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Ask HN: Cheap places to live with a good intellectual atmosphere?
911 points by throwawaygoaway on Oct 8, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 1088 comments
I'm a software engineer in the bay area and have been thinking about moving somewhere cheaper (in USA or aboard) where I can live cheaply and focus on my own intellectual pursuits. I'd love to be in a place where the living costs are low and where there exists a thriving intellectual community (I've noticed cities near top academic institutions tend to create that sort of atmosphere but not necessarily). I'd prefer a place where English speakers are common enough such that I won't feel isolated by a language barrier. I haven't traveled too often and would love to hear from HN community about any places that match this general description. Thank you in advance!



I'd highly recommend the triangle area in North Carolina. In Raleigh, there are a large number of tech companies, RHE, Cisco, IBM, Unreal Engine, just to name a few. It has the second highest % of computer science PhDs, and it's home to NC State, Duke University, and UNC. It's also a cultural hotspot for Blues creativity. Many of the best contemporary blues artists are located here in the triangle. The cost of living is relatively low. The rent I paid for 3 months in Redwood City, would have paid my mortgage here for 14 months. The southern part of NC is an agricultural center and thus food is relatively inexpensive. We usually spend ~500 a month.

In addition, Durham, in particular, is a melting pot of Northerners and Southerners. This has lead to some wonderful conversations where regional and cultural expectations were questioned.

Lastly, there are several startups here that are actively recruiting the best people away from the groupthink and costs that are currently dominating the bay area.


If you think you're going to have a good time living in the Carolinas, then I genuinely hope that you don't plan on being black or gay outside of a major city. There is a ton of bigotry and racism still present there, and the politicians in charge are happy to see it continue.


As a native North Carolinian who grew up in a rural part of the state, I can confirm that there is a substantial difference between the rural parts of the state, and places like the Triangle region, in this regard. There definitely are still racists, bigots, homophobes, etc. and they are more common when you get out into the country areas.

That said, it's not the case that every 3rd person you meet is a KKK member, raging homophobe, or conservative snake-handling fundamentalist who refuses to send their kids to the doctor, or any of those other stereotypes. Those people exist, but even in the rural areas they aren't necessarily ubiquitous - although this will obviously vary from region to region, town to town, and I haven't lived in every part of NC, so there are probably some spots that are especially bad that I don't know about.

But anyway, the conversation about was about living in the Triangle area around Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, and this region seems to be in pretty good shape as far as tolerance, diversity, etc.


Can confirm.

Born and raised in rural North Carolina. The racism and bigotry and religious zealotry is very prevalent there. Durham, Raleigh, and Charlotte are all nice cities. However, you should really stick to those areas if you're not wanting to deal with any trouble.


Some Boston University researchers have taken a recent look at structural racism across the US, and while that's not everything, it's at least a portion. They actually found that NC is one of the lesser structurally racist states.

Their analysis checks out with my memory of recent events, with IL, WI, VA, and MO ranking very highly racist.

City lab article expounds on it here and has a nice graphic: https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/02/the-role-of-structura...


Not sure why this user is being downvoted, what they say is true. I lived for 5+ years in the Triangle and there is a lot of racism/bigotry/misogyny present there. Its one of the main reasons I left, so it shouldn't be left out of the conversation.


It’s because they are casting a wide net on people and stereotyping them. What they say isn’t strictly false, but it’s also perpetuating a specific stereotype—the kind that if directed at others would be rightfully suppressed.


Saying that everyone there is racist would be casting a wide net. Saying that a large enough % of people are racist such that it would materially impact your quality of life if you are a PoC is a perfectly reasonable thing to say.


There is, but this recommendation is specific to the triangle area: the rural trends just don't apply.


Except the urban areas cannot make laws they want to improve conditions - the legislators from rural areas work together to override municipal specific laws in the state legislature and further enshrine the rural hold on the legislature by making the gerrymandering better for rural areas and they are working now to stack the state supreme court. A Democrat won the governship last time round and the GOP response was to remove powers from the executive branch before the governor took office. So even if a minority percentage of the people live in rural areas, they have an outsize effect on the running of certain people's day to day lives in North Carolina.


Totally agreed. The Triangle hits a good "sweet spot" in terms of cost of living, business/career opportunity, culture, food, entertainment, etc. And we're conveniently located about 2-3 hours from beaches (depending on which beach you want to hit), or about 3.5-5 hours from mountains (depending, again, on exactly where you want to go).

One thing I really like about this area is that for a moderately sized urban area, there is a lot of nice outdoor "green space" with trails for hiking, running, and biking. Yes, if you're into MTB you're basically limited to just XC here, as we don't have the elevation change for true DH riding... but again, there are mountains about 3.5-5 hours away and you can get your fix of DH stuff there with a day-trip if needed.

It's also nice having nice places for water sports / water based recreation... you've got Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, Lake Crabtree (just don't eat the fish...), Harris Lake, University Lake, Cane Creek Reservoir, and the like.

And as others have pointed out, there are plenty of educated people here to contribute to the intellectual scene. Obviously there are the folks at Duke, UNC, and NCSU, but don't underestimate the impact of the smaller, lesser-known colleges and universities in the area either. Take NC Central, for example. They're a small HBCU located in central Durham, and have a VERY highly regarded law school for such a small school. I routinely meet people from all over the country who come here to attend NCCU Law. And you also have Shaw, Peace, Meredith, Campbell, St. Augustines, as well as Wake Tech and Durham Tech, all contributing to the base of educated people in the area.


