Best country in Europe for expat


Jan 18th, 2005, 06:34 PM
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Best country in Europe for expat

My husband is pursuing the opportunity to do a 2 year internationl rotation with his Big 4 Accounting firm. The coordinator for this program has asked him to provide a list of countries where we are willing to move. We do not speak any other languages so we need to go somewhere we don't need to be fluent (we'll take some crash courses to learn some basics before we go so we can learn). We're really open to your opinion (or experience) what is the best country for an expat??

I'll also add that his salary will be adjusted for cost of living.

Finally, is it true I probably won't be able to get a Visa and work? And is it also true that we won't be able to bring our family dog (this is strange to me).

Thanks in advance!!
LGBooker is offline  
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Jan 18th, 2005, 06:57 PM
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Have you ever been to Europe?
It is true you probably will not get to work.
and England is the country that I know of where dogs go into quarantine before they are allowed in, not strange but strict rules to protect them from rabies.
There will be lots of "rules" and ways that people in other countries do things differently from the US , better start getting used to not thinking of them as "strange" now..will help you adjust better when the time comes.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:08 PM
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I guess it isn't "strange" just had not heard of the 6 month quarantine period for animals and it didn't sound right to me.

Never been to Europe but I've been to the far East and worked there for several weeks (left family behind). I'm not really worried about the culture shock. I'm open minded and found working with others with a completely different culture enlightening if not life changing! This would be my primary reason for wanting to do this...close second is to (try to) see all of Europe.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:14 PM
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I think it is a fabulous opportunity to see Europe in a way that the average traveler never gets to see them.
England is as far as I know- the only country with the quarantine, unless you plan to try New Zealand or Australia ( I think)
The great thing is you will be able to go to all the other countries so much easier when living there, from Brussels you can take a train to Amsterdam, Paris , etc.
You should figure out which language is easiest for you to learn fast LOL
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:15 PM
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Isn't there any country that you have visited where you are interested in living? I think that would be the best idea. Also, these firms only have offices in particular cities, and I really can't believe that someone can just pick anywhere they want to go. I think the city could make a big big difference--like whether you are located in Paris, France vs. Boulogne, France.

I just think there is some way to limit the list to some reasonable set of places that are likely for someone to go, not just all of Europe.

If you can't speak any other language, why would someone in the country hire you? Most European countries have a high enough unemployment rate and plenty of local people to hire for positions that they wouldn't need to hire a foreigner who can't even speak the language.

If it were me, I think I could be happy in many places -- I'd personally probably choose France or the Czech Republic or Spain as my top choices, but that's because I know and like them and speak some of the languages (Czech not very much but I have a little familiarity with it and can read a little). I know there are many expats in Prague, also, and one could have a nice time there. YOu can get by there without speaking Czech, but you can do that in most places in Europe that are large cities and have some expat community. You'll know people from the office, probably.

I'd choose based on where you want to go, as that is a big chunk of your life. Given this is a career decision, there have to be some major professional facts that should trump a lot of other stuff, though -- type of practice, size of office, experience, hierarchy, etc.

I'd check out the COLA to see what it really amounts to, also.

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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:18 PM
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English rules about dogs have changed recently, and I don't think there's such a drastic quarantine requirement anymore, but I can't give any details. For other countries, you'll have to check individually, but I don't think it's impossible to bring a dog.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:24 PM
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They say they are relaxing the rule but one needs vaccinations records and a microchip in the pet..

Bringing pets into the UK
.... ---- pets coming to England from the US and Canada.
People coming to England from the USA and Canada are able to bring their vaccinated pets without having to put them into six months quarantine. However, until an approved route from North America is available and official certification agreed, animals will have to go into short stay quarantine, usually only for two to three days, whilst the microchip and paperwork are checked.
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:30 PM
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As American expats who have lived in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and now Indonesia, we'd jump at the chance to live in Europe!

You'd be surprised how well you can get along without knowing the language of your host country, although I'd certainly encourage you to learn as much as you can.

In my experience, it's very difficult for trailing spouses to find employment in a foreign country, but it's not impossible. Of course each country is different, so if that's an important issue for you, you might want to do some research before compiling your list of possibilities.

Laws regarding the importation of pets will also vary from country to country. Quarantine laws can be strict and difficult on pets, so sometimes it's in the best interest of the pet to leave it behind with family members.

You've been given a wonderful opportunity and a great adventure lies ahead.

Sorry I can't help with specific country recommendations, but you're fortunate to have been given a choice.

Good luck!
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Jan 18th, 2005, 07:55 PM
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A while ago i wrote a story about a young KPMG accountant who managed, during his first few years at the firm, to get himself posted to Holland, Australia, and England, starting from and returning to Canada.

He had (almost) nothing but good to say about the experience.

