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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Nice places to for a U.S. citizen to visit and/or live. (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Nice places to for a U.S. citizen to visit and/or live.
Raymond Arnold
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I just signed a year lease, living in NYC. If I live frugally, I can have my student loans paid off within the year. Sometime thereafter, after acquiring a decent nest egg, I'd like to experiment a bit with my lifestyle before settling down and becoming The Man.

I can probably make decent money freelancing and hostel-hopping. Traveling and/or living temporarily in Europe (or elsewhere) is on the more extreme end of things I might try out. None of this is anything resembling a "plan" yet, I'm just musing, and gathering info. From what little I've gathered, actually living in other countries usually requires you to already have a job lined up. I don't know offhand what the maximum time you can stay "on vacation" is.

A lot of people here of U.S. origin seem to have some experience in various other countries. What prompted you to move, what places have you been, what'd you think of them, and do you have any advice for this sort of thing?

P.S: Hey Dad, don't freak out!

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Hobbes
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What do you like to do? What kind of things about a city or region do you appreciate? (e.g. history, scenery, mountains, night life, etc...) Any languages you're better at than others?

Hobbes [Smile]

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Raymond Arnold
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Right now the only language I sort of know other than English is Spanish. I don't know if I actually know enough Spanish to influence me towards Spanish-speaking countries rather than studying up on another language a bit and then dealing with a bunch of immersion.

I don't have a clear sense of what I WANT to do, I'm just aware that the range of things I've actually experienced compared to the range of things I COULD have experienced. Basically I'm exploring the options of how far I could push myself out of my comfort zone.

I enjoy hiking (whether in the wilderness or urban). I enjoy meeting random people and talking to them. (I know that some places have strong social norms AGAINST that, so avoiding those places would be important).

I don't know yet whether I enjoy meeting people when I don't speak the language very well. It annoys me slightly in NYC, but that's because I'm in a mindset of "I want to meet people and exhange witty jokes," (language barriers prevent wit from mattering much). But if I were a foreign country, the goal of "exchange wit" would be replaced with "find food and shelter" which would probably be compelling.

I like coffee shops (at least the American conception of them). I don't particularly like bars, or alcohol (although for social/work related reasons I've been making some attempt to learn to tolerate it better)

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Aros
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Singapore and Hong Kong are two of the better Asian options for expats. Both places are big hubs of trade, English speaking, and relatively easy to relocate to. Food and quality of life are a lot better than most of Asia.

I'd take Singapore in a minute, if my wife would let me. Big city, lots going on, high tech, super clean, good wages, phenominal food choices.

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Annie
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Asia is great because you can live there and make money pretty easily. Some countries are easier than others at getting visas, but a lot of times you can teach English and find an employer who will get you a visa. Alternatively you can get a visitor's visa and stay (usually 2-3 months) until it expires, take a little weekend trip to a neighboring country and come back and stay again. Most tourist visas allow multiple entries like that. I did that last year living in Taiwan - I was on an internship but it was cheaper for my employer to send me to Hong Kong, Japan and Macau than to go through the hassle for a more permanent visa. It was awesome.

Pretty much anywhere you go you can find expats to hang out with if you want. And you can usually find plenty of local friends who would love to befriend a native English speaker.

Europe is a little trickier on visas, I believe, and the cost of living is higher, but it's also supremely awesome.

If I were going to go cruise the world for a bit, I think I'd go to South America. Alas, I am a chick, and should probably not do such a thing alone.

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Annie
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And I'll agree with Aros that Hong Kong and Singapore are awesome, but I will not agree that food is better than most of Asia. You can get awesome food in any part of Asia and in the PRC it's incredibly cheap.

It's, like, entire nations full of Chinese food. What's not to like?

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Mucus
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I don't think that is a contradiction. While there's awesome food in any part of Asia, I'm fairly certain that Singapore and Hong Kong are at the top of the heap [Smile]

(For the person planning a worldwide trip, I've recently have been watching through Anthony Bourdain's No Reservation series. Good show and they have good episodes on both)

Separately, in Europe, I was recently very impressed with Istanbul and can highly recommend it along with Rome. I usually enjoy visiting cities that have both a long interesting history and a vibrant current culture, both were very good experiences.

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Aros
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I'm not saying that the native food in Hong Kong and Singapore is the best -- merely that the food available is. There's no place I've been that has had such rich, authentic food from throughout Asia as Singapore: Thai, Indian, Malaysian, Chinese, Philipino, and many fusions of them all.
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Raymond Arnold
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I had been leaning towards Europe, but you guys are doing a good job of selling me on Asia.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Right now the only language I sort of know other than English is Spanish. I don't know if I actually know enough Spanish to influence me towards Spanish-speaking countries rather than studying up on another language a bit and then dealing with a bunch of immersion.

