Where To Next?

Ever since I knew I was eligible for Italian citizenship, I’ve wanted to move back to the EU. While the goal country in mind has shifted between a handful of countries over the past few years, the dream of living in a land where I’m entitled to free (or, at least, way cheaper) healthcare and higher education has remained the same.

In terms of saving money, though, I’ve still got a way’s to go before I’m comfortable taking the leap. So as I make my money, I can continue to mull over which place to go. This brings me to a quick(-ish) and dirty pros and cons list of the top five countries (in no particular order) that I’ve got in mind.

If you’ve got any tips, suggestions, horror stories, or fairy tales about any of the countries below, please feel free to contact me. The more you know, you know.

Italy

dolce-gabbana-fall-winter-2012-13-10
Is this not the dream/preconceived notions of any foreigner moving to Italy? (via)

Pros:

  • Easy to pick up the language. Knowing Spanish and having studied Italian on and off for several years, I should find it considerably easier to pick up the local language than in other EU countries.
  • A chance to explore my roots. This is probably the strongest reason I have for moving to Italy. My whole life I’ve had a desire to learn more about the country where my last name comes from. For years I’ve been living in and experiencing other places, so now might be the time to seriously consider focusing on getting to know the land and language* of my ancestors like I’ve always wanted.
  • Italian men. Look, I have a type that I tend to go for. Though it’s not my only type, it’s a dominant one to say the least. It’s basically anyone who looks like IRL Aladdin and many Italian men happen to fall under this category. Can ya blame me?

Cons:

  • Italian men. While gorgeous, they do tend to have a reputation for cheating. Of course, this is not true for all Italian men, I’m sure. Setting up boundaries is something that all couples – Italian or not – will have to do.
  • “You’re not a real Italian.” If I had a euro for every time I heard that, then I’d already have enough to move to Europe tomorrow morning. I have a strong feeling that I’m going to get this from a lot of Italians – especially from those who the only thing they hate more than immigrants are people of southern Italian heritage (check and check.)
  • No particular city in mind. What many people don’t realize is that Italy is incredibly diverse. Landscapes, dialects, and cuisines vary from the top of the boot down to its sole. While Florence might be more up my alley in terms of lifestyle and career, I also have this incredible urge to live in a city where I have to tell people to turn right at the angry nonna in a lawn chair to get to my apartment. This indecision leads me to pretty much no city that I’m particularly drawn to. (Unless there are plenty of Florentine nonne in lawn chairs. If so, PLEASE TELL ME WHERE EXACTLY.)

Spain

dolce-gabbana-spring-summer-2015-ad-campaign05.jpg
Why am I using Dolce & Gabbana ads from the past few years to represent each country? Because I want to LIVE IN THEM, that’s why. (via)

Pros:

  • I know the place. I’ve studied and worked in Madrid for a sum total of about 2 years. I can still tell you how to get from Mercado de San Miguel to my old apartment in Chamberí, either by foot or by metro. In terms of knowing where to find the right neighborhood to live, I still remember where to look – although things might certainly have changed in the four years I’ve been away. Either way, I know how to get around town.
  • I know the language. South Korea is the only country I’ve lived in where I couldn’t speak a complete sentence in the local language upon arriving. While I’ve always known that knowing how to speak the official language of the country you’re in makes life a whole lot easier, it wasn’t until I came to Korea that I truly understood  and valued the convenience of this. So after only being able to order food and ask if there’s “more of this” at a shop, it will be nice to go back to a country where I can actually have a conversation with people.
  • Low cost of living compared to other EU countries. According to several city comparisons I made on Numbeo, the overall cost of living in Madrid is frequently lower than that of nearly every other major European city I’m interested in, apart from Lisbon. That, and after reminding myself of the cost of groceries, (especially wine,) it looks like my money’s going to go a bit further than it does now.

Cons:

  • Pickpockets! It’s been nearly four years since I left Spain, which is the longest I’ve gone without going to the country since 2006. Throughout this time I have carried backpacks and put my cell phone in my coat pockets all willy-nilly – a perfect set-up for any half-witted pickpocket. In Madrid, I used to be hyper vigilant and aware of where my bag and valuables were at all times. But after being in the US and Korea, I’ve loosened up a bit and have started to enjoy the freedom of keeping my wallet in my backpack and out of my line of vision. While I would be sure to get my mojo back in terms of keeping my sh*t close to my body and away from petty thieves, constantly dealing with the threat of having all your money and identification stolen could be more exhausting in my late 20s than it was in my early 20s.
  • Sh*tty economy. Upon moving to Spain, I would likely be freelancing or employed full-time as an English teacher online and/or in person. While English teachers are in demand with people wanting to beef up their CVs, the country’s financial situation is and has been suffering for quite some time. This means that the longer people are unemployed, the less money they will have – and the less money they will have to pay for things like English lessons. So who knows how secure my job would be and how much I would have to rely on online teaching.
  • Nothing too new for me. While familiarity has its advantages, there is always immeasurable value and wonder in getting to know a new place. If I choose a city besides Madrid, then there will be that change in scenery and/or language, depending on which region I go to.

Portugal

fado
A picture I took myself a few years ago on a weekend jaunt to Lisbon.

