AFP 84 – Alex Rawlings: Where to live and expat problems

I catch up with legendary Alex Rawlings to talk about where to live in the world, the expat problem and his latest a-ha moments in language learning.

Alex Rawlings

I'm really happy to welcome back my good friend Alex Rawlings to the podcast. It's been a while and while we didn't get into a lot of language learning specifics, we did get to talk a lot about the topic of where to live in the world and the expat problem.

What are your thoughts on the expat problem? Be sure to leave a comment below.

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Show notes

  • Where to live in the world if you are location-independent
  • Difficulties living in a foreign environment
  • Positives and negatives of Budapest
  • The expat problem and possible solutions
  • What's new in language learning
  • And much more…

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Thanks to this weeks guest, Alex Rawlings!

  • Great episode! I’ve lived in multiple countries for lengthy periods, and I’m familiar with the expat problem.

    On the one hand, market forces encourage people to value living in a cheaper place, if they are willing to leave their family and friends. On the other hand, it feels a bit exploitative. As you said, if rent in Budapest Downtown costs half the price of Denmark or UK, it would be a bargain–although it’s unattainable for the average Hungarian with Hungarian wages. Soon enough, you will not be running into Hungarian neighbors.

    I’ve found that the solution is pursuit of community, and the willingness to live where the “average people” live. One can gravitate towards more middle- to lower-class neighborhoods in order to grow closer to the local people. I lived in Kiev in the far reaches of the suburbs. It took me 45-60 minutes to take transportation (bus+metro+tram) to the center of town. But I was dedicated and loyal to my host family.

    When I lived in Marrakech, I lived with a family, in a poor neighborhood on a street across from government housing. Again, I was dedicated to the family in whose house I rented a room. I was the only white person in the entire neighborhood.

    This approach gave me two advantages. One, I developed great relationships with these folks. I fought against gentrification by not going for the flashiest neighborhood. (I had a local friend who offered to rent me a place by myself in the Medina. I turned it down.) Two, I spoke the language *all the time.* No one in my neighborhood spoke English. Few even spoke French. In Kiev, there were only local stores. No tourists came there for any reason.

    Relationships are the key. Renting a cheap apartment in a nice area of town is probably neither good nor bad on its own. It’s how you relate to the people. If meeting and mixing with local people of various socio-economic groups is the focus, it will be hard to go wrong. If living in a bubble of Western people, shops, or restaurants is the goal, then it’s exclusive and doesn’t help the local community.

  • I have another quick comment. The discussion covered how outdated residency laws work. People who are mobile, thanks to the internet, are more flexible about residency than the laws assume. Immigration laws don’t fit with the current state of affairs.

    The same applies to the new immigrants coming from the Middle East and Africa. They are much more easily able to move these days, thanks to the internet. Granted, their motivation is different. But the means they use to move are similar.

    I hope that countries become more flexible in allowing the movement of people to where it makes sense for them to live.

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