I don't have a clear sense of what I WANT to do, I'm just aware that the range of things I've actually experienced compared to the range of things I COULD have experienced. Basically I'm exploring the options of how far I could push myself out of my comfort zone.

I enjoy hiking (whether in the wilderness or urban). I enjoy meeting random people and talking to them. (I know that some places have strong social norms AGAINST that, so avoiding those places would be important).

I don't know yet whether I enjoy meeting people when I don't speak the language very well. It annoys me slightly in NYC, but that's because I'm in a mindset of "I want to meet people and exhange witty jokes," (language barriers prevent wit from mattering much). But if I were a foreign country, the goal of "exchange wit" would be replaced with "find food and shelter" which would probably be compelling.

I like coffee shops (at least the American conception of them). I don't particularly like bars, or alcohol (although for social/work related reasons I've been making some attempt to learn to tolerate it better)

Well the Czech Republic suits a lot of these desires, minus the drinking. It is a very drinking oriented culture (largest consumer of beer per capita in the world), although you can avoid that if you choose- it will just put a lot of social situations out of your comfort zone.

As for hiking, we have beautiful and accessible countrysides, and Czech culture is BIG on outdoor activities, so it's a socially viable hobby.

As for social relations. Really, I won't make any definitive statements. For some reason, some people just get along famously with the Czechs, and others just don't. I fall right in the middle myself, but I'm a rarity on that score. Usually you're in or your out, and a lot of people are just out.

The only way you're going to know where you want to be, honestly, is to take a trip and include a number of possible destinations. Plan it out, and when you go on this trip, check out the local prices, the real estate, the stores, the transportation. Weigh the real life stuff that you'd have to deal with being there. A lot of people make the mistake of moving to a foreign country because they liked being there on vacation, or as a student. It's very common, and when they get there and they're not on vacation, and they're not a student, they are more disappointed than they should be. I just want to caution you to avoid that expectation trap. Everywhere you go will have drawbacks- it's the kinds of drawbacks that are the interesting part, really.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
I had been leaning towards Europe, but you guys are doing a good job of selling me on Asia.

TBH, the only reason I didn't consider expatriating to Asia was the fear of racism. There's a thing about the color of your skin- a lot of people will never see you as an authentic person if you're too different from them.

But I don't have enough experience to say if that would have mattered, just stories from friends who taught ESL all over Asia, who mostly felt they could never really find a place there. I went to a college with a very high Asian population, and I recall distinctly feeling that there were social circles exclusive to certain races- but that was a vastly different situation, in a country where Asians are still minority groups. You'd get the occassional- "oh, you know how to use chopsticks?" when most Californians have been using them their whole lives. And there were a number of overtly discriminatory things- "Asian only" barbecues and things like that- which seemed wildly inappropriate to me then, and still does. But that kind of insensitivity is, again, probably equally common, or moreso, among whites. Still, I think that experience set me off the idea of going to Asia. I think if there had been groups of Europeans at my University, I probably would have reacted in the same way.

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Teshi
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Yes, Europeans are surprised Americans know how to use a knife and fork (although, actually many don't since there is a different style of knife and fork use in the US).

I live in the UK with Paris only three hours away by train, which is pretty handy, and everywhere else in Europe, Africa, west Asia only slightly more by plane. For me, the UK is a good compromise: mostly everyone speaks the language I speak, for one thing.

Hiking is, of course, a big thing among certain social strata and cultures in the UK so there's a lot of allowance. Public Footpaths are ubiquitous so you can go walking near your home (my nearest rural footpath is about five minutes walk away) or in what passes for mountains and hills and rocks, or an afternoon meander along a river.

quote:
I enjoy meeting random people and talking to them. (I know that some places have strong social norms AGAINST that, so avoiding those places would be important).

I think this is a peculiar thing to say. I think most modern societies would be interested in meeting you, provided you were polite about it and you were in a situation where striking up a conversation is accepted.

You mention not liking drinking and liking "American style" coffee shops. There are coffee shops throughout Europe but I'm afraid drinking is much more normal and as an American you will be annoyed to find that many places such as coffee shops (well, really, everything) shut earlier than you would like, leaving the night to the pub and the bar. You will also find that America has the largest cup sizes in the world and aside from actual Starbucks and such your 2.75 euros doesn't buy you very much coffee.

