6 Reasons Your Plans to Move Abroad Might Not Work Out

If you hang around Internet message boards, about once a month or so somebody will announce they're fed up with America and want to move abroad. The reasons vary: they want to escape to Canada to get away from the corrupt corporations, or they fear a President Bachmann. Maybe they want to go to Japan and get a job as President of Anime.

I have some experience with this, because I, too, heartlessly abandoned my home nation, moving from Australia to the United States after a prolonged land battle with immigration and before that, spent a large part of my life in countries other than my own (including several years in Europe, a stint in Japan and another at an international high school in Thailand).

The experience has left me with an accent somewhere between "speech impediment" and "the blonde chick from Fringe after a few drinks" and also with this piece of wisdom for anyone planning on ditching the U.S.: You might be better off spending your airline ticket money on whiskey, because chances are your plans for a new life abroad are not going to work out.

Why? Well, for a start ...

#6. The People There Probably Don't Want You

Not that we want to single out anime fans, but they serve as a good example for this. It's not hard to find young anime fans dreaming of living in Japan, because if anime gets them ostracized as nerds in the West, why, moving to Japan would be like going home! It's all anime over there, all the time. And it's just assumed that Japan will be thrilled to have them. After all, here is a Westerner who gets Japan! Welcome, American!

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"It is so refreshing to meet a grown man who truly appreciates our children's cartoons."

But if these people do move to Japan, they quickly figure out that as much shit as they may have gotten for anime fandom in the USA, it's much worse there. To the average Japanese person, the words "adult anime fan," or "otaku," conjure less admiration and more an image of someone who sleeps between a hentai-print body pillow and the decomposing bodies of his parents. When the tsunami caused the cancellation of an anime convention, the Governor of Tokyo said they "deserved it" (he's a big advocate of new laws that restrict the sale of anime to young people). He was then re-elected.

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"I hope they're pulled down headfirst by their cosplay wigs."

If you move there because you dream of working in anime, you'll find that young animators are currently getting paid a whopping average of $11,000 year to work in an industry that's rapidly dying. If you go outside in any non-urban area in Japan while being non-Asian, you're going to be openly pointed to, laughed at and honked at by passing cars as if to say, "You are a foreigner! Let me remind you of this!"


"It was adorable. He put cat ears on, brandished some chopsticks and started crying."

But that's just one example. In Korea, it's not rare for foreigners to get spat on in public, and discrimination is so widespread and accepted that mixed-race people were banned from serving in the military right up until 2006.

Meanwhile, African-American and Asian travelers to Eastern Europe routinely report things like getting bottles thrown at them and having locals show them their swastika tattoos.

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That's Kanji for "douchebag."

Even in "tolerant" countries like the U.K. and New Zealand, Americans of all colors can still count on strangers yelling at them in public and targeting them with anti-American graffiti.

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We didn't know we were unweal.

Of course, that's assuming you actually get into the country in the first place, which you probably won't. That's because ...

#5. Their Governments Don't Want You, Either

On one hand, every American knows immigration is a struggle -- we have iconic old-timey images of people huddled on boats drifting up to the Statue of Liberty after a months-long journey, and we know that illegal immigrants risk death to cross the desert and sneak across the border. So, Americans realize that getting into America is hard. But when we get fed up with our own country and talk about how, "I'm just going to move to (New Zealand/Canada/France/Japan) and get away from all this!" we tend to talk like the hardest part is buying the plane ticket.

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"Damn you to hell, Expedia.com!"

It's as hard, or harder, to get into other countries as it is for foreigners to emigrate to America. Most countries have strict entry requirements that you can't get past by explaining that you really, really want to come in. Immigration to Canada, Australia and New Zealand works by giving "points" to immigrants who have skills or other things that the country needs. For example, New Zealand and Canada have lists of "preferred professions," most which require college degrees and years of experience.

They'll also look at things like your criminal history, "character" and whether you have any medical problems they might have to spend money on. Things work pretty much the same in Australia, although there you can gain extra points by agreeing to live for a set amount of time in an isolated, economically disadvantaged rural area.

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"No Netflix or Hulu? To hell with my horizons."

If your dream is the European Union, the news is even worse. People applying for a work visa not only need to prove that they're better suited for the job than anyone in the country, but also more suited for it than anyone in the entire European Union. Oh, and then there's the high unemployment and the fact that most of the EU residents you're competing against will speak, like, six languages.

Of course, moving to these countries is not impossible -- people do it occasionally. The problem is that the negative things in your life that are likely to make you want to leave America and start over -- you're bored, you're stuck in a dead-end job, you don't like the cost of medical care, you want to smoke pot but the law won't let you -- are the same things that will bar you from entering anywhere cool.

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"Ooh, a washed-out loser? We'll get the red carpet."

And there's a cruel irony in the fact that most Americans don't even consider this. After all, one popular reason for leaving America is thinking that the people here are too ignorant, arrogant or uncultured. According to this complaint, these jingoistic Americans think they're better than anyone else, and think the world should love them just for being American. Who can stand to be around that?

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You can be happy in the knowledge that all answers were not respectful.

But in my own long emigration journey, I spent a lot of time among others who were also planning on leaving Australia. Everyone knew what they were up against, and were talking about digging up a long-lost ancestor to qualify to work in the European Union, or about auditioning for enough deodorant commercials to get a U.S. acting visa. But the majority of Americans who plan on leaving their country seem to assume that the hardest part of leaving is deciding which country to go to, like it's the same as planning a vacation.

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"So the plan is to be obnoxious for the first 14 years before retiring and putting the pics on Facebook."

In other words, they wind up making the same assumption as the rednecks they're trying to escape: that every other country, while filtering out filthy immigrants from elsewhere, will be thrilled to have an American. You know, because Americans are better than everyone else and the world should love your unemployed ass just for being one.

And if you're thinking about getting around all that legal stuff by sneaking in, keep in mind ...

#4. Other Countries Treat Illegal Immigrants Worse Than America

Recently, a celebrated journalist came out as an illegal immigrant in the New York Times, which became an opportunity for commentators to talk about on how badly the U.S. treats its illegal immigrants. Look, I'll be honest, Americans: I'm Australian, and I love my old country, but compared to you guys Australia is like that dystopian society in Children of Men.


Dingos would have been on that baby within minutes.

I knew a Japanese visitor to Australia who decided to take advantage of the laid-back locals and apply for a refugee visa. She was immediately escorted out of the country by two armed guards, probably after about half an hour of hearing their hysterical laughter. Afterward, Australia billed her for all three airline tickets. Back in 2009, Australia made a big deal about the fact that foreigners who applied for visa extensions would be given "bridging visas" instead of being thrown in a detention center in the middle of the desert while their claim was processed.

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It was actually a gas station, and the guy who ran it was pleased for the company.

And things could be even worse. In 2010, an immigrant in Japan died after police tied him up, put a towel in his mouth, and abandoned him on a plane to suffocate. In England, where detention and deportation is mainly handled by private security firms hired by the government, a man died in a similar way while being deported, and another immigrant was killed when police serving a deportation order in her home wrapped 13 feet of tape around her head and face, suffocating her. The police were acquitted.


Public safety seems to have a different definition out there.

All of which kind of leads to a larger point ...

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