Another Part of the World…

By Shamus Posted Sunday Nov 23, 2014

Filed under: Random 173 comments

In the Unrest postmortem, someone kicked off a discussion about cost-of-living and the advantages of living outside of the USA. As someone who has worked from home for most of his professional life, this is something I’ve thought about a great deal.

Back in the dot-com days – before the bubble burst – the entire idea of Silicon Valley drove me crazy. Great, tech jobs are plentiful and pay is astronomical, but the cost of living is equally astronomical, everything is crowded, and your commute is likely going to be murder. I can understand why a person might dare to live there, but I could never fathom why a company would choose to live there. The cost of doing business is sky-high, real estate is high, labor costs are SUPER high, and California is notoriously difficult and expensive with regards to regulations and taxesThe linked site is the first search result. I’m not endorsing it politically. Even if you think California “isn’t that bad”, the people who usually run companies DO think it’s bad.. Why not locate somewhere nice but cheap, and simply pay relocation costs? Assuming you’re a small company (say, a dozen employees) you could easily move to some nice but affordable little suburb and make back those relocation costs with lower overall costs of doing business. (Or, you know, start a new company in one of those places.)

Image unrelated. Move along.

When the dot-com bubble popped I realized that “fiscal responsibility” was never on anyone’s priority list in Silicon ValleyOr even “making money”.. For a bunch of companies with no coherent business plan, the high cost of their office space was the least of their problems. More importantly, there’s the pull of networking. You don’t just want to be in the valley because that’s where the labor is, you also want to be there because that’s where all the other tech companies are, and you’re probably doing business with them in some way. And finally, there’s prestige. The big-shots live in the valley, so the people who want to be big-shots live there too.

Fine. But now we’re in this whole “internet economy” deal and a lot of us are no longer shackled to the whims of aspiring tycoons who think the best way to become successful is to live in the same neighborhood as successful people. We work remotely or are self-employed and can live anywhere we like. Why not take my initial question even further: Screw Silicon Valley, why live in the United States at all? If you’re making money off of (say) YouTube and you live in (say) San Fransisco then you could nearly double your income simply by moving to Indianapolis. But if you’re bold and adventurous you could move to New Delhi and your money will be worth about fours times as much. If you’re middle-class in America, then that same income makes you rich in some parts of the world.

Uh. You don’t need to go THAT low, Max. There are actually plenty of NICE places in Brazil where you could hide.

Of course, all of this is extremely approximate. For example, western goods like Coca-Cola will be at a premium, so if you live on Coke and Doritos then your food dollars will only double. But if you eat home-cooked meals then food will be incredibly cheap. On the other hand, we usually measure standard of living by how much disposable income we have, and cutting living expenses can greatly multiply the supply of disposable incomeIf I have $10 and spend $9 on bills, then I have $1 for entertainment. If I cut my bills in half I’ll have $5.50 for entertainment – over five times as much.. On the other other hand, some luxury goods – like cutting-edge electronics and good internet – might cost vastly more in other parts of the world, or be effectively unavailable. On the other other other hand, they’re called “luxury goods” for a reason – you can live without them. On the other(×4) hand, what’s the use in having extra disposable income if you can’t use it to get the things you want mostFor the purposes of this exercise, we’re assuming you’re not saving all this money for humanitarian purposes.? On the other(×5) hand, beer, internet, and junk food are available just about everywhere, and what more do you need? On the other other(×6) hand, if you can handle the massive up-front cost of moving to another part of the world, then you probably already have more enough money to buy those sorts of simple pleasures.

Ever since the rise of the internet economy I’ve been expecting this gradual shift away from congested, crowded, expensive, noisy, tax-ridden, crime-drenched major city centers to a more distributed populace, but so far it’s not happening. Maybe it’s going to take a generation. Maybe it won’t happen at all.

So I don’t know. I think about this a lot. But I’m still hanging around near PittsburghI’m actually an hour away, but in global terms that’s basically “in Pittsburgh”., in the town where I grew up. I’m here because I want to be near family. It makes economic sense to move, but not personal sense.

If you could move anywhere, where would you live?

 

Footnotes:

[1] The linked site is the first search result. I’m not endorsing it politically. Even if you think California “isn’t that bad”, the people who usually run companies DO think it’s bad.

[2] Or even “making money”.

[3] If I have $10 and spend $9 on bills, then I have $1 for entertainment. If I cut my bills in half I’ll have $5.50 for entertainment – over five times as much.

[4] For the purposes of this exercise, we’re assuming you’re not saving all this money for humanitarian purposes.

[5] I’m actually an hour away, but in global terms that’s basically “in Pittsburgh”.



From The Archives:
 

173 thoughts on “Another Part of the World…

  1. MichaelGC says:

    Mars.

    1. Alex says:

      A cold, dim, suffocating wasteland where your only human interaction has a ping measured in minutes?

      1. Sigilis says:

        If you put it that way, where do I sign up?

      2. SpiritBearr says:

        Minus the reddish soil and you have northern Canada. Maybe Bioware has the right idea.

      3. rofltehcat says:

        Especially the latency of communications would be a problem. Technology can deal with the other issues but it can’t fix lag.

        1. ET says:

          But lag doesn’t matter if you only play turn-based, long-form games, like Civ! :D

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            Or single player games.

            1. rofltehcat says:

              I’d expect all that lovely always-online-DRM would be constantly dropping the connection due to ping-out.

    2. James Pope says:

      Not far away from people enough.

    3. Decius says:

      Mars is too mainstream. Phobos.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Everyone knows phobos.Deimos is the hyp one these days.

      2. rayen says:

        I’ve heard prices on Pluto dropped significantly when it lost planet status. and there is talk of reinstating it’s planet status maybe buy property there and flip it?

  2. PeteTimesSix says:

    Low Earth orbit.

    Failing that… honestly, Im happy enough living in my central-Europe second-world country with free education and healthcare and unusually good internet service, actually.

    1. Fawstoar says:

      Yeah… that sounds nice. I wish Canada would hurry up and join the EU already (I know that wouldn’t make any sense, but I still want it to happen, dammit!)

      1. Veylon says:

        Hey, if Turkey can be in NATO despite being nowhere near the North Atlantic, I don’t see why Canada can’t be part of the EU despite not being in or near Europe.

        1. Burek says:

          Canada has a lot of space I hear, we could move the EU into Canada and have best of two world in one world.

          1. ET says:

            Don’t take up all my space, dangit! I’m already dealing with a friggin’ housing price-rise in my city. Everyone’s moving here for some vague promise of “jobs”, so the prices are all out-pacing the actual jobs/wages by some large factor. If we start shipping in Europeans, the prices will go even crazier. Their hamburgers cost as much as two hours wage over here! :S

            1. Corpital says:

              But if you import real hamburgers from Hamburg, they will surely go down in price?

    2. ACman says:

      Yep. Gotta be somewhere that does public medicine and education. Even if I don’t take advantage of them I get the benefit that others around me do and are less sick and stupid.

      Oh and public transport. Needing to drive to go everywhere sucks.

      Temperate weather would be nice. Australia is covered by a one eyed heat monster at the moment.

    3. Decius says:

      How about halfway up a space elevator?

      1. PeteTimesSix says:

        It’d be like having a busy airport in your backyard.

  3. Felblood says:

    I would move back to North Idaho, to be near my family. Not the little timber town I grew up in, but like Couer d’Alene or Ponderay.

    I kind of lost my support network when the company relocated me to Washington, and that matters when you have kids and a disabled spouse. Plus, I missing hanging out with my bothers and cousins.

    That said, I would move just about anywhere if it meant that I had real financial security. My prospects are so bad that I moved states, to keep a job that requires me to live in federally subsidized housing and eat no more than my food stamps will pay for.

    I never thought of $10 of fast food, or cable internet as luxuries before, at least not the way I do now.

    1. nm says:

      What’s your industry? It sounds like a bad one.

      1. Felblood says:

        Customer service.

        Be nice to the guy on the other side of the phone kids.

  4. James says:

    I’m happy where I am, in the north of England. It’s much cheaper than down south (and trust me, you can tell), but it is still in England, so you get all your trappings of civilisation.

    If you are in a good area, with a bunch of growth potential (say, the better parts of Manchester), it’s probably better than if you were in London, but on the other hand, there are a lot more areas where it is incredibly shitty (the other 90% of Manchester).

    If you already have some cash, moving north would be the thing to do. If you need cash, the south has more money to throw around, so you’ll have more opportunities for investment.

  5. Eric says:

    I work for a California-based company remotely. There are unmistakable advantages to working remotely – you are much more free to decide your hours, you get valuable quiet time to actually get work done rather than getting pulled into meetings or needing to deal with people and get distracted from your tasks, etc. A lot of the time I can just sort of “do my own thing” so long as I do what I need to do, and that’s awesome.

    On the other hand, so much work is done face-to-face and in-person that there are also sacrifices in being remote – like not always being fully up to speed about “what’s going on”, and making it more of a burden on others to keep you in the loop and supported. Not to mention that you don’t necessarily work “normal” hours – realistically I need to be available more or less 16 hours a day pretty much every workday.

    On a social level there’s also something to be said for being physically present. I don’t really have many friends I see in-person anymore and making more is pretty difficult when your entire social and work life is basically online. Just being around other would probably be much healthier in some senses.

    I don’t live in a place where it’s especially cheap to live, but it is probably cheaper than California, so there’s that, and exchange rates work in my favor. But I will say that if I decide to move down south at some point, the reasons would probably be mostly socially-driven rather than economically-driven.

    1. Richard says:

      Hmm, I’m planning on taking the plunge and going to a “remote working” model soon.
      I’m already expecting to fly over for a week of meetings every few months, as that ought to keep me properly in the loop along with the regular VOIP meetings and documentation.

      I’m rather thinking that the documentation needed to keep the team together will also feed into getting better user manuals – if we’ve already had to write down a very clear “how it works” rather then relying on ‘over cubicle wall’ meetings, it should be much easier for the tech writers to explain it in the manuals.

      – There’s nothing worse to see in a manual than “Frobulate On/Off : Turns frobulation on and off.”

      What other pitfalls have you encountered, and did you find any good workarounds?

      1. Eric says:

        Honestly, not a lot. The biggest hurdle is communication and that ability to get an answer ASAP when you really need it, instead of waiting for emails or hoping someone is checking their IM. The productivity boost in being able to just devote hours and hours at a time to things is really great and helps make up for it, but it depends a lot on the type of work you’re doing and how much you depend on others.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        You’re definitely not going to be as “in the loop.”

        Even if communication is instant, people are not as likely to bond with you if they can’t, at least in theory, walk over to your cubicle. At least thats been my experience. People aren’t going to hook everything up to VOIP with you just to chit chat the way they might pop by your office to do the same. I know that sounds like a bonus (I’d prefer it) but it has its drawbacks. It is good that you’ll be flying in semi-regularly. Try to schedule a dinner or something. A few hours of informal contact will help offset the loss of those minutes of daily chit chat.

        This is all true even if you, as I do, IM people who are sitting 20 feet away from you (I do better in text, GO AWAY! DON’T LOOK AT ME!!).

        EDIT: Put it another way. Think about what a bunch of jerks everybody is on the internet and how the people you know in real life aren’t really like that. Well, its not going to be THAT bad but it still suffers from the problem that people don’t get to see your face or hear your voice as much so a lot of your remarks will be read as snippier than you meant them to be.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      How well remote working works really depends on how well the company you’re working for embraces it. If you’re one of no more than 5% working remotely, it sucks. It’s hard. There’s a constant demand that you document the fact that you are working, and on what and all your coworkers assume that you know that the thing you’re working on may get cancelled because the team lead gets into routine and regular screaming matches with his boss over it in a conference room. And you need to be online and active whenever your manager is because she’s used to assessing warm chairs as “reliability”.

