In this report, I discuss why cheaper countries are more fun and you’ll be delighted to know it is not just about saving money. After traveling the world for 14+ years and living in 67 different countries, I have noticed what I enjoy most about cheaper countries.
And now I will share these observations with you. But I consider learning about foreign culture to be one of the most enjoyable things about retiring cheap overseas. Personally, I find it more interesting, to be a student of a new culture I am exploring rather than a teacher of my old culture. In that regard, cheaper countries are more fun. Let me explain.
Why cheaper countries are more fun
Adaptation: If you are from a modern expensive country like me, you will find that you have to adapt yourself more to cheaper countries. You see, once a country gets more westernized and globalized, they generally get way more expensive, but they also require less cultural learning and adaptation by me.
But I find it more fun to learn about a new culture and adapt to it than try to import my old culture into a new country.
During your working years, if you only get a few weeks off per year, you may decide to go somewhere that is suitably adapted to all of your daily needs so you can focus on relaxing and recharging your batteries instead of learning about a new culture. Tourist areas in cheaper countries are great for this. They are cheaper and more exciting because you are getting a taste of a different part of the world but not much cultural learning is required in touristy areas.
During your working years, your purpose of travel might just be to recharge your batteries and head back to work, so you may not be as interested in learning. But once you retire, and you don’t have such a tight time schedule, you will have more time on your hands, you will have more time to immerse yourself in a new culture.
You see, many of us will want to retire overseas specifically to explore a new culture, a culture unfamiliar to us. When we have more time in retirement, we want to learn about fascinating faraway places. But the more the new culture is different from your home country, the more you will have to adapt, the more you will be learning every day.
If you move to a tourist area when you retire in a foreign country, you won’t have to learn much about the new country. The tourist areas are often more globalized and westernized and they are often way more expensive than the non-touristy areas of that country.
Touristy areas will have most of the foods you eat at home and they often have someone that will speak English to you in the restaurants, grocery stores, and on tours. Many grocery stores in tourist areas will even have food brands from your home country that cost more than they do in your home country.
In that sense, many new foreign retirees choose a first retirement station overseas in a more touristy area. These initial touristy stations also have more people from their home country that can help them find everything they need and provide instant relationships. This will help new foreign retirees (or ex-pats) avoid some of the culture shocks of living in a new country.
But once you have your foreign legs under you, you may decide to wander further off the beaten path of the touristy areas immerse yourself more fully in the new culture. Okay, here are some examples of why cheaper countries are more fun.
Cultural Immersion: When you get away from the touristy areas in cheaper countries you will begin to clearly see the culture you are living in. You will see the foods they eat, what they pay for them, where they live, where they go to school, what a real wedding looks like, what a funeral looks like, what songs do they sing, what are their dating rituals, what foods are in the stores and restaurants, and everything else that culture does when it is not trying to create a habitat suitable for foreign tourists.
I found this aspect of cultural immersion the most fascinating.
When you go a whole day walking around a city or neighborhood and only see one or two other foreigners, you will know that you are doing true cultural exploration. Even in touristy towns, if you wander off the path and find where the locals live, eat, and congregate, you will start to get the feel for what a country is really about.
When I first started to immerse myself in cultures outside the touristy areas, I was a little afraid. I think it is just human instinct to feel threatened by what feels initially weird or different from our past life experiences. So you need to go at your own pace on this and trust your instincts.
But if your experience turns out to be like mine, you will find that the world is a safe place. But do read my report, How I have remained safe traveling the world for 14+ years. My tips and tricks will help reduce the chances you will be a victim both overseas and in your home country when you explore an area unfamiliar to you.
You see, I consider myself a student of a new culture when I enter a new country. I don’t feel it is my place to judge what culture is best in the world. I prefer to just learn about them. I learned living in India for 3 years, that motivated people are often able to solve problems with a stick and a string that costs $1 instead of paying $300 for a replacement part?
So learning about how a new culture lives and breathes, solves problems, what they eat and value, is more fun in a cheaper country. Why you may ask? Because they can’t do what we do to solve problems in the expensive world.
They can’t just throw money at their problems. They have to be creative and solve problems in ways that cause them to think more. That is part of what makes them so interesting from a cultural perspective. You will see what makes the country work in action as they go about their day and life.
