Why I Will Never Move Back to the United States

I left America in 2005. I don’t know when I started telling people that I would never move back, but about two or three years ago, I realized that I meant it.

You know all that shit you hear about Europeans being indolent socialist sponges? It’s fucking Bible true. Europeans work fewer hours every week and get more vacation every year. They are harder to fire, so when their bosses ask them to do unreasonable shit like work on a weekend, they say ‘no’ and the conversation ends.

For a foreigner, integration means becoming just like them. If I ever move back to the States, I would have to find a job where I was paid a wage in exchange for my labor, rather than just my presence. Even if I wanted to move back, I’d be homeless in a matter of weeks.

Biking in Berlin isn’t as Cadillac-smooth as it was in Copenhagen, but it’s fundamentally a safe, feasible way to get where I need to be. On the days when it’s not possible to bike (snow drift, flat tire, urban riot), a comprehensive public transport system takes me within walking distance.

This means I haven’t sat in a traffic jam or looked for a parking space since Star Wars Episode III was in theaters. The parts of my brain that managed those things are now devoted exclusively to cheese and wine pairings.

Again, the stereotypes about European food are all actually facts. It fucking is better here. Europe has bakeries like America has Starbuckses. The coffee is blacker, the fruit is fruitier and all the scientists are too busy eating to genetically modify anything.

People think food service is slow and rude in Europe. This is incorrect. The meals are just so good, the waiters are reluctant to give them away.

I don’t think any country has successfully divorced health from income, but at least it’s less blatant here than in the US. When I inevitably get hit by a bus, I’ll get repaired, I won’t get an invoice.

Americans bitching about socialized medicine is like starving African kids bitching about the new Facebook layout. After seven years in three European countries, I wish bureaucrats would find more of my life to socialize.

Being a foreigner is awesome. When I do something a few standard deviations weirder than the median, people go ‘he’s weird because he’s foreign’ rather than ‘he’s weird because he’s an asshole’. Being treated this way isn’t a privilege I’m going to give up just so I can go back to speaking the same language as everyone else.

Guantanamo, drone strikes, enhanced interrogation, too big to fail, more with less, flavored milk, the TSA, the filibuster, the Bush tax cuts, the death penalty, Sarah Fucking Palin, bankruptcy reform, wardrobe malfunction, Twilight–this isn’t a culture that represents my values.

I’m not actually making the argument that Europe is better than the US. A lot of people prefer driving to walking, libertarianism to a nanny state and getting rich to paying taxes. That’s totally fine. But at this point, it’s totally not me.

I’ve lived in Sydney, London, Copenhagen and now Berlin, and none of them are perfect. I don’t want to stay here forever. I don’t want to not want to move home. I just know that, on every dimension I care about, living in the States would mean a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.

Part of me will always be ready buy a one-way ticket back to America. I just have to make sure America’s ready to have me too.


Filed under America, Germany, Personal

70 responses to “Why I Will Never Move Back to the United States

  1. I have had these same thoughts, but being a “foreigner” is also a privilege afforded to you by the German government. You may stay as long as you are tolerated doing shitty jobs, in a lot of cases. The European lifestyle is not just up for grabs and open for the taking. Unfortunately, borders, papers, and passports are still vital issues to this discussion.

  2. very refreshing – thank you for your input, I have been following your blog for a few weeks now, what initially took you out of the usa? I have been out since the beginning of 2010 – with a brief re entrance to the usa in which I vowed to myself I would not do again. It is nice to see there are others out there who have set out to do the same. Did you like Copenhagen? Did Denmark live up to one of the happiest countries in the world?

  3. “… people go ‘he’s weird because he’s foreign’ rather than ‘he’s weird because he’s an asshole’. Being treated this way isn’t a privilege I’m going to give up just so I can go back to speaking the same language as everyone else.”

    Amazing and so true. I totally took advantage of being foreign and confused when I was living in Europe.

  4. Northern Europe has many advantages over life in the USA, I can see, in terms of social protection. But how much longer can we afford it all? The debt pile is about to fall over on top of us, and I think – unlike the US – European countries will be much slower to resurface.

