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How a Programmer Gets By On $16K/Yr: He Moves to Malaysia 523

An anonymous reader writes "If you can make $10 and hour doing remote work, you can afford to live in Malysia. Make it $15 or $20, you can work 30 hours a week. Real money? Make it ten. This article talks about how John Hunter did it." Malaysia's not the only destination for self-motivated ex-pat programmers, of course. If you've considered doing this kind of sabbatical, or actually have, please explain in the comments the from-where-to-where details and reasons.
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How a Programmer Gets By On $16K/Yr: He Moves to Malaysia

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:05PM (#43208041)

    It's "one and the same"!
    You're a pal and a cosmonaut.

  • Re:What article (Score:5, Informative)

    by ph1ll ( 587130 ) <> on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:13PM (#43208111)

    ... and I can't find a country called Malysia (please note, editors: it's Malaysia).

    I know Malaysia well (even though I live in the UK). I first went there in '97 and married a Malaysian-born woman. Some observations:

    • They really like and respect white people.
    • They don't particularly like Chinese people (my wife is half Chinese so I see rampant discrimination against this large minority - about 25% of Malaysia's population - all the time).
    • The weather is great (although sometimes a little too humid).
    • Kuala Lumpur is a very advanced city that can compare to anything in the West.
    • Broadband speeds are so-so according to my cousin-in-law.
    • There appears to be a demand for good engineers (according to another cousin-in-law, a Chinese who studied IT in England). So, assuming you can get a visa, getting some interesting work shouldn't be too hard.
    • The political situation there is... interesting. But I get the impression that if you don't cause trouble you will be left alone - especially if you are white.


  • by tgeller ( 10260 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:25PM (#43208211) Homepage
    Just get the hell out of high-cost areas like Silicon Valley.

    I moved from San Francisco to small-town Ohio four years ago. I'm a freelance writer and have never met most of my clients face-to-face, so my income didn't change at all.

    But now I'm out of debt and living in a huge house I bought for $50,000 and enjoy very much. The money that used to go into such things as $6 drinks and $130 residential parking stickers now goes into travel, entertainment, and investment.

    I can't walk to eight sushi restaurants anymore. But I've found my lifestyle's improved quite a bit without having to leave my home country. And if I want to be around that many sushi restaurants, I can fly back to San Francisco whenever I want.

    Unless you really want to, why leave the country? The U.S. can be very cheap -- you just have to get away from the coasts.
  • by Stiletto ( 12066 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @06:44PM (#43208399)

    It's not causal. Working long hours does not cause you to be highly paid or wealthy. If that were true, all a vegetable picker would have to do is work 120 hours a week and retire in comfort. A CEO does not make 800X what his average staff makes because he works 800 times as long.

    Sadly, on average, the most accurate predictor of someone's income is their father's income.

  • Costa Rica & Panama (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <tenebrousedge AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 18, 2013 @07:30PM (#43208881)

    $6k a year is doable. $16k a year would be quite pleasant. I would avoid the capital or other large cities. Actually getting a work permit or visa to either country is difficult to impossible, but I know people in both countries who have been there for decades on a tourist visa. Do note, this tends to limit your options for local employment; it's far better to work online.

    There's essentially no native culture (or cuisine) in either place, "post-colonial" about sums it up. The police are nice enough but underpaid, the laws are enforced relatively arbitrarily and generally not in favor of extranjeros. If you're running a business, [a] congratulations for getting through the bureaucracy to accomplish this, and [b] you may from time to time expect to have laws about licenses and restrictions enforced against you that your (Tico) competition does not. I'm not sure whether I can really say that corruption was common, but it's probably fair to say that people were understanding about dealing with the laws and regulations -- or avoiding that, if necessary. I don't really consider this a bad thing, but if you have the expectation that the rule of law is going to be universally or rigidly applied, you may be disappointed.

