37 Moving Abroad -Tips for Nomads and Expats with David McNeill

David McNeill of Expat Empire poses for a photo in his new home, Lisbon Portugal for this artwork of Alone with Peter Season 2, Episode 20
Alone With Peter
37 Moving Abroad -Tips for Nomads and Expats with David McNeill

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Feeling at Home in the Netherlands and South Korea with Peter Kersting | Expat Empire Podcast 46

I actually had the privilege of being on David’s podcast Expat Empire a few months ago to talk about my time living abroad. You can check that out here!

David McNeill Founder of Expat Empire

If you want to get in touch with David McNeill or learn more about what Expat Empire has to offer your move abroad check out the links below.

Website: https://expatempire.com

Podcast: https://expatempire.com/podcast-overview/

Facebook: https://facebook.com/expatempire

Instagram: https://instagram.com/expatempire

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/expatempire/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/ExpatEmpire

Please enjoy part 3 of our interview with David McNeill, Founder of Expat Empire

*Transcripts may contain a few typos. With interviews ranging from 1-2 hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors.

Peter Kersting: Welcome to Alone with Peter. I’m your host. And on this podcast, you’re going to hear interviews with entrepreneurs, artists, digital nomads, and people seeking personal growth. We’ll dive deep into what set them on their journey, where they are now, and how their story can impact you, including any helpful insights if you feel inspired to take a similar leap of faith. No matter where you are on the journey, thank you for spending some quality time Alone with Peter.

David McNeill: We’re back for the third and well, hopefully not final, but the last interview for now with David McNeill, the founder of Expat Empire. Previously on Alone with Peter, we talked about David’s Japanese fluency, ad nauseam, and its fascinating stuff. Linguistics always gets me going. And I think for anybody who’s interested in moving to another country, especially a country with a very different language and culture, you can learn a lot from that episode and from David himself.

David McNeill: So don’t forget to go back and check out that first and second interview if you have not already, but right now we’re going to talk about Expat Empire. We’re gonna talk about what that is, who that applies to, and how David’s attitude of saying yes to opportunity and being open to pivoting has led to his success in this business opportunity.

David McNeill: You’re not gonna wanna miss out. At the end of this episode, we’re going to be giving you some actionable, practical tips if you’re interested in living abroad, working abroad, being out there, and seeing what the world has to offer. So stay tuned for that. All right, David are you ready, man? How’s it going?

David McNeill: It’s going very well. Yeah, I’m definitely ready. Love to talk about all these topics. It’s near and dear to my heart, obviously, and share as much insight, knowledge, and advice as I can.

David McNeill: Yes, yes, yes. Okay. So first I’m gonna start with this question. How important has it been for you to learn to pivot and just take the lemons life gives you?

David McNeill: Unbelievably important. And I think it’s probably, I would venture that listeners of this, or viewers of this episode and these past episodes would maybe look at my experience or the things that I’ve done and say, wow, everything worked out great or you know, this or that.

David McNeill: I’m very fortunate that it has in the big picture, but, I have gone over quite a tough road over the years. You know, my plan, as we talked about last time was to stay in Japan. At least initially, that was what I wanted to do. That was my big passion. I finally got there and it ended up only being an experience of two years, which is not the shortest, but it’s also not the longest time. And that was again because I applied to 50 jobs there.

David McNeill: I did not end up getting the one that sort of worked out or that made sense for me and my career. And so I decided okay, time to move countries, languages, and cultures for an opportunity in Germany and Berlin. And so that’s just one example, but you know, I’ve gone through something like six jobs in seven years. So I had, I mean we can get into it, but I had that. I had a job in finance, originally. I left that after a couple years, then I worked in San Francisco for, a tech company for a year. Got laid off from that, after coming back from China, which we talked about, then I went to Japan, worked there for two years and ultimately had to make the decision to move on. And then I worked three different jobs in Berlin in the three years that I was there and then came to Portugal for a new opportunity and got laid off a year after that.