Pros:

  • Even LOWER cost of living. Check out this city comparison between Madrid and Lisbon from Numbeo. Not too shabby, right? And Madrid is considered one of the cheaper European capitals to live in.
  • Local language will be easier to pick up. Perhaps more similar to Spanish than Italian, Portuguese should be relatively easier for me to learn. I even had an astonishingly long conversation with someone once in which they were speaking Portuguese and I was speaking Spanish. And yes, we understood each other. Twas mind-blowing.
  • The BEACH. Perhaps a slightly superficial reason to move to Lisbon, but it’s undoubtedly something positive to keep in mind.

Cons:

  • Demand for English teachers is not as high. Portugal stopped dubbing over foreign movies and TV in the late ’90s. (I know this because apparently Dawson’s Creek was the last TV series to be dubbed in European Portuguese.) Many will argue that this is what has helped native Portuguese speakers catch on to the language more quickly and thoroughly than their Spanish, French, or Italian neighbors. Although this is just one small example of the Portuguese excelling at English, it speaks to the general lack of demand for English teachers like me.
  • I don’t know much about living in Portugal. I know so little that I can’t even think of a third con. While I did spend a fun weekend in Lisbon back in 2012, that’s certainly not enough time to determine what living there day-to-day is like. Then again, I did move to South Korea without ever even stepping foot in Asia. But unlike my current situation, I’m not 100% guaranteed housing or a salary.

Germany

pitch-perfect-germany
(via GIPHY)

Pros:

  • Many opportunities for English teachers. Apparently there is more of a demand for teachers of business English in Germany. Luckily, I’ve got some experience in teaching business English, so we can see how that goes.
  • High quality of life. According to the OECD Better Life Index, Germany ranks among the top in terms of quality of life. Whether or not I’m entitled to some of those rights that contribute to such happiness as an Italian citizen, I don’t know. But I’ve been around happy Germans before and it has always been a delight.
  • Amazing cities to choose from. Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Dusseldorf are among some of the highly praised places to settle in. Deciding where in Germany to move seems like half the battle.

Cons:

  • Don’t know the local language. Based on my research, many jobs – even teaching jobs – want their employees to know at least a conversational level of German. Aside from living day-to-day life, not knowing German could also be a hindrance when it comes to finding a job as an English teacher. Of course, this isn’t to say that I’m not willing to learn German. Hell, I’m always up for learning a new language.
  • No terribly strong desire to live there. I must admit, the decision to move to Germany would be one of the head more than that of the heart. (Which, some would argue, is the most German reason to move to Germany.) If I had to choose a city, at the moment it’s in between Munich and Berlin – two very different places. But even in that scenario I imagine myself painfully longing for another place. Then again, maybe not – who frigging knows?

Sweden 

trip-to-ikea
…Or at least another overused Swedish reference. (via GIPHY)

Pros:

  • High quality of life. Sweden also rates rather high in the OECD Better Life Index. According to the article linked, Swedes gave their life satisfaction a 7.3 grade, which is higher than the average 6.5. Not too shabs.
  • Socialism. Sweden is also well-known for its comparatively more progressive and egalitarian society, which is something I’m certainly drawn to. While I know that doesn’t mean it’s some icy utopia where everyone holds hands and sings along to “People Need Love” by ABBA, there are regulations put in place that guarantee rights that many people even in other European nations aren’t entitled to by law. Even if it means paying a little bit more for a midnight sandwich, I’m willing to do it if it means that the guy working behind the counter at Seven Eleven is getting paid extra to deal with drunkards and weirdos late into the night.
  • I enjoyed my visits there. A few years ago I was seeing this American guy who lived in Gothenburg, so I would fly up from Madrid and visit him from time to time. Although the relationship has long since dissolved, my pleasant memories of catching the tram, traipsing around Haga, continually eating pizza and chatting at Kelly’s, and even grocery shopping at Coop remain.

Cons

  • High cost of living. Like I mentioned above, that midnight sandwich is gonna cost me.
  • Learning Swedish with so many English speakers lurking about. I’m all for learning Swedish and taking an SFI course. Like I mentioned above, I have a strong desire to pick up the language. As with any language, however, it will take me some time before I’m fluent or even conversational. On the one hand, it’s very close to English. On the other hand, about 86% of Swedes are able to carry a conversation in English, which means it’ll make it easier for me to fall back on my native tongue when out and about.
  • Pretty much zero demand for English teachers. Which means I’ll strictly have to be an online instructor, which I’m not opposed to. But then that begs the question: Do I want to stay inside my apartment all day during the winter? Should I rent out a workspace? How long will I have to save up for that?

 

So what does this all add up to? A whole lot of ties. If there’s one thing I can draw from this run-down of preliminary pros and cons list, it’s that I’m definitely not ready to pick up and go at any moment. A lot can happen in a year to a year-and-a-half, so the best advice I can give myself is to save money, do my research, and live a little. But I know that when I make my decision, it would be as if the answer were staring me in the face all along. Question is: what is currently staring at me in the face?


*Realistically they probably spoke heavy Puglian dialect, but you catch my drift.

Featured image via Unsplash

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