I don’t like America. There, I said it. While I’m very grateful to this great country for accepting me as a piss poor immigrant in the late 1980s while the communist project called Soviet Union was collapsing, something about this country always rubbed me the wrong way.
For a long time, I couldn’t understand what it was. After all, I was living in the richest country on the entire planet, a country that practically everyone in the world would give their right arm and leg for an opportunity to immigrate to. How can anything be wrong? Why would anyone want to escape it? What was wrong with me? This discomfort was like walking around with a little rock permanently lodged deep inside my shoe.
It was only after I began to travel (living two years in Brazil was the turning point), did I begin to understand that something was rotten in the State of The Land of The Free. What I ended up learning is that, contrary to popular belief, America isn’t the “best” country in the world due to its many problems and faults.
After living abroad for more than ten years, here are my main reasons why you should do the same:
1) You’ll enjoy a more comfortable and affordable standard of living
One thing I realized during my travels is that the rest of the world is not some shit hole everyone claims it to be, but is incredibly developed, and, in many cases, simply easier to live than America. Here in Kiev, Ukraine, buying a prepaid simcard for my iPhone is $3 and that provides me with 1GB per month (compared to a $75 prepaid AT&T card that you can buy in JFK airport).
In Thailand, I hailed taxis that were furnished with extremely fast WiFi connections. China’s Facebook rival WeChat is miles ahead of its American counterpart; you can use the platform for anything from keeping in touch with your friends to playing games to sending and receiving money. Even Uber, the world’s highest-valued technology startup, recently lost its war for the Chinese market to a very capable homegrown competitor. (It ended up selling its Chinese unit).
Don’t get me started on the immense value. In many parts of the world, you can easily live for as little as $1,000/month (often even half that). That includes everything. No, I’m not talking about spartan living such as camping in the woods and eating bananas all day. I’m talking about quality, well-functioning cities with solid infrastructure: Chiang Mai, Thailand; Medellin, Colombia; Vilnius, Lithuania, and many more.
2) You’ll enjoy higher quality, healthier and better-tasting food
Whether you know this or not, an overwhelming majority of food in America is not “real”: it’s synthetically made. For instance, pretty much all corn that’s consumed in America is synthetic, and its derivative—high fructose corn syrup—is considered by many renowned scientists to be dangerous and even poisonous.
But one doesn’t need to be a scientist to know the difference between “plastic,” tasteless tomatoes and their genuine counterparts; all it takes is a quick trip abroad. I vividly recall that special time when I took a road trip to a small town outside Florence, Italy and tasted a sandwich stacked with mozzarella and fresh tomatoes.
The feeling my taste buds experienced cannot be put into words. Those tomatoes tasted like no tomatoes I’ve previously eaten before. Ever. They felt, well, flavorful. It was like my entire life before that moment was black and white and it suddenly turned vivid color. A year later, I tasted even better tomatoes while living in Vilnius, Lithuania. After that experience, I could no longer look at American tomatoes the same way; as far as I was concerned, they were as good as the plastic ones you see on the tables gracing the showrooms of furniture stores.
The bad news is that American (and other) agribusinesses are quickly colonizing the world. For example, here in Ukraine, a country that at one point fed the entire Soviet Union thanks to its lush farmlands, most of the food is rapidly becoming mass processed. So, if you want to taste real food, you must go abroad. Soon. Like, right now.
3) You’ll speak your mind without being censored by the politically-correct thought police
The previous two reasons probably aren’t a surprise to many: everyone knows that America isn’t cheap (even if they don’t realize that they can get a better value elsewhere) and when it comes to food, people don’t care enough to change their habits. But there’s something else insidious that many people undoubtedly feel but can’t explain: political correctness.
Political correctness is a cultural construct that aims to reengineer human behavior to censor “offensive” or “might-be-possibly-taken-as-offensive” speech.
Not only does it censor “offensive” or “might-be-taken-as-offensive” speech, it also takes into the account the race and gender of the person who’s saying it, giving preference to people lower on the “racial or gender hierarchy.” For example, it’s much more forgiving for a black woman to say something offensive than for a white man. That’s because a white man is the highest on the racial/gender hierarchy (he’s a man and he’s white) than a black woman (she’s black and she’s a woman).