David McNeill: So, you know, it’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs. It’s not always been fun, but it has worked out in the big picture. And I guess that’s the thing about it is that it makes me realize that I can adjust. I can always pivot. I can change what I’m doing, what I’m focused on in the country, the culture, and everything else to make it work for me. But, it’s not been an easy road and I don’t want to have anyone come away from this thinking that, you know, stuff has just fallen into my lap. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of disappointment and frustration along the way, but I’ve just kept that goal of staying abroad doing what I want to do, and continuing my career and the path that it takes to keep me going,

Peter Kersting: David, thank you so much for being honest with the audience, because I think, especially in today’s world, we’re getting these snapshots. We get snapshots of people’s success, snapshots of their Instagram stories. And we forget that we’re seeing this at 500 times speed. We joked about this in-between episodes that when you see somebody’s road trip, you’re not seeing all the stress and the sleep deprivation, and arguing with your friend, cuz he is backseat driving. You’re just getting the highlights. Of course, that looks like a great life. And for you to be honest with us that, Hey, you know what? Yeah. I spent 15 years studying Japanese. I thought I was gonna be in Japan for a long time. This was the plan. And then it’s just two years and I had to pivot? I’m sure at the time that was so disappointing and so hard for you.

David McNeill: Oh yeah. I remember how angry I was at Japan. Let’s say like as a concept, like, I had sacrificed and invested so much for it. And that’s what I got in return? That’s how I felt. You know, you get rosier glasses as time goes on and things like that. And I mean, it is what it is. And obviously, I’ve been down the path I was supposed to be on. I don’t regret it for an instant and you know, ultimately now I have my wife, who’s Japanese and we speak Japanese at home, so you know, some people would say…

Peter Kersting: Hold the phone!

David McNeill: Haha, yeah.

Peter Kersting: Okay. First of all, I didn’t even know until, two interviews ago that you’re married for the last two years, but second of all, your wife’s Japanese, that is… Okay. So anybody who’s listening, stop jogging, park your car real quick. And just think about this for a second. Okay? This guy spent 15 years of his life studying Japanese, becoming fluent in Japanese, learning about the culture, and appreciating the culture. And there was value in that in and of itself by itself. Okay. That’s, that’s very important to remember this. It was passion that taught him to do that. Second of all, he went to Japan. It wasn’t what he wanted it to be. And I don’t mean that as the experience wasn’t worthwhile, but it didn’t last as long as he wanted it to. The job market didn’t work for him the way he hoped that it would.

Peter Kersting: And he had to pivot and move on and you can look at that and say, that was a failure. And yet, hold on a second, you don’t meet your wife if you don’t go to Japan. If you don’t study Japanese, you don’t go to Japan. If you don’t go to Japan, you don’t end up in Berlin. If you don’t end up in Berlin, you don’t meet your wife. So for anybody, who’s trying to wonder if the effort they put into something is worthwhile or not just shut up and think about that for a second. I love that.

David McNeill: Yeah. Thank you. And I, I feel lucky and fortunate, and all of those types of words. Whatever the right word is for how it’s worked out. But I think maybe the key takeaway is not oh, you might find your soulmate from that, but more that at the end of the day, you don’t know how these things are going to go. And then, I mean, as, I don’t know, as I’ve kind of thought about it as I’ve learned, and as I’ve read, to be honest, it’s this idea of, you need to know the what and the why, but you can’t know the how. The how just happens. So for me, it was many things in life, but, what is, I want to go to Japan. Why? Because I love the culture. I love blah, blah, blah. You know, all that stuff. How? I have absolutely no idea, but I’m gonna try to figure it out.

David McNeill: And you know, one thing eventually leads to another. It may take longer than you expect, but it happened. And then subsequently with Germany, subsequently with Portugal, subsequently with the business. I’ve seen it happen time and time again in my life. It’s hard for me to give up that sense of control, but there is a level of that that I think we have to do because, well, I’m not trying to get too spiritual and I’m not religious, but I will say there’s, there’s a strange way that these things tend to work out one way or another, for reasons that are outside of my understanding. I can leave it at that, but it’s like you said, how would I have had any idea that I would end up meeting my wife in Berlin, a Japanese person, and then, you know, be able to continue using the language…And people love to say, oh, you have a Japanese wife. That must be why you’re so good at Japanese. I have to tell ’em no, I studied my ass off to make it happen.

Peter Kersting: It’s another one of those typecasts.

David McNeill: It’s one of those things where, at least for me, it’s important for people to know that I put in the work and I’ve been able to reap the benefits over time, but it’s never been clear how it all comes together.

Peter Kersting: And yet at the same time when somebody just goes, “oh, you were successful because of blah, blah, blah.” Or, “oh, you know, Japanese cuz of blah, blah, blah.” You just gotta let that person think what they’re gonna think. You know what I mean? It’s like when you just go, “Yeah. I’m from California” and they go, “oh, lalalalala.” And you’re like, “yeah, I’m not gonna correct you. That’s, sure. Yes. That’s exactly right. Thank you. Now let’s move on to a different conversation.”

David McNeill: Yeah. You have to pick your battles. Yeah.

