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Things No One Tells You About Living Abroad – Part 4

Remember when I started this series about Things No One Tells You About Living Abroad? Well, as I told you then, once I started writing, it was obvious it wouldn’t all fit into a single post.

Now, in this Part 4 of the series, I’m sure you agree with my original length assessment – ha ha ha.. I guess I had a lot to say on the subject. So, to recap:

Next thing that no one tells you in advance that I want to share with you is:

People Are Different

After you move overseas, something happens – every time you meet one of your countrymen, you feel a sense of kinship with them. It’s like you’re brothers. Even people you would never associate with back home, all of a sudden, seem to have something in common with you – the same origins, the wanderlust, or whatever you want to call it.

You also tend to idealize your old country – I’m sure this comes from feeling homesick – and even criticize your new home. This serves to bond people together.

However, in spite of this felt connection, I want to caution you..

Not All Fellow Countrymen You Meet Will Be Good People

We were shocked when we started meeting Americans that turned out to be hustlers, scammers, and generally not nice people.

Perhaps we were naive but, here, we have met people from all walks of life. We have met Americans that are genuine and helpful, and Americans that are scamming the system in every way they can, and everything in between. We met homeless people with really good hearts and rich people that are absolute dirt-bags. In the end, we learned to be cautious with any new interactions, regardless of that comradery I mentioned. Some people come across as friendly and helpful but in reality, they are just in to scam you out of a dollar. They lie and cheat and deceive but you’d never know it because, at first, they talk the talk. And just because they are well spoken, well educated, and poised, does not mean they are for real.

So, I want to warn you that sometimes the worst of people you meet aboard are your own countrymen. Sad as this is, it’s true. Generally speaking, you need to exercise caution because at times (and totally by accident) you may find yourself associated with these types and unbeknownst to you, they have a bad reputation. This can lead to you gaining the same reputation, simply by association.

It is better to take your time and get to know the people you hang out with. Don’t do it just because they are friendly countrymen that appear to be willing to help you or show you the ropes.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the case with everyone you meet but there are some.

Here’s another thing you need to be aware of…

You Will Change

Once you have spent some time abroad, you change. You will find that your own priories change, you look at life in a new way, and your lifestyle becomes completely different. I have seen this happen even with people that are transferred abroad for work in the same type of job. You may be doing the same job and your quality of life may be exactly the same, but other things are not. The local culture, priories, and customs do eventually rub off on you and you may find that you have less in common with people you’d previously call friends.

People of Puerto Rico

As a result, your interactions with other folks from your country of origin are different.

Tim and I both worked in an academic environment and we both held positions of power and responsibility but, today, only a year and 3 months later, we find that we prefer a simpler life. The rat-race, the chase of money, the high-powered lifestyle no longer interest us. This changes our interactions with people and the types of friends we have in Puerto Rico. I am sure this is true of many others that moved abroad.

As I said, you and your countrymen are now different. So, be prepared to have different types of relationships with folks and be smart about it.

I consider myself a good judge of character, and it usually doesn’t take me long to figure people out. We’ve done pretty well here avoiding the obvious landmines but there is one thing that is my absolute biggest peeve: Americans that move here and try to scam the locals. Pretending to be gurus in this, or gurus in that (because after all, not many people check the credentials and you can pretend to be anything you want to be) and then taking the unknowing locals for their money. I have seen this here more than once, especially with people that pretend to be experts in one internet thing or another. It seems everyone is a Guru.


They ruin the reputation of all of us, foreigners as a whole, by building distrust and bad will.

OK, off my soapbox now.

Anyway, I think you get the picture. No one tells you in advance to look out for other foreigners (like yourself) and no one tells you how much you, yourself, will change. But, as they say: “it’s all part of the grand adventure!”

See all posts in this series: Truths No One Tells You About Living Abroad



About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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  1. Hi Joanna
    Jerry Gibbs here again…

    Well my main concern is to build and online business asap
    So that when we arrive in PR in December that we at least have something in progress.