> And we're conveniently located about 2-3 hours from beaches (depending on which beach you want to hit), or about 3.5-5 hours from mountains (depending, again, on exactly where you want to go).

This sentence really makes me rethink how much time some people routinely spend on the road. I live in Santa Monica where's it's minutes away from beaches and about half an hour away from mountains. If I just want to go there to relax, I don't want to have to spend hours just getting there.


Sure, all things being equal, being closer would be better. I grew up about 6 minutes from the beach, so I can totally relate to what you mean. But there's still a pretty big difference between being close enough that you can wake up in the morning, decide to jump in your car and go to the beach (or the mountains), and make an impromptu day trip of it, vs. being somewhere where you have to fly or drive overnight to get to the beach/mountains.


I've never been to Santa Monica, but the times I've been in California, I've never been able to get anywhere by vehicle in minutes. :-)


SM is on the beach, so in walking distance. If not, you can take neighborhood roads to get there and avoid most traffic.


I live more centrally in LA. It can take an hour or longer for me to get to the beach in SM, Venice or, for quiter, nicer fare, Zuma. There are large portions of the city that are about the same distance or further so it takes even longer, not to mention the amount of traffic you're sitting in the whole time vs the excellent roads everywhere in North Carolina.

Also, as someone from NC, I'll go ahead an say while I'm a big fan of the dramatic scenery of the West, the coastline and beaches of NC have their own special charm, not to mention are cleaner. Only problem is, with sea level rise, the Outer Banks probably won't exit in a couple decades.


I'd say the XC mtbing is pretty limited. There's only one good trail system.


Interesting. I'd say we have an embarrassment of riches in terms of XC trails, between Lake Crabtree, New Light, Beaver Dam, Harris Lake, Little River Regional Park, Legend, Carolina North Forest, Briar Chapel, San-Lee, the RTP trails, and all the various "bandit" trails near RDU (especially Sludge, 286, and Rocky Road). And you can arguably count Angler's Ridge up in Danville since you can pop up there in a little over an hour from parts of the Triangle. And I'm not even considering some of the newer trails that I've never ridden, like Wendell Falls or Forest Ridge.

I guess it depends on what you are looking for though. For my tastes, I love parking off of Reedy Creek Road behind LCCP, and being able to ride Crabtree (fast, "flow" trails), 286 (slightly more technical than the crab), Rocky Road (very technical and challenging), Sludge (technical in spots), and then go grind out some training miles on the gravel roads in Umstead.

That said, I'm sure there are places with even more variety. But I've never suffered from a shortage of places to ride here. :-)


Totally agree about the triangle. We lived in NYC, SF, and Boston for a cumulative 15 years before choosing the triangle for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I work in tech and wanted greater intellectual and economic diversity. Durham-area coffee-shop chatter is great - in a single sitting recently I heard folks cover ground including christian theology and practice, the upcoming pride parade, backyard chickens getting over the fence, student study group plans, and tech startup challenges.


Spending all our lives, living in a hipster paradise.


yes, the classic "hipster pursuit" of christian theology


Religion is the new hipster pursuit because atheism is the norm. Atheism was the hipster pursuit when religion was the norm.


NC has always been like this. It’s not just hipsterism.


The availability of synchronous 1Gbps fiber internet for about $70/mo in the Triangle area from both Google Fiber and AT&T Fiber doesn't hurt either.


Didn't realize that was a thing there now. Spectrum is definitely not helping my blood pressure charging $60-70 for 100 Mbps here in LA.


NC really is something special, and not just the triangle either. While it doesn't really have any place with a real big city vibe (and I'm saying that as a Charlotte native), there are awesome small towns and older cities all over and roads to connect to it all. The melting pot thing is true too, almost none of my NC friends have parents from there.

I think the trick is to pick any place with a college (and there are tons in NC) and the weather or lifestyle you prefer. I think Asheville and Boone are amazing for people who love mountains and dont mind colder weather for less humidity, while Greensboro and Winston would give you a lot of bang for your buck with their historic vibe and nearness to other regional hubs, and then there's even Carolina beach near Wilmington for beach fans, which is at least cheaper than some other beaches.


and then there's even Carolina beach near Wilmington for beach fans, which is at least cheaper than some other beaches.

Wilmington is a fun place in many ways. I grew up nearby (Holden Beach) and went to UNC-W and worked in Wilmington for many years. The area has a lot going for it, but in the end, I left for the Triangle region back in 2000 just because there were more business/career opportunities in the Triangle.

I think the tech scene in Wilmington has improved over the last 7 or 8 years, but at least up through 2000 (when I left) it was kind of a backwater from a tech standpoint. Programming jobs were few and far between and there weren't all the user groups and tech events and things you get here in the Triangle.

Anyway, I'd encourage anybody considering Wilmington to really research the job scene and see what's going on in their industry there, before committing.


I lived in Durham from 10 to when I started college (travelling back during breaks etc), and I loved it. I agree with you on every point, the triangle is fantastic. Just to reiterate: great food, great music, real diversity.


I came here to recommend the same. I moved from the RTP area to SV a couple years ago and my family were very happy in NC. Among other things, we sold our 4300sqft house in a beautiful suburban neighborhood for $510k ... in order to buy a 1700sqft house in San Jose for $1.35m. <banghead>

I lived in this part of NC for 13 years and am happy to answer questions.


