Considering A Move To Europe? This is How


As a born-and-bred Minnesotan who spent nearly seven years living abroad (London and Stockholm, respectively), I am often asked this question by my fellow Americans after I disclose that particular bit of information:

“So why Europe? What brought you there?”

 For all intents and purposes, my answer usually goes something like this:

“Well, I was finishing my master’s degree in London and I had a close friend living in Stockholm who encouraged me to apply for English writing jobs in Sweden. So, I applied for an English copywriter role I saw advertised on LinkedIn, got an offer and eventually moved.”

Although a familiar one, their aforementioned question is warranted. Why Europe? I suppose my love affair all began when I studied abroad in London for a semester during my junior year of college. In those four short months, I traveled to cities on the map I’d only dreamed of visiting, familiarized myself with the beauty of public transport, established lifelong friendships and even fell in love for the first time with a handsome Australian.

Needless to say, I caught the wanderlust bug in 2005 and much to the chagrin of my family in Minnesota, it’s still very much alive and kicking. So perhaps it’s no big surprise, then, why I chose to move back to Europe in my mid-twenties after graduating from college and spending two years in New York City.

And while I don’t claim to have all the answers, I can at least share my personal experience of moving and living overseas to impart some wisdom on how to make the move yourself:

1. Be Realistic

While it’s relatively easy to romanticize a life in Europe, I won’t lie—it can be isolating, frustrating and at times, soul-crushing. On the upside? It’s utterly life-changing, you discover an inner strength you didn’t know you had and the relationships you make are often with people from all over the world who accept the person you’ve become and appreciate you all the more for it.

That being said, if you simply want to wander and explore a particular country for a few months, a holiday visa will suit you nicely. (Most Americans can travel pretty much anywhere in Europe for up to 90 days without any hassle or questions from authorities.)

On the other hand, if you really want to immerse yourself in a culture, pay taxes and make a life for yourself in whatever city sends your heart aflutter, you’ll need to do a little extra legwork to get there. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Study First (Then Work)

When I first decided to leave the Big Apple at the ripe old age of 24, I did this with the sole intention of moving to London and staying in Europe. Even then, I knew my only realistic option if I wanted to hop the pond would be to study and complete my master’s degree.

I should mention, even pre-Brexit, that the U.K. is notoriously difficult when it comes to securing visas for an American—whether you’re studying or working full-time. That being said, it’s worth considering a master’s degree in other European countries that thankfully offer very affordable (and sometimes even free!) tuitions for foreign students. Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland are just a few that come to mind.

In retrospect, I think it was particularly advantageous that I was already living in London when I first started to apply for jobs in Sweden. In my experience, I’ve found that European companies are much more willing to hire an American if you happen to be a two-hour flight away from their office rather than an ocean.

3. Save, Save, Save

Let’s face it: Moving anywhere these days is expensive, especially if you move abroad to pursue a higher education or work full time.

Leaving New York in 2008 and temporarily moving back in with my parents in Minnesota to save money was undoubtedly one of the best decisions I could have made in my young adult life. Even after I was accepted into my Creative Writing program in London and had filled out all the necessary paperwork for my U.K. student visa, I still had to provide written proof from my bank in the States that I had enough money to cover the entire cost of my MA program as well as approximate living expenses for nine months.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I didn’t have a little nest egg set aside. So, Mom and Dad, if I haven’t told you this before—you rock. Living rent-free all those months quite literally paid off.

(Side note: While some European companies do provide a cushy relocation package for employees that they hire from abroad, it’s not always standard procedure. They may cover your visa costs, which is substantial, but you may very well be expected to figure out your own accommodation once you move.)

4. Find Your Career Niche

While I often joke that I chose the wrong career as a writer, financially-speaking, I somehow fell into the perfect profession—English copywriting—in Europe. Who knew being a native English writer/editor was so appealing (and often times even mandatory) to companies? Back in 2011, when I was first applying to writing jobs in Stockholm, I certainly didn’t.

Although my undergrad was in journalism and I had just finished my master’s degree in creative writing (my focus was on fiction with a smattering of poetry), I had very little experience in the world of copywriting. Luckily, I was given a chance to hone my Peggy Olsen skills in Stockholm and have been lucky to call this my career ever since.

If you happen to be a fellow writer, like myself, you could very well find yourself saying “yes” to a job offer in European cities that are mostly fashion, beauty or tech-oriented. Stockholm, in particular, is teeming with opportunities for native English writers since quite a few big brands are based there—H&M, Spotify and Proctor & Gamble, to name a few. Other cities on the list for native English speakers to check out? Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen, and Barcelona.