For the UK you can get a two-year Youth Mobility Visa relatively easily which will allow you to work, or a five-year Ancestry Visa if you have, say, a Grandparent who emigrated from the country.

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Raymond Arnold
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The "coffee" I buy at coffee shops is just an excuse to hang out there for a bit, I actually like it a lot when places have small cup sizes.

quote:
I think this is a peculiar thing to say. I think most modern societies would be interested in meeting you, provided you were polite about it and you were in a situation where striking up a conversation is accepted.
I've been told by people who have travelled that in England, people very explicitly tend to ignore you. (I've also been told that by travelers from outside the US that New York is a surprisingly above averagely friendly place, so I'm wary of extrapolating my experiences).
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Wingracer
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I've never been there, but I hear good things about Costa Rica. I would like to take a trip there sometime.

I would really love to explore the southern hemisphere someday. We Americans seem to have a very euro-centric view of things. All we ever talk about is North America, Europe and Asia. Me, I'd like to see South America, Africa, Australia, south pacific islands, etc.

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Orincoro
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People very explicitly tend to ignore you *in London*. That doesn't hold when you leave the city. And truthfully, it doesn't hold up all that well when you're stay in the city for more than a few days.

Londoners ignore tourists- but that's a natural reaction, really. If you saw them with the kind of intensity that London does, you'd have coping mechanisms as well.

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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Wingracer:
I've never been there, but I hear good things about Costa Rica. I would like to take a trip there sometime.


I've lived there before. There's really mostly just 2 kinds of Americans there, backpackers and retirees, and mainly just backpackers. Hardly anyone between ages 30 and 60 can be found there from the US, outside the exclusive resorts. That said, I love the country and the people. the climate in most of the country is ridiculously rainy from May to December, but the rest of the year is spectacular, if a little too hot in the lowlands.

If you're going for ecotourism, the best stuff is found off the beaten path. If you're going to surf and get drunk, well, that's mostly ON said path.

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imogen
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From my (Australian) perspective - everywhere I have been is fantastic. I think more than working out where you as a US citizen will be comfortable, work where you want to go - what culture interests you? What history excites you? What landmarks do you want to see? Then do some research. Buy a guidebook. If necessary, learn some phrases in the local language.

That said.

Denmark (though I've only been to Copenhagen) is fantastic. Friendly, extremely English speaking, a great place to visit, and I imagine work in.

India - hard going in some respects, and I'm not sure about working in it without going via government, but so worth a visit. It will, if nothing else, change your perspective on the world. It is so vibrant, so chaotic, and so amazing.

Australia/NZ - very easy for a US expat. Lots of other expats, lots of resources. Some cultural differences but not that much. Some US groceries hard to find, but less so now Costco has opened in Australia.

Vanuatu - why not? Try a third world island nation. It is amazing, and you could probably get work (but it would be teaching English, and for not much money.) Beautiful country, amazing people.

And I echo what the others have said about Asia.

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Teshi
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quote:
I've been told by people who have travelled that in England, people very explicitly tend to ignore you. (I've also been told that by travelers from outside the US that New York is a surprisingly above averagely friendly place, so I'm wary of extrapolating my experiences).
I'm not exactly sure what kind of scenario we are talking here and without knowing that I cannot really comment. The 'explicitly ignore' sounds really specific, however.

British people are more reserved (perhaps?), but that doesn't mean unfriendly. The same comraderie exists in hostels as it does anywhere in the world.

One thing that might be what you are describing is something like this: say you and a friend are traveling and you're on a train and you sit down across from someone a train and you're chatting away. The person across from you will likely not interact unless you do. I suppose that would be explicitly ignoring someone.

Doesn't mean they're unfriendly, or they won't talk if you have something to say.

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kmbboots
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If you want to make friends easily and chat with random strangers, I suggest Ireland.
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Raymond Arnold
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The description I heard seemed to match up with Orincoro's "Londoners avoid tourists" thing. I was speaking to people from other countries, who had visited London. (The specific comment I'm remembering was from a Pakistani woman who said that in London, people wouldn't give her the time of day when she tried to ask for help on the street, but that in NYC, everyone she talked to stopped to help her)

I also heard from multiple French people that people in France don't like talking to strangers (I met a woman at SIGGRAPH who specifically came to an American conference because it was much easier to network)

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Mucus
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Two thoughts.

I think that a South Asian asking for help in London compared to New York, may very well encounter different barriers than a white person in the two locations. Maybe they didn't, but who knows, and it is just one anecdote.

