You know you're not ready for a new life in a foreign haven if:
1.) Your umbilical cord is connected to your keyboard or telephone. In many of the countries you're probably considering, telephone service can be unreliable. Your cell phone probably won't work. And your Internet connection, if you have one, will be slow and painful. In a Third World country, you probably have a 50-50 chance of being able to send e-mail when you want to--and that's in the major metropolitan areas. If you are a day trader, forget about it.
2.) You must have a three-minute egg for breakfast. Can't abide a four-minute egg? What about a two-minute egg? Or a 20-minute egg? Do you expect your waiter to set a hot cup of coffee in front of you within minutes after you've sat down at the table? What happens if the people at the table next to you, who came in after you, get their food before you have even ordered? If these things bother you, you should cross most Latin, Caribbean, and even many European countries off your list.
If you must have Hellman's Lite Mayonnaise, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream, Ballpark Franks, or any other particular name-brand product, bring your own supply...or, better, learn to eat like the locals.
3.) You don't know norte from sur. You may expect that, in most places around the world, you will be able to find someone who speaks English. We say, don't count on it. In some places (Panama City, for example), yes, you'll be able to get by with little or no Spanish. But part of the fun of moving to a foreign country is learning a new language. If you can't read the menu at the restaurant, how will you ask the waiter what it says...and how will you understand him when he tells you? Will you be able to ask for directions if you are lost or tell a doctor what's wrong with you? You will never penetrate beneath the tourist level of a place until you learn to speak the language of the locals.
4.) You own a watch. OK, maybe we're exaggerating here. But, the truth is, if time is money to you...you'll go broke in most Latin and Caribbean countries...and many other places besides (including Ireland)...where you can spend an entire afternoon standing in line waiting for an ID card, a driver's license, or your car registration...only to be told at the end of the day that the office is closing and you'll have to come back tomorrow. If you can't abide waiting...and you don't like the idea of slipping someone a five-dollar bill to move you to the front of the line...then maybe you should keep your Timex and the arm it is attached to at home.
5.) You don't like to be patronized. Will the Internet server be up later today? Si. Can you fix a 3-minute egg? Si. Will the office be open tomorrow so I can finally get my driver's license? Si. Do you speak English? Sí, y usted me entenderá.
Americans are among the only people in the world who don't mind telling you "no" if that's the answer to your question.
Outside the U.S., and especially in Latin cultures, people are extremely polite and don't want to disappoint you. They simply are not capable of telling you "no" or "I don't know"--even when they absolutely have neither the ability nor the intention to follow through. They are not intending to mislead you; they just want to make you happy.
By the way, this applies to giving directions, too. In Mexico last week, we stopped a half-dozen times to ask directions to our hotel in Leon. We were given, with confidence, six entirely different answers and pointed to every corner of that city. We finally found a map...and made our way to the hotel on our own.
6.) Barking dogs keep you awake at night. The U.S. is heavily regulated...Latin American countries are not. This is one of their big advantages in many ways...but it comes with some downsides. If your neighbor's dog bothers you, and your neighbor isn't interested in doing something to stop the barking...who can you complain to? No one. Why do you see one-room shacks alongside million-dollar mansions? Because there are no zoning laws. Why do jackhammers sometimes operate at 3 a.m.? Why do the locals set off firecrackers at all hours of the day and night? Why do cars drive on the roads with no brake lights and no operating turn signals?
Because they can.
There is only one cure for baldness. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.