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Reasons NOT to live in another country

When I talk to students about going abroad for more than a quick sight-seeing trip, they frequently tell me that they can’t live or work in another country because their family wouldn’t like it. When I ask for details, I hear personal reasons that I don’t address. For example, “My grandmother would die if I didn’t visit her three times a week.” I also hear several other reasons, often couched in family terms. One is a variant on “My father told me that it’s too dangerous.” The other is “My father told me that I need to stay on a straight career path, not wander off to Europe. When I get back, employers will think I’m flaky.”


Where’s the data? Here’s the chart I could find that had the most people killed from terrorism, worldwide:

Terrorism Deaths

Terrorism Deaths


During the worst year, 2007, almost 13,000 people (not just Americans) died. That’s 0.00018% of the world’s population, eighteen hundred thousandths of one percent, i.e., miniscule.

But they’re killing Americans, aren’t they? Well, the U.S. State Department has a web page for learning about the Death of U.S. Citizens Abroad by Non-Natural Causes. The top 10 from 2006, when 881 Americans (excluding military) died from non-natural causes, a record high. It has another for Current Travel Warnings, that is, countries that thay recommend Americans avoid or consider the risk when traveling to that country, as of March 2012.

deaths abroad US State Dept travel warnings
252 vehicle accidents
190 homicides
134 other accidents
119 drownings
114 suicides
25 plane crashes
18 drug-related causes
13 maritime accidents
10 terrorist actions
6 disaster-related
Cent. African Rep.
South Sudan
Cote d’Ivoire
N Korea
Saudi Arabia

In other words, take public transport and learn how to swim, and you’ll be quite safe abroad. Compare those two hundred homicides + terrorist deaths to the almost fifteen thousand murders in the U.S. every year. You’re much safer outside the U.S.

Here’s how many people die from other causes, according to researchers at Oxford University. Almost twice as many people die from (non-terrorist) guns in the U.S. every year than died from terrorism at its worst. Combining the two sources of data leads to summaries like this, based in part on data from the National Safety Council: NSC Study Shows You are More Likely to Killed By a Cop Than a Terrorist

You are 1048 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attackYou are 404 times more likely to die in a fall than from a terrorist attack

You are 87 times more likely to drown than die in a terrorist attack

You are 8 times more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist

"Are we safe yet?"

“Are we safe yet?”

What the folks worried about terror are really talking about is the anxiety about terrorism that has been marketed to them. In the 1950’s, when I was in grade school, every month, we had to get under our desks and assume a fetal posture during “air raid” drills in case the Russians dropped the atom bomb on us. The teachers all stressed, every month, that we didn’t know whether this was a drill or the “real one”, so we had to take it seriously. I spent a fair amount of time as a 7-year-old clasping the back of my neck while lying sideways under my desk on the cold, often muddy (in winter) floor, contemplating my eternal fate. Looking back, I realize that it was a waste of time. The threat was never even close to being that imminent.

But the teachers loved it. Their big problem, as always, is keeping 7-year-olds focused, and thoroughly scaring us on a regular basis helped.

We will look back on this current age of terrorism in the same way. Then the question becomes, who profits from keeping you scared as my teachers (and many others) profited from keeping me scared? They also tried to force me to write with my right hand. Neither worked.

But people want to kill Americans wherever we go!

If that’s your concern, get out of the U.S. as fast as you can! Well over half the countries of the world have a lower homicide rate than the U.S.

Career path

We live in a global economy. If you work for any organization, the larger it is, the more likely it is to have customers in other countries, suppliers in other countries, corporate owners in other countries or some other transnational connection.

Native speakers of English are about a quarter of those who are online.

Resume building

Resume building

If two people apply for a job or a spot in a graduate program and they are equal in every respect except candidate A spent a year teaching in Thailand or working with the Peace Corps in Tanzania and candidate B didn’t, it’s unclear to me why candidate A would not be preferred.

As another example, Buffalo’s decades-long population decline seems to have bottomed out. The city itself is now gaining population.

Who is moving to Buffalo? Refugees from other countries, about 2,000 per year. As of the most recent U.S. Census, 2.5% of the population of the City of Buffalo are Karen refugees from Burma. That’s a lot of school children who speak an Asian language at home. Fora job teaching those kids, why wouldn’t they prefer the candidate who has spent a year immersed in an Asian culture?

For another example, countless graduate programs have an international connection, like an international business concentration in an MBA program or an international contracts concentration in a law school or a British Commonwealth literature concentration in an English PhD program. When you apply for that graduate program, why wouldn’t they prefer the candidate who has significant international experience?

For businesses and corporations in general, with a little googling, you can find all sorts of reports like this, from the U.S. Defense Department: What Business Wants

The National Security Education Program (NSEP) … has undertaken one of the most systematic efforts, to date, to assess and understand the needs for global skills in business.Knowledge of the culture of a country and region is just as important as knowledge of the language. This is an integral part of a skill set not only for global professionals, but for any successful professional operating in a U.S.-based multicultural market. … With the rise of globalization, more businesses need to be better informed about different religions and cultural symbolism, particularly concerning marketing campaigns.