The problem with political correctness isn’t that it prevents racist or sexist remarks (direct discrimination is bad), but that it goes much, much further: it prioritizes the feelings of those who’re lower in the racial/gender hierarchy at the expense of those who’re above in the racial/gender hierarchy. It directly facilitates culture war.
This along with the inevitable shaming that occurs as punishment means that our society doesn’t really have freedom of speech that’s bestowed by the Constitution. It’s censorship, pure and simple. Where’s the freedom of speech if I can’t say something that may inadvertently be taken as offense by someone else?
Political correctness is a luxury bestowed upon rich countries (mostly Anglo and Scandinavian). In the rest of the world, people can’t be bothered to be offended at minor things; they have far bigger problems, like earning an honest living and providing for their family.
When you leave America, you’ll experience much more authentic and honest human behavior that’ll undoubtedly take you some time getting used to, but will make you a more resilient and honest man, both with yourself and others around you.
4) You’ll no longer be shamed for who you are and your beliefs
Most societies around the world are structured according national identity. In Ukraine, almost everyone is Ukrainian. In Russia, almost everyone is Russian. In Brazil, almost everyone is Brazilian. In Thailand, almost everyone is Thai. Of course, that’s assuming a homogeneous society: everyone looks similar and speaks the native language.
A Russian woman who lives in Moscow doesn’t need to join some “women’s group” like march for “women’s rights” or a “coding camp for women” because she doesn’t feel that her rights are being infringed by men in any way. Yes, she’s the “weaker” sex, but she’s very comfortable with being the weaker sex—she’s proud of it. There’s little need for gender-based ideologies such as Feminism.
In America, there’s no such thing as a national identity. Every human being is essentially an atom: floating in space and fending for themselves. The result is a society that’s organized around inner-societal shaming. Women are shamed for being the “weaker sex.” They’re also shamed for slutty or feminist behavior. Men are shamed for being weak (beta), while constantly being made insecure by comparison to those who’re stronger (alpha).
Every element of American society is also strongly divided along ideological lines: liberal and conservative. Need proof? Pick a random person on the street—anyone—and there’s a good chance they’ll have very strong views concerning a specific ideology or a politician. That liberal barista in a New York Starbucks might spit in your coffee if she finds out you’ve voted for Donald Trump; that farmer in rural Iowa will chase you down the street with a manure fork if you praise Obamacare (universal healthcare).
While there are many other liberal democracies around the world, this “divide” isn’t so widespread in other countries where national identity is supreme over political or religious ideologies. I first experienced this in Brazil. Later, this was reinforced in Eastern European countries such as Russia and Ukraine. Here in Ukraine, most people don’t have an overwhelmingly strong opinion about politics one way or another.
5) You’ll meet less highly entitled and self-absorbed individuals
Political correctness breeds the victim mentality, and that directly leads to entitlement: the privilege to feel and behave like a victim and, therefore, be offended at pretty much anything that one can possibly and theoretically find offending. Essentially, it’s the feeling that you’re being oppressed by others by their mere existence, without them having to do anything that adversely affects you.
“I’m a woman and men are bigger and stronger, make more money on average, so therefore I’m the victim and I have every right to get offended at men.”
“I’m a transvestite and conservative white men have enacted laws that prevent me from going to the bathroom of my choice, so therefore I’m the victim and have every right to be offended.”
“I’m a woman who’s had terrible relationships with men all my life. Therefore all men are jerks, and I have every right to be offended at what they do or say.”
Entitlement is a big problem. Instead of feeling humble and open to understanding the world—and perhaps realizing that you’re the one who’s wrong and that every other person isn’t conspiring against you. Entitlement prevents you from realizing that the problem is actually with yourself and not others.
Entitlement breeds selfishness. It gives you carte blanche to believe that you’re special, that your problems are truly unique to you only, that everyone should pay special attention to you, and that, consequently, everyone should sympathize and empathize with you. It makes you think that the world really does revolve around you.
