How hard is it to move to Europe?

If a person of moderate means wants to move to Europe (Germany, France, Netherlands, England, etc), what would be involved financially, citizenship-wise, and job-wise. How hard is it for an American to actually live in Europe?

I’m American and in 38 years, I have only lived in the US for about 18. It depends on where y ou want to go. The easiest thing to do is try to get a job with an American company that has offices abroad, it’s a way to ingratiate yourself into the culture without going balls to the walls and immigrating. What if you don’t like it?

I’ve lived in Germany and Italy but not the other two. Both speak different languages. Do you speak either language passibly enough to work on the economy?

Give me more info and I’ll let you know about some of my experiences.

I’ll help where I can:
If you speak only English your opprtunities will be limited to UK or some large international firm (where English is the primary language in the workplace) on the continent. I’ve found it pretty easy to get by on English in most cities, in the country it’s not so easy. Also, the people you’ll really depend on when you first get here (like the ones in charge of your visa, etc.!) probably won’t speak English. I don’t know about changing citizenship, I just got a visa, but it was pretty painless. You’ll need about 101 documents you never knew existed, some passport photos, and a few hundred euro. We got our work & residence visas in about 7 months (with the help of a lawyer). Our cost to move included:

  1. airfare
  2. shipping our stuff (from CA it was about $1/lb.)
  3. hotel until you find a place to live - depending on where you decide to go this can take a day or a year.
  4. visas, etc.
  5. regular moving expenses like apt. deposit & the like (which is much more than in the States)
    I find it VERY easy to live in Europe. The languages are similar to English (and no new alphabet to learn so it’s easy to “get by”). Europeans themselves are pretty cool. Much, though definitely not all, of the lifestyle is similar (same products at the same stores, same movies, etc.). And the standard of living is generally equal or better than in the Sates.
    I have a suggestion, though, before you jump right in, why not get a job that would bring you over here like a teacher or civilian gov’t employee. There are also a number of international placement firms that could help you find something. That way you get a little taste of life over here before you decide it’s worth thousands of dollars (and about 40% of your future paychecks - ouch!) to make the change permanent. Good luck! If you have any other questions, I’m happy to help where I can.

Surely there are SDMB members much more experienced in this, but until those arrive, let me tell you this as first quick info.

First of all, you should know which country you want to move to - in the European Union, immigration still is an issue regulated by the nations and not by the union; consequently, requirements vary. Some are more liberal, some will require you to prove you speak the country’s language sufficiently well, or you have to already have a job before you can immigrate. Contact the country’s embassy or consulates to the US, they’ll provide you detailed infomration about how to get a permanent residence permit (which you need, if you want to stay and work there). You can apply for naturalization, thus becoming a citizen of that country, but usually you have to have lived there several years as a non-citizen. And double-check if they require you to renounce your American citzenship!
Financial-wise, as a very rough guideline I think I can say the general level of prices is higher than in the US. Especially food and drugs tend to be more expensive than in America, and taxes in most EU nations are WAY higher than in America. But then, the high-taxation states provide more services to their citizens (social security, etc).
Even if the nation’s immigration laws don’t require you to pass a language test, it’s surely recommendable to learn the language of the country you’re moving to.

I forget the details, but if your ancestry is Irish, you should be able to get Irish citizenship. Not sure if it’s grandparents or great-grandparents that have to be from there. Once you’re in Ireland, it should be pretty easy to emigrate elsewhere in the EU.

Maybe someone else can confirm this.

This may help with some particulars:

Okay, I read the header as “How hard is it to move Europe”, and I was gonna say pretty damn hard, unless you’re content with a few centimetres a year in continental drift. :smiley:

Re getting Irish citizenship:

It’s either parent or grandparent (doesn’t extend to great-grandparent) - and you don’t have to move to Ireland first before emigrating to some other European country; you can apply for Irish citizenship, get that, then get an EC passport based on having Irish citizenship, and go directly to France or wherever from the U.S. You can ask your local Irish consulate to send you the application packet. You need various documents proving Irish birth for your parent/grandparent, plus documents showing the connection between that person and you. E.g., if it’s your dad’s mom, you need to show proof of where she was born in Ireland, then proof that your father is her son, then proof that you are your father’s son.

I believe if you are a U.S. Government employee, though, you are not allowed to carry citizenship from another country, so if you are, this won’t work for you.

Excuse me, but not all the countries in Europe are members of the EU, not just western countries like Switzerland but also temporarily all of Central and Eastern Europe. I immagrated to Central Europe. People are no longer all that welcoming to foreigners who wish to relocate since so many failures decided to try to make a second start here.
Learning the native language is not an option in Eastern and Central Europe, it is a must. Finding work as a translator/editor out these parts is not that hard and in Western Europe, native English speakers are even more highly respected for at least editing translations. The nice thing is that one can often work out of one’s home. Anyone wishing to relocate permanently should give thought to marrying a local woman (man) as it greatly facilitates adjusting and handling paperwork. The prices and wages in Central and Eastern Europe are a great deal lower than in the US and the culture is also quite different. I would also say that if a person really wishes to become a full member of Western European society, you will also find pretty big cultural differences. However, if you have the attitude that it works for them, sometimes better sometimes worse than US customs and therefore doesn’t need to be changed, it helps a great deal.
Also taxes in the US are quite high but they are mostly what you call hidden taxes whereas Europe prefers visible taxes.
But I agree with a previous comment, spend some time here before you decide to stay. Good luck.

