Although the United States remains a great place in which to make a home, the cost of living there has increased substantially over the past decade. Wages and property values have failed to follow suit, creating an awkward situation in which hard-working folks are forced to pay more than they should for everything from food staples to basic services like electricity and running water. Plenty of other places around the world offer economic freedoms and political stability at a fraction of the cost. Read on to learn about some of the best countries in which to live well.
After visiting Spain for the first time, many American visitors remark upon its similarities to California, another sun-kissed paradise defined by its proximity to the ocean. However, the country is decidedly less expensive, boasting one of the lowest living costs in Western Europe. While cosmopolitan hubs like Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia offer jaw-dropping deals on world-class dining, culture and housing, bustling seaside resort towns like Malaga, Mijas and Marbella provide a less buttoned-up atmosphere in which visitors can let loose.
Spain is more than just a string of Mediterranean beaches. The ecological wonderland of the Canary Islands, the country’s North Atlantic outpost, is culturally distinct from the mainland and attracts thousands of intrepid European and American visitors each year. Nearly one-third of Spain’s national parks can be found on these volcanic islands, which sport bizarre rock formations and unique oceanic forests that thrive in its mild climate. Points of interest include El Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, and the charming colonial capital of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Indonesia is a major Southeast Asian power and one of the West’s largest trading partners. Despite its new-found economic might, the country retains much of its pre-colonization identity. In contrast to some other countries in the region, its ethnic diversity is astounding as no single ethnic group dominates the population. Instead, the country’s major islands house culturally-distinct populations that remain fiercely protective of their traditions.
Today, Indonesia is dominated by banking centers like Jakarta and tourist playgrounds like Bali. While these places can be expensive relative to less-developed rural areas, they score high on quality-of-life surveys and attract European expatriates in droves.
With abundant mineral resources and unparalleled ecological assets, Indonesia’s natural environment makes it one of the best countries in which to live. Its rainforests are home to thousands of endemic bird, mammal and reptile species, including two critically-endangered species of orangutan. Many prospective residents gravitate to seaside towns on the country’s arcing Indian Ocean coastline, which stretches thousands of miles from near the Asian mainland to the northern tip of Australia.
Once a sleepy agricultural backwater, Malaysia has transformed itself into a vibrant resource-driven economic power. Parts of it, like the glamorous capital city of Kuala Lumpur, have become veritable playgrounds for the rich and famous. Bordered by the Indian Ocean to the west and the South China Sea to the east, Malaysia’s ample beachfront real estate earns it a place among the world’s best countries in which to live.
Despite their country’s increasing global visibility, Malaysians remain in touch with their roots: Buddhist temples and traditional pagodas dominate the mainland portion of the country, known as West Malaysia, while dark jungles and volcanic mountains define the close-to-the-land lifestyle of island-dwelling East Malaysians. Home to hundreds of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world, Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding peaks are a favorite destination for eco-tourists.
These days, folks looking for the best countries in which to live and play around the world have dozens of viable options. Ultimately, the process of choosing where to settle down is a personal one, defined by the particular needs and desires of individuals and their families. Before making a commitment, consult the suite of products and services offered by Live and Invest Overseas, the world’s premier international retirement and investment advisory group.