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  #1  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2013, 10:22 PM
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Which tropical city should I move to?

I have decided that I am seriously looking for a change of location and would like to move to a place that is tropical with hills and mountains close by preferably outside the US. Getting a job is not an issue because the work I do as a consultant can be done from anywhere. I have always been curious about Latin American cities. Here are the places I've been thinking about.

Honolulu: I know it is still the US but not the same obviously. Has all the modern convenience like a Whole Foods etc. Weather isn't too hot and humid like Miami for example. Tons of beaches and hilly, mountainous terrain close by. English speaking is also nice. Negatives -- possible island fever, too touristy.

Medellin: Gorgeous women, perfect weather at 5000 feet highs of 78 to 84 year round with low humidity and lows of 65 to 70, can't beat that! Great mountain scenery all around but no Ocean.... Seems to be pretty cosmopolitan and I have read in multiple sources it has had and continues to get more high rise construction than Bogota. Negatives -- have to learn Spanish but I know the basics and can pronounce words properly.

Santo Domingo: Possibly a bit too run down and not enough new development, obviously you will get the beaches and women here. Very hot and humid weather though for most of the year.

San Juan: From Dec, through March weather is more mild due to it not being that far south like Santo Domingo. Has the history and many interesting neighborhoods. (Economy seems dead in SJ though I want a city that is on the up swing if possible).

Brazilian Cities (Trantor Please Help) -- I really don't like the extreme wealth disparity of Rio and Sao Paolo. SP doesn't really have coast or mountain close or at least not accessible. I am open to considering the North (Salvador, Natal, Recife, Fortaleza) Maybe Florianopolis does not have so much poverty. Would love to hear comparisons between Brazilian cities and Medellin for example.

Negatives of Brazil: Possibly the crime issue and Portuguese seems like it would be much harder to learn than Spanish. I've also heard that if you live in Brazil for a long time the food is not that good and variety isn't the best.

Would really appreciate your input on these places and any other suggestions are welcome.
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Last edited by mello; Jan 27, 2013 at 1:35 AM.
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  #2  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2013, 11:13 PM
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Does it have to be a major city, or are you open to smaller places?
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  #3  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2013, 11:36 PM
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As an American who has lived in Brazil, I'd be happy to give you plenty of pointers! I have lived in Rio, and I certainly understand your aversion of the extreme inequality you see everywhere in the city. It's probably the number one thing I dislike about the city. Perceived danger is an issue as well, although thankfully I've never been the victim of any crime there, or anywhere else for that matter. Personally I prefer Sao Paulo. The food is better (and you will never get tired of it!), it's more cosmopolitan, better infrastructure (decent subway system), and much fewer favelas (at least in the core parts of the city).

I would say the biggest disadvantage to Rio or Sao Paulo is the cost of living. If you want to live in a nice neighborhood in either city, expect to pay a lot of money. Maybe not Manhattan prices, but pretty close. And it's not just real estate. Almost everything in Brazil is very expensive compared to other countries: food, clothing, electronics, cosmetics, etc.

If the wealth disparity of Rio frightens you, you should definitely avoid the Northeast as well. The inequality is much worse there. Most middle class people in the Northeast live in heavily fortified and guarded mid-rises. Walking around in these cities, with a few exceptions like along the beach and in the colonial districts, is not pleasant. Imagine a street lined on both sides with 15-foot cement walls with barbed wire or sharp glass on top, and you'll have a good idea of the general "urban" experience.

I have never been to Medellin, but I have been to Bogota. I absolutely loved it! Compared to most Brazilian cities, it's has a much better infrastructure (including bike paths and bus rapid transit), it's cleaner, and more pedestrian friendly. And better weather (tropical, but very high in the mountains). It doesn't have a lot of high-rises, but it has a great urban-feel to it, with lots of row-houses and mid-rise apartments. And it's very cheap. My friends in 2009 there were paying about US$700 for a three-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor, with a great view and in one of the best neighborhoods in the city!

Despite the advantages, I think I would prefer living in Brazil, though. As a white guy with an anglo-looking face, I stand out in Colombia. There is no way I could pass for Colombian, therefore everywhere I go, people automatically know I'm a foreigner. Personally I like to be able to blend it. It makes me feel more secure. In Brazil, I do not stand out. In fact, people are always asking me for directions in Brazil!