If you’re grandparents were born in Ireland, you are eligible for citizenship by descent. Getting citizenship by decent from your great-grandparents is possible, but only if your grandparents were/are Irish citizens (that’s to say if your G-grandparents emmigrated *and[i/] your grandparents were registered as Irish citizens–a very rare case I presume, you are eligible.

However, this is NOT an easy process. You’ll need to provide birth/death/marriage certs for your descent. Collecting this info is time consuming and, for all intents and purposes, impossible to do w/o a trip to Ireland. Presuming you can get all that together, you’ll submit your application and be greeted with a processing time of roughly 15-20 months. And that assumes there’s nothing drastically wrong with your application package. In the interim, w/o a working visa, you can’t be in the country for more than 90 days (nor can you legally work here).

Alternatively you can try to get naturalisation, but in order to do so you’ll have to live in the country for a minimum of 3 or 5 years (they’ve only recently changed the laws regarding the time frame and I ferget which one it is).

Mention your spouse and you’ve opened a whole new can o’ worms.

As other posters have mentioned, in order to live in Europe, you’ll need to work in Europe. And again, this is easiest if you get a job with an American company. I say easiest because they’ll be familiar with visa fees and application procedures. Having them take care of that end makes life a lot easier. Additionally, due to high unemployment rates some countries (Spain for example) are required to give any available job to a native first, an EU citizen second, and other nationals last–and only if they possess a skill the other two groups don’t have. However, there are loopholes and if you know somebody, or are very well qualified, you can find a way. My gut tells me this would be easier with a company based in your home country

That said, I really don’t think the logistics of moving to Europe are all that difficult. A pain in the ass, yes, but I wouldn’t consider it the principle difficulty of emigrating. Rather, I think it’s the stress of moving to a new place where you don’t know nothing about nothing (eg. how to find an apt., how to get heat in your new place, where to buy a pencil, etc). Do this w/o knowing someone in country and whoo-boy, it can be tricky. Some people like that and do well with it, but it can be tough if you’re not ready for it, or actively seeking it.

Depending on what you do for a living you can get along quite well on English alone here in Sweden and probably the other Scandinavian countries too. I used to work in software companies and I’ve had severeal co-workers who only spoke English. Most people will understand what you say so you won’t have much trouble.

Uh, you are aware of languages such as Russian, Bulgarian, and Greek, aren’t you? They don’t use the Latin alphabet. And there are also a number of places where the prevailing language is not even distantly related to English (e.g., Hungarian, Basque, Finnish, Estonian). While learning a new alphabet can be done in a few hours, many English speakers find it extremely difficult to learn non-Indo-European languages.

Okay, me again. Learning a language is not as easy as it might seem. You can’t just do Foders and expect to get by. Languages are pretty easy for me to learn and still I don’t feel like I really “know” the language until i have lived there and spoken the foreign language predominantly for a year or more. The rule of thumb is you don’t know a language until you think and dream in that language. I speak four languages and still I would not say it was ever easy to learn.

Secondly, the lifestyle isn’t like America at all. You will not get the same products, although most things you will find a similar one depending on where you are at. Watch what the locals buy -that is a good start. (Try and find a jar of spaghetti sauce in Italy…) and don’t expect to dress in Tommy Hilfiger…that won’t happen. Most countries are not open 24/7 like the US. The conveniences Americans take for granted are simply not expected there.

A lot of Americans are very attached to things like fast food, television, movies, etc. Fast food is pretty rare except in really large cities (McDonalds is EVERYWHERE) and the TV and movies are going to be in a different language.

The expenses aren’t more or less - just different. Taxes are very high for everything. Most countries have somewhere around 19% in sales tax. Wages are less but for your 19% health care is virtually free for citizens. Gas is very expensive $4-5 a gallon so plan on owning a huge SUV - most Europeans drive small economical cars, scooters, bikes or take public transportation.

But the beauty is - a lot of things are less expensive and generally of a better quality. Wine, food, trains, clothes…I have been just about everywhere and absolutely adore Europe but it isn’t for everyone. A lot of Americans I know were like fish out of water. It depends on what you are looking to find.

If you are running from yourself, you will find yourself there. If you are running from someone else, there are better places to hide. But if y ou are open minded and are looking to absorb other cultures and honor the customs of others and generally live like they do, you might find it very fulfilling. I suggest before you do anything, buy a Euro-rail pass and do the grand tour. College kids do it every summer for not a lot of money. A Euro rail pass will allow you to use all of the trains any time as often as you wish. Europe is small enough to visit a lot of countries in a very short period of time. You can stay in pensiones and youth hostels for next to nothing. You will get a better feel for what the countries are all about then make your decision.

Oh PS - I wouldn’t try it on English alone unless you a)are adept at quickly learning languages or b) stay in GB.

