Episode #
010

Moving Abroad Support and Counsel with David McNeill

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Episode Summary

How do you really know a culture? Immerse yourself in it! Travelers are increasingly seeking these authentic, immersive experiences in new places. Being unfamiliar with the basics, like how to get around, how to speak the language, which restaurants serve the real deal, and which serve a touristy rendition of local food, can be very difficult to understand the bigger picture. But there’s no need to fear because immersing yourself in other cultures is the best thing you can do for yourself.

David McNeill of Expat Empire joins Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski in another meaningful and educational episode of The New Nomad, discussing what it really means to be a modern nomad. In this day and age, the Laptop Lifestyle is truly convenient and at the same time, a new terrain to explore. People like David help other people achieve their nomad goals by ensuring that they are fully equipped wherever they go. They talked about how challenging but fulfilling the new nomadic lifestyle is and provided tips on the difficulties one would encounter in such an adventure. Truly an episode that takes you to different places!

From the episode

What You'll Learn

Timestamps

[5:14] Travelling for the right reason

[7:06] Watch, learn, and listen

[12:31] Getting set up and making friends in a new environment

[15:53] Countries that allow digital nomad status

[18:10] We’re all the same but different

[24:23] Why it’s good to go to real experts that to specialised Google experts

Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to the new Nomad. We have a great guest today, David McNeill of Expat Empire will be joining us. But before Andrew Jernigan my co-host will join me with some really unique comments as he waits for his dog to arrive from Brazil. How you doing, Andrew? And how's the progress as a very typical Nomad issue?

Andrew  

Doing well, I do miss my dog, you know, we have so much to learn from animals. You know, let's dive into that I just let my cat out. This cat has travelled the world and living in Northern California to back to Brazil and a few countries in between this dog has been to Germany and you name it and is about to come back to the US. So this is that new nomad animals often so ignored, but yet, we need to learn from them. What do you think on that statement, Allen?

Allen  

Well, you know, it's it's interesting, you bring that up, because last night, I was watching the Academy Awards, there was a movie I saw this year called My Octopus Teacher, which was when somebody called me up and said, You've got to watch this movie. And they explained it to me as you know, way, this is not gonna work. But for those of you out there in the audience, it's about a gentleman, who frankly was burned out from being a nomad, was a photographer and decided to swim into a lagoon and develop the relationship, if you can call that with an octopus, and follows the octopus. What was it for Andrew like 324 days, basically the life cycle, and it was so amazing, the whole experience.

Andrew  

Watching that, of course, you recommended to me I went and went and watched it, seeing the journey of his learning process through it, my heart goes out to those who haven't experienced learning from an animal because we can learn so much by those who can't speak the way we do. And whoa, that's deep.

Allen  

It is deep

Andrew  

We learn so much for those who aren't talking to us also.

Allen  

Yes, yes. Very good. You know, it's interesting when you think about how the animals have been in the news. So this week, there's been a lot of press on how share has helped that elephant that had been caged for many years, I was listening to a podcast the other day, which talked about how the whales have have changed when when in the 1800s, the whaling vessels chase them they were in year one in pods. And by year two, they knew enough to split up and run for it. So I agree with you that I think that we could learn a lot from the natural world, can't we? And it certainly helps people with their own situations.

Andrew  

Yeah, there's migratory animals known as humans, that were quite nomadic all through time, whether it was the Silk Road, or the deserts or from the prairies, one continent to another. We're bringing on somebody today that talks to expats all around the world. And I'd love to see how he is. Is he an expat whisperer? I know he hears a lot. And I think he's going to bring us some some great insights from some of the things he's heard and discuss with people.

Allen  

Well, let's bring David and David. Greetings. Where are you today? And we'd love to hear at some comments. I may be an elliptical conversation, but I know that you have great conversations with people on a daily basis. Welcome.

David  

Yes, thank you so much for the opportunity to be here. It's great to be on the show. And I really enjoyed the intro there about being with animals. And it's definitely a documentary that you mentioned that I'm planning to catch as soon as possible. I've heard great things for many people on that. But yeah, I'm calling in today from Porto, Portugal, where I've been for the last year and a half. And before that I was in Berlin for three years and before that, and Tokyo for two years and moved out of San Francisco to make that all happen back in 2014. So that's a brief overview of my story, but happy to yeah, talk about what I've been hearing what's been going on, and anything that would be helpful or interesting to you and your listeners.