      If you’re more like $EMPLOYER, 70% of the professional staff below Director and VP levels work from home offices. Regular conference calls keep the teams on the same page and immediate coworkers will be on 15-30 minute calls with each other every morning. The same teams will be sharing an irc channel that takes the place of the water cooler and “drop by the desk” question-asking. Nobody cares *when* you’re working so long as you’re not the one holding up deadlines, and the collaborative work you need to do is handled in the productive chunks of hour sessions no more than twice a day — if you don’t finish, you take a break and come back to it in the afternoon or the following morning.

      That said, I want to live on a sailboat on the US West Coast. Or coast of Mexico, or in a transient slip in Victoria BC, or down someplace outside Panama City, or … etc. And I’ll probably be able to do that because I’ve got a phone plan that carries data there, which I can use to do this kind of work for $EMPLOYER from anyplace, and if I get sick of where I am, I can take a couple of days to move a few hundred miles up or down the coast. I can leave San Diego on Saturday morning and be tied up in Long Beach by sundown Sunday. I can get from there to Fisherman’s Wharf over a holiday weekend, if the weather is right. A week’s “vacation” has me to Puget Sound. And the per-square-foot cost of buying that sailboat is less than the crappiest house in the lousiest neighborhood in the worst part of any city within public transit distance of both an ocean beach and an airport with scheduled airline service anyplace on the West Coast.

      1. rofltehcat says:

        What about port dues? I’d expect them to be considerable as well.

        Your idea reminded me of one thing: At one point there were(or still are?) plans to anchor a ship off the Cali coast to solve the tech companies’ need for skilled workers and circumvent the lack of work permits:
        http://business.time.com/2012/07/09/blueseed-googleplex-of-the-sea-highlights-need-for-visa-reform/

        It sounds good at first, tech-worker luxury liner. But in the end it might be a perfect Shadowrun scenario. It’d certainly make for an interesting run: Infiltrate the corp-owned megaliner with a few thousand wage slaves on board (exfiltrate a few… or just kidnapp ALL of them at once).

    3. Patrick the Squatter says:

      I don’t care what business you are in. I don’t care what your job title is, or what industry you participate in.

      Your co-workers are dicks. Nobody likes them. You’re not missing anything.

      1. Eric says:

        My co-workers are awesome. That’s been true of past jobs and my current job, and it’s fantastic to work with people who are as smart, friendly and driven as they are. Sounds like you have had bad experiences before, and that always sucks. :( I have probably been fortunate that way.

  6. Alex says:

    I’d probably pick somewhere around Toronto. Canada’s government seems like one I could live with, the climate of southern Canada doesn’t sound too bad, and it’s closer to the rest of human civilisation than where I live right now.

    1. Eric says:

      So long as you don’t mind 4-5 months of winter each year, I suppose…

        1. ET says:

          I an hour of shoveling just to get a tiny path to the mailbox cleared for the post. Clearing around our vehicles will be another three. Can you come live in my neighborhood, so I can hire you at minimum wage? :P

        2. Naota says:

          Amen to that. 32-degree (Celcius, of course) summers here in Toronto are miles worse than even that winter where my coat froze solid from exposure to the air. While there’s always another way to heat oneself up or insulate in winter, sooner or later you’re going to have to go somewhere in the summer that isn’t an AC-fueled oasis of reasonable temperatures.

          Inside the city, how much snow you get on a given winter is a complete roll of the dice. There have been a few years where snow storage on our property became a problem, and others where it only fell four times all winter and never stayed for longer than a day. It helps that it’s immensely pretty, right up until the point where you realize large quantities are directly in your way.

    2. Peter H. Coffin says:

      Just be aware that’s Tronno’s expensive. Like up near NYC and San Francisco levels of expensive. Like nice 1-br apartments are $1800 a month, and anything less than $1000 either has the toilet in the kitchen or is a basement studio expensive. Awesome place to live, and priced accordingly.

    3. Patrick the intolerant hockey pugilist says:

      I suppose Toronto would be OK….as long as you don’t mind Phil Kessel eating all the donuts or listening to Don Cherry’s inane babbling. And as long as you don’t care that your local hockey club be little more than the doormat for every other club in the league, then yea…Toronto is your town.

    4. Purple Library Guy says:

      Toronto? For decent weather? Snow all winter, steamed alive in summer. Montreal is similar, I lived there as a kid. Had a teacher who was from Morocco. When she came to Canada all she knew was, it was a cold country with lots of snow. So she got a heavy fur coat (this is back a few years). Got off the plane in Montreal, stepped out onto the tarmac in summer at about 95 degrees F and humid enough to make your cookies limp. She’s only used to desert heat, and there she is in this fur coat–WURF!
      If you want a livable climate in Canada somewhere fairly urban, come to Vancouver. It’s nice in summer, not too hot, surprising amount of sun, and it’s livable in winter, although often pretty dashed rainy. You know, my wife and I like to travel, and we’ve often thought “If we were rich, where would we like to live?”
      We’ve talked about Provence, little villa near Avignon or something. We’ve talked about Spain or somewhere in England, we’ve talked about the Caribbean, we’ve talked about this and that. But in the end, we can’t actually think of a place we’d rather live than Vancouver.
      Vancouver’s a lovely city. There are some horrible burbs, but basically we got the ocean and lots of great places to walk beside it and some awesome beaches, we got parks, hiking trails, mountains, woods. At the same time, and often right beside some of that stuff, we have all kinds of totally amazing restaurants, brew pubs, funky (for lack of a better word) neighbourhoods, farmer’s markets and similar things, local craftspeople, chocolatiers, bakeries. Vancouver has some of the best food in the world, because everybody is here. There’s masses of people from everywhere in Asia; we may have better Chinese food than China (from all different regions), not to mention Thai, Malaysian, Filipino, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Japanese(not just sushi), Korean, Indian (from all different regions), Chinese-French or Indian-French fusion, Afghan, Nepalese, et cetera. There’s also a sprinkling of people from everywhere else, so we have Persian, Ethiopian, GermanAustrianEnglishIrishItalianGreekFrenchRussianPalestinianJamaican . . . along with plenty of kinds of more North American-type fare from pulled pork to hippie vegetarian, pastiches that have started to be called West Coast Fusion, and just sort of generalized French-ish haute cuisine. And they all know the competition is rocking, so they better be good. I looove the food here.

      Unfortunately, lots of other people have also figured out Vancouver’s pretty nice, so property costs are through the roof. If you want to live cheaply in Vancouver, first get a time machine, go back 30 years or so and buy a place.

  7. Fawstoar says:

    I’m the son of a Canadian-born-abroad, which apparently means I still somehow get to have dual-citizenship, and so I could move up north from my current home in the Boston area. It makes a lot of sense economically, since I’m headed to college one way or another in the next couple years, and the cost of school for Canadians is still a fraction of what US colleges tend to charge. I’d like to move out to Washington State or British Columbia someday, but the cost of living there is definitely not cheap. Montreal is really appealing right now – affordable and multicultural. I can’t speak more than a few words of French, though, so I’ll have to work on that.

    I can anticipate wanting to be closer to family when I’m older, but at the moment I just want to get out of the (not to get too political here) New England prestige bubble that I don’t really identify with – I was born on the other side of the country.

    1. ve4grm says:

      As a Canadian, let me give you some advice.

      If BC looks appealing to you, check out the UBC Okanagan campus. Kelowna is super nice, and downright affordable. Thompson Rivers University is more limited in terms of programs, I think, but Kamloops is also really nice and affordable. I live in Kamloops, having moved from Manitoba, and my cost of living barely changed.

      Montreal is great, and if you don’t speak french it’s still great. The french does help, but Montreal is incredibly friendly to us anglos as well. I’ve considered moving there, myself, and I barely speak french either. I’d be more cautious about Quebec City of the smaller towns, as they tend to be more predominantly french, but Montreal is fine.

      Since you live in the Boston area, I’d also recommend checking out Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick. Both are lovely places, and quite close to home. Take it from me, moving across the country is great for a while, but staying within easy reach of family has definite benefits.

      1. Fawstoar says:

        Thanks so much for the advice. My Canadian side of the family is from Nova Scotia, so I’ve definitely been up there before. And I do actually have a couple relatives on the West coast, albeit in Oregon. At this point it’s just going to come down to where I’m accepted and (more importantly) where I can afford to go.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          Oregon, huh? I keep hearing Portland is pretty cool. Lots of bookstores and food carts and things.

          1. Anachronist says:

            Added bonus to Portland: If you live in Washington just north of the Oregon border, as an acquaintance of our family does, you can enjoy tax-free income (no income tax in Washington) and tax-free shopping in nearby Portland (no sales tax in Oregon).

            1. Stu Friedberg says:

              The downside to living in Vancouver and working in Portland (or vice versa) is that the daily commute is brutal and insane. I’ve turned down several job offers located in Vancouver for precisely that reason.

              (I tried posting this reply earlier today, and the website seemed to die as a result. Hopefully, that was an unrelated fluke.)

    2. Steve C says:

      If I was a soon to be graduating high school student I’d be looking at going to college in Europe where higher education is free. Perfect age to move to a different country.

      1. Fawstoar says:

        I’m not so sure it’s free to foreigners, unfortunately… hence, why I suggested above that Canada should join the EU :)

        1. Steve C says:

          Some are free to foreigners like Germany. Others are just significantly less expensive.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            Since I’ve studied in Germany (just about 10 years ago) they introduced and scrapped study fees, restructured the whole way courses are set up, renamed the degrees, and partly went back to the old way … so what I can tell you may be of limited use.

            However: Take care to figure out whether the course you want to do is actually in English. There are many who are not and I’ve met one person recently who only found out when she got there …
            Apart from that: You may or may not like the way things usually work: You do not have a completely fixed timetable, you have a lot of freedom in choosing which individual lectures you go to (and attendance is often optional) and which exams you take. To the point that you can go through university either faster or slower than recommended, and learn and do a lot more things that aren’t requirements for the degree.
            I enjoyed this but comparing to British unis: The German students take a lot longer, are allowed to be a lot slower but mdevelop more of their own initiative. At British universities, things seem to be much stricter, you are rushed through (because time is money if you pay 6000£ a year), your life mostly belongs to the university, but you’re done and earning money that much faster, and you are turned into the type of person who gets things done. Not so much in Germany — though that’s not to say there are no challenges … At least in Engineering, the emphasis in Germany is much more on scientific background an understanding the theory than just “shut up and calculate”.

            … also I think the slightly looser format in Germany should allow foreign students more liberty to take advantage of the fact that you’re in a new country with new things to do and see…

            Oh, and student accomodation is usually cheaper than regular living in Germany, not the other way round as in England.

            If you like to stay in English-speaking territory, you might also consider going to Scotland. Unis are free there, too.

  8. AR+ says:

    My first thought was that if you deal a lot w/ other companies it might be worth it, but then I start to question whether the savings of locating most of the company in another, less stressful place might be enough to pay a dedicated sales team to live in SF and routinely fly back and forth to headquarters to keep that face-to-face element, and still come out ahead.

  9. Akri says:

    No idea. I’m not thrilled with where I am now, but also can’t think of any place I’d prefer. The whole concept is actually kind of weird for me. I don’t think I’ve ever thought “man, I’d really like to move to ______ someday.” I don’t even know what would make me want to be in a particular location (and I can think of things that would make me NOT want to be somewhere, but that still leaves a huge number of options open). Mostly I just don’t want to go through the hassle of moving, because moving is a pain.

    I guess the answer is “I’m too apathetic to really consider the question.”

    1. swenson says:

      Same here. It was a big deal for me to go so far as to move out of my parents’ house when I graduated university, and that was finding an apartment a half-hour away… moving somewhere completely different, across country or even to a different country, for the sake of money, all by myself? Nooo thank you! That’s way too much work!