    • Irma B Claeys

      I completely agree. As Americans, it is a wonderful and tremendously en-lighting experience to see the world and live outside our cocoon. On that note, I have been living overseas in Europe since 1997, I married a European who preferred living in Europe for work purposes as mention before, there are more rights and advantages for people here, one of them is holiday pay, about 30 days of holiday plus extra Official days, all paid, if you are laid off normally under the circumstances there would be at least 3 months paid; and the 13th month is also very attractive. The Social Health and Meds here in Belgium is great and mostly everyone is deserving of some kind of coverage. You take one thing for another, hospitals are not like in the U.S. to me they look old, some rundown and staff and Drs. are ok. I believe we pay for what we get in the U.S. in any case all being good, but there is a lot of socialist idealism for some, I am a woman who became widowed and have a daughter, well once my husband died, things turn all around. Couldn’t find a place to rent, more so rent to me” a single mother, and every time I have to deal with a man, I have found myself being taken for a fool or being patronized which on this day and age and specially that is not a third world country where “machismo” is not supposed to be prevalent, I have had my share; even though, I am well educated; I hold a degree in Finance and Commercial law, I owned and managed a business in Houston for many years prior coming to live in Europe and become a ” Day to Day Home Manager” as I like to call myself, so my cup is full now. I have realized that no where is perfect, but for sure I know that my rights will be respected in the United States or else, Your voice can and will be heard one way or another. Here a truly feel as an immigrant not because I never wanted to integrate within but because they go out of their way to make sure you are one!! As if I came to this country to take advantage of their system (like many other that they admit here and they do in fact take advantage) I just want to provide a home, food and education to my daughter with out being such a big deal, as if this was too much to ask. I will find the way to get back and start all over again in the U.S. at least there even if is “shit” I know it won’t be forever. things will be done; people somehow still stick together, here they don’t it is pretty much “You are on your own buddy” mentality for everything!!! and my favorite, “you are always taken as if you are a crook or thief and guilty and then they will see if you are innocent”; the last straw for me was when trying to buy a TV on credit, they guy said to me ” you cannot buy on credit because you are just a “resident’! (never before ) and continue to say.. “You can leave any time and never pay”, I told him with a total surprise that I have been living in Belgium for over 15 year, pay high taxes and all and He is suggesting that I would leave???!!! I said to myself, why would I have to deal with such ignorant idiots and sob’s when all I do in my life is on the straight; I decided that I would do what ever it takes to move out! so on that note. Good luck to all that love being away from the U.S. when all is good , it doesn’t matter where you are, when the shit hits the fan, it sucks every where” ….


      • Mon

        Very true… Being an European living in the US for 12 yrs I find the concept of lack of universal health care deplorable. Sure healthcare isn’t perfect in Europe and depends on each country : great in France and Germany not so great in other eastern or Southern European countries. Doctors in the US are terrible, at least those I have been in contact with, treat you like numbers and kick you out in 5 min after having you wait for three hours. Forget about needing in vitro, costs 15,000 usd free in France and Germany for at least three tries. Foreigners are also treated poorly here. And unlike in Europe where being a foreigner is cool and exciting here in the us it is never cool. As for vertical mobility it is better here. Being a white American I would strongly advise you to come back. And being an European i do agree people tend to keep to themselves and not help As much as Americans, but then again the US is huge and being from Texas you would probably feel NYC cold and chaotic. I would also venture to say education is way better in most countries in Europe. Speaking fluently two languages is mandatory in most European countries. My dad just passed away and I may need to return to a jobless Europe not really having experienced the “American dream”… It is true… When it gets bad it is bad everywhere… I would venture to advise you to come back to your close family, just be cautious of bulling and serial killers and mall shootings and school shootings and random snippets, but then again Europeans are already copying all those bad traits…

      • Chris

        Mon, Europeans aren’t copying Americans and their ‘bad habits.’ These are sick people and those participating/instigating, etc… in criminal behavior in any country are sick. I am all for EU living (I am an American living in Europe and think life IS better here in many ways)…however, blaming the US for crime in Europe is a cop out and clearly untrue.

  5. This is why we tracked down the paperwork for my daughter Sair’s Irish grandfather, and got her an EU passport.
    I’m pushing 60 and pretty much settled, but Sair and her girlfriend (Australian) needn’t, and probably shouldn’t, settle in the US.

  6. Love your travel photo’s. Been to 36 countries and I appreciate the view of the world you have. Only thing, as someone in the financial markets I can tell you the lifestyle the rest of the world maintains is unfortunately coming to an end. Not right away…but, next 5 years all the things you like about Europe and other countries will begin to be taken away. It’s kind of sad really….people complain about the US debt to GDP but, Europe, Australia and Asia have been borrowing money to maintain this lifestyle. There is no money in the financial markets to continue at this pace. So, have fun and enjoy it while you can. Safe travels! Fan Club (Seattle, WA)

  7. “After seven years in three European countries, I wish bureaucrats would find more of my life to socialize.”

    I made the mistake of opting out of the public health insurance system in Germany, and taking out private insurance. Big mistake.

  8. Patrick

    “If I ever move back to the States, I would have to find a job where I was paid a wage in exchange for my labor, rather than just my presence. Even if I wanted to move back, I’d be homeless in a matter of weeks.”

    You’ve been away from the United States for too long. “Indolent socialist sponge” doesn’t have quite the stigma it once had.

    “Guantanamo, drone strikes, enhanced interrogation, too big to fail, more with less, flavored milk, the TSA, the filibuster, the Bush tax cuts, the death penalty, Sarah Fucking Palin, bankruptcy reform, wardrobe malfunction, Twilight–this isn’t a culture that represents my values.”

    French Mirage fighter jets in Libya, Norwegian troops in Afghanistan, Mi5, we used to be big, we’ll make do with less now, Solo, police with automatic weapons in Stuttgart, the European Commission, Sarkozy, hate speech laws, Helle Fucking Thorning-Schmidt, the Euro, wardrobe malfunction, Eurovision.