Think about it this way, you can “get by” speaking Spanish in the US because there are a lot of Spanish speakers but – don’t you think it might be difficult?

Don’t kid yourself, the jobless rate in Europe is at least as bad or worse than in the U.S. Do you have any special skills? If you don’t speak the language, forget about finding a job in the host country. It isn’t that easy. There are enough people who speak the language looking for work.

You didn’t tell us about your background? Your best bet would be if you have an immigrant parent or grandparent. As was mentioned previously, most European countries have a “citizenship by nationality” rule. Unlike the U.S., citizenship traditionally is conferred by ancestry, not by where you are born. So the people who wrote about Ireland were correct, but this rule also extends to Germany (which I know for a fact) and France, and probably a bunch of other countries. I don’t know how many generations back this rule goes for different countries, but it’s worth checking out. Once you’re in, you can live in any other EU country with far fewer restrictions than if you were just an American.

My father is german, but I didn’t find out until I was 25 that I was also considered a german citizen even though I was born in the U.S. (and a U.S. citizen) So I have dual citizenship. The person who wrote that you can’t have dual citizenship if you work for government is wrong, unless there’s a specific oath you swear to denounce other citizenships. (Arnold Schwarzenegger got to keep his Austrian citzenship, and he is a naturalized U.S. citizen - and he’s thinking of running for political office) Even so, there’s not a damn thing the U.S. can do if another country considers you its citizen. It’s really not entirely up to you unless you jump through quite a few hoops to get noticed. I believe you have to go through a formal process to renounce a citizenship, which involves some paperwork. Otherwise you’re a citizen by default. The U.S. can’t stop another country from issuing you a passport.

If you find out you’re a citizen of a European country, you could move there and plug into their social welfare system (including housing) until you can find a job.

Even with benefit of citizenship, and experience with the language and country, I think moving overseas would be very difficult. I would only do it if I had a nice nest egg as a cushion. The cost of living is very high, and it’s difficult to find work. If I were you, I’d stick to being a tourist or going overseas to learn the language before making such a big decision. If you have the funds, just go and live there on an extended tourist visa. Maybe you’ll luck into a job. Most expats abroad find a gig before they go.

BTW, when naturalized citizens are required give up their foreign citizenship, it’s not the U.S. which makes that decision, but their country of origin, the U.S. just passes along the information.

Quite true. Once upon a time I had a beer in an Irish bar here in Stockholm and some girl chided the bar man because he hadn’t learned Swedish. “Why should I?” Mick replied, “Everyone here speaks English”.

Lemme chime in. I’ve been living abroad for the last 5 years - ever since I graduated university. I came here, to Budapest, with a job already arranged back in the US to work as a photographer for a local business publication. I would agree with everyone here that it is wisest to set up a job beforehand, and preferably one that will handle all the paper work for you.

I disagree that in Eastern Europe learning the local language is a must. It all depends on what you’re doing. I do speak a fair bit of Hungarian, but had relatively little problems navigating the city when I first came here. Knowing a smattering of German helps here.

If you want to do something as straightforward as, say, English teaching, you can easily do that, either through a language school such as Berlitz, or on a private level. There are very many Americans who live here unofficially. In fact, almost every American I know does not have a residency or work permit here. I’m in between the lines myself, being registered with the ministry as a journalist, but I haven’t technically done all the paperwork to make me legit. This means leaving the country every three months to get a stamp on my passport.

Thus, you can do a similar thing by being a private English teacher. It’s not the greatest money in the world, but if you just want to experience Europe, you can do it this way.

As for adjusting to local culture, it depends on your personality. I had absolutely no problem getting used to Hungary and European culture - probably because I grew up in a very Eastern European household. Most Americans I know here are the same.

In the end, I don’t think the process is as scary and complicated as everyone makes it seem. If you really want to work and live in Europe, you can do it.


A more career-specific question: Is there any chance an American with a PhD in English could get a position teaching at a European university, and if so, in which countries is it most likely to happen? (The only foreign language I speak well enough to do any academic work is Spanish, but I have a couple of years to work on learning another, if I only knew which…)

In fact, it is particularly difficult to learn Swedish in Sweden when you come from an English speakign country (I am from the UK). This is a combination of it beign so easy to slip into English if the goign gets tough AND a genetic mutation in Swedes that gives them the ability to detect you are from an English speaking country by the use of smell alone.

Swedes loves to use their English and when they detect that you are from an English speaking country they break into English. It doesn’t matter if you are speakign Swedish and want it to stay Swedish (for example, if you are like me and trying to learn the language) they will still speak English to you. It really is quite annoying.

My Swedish is awful considering I have been here over three years. It would be much better if I was French, German, Spanish or something.

If ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education and other sources are any indication, it would seem as though you’ve got as good(?) a chance there as any American University. The only thing I’ve noticed is that they usually state “Canadian/EU/New Zealand/etc. citizens will be given priority.”

Here’s what’s listed for English today: you’ve got your choice between Denmark and Lithuania. Of course, by this time of the year ads for faculty positions at Universities have really started to slow down.

You might also want to apply for a Fulbright.