Ready to join other Americans living overseas?
Last year was a hot mess, get out! Politics, endless controversies, and some disappointing blockbusters have stripped away hope and optimism for many Americans. As we get into the new year, it’s understandable that our resolutions relate to a change of pace, scenery, or profession. In other words, we need to get the heck out of this country for a bit.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still be a proud American citizen while taking some time to refuel. Just tell your grandparents that a job abroad can improve your skills to make you a better employee in the future. Tell your friends that you wish to seek a broader understanding of the world. No one needs to know the truth: you need some time away to process the divorce of Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. Curse you, 2017!
Where do American expats go?
It’s no surprise that the number of Americans living overseas have risen over the years and expected to continue. Intertwined national economies mean more opportunities for Americans to work abroad. So, where do American expats go?
The majority of U.S. citizens living abroad can be found in our neighboring countries of Canada and Mexico. That being said, hundreds of thousands of Americans have successfully ventured to faraway countries such as the Phillipines, Italy, and South Korea.
We’ve rounded up our top picks for the best places to live abroad for Americans that just need a frickin’ break. You have the capability to go just about anywhere and do just about anything this year. Here’s some recommendations on where you can teach, volunteer, study, or work abroad.
Smack dab in the middle of continental Europe sits an expat’s best kept secret. The Czech Republic’s medieval architecture and stunning landscapes is a panoramic feast for those looking to start anew. Prague is the nation’s capital and by far the most popular city for American expats here. A quick Google image search will show you why! Beyond Prague, cities such as Brno and Ostrava offer a concentrated dose of Czech culture and countryside.
Pros for expats: Compared to most European destinations, newcomers can enjoy a cheaper cost of living in the Czech Republic. It’s also the perfect homebase for those looking to travel as it provides easy access to Eastern and Western Europe.
Cons for expats: By far the most difficult aspect of expatriate life in the Czech Republic is learning the language. Czech isn’t the most beginner-friendly for English speakers and navigating housing and visa appointments may require some Czech-speaking assistance.
- Get here already! The most popular programs for Americans to work abroad in the Czech Republic is through teaching English as a second language. In fact, foreign teachers are always in demand at local and international schools. Additionally, jobs within the hospitality industry are common and a safe bet for shorter employment contracts.
- Recommended organization: TEFL Heaven. Four weeks of hands on training and a guaranteed job placement in Prague, what more could you want? TEFL Heaven is the perfect program to push your boundaries and focus on your resolutions while coordinators take care of all the nitty-grittys. No prior teaching experience necessary. Czech-ching!
2. New Zealand
Although New Zealand is renowned for it’s top-tier landscapes, it’s one of the best places for expats looking to find a bit more work-life balance. You can’t get any further from the exhaustion of America than these two islands in the southwest Pacific. Auckland is a modern hub of commerce and culture whereas Queenstown is the dream destination of any adventure traveller.
Pros for expats: Short-term work visas are easy to get for U.S. citizens and guess what? They don’t even require an offer of employment before arriving. Hey, if 2017 taught us anything it’s how to wing it!
Cons for expats: The cost of living is about 10% higher in New Zealand compared to the United States. American expats in New Zealand should prepare for much higher housing costs and should probably dine out less, even with an expected boost in income.
- Get here already! The most popular and accessible programs in New Zealand are short term, usually in agriculture or hospitality. Long-term employment in New Zealand is way harder to achieve but high demand fields such as finance or medicine are the best routes for more permanent placements.
- Recommended organization: Ski Instructor Internship. I mean, who hasn’t wanted to be a ski bum for a season? EA Ski and Snowboard is probably the most epic way to kickstart a new life in some of the best places for expats. They guarantee accommodation and a job placement in one of many picturesque ski resorts in New Zealand.
The most traveled to country on the planet may just become your next staycation. Let’s face it, you’ve daydreamt of a French escape once or twice this year and there’s no better time to make that a reality. Paris is a double-shot of art and opportunity for international workers who are looking to renew this passion for life. Or, expats can seek a more authentically French experience by working in Marseilles, Lyon, or even the countryside. Ooh la la!
Pros for expats: The norm in France is 35-hour work weeks, longer lunches, and much more frequent holidays. Just about the opposite of your current job, huh? This gives you more time to experience museums and vineyards even though you’ll probably just take more naps.