The second thought is that for me, in general it seems that people are more immediately friendly in developing countries and/or smaller non-tourist communities. This isn't by any means a rule, there are exceptions.

But whether it's because of the novelty of outsiders, because a developing country has a bigger desire to create a good impression, because larger cities have more scammers/busier people, or differences in cultural standards on privacy/personal subjects, I think that there are differences.

That said, I wouldn't let those differences rule out potential destinations for you. I think that would be a bit of a shame, especially if you're white. There are plenty of people that are open to conversation, even in big cities. Especially if you're staying a while, a few unfriendly people shouldn't discourage you.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
The second thought is that for me, in general it seems that people are more immediately friendly in developing countries and/or smaller non-tourist communities. This isn't by any means a rule, there are exceptions.
This sounds plausible, but doesn't really address the question at hand. What is the difference between London, NYC, and Paris? (I'd think New Yorkers would, if anything, have more bias against a Pakistani woman than Londoners)
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Mucus
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Well, I'm not really addressing London v NYC v Paris, to be honest, I haven't noticed a huge difference between at least the first two. I was more addressing the comment that prompted this ("I know that some places have strong social norms AGAINST that, so avoiding those places would be important")

As for the latter, I would probably have to disagree.

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Amanecer
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quote:
What is the difference between London, NYC, and Paris? (I'd think New Yorkers would, if anything, have more bias against a Pakistani woman than Londoners)
I am not that world traveled, so please take this with a large grain of salt. But it seems to me that we Americans tend to underestimate how prevalent racist attitudes are in Europe.
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Raymond Arnold
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Your comment was directly following a statement about about NY and London, so it was a little confusing.

quote:
As for the latter, I would probably have to disagree.
Which latter are you talking about here?
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
I am not that world traveled, so please take this with a large grain of salt. But it seems to me that we Americans tend to underestimate how prevalent racist attitudes are in Europe.
According to at least two French women, it applies to French people interacting with each other (although it was certainly worse for Americans trying to interact with French people)
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Amanecer:
quote:
What is the difference between London, NYC, and Paris? (I'd think New Yorkers would, if anything, have more bias against a Pakistani woman than Londoners)
I am not that world traveled, so please take this with a large grain of salt. But it seems to me that we Americans tend to underestimate how prevalent racist attitudes are in Europe.
The difference consists of the random chance of interactions his friend had while in those cities. That is all it signifies.

People place way too much importance on anecdotes about cities for my comfort.

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Jeorge
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I just got back from honeymooning in Scotland. Very nice coastal cliffs to hike (as well as mountains further inland that we didn't get to), interesting castles, friendly people...

We had a great time, but hey, it was a honeymoon, so I think that's required.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
People place way too much importance on anecdotes about cities for my comfort.
Fair enough, but is there reliable non-anecdotal evidence you'd recommend?
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Your comment was directly following a statement about about NY and London, so it was a little confusing.

Yeah, sorry. I was responding the general, not the specific.

quote:
Which latter are you talking about here?
As in I would have have to disagree that New Yorkers would necessarily be more biased against a Pakistani woman. I wouldn't necessarily label it as racism as Amanecer is, I think there are issues about class-ism, immigration(ism?), and English exceptionalism that also play a role.

Of course, before we get sidetracked, I think you would probably encounter different barriers, so her experience is not particularly generalisable to you, even if we don't throw out anecdotes completely as a source of information.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
If I live frugally, I can have my student loans paid off within the year.

By the way, this is awesome.
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Raymond Arnold
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Hehee. I know. About 50% of my ability to do this (compared to my peers) seems to be the fact that I don't drink.
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Amanecer
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quote:
I wouldn't necessarily label it as racism as Amanecer is, I think there are issues about class-ism, immigration(ism?), and English exceptionalism that also play a role.
Fair enough, I'm sure I have a lot to learn on these issues. My thoughts are based largely on articles that I've read from those areas that seem to have a different attitude than what is common in the US.
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Wingracer
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I'm not at all surprised that a Pakistani would find New Yorkers more helpful than other people. Don't let all the talk of 911 or racist Americans fool you, New York is probably one of the most diverse cities in the world. Not only does it see tourists from every corner of the globe but there are people living and working there from everywhere. So, seeing a middle easterner asking for directions would be nothing new and no big deal.

Now some small backwater in Alabama or something, that might be a first for the locals.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
quote:
People place way too much importance on anecdotes about cities for my comfort.
Fair enough, but is there reliable non-anecdotal evidence you'd recommend?
No, not really. I suppose you could look at crime statistics and other data. Health stats might also be useful.