    The weather is beautiful, it's not terribly expensive to get to and from either country (at least, from the US), English is spoken by a good percentage of the population, utilities are cheap and reliable, health care is extremely affordable (medical tourism is common), internet is not that fast but widely available, and of course, knowledgeable tech workers are in high demand. In Costa Rica the beer is not good and relatively expensive, in Panama you can get two beers for $1. Computers are available, but expensive. It's probably going to be a good idea to buy in the US and work out a way to get it. I've heard both good and bad things about the mail system; I'd call it generally reliable, but the paranoid might want to find other means of receiving packages. If you end up going back and forth to the states a lot, you can make good money on the side bringing electronics back with you.

    Panama is by far the cheaper of the two countries, you would probably be able to get by on less than $6k annually. I didn't like it quite as much because, at least in the places I frequented, cocaine was both common and extremely cheap there. That's fine for those who like that sort of thing, but generally I don't think it does much good for the community. Drug laws in both countries are sparingly enforced.

    Roads are generally better in Panama; the country has a lot more money due to that whole canal thing. I can't recommend driving in Panama City, or anywhere in Costa Rica. Cars are absurdly expensive, and paradoxically people don't care about the lines on the road, the blinky things above them, the relative speed and velocity of other vehicles, or pedestrians.

    Fun Facts: there are no addresses in Costa Rica. [] There are no roads connecting Central America with South America. []

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Monday March 18, 2013 @08:56PM (#43209645)

    You don't have to go that far. Just move to a third-world state like Vermont where the cost of living is a tiny fraction of what it is in the cities. No, I'm not talking about the ritzy places like Burlington, Norwich, Montpelier and Woodstock. I'm talking the real Vermont, the other 99.9%.

    Wait, forget I ever said that. I don't want everyone moving here! :)

  • by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @12:08AM (#43210701)

    Sure I have credit card debt, but the house is half paid for

    Get rid of the higher interest debt first - that would be the credit card. Also note that the mortgage interest is probably at a much lower effective APR and is tax deductible, whereas that cc interest is not. Too many people focus on paying off the house while they should be paying off the cars, credit cards and other more expensive debts first.

  • Consider Taiwan (Score:4, Informative)

    by GoCats1999 ( 936745 ) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @01:36AM (#43211031)

    After living in Silicon Valley for almost 10 years, we moved to Taiwan for 4 months (just got back), while I continued working as an independent contractor for US-based companies doing custom web and iOS software development.

    In a word, it was *awesome*.

    You could definitely make a very decent living in Taiwan, especially outside of Taipei (Taipei could still work pretty well, but rent prices are significantly higher than the rest of the country.)

    Living expenses are incredibly cheap, especially for a first-world country. Bonus, If you can qualify for an ARC (Alien Resident Card), then their nationalized health care is really cheap.

    We had a beautiful (albeit on the small side) 2 BR/1 BA apartment in the heart of Kaohsiung (Taiwan's second largest city) for $400/month. Utilities at around $75/month. Wife and I both had unlimited 3G on our iPhones for $30 per month each — oh, and that *includes* UNLIMITED tethering (something you'll never get with AT&T or Verizon).

    Food in Taiwan is incredible... both in taste, as well in cost. We never cooked, always eating out every breakfast, lunch and dinner to the tune of about $15 per day total.

    Taxis can take you pretty much anywhere for about $2-$4 per trip... or you can take the subway for about $1 per ride.

    All told, we were spending about $1500 per month.

    However, despite its benefits, there are definitely some downsides. Taiwan (like most of East Asia) has notoriously poor air quality. Lack of emission control standards on vehicles make it very difficult to walk (let alone jog or work out) outside without feeling a bit nauseous. When walking around outside, you will see people wearing masks *everywhere*.

    Also, unlike other countries in East Asia with a stronger western influence, it is very difficult to get around Taiwan without being able to speak Chinese. While there are some people who do speak very basic conversational English, it's a bit more on the rare side, so trying to get around or order at restaurants can be challenging. It tends to be a bit easier in Taipei, but then, you'll end up paying more in living expenses.

    But if you are able to get through some of those challenges, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience. We are already trying to figure out how and when we can get out there again!

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