  10. Jan says:

    Having moved from Bandung, Indonesia, to the Netherlands, to Los Angeles, to a small city in Germany, and having lived in Krakow, Poland for a few months, and haven spoken to people who’ve been all over the world, I found I’d prefer a place where:
    1. I speak the language (somewhat).
    2. I don’t look like a foreigner.
    3. Standards of living are reasonably high.
    4. The social norms are somewhat western.

    Number 1 can of course be mitigated by learning the language, but this takes time, and could also cost money. I’ve found that not everybody everywhere speaks English very well, and especially if the conversations around you are in a language you don’t understand, you will feel left out.

    Number 2 may be a bit more controversial, but I found that it greatly helps in making new contacts if you don’t look you’re from far, far away. People will approach you more, and it just feels nice if someone asks you directions, even if you’ve just been there for a week.

    Number 3 might also not be for everyone, but adjusting to a new place to live is hard enough without worrying where you’ll get your food if there isn’t a local supermarket (or a supermarket at all), all the food tastes very strange, and all non-dodgy restaurants are expensive tourist traps. Not to mention reliable power supply, OK-ish water, internet connection, and safety of going out of your house (see number 2), options of getting reasonable health insurance, and good healthcare. Not all of these are available everywhere. How is the banking system? If it’s worse than that of the USA (which is not that great), you’re better of putting your money in a sock. How’s that for security and reducing your cost of living?

    Number 4 is a biggy. Some places in the world don’t allow women to go out of the house unsupervised. Sorry, but I don’t want to live there. Also, some of stable democracy (even though usually as a foreigner, you’re not able to vote) would be great. I don’t wanna be stuck because some government agency that doesn’t want (or is unable to, because of strikes/protests) to give you a stamp on your visa so you can return, is not a position I would want to be in.

    Considering this, I found the following countries to be acceptable living for me: USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand. Since my career path involves living in different countries in almost all cases (yay academia), I’ve researched this a bit, and actively pursued jobs in all of these countries.

    Not a big list, but I found that otherwise, the stress of living there is just too much, not matter the potential savings. Also, the loss of friends, and easy family visits can be a big deal.

  11. Brandon says:

    Two words that affect both corporations and employees: infrastructure and social services.

    Areas with better public schools, better public health, and better public amenities like parks, libraries, etc… are often ranked high in the “quality of life” column, even if they are more expensive areas and thus leave folks with less disposable income.

    More expensive states in the US and countries in the world also have much better-developed infrastructure. Just because you have access to the internet in New Delhi doesn’t mean it’s reliable internet and free of filtering and government interference. Actually, in India it might be, I just don’t know. But the more developed a nation the greater chance of having more reliable and affordable utilities and services, not to mention other infrastructure musts. Also a greater chance of quality companies in competition for various service offerings, like custodial services, day care, laundry, whatever.

    The Economist piece you link actually indicates that taxes are not nearly as important as regulation. California is kind of a bastard when it comes to putting regulations on companies, and it is one of the most likely to enact new ones or to revise or make stricter old ones. That said, many of those regulations have ultimately increased the availability of infrastructure and created a large number of healthy communities from which to draw well-educated employees.

    The other thing ignored about the pull of Silicon Valley is that, when you have that many tech companies in close quarters, you can bet there’s all sorts of competition driving down the costs of massive high-speed pipes to the internet. Also, undersea cables to Japan, Korea, and China will emerge in California, meaning you are closer to electronic equipment manufacturers and such.

    Already telecommuters are working from wherever they happen to be, and more and more employees in on-line industries are spreading out, but the value of Silicon Valley, that tight cluster of high technology and venture capital, is just too great for corporations. And most corporations find it cheaper to keep their employees in-house. Yahoo killed off a telecommuter program because of increased institutional cost. And not just cheaper in wages and services, but cheaper in that when you have people working together in close contact, communication is universally improved, and ideas spread and develop faster.

    1. Felblood says:

      “Also, undersea cables to Japan, Korea, and China will emerge in California, meaning you are closer to electronic equipment manufacturers and such.”

      People have been saying that for 20 years. Has it even started to happen?

      I suspect when Trans-Pacific data cables go mainstream, most of them will be landing in Washington. It’s a lot closer to China than CA, and Redmond and Seattle aren’t far at all from the Olympic Peninsula.

      With Japan’s economy weakening, China is the place to watch for flashy projects like this, as weird as that feels to say. It’s not like their space program is panning out as a PR move.

      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        Then there’s the question of whether the rest of the world currently wants to run big data cables to the US as their major internet infrastructure push. If anything, lately it would seem as if they’re trying to run big data cables in ways that bypass the US because they’re sick of the NSA tapping everything.

  12. The San Francisco Bay Area. I live two hours west of the Coastal Range that stands between me and SF Bay, but the climate difference is absolutely ridiculous. This last summer didn’t end until mid-October. In the Central Valley, seasons are schizophrenic and extreme. We were still getting triple digit weather in first fucking week of October and then fall happened literally overnight and that happens all the time.. I can’t remember the last time we had a seasonal change that was gradual.

    But the Bay…dear God. I lived there a little over a year and it was amazing! The ocean is the massive heat sink that keeps Summer balmy instead of oppressive while absorbing all the sun to keep winter chill instead of frigid. It get’s wet ‘n windy as shit, but y’know what I’ll fucking take it!

    Also I think Shamus is overestimating the impact of the digital workforce. We still live in a physical world and require physical needs that the services that employ us are meant to supply, so that means by ‘n large, ya needs to be wheres ya works.

    1. Patrick the intolerant hockey pugilist says:

      I lived in Oakland for a few years back in the 90’s. The section of America that exists between the Pacific ocean and the mountains is nearly indescribable to people that have never lived there. It’s practically it’s own country in almost every way possible. Even the eggs you eat for breakfast at Denny’s taste different. Not bad, mind you. Just different.

      It’s nearly impossible to explain to someone why people live in California. It’s not one thing. It’s not even the dozen differences you could think of in the next minute.

      1. Trix2000 says:

        In my case, it helps to have lived here for 25+ years.

        And yeah, I’ll definitely vouch for the weather being a draw for me, though probably not really tying me down that much. More than anything, I’m just used to it all and have so much familiarity with the area that it’s hard for me to think about going elsewhere. I could see myself moving if I HAD to, but since I don’t…

        I’ll be the first to admit I have a really good situation here at the moment – pretty good job, sharing a nice townhouse with a great roommate, and retaining the ability to visit my parents every few weeks (without worrying about them bugging me despite only be half an hour away). I am extremely grateful for the way my life has gone so far, even if I am in no way rich and famous.

        Also, it’s basically impossible for me to dispute points made about CA being difficult for businesses. Sometimes I think the only reason a lot stay is because Silicon Valley exists… were that hub of technology to disperse, I suspect it would take much of CA’s businesses with it.

  13. Chris says:

    This is what I don’t understand about reddit’s upcoming move to San Francisco. A company still struggling to make a profit suddenly decides to force all its employees to move to an area with one of the highest costs of living in the world. It’s all backwards and makes no sense to me. I figure it must be that prestige thing you mentioned.

    1. Thomas says:

      I guess hiring people is a little easy in San Fran too, because it’s got a higher density of programmers, and probably most people look for jobs in their local area before extending the search further.

      This question is super relevant in the UK at the moment. London is one of the few places it’s size which is still growing, and it’s so hard to work out why. The cost of living in London is now insane, you can literally buy castles for the same amount as a one bedroom flat in parts of London.

      Surely companies would do better if they don’t have to pay for that floor space? Never mind force their staff to live in a city where they’ll barely be breaking even on rent.

      Plus the UK is tiny. Most of the problems with looking for long distance jobs disappear at UK scales. You can travel anywhere in a day, and probably at least 50% of England’s population is within one big ‘commute’ zone.

      But instead the jobs keep on gravitating to London.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        It’s worth remembering the advantages of living in a densely populated city. For example, I like to play complicated boardgames with strangers in pubs. In London, I can do this literally every day of the week if I want; it’s just an internet search to find the group to join. All kinds of social and cultural activities are easy to find. As long as you have a reasonable amount of money and don’t mind living somewhere small, it can be pretty great.
        From the viewpoint of a business, the upsides are a bit more questionable, but the number of potential employees who live or are willing to live within commuting range is always going to be high.

        1. Steve C says:

          I live in the middle of nowhere and there’s two gaming stores within 40mins drive of me I play boardgames at each week. There’s also a club that meets on Saturdays. Each only runs one night a week but since they are on different nights it’s still half the week I can find strangers to play games with. That’s not counting the popular games like Magic that I could play daily if I wanted to (20mins away). (One day a week or every other week is fine for me.)

          It’s easier to find all sorts of activities in big cities of all kinds. And you won’t find sophisticated activities like the opera in the middle of nowhere. If you are just looking for simple pleasures then you can find them pretty much everywhere if you look. Assuming the culture supports your particular interest in the first place.

  14. Mark says:

    If working remotely, I think you’d want to choose where you live based on everything outside of work: family, friends, church, amenities, freedom/security, and, yeah, cost of living.

    I’d live in the same area I already live. No reason to leave, and other countries don’t have any of the things that define “home” for me. If only I could find one of those high-paying remote jobs…

  15. Neil W says:

    A few years ago I worked for a company that was located about an hour and a half (on a good day) from London. Trying to attract hard-working young financial professionals – the kind who put in the hours to get the work done when there’s a crunch – was a problem. They liked London better, so we had to offer at least as much money. (Slightly older people with kids in school were much more likely to come out and move into a small town with a good school).

    On top of that there tended to be ONE choice of various specialities locally, and if we didn’t like them, we’d have to bring in consultants from London at some hideous hourly rate. And the one who was willing to put in 3+ hours of commuting wasn’t always their top guy.

    On balance I think they did well where they were (and are – although they had to open a branch office twenty miles away when they employed everyone suitable for the call centre in town), and the company still had the vestiges of being a longstanding family-run firm that trained it’s own talent. Still, there would definitely have been advantages to being in the hideously expensive megapolis that is London.

  16. Zukhramm says:

    beer, internet, and junk food are available just about everywhere

    This is pretty much my view, I can live anywhere really. I do have preferences of course. I’d rather not have killer spiders and giant snakes, and no sloppy rainy winter but proper ice and snow, preferably as early as November.

    I live in a city with a population of 80,000 (Yeah, we call that as city, twelfth largest in the country! I know in other parts of the world that’s called “tiny village to small to even give a name” but not here!) and I like the size. Super large cities are definitely not highest in my list of preferences.

  17. Corpital says:

    I’m doing just fine in Germany/Swiss, but my first choice would be Ireland.
    Second choice Norway or Sweden.
    Third place on the list is any place with red pandas.

    Preferably a semi-big city with 0,5-2million people, big enough to get all the good stuff and still small enough to not get lost.

    1. niconorsk says:

      Based on those countries and populations, you pretty much have these choices:
      Oslo, Dublin, Stockhom and Gothenburg. 0.5-2 million is big in that part of the world.

  18. Someone says:

    It’s not like the only thing that determines where you live is cost of living. Even moving to a different city can make you feel like a fish out of water, not to mention going to a whole different country. It costs a lot to move like that, and you can’t truly know what you’re in store for until you’ve moved and lived there for some time, and if you don’t like it you may not be able to go back, at least not easily. Unless you’re so financially secure that you can have an easy life anywhere in the world.

    I wanna say I’d like to move to a different country, but I have no way of knowing what life would be like elsewhere, and as a foreigner I’ll be at a certain disadvantage anywhere I go, even in countries that are otherwise “better”. It’s just a big gamble.

    “There’s no place like home”, the saying goes.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      I agree.
      How much I like a place is mostly a function of what the culture there is, how people will treat me, what kind of things I’ll be able to do there etc.
      … and where my family/firends are in relation to that.

