How to Choose your Hometown in a New Country: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Settling Down

Are you looking for help moving abroad? Speak with an international relocation specialist by reaching out to [email protected].

If you are moving to a new country as a retiree, digital nomad, or remote business owner the world/country is your oyster. You could theoretically live anywhere!


But with unlimited choice often comes a lot of second-guessing and decision fatigue. How can you make an informed decision? You don’t have time to visit every single town and neighborhood.

Here are a few simple questions to ask yourself that will narrow your focus and help you find the right spot for you.

  1. What climate do you want to live in?

  2. How close/far from other people do you want to live?

  3. What amenities do you want easy access to?

  4. What activities will you be doing daily in my new hometown?

  5. Are you okay with driving most places, or do you prefer to walk/cycle/scooter?

  6. What type of community am you looking for?

  7. Do you speak the local language? Are you willing or able to learn?

  8. What do you need for my: job, health, and/or kids?

  9. How do you prioritize the list of requirements you just identified?


If you want a fun and interactive way to get an idea of your ideal location across Costa Rica, Panama, Portugal, and Spain check out the StartAbroad country quiz here.

What climate do you want to live in?

A fairly easy place to start, this just requires knowing the climate options within your target country and your preference among those options! If you’re moving to a small country like Costa Rica or Panama the variation will be limited (think humid with highs in the 90s vs. a bit less humid with highs in the 70s). If you’re moving to a larger country, or a country further away from the equator, there will be more of a range. Want all 4 seasons and a chance of snow in Portugal, or are you looking for a mild winter?


Regardless of your country and its range of weather and climate, think about what will be comfortable for you. Compare it to your current living situation and other places you may have lived. If you can’t stand the humidity in Florida, odds are you won’t enjoy it in Costa Rica. On the other hand, if you want to escape Canadian winters you will be able to accomplish your goal anywhere across the country!

How close/far from other people do you want to live?

Do you prefer an urban, rural, or suburban environment? Do you want plenty of neighbors around, or are you looking for some solitude in nature?


One of the great advantages of moving to a country with a lower cost of living is that you can often afford a bit of space, if that is what you seek. However, keep in mind that moving to a new country can come along with some bouts of loneliness. Being close to neighbors and community can help with the transition. Consider what matters most to you.

What amenities do you want easy access to?

Do you want to be able to walk to a corner shop or grocery store? Do you need to live within a 10 minute drive of the pharmacy? Do you want to live in a town where you can go out to the movie theater? Do you enjoy eating out at nice restaurants regularly?


All of these questions are worth considering as you envision your dream life in a new country. You’ll want to pick a place that has all of the major amenities you need. Keep in mind that, if you’re relocating from a more urban environment in the U.S. or Canada, even major cities in countries like Portugal, Panama, and Costa Rica may not offer the same diversity of choice that you’re used to when it comes to restaurants and shops.

Are you okay with driving most places, or do you prefer to walk/cycle/scooter?

This is a question that will help you determine your town/city and also your neighborhood. How much does walkability matter to you? Keep in mind that even in small towns, a car may not be required if there is a town center and you can find a home in that center or nearby.

What activities will you be doing daily in my new hometown?

If you love to surf, birdwatch, bike, yoga, play music, go to the gym, volunteer, or any other activity, make sure your new hometown will accommodate. Ideally the new home you choose will make it even easier than before to engage in the activities that you find most rewarding.

What type of community are you looking for?

Expats face an interesting mix of options when it comes to community. The first dynamic to consider is how important it is for you to be a part of a large expat community. These are others who have moved from other countries, who have also chosen to make a home abroad. Some of the great benefits of expat communities are camaraderie and common interests. Most expats have a real sense of adventure, an interest in other cultures, and a love of travel. With an international move, the secret to success is often having supportive friends. Expats who have faced similar challenges will understand your struggles and can provide especially valuable advice.


On the other hand, you will barely scratch the surface of life in a new country if you only spend time with other expats. You may prefer to focus on building community with folks who are from your new hometown. This is surely the fastest way to feel at home and to feel welcomed. Language skills, willingness to understand other cultures and perspectives, and a desire to adapt are often necessary here. If you’re willing to spend a little more energy up front,


Realistically, you will probably have a blended community of locals and expats once you settle in, but certain locations will lend themselves to a more expat-y community, while others will make it easier to make local friends.

Do you speak the local language? Are you able to learn?

As an expat who has lived in a country where I could barely communicate with taxi drivers, I *highly* recommend investing time and energy in learning the local language wherever you live. Putting in a little bit of effort often comes back ten-fold, in openness and friendliness from your neighbors and in a much better understanding of your new home.


That said, you may be a beginner, or not naturally inclined to pick up languages quickly, or very busy and struggling to put in the time to learn! If that’s the case, you may want to find a place where getting by in just English is possible. Look for university towns, tourist hubs, and/or hotspots for international professionals and you’ll likely have a good fit.

What do you need for my: job, health, and/or kids?

This is the important question of them all. What are the non-negotiables when it comes to the rest of your life – your family, your health, and how you make a living?


We always ask the aspiring expats we work with – how far from a major hospital do you want to be? In many countries, it is not a given that you will live within an hour’s drive of a 24 hour emergency room.


If you have children who will be enrolling in school, you also want to keep their educational needs at the forefront of your decision making. Oftentimes we counsel parents to make a shortlist of schools first, then decide on location.


Finally, if you have a job working remotely, or a business that you run remotely, you’ll want to keep a few things at the top of your requirement list: time zones, internet speed and reliability, and (possibly) access to an international airport.

How do you prioritize the list of requirements I just identified?

If you’ve gone through and answered the 8 questions above, you likely have a long list of criteria in front of you now. You may not be able to find a place that checks every single box, or your “perfect place on paper” might not be as exciting in person. To help you better sort out what is non-negotiable and what is nice-to-have, prioritize your list. A good rule of thumb is to make only half of your criteria must-haves, with the other half nice-to-haves.


Now, armed with your essential list of criteria for your new home town, you’re well-equipped to search for the best spot for your life abroad! If you want to discuss locations, you can always reach out to me at [email protected]. Or sign up for a free 15 minute consultation at and bring your criteria list – we’re happy to discuss which locations may make sense for you!

StartAbroad is here to help

Get a free consultation with international move experts at StartAbroad to discuss your situation and learn what’s right for you. StartAbroad provides a comprehensive suite of services to make your move abroad as easy and painless as possible. StartAbroad’s international moving experts have over 20+ years of experience living abroad and helping others get settled. Get a free consultation at to discuss your situation and learn what’s right for you. Ask us about our holistic concierge package, and our medical, visa, and tax solutions!


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