Peter Kersting: So we talked about it, how dangerous it is to just go snapshot, snapshot, snapshot. This is life and their life is so much better than mine and they’re so much more successful or whatever. Or it’s easy for them. That is the wrong way to see things because we’re only seeing… even in this podcast, we’re only seeing some of the highlights, and yet at the same time, being able to step out macro and go, oh wow. That led to that led to that led to that. I don’t know.

Peter Kersting: I hope that this is kind of a little bit of an exploration for you as well to be like, oh wow. Yeah. My life has a direction and I have control over that direction yet. I don’t know the details. I love what you said about that. I always think of this analogy as an audiobook narrator. You know the story’s gonna go from San Francisco to New York. The end of the book is in New York. But, you’re driving at night on the highway. You don’t know what route exactly you’re taking and you can only see about 30 yards in front of you because of your headlights.

Peter Kersting: And every 30 yards you get another 30 yards. Jon Acuff in his book Start uses the analogy of a staircase shrouded in shadow. You don’t see where the next step is taking you. You just take the next step. I think that’s a huge takeaway from this, but I’m digressing.

Peter Kersting: Looking back on it. How did this previous experience, all these pain points, all these things that like, Hey, you know, is it really gonna be worth it? How did these experiences prepare you for your current venture with Expat Empire?

David McNeill: Yeah. Wow. There’s a lot to put in there, but, I would just say for me, it goes back a lot to this idea of being abroad and living this type of life and traveling and so on in whatever form it’s taken or will take is so vitally important to me. And I feel like it’s been an essential part of just me growing up and learning a lot and becoming self-sufficient and obviously yeah, meeting my wife in a different country, a foreign country to both of us. And I guess as I kind of zoomed out on my career as well,I mentioned, the career was super important to me and I tried. I did seven, or eight years as a product manager at different companies and this was an important drive for me as well to move again countries and so on to find these opportunities.

David McNeill: But what I realized was that my passion was not for my career in the end. It was just something that I could do that was interesting to me and paid alright, and was interesting. What enabled me to be able to move to some of these countries again and get sponsored for visas and things like that. Maybe it’s obvious talking now, but in a way, again, it’s that self-reflection, but just seeing the big picture of the important thing was going to all these different places and living this life and making that happen. That to me kind of came together in this idea of this has been so important to me. I know there must be kindred spirits and souls out there that wanna do this, that are thinking about it or will think about it or are scared to take the steps or don’t know what to do, you know, any of any and all and I’m sure more of those types of concerns and issues that people are thinking about are going through that.

David McNeill: I’d love to be able to kind of help them take the next step, whatever form that takes. Maybe that’s starting the process. Maybe it’s actually moving. Maybe it’s getting settled when you don’t feel settled or going back to your home country or whatever it is. I mean all along the way if I can play some role in that and have some impact on that, then I think that would be really valuable to me. This is a topic again, that’s so important to me and so close to my heart that it’s just something that I again feel that passion for. like we talked about with studying Japanese.

David McNeill: That’s kind of where it all came from. And out of all of that eventually came the name Expat Empire and a book. First, a book about my time in Japan and how I was able to find work there and studied the language and all the stuff that we talked about because I wanted to basically pay that forward to the next person that wanted to do it.

David McNeill: When I was growing up, when I was in high school and in college, I was looking for a mentor that could help me figure out a way to work in Japan. And unfortunately, I never found that person. And so now that I had 15, 20 years of experience learning the language and also finally had worked there and everything else, it was like, okay, I wanna put this together, make it my first product, my first digital product, put it on the market. And you know, it doesn’t make a lot of money. That’s fine, but hopefully, the right people will find it and it can help, you know, inspire them, and give them some tips and pointers that I learned the hard way over the years to get there.

David McNeill: That’s awesome. How was that received, that first ebook about Japan?

David McNeill: Well, it was received well, I mean, definitely I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on it, but I would also say what I learned from the process is that, well, let’s say the route typically to go to Japan, which a lot of people it’s, for example, what you’re trying to do, I think with, you know, teaching English and so on, that’s a very common route and well-trodden path, or however you say it. You know, people kind of know the process and frankly, you know, those companies or governmental organizations. They make the process fairly straightforward. They help you along the way with it and figure most things out. So I think it’s a great way to go, but what I also found is that, again, it only happens with self-reflection and talking to a lot of people, but I’m just not normal in this way.

