Lately, I’ve been talking to people back in the US, who—for one reason or another—tell me they want to move to Europe.
I get it.
A few years ago before the 2016 election, there were a bunch of jokes about emigrating to Europe if there was a certain outcome. Turns out that certain outcome happened, but understandably, people didn’t want to uproot their lives so suddenly.
And now, the added pressure from how the US is handling COVID-19 and the events leading up to the Black Lives Matter protests has got people thinking about leaving again.
So, should you move to Europe?
Europe isn’t perfect, but my answer is yes. DO IT. I moved to the Netherlands from the US in 2019, and I love my life here.
Let me tell you why you should do the same and consider moving to Europe so that you can decide if this is right for you. And because just the desire of moving isn’t going to be enough, I’ll tell you some ways in which you can viably move abroad and live out your dream.
The first thing I want to talk about is how people often say they would like to live abroad at some point in their lives, but don’t end up doing it because it’s too difficult.
It is difficult. But totally worth it.
4 Reasons to Move to Europe in 2020
It doesn’t matter whether you want to move for a year, for several years, or whether you’re looking for a new place to settle down permanently. The fundamental reasons to move stay the same.
So let’s start with why you should move, and why 2020 is the year to consider doing it.
#1 Experience A New Culture
Isn’t this an obvious reason? But let me dive into it a bit more to tell you what I mean by experiencing a new culture.
When you travel, you typically get to see a few sites, try some of the local cuisine, and if you have more time, maybe you’ll even get to see a bit of the local customs.
But experiencing a new culture is more than that.
It’s living in the local atmosphere every day.
And there is A LOT of local culture to take in. Especially in Europe. It is astounding how different things can be even if you’re from another western country like the US or Canada.
Soaking up a different culture can do wonders for the way you see and live life. For instance, I live in the Netherlands, where everybody bikes. Before being exposed to Dutch culture, I had no interest in biking to places. Biking in the cities in the US? Forget about it! But now, I’ve started seeing biking differently and really appreciate how quickly you can get to places on a bike.
I’ve travelled to several European countries, and the funny thing is that even though they have a lot in common, these countries can be really different from each other.
Think about it, living in Germany vs Italy is very different, even though they’re both fairly close to each other. Depending on which country you want to move to, you’re definitely going to find yourself enjoying the everyday experiences that are different from what you would have in your home country.
If you move to Italy, you might find yourself drinking espresso after dinner on a regular basis. If you move to the Netherlands like me, you might find yourself buying huge chunks of cheese every week. It’s these little habits and customs that you pick up along the way that you will be able to take with you for the rest of your life.
And you might not even know what you expect in some of these cases. Before actually moving to the Netherlands, I had no idea how big of a deal Easter was here! It’s almost like the American Thanksgiving! So this year, even though the Dutch had to stay home due to COVID, Easter brunch could be delivered to your door.
And it’s not only what people DO on a daily basis that can really make you grow as a person, it’s actually learning about what makes the people in that country tick.
Learning about a different kind of philosophy and history teaches you so much about life because it gives you a different perspective on everyday things.
#2 High Quality of Life
What can I say? Europeans have figured out that life is more than just working and surviving. The high quality of life here in Europe was definitely one of my top reasons for wanting to move.
And Europe did not disappoint.
There are two things that stand out to me in the many European countries I’ve visited. One is that Europeans LOVE work life balance.
In the US, the average person gets two weeks of holiday if they work full-time. In Europe, the lowest number of days off starts at at least twice that number. Your job is required to give you at least four weeks off of work in many countries in Europe.
And what do Europeans do in their time off? They go on holiday. All over the world. They take a proper vacation. And no, they’re not checking their work email during that time.
It’s the same for weekends and holidays. I know here in the Netherlands, when the Dutch are off of work, they are OFF. You will not hear from them until it’s time to work again.
The second thing about Europeans is that they generally want a higher standard of living for everyone in the country, which actually results in a higher standard of living for each person.
Why do the Dutch love to bike everywhere? Well, one of the reasons is that the roads in the Netherlands are beautiful. There aren’t any potholes in the streets that they need to worry about. That’s the magic of the high European taxes, which makes everyday things fantastic for all.