It is More Fun to Solve Problems with Less Money: I have a few friends in the USA that like to buy very expensive name-brand things like shoes, electronics, furnishings, and cars. They seem to love it when you ask about their possessions. They explain how expensive the designer is and what they paid for the item.
I am just the opposite. I like to brag about how little I spent on something that is also high quality. I share where to get the best quality for really cheap. “Oh, these shoes, … I found them on sale for $20 USD.” Spending as little money to get the same quality excites me.
That is why I love finding a great mom-and-pop restaurant in a local area rather than an expensive restaurant in a touristy area. The truth is, the expensive restaurants in the touristy areas of cheap countries are rarely able to provide a high-quality meal comparable to what you will get in your home country.
You see, expensive restaurants in tourist areas of cheap countries don’t have access to all the high-quality ingredients spices, water, humidity, and talented chefs they would need to make the kind of meal you would expect in your home country.
So when you pay top dollar in touristy areas of cheap countries, you are not going to get what you expect. Something is going to be wrong. The food and the service in the expensive restaurants rarely will justify the price they are charging.
Now compare that to a local mom-and-pop restaurant outside the tourist area. They have access to all the ingredients they need not as imported food but as fresh local ingredients. You are in the country where those dishes were invented using local ingredients.
Plus, they are not trying to learn how to make foreign food. You are eating family recipes made by a family chef that made their family’s restaurant famous to the locals. They know what they are doing and they are using fresh local ingredients and spices. Plus, their local customers know how that dish is supposed to taste, the most discriminating kind of consumer.
I know what you are thinking. “Dan, I don’t know where to go or what to order. This is all weird local food I have never tried before and I don’t even speak the local language.” Okay, so here is what you do. Pull out your smartphone and search for “Google Translate.”
Type the words in English, “I would like an order of the meal you sell the most?” Then show the translation to them. Just keep smiling and pointing at the translated sentence. They will eventually serve you that food. You can also just look around at the food other people are eating and point at the one that is your favorite.
There is a good chance you will love the meal. And, there is a lower chance you will be disappointed because you don’t have any past knowledge of what that meal is supposed to taste like. Plus, you will typically pay less than half of what that meal would cost in touristy restaurants.
Doesn’t this sound fun? You are learning all about a new culture. And you are spending less money doing it than if you tried to recreate your old food and culture by hanging out in the touristy areas.
Instead of living in your past and looking to recreate a comfort that will never be as good as your memory about your home country, you are living in an adventure and learning about a new culture. Cultural adventure is just more fun.
Fewer Tourist Scams: If you live, eat and associate outside the expensive tourist areas, you are likely to find that you will not be the intended target of tourists scams as often. The scammers know to go to where the most gullible people are, which is in the tourist areas.
So if you live, eat, and associate more locally, you are less likely to be approached by tourist scams.
You Can Retire Sooner: If you are living on less money with and among the locals, you will not need as large a nest egg before you retire. You can retire earlier. That means you will be younger when you retire, which means you will have more energy and time to really enjoy yourself. So it is more fun because you can do what you want at an earlier age.
Learning Keeps Your Brain Fresh: If you leave your home country and undertake cultural exploration, those learning challenges are likely to keep your brain more engaged. That constant learning is also likely to reduce your chances of getting bored from doing the same old things you did during your working years.
All of this learning is more fun in a cheaper country because how they do things is more different than you would have done them in your home country. So life is like a MacGyver adventure.
You Are More Unique and Special: When you go to a new culture and meet new people, you are a stranger in a strange land. That will open up doors for you that may not have occurred if you stayed in your home country. People will be interested in you just because you are a foreigner. Can you imagine a 61-year-old guy like me walking around with a runway model in my home country? I don’t think so. That is only because I was a well-traveled foreigner.
Do you think that an average guy like me would have been able to sustain such a crazy fun life in an expensive country like I am in these cheaper countries? I don’t think so.
The family and friends you grew up with might be on Facebook, but they are unlikely to be anywhere near you. So you will have to get out of your comfort zone and get a new life. The new people you meet will only know you from the present day. So you have to decide what is important to you and find people that fit into that new paradigm.
Thanks for reviewing our report, Why Cheaper Countries Are More Fun.
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This is Dan of Vagabond Awake, the Youtube channel for VagabondBuddha.com. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?