David McNeill: and I did, I took a very strange path. I think with Japan, a lot of people go to teach English or be a translator and interpreter if their language skills are at that level. Or they go as a senior executive or they go and work for a foreign company like I did, but those people are relatively few and far in between. So it was learning from a product standpoint that I think it’s helped a lot of people that are in a similar boat and with similar goals and desires as me, but at the same time, what I’ve actually found in my business is a lot more people wanting to move to Europe, for example, for one reason or another. So I think, you know, Japan, Korea, China, like a lot of, you know, different even from a place like Bali, like tons of people are trying to get to Bali or Thailand or these places.

Peter Kersting: There are so many places.

David McNeill: Yeah. But if you go up to China, Korea, Japan, these are just harder in many respects. I mean, usually requires some language fluency, um, you know, more foreign culture, more stark contrast, you know, to Western cultures I think, than some other countries. And so I think that’s what I’ve learned as well. And that’s also informed the business, but as a first product, yeah. I’m super proud of it. Like I’ll stand behind it 110%, and I’m really proud of the fact that I put it out there and that some people have, you know, managed to find it and, give good feedback.

Peter Kersting: If someone was interested in reading your ebook, where can they find it?

David McNeill: Yeah. So it’s pretty much on all of the ebook platforms. It’s on Amazon. It’s on my own website, expatempire.com, but it’s also on Barnes & Noble and, iTunes books and all that good stuff. So pretty much I tried to put it anywhere and everywhere so that people can find it with what’s best for them

Peter Kersting: Kinda like the podcast. ,

David McNeill: That’s what we always do, man. Yeah.

Peter Kersting: Which we didn’t really touch on that earlier, but of course, you are a podcaster as well. Okay. So I wanna, I wanna backpedal here a second. And like I said, I would love to have you back on the show some time to maybe talk more about your insights, about someone wanting to move to Japan or do something like that. And just maybe talking about right. Cultural stuff there, but I wanna backpedal and ask you to say in your own words, what is Expat Empire? You kind of touched on it, but what is the target audience who would get the most value from that?

David McNeill: Yeah, absolutely. So I think that’s evolved over the years. As I mentioned, it started with the book, and then you talked about the podcast as well. So that was the second product and still releasing episodes with that had you on there recently. Uh, so hopefully it’ll be out by the time that this episode’s out, but, um, you know, from there it’s, it’s grown, uh, and evolved, uh, adding videos and courses, blog posts, uh, all this different content about living and moving and working abroad. And the real goal is ultimately to help anyone to move anywhere and to make living abroad, uh, a more attainable dream for more people around the world. And so we don’t do that only through our content, although that’s a big part of it, but also through our consulting services as well. We can help people think through some destinations abroad that would be a good fit for them, whether countries or cities, we can work through the coaching one-on-one or researching the visas that would best fit your situation.

David McNeill: If you’re set on a certain country or the steps you have to take to be able to move abroad and to get settled into that particular country, or of course, finding local jobs as I’ve done and helping with your applications and your job search strategies, or even transitioning into remote work. So, thinking about those opportunities as well. And so, as you said, what type of people would best fit this? Again, we try to help anyone move anywhere. It tends to be that a lot of our clients are Americans trying to move to Europe is just a general profile, but obviously, a lot of people fall outside of that. That’s probably biased by one thing or another, you know, of course, me here as an American in Europe, in Portugal, I think that’s a big draw, but, in terms of the other. Otherwise in the profile, I mean, it’s people that wanna get local jobs, it’s remote workers and digital nomads, it’s retirees, entrepreneurs. And of course, if you don’t fit into any of these buckets, we’re happy to chat as well. But you know, that hopefully gives you some direction and idea of the type of people that we’re working with.

Peter Kersting: Expats and nomads from various walks of life. Okay. We’ve talked about it enough times that I want to ask you, how would you define digital nomad?

David McNeill: I think a digital nomad is essentially someone who can let’s say work from anywhere from, you know, as long as they have internet access to a computer. And you can be a digital nomad within your own country. I mean, uh, in a way it’s not all that different from working in the cafe down the street, you could sort of say this person’s digital nomad because they’re able to do that or remote worker. I mean, these, these terms get kind of, you know, mixed up here and there. And I think in a sense we’re still trying to figure out what it all means, but, um, but also, of course, that could be outside of your home country or in another city in your home country. But, you know, a lot of people are talking about, of course, people working from, from different, uh, countries and things like that.