That’s what you’ll be experiencing when you move to Europe.
If you decide to actually take the leap and call Europe your home for a longer period of time, you’ll also get to enjoy the benefits of social security.
Depending on where you decide to move to, you might even have a permanent contract for you job after some time. This means that you don’t need to come into work one day to find that you’re out of a job. Isn’t that just fantastic?
In the US, many people lost their jobs and income during the coronavirus crisis. As I’m writing this in June 2020, people are STILL losing their jobs with no idea whether they’ll get any long-term help. That is not the case in Europe, generally speaking.
#3 Enjoy Beautiful Architecture
Why limit yourself to only visiting European cities and enjoying the historic buildings just for a few days? You could actually be living HERE!
Some European cities, like Amsterdam, are expensive. But generally speaking, living in many cities in Europe is quite affordable. So yes, it is realistic for you to find an apartment in one of these buildings like look more like doll houses than anything else.
Even after living in Europe for almost a year, I still feel so extremely happy whenever I walk out on to the cobblestone streets alongside the pretty canals in the Netherlands.
And if the city life isn’t for you, even living more out in the countryside offers its own beauty, complete with little houses.
These little European houses also have their own distinct architecture.
Imagine living in one of these places! What an experience to enjoy on a daily basis!
And if you’re American like me, you probably grew up with the idea of castles, but mostly likely, you didn’t see much of them in real life.
When you move to Europe, there are castles everywhere for you to visit, and live out that childhood astonishment. In the city I live in in the Netherlands, I can get to about 10 castles that are within an hour’s biking distance from my apartment.
I didn’t know how cool it was to sit in a park by a castle drinking champagne until I did it, and now it’s probably one of my favorite summer activities.
#4 Easy Access to Other Places in Europe
If you like travelling, and you’re asking yourself, but why would I move to Europe if I could just visit? This is my answer to that question.
If you live somewhere in Europe, you have really easy access to the rest of the continent. And I mean REALLY easy.
I currently live in Utrecht in the Netherlands, a gorgeous city of about 300,000 people that’s 20 mins from Amsterdam by train. I don’t even need to fly to get to other countries from here. I can get to Antwerp in Belgium in 2 hours. Paris is 3 hours away. Berlin? No problem, 5 hours on the train. Heck, now there’s a train that can get me to London in 4 hours.
Are you ready to move yet?
The shorter distances makes travelling more convenient because you need to take less time off work. You can make use of a long weekend to visit so many places that are just around where you live. It doesn’t get boring!
Of course, if you’re travelling shorter distances, that also means that you’re paying less to go on holiday. Living in the US, the flight tickets were always a large part of the expenses of travelling for me. Which makes sense because the US itself is HUGE.
What I love about living in Europe is that you don’t need to fly to visit another country. It is so much more environmentally friendly. The other part I like is that even if you want to go somewhere further and you have to take a flight to get there, it is not going to be too expensive.
And because all of these other countries are at your finger tips, you can constantly explore new cultures while really immersing yourself in one place.
4 Ways to Move to Europe
Okay, now I might have convinced you to move to Europe, but you’re thinking, how is that going to be feasible? What are my options?
That is a valid question, my friend! It really isn’t easy to pack up your life and move, no matter how easy it looks on TV or Instagram.
Staying in the same place is always much easier not only because it’s less work to move, but usually, it’s also easier for you to move forward in life when you’re in your home country.
I understand that. It’s why it took me several years of dreaming of moving abroad before I actually did it. I wish someone had told me that there’s rarely an ideal time to make the move. All you need is the guts and the means to do it.
I’m hoping to give you both— read on.
#1 Study or Get An Education Abroad
If you’re someone who is in their twenties, finished undergrad with their Bachelor’s degree, then you’re probably immediately thinking about finding a job abroad to help you move.
Although that’s a great option that I discuss later, getting an advanced degree abroad is not something many people consider. If you were planning on getting your master’s degree at some point in the future anyway, this could be your chance to do it— in Europe!