Allen  

Well, it was interesting. I I went online and you had some really interesting tips. You know, somebody who's been between those those countries, I'm sure there's a couple common mistakes, a couple best practices, and, you know, some areas that keep people out of trouble, so to speak. What are what are some of your best tips to keep people out of trouble and to make sure that they're doing things properly and making that move, whether they're a retiree or remote worker or digital nomad, safe, secure and sound?

David  

Yeah, gosh, that's definitely a big topic. I'm sure there's plenty of stuff to go into there. And I'm sure both of you are well aware of that as well. I think a good place for people to start just in general, no matter what they want to do is just to make sure that they're doing it for the right reasons. If you're looking for some adventure, if you want to get out there and have some fun, you can also just take a quick trip, right? But if you really want to make this a long term thing whether travelling around as a nomad whether moving to a country long term as you know, a quote-unquote, expat, then I think you just have to be sure that you're going to be able to be there for the right reasons. You're going to that country or that city, for your motivations are in the right place, because it's not going to be always easy. In fact, it's going to be frequently very difficult. As a result, I think just having the right motivations and the right mindset to help you push through those difficult times is essential. So maybe I would just start there.

Allen  

Well, it's interesting in the past, some studies seem to indicate people that are intellectually curious or adventurous, tend to be those folks. And you know, what, what is the mindset that you would say, is that congruent? share with us a little bit what you think's that is the right mindset?

David  

Yeah, absolutely. I think being curious, adventurous is obviously a great place to start. But on top of that, I think one thing that's really helped me a lot and also talk about in the top 10 tips for moving abroad ebook, on my website, for example, is just to have that mindset of being quite open to new experiences, but also taking a step back and listening and watching before acting. And I think that especially coming from that sort of charging forward American background that I think most of us are familiar with here, on the show, it's a bit different, you know, you have to kind of take a different tack to it. And so that's, that's actually paid a lot of dividends over my time in these different countries because I had to really learn all do different types of cultures, I'd already had that experience. Studying the Japanese language and being familiar with the culture, as I picked that up in my high school years and in college, but when I was actually there, in person, it's and working in a work environment, it's totally different. So I think even if you kind of think you know what's going on, or you have a good idea about things, it's always good to just watch and learn and listen before acting. And I think that's a good mindset to have going in.

Andrew  

Yet riding that wave of emotional growth in a new culture, from honeymoon, to culture shock to hatred of it to a plateau and actually staying long enough to make it through the different phases and come out a better person versus leaving while you're still on the honeymoon or leaving, right when it's hard and not making it into the next level of growth. It's that thing of testing the waters and learning what is wise, what's not before you think, okay, I hate this place. And I'm moving on. Right,

David  

Yeah, 100%, I think that's a great way to put it. And it's easy to just enjoy that honeymoon period. But it's surprising as well, especially if you're intending to move somewhere long term, and you've got to deal with pieces, you got to deal with jobs, you have to deal with finding apartments and everything else, that honeymoon can come to an end very quickly. Maybe faster than you hoped for than you think. And so again, yeah, being prepared for that ready to take it on head on, I think is vital for success in this environment. And in the situation. Of course, it's absolutely worth every bit of challenge that comes associated with it. And that's part of the fun, even if it's not always fun, but that's part of the experience. So shouldn't keep people away from the idea. But it's good to recognise that going in.

Allen  

One thing that I thought was interesting about your travels is you went from Japanese, the Japanese culture to German culture, which when you always do culture, stereotyping, almost putting, you know, when people like culture, there's the driver driver culture, and then there's the more consensus culture. How did you get through that? And how difficult was that for you? Because when you think about it, you're kind of going from one edge to the other edge on that culture dial.

David  

Yeah, that's a good way to put it. I suppose. I didn't think about it probably enough. Before I made the move, to be honest. But just a quick story that I find quite funny is when I was in Japan and telling my friends are those interested in moving to Germany, and especially when I had firm plans to do so, a lot of the Japanese people would tell me, yeah, Germans and Japanese were quite similar. You know, we have this kind of rule focus kind of driven culture in that sense. And then I would say, Okay, well, yeah, maybe so but like, what else, you know, there's got to be something more to it that actually makes it an interesting overlap or similarity. Now, after thinking for a while, almost every single time a Japanese person would respond. We both like beer. And I was just like, Well, I think a lot of countries also like beer. So I'm not sure if that makes it a special bond in one way or another.