David McNeill: And typically people do that through, you know, getting a tourist visa, staying some amount of time under the tourist visa limits in different countries and then moving on. Um, and so it’s kind of a life of travel and work. And honestly, I think one of the challenges there is just trying to balance those two. Um, you know, and so what other people find is, for example, more of a quote, unquote expat or whatever you want to call that is somebody, at least as I think about as somebody who stays past the tourist visa, who’s really moving to a country. And typically that involves, you know, getting along, stay visa and figuring out your tax residents and getting your social security and healthcare and all of that stuff set up in that country. So it tends to be a lot more of an intense process and that’s what we’ve gone through. As well as you Korea and me in these countries as well, but also quite rewarding to have that home base abroad. There’s definitely a spectrum here. It’s not black and white, but I think that’s kind of how I think about it in terms of the differences

Peter Kersting: Whether you’re interested in moving abroad, teaching abroad, retiring abroad, or just traveling at all. I hope you’ve been finding this interview both informative and entertaining, and I hope you’ve been finding Alone with Peter, both informative and entertaining. And if you have please think about leaving a review on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, or Spotify… Wherever you get podcasts. Not only does it help me get more listeners to the show, but that feedback is valuable for me as I continue to grow the show into something that is more useful for you.

Peter Kersting: A great way you can do that is by leaving a review or following me on Instagram and letting me know what you thought of a particular interview. If you wanna hear more from David McNeill I would love to have him back on the show, but let me know what you think. Get in touch with me on Instagram. @alonewithpeter and show him some love. All right, let’s get back to the show and to those actionable, practical tips with David McNeill of Expat Empire

Peter Kersting: For the person perusing expatempire.com, what you will notice is that David has put a pretty heavy emphasis on that spectrum. So if you’re the type of person who is looking to move around a lot, sounds like you have some advice that you can give there. When David just said medical and, long-term visa and things like that. If that’s something that’s percolating in your ears. Then that’s really important to remember too. And I wonder if we could spend this last little bit of time we have with you David, just trying to provide some actionable practical tips for the audience.

Actionable, Practical Tips for Moving Abroad

Peter Kersting: You’ve gotten a lot of stuff to chew on here, right? Are you gonna stay long-term? What is the visa process? Like? Some people can just jump and go. That’s, I’m a little bit more like that. Some people they need to really know what’s going on. How do you plan? How do you do an international job search? These are all things that you’re able to help with. And I wonder if you could maybe start by what are some of the most common problems or obstacles or solutions, whatever one you wanna pick from mm-hmm that you notice your clients need help with. And if there is some general advice, cuz of course there’s a spectrum here that you can give people when they’re considering

David McNeill: Honestly, it so much depends on their profile. Like I said, it depends on what country they’re coming from. What’s this in ships that they currently hold, where they want to go to and their profile as far as whether they’re trying to be digital nomad or a remote worker, but living somewhere long term or, you know, finding a local job or retiree an entrepreneur. So it’s hard to give, uh, you know, broad advice, but I would say like you talked about and, and you know, going through kind of these decisions, it’s really a question of, do you want to be on the road all the time to some people that sounds great, but actually, you know, I think if you think about it a little bit longer, , you’d realize that there are some challenges there. It doesn’t mean it’s not, you know, as, as with anything that’s challenging, you know, maybe those are the things most worth doing, but you know, it takes time thinking through, you know, do you want to do that?

David McNeill: In fact, if you were to do that, what would you do to make money? Where would you want to go? Um, you know, and how would you pick those spots? And especially in this situation with the restrictions and regulations, anyway, I’m not trying to get into the whole world of it depends to answer every question, but more just recognizing these, these things that people need to think through. And of course, we’re happy to help them do that, but they need to whether with us or on their own or with somebody else just need to kind of really figure out a plan and what the end goal is. I think because the last, I think the last thing you’d wanna do is to move to a country and not have really thought it through, um, because of all the cost and all the time and the headaches that come with the bureaucracy or just to, you know, leave everything behind, jump on a plane the next day and then realize like, you know, it’s not about, oh, I don’t have this thing or that thing as long as you have your legal documents, but it’s more about is this the lifestyle that I want, do I want be hanging out at hostels all the time?

David McNeill: Some people thrive on that for me, I don’t. Again, it’s also a time and a place thing. I did a bunch of hostiles in Europe which was kind of the end of my hostile days when I was traveling around. But as of now, I can’t imagine going back to that at this stage in my life. So it’s just all of these questions, thinking through them and focusing on the purpose and the end goal; what you wanna do with it. That will take you pretty far.

Peter Kersting: But there are so many factors. And as you said, knowing what you want to get out of it is very important. So what I’m gonna do right now, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, but I have at least two archetypes that I’m thinking of. And maybe we could just go from their approach.