    Yeah, that’s way better.

  9. Irma Claeys

    I am now in the dilema of back to the U.S., I got married to a European and sad to say he passed 3 years ago, left me and my daughter almost homeless and with no family here totally alone, after trying to pull myself together and find some kinds of living means, I have to say honestly that I want and need to be back home, all has not been ok here, I have feared of no freedom, everytime I have to move to another house, the police have to come and check that is “You” who is living there, etc; and other bureaucratic BS which after so many years living here, I have come to the realization that I still want for my daughter and I to stick it out back in the U.S. than here in Europe; please don’t get me wrong, Europe is fantastic on social benefits, foods, style of living(when you have the money) when you don’t; it sucks even more than in America, you truly feel poor, and believe me I feel I have a basic decent income, but quality of life is not the same for us anymore; I am and will always feel like a “foreigner” here and the fact that even when I rented a small house in the very picturesque town of Bruges”, people treat you as “single mother” as if we have gone back to the ’50 to say the least. I want my daughte to have the Freedom, we all take for granted and have the open opportunities for what ever she wants to do, here even wanting to be self-employed is ridiculous, taxes are crazy and the opportunities are slim, I have a degree in Business Administration and finance, speak 2 languages and learning 2 more, but as I was a homemaker for nearly 17 years and no work experience, here I would have to go and clean houses or clean hotels which that is what a lot of people tell me, it is so crazy to think that I am living in a European country and not in “Cuba”. I don’t want to die here!.

    • Wow, I’m really sorry about your husband Irma. 😦 Your post spoke to me.
      Although my husband is alive, I feel the same way about getting my daughter out in terms of freedom and other offerings in the US.

      It’s been a big trade off for me, giving that up for the social and otherwise benefits — food too as I am a health nut.

      I feel like if you don’t have a big career that translates (and trust me, even doctors can’t always practice even though they hold reputable degrees from other countries) or a portable career, you end up like you said, cleaning hotels or worse, teaching English.

      Although I have a portable career (I am a professional musician), since the birth of my daughter I haven’t wanted nor can I feasibly tour in the same way. Where does that leave me? Like you, mostly a housewife and in my case, teaching English. Something although English is my native tongue (big whoop), I am not only just ok at, very unhappy doing.
      Don’t get me wrong, I am a hard worker, but I also don’t believe in drudging through life doing shit you don’t want to do, waiting to die. No thanks.

      I also don’t want to die here (I am in Austria), but that struggle between going home to be with my culture (where in some ways I just am more comfortable — also where my family is) and have the freedoms I do not get here versus the well-oiled social system here is hard.
      On one hand, it’s much safer here for my daughter, a good place to raise a child. A place where a child actually stays a child longer than the average American kid. For example, a 15 year old in America is like a college kid. A 15 year where I am (in the alps) is more like 13. Call me crazy, but I prefer that any day. Life is short — let them be kids.
      A place where the girls don’t all grow up with major eating disorders if they aren’t kidnapped first. Yes, I just said that. That’s how freaked out I am by my own country these days.

      Will I ever go back? I have no idea.

      Like you Irma, if my husband passed, a big yes — 100%.

      If not, I just do not know.
      I struggle with it every day.
      My husband would leave in an instant. He’s from here and even he wants to go. Not because it’s awful, but because the trade offs for the well-oiled social system and more are huge and I don’t just mean taxes here. I’m talking the feeling of smallness. The feeling you can’t better yourself or do anything yourself really. That feeling that the government is watching EVERY move. Hell, not just the government — the people! Germanic cultures love their rules.
      Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can take it. I may just break one day and drag my family (we have a toddler and a dog) to America and if I do, I suppose only then will I know if it was a mistake or not.
      Then again, I go back and forth with feeling like being here IS a mistake, so there’s that.
      You know, feeling like the you want what’s on the other side, even if it’s just a little. A little curiosity can kill that cat.

      • Irma B Claeys

        Thank You Chris for taking time to read my point of view. I still struggle with the fact of going back or staying, but now I do feel that I prefer to take my chance there than here; it has been an uphill battle here ever since and even till today. I am making plans and doing my homework of how much is needed to return as it will all come down to me, financially, emotionally, etc; although my daughter is pretty keen on moving back, there isn’t a lot of encouragement for kids here, meaning in Bruges, I don’t know how to explain, because we have lived in different countries, we have a different perspective where we have been, lifestyle,etc although now our lifestyle changed 360°; anyway, I want to share and teach my daughter of all possibilities around here. The United States have some good points and it is what you make of it; just like anywhere in the world. BUT on that note, I cannot and still not understand a lot of the mentality here which conflicts with my own views and opinions and most importantly “ethics” ; I hold a degree, have been self-employed and business owner and manager for a long time before arriving here, I just became “day to day home manager”; I would not do any other job less than what I am competent to do, not because I feel high and mighty, but because I already have ‘ been there done that’. My advise to you is to make sure that all important affairs are taken care and with your knowledge; like life insurance, bank administration, any credit that you have yourself or together; I will give you an example, when Marc passed away, the banks immediately blocked both our accounts, one that we shared and one on “my own”, I could not withdraw money, or do any payments without having to go to the bank and “ask permission” they would do the payments for me, I never thought ever in my life that I could not access my own money on my own terms!!!, another thing was that all debt accts under my husband’s name solely became “my” responsibility!! I was not a co-signer, nor my name was in any document and yet , I had to pay all !!! that doesn’t happen in Texas!!! also, I found out that my husband had cancelled his life insurance policy after his death about 4 months before without my knowledge”” why??? I will never know !! so many important things like I mention has given me the courage to consider going back “home”.