Cons for expats: The French aren’t known for their love of foreigners meaning your group of friends will likely be other international workers. The French locals will likely take some time to warm up to ya. Additionally, work visas have to be organized by your employer so you have to find work prior to arrival.
- Get here already! As expected, France has a variety of programs dependent on your interests, skills, and how long you plan to live abroad. Positions as an Au Pair or teacher are common yet tend to rarely last more than a year. For those seeking permanent employment, you’ll probably need to demonstrate French language proficiency before getting a serious offer.
- Recommended organization: Au Pair in France. As an Au Pair in France, you’ll be treated as one of the family. Helping a host family with childcare and housework in exchange for room, board, and a stipend exposes you to French culture more than a typical expat abroad. It’s also one of the best ways to perfect your French language skills in case you never want to leave.
Just interesting enough to keep you on your toes yet familiar enough to stay collected, Germany is a hyper-satisfying destination and one of the best places to live abroad for a year. Berlin is where diverse startups and partygoers meet for a cheaper cost of living. Charming cities such as Munich and Cologne seek skilled professionals for ever-changing demands in the technology or research industries. There’s also this little thing called Oktoberfest you don’t want to miss...
Pros for expats: 2017 felt chaotic, right? Arguably a step in the right direction for an American, the German workplace is very structured. There’s not a lot of pressure to work overtime. You don’t take your work home with you. You simply work hard then clock out! There’s an idea...
Cons for expats: Generally speaking, the job market is very competitive for foreigners. To be offered a full-time position, your employer will need to prove that no other German could perform the same job. It’s not a long shot, just a bureaucratic nightmare that most don’t like to navigate.
- Get here already! The EU’s largest economy has been a global leader in STEM fields since like forever. Longer placements are within highly skilled professional roles so unless you’re experienced in your field, your best chance is through school. Fortunately, Germany is known for their top-notch universities and for having some of the best study abroad opportunities.
- Recommended organization: UIW European Study Center Heidelberg. Germany’s oldest and most beautiful university town is yours for the taking with the European Study Center. You’ll gain a deep knowledge of the European Union nestle up next to riverside ruins and fairy tale forests. Most importantly, you get to be a international student in a country full of affordable beer... so prost!
A tropical playground for nomads and wanderlusters alike, Thailand has emerged as one of the best places for expats Southeast Asia. Thailand attracts many young professionals looking for endless beaches, vivid cultural experiences, and unimaginable street eats. The capital city of Bangkok is where floating markets and modern tech hubs collide, the island of Phuket is world-class coastlines, and the northern city of Chiang Mai your chance to slow down. Thailand has it all!
Pros for expats: Thailand is a highly affordable destination for those looking to decompress. However, your lifestyle will make a big difference on your budget. As expected, the cities are cheaper but less luxurious than the islands. Treat yo’ self but keep your finances in order.
Cons for expats: One of the most common complaints among Americans living in Thailand is the weather. A tropical paradise it may be, but Thailand is known for its humid heat and a prolonged rainy season that can put a damper on day-to-day life for longer visits.
- Get here already! I suppose running an online business from the beach with a mai tai is the millennial dream, but there’s some real work to be done in this developing country. A fragile environment, endangered species, and refugees are the focus of many reputable, in-demand organization in Thailand. If the last year has left you feeling hopeless, perhaps the best way to gain it back is to inspire it.
- Recommended organization: Koh Samui Beach School Development. Located in one of Thailand’s prettiest resort towns is a side to the country most visitors choose to ignore. This school on the Northern Samui island offers education to poor children and they simply need volunteers to lend a helping hand. No matter your background or experience, you can make a difference here while still finding time to lounge in the sand.
6. Costa Rica
Between Pacific blues and Caribbean coastlines sits Costa Rica, the Central American answer to your prayers. This peaceful nation of sprawling nature, friendly locals, and amazing coffee is a pristine getaway for a hopeful new you. San José is everything you could ever want in a city: cafes, attractions, and a lively art scene. The city of Limon happens to be one of the most lush regions in Costa Rica and boasts a whole different type of food, language, and culture. Wherever you go, you’ll find the ‘Pura Vida’ in Costa Rica. More on that below.
