Differences between USA and Europe
If you’re here, you’ve most likely been daydreaming about living in Europe for as long as you can remember. And because you haven’t done it yet that probably means you’re still weighing out the pros and cons of living in Europe vs America. For many of us, our quality of life in the US can feel like it’s on the decline but what it is exactly that draws us to Europe?
Is it the promise of a slower, more meaningful pace of life, or the ease of seamlessly hopping between countries, cultures, and languages? Maybe it’s a better alignment of values that’s been lacking in the US–where success is defined beyond your job and job title. No matter the reason, we’re here to help you with your list and navigate the pros and cons of living in Europe (and the US).
The Pros and Cons of Living in Europe vs America
Reality check: There’s no perfect place. Whether in the US or Europe, each corner of the world has its unique charms and challenges. If only we could combine the best of both worlds and create our own utopia, right? While perfection may be elusive, there are places out there that align more closely with our aspirations. Maybe yours is Europe?
We all have different needs and desires so a move to Europe requires understanding what we want and whether it’s attainable there. Let us shed some light on the pros and cons of living in Europe versus America, so that you have a few more points to consider when making your decision.
Pros and cons of living in Europe
While moving to Europe is indeed a thrilling adventure, let’s not forget that every coin has two sides. First let’s cover the pros that make Europe a top destination. However, we’ll also take a look at some of the challenges that come with living on this captivating continent as a foreigner.
Pros of living in Europe
- History all around: Europe is full of history–with cities like Rome, Athens, and Paris dating back over 2,000 years. Its streets are living museums. Imagine walking past Roman ruins, Gothic cathedrals, and Medieval architecture on your way to the supermarket.
- Cultural diversity: Europe is a vibrant mix of diverse cultures, languages, and histories, offering up an array of traditions, cuisines, and experiences in a compact geographical area.
- Affordable travel: Your life in Europe is someone’s honeymoon dream; living here allows you to explore neighboring countries affordably. Catch a flight, hop on a train, or take a short drive to a new adventure.
- Efficient transit: Europe is known for its well-established public transportation, making a car-free life in most cities a breeze. Buses, subways, trains, and your own two feet can get you to where you want to go.
- Walkable cities: Speaking of feet, car-free living in Europe means embracing the pleasure of strolling through historic cities on a daily basis. It’s a refreshing way to navigate urban life.
- Affordable healthcare: Most Europeans enjoy the security of universal healthcare. As a US citizen you may or may not have access to public healthcare (it depends on your residency status), however, private healthcare plans are affordable–some as low as 50 euros a month– preventing health costs from becoming a financial nightmare.
- Work-life balance: If you’re able to find a job in Europe, you’ll discover a better work-life balance, with generous paid vacation and parental leave. Even if you don’t work for a local company and instead bring your remote job with you, you’ll feel the difference in a culture that values downtime.
- Budget-friendly living: Depending on where you’re moving from and moving to, Europe can offer a lower cost of living compared to many US cities. With reasonable rents, affordable healthcare, and less reliance on cars, you can save a lot.
- Educational excellence: European countries provide high-quality and affordable education. And the kicker is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg–annual tuition ranges from free to just a few thousand dollars.
- Fresh and local food: Europe has strict rules in place for pesticide and antibiotic. While many people shop at supermarkets, local markets are a way of life, offering seasonal, locally-sourced fruits and vegetables, reducing reliance on imported goods.
Cons of living in Europe
- Visa hurdles: This is not the fault of Europe, but for US citizens, obtaining a long-term visa or work permit in Europe can be a challenge. Learn about the 18 easiest European countries to move to for US citizens and discover over 50 visa options available.
- Limited job market: Job opportunities can be scarce in certain European countries with high unemployment rates, such as Spain, Greece, and Italy. It’s best to bring your remote job with you—if you can!
- Language barriers: It’s a myth that everyone in Europe speaks English. Our advice is to learn the local language but the reality is that it can take time. Language barriers will vary by country and can make basic tasks and integration that much harder.
- Bureaucratic maze: Dealing with bureaucracy is an inevitable part of moving abroad, from visas to work permits and healthcare enrollment. It’s time-consuming and can be challenging, especially in a foreign language.
- Space constraints: Europe is a densely populated continent and its cities tend to be compact. City living often means smaller living spaces and less personal space.
- Ethnic homogeneity: While Europe as a whole is culturally diverse, many countries have more ethnically homogenous populations. If you’re used to diversity this can leaving you feeling a little disconnected from the rest of the world.