But he did say that when he got back, he had to face criticism that he lacked Canadian experience.

I've worked with lots of ex-pats; yes, it is often true that spouses cannont get job permits. I sent dozens of technical and engineering people to Trinidad, mostly men. The wives, except for a couple who were engineers too, tended to hang around together, and were generally, from what I heard, bored. But at least they had friends.

Married women enginers did not want to go; their husbands, unable to work, wouldn't have enough of each other to keep themselves amused.

One of my partners, sort of assigning himself to Europe, chose Amsterdam because it was easy to work in English, easy to get to lots of other places, and easy to fly home.

If I was doing it, I'd do what another associate did, and pick England. But he stayed in a company-owned apartment, and had a non-working wife who immediately,happily, took on hostess and hospitality duties helping her husband entertain British / European contacts, and also squiring around visiting North Americans, once she figured out what was where.

Another Canadian friend's husband moved to London (we bought her car before she left) and used that as a base for travel throughout Europe. Again, easy place from which to fly to Budapest and Warsaw and Prague, etc.

While he was sent there from North America, he started a separate company in England, and finessed the laws so that his wife (my friend) was an investor/partner and could thus work for the firm, which happened to need her skills.

Another friend moved from Canada to the Bermuda with her husband. He had immigration clearance and could work, but she could not so instead she set up a consulting business in Canada with a BErmuda address and internet account, and worked only for non-Bermuda clients.

Finally, various countries have various categories where they'll accept foreign workers, so it might be useful to decde what you want to do, and then see what countries welcome, say, insurance actuaries or computer repair people, whichever one you happen to be.

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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:30 PM
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Thanks for the responses!

My husband actually works for KPMG, which has a HUGE presence in Europe (it is a Swiss company).

Christina- the reason he has so much flexibility is not only because of the large presence in Europe, but also due to the need for Auditors with U.S. GAAP yes, these offices are very willing to hire Americans to fill this need!

Thanks again!!
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Jan 18th, 2005, 08:40 PM
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Scarlett- Thanks for the additional pet info...although this won't make a difference in our decision, it does put my mind at ease that taking her might be a possibility after all!
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Jan 18th, 2005, 09:21 PM
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Scarlett, I got back from overseas in October and I'VE only just been released from Australian quarantine. The accommodation and food weren't so bad, it was having to swim the 25-metre pool filled with sheep dip that ruined the experience.
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Jan 19th, 2005, 12:05 AM
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Every multinational I've worked at had a common story: the trailer rarely had any culture shocks (managing a factory or dealing forex doesn't vary much between countries), but the trailee had them all day. Wherever you go, it's different from home.

One strategy that helps is for the trailee to get a job, and your posts sound as if that's important to you. In most countries spouses can't work, and even voluntary work can be difficult to find (Embassy spouses tell me they go close to crazy in some eastern European capitals for this reason)

You should certainly check the ease of spouse working if that is important to you. Assuming you haven't got citizenship of an EU country (in which case you can work anywherer in western Europe)), the UK is usually the easiest place for non-Europeans to get a job. In particular our Highly Skilled Migrant Programme in practice gives virtually any university graduate, from anywhere in the world, who can demonstrate reasonable career progression for their age, to get a work permit. They can then work at anything. If your job matters to you, there's a strong argument for putting Britain on your list.
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Jan 19th, 2005, 12:31 AM
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We've lived in Germany for 1 year of a 2-3 year assignment. We're taking German lessons but we're pitiful at speaking it. Nearly everybody speaks at least a little English and it's not been an issue at all. We also brought our dog over two weeks after we moved here with no issues (although he now only has 3 legs as the result of cancer). I don't know about the work Visa because I'm a stay at home mom.

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Jan 19th, 2005, 12:58 AM
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I moved to France with my dog in 2003. The process of getting all the dog's paperwork in order was complicated but I did it. The first step was having an ID chip implanted in the dog's shoulder. Then the vet took a blood sample that had to be sent the labs at Kansas State Univ., which is USDA-certified, to make sure the level of rabies anti-bodies in the dog's bloodstream was sufficient. There were some other shots that needed updating too, but nothing unusual. All that took at least 4 months, so start early.

Within 10 days of departure, the dog had to have a final checkup. That paperwork had to be certified by the USDA office in the state I lived in (I think they are always in the state capital). I had to drive 3 hours each way to the state capital to get the documents stamped, since time was short.

With the ID chip, the rabies certificate, and the final USDA-approved health clearance, I didn't have any trouble bringing the dog into France. The airline needed all the paperwork before it could accept the dog as a "passenger" -- the dog was cargo, really.

There was no quarantine. In fact, at Charles de Gaulle airport I just walked out pushing the cart with the dog carrier on it and not a single customs person asked me a single question.