I moved from Seattle to Chapel Hill about a year ago (also grew up in Durham, a lot longer ago). I second everything cbarnes89 said, and I'd add that there's a small but growing Microsoft office in Morrisville.


Damn it! I was looking for ideas...

I've lived in the Triangle for 15 years now, I would recommend you come after we have a light rail.


lol I've been seeing signs for the light rail since I was a kid (in my thirties now). Are they making any headway or is that still a bit of a joke?


My only experience in that area makes me convinced it's not a good choice for exactly this reason. I would hate to be forced to drive everywhere.


I'd second that recommendation. I live just down the road in Wilmington, NC. I would love to move to the Triangle area. There's so much of everything there. But I like my job here in Wilmington and instead of 4 hours to the ocean I'm, like, 15 minutes.


For family reasons we've been considering a move into the area, but looking at job listings things seem scant. Wondering if any commenters here have input of what's available there.


Grep Beat is a local newsgroup that's keeping track of startups.

I looked on Glassdoor not too long ago for AI/ML and there were probably 20-30 postings.


Where are you looking? What kind of position?


I grew up in Raleigh (born, elementary school through NC State) there and recently moved north to start my first job...IMO, the jobs with competitive compensations just don't exist in Raleigh at the new grad level. Almost all of the top students that I know of move to Seattle, NYC, SF etc after graduating.

Housing is also surprisingly expensive in the nicer parts of town given the necessity for a car. With that said, it's a great option if you're comfortable with the opportunities here and want to settle.


This is not true at all in my experience. What compensation number do you think is fair for new CS grads?

10 years ago new CS grads were getting 60k/yr and moving up quickly. Now that I often hire for the area, it's closer to 70k in my experience. Yes, you can move to SFO and make 90k, or more? But you have to adjust drastically for cost of living. Perhaps you get better RSUs and free lunch?

Once you get more senior salaries the salaries are even more competitive. The only thing that doesn't seem popular is huge pile of RSUs that you'd get working for one of the SFO companies.


90k is considered very low today overall. The average new grad gets like ~150ish, give or take 20. If you get a big signing bonus like they do at Facebook it goes up to 225k+ TC for the first year. My friend graduating this year just signed an offer for ~210k first year at a trading company.

It’s definutely worth it to chase the money out of undergrad IMHO.


What to grads typically do with all that money. I started on about $30k and it was more than enough. Is it all squirreled away for the future? I'd hope so!


Most of them save and have really nice lifestyles. I know a bunch of people who are on track to retire early.


Depending on your ability to work remotely, I would make the "case" that you should consider Portugal.

Lisbon and Porto are super popular with ["digital nomad"] remote workers who work for international companies so earn in USD but spend [much less] in Euros for a superb lifestyle.

There's a reason @paddycosgrave moved Web Summit to Lisbon. It's one of the cheapest cities in Europe and [unlike Barcelona] everyone speaks English. There is a good "tech scene" and a fantastic work-life-balance; surf, great food & warm/welcoming people.

A few things to consider that many people over-look: + Socio-Economic and Political stability. + General safety/security and crime levels. + Sanitation and healthcare availability/cost. + Availability/cost of healthy [organic/unprocessed] food. + Lifestyle to actually live in the place: is it "cheap" but a nightmare to live there? + Contract-law for short-term apartment/room rentals.

Portugal will exceed your expectations on all of these.

Portugal is very welcoming to US citizens, you won't have any "visa issues" the way you will in many of the [superficially] "cheaper" Asian countries.

If you want your budget to stretch much further, consider Braga. The cost of living is less than a third of SF, internet is fast and you get most of the benefits of Porto & Lisbon (or can reach those cities with a short train journey).

Note: I am [slightly] "biased", my Wife and I have recently "escaped" from London [after working there in tech for 10 years] and we are busy setting up a Co-living/Co-working House in Braga: https://github.com/dwyl/home We will be opening at the end of this month and our target cost per month [1Gbps Internet, all bills, cleaning & gym included] is $300 (USD).

We chose Braga because it has all the "ingredients" for an awesome place for tech/creative people to escape the bigger cities and focus on their work while still having access to all the amenities great healthcare, superb organic/vegan food and good libraries/meetups/etc.


Yeah, as a Portuguese person living in Lisbon and having worked in the tech scene here, I can say avoid Portugal if you're looking for a SV type scene. The level of anything going on around here is far lower.

Sure the weather is the best I've ever experienced on earth, the food is great, and the cost of living is low. But on the other hand you have an ecosystem that is nothing to write home about, culturally it's good but not great like London or NYC, academia is lackluster (no world-class universities in any subject, bar 1 MBA), not very international, not a whole lot going on in general.

Portugal is a great place to come on holiday, go surfing, go sailing, and retire. It's not an intellectually stimulating place, and the general level of competence in everything from local government to enterprise management is extremely frustrating.

I would say to OP that usually if a place is interesting, it won't be cheap as there is more demand for it. Maybe look at Oxford, UK, Bristol, UK, Edinburgh, UK, or Rotterdam, NL as secondary cities with still enough going on. Apparently Bordeaux is nice but I have never been so can't say.


>I would say to OP that usually if a place is interesting, it won't be cheap as there is more demand for it.

You do have a point there, but I think what skews this picture somewhat is language barriers. Everyone learns English in school and English is the language of academia, so all else being equal, the demand for English speaking locations is bound to be greater than for other destinations.


It happens a lot that foreigners find places awesome where locals find the opposite even given two quite similar persons.


