The Cons of Living in Europe: How to Overcome the Trickiest Issues – Europe has plenty of charming benefits, but it’s not without its drawbacks. Before moving abroad, you need to be aware of the many differences between Europe and your current home. Understanding the obstacles that might make your relocation difficult and the trade-offs or sacrifices you might have to make is crucial if you’re an expat planning to move to Europe. This helps you prepare efficiently and make the proper adjustments to navigate the most burdensome issues you might encounter along the way. Let’s look at some of the disadvantages of living in Europe.
The Uphill Task of Navigating the Famous European Bureaucracy
At every stage of your move abroad and afterward, you are likely to encounter challenges when dealing with authority figures in government offices, banks, and other situations in Europe. Navigating European bureaucracy is quite challenging and frustrating. Officials at every level of government often have confusing rules about even the simplest processes. You may also have to deal with long waiting lines, an insistence to only speak using the local language, and general apathy towards administrative work. Often there is also a general lack of empathy towards foreigners, which is likely caused by a lack of funding and proper training.
Instead of struggling through all by yourself, working with an immigration lawyer will significantly lighten the burden of your visa processing and immigration. Beyond the immigration office, there are many other places you will encounter bureaucracy – unwittingly racking up expensive fees, finding new accommodation, moving and setting up utilities, renewing residence permits, and even trying to cash a physical check at the bank. A relocation service might help you negotiate your accommodation, explain the lease agreements, and ensure you aren’t paying any hidden charges. In these cases, working with an immigration lawyer or relocation service will help you navigate through the hoops as you transition to living in Europe.
Narrower Streets and More Compact Living
European cities are generally known for having narrower streets, smaller cars, and compact homes and apartments. The older cities and towns of Europe were simply designed differently and they didn’t predict the rise of the automobile until the early twentieth century. If you wish to own a car, you might encounter challenges navigating through the narrow streets or even finding places to park your car. Unless you are willing to live in the outskirts or small villages, free-standing houses as well as larger yards with gardens and lawns are quite uncommon. This is a huge contrast to almost everywhere in the United States, for example, where you can find sprawling suburbs of single-family dwellings with plenty of space around them.
That said, smaller apartments are cheaper to build and may require less energy to heat. However, you should also bear in mind that standalone homes in Europe are usually older and might require more expenses in maintenance and energy bills. Overall, the greenery, large parks, and general ambiance make for a comfortable lifestyle without the need for a large home and a car, though it certainly couldn’t hurt!
Taxes are Generally High and You Might Pay Double
Depending on where you are moving from, you may run into an unfavorable tax situation. As a US citizen, for instance, you will always need to file taxes in the US no matter where you are living in the world. As such, you will likely be obligated to file taxes in your country and in the European country you are residing in. It’s always important to research taxation treaties between your country of citizenship and where you plan on living.
The tax rates in Europe for personal income can vary widely. For instance, the five highest personal income tax rates in the OECD countries of Europe are Denmark (55.9%), France (55.4%), Austria (55.0%), Greece (54.0%), and Portugal (53.0%). The five lowest countries are Czechia and Hungary (tied at 15.0%), Estonia (20.0%), Slovakia (25.0%), and Latvia (31.4%). For comparison, the income tax rate in the United States sits between 10% and 37% depending on your filing status and taxable income.
Public Transportation Can Be Intimidating and Inconvenient
The transportation system may not be the most efficient depending on the location in Europe. In many places, especially parts of Southern and Eastern Europe, intercity trains can be slow and buses may not follow the published timetables. You may end up waiting longer for a bus, struggle to decipher the timetables, or find the correct train platform at the station.
Still, owning a car comes with its own set of bureaucratic processes. You may be required to obtain an International Driver’s License and eventually a local driver’s license as well as learn how to navigate the cities to contend with the unreliability of public transport. Keep in mind that you cannot drive your car everywhere (especially within the narrow streets in cities) and the cost of gasoline is higher compared to the United States. Although cars are typically smaller and more fuel efficient in Europe, you must take into account the cost of using a car and weigh it against using the public transport system within the country. More often than not, public transportation will be a better option.
A Complicated Network of Languages and Dialects
Although English is widely spoken as a business and social language across the continent, it isn’t the official language of most European countries. The European Union itself recognizes 24 official languages between its member states. The five top native languages in Europe as a whole are Russian, German, French, Italian, and English in that order. You’ll also find a ton of local dialects and deviations as you move from one city to the next within each country, likely making communication more challenging even if you speak the same language.
Although expat communities and cosmopolitan cities use English more and more, it’s most likely the language barrier may be prominent when dealing with government offices or filling out paperwork. Therefore, it is prudent to consider learning the basics of the local language of your preferred European destination before making your move. Moving to Europe provides more opportunities to get your tongue around new words, start chatting with locals, and truly immerse yourself in the new language.
The Weather Can Make Things Challenging
Generally, most countries in Europe experience satisfying summer months, and the locals tend to flock outside to soak up the heat and sunlight as much as possible. Many people from Northern Europe spend a month or more on the Mediterranean coast or beyond during the summer. Though this may make the Northern cities a little less crowded, it can lead to jam-packed beaches and airports and ballooning prices in the peak season. Likewise, the famous heat of the Mediterranean region can be overbearing at times, especially since buildings and houses may not have air conditioning.
The winter months may not be as friendly either, with gloomy skies, few sunny days, and freezing rain if not snow and ice. Depending on where you move to in Europe, you should expect lower temperatures and high humidity combined with longer nights. People more accustomed to sunnier weather tend to take on seasonal depression as it’s very common to not see the sun for weeks at a time. Buildings and houses in Southern Europe may or may not have air conditioning, but few have heating. Similarly, buildings and houses in Northern Europe may have heating, but no air conditioning due to their older infrastructure.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize and Plan Your Move to Europe
Whether you plan on living in Europe as a way of reinventing yourself, enjoying a better standard of living, or for any other reason, there’s so much that Europe has to offer. That said, deciding on where to live is a big decision you must carefully mull over. There is, of course, no perfect country to live in – the only way to achieve your version of perfection is by weighing your options and preparing with a realistic view of what life truly means in your dream destination. Make sure to always stay focused on what you’re truly moving for and you’ll always be able to conquer some of the downsides of living in Europe.
At Expat Empire, our personal experiences and broader global network in many different countries bring you the unique advantage of consulting services that offer all the help and information to make your move abroad easier. Our Expat Tools can also help you figure out the basic information you need to move abroad before your 1-on-1 coaching session with us!