I also traveled into Spain with the dog last spring. No problem.
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Jan 19th, 2005, 01:12 AM
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Some ideas :

The best location would be a city with:

good understanding of English
other expats (for spouse support)
central position (for travelling)
good work experience
possible expat tax advantages
good weather (i.e. not too far North)
international schools
welcoming to foreigners

So, that rules out many countries.

Possible locations would be Brussels, Zurich, Geneva, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, London.

I'd go for Brussels. The weather is not good, but transport is easy. It has many international organisations. Language will not be a problem, English is in common use and the Flemish are linguists.

I enjoyed my spell in Brussels. And my contact at KPMG spoke fluent English !


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Jan 19th, 2005, 01:18 AM
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Whoa there. I came over to Europe as a trailing spouse and had NO problems adjusting. In fact, in some ways, I adjusted better than my spouse because I have an easier time with foreign languages than he does (except German). I also know a lot of happy trailing spouses. FlannerUK must be meeting the wrong people.
And again, sorry to disappoint all the doomsayers, I had NO problem getting work permits for jobs in Belgium and Switzerland. I was also offered a job in the Netherlands, with the company willing to go through the work permit process, but in the end I declined the offer due to salary issues (i.e., the Dutch are cheap).
It all depends on your job skills. Since we don't know anything about your work background, it's hard to know whether you'd be employable. If you have a background in a medical-related career, however (I don't mean doctor or nurse, but a job in the pharma industry), your chances of finding someone willing to hire you increase exponentially. Once you are in Europe legally, that is. Employers are reluctant to bring someone over from the U.S. but they are willing to consider Americans who already have a legal right to live in Europe. And for what it's worth, our own experience is that Belgium is one of the easier countries in Europe for someone in a white collar profession to get a work permit. My work permit came through in three weeks. It depends partly on your prospective employer--the big companies have more pull than small firms. Also they have HR staff who are skilled at processing the necessary paperwork.
We spent 5 years in Belgium, 6 months in Germany, a brief stint in Switzerland (the job didn't work out) and are now in the UK. Of those, I think Belgium is the easiest for an expat. The cost of living in Brussels is quite reasonable, so you can get a very nice apartment at a decent rent. The city isn't at the top of anyone's must see list as a tourist, but as a place to live, it's quite pleasant. Good restaurants, good shopping, nice parks, good mass transit system, good medical care, plenty of English language TV programs, etc. Plus, it abounds with expats and it's great to be just 1.5 hours from Paris, to have Germany and Netherlands a short train ride or drive away and to be only a few hours from London. So a thumbs up for Belgium.
Germany was pleasant but a little more insular. Fewer English speaking people than in Belgium (at least where we were--in the Ruhr valley), a less international feel. We have lots of family in Germany so we had no problems fitting in (we didn't get to all that many cultural things when we were there, but we went to a LOT of parties!). Few English language TV shows, for example. But the quality of housing is high, the food is better than you might have been led to believe, and it's a beautiful country.
So far, the UK has been our least favorite place to live in Europe. First, it's the most expensive (even Basel, Switzerland, was cheaper), especially for housing (the quality of what you get for your money here is pretty shocking if you live in London or within an hour's commute). People are nice enough, but even the Germans were friendlier and more open (speaking as an expat NOT as a tourist--those are completely different things).
Your dog will like continental Europe better. In Belgium, our dog was welcome in restaurants, cafes, shops, on mass transit. We took her almost everywhere. That's not the case in the UK.
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Jan 19th, 2005, 01:23 AM
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Dublin has a big international fund management business and I know that there are some American accountants working there.The city is well connected to other cities by air and Ryanair has it HQ there. It has an American immigration office at tha airport so that those flying direct to the U.S. can get that out of the way before they fly.
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Jan 19th, 2005, 01:56 AM
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Ardfert you beat me too it! Dublin sounds ideal for the situation you are in. KPMG has a presence here I am sure. Dublin is far mmore cosmopolitan than people give it credit for and you are a short flight to most major cities if you want to get away. Also there are great places to go on the weekends throughout the country.

We can advise you on areas and I know there are a few corporate let agencies that have houses and apts here for long/short lets.

Would KPMG be able to get you a visa as a spouse...not sure if you must work for them directly though. There are plenty of other unpaid ways to keep yourself busy either volunteering or getting involved in various groups from art/ music to community volunteer groups. I saw a website a while back that was solely to volunteer for various organisations I will look out for it. Let us all know where you decide. Good luck!
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Jan 19th, 2005, 02:03 AM
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What is the pet quarantine situation in Ireland (not the UK)? For some reason, I thought pets coming to Ireland from the U.S. still had to go through a quarantine period. Has that changed?
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