Non-anecdotal information about life in particular city is often as non-relevant about anectodal information can be. You just kind of have to go there and figure it out for yourself. Otherwise do what you're doing- just gather a bunch of opinions and think about it. Just keep in mind that people's experiences of different places are very dependent on who they are, how long and for what reason they were there, they're own attitudes, and etc.

People are very foolishly adamant and broad in their judgements, often for the smallest of reasons. A rude waiter, or a very friendly hotel clerk, can shade the whole story "English people are so nice!" to "English people are so rude!" It's a toss-up. Personally I put very little stock in other people's opinions of what whole national characters are like. It's always different for you.

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odouls268
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Nice place for a US citizen to live? On a security fortified walled compound complete with its own power supply, water source, and subsistence farmland. A bunker filled with freeze dried food and gold bars is desirable; and video games to pass the time as you await the impending collapse of society as we know it.
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adenam
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quote:
Originally posted by odouls268:
Nice place for a US citizen to live? On a security fortified walled compound complete with its own power supply, water source, and subsistence farmland. A bunker filled with freeze dried food and gold bars is desirable; and video games to pass the time as you await the impending collapse of society as we know it.

I know some people for whom this would be heaven.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
If I live frugally, I can have my student loans paid off within the year.
I see one of those loans is already paid off.

quote:
P.S: Hey Dad, don't freak out!
Are you going to get your stuff out of my house?
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Hehee. I know. About 50% of my ability to do this (compared to my peers) seems to be the fact that I don't drink.

And presumably did not over-borrow.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
And presumably did not over-borrow.
I don't know if "overborrow" is the word I'd use. I'd have borrowed more if I'd needed to, and I'd have taken longer to pay it off. I'd still be paying back dramatically more than the regularly scheduled payments. More relevant is that my career aspirations happened to point me towards jobs that made decent money.
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rivka
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Students who borrow a total of more than their (realistically) projected first year's pay are generally considered by financial aid experts to be overborrowing -- that is, digging themselves into a hole they are unlikely to get out of without a great deal of pain.
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Raymond Arnold
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Ah, didn't know that was an official metric (I know some people who could have used to know that).
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Orincoro
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Yeah, I knew one girl who borrowed a cool $200,000 to pay for a degree in English. I have no idea how she got approval for that volume of loans, but when I knew her, she was making $12,000 a year just like I was- but I didn't have any debt.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Ah, didn't know that was an official metric (I know some people who could have used to know that).

Not so much official as widely recognized.

quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
I have no idea how she got approval for that volume of loans

With loans that high, at least 3/4 of them were private. While it is strongly recommended that students go through their school even with private loans, the law does not require it.

Even if she did, if cost of attendance (tuition/fees + an estimated average for room/board + books + transportation + a couple other elements) at the school in question is $50,000/year (which, if I'm remembering which school you attended correctly, would only be true NOW (after several tuition hikes) if she was paying out-of-state tuition), then $200,000 is actually quite kosher. (Advisable is another question.)

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Orincoro
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She had gone to a different school- we knew each other after college. And even now, there's no way you'd need 50K a year at a UC. I don't think... even for out of state.

ETA: Can you believe I've been out of college for over three years now? I can't. I still think of the year as starting in September.

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Orincoro
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Regardless, in her case it seemed excessive and inadvisable. She was considering reneging on the loans and staying out of the country for 7 years to avoid the consequences. I don't think she ended up doing that, but she may very well have gone bankrupt.
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rivka
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UC Berkeley COA

Note: total for a student living on campus is $55,512.

Bankruptcy does not erase student loans. And both the Department of Ed and private lenders have VERY long memories. Defaulting on loans can have severe consequences for DECADES.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
Can you believe I've been out of college for over three years now?

>_<

No.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
ETA: Can you believe I've been out of college for over three years now? I can't. I still think of the year as starting in September.
I think of the year as starting in September, but it's reinforced by a) being when the new Magic block comes out, and b), more significantly, being when I was born. (School had nothing to do with it for quite some time - my college had month-long-semesters)
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
UC Berkeley COA

Note: total for a student living on campus is $55,512.

Bankruptcy does not erase student loans. And both the Department of Ed and private lenders have VERY long memories. Defaulting on loans can have severe consequences for DECADES.

So, that's out of state with zero grant money? My goodness. That seems excessive.

My tuition was probably less than a quarter of that.

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