One in three Americans would consider moving abroad

Going places.
Going places.
Image: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier
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Even on this Fourth of July weekend, 35% of Americans say they’d consider leaving the United States for another country.

According to a national survey of more than 2000 adults by TransferWise, the international money transfer company where I head up US operations, millennials take this number even further, as 55%–more than half–of America­ns aged 18-34 say they’d consider making the move.

I recently moved to the United States from the UK and as new British expat myself, I’ve come to realize that it really doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. While living in Brooklyn has been a bit of a culture shock, the big, “important” things in life have remained largely the same and have allowed me to stay connected with my family, friends and colleagues back home. In fact, many people move because precisely life is less complicated and expensive wherever they’re headed: According to the survey, “a better quality of life” was the most popular reason to consider relocating to another country among both US born (36%) and foreign-born (42%) residents.

More than 10 years ago, foreign affairs scholar Thomas L. Friedman published his “brief history of the 20th century,” The World Is Flat. In his book, Friedman argues globalization is unstoppable as the world will continue to “flatten” and become increasingly interconnected. As telecommunications, trade routes and economies expand throughout the globe, individual barriers begin to break down, which will usher in this new generation of increased globalization. These survey results suggest that it won’t just be migrants from the global south in search of better opportunities; call them migrants or call them expats, Americans will be moving too.

It’s not because patriotism is a dying ideal. It’s because Americans, especially the younger generations, have embraced the innovations in communication, transportation and financial technologies that make it easier and cheaper to move in search of easier lives. For all Americans, more affordable healthcare is the number one improvement that would make living in the US more appealing (chosen by 55% of residents). Lower taxes (51%) is the second-most compelling reason, and improved education (48%) the third.

Sure, I still have a rough time swiping my NYC subway card (not too fast, not too slow, make sure you have the green light before charging into the turnstile), or figuring out the proper way to hail a cab, but that will hopefully come in time. At least I can Skype and video chat, I can easily transfer my money to different countries and currencies, and transportation has never been easier—both in the air and on the ground.

I didn’t know of any restaurants or grocery stores when I first moved to my neighborhood, but with the help of services like Yelp and Seamless I’m already eating like a local. I’ve also found that online meet ups and social media have made it incredibly easy to find people in the same boat. And while there’s always a learning curve to getting acclimated to a new culture and country, the funny thing is that nearly everyone who moves anywhere ends up using the same technology to fit in.

And on the low-tech side, no matter where you go, there are always plenty of pubs to watch soccer.