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How We Chose Chile as Our Expat Destination

by Bonnie and Gary Paulsson

December 2005

The Final Cut

Okay, so now we were left with the following:

  • Costa Rica
  • Panama
  • Chile

Costa Rica is warm, amazingly beautiful, has a good system of education and health care and several more great features going for it! It also has about 250,000 Expats living there at any given time. We knew people who had loved living in and visiting Costa Rica. We ruled out Costa Rica because it seems that too many Expats have flooded in, bought property and have jacked up the prices of Real Estate to outlandish USA-type rates. Who knows, one day we just might have a vacation home in Costa Rica, but right now, it seems too closely aligned with the USA and the prices of the areas that were the most appealing to us simply shot through the roof. We feel we had just missed our opportunity in Costa Rica.

Panama was at this point our #1 most probable destination. We had some contacts there through mutual friendships and there is a well-developed network of Expat service firms. There was/is also a great deal of information available about relocating and living in Panama. We know, from all of the emails and phone calls we have received, that there are many of you living in this very nice spot right now or perhaps considering Panama as your future home or a place to invest in Real Estate. We will write more about Panama in just a minute.

Chile was a “Sleeper.” This country literally caught us completely by surprise. Compared to virtually all the other countries we had researched, there just was not that much press regarding Expatriation into Chile. We honestly could not find much in the way of Expat services on-line and while it HAD made the first cut, it actually had stayed there to this point because we simply could not find much information or statistics about Chile. The information we DID manage to find though, was quite positive.

After many more months of research we had gathered enough information on both Panama and Chile to warrant our first major expedition to find out what we really thought and felt. This maiden voyage, if you will, was to check out Chile and its potential.

Panama was dropped to position #2, because Chile came out ahead in many if not all of our final criteria. Here is how Chile stacked up against (well actually matched up is a better way to put it) the other possiblities. Below we have once again written our “Biggie List” in bold type and the comments in plain type refer to Chile:

• A Fairly Stable Government That Possessed A Low Likelihood Of Domestic Or Political Upheaval

Chile has a long tradition of democratically elected governments. In the late 1960’s Salvador Allende was elected President with a little over 30% of the popular vote. Allende was a Marxist/Socialist and when things started getting out of control, General Pinochet led the uprising and took control of the government. After approximately 17 years of continuing free market reforms and return of the country to a democratically elected government (runoffs are now required so it is no longer possible to have a President in office who did not receive at least 50% of the vote) things have been quite stable in this neck of the woods. Chile is a country whose time has come! The years of dictatorship allowed necessary reforms to be implemented and Chile now has one of the most stable governments and economies in the world.

• Economic Affordability

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Chile is not what we would consider a “cheap” country but housing, insurance, food and health care are all significantly below the USA’s norm. Also, on the Mercer International cost of Living Index, Santiago, Chile ranks 121 out of a list of 144 major cities from around the world. Panama City ranked as being significantly more expensive at #65.

• A Low Level Of Corruption

Chile is ranked #20 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2003 just behind the USA. Of course this was the 2003 Index and if they ask us, the USA is losing ground quickly.

• Out Of The Crossfire Of Terrorist Locations

Have you seen any media reports of friction between Chile and the rest of the world? Well, neither have we. Yes, there are a couple of border disagreements and some fishing territory disputes but Chile has not been in any foreign wars since the 1800’s. With the Andes on the East, the Pacific Ocean on the West, the world’s driest desert to the North and Antarctica to the South, Chile has been left largely to itself and has few, if any International enemies.

• A Low Level Of Poverty, Which Tends To Also Link Up With Our Next Item On This List

Poverty? There are some areas that are not considered to be thriving in the true sense of the word and there are those who are less fortunate but for the most part, the people of Chile are well taken care of. In fact, the words “of the people and for the people” actually seem to mean something here. While some people choose to live a simpler lifestyle, a more prosperous lifestyle awaits those who wish to work for it. There are people in every part of the world who prefer to not work very much and Chile is no different, but we do not know of anyone who has applied himself or herself who can not make a decent living here in Chile.

Excerpted from “Moving To Chile, Part Two: Chile Measured Up!” in Escape From America Magazine, Issue 76.

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