I departed from the United States in 2017 in favor of living as a dividend expat abroad.
More life for less money could seemingly be had in a number of other countries around the world. Geographic arbitrage is a powerful concept, especially when combined with FIRE. I felt like it was too powerful a combination to pass up.
So I set my sails on Thailand. It seemed like a great choice to live out my early retirement dreams. Life here has been fantastic thus far. I have zero regrets.
But Thailand is not perfect. Nowhere is perfect. And it’s getting more difficult to live here long term as a foreigner due to new visa restrictions.
After sharing some of the visa changes in Thailand, I came across an interesting observation from a reader in a comment left on the blog.
Here’s what a reader said:
Ultimately, you’re always an outsider.
The context behind this remark insinuated that this was a bad thing.
But is it? Is being an “outsider” in a foreign country a bad thing?
I don’t think so. In fact, I’d argue the opposite.
I Was An Outsider In The United States
First of all, I was an outsider way before I became an expat.
I was already an outsider in the United States.
Once upon a time, I was like many other Americans.
That is to say, I was broke, spent too many hours at a job I didn’t like, consumed like crazy, and aimlessly ambled into the future.
Then, in my late 20s, I decided to get my act in gear and start marching toward financial independence and early retirement.
Staring off below broke at 27 years old, I found myself financially independent and retired at 33. It took six years to go from zero to hero.
As eye-opening as the journey to FIRE was, and as wonderful as FIRE is, it made me an outsider.
I eschewed the “American Dream” for my early retirement dreams.
This created distance between me and most other Americans, frankly speaking. I became different. And that isolated me.
I didn’t want the house, two cars, children, the big paycheck, a bunch of stuff, or any of it.
Now, if someone else wants all of that, I think that’s just fine. It doesn’t bother me in the least. In fact, my investments do better when Americans consume. By extension, I do better.
However, by abstaining from a typical American lifestyle, I didn’t have much in common with most other people. In addition, I could come across as eccentric to others. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t want what they wanted.
If I were to move back to America tomorrow, this would all still be true. I would be an outsider in the USA. I’d feel like a foreigner in a non-foreign country. I’d feel like an alien.
I’m An Outsider In A Foreign Country
This leads to where I’m now at, living full time in Thailand.
Am I an outsider as a foreigner?
I don’t think I’d ever not be a foreigner in a foreign land. That’s just the nature of things.
Look, I’m not Thai. I’ll never be Thai. Sure, I could learn the language. I’ve already learned much of the mannerisms and beliefs. I’ve really done my best to immerse myself in the culture. But that does not make me Thai.
The nature of this dynamic might disappoint some expats living in a foreign country, yearning to be fully accepted. Perhaps because of my experience of living as an outsider in the States, it doesn’t bother me.
If anything, I experienced a form of reverse culture shock upon moving to Thailand. I felt like I had more in common with this culture than the one I had left.
Furthermore, I’ve come to a very important realization since living here.
Being an outsider in a foreign country is actually way better and totally different than being an outsider in one’s home country. It’s perhaps even better than being normal in one’s home country.
Being An Outsider In A Foreign Country Is Not The Same
The way I was kind of cast out of society in the States came across to me as a negative thing. It was uncomfortable to feel like I was a square peg living in a world full of round holes.
In the States, I was an outsider for all the wrong reasons.
I was an outsider in a weird way.
On the other hand, being an outsider in a foreign country is kind of a sweet deal.
Over here, I’m perceived to be willing and able to just up and live in another country. This is not something a lot of people in the world are in a position to do, be it for financial or personal reasons. There’s a purposeful lifestyle choice being made there. And it makes you stand out in a special way. I possess a certain appeal here that I never had in the States.
Two assumptions are made right away.
I must be a pretty open-minded and free-spirited person to live so far from home. And I must have my finances figured out in order to sustain myself.
I’m now an outsider in a fascinating way.
Being fascinating is not the same thing as being weird.
People over here – foreigners and Thais alike – want to have conversations about where I come from, what it’s like to be so far from home, what led me here, how long I’ve been here, what I’m doing, and how I’m doing it.
With foreigners, we immediately have at least something in common. With Thais, I’m unique and interesting.
It’s a totally different set of conversations and reactions than I was having in the States.
I’ve gone from defending weirdness to exuding fascination, even though I haven’t changed who I am or what I believe in. I’ve only changed my environment and circumstances.
To be honest, I enjoy being a foreigner way more than being just another guy in the US – weird or otherwise. The distinctiveness is intoxicating, especially when your distinctiveness attracts others to you.
Sure, I’m an outsider in Thailand.
But I was already an outsider in the United States.
The difference is that I’ve gone from a weird outsider to a fascinating outsider. They’re totally different things. One makes you strange. The other makes you interesting.
I suppose I’ve always wanted to be different. But being different can be good or bad, depending on the situation.
I can say that being different is way better abroad than it is in the United States. It seemed like I perhaps repelled people in the US, whereas now I attract people.
I’m looking forward to many more years of living abroad and being a fascinating outsider!
What do you think? Are you an outsider in your home country? Ever been an outsider in a foreign country? Are they different?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you’re interested in achieving financial freedom and living life on your terms, check out some fantastic resources I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!