      Having said that, I think you never know how (good or bad) other places really are until you’ve been there a while. Which is why I am currently not in my home country, away from most friends and almost all family, doing a job that would have looked completely different where I come from.

      Also, I’m in a big, expensive city and work an hour’s drive out of town. Why would I do that? Well, the work-place was subject to availability, but the city: Loads of concerts, bars, funny places, Museums, events, several airports to visit people and be visited …). Was definitely a good choice, and would recommend. Also, people are totes different over here, and it made me reflect a great deal on how I behave, how I want to behave, and how people bak home are behaving.

      => Do it! Just for a year or two (half a year’s not quite enough, I think), go live somewhere else, as much different from home as you think you’ll be able to bear. And see if you don’t like it better…

      1. Someone says:

        You’ve convinced me! Somalia, here I come!

      2. Patrick the intolerant hockey pugilist says:

        I agree with this 100%. I truly, firmly believe everyone should move away for awhile just to gain the maturity and growth that only moving away can teach.

        When you move away you learn so much about yourself. What you are capable of. You are so self-reliant that you learn skills and confidence you can’t develop in any other way.

        Plus, just seeing other cultures and other points of view. In the USA you can move to a “different country” just by moving 100 miles away. To Kids growing up in Minnesota, San Francisco and Dallas might as well be Shanghai and Munich.

        I’ve known lots of people that moved away and came back home. All of them say they are glad to be back and that being away from home was hard, stressful and difficult. Every single one of them also said living abroad also made them a better person and that on some level, they are glad they did it.

    2. Steve C says:

      It costs a lot to move like that if you are established where you are. If you don’t have a wife and kids and all the physical possessions then it really is easy to move. A student moving away to college will find it only marginally more difficult to move to a new country.

    3. Jexter says:

      This is certainly true to some degree, and I feel it as well. But I have to wonder if this sentiment is somewhat of a rationalization. People are very good defending their decisions as the normative best course of action, even when they were very clearly determined by much less intelligent underlying emotional states like [Ice Cream! Yummy!] or [Foreigners! Scary!], and the justification came afterwards. Moving, especially to another country, is a difficult and time-consuming prospect, so we have every reason to expect people to come up with just-so arguments against it out of simple self-validation.

      (One of my favorite pieces of psychological literature is when Jonathan Haidt and his team hypnotized people to feel strong disgust to the word “often”, and then tried to hold in their laughter when subjects in the lab came up with convoluted yet plausible-sounding arguments against any policy they proposed that contained the word “often” in the description.)

      Case in point: Even rich people tend to overwhelmingly live in the country of their birth. Their money might be located in tax shelters elsewhere, so perhaps the economic argument is irrelevant to them. But we might still natively expect a kind of sorting to take place, matching individuals with countries that better suit their political preferences, or personality. Yet very little of this kind of sorting actually occurs.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is whatever thought process people use to choose where to live, it has very little to do with economics and nor is it very trustworthy. It might even be broken in some spectacular way. If the perfect country was created tomorrow that everyone would objectively be better off moving to (and somehow had infinite space), how many would show up?

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        Yep, it’s mostly mental inertia.

        And it makes sense. You might be living somewhere suboptimal but you cannot know whether that other place will actually better, and you’ll have to invest years before you do.

        That and the proximity of family and friends, of course…

        Just recently read a thing about loss aversion: On average, people will not bet on a 50:50 outcome unless the possible reward is about four times the investment. And the same thing is at play here: You give up the homestead, the neighbours, society, environment you know the good and bad sides of, and you move to another lot that may or may not be better or worse in whatever aspects matter to you. It takes a great deal of promise to do that for most people, though I still contend that people should try and consciously adjust their choice for this effect. There are a lot of intangible things gained from living somewhere else, even if the place isn’t “better” in whatever way you’d measure that.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          I’ve seen a few things about loss aversion. Some people see this as irrational, and in many specific circumstances it probably is. But I think it actually makes a lot of sense, and points to some serious weaknesses in modern economic theory. I mean, modern economists would see it as “rational” that you should take a 50/50 bet if the payoff is $1 more than the loss. But for most people most of the time, a loss has bigger consequences than a gain. Win a hundred thousand dollars and you’re happy, you can pay off (some kind of debt), go on a vacation, get some nice things. Lose a hundred thousand dollars and you could be on the street and your children could starve. This pattern of losses being more important than gains holds right down to the point where the amount involved is insignificant enough to you that it’s no longer a meaningful decision.
          And back in time this would only have been more true, because most people were closer to the margin of survival and most of what they had would tend to be important for keeping them going. I’d say the loss aversion thing is a good solid survival trait.

          1. Jexter says:

            Perhaps unintentionally, you’ve basically described Behavioral Economics in a nutshell. Also a bit of Evolutionary Psychology. Where they intersect, we have Evolutionary Economics. (These fields are nothing if not straightforwardly named.)

            On an unrelated note, some quotes from the Wikipedia page on Behavioral Economics are hilarious when taken out of context:

            (“The typical laboratory environment to study labor supply in pigeons…”), (” …the introduction of a currency system into a colony of captive capuchin monkeys…”)

          2. Zak McKracken says:

            In the case when you’re betting much of what you have, that makes complete sense but loss aversion is also at work for trivial things: That example of the 50:50 bet was from a study where people were asked to bet trivial amounts.

            But you’re right: If you move to a place where people hate you, noone wants to give you a job and for some reason robbing newcomers is considered polite … that can suck. That’s why it makes sense to check that place out before moving there forever. The really bad types of risk of moving abroad can be reduced very quickly, but the long-term advantage can only be seen once you’re there.

            There are lots of things I’m not happy with here that I liked much better back home, but only after a while I realized how many of the bothersome things from home weren’t here.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What you are talking about is nothing new.I personally know 3 people,and have heard about dozens and dozens more that went away from my country for a couple of decades to do back breaking labor and save everything,just so they could come back and enjoy their substantial retirement,or to send all the money to their families here so that they could live as rich people.And that was long before the internet.With the internet,they could do all their labor somewhere else,and enjoy the benefit of their extra money here.That is,if the financial laws allowed them to finally collect that money.But hey,the internet is dirt cheap,at least.

    Personally,I agree with PeteTimesSix.Low earth orbit is the perfect place to live.No people to personally hassle you,and all the internet you could ever need.

  20. Retsam says:

    I rather like my current situation of working at tech company based out of Indianapolis (funny to see that be the specified example for a place in the US to work); it’s a good balance of fairly cheap cost of living to fairly good standard of living (especially if you’re one of those snobs living in Carmel). But then, I’ve never been much of a city person and Indianapolis isn’t that much of a city. (We do have GenCon, though; so that’s a plus)

    The weather has been a bit of a downer, though, in the last year or so.

  21. RTBones says:

    I have been privileged enough to have lived and worked in lots of places around the world. I have found that I am capable of living almost anywhere. The one thing this has taught me – the world is really small these days. Family and friends will always be with you, no matter where you are, no matter what country you live in, no matter the language spoken by your neighbors.

    As to where I would prefer to live, as much as the world is small, it is also huge. Far too much of it for me left to see and experience yet to tell you exactly where I would want to live, so I cant really answer your question properly as I dont have enough empirical data. Ask me again in 44 years or so. :)

  22. Zak McKracken says:

    My current favourite place to move to: Norway. Probably in or close to Oslo, so there’s an airport close, and something happening culturally, and I actually have population around me to interact with.
    Why?
    a: What I’ve heard of the Norwegian society sounds a bit too good to be true, so I’d like to verify that.
    b: The Countryside! Hiking, Biking, Skiing, Camping …
    c: Technologically very advanced and economically quite good, too.

    1. ET says:

      Yeah, Norway’s pretty sweet. They have lots of subsidies for housing, university, etc, and pretty much everywhere, people live beside nature and make use of it. I gotta learn that language so I can live there! :)

    2. stratigo says:

      Norway invested its oil fund into being a really awesome country.

  23. RonC says:

    For once I think you are missing the mark on this one. For someone who has put infrastructure in place for remote workers. It takes a major toll on the IT department. Your support needs are greater, because home office doesn’t have complete control over the point to point connect between user and servers. So the QoS drops and if you work with non-technical people they complain when their phone stops working or they can’t access something like normal. And when it’s only one or two people. Well it must be Comcast or your home network. Can’t help you.

    Also you miss the Social Networking and Marketing required by upper management to keep the money flowing in. VC and Angel Inventors aren’t going to give you another loan if you don’t look professional and can meet with them easily. It’s that next level of funding that is more important then having a good product either. Smoke and mirrors, smoke and mirrors. Just like any good con artist knows. If you don’t look the part, then you can’t take the money.

    1. Robyrt says:

      Agreed – your software developers can work from home pretty easily, but business development, marketing, and C-level executives require a lot of face-to-face meetings. Corporate IT needs to be physically close to your infrastructure. If you have a call center, it needs to be on the public transit line of a major city, because it’s tough to attract quality employees who will work for dirt cheap if they can’t take the bus. Your business analysts, your UI/UX people, and middle management will be having a lot of client meetings, which are about 2x as productive in person.

      So basically, working from home is great if you’re a small company that doesn’t need to hire a dedicated person to handle the requirements.

  24. BeardedDork says:

    I’d go back to Ushuaia, Argentina in a heartbeat.

  25. cassander says:

    Most goods are worth more in places where they are scarce, Human capital is not. smart, capable people are more useful the more of them you concentrate into a single area, because they enable each other in all sorts of subtle, unpredictable ways.

    That said I grew up in silicon valley, about 5 minutes from Stanford, and I’d move back there in a heart beat.

  26. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    “Ever since the rise of the internet economy I've been expecting this gradual shift away from congested, crowded, expensive, noisy, tax-ridden, crime-drenched major city centers to a more distributed populace, but so far it's not happening. Maybe it's going to take a generation. Maybe it won't happen at all.”

    This is, in fact, happening. While it is true that “urban areas” are growing, not all cities are growing the same. Central cities and inner-ring suburbs actually shrunk in the last census -and the census before that -while the suburbs grew. Those suburbs, being part of a metropolis, still count as “urban areas” (as opposed to similarly small local governments that are too far away and don’t have the population to count as urban). Commutes for suburban and exurban residents have gotten shorter -reflecting that more of them now work where they live rather than commuting into the central city.

    The transition is partly being slowed by demographic changes, but that only slows it down a decade or two -maybe three. Central cities see their future as the young urban professionals. They are deluded. Young urban professionals go to cities to work, meet each other, fall in love, and then discover that it is hard to raise kids in the central city, so they move to the suburbs or to more suburban cities -like the major cities of Texas or, really, most of the American South.

    I think the most obvious read of the evidence is that this is a peculiarly anglophone phenomenon. Internationally, it is most prevalent in the USA, England, and Commonwealth countries, and then somewhat visible in English-speaking colonies in Africa and Asia. But I am not fully convinced. European cities are old and hemmed in from growth by a number of factors. English, American, and Commonwealth cities are not (and, notably, of the anglophone countries, it is England which has the least suburbanization). So, given time and wealth, I suspect we’ll see the same pattern of suburbanization appear in non-English speaking countries too.

    (if you’re up for more reading, Joel Kotkin’s The Next Hundred Million is a good source, as is Alan Ehrenhalt’s The Great Inversion and Ed Glaeser’s Triumph of the City)

  27. 6b64 says:

    I mean no offense to (for example) Arvind, but afeter having spent a year there I think living in India is abolutely miserable. I think after a certain point the be-king-amongst-beggars/be-the-beggar-amongst-kings logic breaks down. India is just too… everything. Noisy, crowded, unimagineably crowded, messy, stinky, aggressive, different. The cultural differences are almost guaranteed to crush you. Maybe it is possible to buy four times as much (weird, indian) crap over there, but it does not make up for the lack of a thousand things we assume naturally given never ever not having them. I don’t want to put down India, but I can guarantee that a 99% of western people reading this would detest living there.