> There's a reason @paddycosgrave moved Web Summit to Lisbon.

Because the tax payers are paying €110m for it? http://www.thejournal.ie/lisbon-web-summit-new-ten-year-deal...


If it pays off by helping make Lisbon a strong European tech scene, which it looks like it could do, it's not necessarily a bad deal for the taxpayers of Portugal.


€110m is an absolute bargain for the value that it has generated. Any public official who was involved in making that decision/deal and facilitating the influx of talent/ideas/energy/capital deserves a medal! Lisbon is buzzing now more than ever, thanks in no small part to Web Summit. It was good before, now it's incredible. Say what you want about Web Summit (that's a whole other rant!) it is unquestionably "net positive" to the Portuguese economy and the lives of tens of thousands of people.


It does indeed appear to have been a very smart choice for Lisbon, but that does not address the question of whether this was the main reason for the location selection.


When Paddy (and the WebSummit Team) decided to leave the Dublin chaos, they had a choice between several cities. Lisbon made the best case on many factors. There must have been an "incentive" for them to move beyond simply having a "better venue" or "sunny weather", we (the public) will never have the full picture of the terms of the original "deal" between Paddy and the Lisbon/PT authorities.

Feels like it's been a "win-win" for everyone (except perhaps the "locals" who have no interest in tourism/tech and have been priced out of their rental accommodation by "AirBnB Landlords"... it's the SF apartment price squeeze all over)

If I were to guess the reason for the selection of Lisbon, it would be this: the Web Summit organising team have to spend much of the year in the city where the event is held. They chose a city they want to be in for their own reasons. e.g: Weather/Climate, Food, Culture, Night Life, Scenery (lots of city parks, cycle/pedestrian areas), Architecture, Surf/Sailing, good International Schools (for those who have children) ... Mostly still "cheap" for visitors.

There's a good reason why people say that Lisbon is like SF but with better weather and more affordable.


I came to the discussion to see if Portugal was mentioned, and was pleasantly surprised to see it as the top-ranked comment.

I will just add my suggestion of a another city to the mix: Aveiro. Small yet not too small, cheap, a short hop from Porto, 2hrs away from Lisbon, with trains and good highways, a very tech oriented university, excellent food, close by the sea and a huge lagoon good for all kinds of watersports.

I work for an US based company from here, and I used to live in Lisbon for 10+ years. Love Lisbon, but my quality of life here in Aveiro is so much better.


You'd still choose Lisbon over Paris right? ;-)


I have had my eye on Portugal for a number of years, but there are a few things that seem less than ideal.

* Cost of living for a good quality of life still being relatively high or rising, especially in Lisbon and other tourist/expat areas. And a second tier city in Portugal is much less of a clear choice since that is comparable to a lot more places.

* The tax system being very complicated. One can always argue about how much tax to pay, but few people want a complicated tax system, especially not as a foreigner. (And is usually an indication that other systems are complicated as well).

* The tech scene not really happening. Despite the usual "next Silicon Valley" it doesn't really stand out from anywhere else as far as I can tell.

There might certainly be things I don't see, but at least initially it doesn't seem like Portugal rise above the competition to the extent that you wouldn't have to consider quite a few other options.


I don't understand the comment about the tax system. Which taxes are you talking about?

As I've said in another comment, IRS is literally filling out an online app for 5 minutes - and all relevant entries are already pre-filled. It's very easy and simple.

As for companies, my girlfriend works at a company run by two Germans and they basically hire an accountant to do the paperwork every year. It's pretty cheap. For a larger company, you'd have to hire a local to do the accounting, though.

Maybe I'm missing something because I don't run my own company, bear in mind that hiring freelancers is cheap here.


Freelancing, starting companies and the NHR scheme (which is sort of an exception but still) seems to have a lot of deductions, conditions and exceptions that require more guidance than some other countries. Maybe this is something one adapts to, but it still seems like an initial hurdle for foreigners.


Spain offers you a mixture of international cities, and technology hubs. There will never be another "Silicon Valley", but as an alternative where you can find stimulating and rewarding work, I'd argue it's better than Portugal.


> I'd argue it's better than Portugal.

Why is it better?


For work we find the technology community more diverse and deeper. Also for internationals choosing to move to somewhere attractive Spain offers a great balance of lifestyle and work. I would argue Lisbon is sort of the exception in Portugal; and even then it is a bit limited with no real domestic scene more people seeking low cost or nearshoring.


We were considering moving the company to Spain after Brexit but the reputation of the Spanish tax office as extremely bureaucratic and unfair is a huge deterrent.

Purportedly they can fine you tens of thousands of euros for tiny honest mistakes even if you don't owe one cent of tax (Modelo 720).


So far so good for us, but that's why we pay our accountant! We'll see what happens end of next year.

If you have questions drop me a line.


I prefer Portuguese people since I speak Portuguese and Portuguese are much more welcoming and friendly. This could change with overtourism which also makes Lisbon comparably expensive. Spain is more diverse and still has cheap big cities. Cheaper than Lisbon.


Has the smoking situation improved any? Remember a lot of it indoors in Iberia.


Smoking indoors is highly regulated now (thankfully).


The next question to that is do people comply with them? From your tone, I'm guessing yes.


None is is better. Both are great.


Good luck getting by on English alone though.


I think it depends what city you are in, we have not found any problems in Southern Spain, but I cannot speak for elsewhere.


