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Movin' to Europe

by byoungbl Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 01:39:40 AM EST

Well, like many liberal Americans, I have been considering for some time the possibility of leaving the country. The U.S. is in a precarious economic situation, where we are dependent on foreign lending to maintain our way of life. Clearly this cannot be sustained indefinitely, and I fear the resulting economic crash could set off a number of ugly trends, from increasing intolerance and racism to religious fundamentalism.

What's more, I agree wholeheartedly with Jerome on the realities and dangers of peak oil. Sadly, it has become obvious that the U.S. is completely unprepared for the end of the oil era, and at this point it may simply be too late for the country to prepare itself.

So to sum this up, I'm looking to move to Europe, where I feel that countries are better suited to handle the transition to a new energy regime. Don't get me wrong, from reading this site and others I realize that the EU is no paradise, and there are many serious political battles to be fought in the future. But at least in Europe I can believe that there is hope for a better life.


So here's my dilemma. I want to move to Europe, but while I have visited there many times over the years, and even lived in Denmark for six months while in college, I do not have any kind of visa or work permit. Even worse, as a typical American, I only speak English. Though I'm willing to learn!

So how should I get started? Will it even be possible? I work in finance, if that will help any. And I'm willing to live pretty much anywhere on the continent (sorry, no interest in the UK...becoming too much like the US), though I have a particular fondness for both the Scandinavian countries and for Switzerland.

Any advice for me? Tips, links, etc...anything would be appreciated! I'll add my email address if anyone wants to send me information. Thanks all!

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Like I said above, feel free to also shoot me an email. Thanks!
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 01:41:10 AM EST
One solution is to come on a tourist visa and look for a job when on location - that gives you at least 3 months. I suppose it depends how long you can live off some savings. As an American, you will not be treated as an illegal immigrant too quickly, and it will be fairly easy to regularise your situation if you do find a job.

It's pretty easy throughout Europe to find work as a teacher of English as a foreign language, if you need.

Finance jobs are easiest (by far) to find in London, but are available in most of the big capitals. With the markets being active and bullishe currently, it's not a bad time to find work.

If you want to e-mail me with more details on your resume, I can maybe help you a bit more.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 03:36:42 AM EST
Thanks for the advice Jerome. Sure, I'll send you an email with details. I've done some preliminary research, and did notice that London has plenty of finance jobs. But I'm just not sure I'm willing to move so far for a country that seems to be following the path of the US.

Great advice on the tourist visa; hadn't considered that. Not sure about my savings right now, but then I'm patient...I would be willing to save up money for a while, until I could afford to live in Europe for a few months. At least this gives me some things to think about. Thanks! I'll follow up with an email, Jerome.

by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 04:21:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps you might want to take a look at the EURES website too. It lists jobs from all over the EU if I understand it correctly.

http://europa.eu.int/eures/main.jsp?lang=en&acro=job&catId=482&langChanged=true

Now mind you, they´re listing jobs coming to them from the national job agencies. So I don´t know how accurate it is. But it might give you a "feeling" for the job market in different EU countries.

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 11:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
great, thanks. Will definitely check out the site.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:31:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As Jerome says, you will clearly find it easiest to work in London with your qualifications.

You say: sorry, no interest in the UK...becoming too much like the US Don't misinterpret Tony Blair as speaking for Britons more generally. While Britain is largely skeptical of the EU project, it is not by any means Europhobic. The skepticism is largely a result of the historically contentious (and by historic I mean going back at least half a millenia in the case of France) with France and Germany in particular. Still, if you look at polling of popular attitudes, if you just spend a fair degree of time in Britain, you'll find that Britain is culturally closer to continental European values than it is to American ones.

Ben P

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 10:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, that does reassure me. And clearly it would be easiest for me to move to London. So, I will definitely consider it, though I would still prefer other European countries. But we'll see; depends on the kind of feedback I get from companies as well.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 01:48:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll second that.

London is definitely in Europe, if you come from America. Also, you might want to consider it as a first step. Getting a working permit there will allow you to then move to another European country very easily.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 05:33:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Teaching English as a foreign language is a great idea, if you have the skills (and even if you don't, although the market is beginning to get saturated). Berlitz and International House are two good options.

If you work for an international bank you might ask to be transferred to an EU position?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 05:41:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's something to think about. I could cetainly try to teach English, the problem is that I do not know any foreign language, so that could be tricky.

As for the bank, that's a great idea, but sadly I work for a small company, so no dice there.

by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:21:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can learn the local language while you teach English - it is definitely not a required qualification. The farther north you go the easier it is to function in English in everyday life as well.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 04:02:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most job postings you see, even in finance, require an EU work permit. I suppose an employer might be willing to do the necessary paperwork, but they substantially reduce the applicant pool in this way. You need a personal connection to get your resume past that cut.

