7-11, whether it’s in a rural town or Shinjuku. That’s about a quarter of the price you’d be expected to cough up in some of the pricier cities in the world. The same bargains apply at pubs, cafes and restaurants. Yes, a slice of salmon with wasabi in Ginza will cost you your child’s university fees but that’s Ginza being silly.

Elsewhere, you can make a pig of yourself in a sushi train restaurant and eat 15 plates for under $USD 20. Don’t be shy, the locals will almost expect it from you.

And if you can manage to blurt out “Oishiiii” (delicious) with your mouth half full, they’ll love you.

UK

Don’t let the fact that 1 in 10 Brits live outside the UK cloud your judgement. The 5.5 million British expats had their reasons for leaving, mostly being the chance to see a blue sky at least once a month. More of that soon. In fact, if you were to wander around the eastern suburbs of Sydney you could be forgiven for thinking that at least 5 million of them ended up there.

Anyways, if you were to head for Heathrow…

You’ll have to get used to…

First let’s address a few unfair slights towards the UK. Namely the weather and the food. Yes, it is cloudy a lot of the time, just as it is in all other Northern European countries, a large part of North America and East Asia. Hardly restricted to the UK.

As for the food, that’s just crazy talk. Funnily enough, most Brits don’t eat fish and chips with baked beans for dinner. A large reason is that the UK is a significantly multicultural society and this is seen in the wide variety of food and restaurants available.

It’s still very much the home to smart, cutting-edge entertainment. TV, film, comedy, music – the UK does it all very well. If you’re heading out for an evening, there’s the usual fantastic range of options whether you’re in London or North Yorkshire, London winning by a whisker.

Live music, theatre, plays, stand-up comedy and then there’s the sport.

Obviously football (soccer) is the big drawcard but cricket, rugby and tennis are also widely attended. Watching an EPL game live should be at the top of anyone’s list.

Whether you’re into football or not is beside the point – the atmosphere is incomparable. British football fans have a dud reputation in many parts of the world, but when they’re behaved they’re lively, passionate and very fun. If with the kiddies maybe cover their ears during some of the more colourful, yet highly creative chants.

And if you just feel like relaxing on your own or with some pals, there’s the UK’s best option for downtime – the pub.

Britain’s pubs are renowned worldwide, because they’re bloody good. They have pubs for everyone and they do it well. Quiet and intimate, boisterous and fun, posh and pricey, the UK’s pubs are the main reason the country functions as well as it does.

People meet in pubs, talk, share ideas, laugh and agree on how to fix the world. On the whole, Brits are a funny bunch and are at their best in a pub.

Being a relatively small country means travelling around is fast and you can escape from or get into cities in no time.

Last of all is the location. Europe is on your doorstep, just waiting to be visited. If the constant drizzle is giving you the tom-tits then jump on a plane and be in Barcelona in half the time it takes from L.A to NYC.

Well sorted.

THAILAND

The reasons for wanting to call Thailand home are pretty obvious. You don’t have to worry about snow and there’s the food, the people, the beaches, the sights and the low cost of living.

This we already know but a quick look at some of the overlooked downsides and unexpected upsides won’t hurt.

You’ll have to get used to…

Smiling like a fool if you don’t understand what someone’s saying to you. Either that or learn Thai. English is spoken – or at least understood – in the touristy areas but on the whole, most people you run into won’t be fluent.

You might think, “No worries, I’ll wing it” but it can be tiring if the most basic exchanges require an translation app on your phone and five minutes of gestures.

Although Thailand is a relatively safe country, it does have its share of political upheaval. It averages a coup (usually military-based) about every seven years. The last was in 2014 so stick to the beaches and keep your head down if things heat up.

Citizenship please

Now for the good stuff. The top notch food caters to all, vegetarians and carnivores alike. The warmth and genuine happiness of Thai people is a major reason for Thailand being one of the world’s most visited countries.

But we’re not visiting, we’re living here. In which case if you’re retired, this is the way to go. Your super and savings will go a long way, with accommodation being particularly affordable.

A spacious three bedroom house in the beachside city of Pattaya is all yours for roughly

$USD 120,000. No we didn’t miss a zero, that’s it. Where do I sign?

There’s also the option of being able to completely immerse yourself in Thai culture or mingle with expats if you need some English interaction.

If you’re not retired, remote work is an obvious way to have your cake and eat it. Earning a foreign salary while based in a tropical paradise is about as selfish and heavenly as it gets.

1 Comment

  1. Had me thinking, dreaming, especially when the country I live in becoming a mini USA.
    From this list, I’d happily move to Japan or Germany. Living in another country is clearly a whole lot different to visiting but plenty to dream about.

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