One of the questions most Guatemalans first ask me when they meet me is “Why did you move to Guatemala?”
And that’s about when I start to shuffle in my seat, take a big breath and let out a big “Well…” before deciding how honest to be.
The truth is, I moved here to lower my tax bill by as much as possible. It was a calculated decision. I read a few books on tax around the world, talked with my previous NZ based accountant about my options and decided I was in a unique position to reduce my tax bill significantly.
Guatemala wasn’t the only option for somewhere I could dramatically lower my tax bill, there were other places too: Malaysia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Panama, and a handful more I’ve forgotten. As much as I love Asia, I didn’t think either Malaysia or Singapore would provide me with the kind of lifestyle I was looking for. So I decided to come to Central America and gave Panama a go.
From the moment I arrived in Panama, I didn’t like it. The city is beautiful, especially in the old town, but the rest of the city feels like a badly patched together version of a very crappy city in the United States. It was at the moment that I got a bill for a sandwich for a whopping $9 USD that I decided Panama wasn’t for me, which was a shame because Panama was the ‘easier’ choice than Guatemala on paper.
While in Panama I met a bunch of travellers who had a really bad time in Guatemala. Stories of whole buses being robbed at knife point. Actually, while in Panama I heard nothing good about Guatemala, so much so I decided to not board the flight I’d already booked to Guatemala and instead went to Peru. Then to Costa Rica and then to Nicaragua. Eventually I got bored of floating around that I got a major case of “Fuck it” and booked flights to Guatemala.
First day in Antigua, I cried. It’s a very beautiful place – a tiny colonial city fenced in by three volcanos. The streets are lined by crooked cobblestones, which I originally thought were very charming, and have since learned are a daily hazard for me.
For such a small town it has a ridiculous number of restaurants, coffeeshops, stellar chocolate and ice cream shops, and basically everything you would need as a youngish lady living overseas.
It’s absolutely stunning and perhaps one of the best places I’ve ever visited.
So while the tax situation was a huge motivation for me to move overseas, I don’t think I would have chosen Guatemala if I didn’t love it. There are many things I find challenging about living here such as the chaotic traffic, people’s loose understanding of the concept of time, the lack of support for people in need and so on.
But more than anything it is a very beautiful place to live and I’m very grateful to call this country my new home.