But what I found to be most difficult in that transition, and only my experience in Germany is in Berlin, which, you know, so I can't speak for Germany as a whole outside of my travels. But I would say the challenge really was going from Japan where there's such a, at least on the surface, such an niceness a politeness, trying to be you know, sort of please you or, or make the customer kind of number one. Whereas in Berlin, I did not find that to be the case at all. So, it took a lot of internal change and building a thicker skin to be honest to be able to be successful in that environment. And that was really difficult. I think, going from America straight to Germany, I'd still feel it, but especially going through Japan first, where it's just such an warm and nice landing straight into Berlin was it was it was a difficult one for sure.

Andrew  

But David, you, you really said something there that I'd love to pick up on real quick, you said internal change was needed. I think that a lot of times, we kind of avoid that internal changem, that pair that must be given to ourselves emotionally, psychologically. Because we change our setting, we change the culture, we change everything, the way we work, our distance from our comfort foods, our friends, our escapes change, but yet we beat ourselves at times in this cross cultural lifestyle, that everything should be normal, and I should be fine. Why am I going through suffering mentally, emotionally, and the weaknesses that we have become magnified when we're doing this? And I've talked about it with my wife a lot, because over the past 20 years, we've lived in many different countries and along with our kids, and so this interchange at the interchange of cultures, how would you expound on that as you have? You've done it, and you prepared other people through it?

David  

Yeah, I think it's a great point. And it's often left off the table, or not really considered by most people as they're thinking about making this huge life change. And I think part of it has to do with the fact that you know, even for me, if I look at myself, when I first went to move to Japan, which was my big goal growing up, when I finally got the opportunity to go there, of course, I said, yes, send me straight away. And I still remember in the interview process for the job that I got there that allowed me to have that opportunity that the person interviewing me asked very directly, are you going to be able to deal with the Japanese work, culture and environment? And he asked me this, you know, in English in my last interview, and I just was like, yes, of course, I can, you know, you have to kind of go forth and say that. And then you end up there, and you're like, wait a second, this is maybe a bit off more than I can chew, even with that background and context. So it was it was a challenge there.

I think one thing I have to keep reminding myself, every time I make a move is that getting set up, which I don't mean, just getting a phone, you know, plan on getting a house, which of course can take a while. But really getting set up. And having that network of people, professional and personal, real friends in the country takes a long time. I usually advise at least one year. And I always forget that it takes that long, because I'm even sitting there thinking, I've done this so many times, come on, why is this taking so long this time? And then I'm like, Oh, yeah, only took three months, or it's only been three months, I need to kind of remember that this takes a while. And it's frustrating. And it's difficult to keep reminding yourself that but maybe, I hope, will tell but hopefully, it'll be that I'll stay here in Portugal for a while. And I won't have to restart that timer again.

Allen  

So tell us about the transition to Portugal, Portugal seems to be a wonderful place right now. There seems to be quite a nomad community, they're also seeing they have the digital nomad thesis. And of course, from the American perspective, you know, it just really is a unique place. share with us what attracted you to that? And if there's folks out there thinking about a place to go, would it be one of those places that you would suggest that they take their first foray if they want to become a nomad?

David  

Yeah, I think the answer to that is absolutely 100%. Yes. So the way that I ended up here was that. So I met my wife in Berlin, but she's from Japan. So we were both outside of our home countries. And we just thought, where would be the next place that we'd want to go once we're kind of done with with Germany whenever that would be. And we kind of went back and forth in a couple spots. And then she said, How about Portugal and I had visited here back in 2014. At that time, I think when we were talking about that, it was around 2017. So it's been a few years, but I really had a great memory of that trip. And so then we took a trip in 2018 here together, and we left after a week thinking this is a spot like we got to get back here. So it took another year to make it happen. And yeah, I got a job here to be able to do that. But it's just been absolutely what we expected and what we thought it would be based on our experiences and talking to other people before making the move. And the real thing that drew the things that drew us to Portugal in general, and I mean, I love it here in Porto specifically, but I think this applies pretty much everywhere in the country is really warm people, warm weather and delicious food. I think it's maybe those three things.

Allen  

It's a pretty good prescription and yeah, and so it's a wonderful, wonderful port. Also to have every now and then.

David  

Absolutely. And we're right here on the on the water as well. I mean it depending on obviously where you're in, in Portugal, but being on the coast, really want to get back to that kind of water environment. And so that's been great. It's just really checked all the boxes for us and absolutely proved over the last year and a half that it's it's the spot

Andrew  

warm culture or guess culture new with that concept, but you know, it's it's a warm culture people group.