    1. Naota says:

      I actually turned down a job as a lead 3D artist in Hyderabad while working on Unrest, partially on Arvind’s advice. I imagine the developer thought I was living in India already, but I actually live in Toronto… and the move and the culture differences just didn’t seem worth it for a (admittedly much closer to the career path I was looking for at first) job at EA. If I go anywhere it’ll likely be to London, Ontario or Montreal, for similar game developer-related reasons.

  28. My husband and I have been in serious discussions for a while about moving overseas to one of the Scandinavian countries.

    Right now my first choice is the Netherlands.

    He prefers Denmark, but I find the Danish language to be even more difficult than Dutch. The Danes also have a tougher immigration policy.

    We may also consider Norway, although we haven’t visited there yet and I fear that the lack of sunlight might negatively affect me.

    1. Traion says:

      Slight pedantry: The Netherlands aren’t part of Scandinavia.

    2. Magnus says:

      Danish is indeed terrible as a language, Norwegian and Swedish (or Finnish) less so. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find people who don’t speak good English. Most of my friends back home (I currently live in China) actually enjoy speaking English. But the weather is indeed terrible as well, it’s pretty much the same for all Scandinavia. So if that is a big deal, then it probably isn’t for you.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        The two times when I’ve been to Sweden, there were about three rainy days in the 36 days I’ve spent in the country, and there was proper summer going on. That said: Those two times were around midsummer, so might not be representative :)

        With regards to language, I think Finnish is the most difficult because it is related to nothing but Hungarian, and even that only in a slightly distant way. Dutch, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are all relatives of German (to different degrees, though), so any of them will help you with the others.
        … Finnish sounds really nice, though!

        The long winter nights in northern Scandinavia are probably the thing that I underestimate as well. No idea how that’d play out for me, though I usually find it easy to ignore weather and such, and I’m doing things inside most of the time, anyway.

        1. Purple Library Guy says:

          Tolkien loved Finnish, and I believe at least one elvish dialect was strongly influenced by it.

    3. Disc says:

      The lack of sunlight applies to most of Scandinavia, but it gets easier the further south you go. Norway is reportedly pretty expensive place to live in, Sweden might be a better alternative. The language is also relatively easy to learn.

      You’re welcome in Finland too as far as I’m concerned, but the language is by far the most difficult of them all for most foreigners to learn (and we’re not technically part of Scandinavia, though we’re culturally and historically very much tied to it, especially dear old Sweden).

      1. Ingvar M says:

        The funny thing is that when people from outside “Scandinavia” say “Scandinavia”, they normally mean “The Nordic Countries” (the inclusion of Iceland uncertain).

        1. CraigM says:

          Greenland is always the one that throws me. It seems it should be North America, but is technically part of Denmark. Iceland always falls in the Norway’s crazy little brother’ for me. Finland, though, firmly falls under Scandinavia in my mind. I associate Scandinavia with awesome music, and there are a few Finnish bands I absolutely fold into ‘Scandinavian metal’ mentally.

  29. RCN says:

    You left out one key thing in your line of thought (though I know it was probably because the hands were starting to get numerous and silly). Integration. And how hard it can be.

    Pretty much everywhere in the world is weary and distrustful of outsiders, no matter how much the internet has made the world “smaller”. You can see how the US actually built a wall to keep all of our filthy, grimy Latin-Americans paws out of your apple pies. In the Europe there’s a new xenophobic wave thanks to the economic crisis + terrorist threat double whammy (anyone with a different religion… or any strong religious leaning is a terrorist and anyone from a poor country brought their poor with them, like it was contagious, and brought about the European economic ruin).

    And it goes both ways. Here in Brazil, “Gringos” are often viewed as rich tycoons coming here trying to find a way to exploit us, and therefore it is fair game to preemptively deceive and exploit them in return.

    The world is still an ugly place. It was uglier, it is certain, but prejudice is still very much a thing. That’s why, wherever you go, Americans are lazy, fat, gun-crazy nutjobs; the French are cowardly snobs; the Irish are drunk; the Russian are drunker; the Muslims are terrorists; the Jews are greedy; the Japanese are weirdos; the Indians are poor cow-worshippers; the Latin-Americans are poorer; and the Africans literal destitute savages living in huts; the Australian are crazy adrenaline junkies and a plethora of other horrible, horrible stereotypes I could think of that are the first thing that come to mind to most people around the globe about foreigners, meanwhile completely ignoring that the stereotypes about themselves barely apply to anyone they personally know.

    Wherever you go, you’ll first need to overcome not only cultural and linguistic barriers, but all these preconceptions as well. That’s probably why the internet haven’t spread populations as well as you’d think.

    As to where I’d go if I could? I love my country, but I hear that in Germany being on time is mandatory, instead of a polite suggestion. I kid, but on several occasions I was apparently a few hours TOO EARLY by being on time…

    1. RTBones says:

      “…but I hear that in Germany being on time is mandatory, instead of a polite suggestion. I kid, but on several occasions I was apparently a few hours TOO EARLY by being on time…”

      Its not just Germany (I have found Germany, Switzerland, and most folks from northern Europe in general to be quite punctual), but your point is well taken as the Germans are well-known world-wide for being punctual. I have also been to parts of the world where a meeting time was (by US standards) more of a ‘suggestion.’ Being on time was being early…oh heavens yes.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        Inside of Germany, the punctuality requirements vary wildly (who’d have thought?). I was in a place where being at your place the second the meeting started was considered late. I said several times, that I arrived at the precise time, and the guy just repeated “yes, but you should be punctual”.
        That’s not the common view, though. I’ve seldom been to a party where half of the guests arrived before the “official” time, and in my own circle, most seem to consider it polite to arrive about an hour late (so the host can do some last-minute preparations) — after getting used to that it was hard to adapt to some new-comers to that circle who always were 5 minutes before the time…

        1. RCN says:

          Oh, I’d love it if one hour late was the norm. Here in Brazil (or at least in Brasilia) people will invite you to an event (“let’s go to that restaurant at 18:00 o’clock”) and get there HOURS late (at 21:30 “You’re already here? Wow, you were early”). Mind you, that’s even the people who planned it.

    2. Patrick the Squatter says:

      I bet you would like Australia. Most people do. Form all of my travels, I never met anyone that didn’t like it and the lack of cultural stereotypes makes it intriguing. Like you said, the Russians, Irish, French….everyone has a stereotype…except the Aussies.

      Seriously, what has anyone ever heard of the Aussies being guilty of? Barbequing to much?

      1. Purple Library Guy says:

        Racism? Backslapping boorish good-ol-boy fake heartiness? There’s plenty stereotypes for Aussies.

        1. Patrick the Weary says:

          Unfortunately, racism is not indigenous to Australia or any other country. If only that type of stupidity could be contained by imaginary lines on a map. If only. So the fact that Australians have issues with racism is, to me, a given. Everyone does.

          I’m not sure if you are from America, but we have our own issues with it and they are on full display today. Our biggest issue with it is that we like to pretend we don’t have an issue with it.

          But this is a topic for perhaps another message board.

      2. Abnaxis says:

        I would refer you to the Crocodile Dundee series of movies, for a smorgasbord of Aussie stereotypes.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Absolutely. Also, the Discworld continent of EcksEcksEcksEcks, referred to early in the “canon” as Terror Incognita.

      3. RCN says:

        Well, I did point out a couple of stereotypes, like that Aussies like to endanger themselves (and everyone around them by proxy). It is a ridiculous stereotype. I’m sure all Aussies have good reason to not live terrified of their murderous, murderous fauna and flora.

        Sure, I’m still kidding. I live in Brazil for muck’s sake. Everyone thinks the Amazon extends throughout the entire territory, but the climate here is extremely varied. Here where I live, in the centrally-located capital, the climate is similar to the African savannah, that is, semi-arid plains with very stark rain and dry seasons. And I don’t care that there is a species of extremely poisonous and extremely tiny toads in my country that’ll kill you in seconds with skin contact. They’re terrifying, sure, but most animals tend to stay clear of these things called cities.

  30. Traion says:

    I like it here in Germany. I could live just about anywhere in the western/northern EU just fine, Canada and Australia would work aswell. But i couldn’t bring myself to live in the US.

  31. poiumty says:

    As a denizen of one of these “armpit of the world” countries, I can tell you that you’ll find no shortage of Coca-Cola or Pepsi or any internationally recognizable brand that can be produced locally. You WILL however find a shortage of things like maple syrup and other local/national foods that either don’t get a lot of popularity or aren’t available without having to import due to climate/geographical reasons. I can’t find tofu in this town, and if I do, it’ll cost me.

    If you make your money remotely without being attached to your location, then yes it does make a lot of sense to move to a place where things are cheaper and the cost of living (for the poor sods who have to work there) is low as shit. The smaller the country, the better and cheaper the internet. (Unimported) food is cheap, and tech isn’t a problem unless you’re going to the South Pole or something, even the worst countries have access to most of the latest technology.

    That said, there’s lots of personal reasons why you might not want to move: visiting relatives will be a pain, nobody speaks your language (and if they do, they have hillarious accents), needing to learn the language, culture shock, worse off countries might have higher crime rate, no maple syrup and so on.

    But as for the question, if I could live anywhere it’d definitely be in a clean, modern city with low pollution and crime rates, good internet, preferably english-speaking, but I’ll settle for not. I hear Barcelona has great food prices and city planning, and I hear Stockholm has clean water and low pollution.

    1. Purple Library Guy says:

      I touristed in Barcelona once. Grand place, lots of cool stuff in it. But we walked everywhere so we saw a bit of normal residential areas outside of core tourist places. It is pretty nice. Lots of wide avenues and lovely houses. Some of the streets have these sort of strips along the middle between the two lanes that are so wide they’re like a mini-park in the middle of the street. One we went by, they were having a sort of outdoor market thing where you could get produce and candy and stuff. Good candy, too.
      They probably have some crappy burbs like everyone else. And the beach was surprisingly lousy. But basically it seems very livable.

  32. Chris says:

    Reasons I moved from Ohio to California:
    1) Insanely better weather.
    2) Better employment opportunities.
    3) Better and more diverse food choices.
    4) Reliable and inexpensive public transit.

    Sure it’d be nice to live in Ohio again, but the job market there sucks and I greatly enjoy not seeing snow. :)

    1. Bryan says:

      Moved from Michigan to California as well. 100% agreed about the “not seeing snow” part — even if I am about to head back there tomorrow, for the (American) Thanksgiving week.

    2. Patrick the Squatter says:

      I would want to move out of Ohio just to get away from the shitty football. But that’s just me…..

    3. Abnaxis says:

      Speaking as someone currently in Ohio, you aren’t missing much, though there are a couple neat places to work here an there.

    4. Trix2000 says:

      Hearing you say “Reliable and inexpensive public transit” makes me cringe to think about what Ohio’s must be like. California’s public transportation is barely adequate at best.

      You pretty much HAVE to have a car to get around freely here. Relying on public transport is usually a major pain and often much slower… not to mention the infrastructure is not very expansive.

  33. Hal says:

    I work in biotech, and the labor pool didn’t benefit much from the development of the internet economy. In general, the type of work available to you is dependent on where you live, so having good options with reasonable pay means living in the various “hubs.” There are companies outside those hubs, but that’s often a risky venture for everyone involved; the company has to relocate employees due to a scarcity of talented locals, and employees have few other options if their job disappears.

    Of course, if you’re not currently in one of those biotech hubs, good luck getting in. High competition for jobs frequently make networking far more important than talent or competency, and the companies have a strong local pool of talent to draw from, so relocating someone is an extraordinary step. You could just pick up and move to the hub without a job waiting for you, but that’s a lot more risk than most people are able to bear.

