Working in a Romanian startup > doing customer service in Switzerland.
- Contrarian immigration is about immigrating where everyone is emigrating from (usually developing countries).
- Most things are easier there for foreigners: it’s cheaper, many services don’t yet exist so you can create them, usually has low taxes to attract entrepreneurs, people are friendly, etc.
Imagine two hotels.
One 5-star, one 1-star.
Both of them are free for everyone.
Which one will you choose?
If you choose the 5-star hotel, you’ll have to fight to get a room as everyone else wants to get in.
The buffet will constantly be empty as the hotel has too many guests.
The staff will be rude because they have more customers than they can handle.
Your life will seem comfortable, but you’ll constantly struggle to secure a bed for the night, breakfast in the morning, or a 30-minute session at the gym.
If you go to the 1-star hotel though, you’ll be able to choose which room you want to sleep in. The breakfast won’t be royal, but you’ll have enough food every day. And the hotel will be quiet at night.
This, in effect, represents the difference between living in a “rich” country as a local, and living in a “developing” country as an expat.
Life In a “Rich” Country
Rich countries are the countries where everyone wants to go to.
USA, France, Belgium, Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland…
While life seems easy and comfortable, these countries have been victims of their success.
It’s difficult to get a job. It’s difficult and expensive to buy a house. It’s difficult to find someone to date. There aren’t enough schools or daycare for your kids. The hospitals are overrun.
The state is bankrupt or has a high level of debt. Cities are dangerous. Taxes are high. Politicians care more about waging wars far away than about their local electors. It’s nearly impossible to create a business. Laws are voted for foreign billionaires. Not for you.
And when you try to escape mediocrity, you have to compete with someone else.
Because there are too many people. More people means more competition.
On top of the competition, you’ll also have to deal with the top talents. The top talents don’t practice contrarian immigration because they don’t have to. They go directly to the rich countries and know they’ll be hired.
Top talents occupy all the nice positions, leaving you with the dumb jobs.
Let me explain.
One day, I applied for an unpaid marketing internship at a Brazilian startup in Brussels.
I sent my resume and motivation letter. At the time, I had my first blog, two master’s degrees, etc.
I didn’t even get an interview.
So many people had applied that I stood no chance.
Fast forward to today, I work as a marketing officer for a fintech startup.
“How?”, will you ask.
I practiced contrarian immigration.
Contrarian immigration is about moving to a developing country to get what you want without the hurdle of competition.
In my case, it was to acquire specific experience or skills that will enable me to make a lot of money later on.
The magic of contrarian immigration appeared to me when I first moved to Poland and got a job after two weeks, without any prior experience, and after declining an offer from Accenture (which wouldn’t even look at my resume in Brussels).
Walking in the streets of Warsaw, I couldn’t help but notice the following:
- It was easy to find a studio in the city
- Girls were eager to date me
- It was easy to find a job
- Many towers were being built
- Yearly GDP growth of 3-5%
- Highly educated and kind people
- A positive outlook on the future
I didn’t make much money in Poland, I’ll admit.
But putting money apart, I had more of everything.
While I needed to compete with the Belgians, the French, the Dutch, the Germans, the Spanish, the Danish, the Latvians, the Italians, the Slovaks, the Irish, and many more to get a job, an apartment, or a girlfriend in Brussels, I literally had to compete with nobody to find these in Poland.
How to Practice Contrarian Immigration
Step 1: identify what you cannot have in your country (job, low taxes, good economy, etc)
Step 2: find a country where you can get that thing easily.
Step 3: move there.
Step 4: stay enough time to acquire what you need or desire.
Step 5: once you have what you need, move anywhere else.
So, what are you looking for?
A startup experience? -> move to Estonia.
An internship? -> move to Poland.
A medicine degree? Move to Romania.
Low taxes? -> move to Bulgaria.
Good and cheap healthcare system? -> move to Malaysia.
A wife? -> move to Russia.
I am serious. I once met a guy that was running a match-making agency between Danish men and Russian women.
These guys couldn’t get a wife in Denmark, so they were doing trips to Russia to meet girls and find one to marry.
In my case, I wanted to work in marketing in a startup, so I moved to Estonia (the startup nation) and effectively found…a marketing job in a startup.
The idea to move somewhere to get what you want is as old as the world.
What I am stressing here is your advantage to move into countries people traditionally move out of.
Why is it good? Mainly because these countries are in an ascending phase. Their future will be better than their past.
They haven’t peaked yet. The opposite is true for developed countries. They have peaked, and are now in a descending phase.
Living in a rich country as the middle-class today is attuned to living in an overcrowded 5-star hotel. It may be a 5-star, but it is also overcrowded. And the worst part is that the hotel is slowly but surely degrading to a 4-star.
Living in a developing country is like living in a 1-3-star hotel that is slowly transforming into a 5-star.
Whatever you want to do, you’ll be much comfier doing it in Eastern Europe than in London. As soon as people see you build your idea in rich countries, they will ruthlessly copy you, sue you, try to steal your best employees, be jealous, etc.
If you build your project in a developing country, you won’t have half of these problems – and it will likely be much cheaper.
The other advantage to contrarian immigration is that these destinations often offer you new problems to solve that don’t exist in your country. New problems mean new business opportunities, which means new money.
Contrarian immigration is not for everyone. It’s for those who understand the wisdom of sacrificing short-term comfort on the altar of long-term wealth.
In the short term, you’ll make more money working in a call center in Switzerland than working for a Romanian startup in Bucharest.
But in the long term, your Romanian startup job will teach you more about business and entrepreneurship than any call center job ever will.
Interested to move to another country?
PS: I’ll admit that after writing against living abroad, such an article may seem strange. But it’s not. Living abroad is a tool you should use to achieve a specific purpose.
If you are well where you are, why move?
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