David  

Yeah, that's what we found straightaway. And people have just been so welcoming and so nice even in the middle of this crazy year. It's just been a really comfortable, safe, warm place to be. I mean, emotionally, we feel really welcomed here, among many reasons, including digital nomad Visa, the digital nomad village, the the NHR, non habitual resident tax status, the passive income D7 visa, like all of these things together really make it a great place for people to come. And that's why we've just really seen a big increase in interest in people coming to Portugal. So I think it's going to be exciting next 12 months.

Allen  

Yeah, I think you know, it's interesting. Portugal might actually be paving the way for so many countries to follow. I mean, obviously, we've seen Estonia and Croatia and Costa Rica. But is it your feeling as you support this community that this is here to stay? and other countries are taking note of these countries who have been early movers on digital nomad status? And perhaps we're at the beginning of something completely new?

David  

Yeah, I think that's well put, and I think Portugal's in the forefront there. But definitely, like you said, Estonia being a huge one, I still remember going to the airport there and seeing in the airports and pamphlets available to anyone that wants to pick it up about their residency and all this stuff. So it's really cool to see that increasing, and I think just from here on out, it's gonna, it's just gonna, it's gonna go crazy, in a good way. And I think here in Portugal, even just how even just month to month or I mean, definitely year to year, you, you really can feel the change happening. And you know, more and more interest here. So, I think, I think with a new kind of paradigm that we're seeing, as far as remote work is concerned, digital nomads, being able to work where you want, and hopefully for who you want to for yourself. I think that just creates a number of opportunities here in Europe. Obviously, Asia has been a big spot for many years now. And I think the government's are taking note and following suit.

Andrew  

Well, David, question, do you think that you and everyone else that takes this dive into the nomadic lifestyle, whether it's taking a job like you did in Japan, do you think people realise the impact it's going to have on the rest of their life? And because it does change you forever, it changes how you think, and it changes who you would potentially marry as in your case, as in mine, it changes your relationships back home, do you think people realise the impact when they do it? It potentially is a road of no return.

David  

Well said, I think as far as I'm thinking, as of today, you never know what the future holds, but no real intention to to move back to the US on my part, or even Japan on my on my wife's part. So hopefully, we'll keep this thing going for as long as possible. But yeah, I think I think there's massive change that I've experienced personally, in good ways. And I think a lot of it has to do with just seeing different cultures, seeing different people realising that we're all the same, but also recognising the differences and trying to take some of the good parts of the differences into my own life as well. So I hope that people take it into account. Obviously, that's definitely a conversation that I tried to have with folks. But it's one of those things at the same time, no matter how you say it, no matter how many times you hear it, you probably won't really grasp it, really get it until it happens to you. And so all I hope is that people have that experience. And it does push them, you know, in a good way it does change them permanently in a way that they're happy about and hopefully want to keep doing.

Allen  

So you've been somebody who's, you know, really took it upon yourself to to follow your dream going to Japan, Germany now in Portugal. So I'm sure you've run across a lot of things that you'd like to share. So could you share with our audience, one overlooked person, place or experience that you think that they should explore that will be really helpful in the future?

David  

Yeah, absolutely. I would, I would, as I was thinking about this question, I thought back to a trip that I had a few years ago to, to Jordan, actually, and this is an amazing country. And I was really interested in the idea of going there because of things like Petra, with the stone kind of wall carvings and this just amazing environment there. And then when I went and got to have an overnight and the Wadi Rum desert, you know, more traditional, you know, still touristy, more traditional style of an experience, and then I went to Aqaba to go diving and they had actually purposefully sunk some tanks near to the shore. So it's relatively easy to get to see them and there, they have all kinds of sea life and everything grown over them.

So those are a couple things I did over the week that I was there and people were just so nice and welcoming and I can understand some safety concerns given the location of the country. However, I didn't feel unsafe for any part of that trip whatsoever. And at the time, I'm not sure how it is today, but at the time, there was just a real lack of tourists. And of course, in the middle of the situation, I wouldn't expect that to change. But I hope that in the next months and years that there'll be more opportunities for people to go there, they'll feel comfortable to do so. And yeah, I mean, at the time, a few years ago, seeing some of these ancient landmarks and historic places with practically nobody there was I mean, it was like a traveler's dream, you know. So yeah,