    Some days, I think I’d rather follow your example and drop it all in favor of writing. (And if I had anything meaningful or interesting to say, I might do more than day dream about it.)

  34. Avatar says:

    One additional thing you’re overlooking: what happens if you lose that job?

    Maybe if you have a robust professional network and some hard-to-find skills, you can jump from one company to another while working remotely for both. But if you don’t…

    I work remotely in Dallas and moved to Hawaii. (This is kind of the opposite scenario, as the cost of living here is significantly more than in Texas…) If I lost my job, I would be stuck in Hawaii, with very very few jobs available in my specialty, with all of the local cultural referents saying “don’t hire this haole”. Could I get another job in the industry? Sure, but it would almost certainly require that I move local to the job in question. Which means I need to keep several thousand bucks sitting idle, so that I can afford to do that move on short notice, because if I lost my income, out here I’d burn through my reserves right quick.

    Employers don’t really like dealing with employees who have nothing at all invested in keeping the job. If you don’t live there, don’t commute there, and could be working again in a week doing the same thing for someone else, then what’s going to keep you working there? You can’t really threaten any kind of negative consequences to the guy at the other end if he just says “lol whatever, I’ll be hired again before you can replace me.” They want “commitment”, which to them means that you’ve rearranged enough of your life so that the threat of unemployment becomes effective.

    1. wumpus says:

      This. I would love to be able to live and work in Louisville, KY, which is where I grew up. But even if I could find a first job doing soft- or firmware there, I’d still be very worried about what happens when that job ends. Given that, until my current job, I’d never had one that lasted more than three years, this is a very real concern.

  35. Humanoid says:

    Ahh, telecommuting, always one thing raised as a benefit to suit some nebulous policy, but one which no government or company will actually commit themselves to. In Australia, the (former) government had decided to build a nationwide fibre network and spruiked a key benefit as enabling such workplace flexibility as something to reduce congestion, ease pollution, promote work-life balance, etcetera. But as for allowing any of their own employees in government departments to do that? Hah! Tell ’em they’re dreaming.

    Um, digression aside, my choices as to living arrangements are pretty boring. I’m reasonably happy in Australia with most things, with the exception being the weather. So it’s hardly a shock to say I’d love to live somewhere in western Europe, probably Denmark or Benelux as a first preference. Then again, I’m someone generally terrified of change, so it’ll never happen on my initiative.

    1. nm says:

      I know someone who used to work for the US DOT. They encourage telecommuting at least one day per week.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Department of Transport? That’s … somehow cute and heartwarming (95%) whilst simultaneously being a tiny bit depressing (5%). Either way that made my day (well, let’s not go overboard – made my hour). But then the best things often include a tiny twinge of sadness.

  36. Vermander says:

    I live in a major city in Texas. It’s interesting to see how many companies from California have recently moved some, or all of their operations here. Many of our friends and neighbors are ex-Californians who relocated here, voluntarily or otherwise. Most of them miss specific aspects of life in California, but few seem to regret their decision.

    1. stratigo says:

      hopefully the next chemical plant failure isn’t in their backyards.

      Companies don’t actually care about the well being of their employees any farther then the cost of replacing them would be

      1. Humanoid says:

        They cost 50 pounds each!

      2. JAB says:

        But companies do care about bad publicity, lawsuits, regulators breathing down their necks… Things happen, but if you’re not moving to Texas because you’re worried about a chemical explosion happening in your backyard, you should reconsider. It’s a big place, even if a chemical plant blew up every month you could find a place to be safe.

      3. Vermander says:

        Assume you’re referring to the plant fire in Waco? I don’t know much about it. I live in a different city. Most of the jobs that have moved to my immediate vicinity are mid-level white collar positions. As far as I know the main draw for employers is our relatively low cost of living. I moved here from an east coast city (my wife is a native Texan) and homes are roughly a third the cost of what I was used to.

        There are a lot of misconceptions about Texas from people who don’t live here (much like California). It’s a huge state with several large metropolitan areas. The part of the state I live in has no cactuses, tumble weeds or oil rigs like you would see in movies. I never see anyone under age 60 wearing Stetsons or snakeskin boots unless I’m attending a country concert.

        My neighborhood is a pretty typical American suburb, which I would say is safe, comfortable and a good place to raise a family, but I’m aware a lot of people find soulless and dull. Roughly half my neighbors also moved here from other areas. I guess I’m at a phase in life where I’m not really looking for “adventure” in my day-to-day life. We can afford to take vacations or visit relatives in other cities and states if we want excitement or a change in scenery.

        1. Supahewok says:

          I’ve grown up in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston. This comment thread is literally the first time I’ve ever heard someone use chemical plant explosions as a disincentive to move or live in Texas. Sure, can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard Texans called ignorant or loudmouths or cowboys, or how Houston in particular is evil for being one of the biggest oil hubs in the country. But chemical plants? Really? That was one horrible incident. Its pretty damn ignorant to say its commonplace. Regardless of whether that was meant as a joke or not.

          Actually, its worse if that was a joke. It physically hurt more people than any school shooting. Destroyed more homes too. We don’t joke about it.

          Calming down. (Also want to make sure to note that none of my ire was aimed at Vermander in any way) Anyway, in the spirit of the rest of the comments: Vermander’s right about Texas. The three biggest (or at least most important) cities are Houston, Dallas, and Austin. They are each a few hours apart, and have their own culture and strengths in business/technology. None of them are in desert. You have to go WAY over to the westernmost part of Texas for that. (Seriously, you can’t raise cattle in a desert. And Texas has historically been the center of the beef industry) It’s a little hot, but everywhere has airconditioning. Business is booming statewide. In particular, property values in Houston are not that high, from what I understand. Due to lax property laws, people tend to build new buildings rather than build up old ones, so space is NOT a premium. So Houston is REALLY big. Makes commute a pain in the ass though.

          Don’t feel the need to move away, unless that’s where my job market goes. I’ve been away for college, and I’ll be going away again to go to a different university, but Houston’s nice. It doesn’t have a very big nerd scene though, as far as I’m aware of. There are no nerd shops in my suburb, and looking online I haven’t found many in Houston. That’s really my only disappointment; I hear of people being able to just come in to a shop and sign up for D&D games, but as far as I know there’s nothing like that around me.

  37. Pickly says:

    As others have said, the tradeoff for cities is more money for more concentrated collections of people, more face to face interaction, easier contact in ways the internet can’t achieve. For employees, you get the tradeoff of more money for more “amenities” in economics talk (more variety of things to do, closer contact with other people, etc.), and a better culture fit possibly.

    (A.k.a. the tradeoff if between your description of cities with middle of nowhere, boring, isolated, etc. far suburbs.)

    You do generally see movement in the suburb direction overall from rural and middle city in terms of the percent of people living there, at least in the U.S., but there are clearly the tradeoffs that people have described.

  38. gunther says:

    I’m about to link you to a Reddit post and I wanna apologize in advance for that, but it’s an easy explanation of why certain businesses find it beneficial to headquarter in Silicon Valley:

    http://np.reddit.com/r/energy/comments/2j3g14/walmart_proving_once_again_that_they_are_the/cl87fnr

    The short version is that they don’t care about being thrifty, they care about profit. To a company like Apple, the cost of headquartering in Silicon Valley, extravagant as it might seem, is insignificant.

  39. Dude says:

    When deciding cost of living, it is important to consider also the quality of living. I’m talking about things you cannot just handle with money (unless you have absurd amounts of money). Living in New Delhi or some other big Indian city, for example, exposes you to an overpopulated, underdeveloped, smelly, sweaty, low education habitat. A place where you are not guaranteed clean water, 24 hour electricity. Where you have absurd internet packages with concepts like Fair Usage Policy (Ubisoft DRM is benevolent compared to FUP), and so on.

    More importantly, Americans and first worlders in general enjoy the privilege of a much higher level of social safety compared to the average Indian street.

    None of this is exaggeration. I’ve been there long enough to know.

  40. Bropocalypse says:

    Apparently more people are moving INTO cities than out of them these days.
    Anyway, I’d probably live in Great Britain or Canada. Some place where it’s cold and rainy, really.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      The southeast if Great Britain (that starts about 100 miles west of London, and a few hundred to the north) actually has very little rain (less than, say, most parts of Germany, and with regards to bad weather, the general advice is that if you don’t like it, wait five minutes.

      That last bit goes for most of the British Isles, and this (and the stunning sunsets it gives you) is what makes weather actually pretty nice.

  41. WWWebb says:

    Funnily enough, I did exactly this. I was working a computer job in Atlanta where I worked from home most days and went into the office once a week for a staff meeting. When my family started growing, I moved back to my much less expensive hometown to be close to family. Calling into the weekly staff meeting didn’t change much, and I’m pretty happy with my decision.

    That said… once my kids got to be of a certain age… well… I went out and rented myself an office out of the house. Sometimes the productivity boost is worth the expense.

  42. Disc says:

    I’d probably stay where I’m at for the time being. Real estate is relatively cheap out here in the boonies and living ain’t that much cheaper or expensive compared to nearby towns and cities. Only downside these days is the dwindling population. Used to be a town of near 11,000 people 10-15 years back, but after certain capitalist bullshit happened and lots of jobs were lost, we’ve been taking a steady nose dive in population. Most of the young people moving away to study and after jobs and rarely if ever coming back, significant amount of elderly people dying off natural causes with an inverse amount of new babies born and people moving in, all resulting in going under 8,000 in population somewhat recently. It’s not dead yet, but give it a couple more decades and I don’t know if there’s much of a town left.

    1. Zak McKracken says:

      I used to love cosy small towns.
      After having lived in successively larger ones, I probably wouldn’t want to go back. They’re just so … small. Less diversity, less life happening, less culture (except for the traditional folk club-thing), much more xenophobia …

      … but then I spent a few days in a peasant village in the Romanian mountains this year … definitely a beautiful place, people are incredibly welcoming to strangers (they almost forced us to have lunch with them, just because. One guy said he wouldn’t rent rooms to tourists but would let anyone sleep in his house for free if they asked.)
      Then again, I think I’d miss many of the urban amenities after a short while, and I’m sure there are boundaries to that welcoming attitude.
      People did seem to have a very set way of doing things…

  43. MadTinkerer says:

    Wherever we (my brother and I and possibly future spouse(s)) move to, I need a big enough house for everyone, and a certain minimum “tech culture” in the area.

    For example, where we live is mostly rural and was completely rural for a long time. But then the military put a base nearby, and tech contractors latched onto the opportunity like lampreys on a shark. As a result, I am finding plenty of 1990s, 1980s, and even sometimes 1970s tech books at library book sales and thrift shops. Sometimes they are “ninja’d” by resellers who notice there’s enough of a demand for them to be worth something, but there are enough reliably obsolete books that I could totally make several kinds of old computers from scratch if I wanted to put in the time and effort to track down parts (or sometimes there are kits available if you know where to look on the Internet).

    Sadly, old software is becoming harder and harder to find and our old floppy collection was almost completely destroyed in the move because some “professional mover”, whom I need to track down and beat to death someday, packed magnets in the box next to the disks. So that’s one reason why I haven’t actually built my own classic IBM clone yet. But I can read about it thanks to those books.

    My point is that without the local tech culture I’d be forced to rely on the internet for all tech-related things. If all of my neighbors are Amish, that’s great for them, but farming and analog crafts are not my hobbies or intended profession. If all of my neighbors don’t even speak English… I probably wouldn’t live there. My French isn’t as fluent as it used to be and my every-other-language isn’t good enough either.

    I’m not super picky, but I need the tech culture for my kids and future digital hobby support. I eventually want to make my own arcade machine (not just a MAME cabinet with a modern monitor, but my own original arcade machine with arcade standard CRT monitor and other parts(possibly spinner controls!)). For that, a relatively local arcade parts supplier is a must, and there are plenty in this state.