    I know it will take a few years to make a living income online.

    My ? Do you or your husband
    Actually teach how to create an online business?

    Affilorama reports to give you tools for $200 to build an affiliate online biz, have ya heard of them?

    Does word press teach how to create and operate online biz?

    Can I pay you to help?

    Tried for 6yrs no success…
    Stopped trying 3 yrs ago…

    Appreciate any direction on this?

    Not looking for FREE LUNCH…
    Just need real honest help…
    Jer : )

  2. Can you recommend a good/reliable realtor/property manager in Luquillo? My husband and I will be making the move in October of this year. Thank you.

    • I sure can. Are you looking to buy or rent? And everything here sort of happens last minute, so you will most likely be told to get a hold of them when you get here. LOL.

      • Makes sense. We are going to rent for at least a year until we decide on where feels like home. We have debated West vs. East, but Luquillo seems to be a good fit. I wanted to catch you before you take off for your next grand adventure. 🙂 I think I have read every post you have written. Your information is very honest and there is no BS. Thanks for your service and if you can send me the info to my email of the Realtor/Property manager I would appreciate it. ????

        • Hi Jen,
          If you are renting than a realtor is probably not the best way to go. This is because they do not work the same as they do in the States, they do not have access to each other listings, and the only rentals you will get to see are normally just those that the realtor signed contracts with. They usually don’t have many. I would recommend that you check http://clasificadosonline.com/ for the most current rental listings. Here is a post I wrote on real estate in PR a while back: http://www.abroaddreams.com/2014/07/07/real-estate-prices-in-puerto-rico/.
          I think your plan to rent for a year is very wise, I highly recommend you stick to that in order to get a good feel for PR. Anyway, if you still want to talk to a realtor here is the info: Enter Real Estate Network, Willy 787-422-7700.

  3. Don’t trust strangers. Especially with your money.

    Common sense isn’t so common! 😉

  4. Wow! I was taken back a bit, but the timing couldn’t of been better.

    Have dealt with that here in Thailand last 11yrs…
    Learned a lot and survived, but never want to do that again…

    Have been on a 15 year journey of picking friends and have been doing better in that department…
    Sooo far so good.

    I really appreciate your being so candid…

    We will be moving to PR at Christmas time, looking for a
    2-3 bedroom house…
    Jer : )

    • Hi Jer,
      Interesting. Thailand is on our to-visit list. I’d love to hear more about what you liked and didn’t like.
      Anyway, it’s funny because I was just talking about this post with a friend of mine, who has been living here for 17 years and she straight out asked me: “who are you talking about, we’ve never met any hustlers here”. Well, everyone’s experience is different. The difference is that we have really become part of the local community, not just our immediate neighbors. There are gated communities here that allow you to sort of live in a bubble and you don’t have to deal with a lot of the things I’m talking about but we know many, many people from all around town. So, our experience, I think it broader than our friends. Actually, our experience in Costa Rica and Mexico with other Americans were far, far worse than anything we encountered in Puerto Rico.
      Anyway, if you realize that if something sounds too good to be trouble, it probably is – then you will have no problems.

      • Hey Joanna…

        If Thailand is on your bucket list…

        We will be here until Christmas and you guys could stay with us for a bit…

        We live in the Southern part in Nakhon Si Thammarat

        We’re near Phuket, Krabi,
        Surat Tani, and not far from
        Kho Sumui…

        Traveling here is very cheap
        as well as accomodations, especially if a local guides ya for the best bargains…

        I love Thailand Sooo much and we will be keeping our home here…
        (PaMai’s inheritance)

        Love the people 99% are the most kind, considerate, and gentle people I’ve ever met…

        *Long as you choose your friend groups here correctly.

        Your group especially the Thai’s protect you and you never lack for help on any level.

        Majority of all Thais are buddhists…
        Which means
        * Sharing
        * Caring
        * Taking Care

        Almost everyone here gives something away every day to each other…
        *60 million peeps
        *60 million donations
        PER DAY!… (not kidding)

        That being said the…
        Non-Thai’s especially in seedy tourist areas such as Pattaya have way to many con artists and drug related badness…

        1. customer service is lacking but is better than it was 10yrs ago…

        2. 70% of traveling deaths here are on motorbikes..