Pros for expats: ‘Pura Vida’ is the collective philosophy for most Costa Ricans. It’s the reigning philosophy that allows you to slow down, enjoy life, and relax. It’s probably the reason why Costa Rica is voted as one of the happiest countries in the world and the reason so many Americans love to live there.
Cons for expats: ‘Pura Vida’ sounds really good on paper buy this relaxed approach to life and work can become frustrating for the American abroad. Services and government operations are lax and prolonged power outages, unreliable transportation, and vague promises of ‘tomorrow’ can kill that vibe quick.
- Get here already! Tourism is one of the biggest components to the Costa Rican economy. You’ll find a variety of openings for foreigners in resort towns all over the country. Additionally, English teaching jobs are widely available all over the country and the most common job for American. These usually require a lengthier time commitment.
- Recommended organization: International TEFL Academy. This program will not only allow you to experience the Costa Rican culture firsthand, but earning your TEFL certification will allow you to dip out and get paid to travel for years to come. Ain’t that the dream! Plus, if you’re looking to enhance those few years of Spanish from college, TEFL is the perfect chance to make way on those bilingual dreams. De nada.
O Canada! Remember when Americans crashed the immigration website for our friendly neighbors to the North? It’s no surprise everyone wants to get to Canada with its vast and varied cultures, landscapes, and job opportunities. Toronto is the country’s largest city and where the majority of Canada’s business opportunity resides. Vancouver is the pacific northwest at its best with a flair of big city creativity. When looking for the best places for American expats, maybe it’s best to hit close to home.
Pros for expats: The most obvious benefit of a Canadian relocation is how similar it is to daily life in the United States. Canadians and Americans actually share similar attitudes about religion, government, and individuality despite their face value. Thus, Canada is a great step for those looking for change rather than complete disorientation.
Cons for expats: Canada has far less consumer choice than we’re used to in America. Seemingly insignificant, the average American may find it frustrating shopping without as many big box stores and having your usual Netflix choices cut in half.
- Get here already! Some of the best opportunities in Canada are within media industries. Put your skills to the test in production, broadcasting, or digital marketing in nearly every Canadian metropolis. You’ll also have you standard resort jobs, like restaurant or reception work, at a number of popular tourist locations like Whistler or Banff.
- Recommended organization: Work & Travel Canada.The proof is right there in the name! Provided by InterExchange, Work & Travel Canada is the perfect opportunity to experience all that Canada has to offer and make some money while you’re at it. You’ll take on short-term jobs and move at your own pace on this 12-month working holiday visa.
8. South Korea
Although you’ve likely heard a lot more about their neighbor on the Korean peninsula as of recent, South Korea remains to be one of the best places to live abroad for Americans. Cityscapes of endless entertainment, 4 breathtaking seasons, and a boosting economy is reason enough to pack those bags and head east. Front and center sits Seoul, an ancient capital turned high-tech haven and a melting pot of international employees. Too crowded? Head for Busan, a coastal city tucked below rugged mountains offering just about everything for the modern adventurer.
Pros for expats: South Korea is known for being extremely welcoming towards newcomers. Additionally, expats in South Korea have tight-knit groups and consistent meetups whether you’re in Seoul or the smaller cities. With a jam-packed schedule of events and festivities, South Korea is a guaranteed gateway to friends from around the world.
Cons for expats: South Korea and North Korea are technically still at war, despite half a century of ceasefire. South Korea remains to be very safe but it is important to stay up to date with all the happenings in the region.
- Get here already! Surprise! Teaching English as a second language is once again one of the most popular for Americans in South Korea. With a strong desire to learn English and excellent government benefits, South Korea is the golden ticket for an interest in teaching abroad. If marketing, media, or creative industries are more aligned with your skills and goals, you’re in luck! These opportunities are becoming more common as they country continues to thrive.
- Recommended organization: Internship in Korea with Asia Internship Program. This organization makes it easy for you to find the right internship in South Korea to allow for peace of mind and professional growth abroad. With placements at top companies throughout the country, language classes, and transportation offered, you’ll waste no time finding your footing in South Korea.