I suppose if you can be self-employed (consulting?) you have a better shot at getting a residence permit. Immigration regulations seem to be stacked against salaried workers.

If your grandparents emigrated from Europe you have a decent shot at getting citizenship that way. Ireland and Spain do it, I don't know about other countries.

Unless you have a job lined up, I wouldn't consider an initial move into a country where you don't speak the language or have no support network (family/friends). Once you are more or less settled you can move to another EU country.

I moved back from the US in December. My girlfriend has family in CZ and I in Spain, but we had very few connections in the UK (basically two, but they proved incredibly helpful). There were a lot of reasons (that I won't go into) to choose the UK and London specifically. We had some cash saved up and I maxed out my US credit cards in the time it took me to get a job (late April). I hope to be out of debt by the end of the year (12 months from the move) and have recouped our expenses entirely by April (one year employment). Then we'll see.

There are a lot of websites for expatriates (US-centric). Google around.

Check out http://europa.eu.int — most of the information on labour regulations is for EU citizens, but you will find links to the national labour and immigration departments' websites where you can do more research.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 05:36:52 AM EST
I appreciate Migeru's candor. I moved here 14 months ago, because I married a Swiss citizen, and while I love it, it has also been at times disorienting, and I do miss friends. That said, I busted my butt networking and was able to find work as a researcher...and there are English teaching jobs around...but with your finance background, you may have luck. All the same, I wouldn't be so quick to rule out England (and check out Ireland too)...despite their weird politics, it gets you here, and there are jobs in London. (And London is an awesome place, though expensive). Once here, you could always move again...but don't rule that out completely.

What you might want to do is come for a visit, and network like crazy...and ask everyone you know who they know, and ask for introductions. I made a point of asking for "advice", rather than asking directly for a job to begin with, as people will open up more if they don't have to reject you...plus, who knows, someone you meet may be looking for what you have to offer!

Good luck, and keep in touch!

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 02:06:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was wondering how on Earth you managed to get into Switzerland. Now it's all clear.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 03:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, marriage....that's an idea! As it turns out, Switzerland may be my prime target in moving to Europe. I've visited the country a few times over the years, and absolutely loved it. So it would be a dream come true to move to say, Geneva. But, I'll keep my options open. Do some networking, etc.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:28:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
English is spoken extensively in Geneva, and you have the UN and many NGOs working out of there, plus many multi-national companies, so it is a good possibility. See below, I gave you links to Relief web...but also look at the Swiss-US Chamber of Commerce website...there are pages tehre with links to companies and headhunters, etc. Wuite a lot of good info, actually. Switzerland is a wonderful place, actually, great people and lots going on...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 03:12:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the advice. You've summed up some of my own concerns...i.e., the lack of a work permit, the lack of a support network, etc. Sounds like I will have to at least consider London, since at least there I'll know the language!

Anyways, right now I'm just trying to gather some information. Ideally, I would be able to line up a new job before the move. Financially, it would be tough to move before I had a new position. But we'll see how things go. I'll take a look at the site you listed, maybe get a feel for the EU labor market.

by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:26:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I tend to focus on the negatives, but forewarned is forearmed. I was actually a tad naive about what it would take to move to a new country essentially on my own, and it cost me.

In any case, if you are going to move that far, tie up all the loose ends. You don't want to have to deal with problems back in the US. Keep at least one active US checking account, and forward all your mail to a trustworthy person in the US.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 04:09:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
do you have an e-mail?  
by manon (m@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 01:26:32 PM EST
oops, just saw it
by manon (m@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 01:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I know of a loophole in immigration law for Switzerland that you can exploit if you have a sufficient number of years of experience.  
by manon (m@gmail.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 09:04:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good luck in Europe,

there are a number of European towns (Frankfurt or Berlin, spring to mind in Germany) were English or American experience can be of advantage and not speaking the language not be such a problem. But as has been said previously. Easiest is to work in a company that can send you to Europe, or apply from the States (which of course is more difficult).

And there is of course always the chance, that you fall in love and marry someone.... (those things can happen very fast)

by PeWi on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 01:43:18 PM EST
Yes, the language issue is a big one for me. Now, I should point out that I have lived in Europe before, and have also visited multiple times, and the language barrier was usually no big deal. Luckily for me, most Europeans speak fluent English. But I would assume that actually working in Europe would require at least the basics in the native language. Who knows, maybe I could get by in just English until I can learn the local language.
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:31:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WEll, it certainly depends on the job. A friends wife (who is Mexican and didn't speak a word of German before she move there) works in Frankfurt for a research institute with an international group. Indian, Dutch, Swedish, Mexican. I don;t think there is a single German in that group. So they communicate in English. Of course they all have some basic knowledge of German and are keen to improve, but it is not necessary for their job.