    • I am truly sorry about your husband. Did you ultimately move back?

    • Hi Irma,

      I first want to say I’m sorry for the loss of your husband. I am sure you and your daughter have found it difficult living there in so many ways. I moved from NY to Istanbul years ago with my then Turkish husband and now I am divorced. I have been contemplating moving back to the states, but I’m nervous because I know it will be very difficult. If I were you, I would think carefully, which I’m sure you are doing. If you have family back home that can help you, then let them. If that is where you truly want to be-with them. I wish you the best of luck.


  10. I moved to Quebec, Canada for a year and had to repatriot after a year and a half. Now I am back in Seattle. QC is a pretty socialist province – the weather was tough but there were so many things I loved about it. The people don’t identify as much with what they do, there are so many low-cost events and art. And people sit and enjoy meals and each other. I felt no need to buy all the latest stuff.
    Ps. Copenhagen is by-far one of my favorite places! Glad to have found this blog, fellow Seattlelite, expat.

  11. Don’t ever say never but I feel you. I am not a national, so it is different but I know how it feels. I have no intentions of going back. I miss my friends dearly but leaving after a decade I have no regrets… living in the US was a great experience and taught me a lot as a person but also it gave me low level education but high student loans and made me workaholic. I worked 75 hours a week for the company that seemed to care about their employees and had lots of transparency but then the economy sank, they laid off us as they would care less. My severence package included one month pay – that is how much we were worth to them after all that unpaid overtime we put in. Living in the US also made me ignorant of what is happening in the world and my sense of geography started to deteriorate. It is quite embarrasing when meeting people from all around the world. I used to think that I speak and write English very well until I started my higher education in Europe (in English) and realised that my dictionary is way more limited than any well educated European who never lived in an English speaking country! And I only speak 2 languages when most of my classmates are fluent in 3 or 4! No place is perfect but the American dream… is only left in the Hollywood movies that are nothing to do with the reality. And I don’t want my kids be part of it.

    • Mon

      Agree with your post. Have several non American friends that went to Europe to have children and raise them there… When you can find a job in the USA you can save a little bit of money, depending on your life style, but you live in a bubble… Thank goodness for the internet because the news are only about internal US affairs…

  12. Oh, if only reasonableness and character would become commonplace everywhere. Treating people like total crap has unfortunately become the American Way. It’s very sad. I’ll probably get threatened for even saying that. From lack of education to working people into the ground, from aggressive football rapist culture to the hypocrisy of buying everything Made in China from pseudo-patriotic Wal-Mart. I just don’t know. I wish more Americans would do foreign exchange programs when they are in high school.

  13. Helen

    The yellow crop in the German field is rapeseed, not grapeseed. The name, considered too distressing to the general public, was changed to canola, as it is also a huge crop in Canada. Canola oil sucks. Don’t use it.

    Anyway, thanks for blogging – I’m enjoying reading your observations tremendously. Love your humour! Rock on!

  14. Christine

    I have never left the States but I cant help but think I am meant to be somewhere else, I am very drawn to Europe. Hopefully I will be able to travel and find out where I feel my “home” is one day. Thank you for your insightful comments.

    • Kat

      I feel the same way, but I have never left Europe, I feel like I don’t belong here and I really feel like the US could be the place for me. It’s just almost impossible for me to stay in the States legally. It really sucks that you cannot go wherever you feel like going and settle down wherever it feels like home to you 😦