The tech scene in Lisbon and Porto IS happening - just take a look at companies like Farfetch, Outsystems, Talkdesk, Feedzai, Unbabel and many other smaller startups w/their HQ based in Portugal. I myself work at a Porto based startup (Bottlebooks) w/American and Slovak founders. Portugal has everything going for it to be the California of Europe - highly educated (and english speaking) youth and a will to conquer the world. We welcome any foreigner willing to work hard and contribute to a creating a great place to live :)


California or Florida of Europe?

* highly educated

Universities are not very good.

* and english speaking

Don't they speak Portuguese?

*youth and a will to conquer the world.

Unlikely. And Silicon Valley is not about guys with laptops creating some websites. It is all about high tech, top universities, supply chains and synergy effects. You may be able to to a technology heavy start-up in the UK, Germany, China, Japan, Korea but in Portugal this is difficult. You lack the industrial supply chain of customized high tech products. Just working on your laptop you can also do in Kenya (which actually is quite innovative in IT).


You left out the most important reason most “next SV” will have a hard time getting there: VC money. Maybe Lisbon can be a different kind of tech hub, not necessarily a copy/version of SV.


Go away troll - Portugal has been growing strong in terms of its people's education and consequent modernisation for the last 20 years and there's nothing you can do about it, so if you've got nothing useful to say: get out of the way and let the Portuguese people show the world how a great country is re-built from the destruction created by more than 50 years of fascist dictatorship.


By the way, maybe you are the troll. Read up how SV became SV https://siliconcowboy.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/the-secret-mi...


I am not trolling. I love portugal. But it is not a tech hub and I don't see it being one. IT? Maybe. But for high-tech you need the supply chains. If I call a random B2B supplier and ask "Can you do X?" they often answer: "X? we can do better!" And this is where opportunities open.

Portugal is a nice place. Nice people. But too little high tech, too much debt, demography problems etc.

" destruction created by more than 50 years of fascist dictatorship." Not aware how much damage this created. The Portuguese empire was not important before the dictatorship anymore, so not sure how much time you really lost.

But PT has many good things. I wish RE was cheaper in Lisbon and I would buy immediately.


Portugal has a complicated tax system? I always thought it was fairly simple compared to how certain foreigners describe theirs.


I agree with you regarding the cost of living but the tax system is similar to a lot of other countries within the EU.


I live in Lisbon and work as a foreigner at one of Lisbon's universities and can confirm that the living quality in Lisbon is absolutely top. It's a fantastic city. And our bridge is similar to yours - looks smaller but is longer!

Caveats:

- If you intend to work within Academia, you may occasionally have to deal with fairly incompetent professors. It depends on the research unit and area, but there tends to be a certain amount of people who got full tenure in the past by connections and self-publications only. Needless to say that there are also some very good people. For example, at our institute about 50% are foreigners with excellent publications in English.

- Rents have skyrocketed during the past years in all beautiful areas of Lisbon. It's still not even comparable to SF, of course, but you need to calculate around 800 for a decent 2 room apartment. Housing prices have also gone up, but if you have the money it would be a safe investment - they'll continue to rise for quite a while. (Is there any major capital where they don't rise?)

- Social hierarchies and "respect" (in the sense of brown-nosing) are generally more important than in the north of Europe. Portuguese are very friendly towards foreigners, but they can be rather unfriendly among themselves. It's a kind of social pressure and artificial politeness/respect that can be very unappealing in the long run. You can never say straightforward to your boss what you think, no matter how right you are. Critique always needs to be very indirect.

I cannot say anything about the startup scene, because I'm not familiar with it. I suppose it's generally harder to obtain VC funding or bank credits than in the US. Starting a company is very easy, though, for a small company it suffices to hire a freelance account. IRS is also outstanding and can be done online within 5 minutes. The only downside is that as a foreigner you don't get a citizen card, which means that you have to go to local authorities in person instead of doing it online, too. Traditionally, Lisboagas (for natural gas delivery) and the Social Security authority suck, every other authority or company I've dealt with in the past 10 years was super-friendly and professional.

Overall, I can totally recommend Lisbon for anyone who wants high quality of living combined with low costs of living. I have no plans of ever moving away again and instead plan to open my own little software company in case my postdoc funding ever dries out - so far it's still going well in Academia though.


> Is there any major capital where they don't rise?

Athens.

I need to leave that country for my own sanity and I'm currently on the lookout for a new one to move to. All this talk about portugal is very tempting :)


I've been very curious about how life is in Greece now. What is the vibe like? Is there any hope amongst the creative youth? Any interesting cultural movements that we generally tend to see emerge in times of hardship?


There's a decent tech scene primarily centered around crypto currency. Most of the issues and roadblocks are government related to be honest. It's an interesting country if you want to invest in a developing country but quality of life is pretty bad.


I would have expected the quality of life to be excellent in Greece. It has all the ingredients such as weather, history, geography....


Thanks. I'd like to consider this seriously - what's a good place to browse places to rent in Portugal?



I'm not really confident about the quality of the cultural life in Portugal (let alone Braga). Do musicians tour there ? What about the classical music offer (a good marker in my opinion of intense cultural places) ? How many art museums, do they host touring exhibitons ?

Also education is not very convincing (considering op might want a family). Universities in Portugal are not that great nor renowned. Many qualified young people go work abroad by lack of local opportunities. I've also heard that healthcare is messy if you can't pay. It doesn't sound like a healthy country to me.

