Still trying to decide which part of the world is right for you?
This week I’m checking in from Sumatra, Indonesia where I’m finishing up a 10 day scouting trip. The trip has inspired me to write this week comparing life in Asia (where I’ve lived in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines for extended periods) vs Latin America (where I’ve lived in the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Ecuador) to give you a taste of how life compares in both regions. Here it goes, I know we shouldn’t generalize but sometimes it’s fun.
Cost of Living: Both regions have low cost of living “areas”. For instance, I’ve seen in Asia… Vietnam, interior China, Indonesia and the Philippines are all cheap while other places like Hong Kong and Japan are bloody expensive. In Latin America, many countries that were cheap a few years ago are no longer cheap due to the fall of the dollar (like Colombia and Brazil). However, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina are Latin examples of still genuine low cost areas. Winner: Asia
Real Estate: All over Asia, the governments place tight restrictions on foreigners owning land and in most cases we can’t own raw land, only condos or co-owning a property with a local. In Latin America, most countries are welcoming to all types of foreign property investment and foreigners can own property outright in their own name. Winner: Latin America
Government stability: Wherever I go in Latin America I always seem to stumble across political protests and demonstrations, whereas in Asia the people are much more docile in that regard (with the exception of Thailand). Winner: Asia
Language Barrier: I’ve seen if you can’t speak the local language you miss out on a lot things. Thankfully, Latin American contries share a common language (Spanish) and it’s far easier to learn than most Asian languages. On the flip side, I have found more English ability among the locals in Asian countries. Winner: Latin America
Public Transportation: In both regions the public transport is good, you don’t need a car to live comfortably due to the cheap, frequent buses, taxis and trains. Asian has better train and metro networks, Latin America has more frequent buses. Winner: Latin America
Food: In Asia the food tends to be more spicy and often better “light” diet food. In Asia the staples are both rice and noodles with bits of meat mixed in, whereas in Latin America you will see more beans, rice and the meat on the side. Winner: Both Delicious.
Women/Men: Sorry ladies I can’t comment on the men, I only have experience dating the women…In my personal experience, women from both regions are beautiful, physically, Asian girls are more petite and Latin women are more curvy. As well, I’ve seen many Asian women “like to try to wear the pants” in the relationship whereas Latin girls are sweet but jealously can be an issue. Winner: No comment!
Nigthlife/ Entertainment: In Asia a night at the Karaoke with your friends is huge, while in Latin America they have more of the open-air “cafe” or “bar” culture similar to Europe. Winner: I can’t sing, so Latin America.
Safety: Without a prominent drug trade and with strict gun laws and governments, Asia feels a bit safer to me but both regions have their good and bad areas. Winner: Asia.
Expat community: With a more intense language barrier, very close-knit expat communities have fostered in Asia, leaving Latin America trailing. Winner: Asia
Weather: Both areas have great, warm weather areas but Asia’s flatter and more humid than Latin America. Latin America gives you more variety, for example, places like Ecuador where you can pick the perfect climate, elevation and humidity for you. Winner: Latin America
Ease of travel both in and out of country: In most countries of Latin America, just show up with your passport and get a quick, easy, free 3 month entry visa stamp (like Ecuador). On the other hand in Asia in many countries the visa restrictions are tighter and you often have to apply for a visa beforehand and multiple extensions are not permitted or difficult to do. Winner: Latin America
Medical care, Medical insurance: In both regions high-quality, inexpensive healthcare options exist, but in Asia I’ve seen they keep a little better care of their public hospitals. Winner: Tie.
Residency requirements: In Asia, they’re more strict. However, Latin America offers “get out of jail free” cards like the investor and pensioner resident visa opportunities. Winner: Latin America.
Personal freedom, liberty, law enforcement: In Asia, many governments rule their constituents with iron fists, limiting the Internet (like in China), placing strict special laws on foreigners who open businesses (like Thailand), or having ridiculous penalties for small offenses (10 years in jail for possession of marijuana like in Indonesia)…Latin America has none of that and most find the vibe very free and unrestricted. Winner: Latin America.
Treatment of foreigners: Asia is the land of extremes here, in some areas, particularly where few other foreigners venture (like non-touristy parts of China, Japan, S. Korea and Indonesia) the locals are amazingly sweet and treat foreigners like royalty (which can be annoying). But in other parts of Asia I’ve felt like not much more than a walking dollar sign… like in Vietnam and India. In Latin America, I feel the treatment is not too “over the top” in either direction, and the locals do genuinely embrace “outsiders”. Winner: Latin America.
Business opportunities: I’ve seen that right now Asia is better for employees, with a need for many types of skilled professionals the pay is relatively higher in many fields, while Latin America is better for entrepreneurs due to fewer regulations and more niches to fill. Winner: Depends on you.
Overall: For me, of course Ecuador and Latin America, it’s closer to my family in the States and just feels more like home.
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