Ultimately, entitlement is a barrier to self improvement and self actualization. Instead of prioritizing yourself to not care about trivial things and instead focusing on the bigger problems, problems that actually matter, problems that will make a real difference in your life, you artificially construct the “us vs. them” mentality in order to feel better about your trivial problems. Instead of digging yourself out of the proverbial rabbit hole, you’re digging yourself even deeper.
A society of entitled individuals is a society that can no longer function cohesively as a single unit. It’s a society that lacks empathy, mutual understanding, and spiritual growth.
While entitlement exists in countries all around the world, I’ve discovered that it’s mostly a factor in wealthy liberal societies that are infused with political-correctness instead of more traditional patriarchal societies.
6) You’ll clear your mind of poisonous advertising and propaganda
Americans are exposed to ridiculous amount of advertising every waking second of their lives. That means that each one of us is constantly being told what to do. That’s done by manipulating our emotions in creative ways, so much so that we can no longer feel them without something else—without doing something extra: like buying that amazingly-smelling cologne or that super fast BMW. It’s all done on a subconscious level; you’re not even aware of what’s going on.
Our emotions aren’t only manipulated—they’re also subverted. It’s no wonder that in highly developed countries such as America, many people are suffering from consumerism and neurosis. People don’t understand that happiness comes from within; not from maxing out your credit card bill on Black Friday or buying that 55th pair of shoes.
Mass marketing was invented in America and has gotten to a point where human beings aren’t viewed as actual, you know, human beings but as consumers whose only purpose in life is, you know, the consumption of products and services.
I’m always amazed at the sheer number of commercials whenever I return to America. On my last trip, I recall boarding a taxi at New York’s JFK airport, and being immediately pitched over the radio anything from low-rate mortgages to cheap insurance to special pills that “you should ask your doctor about.”
While the rest of the world relies on advertising to sell you stuff, it’s not nearly as penetrated in the developing countries as in the land where it was invented and gradually perfected over the subsequent years.
7) You’ll free yourself from the soul-destroying dog-eat-dog mentality
America is one of the few countries on the planet that rewards talent and skill above all else. Anyone, irrespective of religion, race, gender and ancestry, can come here and make it—provided they’re willing to work hard. Examples abound: movie stars like Schwarzenegger and Jean-Claude Van Damme came here with nothing but the clothes on their back and became extremely successful.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that American culture is inherently super competitive. Everyone is fending for themselves instead of cooperating. I was born in Ukraine, but there’s a difference between a Ukrainian (or Russian) in America and a Ukrainian in Ukraine (or Russian in Russia). The former are super competitive; the latter are much more down to earth and open to cooperation. My Mexican, Brazilian and Colombian friends who recently moved to America have noticed the same thing.
This super competitive mentality doesn’t exist in many other countries. When I lived in Brazil, I found the people super friendly and approachable. Same thing for people in Thailand, Indonesia and Lithuania. Even here in Ukraine, people treat each other as human beings instead of some competitor with whom one is vying for the same resources.
8) You’ll develop meaningful, deep and rewarding human relationships
Coming from an Eastern European background, I was used to having a couple of close friends whom I can call anytime and discuss any issues from making money to relationships. There’s even a famous Russian saying that when you’re having trouble with your wife, you show up at your neighbor with a bottle of vodka, and then discuss your problems well into the early morning.
In America, however, I noticed there’s a specialization when it comes to human relationships. Instead of a person having a couple of close friends, you have different people that serve different purposes. There’s a workout partner. There’s a running partner. There’s a business colleague. And then there’s a wingman with whom you go out to meet women.
One reason for such specialization is capitalism and the division of labor. Instead of asking a friend for relationship advice, you go to a therapist. Instead of asking a successful friend who runs a business for business advice, you go to a business consultant. Human connections are replaced by a consultant-client relationships. Advice becomes a service like any other.
I’m fortunate that, while I have plenty of acquaintances, I have about three close friends whom I trust and can solicit advice on all kinds of issues. I cherish their relationships more than anything. They’re all non-American.
9) You’ll stay ahead of the curve in the competitive global marketplace
If there’s anything that the current backlash to globalization has exposed is that there are actually two Americas: the haves and the have nots. The rich are thriving as a result of favorable capital and trade laws, while the poor are getting left behind because their wages are being slashed or their jobs are exported overseas altogether. While the richer are getting richer, the wages for the working class have remained stagnant since about the 1980s.