    I might just stay in New Jersey. I don’t like the taxes here, but it’s not as awful as California, and most of the other places with equivalent tech cultures are more expensive to live.

  44. MichaelG says:

    Your problem Shamus is that you have a family and need a lot of space. For a single person, Silicon Valley isn’t that bad. There are lots of apartments to choose from, so I moved whenever I changed jobs. No long commute. Yes, the apartment is more expensive, but you can share it.

    Gas is expensive since California taxes are high, but if your commute is short, this won’t be a huge expense. Food and entertainment aren’t too bad. I’ve had relatives from the DC area claim dining out here is cheap. In any case, it all depends on how expensive your tastes are. A high end restaurant is expensive anywhere. A decent Chinese place in the valley is only twice as expensive as McDonalds.

    You can’t get the high salaries unless there are a lot of companies competing for you. If they know you can’t change jobs easily, they won’t pay as much. So you want the crowds.

    The biggest problem I have with the Bay Area is the NIMBY attitude towards construction of new housing. Apartment dwellers are regarded as second-class citizens, and so apartments tend to be zoned together into huge apartment ghettos. And building high rises seems to be forbidden (or approvals are just too slow and expensive.) It’s bizarre to me that in a place where land is literally a million dollars an acre, they cover the valley with single family housing.

    So it’s nothing that can’t be lived with, and nothing that a few policy changes wouldn’t fix. I understand your reluctance to move, but the Bay Area is one of the world’s great metro areas, with some of the world’s best climate and scenery. Don’t just shake your head and wonder how anyone could stand to live there.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      I think his point is that he doesn’t understand why companies want to live there. I think you’re right, as far as individuals are concerned, but from a tech company’s perspective opening up in silicon valley is like opening up a coffee shop across the street from a Starbucks. There are certainly advantages to it, but there comes a saturation point where, after so many coffee shops open in the same area, it might be better to spread out a bit because the disadvantages of the competition start to outweigh the advantages.

      I think you are getting at an interesting point, however, regarding the redistribution of people as more telecommuting becomes possible. From my broad understanding, it seems like people are both spreading out to suburbs and converging on urban centers at the same time.

      The former seem to be following the same line of logic Shamus lines out–specifically, if they don’t have to commute for an hour to get to an office, they can live in a place with a big yard and ample privacy. The latter, however, seem to be favoring “walkable” neighborhoods–after all, if you don’t need to commute, why even own a car if every service you need is in walking distance?

      It’s interesting, because the two approaches conflict with one another from a city-planning standpoint. While “walkable” seems to be the trendy buzzword of the day today, I’m not sure which philosophy is actually winning out. Obviously, this isn’t just happening as a result of teleommuters, but I think internet technology adds a dimension to the current standing of these two philosophies.

      1. MichaelG says:

        Some of it is just age. When you are younger, you are working longer hours and don’t hit rush hour on your commute. You can share an apartment to cut costs. You want the night life and many interesting things to do. So you stay in the walkable urban areas.

        When you are older and have a family, you are not job hopping as much. You want stability and lots of space for kids/dogs, etc. So you move out to the suburbs.

        Silicon Valley has very little urban core. It’s basically a 70 mile stretch of suburb running along both sides of the bay. It’s anchored at the ends by cities — San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, but everything in between is single family houses and malls, with stretches of apartments or 3-story office buildings.

  45. Zaxares says:

    Seattle. Specifically, the outer suburbs of Seattle. My ex lives there, and while the relationship is long over, I immediately fell in love with the climate and landscape there. Plus, it’s quite a “geeky” city. If I ever get a chance to settle in the US, I’d want to live there. :)

  46. Rick says:

    I don’t know, but my family and I have been putting a lot of thought into it. 18 months ago we were paying $330 for our mortgage, rates and insurances in Invercargill, NZ… then we moved for more stability after having a kid. Then got screwed over by an employer, and have ended up living in the most expensive city in NZ, Auckland… paying $500 a week in rent with a large commute to work and the cost of everything else went up too.

    I’d love to work remotely and live near a beach (easy in NZ) but for now we need accessible specialist healthcare for our two kids.

  47. Dreadjaws says:

    “… so if you live on Coke and Doritos…”

    Oh, silly Shamus, Doritos only go along with Pepsi or Mountain Dew.

    I wish I could contribute to this experiment. I live in South America, but working online is not an option for me, at least not right now (and certainly not on my current job, in which working online is perfectly doable but my higher-ups are old “get off my lawn” types who apparently fear technology, even though 99% of my work depends on it).

    And even if I had enough talent for a Youtube show, their revenue program is not available in my country, so I wouldn’t get any money there.

    I had a friend who lives here and worked for Gamersgate (the digital download games service), and apparently did pretty good until he was laid off following a change of ownership, but I never actually asked him how he got that job (actually, I probably did, but I don’t remember it).

  48. Halceon says:

    If I wasn’t so averse to driving a car, I’d be living 5 kilometers outside my current city. The local purchasing power in Riga is horrible, but moving out just a little bit the prices drop steeply. If you add American tech wages to the thing, it could be basically paradise.
    Also, 2nd or 3rd fastest internet in Europe.

    Well, the weather can be fucky, sometimes. But nothing catastrophic, only very cold in march.

  49. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I had the semi-romantic notion of working out of an RV and just driving around the country. As for settling down. I’d love to live in an underground vault. Fallout Style, though hopefully less buggy.

  50. Vipermagi says:

    I’d probably move to my parents’ place again. I don’t have a reason to leave Tilburg; it’s home, internet is fantastic, I know my way around. It just gets so lonely living on my own after having lived with up to seven people (four sisters) in the same house for twenty years.

    (‘in global terms’, I live in most big cities in the Netherlands ;) )

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      If you’re ever gonna do that, go ahead and do so. Take it from someone who has lived alone for over ten years. You eventually get used to it and dread the thought of living with people again.

  51. arron says:

    In the cyberpunk novels/games, it seems that location isn’t an issue. Because only a fast internet connection is the only major requirement to be connected to the world, people live anywhere. IIRC, the protagonist in Snow Crash lives in a cargo container. In Deus Ex, some of the major characters live on boats and planes. Other novels and stories I’ve read, people seem to live in slums or in vehicles.

    I suppose given a choice, I’d like a TARDIS. Capacious and able to store everything that I might need. It can go anywhere in time and space. It’s has excellent telephone connectivity and a fast internet link.

    And if you mess with it, it will explode and take the universe with it.

  52. Patrick the Squatter says:

    “If you could move anywhere, where would you live?”

    Back into your basement.

  53. Patrick the Squatter says:

    I think you’re overlooking the obvious, to an extent. You touched on the point that having a company located in close proximity to other, similar companies provides for a steady supply of qualified candidates. Both with experience and those without. If you need an experienced (insert tech job) then you can always easily go out and pilfer from a competitor. You would pay a premium, but you would be gaining inside knowledge and weakening a competitor as well. Dual purpose.

    If you needed a raw recruit, then where else would you find so many? Every 22 year old with $100k in student loans is going to be carpet bombing Silicon Valley with resumes. If you started your company in, say, Indianapolis then your pile of fresh meat is probably much thinner, and of lesser quality. I can’t say for certain because I’ve never worked in that industry, but I have a feeling that in no other modern industry is your product so directly linked to the quality of your workforce as the software industry.

    There’s also local services to consider. Does Indianapolis have a local cable provider capable of servicing someone with your bandwidth demands? Are the local internet providers even accustomed to dealing with a company like that?

    Even weather would be a factor. If you ran a company like, say, Steam or EA your customers depend on your server availability 24/7. Would you want your customer base to experience service problems because there’s a snow storm in Indiana?

    120 years ago Pittsburgh went from a tiny little nothing town to one of the world’s richest cities (that’s true BTW. In the late 19th century western Pennsylvania had more millionaires per capita than any where else on earth BY FAR) because it had the 3 ingredients required to make steel, a large amount of unskilled immigrant labor willing to do the back-breaking work and a built in transportation network (the rivers) to deliver it cheaply and quickly. I would imagine the growth of Silicon Valley has a similar story.

    Nowadays steel is made in Mexico and China. What about code?

  54. Dev Null says:

    I’ve been on-and-off folowing the career of AC Weisbecker for a couple of decades – he’s a writer and a surfer, and with much the same thoughts you express above moved to the end of nowhere Costa Rica several decades ago. (Besides, the surf was good.) He was deleriously happy.

    Or at least that’s where he was the last time I checked in, which was probably 10 years ago. So before I mentioned him as a plug for ditching the States, I thought I’d go check in. Turns out he left the town he was living in over a real estate dispute – depending on who you believe, the original owner was run off the land by drug dealers, so while Weisbecker bought it fair-and-square the folks who sold it to him had no right to it – and a double-murder. I haven’t read his latest book yet to find out the details, but… let’s just say another moral of the story is that there are some advantages to the high cost-of-living here.

  55. SlothfulCobra says:

    My favorite class when I was getting my degree was the economics of where people live. From what I remember, it’s way more expensive to live in a city, but when people do live in cities for a while, by the time they come out their earning potential has been multiplied a bunch.

    The reasoning behind things like silicon valley is that industries that need highly skilled workers try to cluster together so that they can steal workers away from their competitors more easily, and also any infrastructure needed for the industry to function can be centralized. I think it’s similar with Hollywood in Los Angeles, there’s all sorts of resources available specific to the movie business, and there’s actors all over the place. There’s even a significant amount of Youtubers who move out to LA because of the opportunities there, even though they can technically work anywhere in the world.

    Clustering is also super relevant to where you live, Shamus. Pittsburgh used to be the center of the iron, steel, and glass industries. Those industries used to need a lot of highly skilled labor. Puddling and glassblowing used to be really hard to do and learn to do, but when people figured out how to mass-produce iron, steel, and glass, all the industry moved out of the city to where land was way cheaper. I wrote a paper on it in college.

  56. Adam Haase says:

    I’d live back in my old home town area of Skagit County, Washington. I grew up in Sedro Woolley, and honestly, I have dreams of moving back there and starting a software company. On lottery winnings, of course. Oh, and I’ll buy the castle that someone built there too. :) (http://www.anacortesliving.com/WA/Sedro-Woolley/28523-Bacus-Rd/463152/direct)

    I work in Seattle right now, which is an expensive place to live. I’m currently in the process of buying a home in a county next door to it because 1) I can actually AFFORD a real house there, and 2) It’s half the distance my old place was back to Skagit county. My girlfriend lives there and she has family there and it will be a lot easier for her commute-wise.

    For software companies, even if you NEED office space, it would be so easy to just rent a cheap office far out from the expensive overpriced cities. The only issue you’d have is finding people who either don’t mind living close by, or are willing and able to work from home exclusively, and produce well from home.

  57. wumpus says:

    Having recently returned from a visit to sunny West Africa, where the cost of living is quite low, I think I have a bit of perspective on some reasons (other than the obvious one) why it’s perhaps not an optimal strategy to telecommute from places with low cost of living…

    Reason number one would be unreliable infrastructure. Which really breaks down into several subreasons relating to transportation (So they grounded all of our airline’s planes today…), communications (Well, the wireless is up, but the Internet’s down…), power (How often do these rolling blackouts happen, anyway?), etc. Note that other bits of ‘infrastructure’ that we don’t usually have to think of fall into this category as well. (Water, sewer, legal system…)

    I’m sure there are other reasons, but really that one is pretty much a show-stopper for most people, especially if they actually hope to get any tech work done and delivered.

    1. Purple Library Guy says:

      Neat handle. When I was about 13, I actually typed the “Hunt the Wumpus” game into my TRS-80 computer with 16K of RAM and hunted down my typos so I could play it. Saved it to a cassette tape.