Who would have guessed the nation that tops nearly every listicle would have made it onto this one? Sweden is practically the Meryl Streep of countries and obviously one of the best places to live abroad for a year. Naturally beautiful, highly developed, and unique in every way, there’s something for everyone in this Scandinavian destination. From the urban islands of Stockholm to Uppsala’s upbeat tempo, Sweden is the breath of fresh air you’ve been begging for.
Pros for expats: Imagine American efficiency on a whole new level! There’s a natural ease to business, transportation, and work/life balance in Sweden. Long holidays, clean cities, and accessibility make a Swede sabbatical from the states a big plus (like the flag).
Cons for expats: You guessed it. Sweden isn’t cheap. It’s actually far from it. The cost of accomodation is exorbitant and common goods can be very expensive in cities comparative to U.S. standards. Although it’s one of the best places for expats from America, be ready for some unfavorable exchange rates. Yolo?
- Get here already! Because the country consistently ranks among the best education systems in the world, it’s has become quite the popular study abroad destination. Whether you’re an undergraduate or full-fledged post grad, continuing your education in Sweden is the perfect chance to broaden your understanding of a country with their shit together.
- Recommended organization: The Swedish Program. This small but highly regarded study abroad program located in the heart of Stockholm provides students with liberal art courses in one of Europe’s most prestigious institutions. You can choose to live with a host family (we always recommend that) and have arranged expeditions throughout the semester ensuring even more travel. Doesn’t get much better than that!
This South American beaut is home to world-famous rainforests, mountain ranges, and the inspiration behind the most important film of the 21st century, The Emperor’s New Groove. No seriously, Peru is an amazing place to find your center or simply check off most of your bucket list. Reside in Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire which is a perfect basecamp for all things outdoors. Machu Picchu, anyone? The capital city of Lima is one of South America’s largest cities that sits cliffside to the Pacific coast. Boom baby!
Pros for expats: Peru just so happens to be a foodie’s dream come true. World-class restaurants, fresh ingredients, and creative chefs make fine dining (or street eats) a remarkable experience. Ceviche, stews, and of course avocados will always be prepped and ready to go for the starved adventurer.
Cons for expats: Peru’s relaxed legal environment means corruption and fraudulent money is a common occurence here. There are some neighborhoods where mafias reign supreme and checking your bills and coins for counterfeit is a natural part of the transaction. Thus, extra caution is a given when moving to Peru.
- Get here already! Some of the best programs for Americans in Peru offer the chance to experience the country while also volunteering. Peru has faced extensive flooding just this last year leaving thousands of families without homes. In addition to Disaster Relief, Community Development and Education are the most common opportunities to benefit rural areas and help living conditions for the impoverished. These NGOs and volunteer organization have a very strong presence in Peru and will ensure safety and comfort while you make a difference.
- Recommended organization: Globalteer in Peru. The Peru Community Project based in the mountain ranges of Cusco include an after-school education program and a children’s reading project. These projects focus on enabling communities to get out of poverty and helping kids get off the streets and into the classroom. It’s an amazing opportunity to help out regardless of experience and there’s no better backdrop than the Andes mountains.
Go where no American has ever gone before
Lucky for us, the American passport is one of the best in the world. This means you have more opportunities to visit and live in a variety of countries than most. Although the countries listed above are surefire wins, there’s always the option to be a trailblazer and use that passport to your advantage.
Just because American expats have yet to Insta the crap out of a country, it doesn’t mean it’s not the perfect fit for you. For example, Sri Lanka lays off-the-beaten-path yet offers untamed opportunity thanks to a booming industry. Taiwan is a hidden gem and was reported by Forbes as one of the best places for quality of life and personal finances for expats. Nations such as Malta or Portugal have always been popular among relocating europeans yet they’re just now being discovered by Americans. Do the research but be fearless with your decision-making, even if it takes you to somewhere completely unexpected!
With some courage and a little wanderlust, 2018 can be a restorative and empowering year for any American left battered by last year’s nonsense. ‘New year, new you’ can apply to a lot more than your immediate surroundings and you may just find yourself in awe of who you become in a new country. Americans overseas often discover newfound hope in their home country and realize how lucky they are to be a U.S. citizen. If not, study up on those citizenship laws because you might just stay want to stay forever.