16 votes

For those living in a different country than they grew up in, what's it like?

In the discussion "Does the internet feel American centric to you?", various people mentioned living in different countries. In particular @Adys mentioned living in 5 different European countries and offered to give advice to those who are interested in moving to another country. I'd love to hear what the challenges are, and in particular how you get the courage to speak to native speakers in a language you don't speak very well.

For me, my spouse and I are considering (someday) buying property in Greece. Her family is of Greek descent, though she was born and grew up in the states. We're both learning Greek now and hope that in the future we can get back there and possibly even have a vacation home there one day. She has relatives who have homes there and in the states.

1 comment

  1. Adys
    Thanks for starting this thread :) I'll give some initial thoughts here, but I have loads more to say about the subject in general so feel free to AMA. There are definitely country-specific...

    Thanks for starting this thread :) I'll give some initial thoughts here, but I have loads more to say about the subject in general so feel free to AMA.

    There are definitely country-specific gotchas to look out for. Most of them can be found in expat-type forums and the like. Nomad List is a good resource for finding out a variety of things about cities you might want to move to -- it's very "digital nomad" oriented, but a lot of what the site gathers is relevant to anyone moving so it's a great place to look at ahead of time. There's also links to various entrypoint communities to the country/city.

    One example gotcha is moving to the UK: If you're not british, you will not have a credit history, and will likely not be able to rent month-to-month. Be prepared to have to pay six to twelve months of rent in advance.

    When choosing my country / city, I have a few personal rules:

    1. It must be socially active and welcoming. Activity on Meetup.com is a good signal. Fever is also filled with cool events so their active cities are bound to be interesting. There are country-specific alternatives to them out there of course but you first have to know about them.
    2. I categorically refuse to live somewhere on a visa. As a european I have the possibility of living abroad without dealing with a visa and I make sure to make use of that. A visa/green card always felt like a gun held to your head by your host country, and can turn into a gun held by your employer (heard many US horror stories of not being able to quit your job).
    3. I refuse to live somewhere I need a car to access things. This has always been the case but Not Just Bikes made me realize why I cared so much about walkability and cyclability in cities.
    4. Access to other countries is important. I hated living in Athens, one reason was that I would HAVE to fly if I wanted to go anywhere. The airport was over an hour away and there were zero trains to anywhere. This made me dread traveling which is the exact opposite of where I wanted my mindset to be.

    Brussels nicely fit into all those for me. Being at the heart of Europe both metaphorically and literally is awesome. The Eurostar gives me quick and easy access by train to Paris, London and Amsterdam (1-3 hrs for all). Germany is accessible via the Thalys (info on more train routes). And there is an easily accessible international airport for farther destinations.

    And for all its faults, Brussels is also a city that is constantly improving. It feels like there's a lot of work to do, but the work is being done, and that for the first time made me get involved into the actual life of the city. I want to help improve the city. I've been volunteering, investing in a local e-bike startup, talking to police and organizations about cyclability.

    I also found love there -- twice. At the end of the day, given how flexible my work and lifestyle is, I will probably follow whoever I end up with; but I hope that person stays in Belgium because I do like it here and for the first time in my life, I feel home.

    10 votes