    • …and I´m educated European woman, but I feel like I don´t belong here anymore! This United Europe with it´s unutterable Urge to cluster, to press nationes together- like expeditons of conquest in former centuries – with it´s lunatic administrative apparatus and paramount the E U R O – wich is the biggest cretinism ever – this Europe become more and more social cold and more hostile to life. They tell us, inflation is about 0,2,3,4,5%, live is better than ever with the Euro, everything is fine, will get better and better, but this is self-deception.
      We have an inflation rate off 100 and more percent! in the economical better standing states and I dont want to know the rate on the other side! Rents, prices for energy, for education, for simple standards of living are up on space race, but our wages has been exactly bisected at the time then they switched over to Euro. And from that time on our living standards continuously decline, with no end in sight. F.i. place in a kindergarden cost exactly twice us much as before the changeover, so it is with every single peace of food and non food stuff. And our “gloriously” appearing Germany is far and away the best hypocrite. We dont have so much unemployment? This is only half of the thruth. We put workless in one-euro-jobs – so they don´t count in the claimant count. We get women out of count, when we let them work a few ours a week, workers get payed for 40-hours-week with less than what is essential- so they have to go to fetch welfare, to make their living. But look they have a job, isn´t it great? I dont want to tell you about the hundreds of thousands of well-educated men and women who take a job way below their best, just to earn a little bit of something, and not sit at home frustrated. The monopoly ist delighted -they are the prizewinner of the so cold European Community. While they make absurd profits the plebs are going to be downgraded and sucked like former century slaves. And really folks, I dont see it become better as they like talking us all into believing. Instead I see their complete house of cards collapse not so fare in the future. There are to much big lies comming from above! I don´t mean the sky. Women in here don´t even get equal pay for equal work in the 21st century -so avant-garde we are. Well done! I don´t know there in the world I would like to stay – really not – the whole world I kind of like it anymore. Maybe I take my belongings and buzz off to an island. Im not afraid to live out of the world. If it moves along that way pensiones never will last out to live here in Europe.

  15. james

    Why is teaching English so bad? I am American and live in Asia and make a wage about equal to what an average teacher in the US would make.

    • Chris

      It’s not about the wage — it’s quality of life.
      Yes, the wage is good compared to anything in America, but if you are completely miserable in a job and it’s the ONLY job you can really get/do in a country, what kind of life is that? If earning is your only requirement for a happy life, then by all means. I’ve worked many, many jobs throughout my life (good and bad) but I am too old to rot away doing something I hate. Life is too short.
      Best of luck to you if that is what you are after. Namaste.

  16. lisa

    Hi, I was born in Seattle, lived around the Great Pacific Northwest for many years, went to graduate school in San Luis Obispo, lived in Santa Barbara for awhile, and have been in Italy for the past 13 years. I have a love-hate relationship with the place (rigid mentality never before seen in my life, judgemental attitude that is rampant, spoiled nature of of children and young adults and not only, rules rules rules and one way to do everything…..). BUt, you do feel special just being a foreigner, you are automatically a curiosity, any different habits you have are attributed to your foreigner status. The healthcare system works, in many hospitals it is top-notch and well-run, and in many, worse than the third-world and can really be degrading and upsetting due to the horrid treatment and disgustingly dirty conditions only found in the world’s train station bathrooms. The locals take this in stride, but I do not. But, there are excellent centers and that is where I go to get whatever care I need. And, I will get it. It is up to me. The natural resources are truly amazing, but the quality of life is narrowed, confined by what is considered acceptable. Naturally, I ignore all of that and do exactly what I want. The only way not to get pigeon-holed into centuries-old local habits considered necessary. Parmesan cheese on pasta with clams? This will get you thrown out of most restaurants and will disgust your friends. “Please may I have some parmesan for my pasta with clams” will usually bring out a “no, you can’t do that…” (and I am paying…)
    I miss smiles, openness, friendliness, tolerance of differences…..west coast specialties, people who hold jobs before they are 28, and single men and women who leave home after schooling……..and don’t leech off their parents until they are 40 (with mothers who encourage this). this is my experience. so much has been marvelous, and I have assimilated very well, and taken on some new ways. I enjoy being an alien. It has its fun points. But, the close-mindedness and judgemental nature of the country (where they are an art form) are presenting a challenge to my free-spirit nature. I BREATH when I am in the USA. BREATH. and people smile at you. They recognize your presence. So, this is what I have imported to Italy and doing my best to spread the love (although I am getting kinda cranky about the negatives as I see them) until I get back stateside.

    • ..and I love your writing:-))) You are bright. I miss smiles too -but I live in Germany. And if you allready miss smiles in Italy ( Germans assume that Italians have the light and pure mediterian way of life:-)) what would you eventually keep Germans for) :-)))))))))))))))))))))))

      It were the imperators who kept the Germans for grim barbarians.-))
      I think the farther north one goes the more gloomy the mentality – with a few exeptiones -but these are suffering from the rest. (Like me):-)

    • Chris

      I miss that too — the friendliness, tolerance of differences, openness, etc…
      I also feel I can breath when I am home and as I recently told friends after our annual trip to America for Christmas, I could/can feel the ground beneath my feet. I miss that — a lot.
      We are neighbors, about 20 minutes or so. I am in the Austrian alps, just outside of Innsbruck.
      Retain that positive outlook because like me and millions (?) like us, it could be the only thing getting us through cultures lacking the (not believed but real) American friendliness.