The other thing is always. If you know you will be going at some point in the future, prepare yourself, before you go to the country. Set up a French, German, Latvian reading group in your neighborhood. Look in Micel Thomas learning methods. He is very good at teaching and you can learn in the car or while traveling. If you plan ahead. The change into the new country can be easier.

by PeWi on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 08:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The best second language to know - besides English - in Europe is French, I would say. I think this is true in Britain at least. Obviously, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg also use French. Beyond French, probably German, although German's use as a language is pretty much limited to Europe. French is also very useful to have in Canada, Africa, and parts of the Middle East.

If you don't have any background in either French or German, you might consider trying to learn Spanish, which is a useful language to have in the US (increasingly) and obviously in Latin America, although in Europe, its influence is largely confined to Spain itself. Typically, people describe Spanish as the easiest language to learn for native English speakers, although I'm not sure of this. I find it harder in some ways than French, although I've had contact with French since I was about 9 years old.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 10:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French and Spanish, for English speakers, represent diff't stumbling blocks.

French vocabulary shares a lot of words with English - or at least you can make out the meaning of lots of French words, as the English use isn't that diff't. However, it is a harder language to speak and understand.

Spanish is somewhat the opposite. I.e. less shared vocab, but easier to speak and understand. (although the rolled Spanish "r" is very difficult for adult learner to pick up).

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 10:36:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you pick a language, I would suggest the Pimsleur series. You won't become fluent using it, but it will get you in the door with regards to comprehension and speaking skills (not vocab and reading, however).

Its quite expensive, but there are ways to get it at a discounted price - see, for examle, cheappimsleur.com.

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 10:32:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the situation for an American in Italy?  My roots are there and I have to confess, I've thought (dreampt) about it.

"The end of all intelligent analysis is to clear the way for synthesis." H.G. Wells "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." Bob Dylan
by Captain Future (captainfuture is at sbcglobal dot net) on Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 06:21:11 PM EST
Here's something you should check out:

www.reliefweb.int

and specifically, here's a position with Amnesty Intl for a Finance Controller in London:

http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/res.nsf/db900SID/OCHA-6GTLRM?OpenDocument

Relief Web has a weekly email you can sign up for, which sends lists of jobs in the relief world.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 03:05:52 AM EST
This is great info. Thanks, will definitely check it out. Hmm, maybe moving to Europe will be possible after all!
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 04:53:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AI[IS] (Amnesty International, International Secretariat) is a fabulous place to work, and in a great area of London - I spent the last six months or so on a contract based out of that office. Working in the IS, you're not actually doing anything directly related to traditional AI activism - you're providing the infrastructure, support, and tools so that the members of Amnesty International [UK] can do the activism they're known for.

This was a bit of a suprise for me when I started there; AI[UK] is in no way connected to AI[IS], and their offices are in different parts of the city. We'd have a meeting every other week or so with The Activists, who came in and helped us make our work more helpful to them, but for the most part we were independent of them. It's a neat mentality at the place, as you're not directly being involved in activism; but thousands of activists around the world use and depend on the material you pump out of that office.

More generally, if one is coming from the US and looking to move bases to Europe, London really is the best place to start. We still have some legitimate progressive parties you can vote for without feeling that bad about it, and we have a friendly immigration regime (six years on a work visa and you get a passport - but this is in the process of changing). After six years, if you're not in love with the city, you've got an EU passport so can move to and work in France or Italy.

I saw you suggested Switzerland earlier - in my experience, that's very much a non-starter. Swiss citizenship is among the hardest in the world to pick up (I know people legally resident and working for 30+ years who haven't gotten it), and it's a very insular business community there.

Generally, I'd say your best best is to use all your networking-fu in the US financial sector to get a job at a London branch of your favourite multinational. Get your passport in six or seven years, and move on after that's done. That, or get a very good immigration lawyer to get you in under the self-employed criteria; but be warned that if you take that route, you need a good accountant a well, to make your assets seem more applicable to Her Majesty's Department of Customs and Excise to get you that visa.

by Scipio on Sun Oct 9th, 2005 at 01:53:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just wanted to thank everyone that offered their advice and help on this thread. I was hoping for some guidelines, and I certainly got it. I'll be looking into the various sites and other ideas posted here. I'll also follow up with a few of you via email this weekend. Thanks again for all your kind words and encouragement. Hopefully I will be able to post another diary someday, talking about my experiences in moving to Europe!
by byoungbl (byoungbl at mindspring.com) on Fri Oct 7th, 2005 at 04:55:22 AM EST


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