I guess Portugal is good enough if you just want sun, decent food, cheap QoL and good internet, but I wouldn't consider it a thriving intellectual place by any means. But maybe in OP's words, good intellect = finding a sufficient concentration of other engineers. Then it might be enough.


> Universities in Portugal are not that great nor renowned.

I disagree. Universities are not the problem. General school is. As a rule of thumb, public universities are better than private ones and the opposite on general school.


At least in my domain (veterinary, idk about medicine but if the same, that's frightening), they have seemingly no selection and numerous universities are offering the degree (even much more than smaller countries). So their degree is shit (no time for practice, only theoretical and you'll learn more once in the job), there are too many of them anyways and they can't find jobs.

Also can't think of any portugese scientist, or portugese based lab renowned for anything in biology or computer science.


> Also can't think of any portugese scientist, or portugese based lab renowned for anything in biology or computer science.

Fernando Pereira comes to mind: he made significant contributions to the early development of logic programming (e.g. C-Prolog) and natural language processing, as well as other AI research.


Fwiw, I went to a free Fado concert at the big castle that overlooks Lisbon. While I was there, the city hosted a Guns and Roses concert. Additionally, there was live music all over the place on the street. It's by far one of the best cities in Europe for climate, beach and culture.


> Do musicians tour there ? What about the classical music offer (a good marker in my opinion of intense cultural places) ? How many art museums, do they host touring exhibitons ?

Lisbon is quite good in all of the above since it is well placed on the European circuit for performing arts and has plenty of smallish but very high quality museums. As a music student there I got to hear all of the greats and frankly I got to attend relatively more high-quality concerts there than what I get around to living in Paris, since in Lisbon I didn't have to book everything 6 months in advance. (I'm not complaining about Paris, it's awesome.)

Braga on the other hand has a lot less cultural activity as is normal for a small city. However, it does have an incredibly rich history, plenty of ancient monuments (mostly churches) and is a 45-minute drive from Porto.

If you're talking about the bubbling native culture that you can find in cities like London or New York, than no, Portugal isn't the hottest place. But the SV isn't either.


>"Portugal is very welcoming to US citizens, you won't have any "visa issues" the way you will in many of the [superficially] "cheaper" Asian countries."

Can you elaborate on this? Wouldn't a U.S citizen still be limited to only 90 days in the Shengen zone every 180 days? Or is there some type of freelance visa?


This is awesome. I live in SF, and have a base in Istanbul, which is from what I heard, similar to Lisbon in many aspects — but I would be hesitant to recommend it without at least a willingness to learn Turkish. There are some digital nomads here in HN based in Istanbul, though.

Nevertheless - my point was, you’re living my dream and I’ll definitely give a visit when my life allows for a Portugal trip. Never been yet.


Why did you italicize so many words?


I don't think it's a bad style of writing for a forum like this. In natural speech, we communicate a lot by our use of emphasis.

Consider three sentences which could carry very different meanings:

Polite decline: "No, thank you."

Firm decline: "No, thank you."

Scolding decline: "No, thank you."

Perhaps not the best examples, but if italics helps reduce ambiguity and preserve more subtlety, I'm for it.


Except it seems to be completely random words, with a "few" random quotation marks and brackets [thrown] in the mix. Taken together it has the opposite effect of what it’s supposed to achieve.


On closer inspection I have to agree.


Personally, I only use italicization when I make a digressive sidepoint (for instance, using e.g. or examples given), or offer a different perspective away from the central voice I use. Its a matter of formatting preference though. Italicization helps improve readability of writing if used correctly

I have never really seen anyone in the states use italicization with the "No, thank you" example. Its better to just use emojis instead to get the same message across. Italicization used this way is sometimes treated as sarcasm or passive aggressiveness. Using italicization this way more excessively eventually goes to things like * <bashes away at keyboard> * or writing actions in written form. Those aren't subtle, but they are really awkward to read.


Italian heritage.


exactly! but seriously, it's just a [bad] habit ... thanks for pointing it out. hope it did not detract from my message.


You wrote a great response! Assuming you genuinely want feedback on it; your writing style does detract a bit from what you're saying - the emphasis and braces don't read like native English. My advice is try not to use quotes, italics and braces at all - go cold turkey! Then you'll probably find yourself using them when you actually _need_ them. :)


A bit OT: "Using an exclamation point only serves to call attention to the writer."—Miss Steiger, 10th grade English, Washington H.S., Milwaukee, 1964


I find it hard to read, because I find myself mentally pausing and stressing those words in my head and there are a lot of them! Also the square brackets and the quotes around words that don't seem to warrant them - I'm not sure what you mean by them and so I'm not certain whether I'm getting the same message that you're intending to convey.

If I can just ignore them it seems to read better but it's hard work to do so, but maybe that's just me :)


Hey, I like it. Yes it takes longer to read, but people don't speak at one cadence all the time. We make words longer or take short pauses to emphasize our point. I like the creativity.


What's with all the square brackets also? Such an unusual writing style


Half of that github doc is in italics too.


Glad to see this as the first comment I read. Im currently sat in Portugal on 4ha of land I have brought over near Fundão. It is more out of the way, but still has excellent access to cities. Plus it is absolutely beautiful.

I’m a freelance software developer and can happily work out here even on a plot of land which has no power/net connection. The 3G/4G is great, and everything easily runs of a single solar panel.

This isn’t my long term plan, but does me well when I come out here for a few weeks at a time. Long term there’ll be a house etc.

If there was a coworking space in Covilha / Castelo Branco I’d be very keen.