        But sure love the $1 meals and so delicious…

        It’s much cheaper to eat out here than prepare food at home almost 70% cheaper
        Jer : )

  5. Guys love the new design, looks great. I wish you guys the best in Spain and hope you have a great time. Looking forward to moving to PR in the Rincon area in about 5 and a half years.


  6. I consider myself trusting and always give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t recall ever trying to be scammed. I can call BS really quick when I see someone doesn’t know what they are talking about. Maybe that’s why I don’t think I have been scammed to any significant degree, either I don’t let it happen or they are so good I don’t know it happened 

  7. Your comments could not have been more timely! My expat journey will begin in a couple of weeks and I have been trying to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for the change as best I can. I have often wondered if it is easier to adapt to a new life in a new country as part of a couple or as a single person. Lots of pros and cons for each! I plan to work hard on my Spanish once I arrive. I totally agree that fluency, or, at the very least, proficiency is an key factor in successful integration. I think I will have to curb my natural tendency to jump in with both feet. I am thinking specifically of what you said about being known by one’s associates. Sometimes the friendliest and most helpful to new arrivals have their own agenda. I look forward to your upcoming blogs!

    • Hi Deb,
      Yay for moving abroad! So, I take it you were able to sell your house and are ready to pull the trigger on the move?
      Ecuador, is it?
      Good luck!

  8. This post is spot on and I agree totally. Not all your fellow countryman are good people just like back at home, just like anywhere. You wish and hope that they honest with you because after all, you both come from the same country but it just isn’t the case. Always we must guard yourself against tricksters, sadly and I hate that.

    We are spending longer periods in Rincon and have met some wonderful and some not so wonderful people who are not really types we’d hang around with. But mostly we met good honest people.

    • Hi Barbara,
      Thanks for commenting. I would also say that most of the people we have met here been good, honest ones too. We have met some real characters too though. And, I’m not just talking in PR. We met some very scary Americans in our exploration travels too – Mexico was probably the worst. It sometimes made us ashamed to be Americans. So, sad.

  9. Im am so very glad you covered this subject. I’ve been living in Mexico (Baja) for a year and a half and have met more American con-men (and women), thieves, liars and people of generally bad character than I ever met when living in the states.
    I live in a mostly American community where most of the American homeowners refuse to pay their land-lease contracts. Why? Because they can get away with it. The courts here are notoriously slow. There are attorneys who specialize in representing Americans not wishing to honor their contracts. It’s much cheaper to pay those attorneys than to honor their land contract. They profess to pay the courts directly for their leases but when asked for proof they don’t have it. I was rather shocked (and disappointed) to learn that this is very common in Baja. Some Americans even refer to it as ‘The Mexican Game’.
    I agree completely with your assessment that Americans who seem at first to be the most helpful are probably the people to be most wary of. (I’m not even referring to fugitives, that’s just one piece of the bigger picture.) Vetting potential friends becomes the norm. You keep people at arm’s length until you know they’re genuine.
    That being said – I have made some wonderful friends, both Mexican and American, and we help one another to have the best life possible here. It’s a beautiful place to live and although there are a lot of American ‘malandros’ in this part of Mexico I don’t allow them to ruin my experience.
    For me the key is being part of the larger community, learn the language, get to know the native locals, don’t be one of the bad Americans. You will have a rich a rewarding life.

    • Hi Jan,
      I totally agree! We have friends that have rented to American military personnel and got totally screwed by them, lost thousands of dollars. I mean, you’d think if it’s military, there would be some recourse but unfortunately, it is more expensive to higher lawyers and sue someone, after they have left the island, that it is to accept the loss.
      Hard to believe and very unfortunate. But as you, we have made some amazing friends here too, so overall, we can’t complain. One just needs to be smart about interactions with others.