On Deciding in WHICH COUNTRY to Live

So, you have made your decision to move to another country. Perhaps you have already lived abroad for a while, or perhaps this will be your first time of living overseas. At the end of the day, making that decision in terms of which country to move to can be extremely difficult. There are just so many factors to consider, even if you already have a few places in mind that actually speak to you.

Of course, this should always be the place to decide in terms of which country to live in. You will inevitably have some places that make you interested more than others, and this is where you should always begin. But despite the fact that you like these places, it is still very possible that they simply aren’t the right places for you to live in. They may be a great travel destination, but that doesn’t make them a great place to spend several years of your life.

At the end of the day, what you will have to do is to become aware of the factors that determine a great place to live for you. Here are some questions that you could ask yourself in that regard:

  • what do I really miss in the place that I currently live in?
  • what do I really love about the place that I currently live in?
  • what kind of experiences would I like to get from a new place?
  • what would I really like to learn about and which place can help me to learn just that?
  • what kind of factors are important for me in choosing the right place?
  • what kind of factors would really put me off in terms of living in a new place?
  • which place would allow me to follow my personal aspirations?
  • what cultural factors interest me that I would love to learn about?

Of course, there is a great many of different questions that you could also ask yourself for deciding which country to live in. At the end of the day, use those places that you are already interested in as a starting point, and then talk to people who have experiences living in different countries to tell you in which ways these countries will suit you in terms of the expectations that you may have and in which ways they won’t. Then, based on advice from those around you, you will be able to make a much more reflective decision for choosing an environment that suits you best. Here are some more factors to consider:

How suitable is this place in regards to your career aspirations?

Different countries certainly are very different in regards to their own economical strengths and weaknesses. The unique circumstances of the industry of your country of choice will greatly influence the degree of success that you will be able to achieve in this particular place. Let’s just take my own case as an example: I am in the process of building my career as a writer, coach, consultant and public speaker in the field of intercultural communication.

What I have thought in the beginning of moving to Iran was that after the end of the sanctions, western companies would move to Iran and start doing business over here. With that, there would be a lot of difficulties coming up in terms of how to make collaboration between western- and Iranian firms possible. How to communicate effectively with Iranian people, how to develop teams between foreigners and Iranians and so on and so forth.

There was something that I hadn’t though of careful enough, though. Although the Iranian work environment is indeed very complex for western firms and there certainly is a need for advice on how to deal with the uncertainty of operating in Iran, there is only a tiny amount of expatriates who are actually placed in Iran on a long-term basis. Most western firms still operate in a way that they use local agents, or that their local representations are headed by Iranians, with their foreign staff only infrequently visiting from overseas. As a result, it is comparatively difficult for me to build my own business here.

To sum up, I advice you to think carefully about how the country of your choice suits you in terms of reaching your own personal career goals.

How big should the city be?

I personally get fascinated by massive cities. Having lived in Jakarta and Tehran, I am used to the crowdedness, the endless things to do and places to explore. I don’t particularly mind that overall these cities are not exactly beautiful – as long as they also have some beautiful locations to visit, which certainly is the case for Tehran. Other people, however, might have completely different needs. Perhaps a small, idyllic town in the UK with quick access to the nature would suit you much better. Or a city like Auckland, where although it is a city with a relatively high population, it has direct access to both beach and nature.  At the end of the day, you should think carefully about what kind of city you would like to live in.

What cultural factors are you interested in and which one’s put you off?

Compared to the other places that I have lived in, the fact that I am living in Iran now is creating the most extreme reactions. Some people are extremely impressed, or even jealous, saying that they would love to have such an opportunity for a unique experience coming up for themselves. Some other people say that they could never live with all the limitations that living in a country with a predominantly Muslim lifestyle brings with itself.

For me personally, it isn’t really particularly difficult. I am a vegeterian and I do not drink alcohol due to health concerns, which makes it easy for me to follow most of the rules that I need to watch out for. Consequently, I can focus primarily on the positive aspects that the Iranian culture has to offer for me: the great hospitality of the people, the collective nature of living your life, the incredibly amount of cultural heritage that one can explore. Overall, the ability to explore a society strongly rooted in its ancient history is incredibly interesting for me, so the advantages for me to live in Iran outweigh some of the complications that living in Iran creates.

Overall, the question remains: what are the cultural factors that you are drawn to, and which one’s put you off? Where do you think you could learn the most for your own personal development?

How does the country suit your expectations around your own lifestyle?

One of the best examples that comes to mind my here that everybody can somewhat relate to is Australia. One of the main reasons why Australia is such a popular destination for migration is that people believe in the freedom that living in Australia brings with itself. For instance, I had a friend who has lived for 7 years exclusively from a camper van, moving from city to city, working different freelance internet jobs and spending a lot of time in the nature and at the beach. For him, the main factor for living in Australia clearly was the lifestyle that it had allowed him to live.

Now, if I would think that somebody would plan to do the same thing in Germany, that would be relatively difficult. With all those regulations as well as those high parking costs, you would probably soon change your mind about living in this way. Then, if I would think about doing the same thing in Iran – that would be just plainly impossible.

At the end of the day, different countries allow for different lifestyle designs. Iran is a great place for people who want to see a different theater performance every single day, visit a great number of museums or historical buildings and, generally speaking, spend one’s life with cultural activities. Germany is a great place if you are looking for a relatively stable life where most worries are taken away from you and there is very little risk involved in terms of living your life, while at the same time being able to enjoy a peaceful walk in nature. It all depends on what you are looking for.

How does the country suit your personal life circumstances?

As an example for what I mean with this question, let’s just make a quick distinction between single and being married. If I were a married person who is planning to get children sometime soon, I would certainly not choose to move to a wide range of places in the world that I would otherwise consider. For a parent (or soon to be parent), it s important that the new country has great access to education, support for children, clean air and good weather. Consequently, one of those metropolitan cities that I haven spoken of before (Jakarta, Tehran, Beijing) certainly are not the best places of choice, whereas for a single individual it might be absolutely fine.

Another person might consider their extended family very carefully. Perhaps you simply do not want to live too far away from your extended family and you want to be able to return to your home town on a regular basis for a relatively cheap price. Under those circumstances, choosing a destination that is relatively nearby your country of origin makes a lot of sense. For other people, this might not be the case at all.

At the end of the day, it is up to you to reflect carefully on your own personal life circumstances. What factors play a big role in your own life that will influence which countries to live in?

What are the next steps?

Do your research. Think exactly of what you want from life and how different countries could be right for you to achieve just that. Ask people who have experience with these places. Find out more about them online. Think through all the different factors that are important for you. At the end of the day, deciding to move to a new country is a very important step in your life, and you should choose very wisely. But always remember: it is not the end of the world if your country of choice doesn’t suit you. You can always move on to the next opportunity.


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