Good luck with your move! Wish I could do the same!
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  #4  
Old Posted Jan 26, 2013, 11:51 PM
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I am pretty familiar with South America, so here is my 2 cents: Brazil: I would go either with Belo Horizonte, safer than Rio or Sao Paulo, and big enough that it offers plenty to do...Also the surrounding mountains are gorgeous, and the people are really friendly. Quito, really nice city, gorgeous setting and friendly locals. Plenty to do and see...relatively cheap. Santiago Chile, my favorite city in South America, great public transportation( for South American standards), plenty to do and see. Not an expensive city.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 12:50 AM
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Such an odd question, re-locating is never easy, and making the choice to leave friends and family to move to a potentially underdeveloped nation is stranger still... isn't San Diego a city that already fits your criteria of good weather with hills and mountains nearby?

That said, I think it's important to know the reason why you're fed up with the US in the first place, that way your move will be better informed. If social justice is important to you, then you'd look for a country with high HDI. If community is imporant to you, then you'd have to pick a place where you'd eventually fit in. If urbanism and urban life are important to you, well you'd have to choose carefully on that also
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  #6  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 1:09 AM
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Being "fed up" is a bit of a strange reason to leave a country.

Anyhow, why not southeast asia? If I had my choice, Indonesia and Malaysia would be high on the list.
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  #7  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 1:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atlantaguy View Post
Does it have to be a major city, or are you open to smaller places?
(And DC Denizen, I have already lived in Asia and would like to try a new region -- plus the humidity there can be overly oppressive)

Yes I am looking to move to a city that is at least 500 to 800k in the metro area if not much larger obviously. I have lived internationally before in Busan South Korea and Tbilisi Georgia so I am familiar with being a "foreigner" and I do actually like standing out. In Busan it was so fun to be the only non Asian on the subway. In Port of Spain Trinidad I loved being the only white person walking around, I guess I just get off on standing out.

Thanks for your advice guys.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 1:46 AM
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If you want a booming economy with great weather then I don't think you can beat Brazil right now. I don't think crime is as big of an issue today as it used to be in the cities.
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  #9  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 2:30 AM
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Honestly, go explore. I have my favorite cities, but they're my favorites. You need to pack a bag, go explore and find your favorite places. Be ridiculously impetuous. You will find the city that is the right fit.

And you will know it ... deep down feel-it-in-your-gut know it, when you find it. I envy your adventure.

PS. Mine is São Paulo. I couldn't love a place more if I tried.
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  #10  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 2:49 AM
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Hong Kong? Can't get more Cosmopolitan then that. Perhaps Singapore. Both tropical, modern cities.

EDIT: Didn't see that you didn't want to live in Asia. So scratch those two options.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 1:22 PM
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I've got a friend that moved to Bogota a couple years ago and loves it. The climate is perfect all year because of the combination of low latitude and high altitude.

And to mikecolley's point, he's a white guy that definitely doesn't look Colombian (but does speak fluent Spanish). Hasn't had any trouble making lots of friends and doesn't feel like an "outsider".
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 2:40 PM
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CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA!

Amazing people, amazing weather, amazing beaches, amazing food, surprisingly cosmopolitan, great nightlife, quite safe overall, a beautiful city scape that encompasses a mixture of modern highrises and stunning and colorful colonial architecture and a beautiful mix of Latin American and Afro-Caribbean cultures. It also has a good sized airport, a booming economy, and TONS of highrise construction. The biggest drawbacks to me, I think, would be the lack of rail transit (but that is the case for most cities in Latin/South America) and the relative lack of an ethnically diverse restaurant scene (though the local food is very delicious and diverse in and of itself).

Mello, check it out...based on the description of what you want in a destination, I honestly think it is exactly what you're looking for. I really don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Last edited by BnaBreaker; Jan 27, 2013 at 2:59 PM.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 2:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dc_denizen View Post
Being "fed up" is a bit of a strange reason to leave a country.

Anyhow, why not southeast asia? If I had my choice, Indonesia and Malaysia would be high on the list.
He never said he was fed up. Sounds like he just wants an adventurous change of pace.