    • Mon

      Lisa I understand that you are in the “retaliation fade”. There is a proper term I forget? Sorry. When I got to the USA my College Professor explained this to me. It seems we go through phases of “acculturation”. first we love, then hate, then we make sure to keep our culture by seeing the bad, and the differences. Eventually it gets calmer and you see the bad and the good that there is inevitably in every culture. but let me tell you, more places in the USA remind me of a third world country than any European place. Also with 40 percent unemployment rates amongst youth “leaching off parents” is hardly a choice, and lastly yes culturally Southern European parents feel it is their duty to take care of their babies until they die. Unfortunately yes some kids take advantage. Also, all Europeans I have encountered here in the us work twice as hard as any American citizen, who by the way, unless Native American Indian are mostly European descendant… the east coast of the US is very similar to what you describe from Italy. in fact the first time I was in NYC I saw a homeless laying on the ground and people literally just saw he was alive and possibly drunk and would just step over him… Maybe that happens in Europe too, who knows…

  17. Rich

    Wow, it’s funny I came across this site as was just reminiscing driving across the vast empty spaces of the US, with music blaring, cheap petrol (at the time, anyway) and started feeling quite homesick. I’m from the Western US and have been living here in the UK for the past 15 years. Yeah, it is lonely. I not only miss America and its beauty, but I also miss Americans as an above poster on this thread mentioned – here in Europe, if you are not from here you are an outsider. I don’t feel it too much as I have a small circle of old friends over here, but have found I haven’t had much luck gathering new friends. I have a great big heart and am full of personality. Perhaps the English I meet are a bit reserved or put off. None the less I work with Brits and I have a deep deep respect and admiration for them. It is hard at times. I have friends back home that I know I can run back to and have the most important of connections…. But then I would have to find a job that had good health care that doesn’t care how old you are or what previous problems you might have, at LEAST 5 weeks holiday, a helping hand to pick you up and look after you if you are down on your luck but are willing to do what it takes to get back on your feet as a law no matter your race, creed, religion, sexual preference, or whatever else.
    I work extremely hard, and nearly half my wages go to taxes. I could be greedy and feel I’m giving someone else in this country a free ride….. But the bottom line is I would rather my lifestyle of hard work, high taxes and near inability to buy over-priced property than to be on the dole… That being said – I would rather be on the dole here in the UK than on welfare in the US.
    I miss home so much. With a heavy heart, I have to say I may never move back. 😦

    • Helen

      I married an American 20 years ago. He’s never going back, either. He’s glad he’s here in Canada. So, try Canada; you’ve got the great deal here that you have in the UK, and you’re in a place that’s more like the US, and right next door.

    • Sari

      I lived in the states between 2001 and 2009, I went there as a 17 year old boy, my memories start from that point on. I spent these years in Texas where everything IS really bigger and better, every day of my life was meaningful and counted for something. I moved back to the Middle East where I am originally from since I had to after having finished college and wasn’t able to find a job (it was the peak of the financial crises of 2008 (considered the worst since the great depression) I was also not successful in finding someone to marry which, as ridiculous as it sounds, is by far the easiest way to remain in the US. I left the US feeling as if I was being expelled out of my own country. Initially I moved to Europe, but once again, for documentation purposes I could not stay, I worked briefly there, enjoyed life, but then became practically homeless so I moved back to my country where I did not quite fit in (although I still try my best), I gained a life and work experience abroad, but I still feel like an expat. I, too, do miss driving across the open spaces, I miss the natural beauty and the urban sprawl of American cities, and I definitely miss my freedom. The Middle East isn’t Europe by any means, it is a place filled with conspiracy and hate. The only positive side would be History, ancient artifact, religious sites, the sea and the weather. Aside from that it is as poor as dirt and people are obsessed with finding means to survive on daily basis. I am now trying to find a way to move back to the US, it is home to me.

    • Chris

      Rich, I feel your heavy heart and will carry some of it for you.
      I too don’t know if I will ever go back and same as you, it makes me sad. Despite the cons of living in Europe (I am in Austria), there are just so many pros in the way of living that it’s hard to give up. Sigh. What a mess.

      • Mon

        Chris, I am European, non Austrian and lived there for over a year: best time of my life… Leaving was the greatest mistake I have done… 🙂

      • Chris

        Mon, why can’t you go back? I mean, there really is not ‘going back’ per say, but you could return (to Austria?) and start over if you wanted.

    • Mon

      Rich, I feel your pain… We always miss home, wherever home is… Go to Southern Europe for some human warmth, we are nicer to foreigners than to our own, we find them interesting and exciting… even not being an American I will miss much: the fabulously delicious fatty burgers and the doughnuts and frappuccinos and the astonishing way how Americans are so open about their life, always giving you TMI without a care in the world about what the other will think of them… That is strange, funny and nicely refreshing all at the same time…now the UK is like the polar opposite of America. Brits are so proper and polite, except that they don,t say sorry often when they bump into you and loudly sing when drunk…

  18. A perspective on exile:
    Since writing it I ended up moving back home (after 30 years), possibly not permanently, and not quite giving up being an exile. As the old saying goes, you can’t step into the same river twice. I discovered I’d forgotten the names of streets I knew since I was a child — in two languages.
    Nowhere is perfect but if you travel enough, and I have (and hope I haven’t finished yet), you learn to make the most of what’s best about where you are. Travel lets you see your home with new eyes and in ways that the untraveled cannot see, both the good and could be better things. It is a great privilege and the world would be a better more tolerant place if it was more widely shared. Peace.