Here are some great things about getting your degree in Europe. First of all, it is relatively cheap to get your degree there, compared to some countries like the US or Canada at least. Not to mention that many universities in Europe have excellent academic reputations and job placements.
Speaking of job placements, if you actually want to live in Europe for a few good years while being employed during that time, a great way to make sure that happens is by actually getting a degree in the country you want to live in.
Your chances of getting in a job somewhere in Europe will be much higher if you have a degree from a university in that country.
On the other hand, if you’re still in college, congratulations! Moving abroad for you will be extremely easy. You can simply choose to do a study abroad program through your university.
Even though those exchanges don’t last more than a year, it can be a great way to get your first proper experience of living outside your home country. Because Europe is so diverse, it is VERY likely that your university will have an exchange with a city or country you would like to go to.
#2 Move with Your Job
This is a tough one. And it will vary depending on what field you work in. However, I can give a few general tips in this area.
One, it probably isn’t the best idea to move to countries where it is even difficult for highly educated locals to find a job. In that case, because you don’t have a degree from that country, it will be that much harder to convince a company to hire you (when you need a visa), instead of someone who is from the country and familiar with the local culture.
Second, when considering Europe, it is a huge help in finding a job here when you can speak the local language. In some countries, you might be able to get away with English, but it will be so much harder.
Many people in the Netherlands speak amazing English. Oftentimes, expats like me who live here don’t even need to learn Dutch. That’s how good their English is. So that means you won’t need to speak Dutch for your job, right?
WRONG! I was so wrong. Knowing the local language is still extremely valuable. No matter how good the locals speak English, it just isn’t their first language.
Another tip is to match up your field with what a country is known for. It is more likely that they will want to bring in someone from the outside when they need more people to work in a certain field.
A bonus thing to consider for some countries in Europe like the Netherlands is that if you are considered a “highly skilled migrant,” You get a 30% tax break on your income. Isn’t that sweet?
#3 Move Using European Relationships
I laughed out loud a little when I wrote up #3, but it’s true!
Because of the way things work in Europe, it is really easy for you to move to some countries when your partner is European.
No, you do not need to be married. You can simply get a “partner” visa. Isn’t that great?
AND, you might not even need to move to the same country your partner is from because of this wonderful thing called the European Union.
Another thing I want to say for the “use your European relationships” point is that you can use family members who are European to help you move.
If a close enough family member of yours is European, you can apply to get a citizenship in that country through them. Once you have that citizenship from one country, you can easily move to and work in any place within the European Union.
One caveat about trying to get a citizenship through a family member is that this process can take a long time from start to finish. From the time that you apply for your citizenship to when you get your passport takes about a year and a half to two years. Not to mention that there are steps you need to take in order to have your application ready to go.
#4 Save Up and Move!
And of course, if all else fails, and you just want to try your luck, you can always save up some money and move.
Luckily, the cost of living in Europe is relatively low, so depending on the country you’re from, there is a good chance that you might be able to save up enough to get you through the first few months of your move.
The Netherlands is one of the more expensive countries to live in in Europe, and you can get by on about 1,500 — 2,000 euros a month in most cities besides Amsterdam. Even in Amsterdam, those numbers can work for you if you’re just looking for a room, and not an entire apartment to live in.
If you don’t have a job before moving, for whatever reason, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a job once you are where you want to be. You just need to be smart about it. You can also check out my post on moving to the Netherlands without a job.
As long as you have some funds to get you through the first few months, it can buy you some time to figure out other ways to extend your stay.
Having friends who already live somewhere in Europe can be extremely helpful if this is the option you’re considering. You might be able to stay with them, and they might be able to point you to cheap, temporary housing through people that they know.
This is actually the route I took. When I decided I was moving to the Netherlands, I had enough money saved up to last me for about 6 months. I had no concrete job prospects in the Netherlands when I bought my tickets.
My girlfriend and I were going to be staying in a sublet in Amsterdam for three months.
But because my end goal was to try and settle down there, I kept looking for jobs and landed an interview for two weeks after I arrived in the country.
And I got the job.