Otherwise I may start a little coders retreat or some such :-)


If no house, what is your solar panel currently attached to? That sounds like an interesting setup.


Not OP, but I have done work with literally a camping solar panel charging a 12V battery and a car power -> laptop power adapter. The setup cost me approximately $1000 AUD. I use the solar power for other things as well.


Simply propped up facing the sun. Sat on the ground. Super simple, but rather effective.


Where do you live if there is no house?


Where's the blog post? :-)


Since you ask:

https://blog.adamcharnock.com

But this reminds me I haven’t posted for ages!


Cool, how much have you paid?


Ask me via email :-) It’s on my site.


> and [unlike Barcelona] everyone speaks English

Do you have any stats proving that? Just asked a portuguese friend living in Barcelona and said that is a quite bold statement.


I agree. Even in the big cities the level of english speaking is pretty low, and definitely lower than in Barcelona. But this shouldn't be a problem. Take the month or two of effort it takes to get started in the local language where you live, make an effort over time, and you'll find it to be no barrier.


I'd second this. Almost everyone in professional circles speaks English in Barcelona. I would say on average Portugal has much better English penetration than Spain, but Barcelona is definitely an exception.


> I would say on average Portugal has much better English penetration than the rest of Spain

I'm sure it's just a slip of tongue but never ever say things like that in Portugal...


I think the GP intended "the rest of Spain" to mean "Spain excluding Barcelona", rather than "Spain excluding Portugal". But I read it as "Spain excluding Portugal" the first time too.


I think you need to read both sentences together. I believe the OP is just excluding Barcelona from the comparison of English speaking between the two countries.


English(Portugal) > English(Spain − Barcelona)


Yeah, Portugal isn't part of Spain.


Weird historical fact: they shared a king for a little while a few hundred years ago. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iberian_Union


"Why havent Spain conquered you yet?"


Stats would be nice, I agree.

I have searched but haven't found anything concrete ... the best data available is: https://www.ef.edu.pt/epi/regions/europe/portugal

in lieu of stats, I'll give you the logic [facts] instead: English as a Second Language (lessons) begins in the 5th grade in Portugal. It's compulsory for all people and generally high quality.

see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Portugal

Students cannot graduate from High school without proficiency in English. So the system is setup to ensure that the next generation [the one you will be interacting with in most situations] is fluent in English.

I know from first-hand experience of going to a "government" school and being taught by a fantastic teacher who studied at Cambridge, UK. The English lessons are predominantly "mechanical" i.e. grammar/vocabulary and sentence structure. But the fact that all television is sub-titled, not dubbed, means that all popular CSI/Fox shows are in English so the general population learn English "in use" much more effectively than in Spain, Germany or France.

All "Top Tier" STEM Universities are taught in English in order to help attract foreign students and help graduates get jobs abroad. This is a "double-edged sward" that has resulted in considerable "brain drain" to other countries. But we are seeing many Portuguese educated people who have worked abroad returning to start their own companies now which is really promising!

In Spain, many people speak English, however - and this is not meant to cause a "flame war" - since all television/media is "translated" [dubbed] people don't practice listening to English nearly as much, so the level of spoken english in the general population [outside of tech] is lower. There's a reason for the "Manuel from Barcelona" Fawlty Towers sketch/stereotype: https://youtu.be/s6EaoPMANQM

I love Spain and Barça [especially] is lovely! I worked there [as a waiter!] for 3 summers as a teenager. Loved it! But again, from first-hand experience, the level of English was much lower than in Portugal. This worked out well for me, because it forced me to learn Spanish. ;-)

The "stats" comparing Spain and Portugal: https://www.ef.edu.pt/epi/compare/regions/pt/es/

Mucho amor a todos los amigos en Barçelona!


Isn't English compulsory almost everywhere throughout the EU? I live in Madrid and it definitely is here in Spain.

It's true, however, that the fact that every TV show is completely dubbed makes it harder for us to develop our speaking (our listening doesn't seem to be so affected for some reason).

When you finish college you're only supposed to have a B2 English level. I don't know about it, but I wouldn't be surprised to know it's a fairly low standard for a European country.


> the fact that every TV show is completely dubbed makes it harder for us to develop our speaking

Same in Czechia. English has been mandatory for almost two decades now, and yet somehow nobody seems to be able to speak it. Grocery store clerks, waiters, even policemen, unless you are in a touristy area, and often not even there, you are basically out of luck.

On the other hand, I'm sure having everything dubbed is a boon to foreigners trying to master Czech. All three of them.


Some description of language proficiency standards here [1].

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_R...


I wanted to buy an apartment in Lisbon (I speak Portuguese). Forget it. You don't get anything decent below 500k (speak Golden Visa Program). Big chunk of change for a comparably poor country.

"visa issues"? Portgual is Schengen. You need a residence visa if you want to live there. Possibly but far from trivial. On the other hand, if you want to buy real estate anyway and can cough up 500k you can go the golden visa route.

You may be too late for Lisbon. Also, Overtourism becomes a problem.

Braga sounds interesting. Had not time to go there. Wanted to check out rafting. Also, summers may be milder.


You can also get a Golden Visa if you buy property in an urban rehabilitation area (or any property with more than 30 years) for 350k.

If you don't need a golden visa, you can buy a very decent flat in the outskirts (within 30 mins - 1 hour commute) for less than half of that.


Golden Visa is irrelevant for me. Trust me, I checked the prices in Lisbon for some time. What do you consider "outskirts" of Lisbon? Sentubal?


