I’m retiring and selling some domain names

I’ve decided to give up my title as the World’s Oldest Web Nerd. I am retiring. I am selling a dozen or so domain names I own — for ideas and projects that never quite got off the ground. I started writing and publishing online 20 years ago, initially about the business of travel and tourism. With one exception, the travel related domains have already been sold.

I have lived and worked outside the USA for the past 15 years and this prompted me to write and post articles about American expats. There are an estimated six million Americans living and working in other countries — and uncounted millions more Americans are thinking about working, studying or retiring to a foreign country. For these Americans, one of the most important ways to keep in touch is online. They want news about taxes, medical insurance, and more. They want entertainment from back home. And, they want to buy products and services that are generally not available in foreign countries.

This domain, ExpatAmericans.net, is one that I am selling through GoDaddy. For the other domains, I have slapped together one-page sites with ideas on how the name could be used. Take a look. They are:










An American black woman in Norway


For more than a century there have been many American blacks who found a comfortable life in Europe. When I lived in France the first half of the last decade, I had two friends who were young African-American women. One had been recruited to play in a French semi-pro women’s basketball league. The other woman had gone to France as a Christian missionary, but had a falling out with her church, found a job and a French boyfriend, and decided to stay.

These two women did not know each other until I introduced them to one another. They had a running joke that they would sometimes get so hungry for a conversation in American English that they would settle for me, an old white guy.

I was reminded of these two women this morning when I read a post on the blog American Black Chick in Europe. The post is about Whitney, a young black woman from Arizona who moved to Europe seven years ago. After trying the life in several European cities, she has settled in Stavanger, Norway.

Whitney has a blog, Thanks For The Food, where she writes about buying expensive ingredients to prepare healthy meals — ingredients that are expensive in Norway. While living in Germany, she wrote two travel guides, one of which is now in a second printing. I encourage a visit to Whitney’s About page.

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What expats love about Vietnam

By Ken Smith

I’m thinking I should plan an extended visit to Vietnam. I’ve never been there, so I don’t know how long “extended” might be. I could use my air miles (before they expire) to buy an open-ended return ticket.

I’ve talked to several people and read many others who have good things to say about Vietnam. Fascinating culture. Great food. Inexpensive living. Wonderful scenery. I recall reading one comment by a backpacker who said there’s not enough money in the world for him to return to Vietnam, but he did not explain why.

Several years ago, my seat mate on a long flight was an Israeli woman who had art galleries in New York and Tel Aviv, plus a studio in Hanoi where she lived half the year. Her specialty was working with artists who blend traditional Vietnamese art with abstract modern. She showed me her catalogue, featuring the work of a half-dozen contemporary Vietnamese artists. I was fascinated and ready to book a flight. I’m not an artist, but I like communities of artists and cities that encourage such communities.

I recently stumbled onto an interesting web page about expats in Vietnam. If you have even a faint interest in some day visiting Vietnam, it’s worth reading. Also, click on some of the links of this government-sponsored website. Tuoi Tre News, a media outlet belonging to the HCMC Communist Youth Union, is managed by Pham Duc Hai, its editor-in-chief. Like their Chinese neighbors to the north, it appears that the Vietnamese are successfully blending capitalism and western marketing techniques in a socialist government.

– Ken Smith

Tuoi Tre News

Whenever asking expats what they do not like about Vietnam, we often get familiar answers about traffic chaos, reckless drivers, degrading bus system, rubbish on the streets, polluted rivers or people’s unpunctuality.

However, when it comes to their favorite things about Vietnam, each foreigner has their own response based on their good memories of living in this S-shaped country, even though some have lived here for just a couple of months.

Stivi Cooke from Australia wrote to explain why he fell in love with Vietnam even though he has been struggling to adapt to the new life and to earn a living in a small tourist coastal town of Hoi An.

“The kids giggle, the adults smile, the food’s great, the summer weather is a dream, my students are very nice (usually!) and my local area is quiet at night. I often like to sit out in my garden in the dark late at night, drink a Larue and watch the stars on a clear, hot summer’s night with not a sound in the air,” Stivi listed favorite things from a simple daily life in Vietnam.

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Pico Iyer: Where is home?

By Ken Smith

Here we have a wonderful talk by one of my favorite writers, Pico Iyer. He asks a question of himself that many expats also have asked: Where is home? It is a question I’ve asked myself. I have lived in Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico for more than six years now and this may be as long as I have lived in one place in my life. I did not plan to stay here in Chapala. I was on my way to Costa Rica and Panama, but haven’t made it that far yet. I plan to go somewhere soon. I have not yet fully unpacked my suitcases, thinking for six years that I would leaving.

So, where is my home? Probably Chapala, but my official address is a post office box in Texas. I have lived outside the USA for a dozen years. I had no grand plan to become an expat — it just happened. I am from a fairly typical middle class family in California. But, almost all of my family and friends in California have moved elsewhere. My younger brother married a Danish woman and emigrated to Denmark 20 years ago. My son had a teaching job in Montreal for ten years and became a Canadian citizen, and he has recently moved to France for another teaching job. Not a typical pattern for a middle class American family. It just happened.

More and more people worldwide are living in countries not considered their own. Pico Iyer himself has three or four “origins”. He was born in Oxford, England of parents who were born in India. He spent part of his childhood in California. For the last two decades, he has lived in Japan.

The United Nations reported in 2010 that about 214 million people — 3 per cent of the world’s population — lived outside their country of origin. If these expats could be gathered in one spot they would represent one of the world’s largest countries.