It may sound like a no-brainer but setting up email job alerts on LinkedIn or Indeed.com is a clever way to keep track of what sort of jobs are even out there for you and your expertise.

(Side note: I should clarify and mention that these career opportunities I’m referring to are not just limited to native English-speaking writers. In fact, many of these European-based companies are often looking for English-speaking creatives of all sorts—creative directors, art directors, graphic designers, UX/UI designers, even project managers, etc.)

5. Start Applying

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” This old adage may be overused but I’ve found there’s an inherent truth to it. Unless you start putting yourself out there, you’ll never know what opportunities await. Remember, rejection is a natural part of life and even if you think you’re absolutely perfect for a role (which you may very well be), you need to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios, i.e. interviewing but not making it further in the application process, radio silence from the recruiter or just a perfunctory “No, thanks” email. Never internalize it as something you’ve done wrong; rather, see it as an opportunity to grow and learn from.

So, as they say in Swedish, “Lycka till!” (Good luck.)

Image sources: 1 / 2 / 3


Erin is a freelance writer with over 7 years of creative copywriting experience.  A self-professed storyteller with a serious case of wanderlust, she has a penchant for all things fashion, beauty, food, and film.

 

 

 

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  • I moved to Europe for my job. The idea was to stay 2 years. The benefits of doing it that way:
    –my employer made the case for my visa and helped with paperwork at every step
    –my employer paid for the move, including shipping some of my stuff, storing the rest and my rent in a temp flat until my stuff arrived
    –I had a ready-made group for support, friendship and info
    –I had a nice mix of expats and locals to see daily
    –I bought tons of stuff (vacuum, washer, car) from the co-worker I replaced, who moved back to the U.S.–it was so much cheaper than buying new
    –my employer paid for a fancy accounting firm to do my U.S. and local taxes, which is pretty complicated.
    I ended up marrying a local. We moved to the U.S. for a while, but he missed Europe too much, so we moved back. It can happen.

    • Moving to Europe for your job is definitely the ideal scenario! That way everything is (basically) taken care of. Glad to hear you’re still loving Europe (and that you fell in love with a local)!

    • Great question! To be honest, I was really lucky with my first job in Stockholm as so many of my colleagues were Swedes. This gave me the unique opportunity to not only work with them but also get to know them on a personal level. Some of my closest friends to this day are Swedish so I have nothing but positive praise for this small but might country 😉 I know Swedes are often thought of as being a bit “cold” and “standoffish” but in my experience, this was very far from the case. They just take a little warming up to!

  • I think a new start anywhere can be isolating, frustrating or even soul crashing. But I totally agree with you that you do find an inner strength that you knew nothing of. And I do think that Europeans have a high level of tolerance for a lot of things which at the end of the day helps you settle in quite comfortably in the end.

  • Such a great post! I live for my entire life in Europe but I’m aware that visas are frustrating – I heard from my US friends as well from my non EU-friends that getting a visa and then getting a permission to work or study + the money you have to pay since overseas students have to pay more than us (sometimes we don’t pay at all or we pay maybe 50-100$ yearly to support our Universities and then if you don’t pass exam twice or thrice you have to pay for every ECTS point and that can be expensive especially if you want to study medicine then it can be up to 10k$ or more for one subject). Moving – even to another city – can feel isolating and I feel like it’s easier to move when you’re moving with a friend or someone close but hopefully now we have skype or cheap flights (not always of course) – there’s always a way to survive this period of feeling lonely and get the best from living in Europe or anywhere else 🙂

    • Thank you for your awesome insight and kind words! There are, as you know, major perks to living in Europe and understandably, some downsides. Kudos to you for making it all work 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing! I definitely dream of moving to Europe, and plan to really consider it when I finish my degree. Bookmarking this post!

    • You absolutely should! I’ve now made the move to Germany so clearly I can’t get enough of Europe 😉 Best of luck, Amanda!

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  • Do you think you would’ve had the same positive experience with the Swedes and in general if you were Black? Were any of your colleagues or new friends Black? I’m seriously considering moving to Europe this summer for music, and Sweden wasn’t on my list but could be. Yes, I’m Black. A single Black woman. I’m thinking of moving to Berlin, possibly Paris. And I’m glad things worked out for you.

    • Hi! Thanks for reading. One of my dear friends in Stockholm is African-American (she’s from California originally) and loves it there. Sweden is very tolerant of all cultures and backgrounds, which is something I always appreciated as an American! I actually live in Germany now and I highly recommend Berlin; it’s a diverse, laid-back city with so much to see and do. Best of luck to you!