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A Guide For Would-Be U.S. Expatriates

By Steve Neely

Escape From America, by Roger Gallo (Manhattan Loft Publishing). Paper, $8.95.

Do people really want to escape from America? What kind of people?

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal yes, people really want to escape from America and for many of them, the sooner they can escape the better. The answer to the second question is that the kind of people who want to escape are America's best and brightest.

--Roger Gallo, Escape from America

July 21, 1997:  THESE OPENING paragraphs from the introduction to a new guide for would-be U.S. expatriates illustrate immediately what's appealing and what's unappealing about this book. It's filled with interesting questions and answers about emigration from America and life in other countries. It's also a poorly organized factual and grammatical imbroglio.

With the assistance of a professional editor, this evidently self-published book could have become an exceptionally useful resource. Instead, spelling errors, typeface changes and structural inconsistencies from chapter to chapter make it difficult to read and explore. Nonetheless, author Roger Gallo manages to provide a unique source of references for the prospective "escapee" contemplating emigration from the United States, as well as for current expatriates.

As we considered our own move from Tucson to New Zealand, my family and I found that we simply did not know certain things we needed to know. After several trips to New Zealand, we were better prepared, and we certainly knew more about the country than Gallo tells us in his book. On the other hand, our exploratory forays cost several thousand dollars. Escape From America can be had for considerably less, and it provides particularized information about more than a dozen countries and regions of the world, including Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

In addition, there are at least 50 pages covering a wide array of topics of interest to emigrants, including passports, Swiss banks, international telecommunications, free trade zones, and buying foreign real estate.

Considering a move to the Republica de Chile? The chapter on that nation is briefer than many. Nevertheless, Escape provides 13 pages of information about Chile, beginning and concluding with general discussions of her emergence from dictatorship to democratic prosperity. In between, Gallo lists six areas of economic opportunity for American "expats" in Chile, discusses Internet access and informs us of the state of political freedom and civil rights there.

The United States Department of State consular travel sheet for Chile is also summarized in this chapter, and includes briefs on medical facilities, entry requirements, crime and other topics useful to travelers.

The Chile section also includes something called "Stupid Story Time." This peculiar appellation accompanies vignettes peppered throughout the book. Some of them are indeed stupid stories that add absolutely nothing to the overall work. Others, including the author's own anecdote about Chile, provide some insights. In this instance, Gallo suggests ways an American who has taken "a few community college courses in air conditioning and refrigeration repair" might establish a business in Chile.

If you're more inclined toward Australia, Escape From America offers 20 pages of facts and figures. Brazil? Twenty-three pages. Ireland? Ten pages. And my personal favorite, New Zealand: 12 pages.

Readers who are undecided will find comparisons between attractive destinations tough going. The process is laborious because both the organizational structure and content of Gallo's descriptions of countries are inconsistent. For example, in the chapter on the Dominican Republic, he discusses agriculture as well as "getting in and doing business." But those topics simply do not appear in the chapter on New Zealand, despite the importance of agriculture to New Zealand's economy and his enthusiasm about the business climate.

Finally, the book is laced with accusatory observations critical of the U.S. government, its policies and its employees--sentiments shared by many expatriates (and many current residents of the U.S.). To his credit, however, Gallo also understands the exodus from the United States is due to more than simple dissatisfaction with the government. Consequently, his discourses about global opportunities, telecommunications, the Internet, and the like, while disjointed, will appeal to all but the most provincial American readers.

Gallo predicts future editions of Escape From America. If Escape II is undertaken with sufficient intellectual rigor to overcome the glaring flaws in the current edition, it will be a valuable and stimulating book.

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