Allen  

I agree with you. I was fortunate enough to do go to Petra, the Dead Sea. And then one thing that really expanded my mind is they actually had a map from before Columbus in that church, kind of on the floor. It's kind of like, right, right. And it was it had it had the new world in there almost to like North and South America. So somebody must have had a decent idea. I don't know if you're able to visit with that. But that was the thing that is amazing as Petra and the Dead Sea. And by the way, to those of you out there don't shave before you're going to go into the Dead Sea. Because the salt is the most painful. I've learned that the hard way. But your call on Jordan is tremendous into people are very inviting. They're

David  

So much you can see in a short time. And I'm sure there's plenty more that I could have seen. But But yeah, I mean, everyone that I met along the way was super helpful, super warm and inviting. I didn't get a single sense of being unsafe. And yeah, I got to also go to the Dead Sea. And this was, yeah, pretty incredible as well. I mean, it's a it's a whole region that I hope to get a chance to explore more. And so that was just a bit of my first foray. And yeah, set the stage for the future.

Andrew  

Well, David, what is happening in your world? And how can they listeners find that? I know you have a ebook that you mentioned on your website, but where can we find you? What's the latest? What's coming soon? Just tell us all about it. It'll be in the show notes. For those who are listening, go to our website to locate that, but tell us all about it, David.

David  

Yeah, I'd love to thanks for the opportunity. So I just definitely recommend folks to go and check out ExpatEmpire.com if they're interested in what I've been doing, and what I'm up to, of course, run Facebook and Instagram at Expat Empire as well. So what we have on the site is that ebook, if you want to check that out Top 10 Tips For Moving Abroad. We also have episodes of the Expat Empire podcast, a lot of blog posts, I have a book about that I wrote and released back in 2018, about my time in Japan, if anyone's interested in that. But on top of that, and actually, most importantly, we do personalised consulting services. So if you're looking to start your adventure as an expat in a new country, whether you're already abroad, looking to move again, or thinking about it for the first time, or of course trying to become a digital nomad, whatever you want to do, wherever you are, wherever you want to go, we're able to help you do that. So you can definitely go to the website, again, ExpatEmpire.com and schedule a free 30 minute consulting call, where we can talk through your plans, and see how we might be able to help you to achieve them.

Allen  

And you know, David, I looked at the website, the other thing I liked is that if I was moving, I would definitely now go to that website, but your pricing, your pricing right out there is very reasonable for the consultation sessions. And, you know, for the very minuscule amount, you would save people from so many issues and problems and what I mean by it's like, it was like 99 euros for your advice and counsel to prevent so many errors, which to me, seemed like a very inexpensive insurance policy against making you blunder. So well done on that and a wonderful site and be highly recommend people access that. So thank you for joining us today. Enlightening. And by the way, kudos to you for picking an incredible spot and Jordan as your share, because I concur a 110% Thanks, today. Thanks again. And thank you appreciate your time. And Andrew closing thoughts today, I think we covered a lot of ground, and I'm hoping people, you know, take advantage of Expat Empire and some of the advice and counsel because it's a big deal to move around without having an understanding of what you're getting yourself into

Andrew  

It is we put ourselves at so much risk when we're crossing borders. And a lot of times we don't know that we don't know what we haven't experienced. We don't know what we haven't read or learned. And many times these days, we're not as much readers as skimmers of someone's blog or their Instagram. So it's good to go to experts is good to go to the those subject matter experts to say okay, help me out here, whether that's the international relocation specialist, the international insurance, the tax, the all the different factors, the citizenship, the banking, you name it. There are specialists out there, and we've got to stick those out and just not go to the specialised Google expert. So everyone, thank you for joining today. Join us again, subscribe, like, follow and join us because we'll have other impactful folks on this podcast. Thank you, everyone.

Moving Abroad Support and Counsel with David McNeill

About the Guest

David McNeill

David started Expat Empire because he has a genuine passion for living abroad. While he is originally from the United States, he’s been living abroad permanently since 2014 in Tokyo (2 years), Berlin (3 years), and Porto, Portugal since 2019. In total, he has traveled to nearly 60 countries so far. His life goal is to help others to discover the lifestyle that provides them with the greatest possible motivation and excitement, and then work with them to create and execute a plan to achieve it - whether that includes transitioning to a flexible career in tech, moving abroad, working remotely, becoming a digital nomad, or starting a bootstrapped business. In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, David has spent his career in software product management and investment banking. He has also participated in many speaking engagements about topics such as bootstrapping businesses, product management, and working abroad at universities including Berlin Technical University and Beuth Hochschule Berlin.