The Key Factors to Consider When Moving Overseas
“So, where you wanna live?” Christie asked.
I looked down at my beer, then back out over the Pacific Ocean and announced, “I think Prague makes the most sense.”
That was August 2018. I was living in Long Beach, California, a 30-second walk to the sand from my dark, 400-square-foot studio apartment right along East Ocean Boulevard. I’d just been offered a job that would allow me to work as a contract writer—with this proviso: I had to relocate to Europe.
But I could live anywhere in Europe I fancied.
“Prague,” she said, clearly surprised. “I was expecting Barcelona or, I don’t know, Paris. You love those cities. I’ve never heard you talk about Prague.”
I’ve known Christie since 1989, since my first real job out of university. She wasn’t wrong. I don’t think I’d ever mentioned Prague to anyone, really. Nevertheless…Prague it was.
Which raises what I see as the most fundamental question when you’re looking to move abroad: When you can choose anywhere to live, where do you choose?
Seems like an easy question on the surface. I know a lot of people instantly have a place in mind. I did: Barcelona. I wanted a bright, airy, sea-view flat in the Barceloneta neighborhood that I love. And yet, here I am in Prague.
Turns out, that question doesn’t have the simple answer you might think.
There’s so much more that goes into this overseas transition than fondness for place. In fact, based on my experience pursuing this transition, I’d say “place” ranks third or fourth on the list.
As I said, Barcelona was it for me.
I’ve long loved that city. It’s easily one of the most beautiful in Europe, and the tapas-and-wine food scene ranks among the very best in the world. Moreover, I’d spent the better part of a week walking 25 miles (according to my iPhone pedometer) through all the areas of Spain’s Catalan capital, looking for where I wanted to live.
But then realities began to sink in as I did all my research.
The issue of Spanish taxes, for instance, jumped up and grabbed me. I was coming off a recent divorce and a job loss, and I’d spent more than a year going back to school in Southern California and paying for it all by draining my savings. I really—really—wanted a country with a friendlier tax rate so that I could begin to rebuild my financial security.
And then there was the issue of a visa—which, frankly, should be the primary concern.
Which country is going to let you live and earn locally as a freelance worker? Not all will. In fact, most won’t. And of those that do, some of the requirements can be a tall order. Germany, for instance, wants to see that you have written documentation from potential clients you might serve in the future.
Others want proof of a certain, minimum income level. That’s not necessarily so bad, but I was never a freelance writer until 2018. Prior to that, I was gainfully employed. So I had no documentary evidence to prove those income levels.
Still others want you to set up a business and hire locals—which sort of defeats the whole digital nomad/freelance vibe.
I wanted a visa that allowed me to legally live and work locally without having to jump through lots of hoops. In all, I nixed Spain, Ukraine, Scotland, Estonia, and a couple others.
And, as you know, I landed on Prague.
The cost-of-living and tax situation was appealing.
Although I needed two documents—a work permit and a residence permit—they were relatively easy to obtain through a very affordable visa agency in Prague (less than $1,000 for everything). I had my work permit in about a week…and my one-year residence permit in less than two months.
In the grand calculus of relocating to Europe, Prague’s numbers simply made the most sense.
Yes, I’d been here before. I knew I’d like living in the Czech capital because of its beauty and its four seasons. But fondness for place really was a tick-box further down the list.
“I would have chosen Paris,” Christie harumphed.
“And what about the cost of living in Paris?”
“Yeah, but French wine. And the cheese. And the pastries!”
Some things you just can’t argue against.