Mello- Honolulu is obviously the safe choice, but it could also be a good jumping off point to explore Polynesia
Not as tropical but safe would be Auckland or Sydney
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Last edited by SLO; Jan 27, 2013 at 3:07 PM.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 2:52 PM
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Santiago, Chile, looks fascinating to me. I'd be interested in living there if I were to ever move to South America. Having said that, it's probably not the "tropical" environment you're looking for if you're also considering places like San Juan, Honolulu, Santo Domingo, etc. Seems like its climate is probably most similar to San Jose, CA.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 4:49 PM
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Based on your second post I guess this doesn't quite fit the profile, but I would love to try Saipan. It's small and in the Asian region but it also has "the most equitable climate in the world." It's a beautiful island, very diverse and real estate is dirt cheap right now (mostly because the economy is in ruins right now)
A good book to read is Passport to Exotic Real Estate by Steve Bergsman
It talks about the pros and cons of expat life in different lattin American Markets as well as Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico and the other 4 main U.S. territories. Well worth the read if you are considering a move IMO.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 6:01 PM
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If it's Latin America, Colombia would definitely be my choice.

Was reading Nostromo by Joseph Conrad. Hard to get through it, but the descriptions of the fictionalized Colombia/Panama of the novel made me want to visit.

The economy is also stable, and the government seems to be working pretty well.
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  #17  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 6:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OhioGuy View Post
Santiago, Chile, looks fascinating to me. I'd be interested in living there if I were to ever move to South America. Having said that, it's probably not the "tropical" environment you're looking for if you're also considering places like San Juan, Honolulu, Santo Domingo, etc. Seems like its climate is probably most similar to San Jose, CA.
I'm pretty sure Santiago is a lot colder than San Jose, CA. There's snow just outside the city, and below-freezing temps aren't uncommon in the winter. Santiago has high elevation.

My wife lived in Santiago during her middle school years, so I'm just going by what she said, but she definitely thinks its a lot colder than Mexico City, and Mexico City isn't exactly warm in the Winter months.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 6:53 PM
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Costa rica or panama would be my top two outside US.
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Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 7:06 PM
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Panama City?
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  #20  
Old Posted Jan 27, 2013, 7:10 PM
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I'm pretty sure Santiago is a lot colder than San Jose, CA. There's snow just outside the city, and below-freezing temps aren't uncommon in the winter. Santiago has high elevation.

My wife lived in Santiago during her middle school years, so I'm just going by what she said, but she definitely thinks its a lot colder than Mexico City, and Mexico City isn't exactly warm in the Winter months.
Santiago is a little colder than San Jose, but I'd say the climates are pretty similar (spent a lot of time in both). There are mountains with snow right outside the city, but the city itself isn't at that high of an elevation (~2000 ft), receives snow about once a decade, and it never sticks. Freezing temperatures within the city are as rare as they are in SJ. That said, it's not a tropical city by any stretch, and the pollution can be pretty overwhelming during the summer - it makes Salt Lake City look smog-free.

I would agree with others that the Columbian cities are some of your best bets. Cartagena is a great city, but a bit warm/humid for my taste. Bogota has phenomenal weather and is a great city. Both cities, along with others in Colombia, are improving rapidly in just about every way. The only downside is that travel outside the cities in Colombia is still relatively dangerous compared to say, Brazil.

You mentioned northeast Brazil, and while I have a special connection to Fortaleza (traveled there several different times for different reasons, proposed to my wife there, etc), I can't recommend it based on your view that wealth disparity is alarming in Rio/SP. As someone else mentioned, northeast Brazil takes wealth disparity to another level compared to those two cities. Natal and Fortaleza aren't too bad (probably somewhat similar to SP, maybe a little worse), but Salvador and Recife are orders of magnitude worse than Rio or SP. Each one is basically a nice (ish) colonial center surrounded by some gated highrise complexes surrounded by miles and miles of favelas. If you're looking for a place in Brazil without huge wealth disparity, look to cities in the three southern states. Not really tropical I guess, but still plenty warm. Portuguese is probably a bit harder to learn than Spanish, but not overwhelmingly so. Understanding/speaking Spanish in most of the South American countries (especially Venezuela/Colombia, IMO) is going to be a pretty major adjustment from San Diego Spanish anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it.

Also, if you're tempted to look at southern Brazil, definitely consider Buenos Aires. I lived there for a little over seven months for my first job out of grad school and loved every minute of it.
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