Peter Kersting: So let’s start with the first because the people on this show are interested in travel. I would say they’re interested in living abroad and they’re also interested in entrepreneurship. As we mentioned, there’s a variety and then artistic and creative things, right? So let’s start with the perspective of somebody who’s an entrepreneur. Somebody who’s interested in being in business for themselves and is a little bit more like yourself or me in the sense that the job is supposed to fuel their goals, which is more to do the things that they want to do with their lives.

Peter Kersting: So maybe the job, maybe it’s their own business or maybe it’s a job that allows ’em to do what they want to do, but one or the other, they are choosing a location for more long term. Let’s use that as the archetype here and right. What are some of the things that let’s start with this? Um, what visa is something they’re gonna be gonna have to be thinking about, right. Like how do I get a visa for the place I’m gonna be, but what are some of the emotional, mental, and physical stresses that they’re gonna run into that being more prepared will help with? Let’s assume it’s Europe for the sake of this, this conversation.

David McNeill: Wait, so just to make sure I’m clear, you’re asking about the immigration stuff or you’re saying more on the mental, emotional, or you want both? I just wanna make sure I understood the question.

Peter Kersting: No, uh, I don’t know. It’s a good question because we don’t have a whole lot of time, but let’s just,

David McNeill: Well, I can, I can hit both. I just wanna make sure

Peter Kersting: Maybe this is somebody who’s, they’re not ready for the visa. They’re just trying to do the prep. Yeah. And they wanna know, is this something I can do? Right. What should they be preparing for? And then assuming that they did go, what are the things that are gonna make them successful there? How about we do it like that? Yeah,

David McNeill: Absolutely. I think what’s really important, especially, uh, for an entrepreneur, let’s say that they already have their business, you know, set up in the United States, for example. Well, they’re just gonna have to think, especially as they’re looking at long term, you know, immigration plans and things like that, to be able to think about, can they manage that business from the United States and the income that comes from that to be able to qualify for a visa in another country, or are they gonna need to open up a foreign subsidiary there or are they gonna actually have to, you know, maybe close their business in the United States and open a new one in the new country to be able to qualify for startup or entrepreneur visa. So, you know, that’s just getting just the tip of the iceberg as far as the immigration concerns. So you can see already that there’s a lot of stuff to figure out from a technical standpoint, but when they actually in, you know, move over there and let’s say they’re successful in game, the visa and everything I think to be successful in that context is definitely to of course, um, you know, if they do have to set up a business there to be aware of their requirements and the legal things and everything else and dealing with the bureaucracy, which varies by country and some are, some are much easier than others here in Portugal.

David McNeill: Uh, it’s not so easy. It’s not so fast and it is typically done in Portuguese. So you definitely need some good help with that. And I think in general, for people looking to move abroad, I mean, I know I’m, in this business and it doesn’t mean that you have to work with, uh, exed empire or anything like that. But I think it helps just to be open to the fact that it’s gonna cost money to move. Um, it always costs money. You have to think of it as an investment instead of just hemorrhaging outta your pocket. But I think it’s also worth just hiring someone to help you with it. And I mean, again, that can be, can come in all shapes and forms in all different types of people and companies. But I think, um, you know, what I’ve learned in all of these moves is that when we even found out that we were coming to Portugal, it was like, okay, we need someone to help us with the visas.

David McNeill: We need someone to help us find a house here. Like we just, we just jumped to that because we know what a headache it is and how much you can potentially lose in terms of time and sleep and money just by trying to, to do it the cheap way doing on, on your own. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, but, uh, you know, a lot of people find that to be harder than they expected, especially if it’s a first time around. So I think you learn more of the value of these types of services and help down the road once you’ve done it a few times and you’ve, you’ve got, you know, the, the frustrations to, to go with that experience. Um, but yeah, you just have to be adaptable. You have to be flexible. You know, you have to be open minded, but ultimately as well, like willing to work within the confines of the local culture and business culture to be able to be successful in your company there.

Peter Kersting: Yeah, that’s really good point. And as we said before, it’s gonna be so, so dependent upon the individual person’s circumstances, what their business is, whether or not they’re just trying to find a job there or whatever. Um, so that’s really important to keep in mind. This is, this is all generalities we’re talking about here, but, um, I I’ll just say from my experience, there is an aversion sometimes to working with somebody else, you know, like I’ just figure it out, but you gotta ask yourself how much, how much, like there there’s so much to figure out. Like sometimes it helps at least to talk with somebody to get an idea. So the fact that you guys do timeline planning, you know, and, and things like that, just to sometimes you try to jump into something and you don’t realize how much goes into that. Like, how do you find a place in Korea? Like if I wanna rent a place in Korea and I don’t speak Korean, even though I’ve got the job, like is my business that I’m working for setting that up for me, like otherwise, how do I figure that out? And sometimes having somebody to help you, whether it’s a friend you’ve made or a business, like your own is gonna be just like so much weight off your shoulders to figure that out.

