Why Expats Leave Colombia

While I am pro-retirement in Latin America, having lived there myself and experiencing a lot of the luxuries and lifestyle traits that some would think are not attainable, I do present all sides of the equation.  Let’s be honest, there are always three sides to every story, and I’m very happy that one of my favorite YouTube Channels, How to Expat, presents every side of the argument as it pertains to moving to Colombia.  This video hones in on many reasons expats leave Colombia and retreat back home, often times inside of six months of living there.

Why Do Expatriates Move Back Home after Living in Colombia?

Sam: Why do most expats leave Colombia inside of the first six months? Welcome to How To Expat. My name is Sam. As the owner of a company that helps expats relocate as have a behind-the-scenes look of many lives from many expats. I can tell you from my experience what I observed is that most expats are probably 50% of expats leave Colombia inside of the first six months. In this video, we’re going to talk about the reasons why most expats leave. Before we talk about the reasons why and how you can avoid them, let me explain why it’s very bad that a lot of these expats go.

Of course, if you moved to another country and you have your big plans to stay there for life, and you will integrate to the culture and everything like that. Most people just go because of the reason I will tell you afterwards. The bad thing is that a lot of people leave a lot of money on the table because of the upstate. Could have just done a little bit research, wouldn’t have done the chump, and they would have saved themselves a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of hassle.

It’s really important that you do your research before you do the move to live abroad. The first real reason is surely too big of a culture shock to handle for the host people. Many people come here with unrealistic views of how life is as an expat. They think they can come here, set up shop, get very good prices from the beginning, and everything like that. They come here and they see, “Wait a minute, nobody speaks really English.” Or they come here and see, “Oh, it’s not so easy to rent an apartment and get local prices.”

There are many, many other reasons, and this is really important that you do your research before. Try to watch as many videos as you can to get a feel of how it is. Most importantly, come to the country or to the city you like first for an extended period of time, maybe at least two weeks or something, to get a feel how it could be. Even that really prevents a culture shock because the culture shocks usually said in, like three months, four months after you just came here. This is really the reason a lot of expats leave is too big of a culture shock to handle for them.

Then another big reason why many people leave is the cost of living. They see on blogs or they watch our videos, how we got an apartment for $320 a month. They do their calculations and think, “Yeah, you know what? I can live here for a $1,200 a month. No problem.” The issue is that is a very steep learning curve. You have to come here. You have to learn the culture. You have to learn where to shop. You have to have some contacts to get a good apartment.

It’s not so easy. They just think that they can come here, and have the cost of living of a seasoned expat here at first. They come here for like two or three months, and they see, “Wait a minute, I paid just for my apartment 1,500 US dollars.” That plan to come here for $1,200 cost of living in general. They think that it’s just bullshit. A lot of people talk about that. They’re all liars. They go back to where they came from because they say, “I have no advantage of living in Colombia because cost of living is the same as in my home country.”

For you, it’s important that you get a holistic view of everything, and understand that you don’t get the real cost of living of a seasoned expat, which you can see in all the blogs, international living in various overseas, and in our website that– you have to come or go there step by step. You don’t get that from the beginning. Then another reason why many, many expats leave is that they tell, they don’t find like-minded friends here. For me, that’s really a translation in, “I’ve not integrated into culture here too much.”

Because there are more or less like two kinds of expats. One, they just want to come here and live a better life for them. They want to rent a very good apartment with a whirlpool, and move to the places where they speak English, and think that they can go there, set up their own little kingdom, and then be happy with a very low cost of living. Then there are the other expats; they come here and they want to integrate. They learn Spanish. They want to make Spanish friends and Colombian friends, and all that stuff.

A lot of the first part of those people that want to go here and set up their own kingdom, they will leave very soon because they find not like-minded friends here because a lot of people that stay here for a longer period of time, like many, many years, are the people that integrate. The people that don’t want to or cannot integrate to the culture because a big issue is not speaking Spanish, for example. They won’t stay here too long because they do not have like-minded friends because those friends don’t stay too long here in Colombia neither.

It’s very important that you know that if you want to come to Colombia, you most definitely have to integrate to the culture. Otherwise, you can be very, very lonely here because– of course, you can make expat friends, but as I said in the beginning, like 50% of the expats, they will leave the country inside of six months. Almost everybody that you meet or every single person that you meet will go some way. It’s just hard to make long-term expat friends here. On the other hand, if you know that you have, or if you want to integrate yourself into the culture, you learn Spanish, make Colombian friends, then you’re on the best way to spend a lot of time here in Colombia.

Then another real thing– I don’t know if really have a cure for is a partner issue. A lot of expats come here and they fall in love with a Colombian partner, and then they stay in Colombia because of their partner. Of course, if that relationship breaks up, a lot of those people suddenly recognize they never fell in love with Colombia as its own. They fell in love which is the Colombian partner. Then they just stayed here. If then the partnership breaks up, a lot of those expats, they’re going to go back home inside of one or two months.

This is another thing, and what a lot of people have to realize is that a partnership here with a Colombian partner is not really like back home. There are a lot of different things. We are going to deal about that, too, in a bit, but just for you to make sure that you understand having a relationship here with a Colombian is very different than having a relationship in your home country. Just another reason why many expats leave Colombia.

Then the thing I hate most is visa issues, especially for people that do not have a pension and are here for a pension visa. These are people that stay here for an investment visa. Lot of those people, they just mess it up for themselves. I have to be very honest. They come here, do their visa, their investor’s visa, and they do not take care of their company or of their investment they made. You can see a video here where I did the expat alert, how the process changed, and I will keep you guys updated if anything else changes. You just have to make sure that everything is in order because getting a visa can be easy but getting the renewal of that visa can be very hard.

If you just come here, be happy that you do have your visa, then do no maintenance of that visa, you can be gone from Colombia very, very fast. This is very avoidable. This is just a pity if you’re just too lazy or you just forgot about it, and then you have to leave Colombia because of some technicalities. That’s just a heartbreaker. You love the country, you love the people, you integrated yourself, you learn Spanish, but you were just forgetting about how to renew the visa. Then you have to leave.

One thing you can avoid if you know what you’re doing. The important thing is that you have a good lawyer and a good accountant who will help you with the process from the beginning, to set it up clearly, and to tell you what you have to do in the long run. Of course, there are many other reasons out there why people leave. These are the most common ones, and pretty much the very avoidable ones if you do the right steps.

We, as How To Expat, we are a company that helps foreigners relocate to Colombia and to other parts of Latin America. We offer services so you find the right information, and we offer some other services where we show you the city, so you get a realistic view of the city. You don’t just come here, settle down, and then after two months, find out it’s not for you because of some minor issue you could have known before. Make sure to check out our website with our services and our free information there.



Tim Schmidt is an Entrepreneur who has covered retirement investing since 2012. He started this website to share his expertise in using his Self-Directed IRA. Most recently he's been advising individuals to diversify into precious metals ahead of a certain recession. He invested with Goldco.