- Higher taxes: Europe’s reputation for high taxes is rooted in many social services such as universal healthcare and generous pensions. Tax rates will vary widely by country and personal circumstances, but it is true that top tax rates in Europe tend to exceed those in the US. For example, Denmark’s highest tax bracket is 55.9%?!
- No free refills: Prepare for a shift in restaurant dining norms—Europe doesn’t offer free refills, and tap water may not be readily available. Ordering a bottle of water and paying for that bread basket are common practices.
Pros and cons of living in the United States
Let’s face it, you’re here because you want to leave the US. The landscape of the country feels like it has changed for the worse in the past few years (or even decades), and the path ahead may appear uncertain. We get why you want to move. However, let’s not overlook the pros of living in the US that draw millions of people here each year. Then we can dive into all the challenges that you know too well.
Pros of living in the US
- Economic opportunities: The United States is synonymous with opportunity, offering a variety of industries and high-paying jobs, especially in technology and healthcare. Its sheer size and job diversity has been drawing foreigners for centuries.
- Cultural diversity: The US is a nation of immigrants, rich in cuisines, traditions, and cultures. Its cultural diversity is a defining feature and one of its strengths.
- English language: While the US doesn’t have an official language, English is the default, obviously making life easier for English speakers. But, Spanish is also widely spoken, with over 41 million Spanish speakers in the country
- Innovation hub: The US is a hotbed of innovation, particularly in the tech sector. Did you know that it’s home to the most startups in the world? Here you can start a business with ease, and tax regulations are often favorable.
- Lower taxes: Speaking of taxes, in the US taxes are notably lower than those in other high-income countries, especially if you live in a state with no income tax.
- Spacious Living: Everything seems larger in the US, from suburban homes to city dwellings. On average people live in roomy accommodations compared to their European counterparts.
- Convenience: American customer service prioritizes comfort and convenience. In most cities you can go grocery shopping any day at any time and convenience is key with ample parking lots, air conditioning blasting indoors, and elevators in most buildings.
- Free refills: In the US we love abundance: free refills, complimentary bread or chips & salsa, and generously portioned meals. It’s all about more.
Cons of living in the US
- Income inequality and cost of living: According to the Council on Foreign Relations, income and wealth inequality in the United States is substantially higher than in almost any other developed country. This disparity continues to widen, making it increasingly difficult for the average person to afford a comfortable life.
- Limited safety nets: Compared to many European countries, the US offers fewer social safety nets, leaving those facing economic hardships vulnerable. Many people in the US are one paycheck away from financial turmoil or homelessness.
- High healthcare costs: Healthcare in the US comes at a steep price, with about 28 million people lacking coverage. Even those with insurance can face financial strain after a major accident, compounded by battles with insurance companies over treatment and bills.
- Work-life (im)balance: The US leads in hours worked but lags in work-life balance. Work often defines your identity, and success is measured by your paycheck and job title. It’s a culture that discourages time off and can leave employees reluctant to take a break.
- Sky-high tuition: Higher education in the US is alarmingly expensive, resulting in significant student loan debt for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Over 44 million Americans owe a staggering $1.7 million in student debt.
- Urban sprawl: Many US cities have sprawled outward, with suburbs offering more space and larger homes at a lower cost. But this expansion comes at an expense, it complicates public transportation, making it inconvenient for most and creates barriers to casual social interaction that cities do so well.
- Car culture: The US’s car-oriented infrastructure further limits public transportation in many areas. Commuting for hours in traffic is a common daily ordeal for many, contributing to stress and loss of valuable time.
- Gun violence: Mass shootings and firearm-related incidents have unfortunately become common in the US. The country grapples with a higher rate of gun violence compared to most European nations and is always notably absent from lists of the world’s safest countries.
- Fast food nation: The US is notorious for its unhealthy eating habits, with affordable but unhealthy options often overshadowing pricier healthy alternatives. Finding fresh, affordable, and nutritious food can be a challenge.
Europe vs USA
When it comes to the US vs Europe, is one really better than the other? Or are they just different? Ultimately, the pros and cons of living in Europe or the US depends on your personal preferences, priorities, and circumstances. Both offer unique opportunities and challenges, it’s really up to you to decide where you fit best.
If you need more help with you move abroad, check out our resources:
- Sign up for the next Move Abroad After 30 Masterclass to see if a move abroad is a possibility for you!
- Join our Facebook group for women age 30 and up who want to move abroad
- Grab your copy of our Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe as an American