I have been reading Iyer for two decades since I first discovered his book Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East while waiting for my next flight at Heathrow in London. His most recent book is The Man Within My Head – a difficult book to categorize, but I consider it a beautiful tribute to Graham Greene. Reviewers have described the book on Greene to be a counter-biography, a shadow-autobiography, a personal memoir, an original, a literary feat, or even a confession by Iyer. These descriptions are all correct.

Watch the video and ask yourself where home is.


I’m thinking my next post here will be about how I tried to organize a 100th birthday party for Graham Greene at his favorite restaurant in Antibes, France, where he met for lunch with his mistress every day.

The magnificent classic cars in Cuba

A classic Chevrolet in Cuba.

A classic Chevrolet in Cuba.

Here’s another good reason to visit Cuba: To see the pre-1960 automobiles that are still on the road.

A young British woman recently visited Cuba and took the photo above, along with two dozen more that she posted on her blog. She is known as Vicky Flip Flop on her blog (vickyflipfloptravels.com) and as Vic Philpott on Twitter (@VickyFlipFlop).

Click here to see her post with photos of the cars in Cuba. And, be sure to look in the right-hand column for links to her other posts about Cuba.

As most people know, the reason that there are so many classic cars still on the road in Cuba is that the United States has had a trade embargo for the past half-century, which means no new cars or parts for the American-made autos. The trade restrictions still being enforced means that US citizens, including me, cannot legally visit Cuba.

See my post: “US Treasury stops American trips to Cuba”.

– Ken Smith

FATCA: A Project Audit

Here is another great post by Victoria Ferauge, an American expat who lives in France. I admire her ability to take a complex and confusing issue such as FATCA and make it understandable and readable. — Ken Smith

By Victoria Ferauge
The Franco-American Flophouse

Awareness of the implications of the U.S. law, FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) is growing.  For FATCA supporters the past few weeks has seen both domestic (US) opposition to reciprocity and the Intergovernmental Agreements (IGAs), and yet another delay in implementation.  For FATCA detractors this is good news but it’s too soon to tell where this is all going and I wouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.

Whenever there is a lull in the action, smart strategists take the time to reassess.  FATCA, the law, is a reality. It was passed by the U.S. Congress and, come hell or high water, the U.S. Treasury and the IRS have to come up with some way to make it stick. That’s their job. But what began as a law to force foreign banks to disclose their U.S. Person account holders has become something else altogether.

What we are seeing right now is the creation of a very complex worldwide financial reporting system – what Marvin Van Horn has dubbed “GATCA” (Global Account Tax Compliance Act). Is this what the U.S. Congress had in mind back in 2010? I really doubt it. U.S. lawmakers are not terribly concerned about other countries and their problems with tax compliance. Some are even horrified that their very own foreign investors might be deemed another country’s tax evaders and they are resisting any attempt to make U.S. banks report those accounts to their respective governments.

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Canadian expat sells face masks in Beijing

Kelvin Lau, a Chinese-Canadian, shows one of his face masks. Lau used to work as an engineer in Beijing, and now runs an online shop selling masks. (Photo: Simon Song)

Kelvin Lau, a Chinese-Canadian, shows one of his face masks. Lau used to work as an engineer in Beijing, and now runs an online shop selling masks. (Photo: Simon Song)

By Teddy Ng
South China Morning Post

Kelvin Lau Kam-wai, 33, is a Chinese-Canadian who moved to Beijing two years ago from Vancouver, first working as an engineer at a multinational telecommunications firm on an expat package.

Like other Beijingers and expatriates, Lau has struggled to cope with food-safety concerns and worsening air pollution, and he has spent a lot of money on water and air purifiers to stay healthy. While the pollution has driven some expats out of Beijing, Lau opted to stay, but he also quit his job – giving up the expat package that came with it, from accommodation to a car.

In May, he started an online shop that sells face masks made out of carbon fabric with replaceable activated carbon filters inside.

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IRS to review expats’ passport renewal

By Brian Mahany

tc_logo_b_SQlargeThere are millions of Americans living overseas but only a fraction file United States tax returns and even fewer file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBARs” for short). Back in the 1970’s, Congress passed the Bank Secrecy Act, which requires U.S. taxpayers with aggregate offshore financial assets in excess of $10,000 to report those assets annually to the IRS. Until 2008, the law was largely unenforced.

Beginning with the criminal investigation of Swiss bank UBS in 2008, the IRS and Justice Department has put a great deal of resources into enforcing the foreign reporting laws. Several big changes to these rules are coming which puts all those not in compliance at tremendous risk.

The newest and biggest risk to financial privacy is FATCA. Beginning next year, FATCA — the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act — requires “foreign financial institutions” to review their accounts and report those with ties to the United States. Foreign banks, hedge funds, some precious metal companies and even some life insurance companies are all subject to the new law. Under the threat of huge financial penalties, Uncle Sam is making foreign bankers become the eyes and ears of the IRS.

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Change proposed for taxing American expats

Many American expats are simply oblivious about their obligations to file tax returns. Here in Mexico I tried to suggest to an otherwise intelligent acquaintance that he should pay close attention to FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts). He waved me off, saying it was a “conspiracy theory” and he didn’t want to hear more.

Below is a short video by American Citizens Abroad outlining a Proposal For Residence-based Taxation. That is followed by an article by Victoria Ferauge, an American expat who has lived in France and Japan all of her adult life. And, below that is another video regarding taxes for American expats. If you are an American expat, or even thinking about living in another country, the material below is well worth your time.

– Ken Smith

By Victoria Ferauge
The Franco-American Flophouse

American Citizens Abroad has been doing some excellent work to try and get the U.S. system of citizenship-based taxation changed to residence-based taxation.

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