    • Wombat – You make an excellent point. I read this original piece about not coming back to America and my reaction was – well, yeah…it’s a natural tendency for all of us to rationalize our positions and our choices – either we rationalize that we’re right and we’re looking for reinforcement or we’re wrong for reinforcement. That’s how I read this piece. I realize things could be much better here in America but isn’t that the same everywhere? Trying to make the best of your situation and working to improve upon it, (and hoping that you live in a place that allows you the freedom to do both), is what we all should strive for…..at least that’s ‘my reality’. 🙂 Enjoyed your comment

      • lisa

        only thing i’d miss of italy is the generous vacation, and the generous national health care system, which is terribly inconsistent and in some areas, very scary. but everyone does indeed receive care in one way or another. the natural resources and nature are magnificent, but I miss my countrymen, their friendliness, their relative openness, their involvement, their independence….(change all of those ‘their’s to our). i like the way we are, and i miss being around the way we are. sort of tired of being criticized for being friendly, like i am some kind of duffus or something. but, the pizza’s good and the wine is cheap.

      • I am new to blogging Lisa….where is theb”like” button? 😉

      • lisa

        despite the amazing diversity we enjoy in the US, there are so many wonderful traits we – as Americans – share….and we tend to have very similar reactions to the new cultures we find ourselves in. we tend to love ‘this’ and to not like ‘that’ so much, and it is natural to have a kind of love/hate relationship with our new country. normal, expected, and i would say, reassuring!

  19. jumeirajames

    Great post and (I hope) ironic in places.

    I love America and Americans, it’s a fabulous country. I also lived in Scandinavia, Europe (I’m Scottish but lived in Holland, Belgium, France and Spain), Australia, America and the Middle East. I currently have a house in Dubai and one in Malaga.

    Comparing countries is ultimately futile because you cannot unpick one element and criticise it. It’s the whole package and when you live in another country and experience the whole package you realise it’s a great place to be. Every country will have it’s downsides – they’re just different in each country.
    But, with enough money to live anywhere I wanted I picked Europe. The diversity of cultures, languages, food and sights is unique.

    If I had to nitpick about America I would I would have to say that my main gripe is that it’s not America anymore. I hate the way it’s sliding from a ‘can do’ country into a welfare state. Yes Britain is socialist and it works in Britain, but can it in the US? I see the culture of independence being eroded into a whiny ‘why me’ way of life. I see erosion in the leading edge of technology.
    But I’m romantic and I suppose countries must change. They’re not there to satisfy my nostalgia.

  20. Kathy

    So funny how Americans complain about live in Europe. So hard, cant find friends, things like that. I was living in the USA for 5 years with my husband. And you know what? Maybe the people are nice and smiling but I didn’t get any single good friends. I didn’t even get a job for months. I was a nurse in Europe, in America European diploma means absolutely nothing. You can be happy if someone just give answer for your application and you can work as a CNA for 8 – 10 dollars an hour. Why Europe should be different? In Europe we want European education. Basically I have much more chance and salary living in a European Union, because Im European.
    My point is to tell , that as a foreigner you aren’t treated better in America as you are in Europe. My immigration was legal, but I think every single illegal Mexican got better job in the USA than me. Not because Im against Mexican people, they are really working hard.
    Main thing is here, everybody has just better to live home, where you know the culture, where you were born. Crazy rules in Europe and Germany? Well the culture is different and thats it. Yes maybe we like rules, but that’s Europe.

    • Chris

      It’s the same here in Europe — as in degrees/work experience, etc… is sometimes not recognized. I have many friends here in Austria that are highly-qualified doctors, therapists, etc… but despite having perfect German, STILL can’t get a job here. Why? Because Austria will not recognize their degrees. So what do they end up doing? What every other expat does, teach English. Yay. What a great life. Not. It’s the same in every country I think — paperwork is paperwork. Sad though.

      • Mon

        European degrees are recognized in the US. My four year degree gave me an undergraduate equivalent and almost as many credits as those required in a Master’S degree… But on another subject isn!t Austria just absolutely beautiful???? All of it…

      • Chris

        Hi Mon, Yes, gorgeous — geographically speaking. As for the politics, lack of pleasantries and common courtesies though, that’s another story. I guess we’re always trading off ‘something’ for something else, no matter where we choose to live.

    • Mon

      Kathy I have to agree with you about how people are treated in America… Being European I have lived in Germany and Austria and have good real long time friends… When I will leave the us that will be it… people are tired of foreigners here in the US. They are also “plastic” a lot of times and sure seem nicer than Europeans but then the truth is different… They love for the moment… Instant friendship. It may have to do where we live in the states. Americans may be warmer in middle states if you are Northern European white… But that!s a generalization. I think that although rare to find, educated Americans are open minded and welcoming of everyone who is a valuable member to their society.