  58. Blackbird71 says:

    I happen to live in California, and work for a major tech company, but not located in Silicon Valley (although company headquarters is in Silicon Valley, I’m just at a different site). I’m definitely not an expert on any of this, and can only speak to my own observations as to why so many tech companies gather in one location, or why individuals or companies don’t do more work remotely.

    Part of it is no doubt as you observed, that often it helps for these companies to be near each other, as they may collaborate on efforts, or be customers/suppliers of one another, or hire from the same pool.

    Another aspect is the “silicon” part of Silicon Valley. Not everything that goes on in tech companies is software and programming. A significant portion of the tech industry is hardware design and development. In order to do a lot of the work on hardware, you need to be physically in the same place as your project. This means having your employees coming in to work at one location, and potentially being near other companies that either have input on the project (customers, collaborators, etc.), or who may be needed to supply certain components needed for your hardware. The alternative is constantly shipping your hardware to and from multiple locations, and that gets costly, both in terms of actual shipping expenses as well as time spent waiting for some piece to arrive before you can do anything. Having central locations, whether within a company or among multiple companies, makes these sorts of logistics much simpler.

    When handled properly, yes, working remotely can be a great boost to a company’s efficiency or a way to reduce costs for both employer and employee. However, one thing that I have come to learn in my time at this job is that even with video conferencing, virtual meetings, instant messenger, remote desktop control, and all of the other methods of digital communication that we have at our fingertips these days, there are just some exchanges that are handled more easily and efficiently face to face. There are limits to what you can do virtually in terms of what can be effectively communicated. In the end, no matter if the job is hardware, software, or in a completely different industry, there will always be a need to get two or more humans in a room together in order to complete a project. This is why I still come into work nearly every day, even on days when I don’t need to use a particular piece of equipment and could theoretically just do everything from my couch at home. It’s also why companies still have office buildings where employees come into work each day, and why some companies find it effective to be located near other companies, even if the costs at that location are higher than they would be elsewhere. For many situations, it’s still just the best way to get the job done.

    1. Anachronist says:

      I was struck by a similar thought when reading Shamus’s post: It’s written by a software developer, for an audience assumed to be other software developers.

      There’s a ton of stuff going on here in Silicon Valley that isn’t software: medical devices, pharmaceuticals, cloud storage hardware companies (SanDisk and the like), mobile device developers (Apple, Samsung), and even high-tech cars (Tesla Motors), solar energy/renewables (SunPower), etc. Software plays a part, sure, and some of that is remote work. Core developer teams who guard the crown jewels are emphatically NOT remote, such as the army of developers working at Oracle Headquarters – those Oracle developers in India or China don’t get to see proprietary source code.

      But for the non-software side of things, remote work often isn’t practical, particularly when companies, and many employees, recognize the value of face-to-face interaction with team members and colleagues. Even if you’re a software guy, the job is more fun if you’re involved in creating something real and tangible, like, how cool would it be to write the embedded real-time code for a Tesla car, or be a developer for Google’s self-driving car, or make a great new app for Samsung phones? (i.e. Milk Music was created by MSpot in Palo Alto, acquired by Samsung). Those software guys aren’t remote, they come to work to be in the thick of things.

      That said, a friend of mine recently moved his cloud IT services company from Silicon Valley to Denver. Denver had been a second location that grew to the point where more employees worked there than here, so it made sense to move the business, even though their datacenter still lives in San Jose. He tells me it’s a relief, after living his entire 50+ year life here, to be away from it. He misses the diversity of people, thought, philosophies, and food, but on the balance he prefers the more relaxed ambiance.

      1. Shamus says:

        Yeah, this is very true. Every valley company I knew about was in software, because I was in software. My mental image of SV is of a place that’s 90% software and 10% “other stuff”. I have no idea what the place really looks like, of course. It’s just the strange kind of distortion you get when you focus on one domain.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          It’s actually – if you consider just so-called ‘tech jobs’ – a very wide mix. Plenty of software companies, sure, but also many many more that don’t deal directly with software products.

          But then, it also depends where in the valley you’re referring to, to an extent. A lot of people put focus on San Francisco, which has heavier software focus, but it turns out that San Jose (and surrounding area) is a lot larger hub of a gigantic variety of tech companies. There’s a reason the freeways coming into the city are so backed up in the mornings… and the same going out in the evenings.

          It IS a nice place to live, if you ignore how much rent costs (and perhaps other things…).

  59. LassLisa says:

    Interesting. I’d live right here in Silicon Valley. Two nice little downtown areas within ~2 miles, good walkability, friends nearby, immediate family nearby, and the culture of the area is what we like. I’m regularly meeting people who are in to tech, science, science fiction, and linguistics; any cuisine I’m likely to desire is easily available (except Jewish deli and North Carolina barbecue); there are people from all sorts of different backgrounds and all over the world.

    I suspect much of this is available elsewhere; I have felt comfortable in much of Asia, notably Hong Kong and Beijing. But being white, well, Beijing loses some appeal. Being the obvious, ‘exotic’, outsider starts to wear on me after a while. And I’m not sure Hong Kong is any cheaper to live, even if my friends and family weren’t all in the states.

    New York or Boston would also appeal except for distance from family and the weather. Ugh, weather. I’d have to make new friends, also. That’d be tough. (I have probably 15 friends I see once a month or more; it’s really key to my mental health.)

    1. Anachronist says:

      I’ve been to several Asian countries. Singapore is the only Asian country I’ve seen where a westerner can feel right at home. It’s sort of like a Disneyfied version of San Francisco: Everyone speaks English (schools are taught in English) but they don’t speak English to each other on the bus or subway (just like San Francisco), there are many ethnic Chinese living there (just like San Francisco), there’s a lot to see and do, and a wide variety of cuisines (just like San Francisco), but the bad parts are gone: it’s not as expensive, not nearly as dirty (quite clean), and there’s no violent crime. As an American, I found it odd that I felt more at home in Singapore than I felt in London.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I’ll second Singapore. I spent a week there and was really impressed. The government was extremely accommodating of my eccentric interests, much more than they are in the States. The cost of living is still high-ish (on par with the US) especially if you’re expecting some sort of yard or “suburban” lifestyle (which is basically a non-starter in Singapore without tens of millions of dollars). But, on the other hand, if you wouldn’t mind living in a huge high-rise filled with Chinese immigrants… maybe it could work out for you!
        I’m seriously considering moving there if my company starts making appreciable profits. But, for now, my day job is in the US, so I stay here.

  60. Galad says:

    Switzerland, I guess, as a stable, rich country. Or Norway, it gets a lot of good rep in this thread. Eastern Europe is pretty good for us young techies, but I’m worried it’s not going to be good for me when I’m old, or for my would-be children. If there’s any Swiss people still reading that thread, who would give advice to would-be qualified immigrant techies from Eastern Europe, please post.

  61. Angie says:

    If I could live anywhere I wanted, I’d actually move back to Silicon Valley. [hides under keyboard] I grew up there, I remember when Blossom Hill Road was lined with orchards, and how the carnival came every year before they built Oakridge Mall in that particular empty lot. It gets a little warmer than I like a couple dozen days every summer, but in general the climate is great. I love the area, they have a good transit system (I don’t drive, so traffic is irrelevant to me), and I have a lot of friends in Santa Clara County. I was on the staff of BayCon, the local SF convention, every year from its founding until a few years after I married and moved out of the area. I’d love to work that con again, and if I moved back, I could.

    Angie

  62. Paul Spooner says:

    This is a topic near and dear to my heart. I encourage everyone who has remote-access employment to consider moving into rural areas, or overseas.

    I think part of the stigma against this kind of thing is the “Extrovert Ideal” in the US, where being extroverted and going to parties and hanging out at bars and clubs is “normal” and being a shut-in is “unhealthy.” I’m basically a shut-in myself, other than work, and have often wondered how much of my cost of living is paying for proximity to social gathering centers that I have no desire to use.

    A lot depends on the extra-employment factors. My relative and my wife’s relatives are all in our hometown in Camarillo CA, and it IS hard being away from them. If employment and cost of living wasn’t a factor, we’d still be living there. But from a purely economic standpoint, Chile, and Singapore are at the top of my list.

  63. rayen says:

    I’ve been wondering what the challenges of living on a remote pacific island are. Maybe like the Marshall Islands or Guam? i haven’t heard terrible things. The only problem is if you aren’t grandfathered in the taxes are ridiculous. I know that’s true for Hawaii but i don’t know about other US and UK islands.

    Non-economically speaking I’d like to live in northern Japan, not the major middle cities that overcrowded but up north where history and interesting stuff is a a few hours away. It doesn’t make economic sense but ideally.

  64. Chaz says:

    I grew up in the UK and moved to New Zealand when I was 29. It’s sometimes tough being this far from family, but we won’t be going back. Cost of living is fairly high here but luckily we got on the property bandwagon before it exploded (in about 2002) so we’re pretty comfortable.

    The UK has a lot going for it, but the weather’s pretty grey and I find the class system irritating. Here feels generally less toxic, and kids get to grow up more slowly. We settled in Auckland, but if I was looking for a place with a vibrant tech culture (loads of cool start-ups) and easy access to full-blown LoTR scenery, I would go to post-quake Christchurch. The rebuild is fully under way now, and there’s a wonderful can-do spirit in the city.

  65. Uh, actually this IS happening. I have a ton of Facebook friends who have moved to China, Taiwan, Korea, etc. for PRECISELY this reason. People applying to actually GIVE UP their US citizenship (not necessary to simply live in another country) and become expatriates has SKYROCKETED in recent years–largely because they’re sick to death of having to pay U.S. income taxes.

    The worst problems they tell me about have nothing to do with the availability of their favorite soft drinks or electronics, though. It’s more about their daughter getting sick because their housing complex is covered in lead paint so they had to move at a week’s notice or the fact that their water just gets randomly turned off seventeen times a week, sometimes for more than a day, usually when they’ve just gone for a run and need to shower so they can go to work. A few live behind the Great Firewall of China–but they can avoid it by using a VPN.

    That and the smog in China is reputed to be HORRIBLE, every bit as bad as everyone says it is. Those breath masks are not just for fun. From what I can tell, what you miss most is stuff like ready access to public toilets that don’t consist of “squat over a hole” (oh, and bring your own toilet paper), hot water whenever you want it (even the best places, you fire up the hot water when you’re about to use it, you don’t just keep the water heater on all the time).

    If you’re concerned about your health, too, things like lead content of food can be worrisome. It depends a LOT on your lifestyle. If you want to live LIKE an American, driving everywhere, shopping in huge one-stop stores, living in a spacious home with regular utilities, and not having a trip to the bank take you four hours and involve near fist-fights with four strangers, then you need to live in America or possibly Canada or (much of) Europe. If you like to walk/bike, don’t mind cramped quarters, and don’t feel isolated or weirded out living and working crammed in with a lot of other people you don’t understand particularly well, and the utilities going out doesn’t bother you, you can live just about anywhere pretty comfortably.

    If I COULD move ANYWHERE (and afford to live there), I’d probably pick Hawaii. It really is gorgeous there. Granted, it’s expensive as all heck, too, which is kind of missing the point of this exercise. Or maybe the Philippines.

    1. Blackbird71 says:

      I’ve lived in the Philippines. I enjoyed it, and would go back to visit, but I don’t think I’d ever want to live there permanently. If you have an income in U.S. funds (that isn’t adjusted to where you live), you can be very comfortable there, but you still have to contend with all the issues of a 3rd-world country. This includes disease, poor medical care, limited education opportunities (important if you have kids), pollution (and not just the general bad air/water type; there is garbage left in the open everywhere), etc. There are a few tourist spots in the country that are kept pretty clean, and if you only visit those locations you many not notice everything else, but outside of those areas the state of the country becomes very clear. It’s a shame really; if you look past all the problems it’s a naturally beautiful country that could easily be another Hawaii. If only the government weren’t so corrupt, maybe they could make it into a much nicer place to live.

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