David McNeill: I think a big piece of it is as well is like, you don’t know what you don’t know. So you think I, oh, I’ve got a good, you know, idea of the things I have to do. But if you don’t do something before you leave your home country or you don’t do something early enough in the, the place you’re moving to, then that could have, you know, rippling consequences and things like that. So I think just being aware of what to watch out for is, uh, value within itself.

David McNeill: Yeah. Like you said, if you don’t know, you don’t know, and if you’re trying to narrow down locations, something like this is really helpful. I mean, I’m just, I keep thinking back to this Confucian, uh, quote here, that’s like there are three methods we can learn with, do you know this one, but the three methods of learning wisdom?

David McNeill: I don’t think I know that one. No.

Peter Kersting: First by reflection, which is noblest. Second by imitation, which is easiest. And third by experience, which is bitterest.

David McNeill: Well said.

Peter Kersting: When you were talking about learning things, the hard way that is exactly what it is. It’s bitter, it’s hard. You learn a lot from it. And guess what, somebody I’m more willing to work with someone like you probably in the future because of how much I’ve learned on my own, cuz I know how much can go wrong and how like exactly. Especially if you know, whatever. So just, I’m not trying to sell your business. And you’re not either necessarily right now, but just for someone thinking about this stuff, sometimes just having a conversation with somebody who can kept an idea of how much there is going on can really help them choose the right spot for them. And, and that’s what we want.

David McNeill: Exactly.

Peter Kersting: The other thing I wanted to touch on really quickly. And maybe we’ll say this and then, and then we’ll wrap up for someone who is trying to really make the best of their situation in another country. What are some of the things that you’ve found in your experience? Either working with people who are a little bit more detail oriented and used to things being done their way, how do you help them succeed? Because I think the flexibility makes it a lot easier and some, some people just, they need their structure. So I guess the question is two part, if I’m a structure person, if I’m a planner, if I’m like someone who needs that to be happy, how do I create that in this new environment? And then two, how do I step back enough to say like, Hey, part of what I’m doing here is changing up my structure and being okay with being a little more flexible.

David McNeill: Yeah. It’s definitely a good question because I know I’ve experienced the challenges there. I think part of it is of course, in a sense how you set up your own life. I mean, there, there’s only so many things that are under your control, right? And the culture, the, the prevailing culture and the place that you’re living or in your workplace is not something that you can easily, uh, control. And probably it’s not really worth trying to control too much unless you’re the CEO or something like that. But, um, I would say, I mean, for me, at least as a person who does love structure is just having my to-do list. I’ve always got that going on, um, personal in business and I’ve got my different calendars and all synced up to, you know, all different services and devices and everything. So I think I can maintain a lot of my sanity in different places and always changing places because I have that core to go back to and what a sort of system that works for me.

David McNeill: And that’s always evolving. Maybe it’s different tools, maybe it’s, um, you know, a different way of doing things. I’m always trying different stuff, but I know kind of what works for me now. And it’s always just building on that. And so I do that from a personal standpoint, just to keep that stability, despite everything else around me, changing and for folks that are having, you know, trouble adjusting to their new, you know, environment, new place, I think it’s good of course, to not expect people just to reach out to you, but you need to do a lot of the outreach and that’s not always fun. Like we talked about, maybe it’s always the same 20 questions, but at least if you’re making an effort, hopefully you’ll find that core group of people. And if you meet them at an event, what I always tell folks is if you meet somebody, uh, at an event at a meetup or this or that, then I always try to get their contact info and then meet up with them soon after, but in a separate context.

David McNeill: So it’s not just that they’re your meetup friend or your beer friend, but I think what’s core is that it’s easy to meet people to have a beer with or go for coffee, grab some food. But the problem to me is like, or the challenge is to actually find people that are your close friends like that you can really share and confide in and, you know, trust and everything else. And I think what’s really hard in those early days. Like I said about, you know, going to the, the Berlin club and all that stuff. The day I got off the plane from Japan was like, I didn’t really much keep in touch with those people after it was just that, you know, a little bit, but it was like you meet those people at the beginning and you have to be very picky about the folks that you really invest in because I don’t know, it’s just gonna be better over time.