      • Chris

        We do love for the moment, enjoy instant friendships. However, we also seek, receive and nurture long-term ones. That is an individual choice in any person. In America, it may seem to Europeans or otherwise that we are over-friendly and ‘plastic’ as you say, but we’re not. Our friendliness is real. It is perceived as fake because perhaps in your culture or elsewhere, it’s not a typical thing and if someone acted in that matter, would be considered fake. Yes, there are those that don’t care much beyond you’re answer to ‘how are you’ (for example, really telling them howe you are) but as I said, that is everywhere and more often than not (at least in America), there is a higher percentage of people who really care about the long answer. I cannot say the same for Austria, no matter how geographically beautiful the country is. The people are for the most (not all, but a higher percentage) are guarded, closed and suspicious.

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  22. I lived in Geneva Switzerland for 5 years and loved it. But home and family called. There is much I miss, but home is still home. We all need to make up our minds as to what we want and what works best for us. But, as I write this on the day after Christmas when everyone else in the world is off but me, I do remember vacations fondly!

    • Mon

      So true… Who thought one month vacation was not a universal concept and no wonder why there are so many people going postal in the USA working so many hours on there smart phones and getting a week vacation a year…

  23. Interesting to read so many different points of view. I moved to the U.S. from my native Canada at the age of 30, 26 years ago, living most of that time near NYC. I came here, as I am sure so many people do, with very high hopes of a shiny new life.

    After three recessions in 20 years (!FFS) and a growing income inequality here that is shocking to me — child poverty way up, more than 20,000 homeless in the NYC shelter system alone — the bloom is off the rose. I will stay here until my husband retires from a very good job here in our field, (not replaceable many other places at his age and salary level), and then I hope to spend a lot more time in France, and hope to attain an EU passport through my Irish grandfather as well.

    I am appalled by how Americans work their asses off, are paid badly, taxed for values that are appalling (wars, torture, drones) and keep lining up for it because they loathe and fear the “socialism” of other nations.

    • Mon

      Agree… Job opportunity for well educated people is unlike any other country here in the USA… But in my wise dad’s words it lacks quality of life that people have in Europe: nice weather… Or nicer than this Siberian cold, no traffic, good food… I will just miss the stores and the fact that any thing you can imagine you will find to buy… And in the NYC area there are great restaurants too from all around the world in just one city… That is impressive… I will not miss the subway and homeless people urinating in it…

      • Chris

        Let’s be honest, homelessness is not only a US problem. I live in the Austrian alps and we have them too — urinating on the street an all. It’s how the Austrians handle the homeless that I respect, as they all have somewhere to go when it gets too cold, meals if they want it.
        Then again, let us remember the USA is huge compared to Austria and Americans are trying to address these problems and take care of their own, there is just A LOT more territory to cover. You really can’t even compare the two.

        On another note, American politicians and their choices do not represent how every American feels, which as we know is the same everywhere. Just like one bad reality show in the US doesn’t represent how all Americans live, The Sound of Music doesn’t represent all Austrians. I have and do live in both countries (amongst others; Sweden & England) and I can agree on both counts.

  24. Jon

    I’m a Canadian who’s starting to eye the USA for more opportunity. It seems to be moving socially leftward pretty quickly, and the cost of living is a lot lower.

  25. smallPaws

    A thought provoking piece – as the many many comments testify.

    You do not want to return to Denmark. Nor to the USA. I wonder what you feel about London?

    My conviction is that the issue of ‘return’ is psychological rather than anything else. I left Canada for London, almost by accident, over 15 years ago. I hadn’t planned on leaving forever. No one told me that going back would be difficult, but after a few years I found it well neigh impossible. And this despite the fact that there are many aspects of Canadian life for which I am nostalgic, including high levels of civility, good quality of life, the multiculturalism and bilingualism, the wilderness on your doorstep… Alas, I suspect that even if one’s place of origin was Paradise itself, the plain fact is that life is about moving forward.

  26. Plenty of great places to move that will treat you well. I lived for 4 months last year in the South Pacific and loved it. I am looking into moving there (prosaveproperties.com has some good info for moving there if you are considering). The people are super friendly and the climate quite nice. But there are plenty of places to consider and some great information available. I find the South Pacific has a lot to offer.

  27. technodread

    But taxes…If only we didn’t have to file while living and working outside of the States.

  28. Always interesting to see a foreigner’s view of the place I’m from.
    I’m very interested in moving from Denmark to Germany. What positive traits can you mention that are very specific for Berlin?

  29. It’s even worse here than you imagine. The United States has turned so ugly in the past few years. The worse it gets – the inequality, the gun violence, the transition to oligarchy – the more energy spent in pointing blame than in fixing what’s broken. I’ve never been so embarrassed by my country and countrymen, nor felt so powerless to change my nation or my community.

  30. Having lived abroad, I agree 100%. The US is a ridiculous place. Europe is better in almost every way. I often wish I’d not come back.

  31. lisa

    Apparently you have never lived in Italy. US living and mentality far, far freer and optimistic and friendly. Can’t wait to get out of this complainy, bitchy, moany, blaming, judgemental place. Whatever negative items you have on your list about the US, you will cancel them all after a few years in Italy.

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