For the first time in more than 75 years, there are more young people living with their parents than renting their own apartments. That means that living standards are falling.
America is an expensive country. While people have a correspondingly nice salary, allowing them to afford a decent standard of living, in the big cities, the prices for living are so astronomically high that a well-paying professional needs another a roommate (or two) in order to make ends meet.
There’s also the astronomical cost of healthcare, one of the highest in the world, even when compared to other developed countries such as Canada and Australia. Having insurance may not really help: there’s a good chance that your deductible is too high, defeating its purpose in all but the most expensive cases.
While America is still a fantastic place to make money, its place in the world is gradually being eroded. Jobs are moving overseas. Asian tech companies are rivaling (and even overtaking) Silicon Valley firms. Many talented would-be immigrants (e.g., Indians, Chinese, Russians) are choosing to remain in their home countries instead of immigrating to America.
This means that next-generation technology will no longer be developed in America by immigrants, and, instead, this wealth will duly remain in their respective countries. Although this effect on American competitiveness won’t be noticeable immediately, it will gradually compound over the next years and decades.
10) You’ll be surrounded by beautiful feminine women who appreciate unapologetically masculine men
When I moved to Brazil, I experienced a complete culture shock: super masculine men aggressively approached women without any shame, and super feminine and sexy women actually appreciated and responded to such displays of brazen masculinity.
As someone who grew up in America, that kind of behavior not only made me uncomfortable, but I was pretty sure would also get me arrested in the bars and clubs of New York or San Francisco. Because in America, these things are different to such an extent that they’re confusing. Women are eschewing their feminine traits, and, men, feeling lost and confused, are letting go of their masculine traits. The result is a society that lacks the all important polarity. It’s a society where building and maintaining romantic relationships requires the constant intervention of a family psychologist.
If you’ve never experienced true femininity, then you’re in for a huge be culture shock. Don’t worry, once the shock fades, you’ll wonder how you’ve tolerated unfeminine and entitled women for so long.
11) You’ll regain your long-lost masculinity
These days, everyone seems to have an opinion of what “true” masculinity is all about. But as far as I’m concerned the definition is easy: it’s when you can be bold, unapologetic, raw and resolutely go for what you want without being shamed for your behavior by others.
Unfortunately, behaving like an unapologetic man is all but impossible in countries with politically-correct ideologies; PC cultures are about conformity, not masculine/feminine polarity. PC cultures are inherently anti-masculine and anti-feminine.
Thankfully, there’s still a world out there where men behave like men, women behave like women, and children are scared. It’s a world outside America; a world outside the West. And you’ll realize this the moment you step of the plane.
From temporary to permanent
In the beginning of my expat lifestyle, I’ve always thought that once the novelty of living in some exotic foreign country wears off, I’ll pack up and board the next flight back to New York.
But the more I’ve lived abroad, the more I’ve realized that there’s nothing more permanent than temporary. Repatriating to America seems less and less of a possibility with each passing day. Maybe in a few years, I’ll buy property here in Ukraine and finally settle down. Many of my foreign expat friends here in Kiev are planning to do just that.
Leaving America gives you an opportunity to discover a rapidly evolving world, a world where “the land of the free” is quickly getting eclipsed by other countries in value, stability, sanity and ease of life.
To be sure, America still has tremendous value. It’s the best country in the world to learn how to hustle and make money from nothing. Fortunately, you don’t need to live in America in order to make money hand over fist. Thanks to the Internet, one can live in one place while simultaneously marketing and selling an array of products and services to a group of people in another.
Once you taste the sweet nectar of what the world has to offer, I guarantee you that you’ll be cursing and kicking yourself for not having done it much, much sooner.
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James Maverick used to work in a cubicle as a code monkey in Silicon Valley. Then, in 2007, he quit his job and a one-way ticket to Brazil. Ever since, he continued to travel, visiting over 85 countries and living in more than a dozen of them. He loved his location-independent lifestyle and has no plans to live in America.