David McNeill: And I don’t think many people like to feel like they’re the only ones that are making an effort in any type of relationship. So I think you kind of have to go back to that and, um, you know, be, you can always, you know, talk to someone or therapist or whatever. You can be a bit more introspective at times for me when I need a break from everything, I go to the movie theater, because it’s just like, especially if they’re playing movies in English or something, even if, hopefully it has something you can understand in some level, because it’s just a different environment. And I, I love films as well, but it’s like just a way to kind of refresh, but I would at last just sort of say, it’s a possibility that that’s not the right place for you. And doesn’t mean that you need to make that decision lightly.

David McNeill: In fact, you should take it very seriously and not just, you know, you should give a place a year. Like we talked about before, you should really, uh, invest the time because it’s not gonna happen overnight. And you need to invest in making those friendships and relationships and, uh, you know, meeting people, but also your apartment and your job and, you know, the culture and the food and everything. So there’s all that I’d say, give it a year, but if it’s not happening after a year, a year plus, and you’re not able to adjust and things like that, then you could always look for that next opportunity, that next place, um, you know, it doesn’t mean you even have to go back to your home country if you don’t want to, which has been my experience. It’s just moving along to the next place. So that’s been my experience. And I would just say, you know, give everyone should give it good thought before making a big decision, but keep, keep in mind that, you know, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not the end of the world, either

Peter Kersting: A lot of really good advice there. And, David, I wanna thank you again for taking the time to spend with us here on Loma Peter. And maybe I could ask as a final question, if there was any one piece of advice that you could give to someone who’s interested in doing a business abroad or just living abroad, you know, in general, what would be the one thing that you would say to somebody who is like, Hey, you know, I wanna do what you’re doing.

David McNeill: Yeah. I think just pulling from my own experience, I would say, keep the dream alive, like talk about it to other people. Um, it might not happen for you immediately. For me, it took a couple years to finally get to Japan, despite many efforts to do so. Um, so it may not happen in your timeline, but keep the dream alive, tell other people about it, make it known. And it’s amazing sometimes what that will bring your way. I mean, maybe you’re the friend of a friend or your aunts. Somebody knows someone who’s in Japan or whatever country you want to go to. And those opportunities can come your way. Um, it’s just amazing how that can happen. But again, I think going back to what I said before, we might know the why and the what, but not the how so. Um, I would just, you know, and maybe it’s talking to the right folks and getting into those connections, tapping into your network, whatever it is that helps you do what you wanna do. Um, you know, and, and, and for, to that matter for me, I thought maybe Japan wasn’t for me. And I, you know, I have just gone to China for a few months. So I was also looking at stuff in China as well. You know, you have to be flexible, but it’s like as long as it’s driving towards some sort of goal and you’re, you’re keeping, you know, the possibilities, the realities in mind, I think you can make those steps.

Peter Kersting: Yeah. Being willing to pivot, even if you have a really strong plan is so important. David, if somebody wants to reach out to Xed empire or to you directly, how could they get in touch with you? How could they find out more about your services?

David McNeill: Yeah, absolutely. So you could definitely reach out to us at expatempire.com. We have all our blogs and links to everything there, of course, information on our services. You can schedule a free 30-minute consulting call there, but we’ll talk through your situation. See if it makes sense for us to work together, but most importantly, to provide value to you and help you think through your next steps. We also have an ebook there that you can sign up for. Sign up for our newsletter to get that. It’s a top 10 tips for moving abroad. And it’s really based on my years of being abroad now. And ultimately a lot of the takeaways that I have outside of what we’ve shared in these episodes. So we’ll let people check that out and we’re on all the usual social media channels as well.

Peter Kersting: That’s fantastic. David McNeill from Expat Empire can’t thank you enough for being on and I’m really hoping we can get you back on. Maybe if people give us enough love for this episode and see if we can talk more about, your experience in Japan and also for those of us that have a significant other, what’s it like to try to travel or to live abroad in that circumstance? Cause it’s a whole different ball game when you’ve got a ball and a chain.

David McNeill: I’d love to. Thank you for the opportunity. I hope folks out there like it and I’d be glad to share some more thoughts.

David McNeill: That’s gonna do it for our interview with David McNeill of expat empire, what a wild wild ride, listening to David’s experience as an expat and a traveler as a business owner, entrepreneur and podcaster. Oh man, it gets me fired up talking to people who do this for a living, whether you consider yourself a creative entrepreneur, digital nomad, traveler, you name it. Thank you for spending some quality time alone with Peter and for checking out the podcast, don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe on your favorite platform. So you never miss another episode and we will see you next time.


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