As a born and raised in Braga I can confirm all of this. Also Braga as a background in IT sector for a few decades now. Mainly because of University of Minho.


+1 for portugal, i was actually in lisbon for a few days this summer, first time, i really liked what i saw, was more on vacation than for work, but definitely had a few escalations that forced me to get on the internet and everything was fast. people are friendly, costs relatively low, i stayed in 2 different parts, but near my hotel there was a large huawei office (not that i'd ever consider working there), but it tells you that some big, multi-national companies are there.

i also heard that if you buy a 600k usd house in portugal, you could register for eu citizenship, please someone confirm.


I think what you are referring to is the golden visa program (or Resident Permit for Investment program): https://www.expatica.com/pt/visas-and-permits/golden-visa-po...


From what I heard from Portuguese people, it's 500k investment and you can get the visa.


500k EUR (roughly 575k USD)


Yes I meant Euros ;)


Yes Portugal is a good choice now, I moved here 1 year ago from UK because of various factors, Brexit, tax, quality of life etc also because I believe it will be a great location to recruit IT talent to. I live in Cascais which is a bit expensive, (still much cheaper than San Francisco of course) but has wonderful quality of life for family, Capital city amenities next to beach. Great infrastructure, motorways, ultra fast cheap fibre to home, good IB school for kids, quality cheap fresh food, esp fish and veg. Retail items are expensive, high VAT, no Amazon (yet rumers will come soon) Services cheap, private medical cover including dental, for family of 4 unbelievably cheap, less than 200 Euro pm, i paid nearly that much for just dental in UK, the free public healthcare and schools are also apparently good. Property prices going up v fast, many Brazilians moving here to avoid crime and Scandinavians to avoid Tax. Dividends are Tax free from the UK for 10 years, 20% on local income. EU passport if you spend 500k on property - 1 or more units, inc home or investment - is booming as a result - they collect lots of VAT so is good strategy for Portugal considering it was like Greece 4 years ago. 1 downside is insane price of large or fast cars, so lots of dangerous small old cars, also they are totally inept drivers for some strange reason, you see accidents nearly every journey, feels 100 times more often than UK, though stats show only 10 times worse, similar to US apparently - apart from that feels like a very safe country, locals are v friendly and welcoming and most speak English. Oh and I forgot to mention nearly 300 days sunshine pa vs 120 in Wales is so nice, hard to feel down in Estoril with Azure sky and ocean, sea is a bit chilly but stops it getting to hot.


> private medical cover including dental, for family of 4 unbelievably cheap, less than 200 Euro pm, i paid nearly that much for just dental in UK

Almsot 200 EUR a month on dental seems outrageously expensive.

Getting a simple figure on the prices is difficult but it seems like the going-rate is appox £16-21 pm (lets say 20-30 EUR): https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/insurance/dental-insurance...

The amount I have to decalre to the tax man for the "benefit in kind" value my health insurance through work (which is private health & dental for me, my spouse, and all dependants - includes private GP appointments, physio etc etc) is about £1600 for the entire year, or £~135/month or ~155EUR/month. I apprecaite that is just from my P11D form [1], but there are some other sources that are in the same ballpark: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/insurance/cheap-health-ins...

1 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P11D


Your company had a good deal, cheaper of course in corporate plan, but I suspect your dental cover is very limited. Most dentists in UK now will only accept patients on Denplan, is very comprehensive but is very expensive cost me £160 pm for whole family.


PMI is a scam in the uk you ending up losing on tax and if you have a medical problem it has ZERO value.

You would be better off saying ok put the benefit into my pension instead.


Just in the past couple of months I had a private GP appointment (£65), a MRI (£800), followed up by 2 consultant visits (£170 each) and 6 physio (£35 a go). About £1400 of treatment all for free.

I might have been able to get the same treatment on the NHS (this was for a running injury, so not a life-critical illness), but the doctors, MRI, and two consultants visits were done on consecutive days - i.e. within a working week I went from "ow my knee hurts" on a Monday morning to having seen a doctor, a consultant, getting an MRI, and then seeing the consultant again who prescribed a course of physiothearapy by Thursday afternoon (the physio was also booked the same day).

With the NHS it probably would have taken two or three days to call at precisely 08:30:00 to get an appointment before they book out, then I'd be waiting minimum two weeks before I even went to that first GP appointment, and I am sure their response would have been "stop running and see if it gets better in 3 months - come back if it hasn't. NEXT." (based on experience)

Seems like a good deal to me.


Depends on how much a year your losing in tax and how often you need it might be cheaper to self insure, much more so if your a higher rate taxpayer.

I certainly got no value from BUPA when I had major transplant operation - just a £500 tax bill.


> no Amazon

Really? I live in a developing country middle of the Pacific Ocean and I regularly buy from Amazon with no issues. How come Portugal doesn't have Amazon?


[Off-the-record] Amazon is opening a distribution centre in Portugal "very soon". Portugal was not seen as a "priority" for Amazon because there are much bigger markets to "conquer". But since Google announced their intention: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-google-portugal/google-to... Amazon has "re-prioritised" Portugal ...

Meanwhile as others have said, we get our deliveries from UK amazon here in less than a week. It's not "Prime" or "Same Day Delivery", sure, but we can be patient for a few days and it just means we don't buy crap on impulse.


No local amazon. You can buy electronics from Amazon Spain and books from Amazon UK. They'll arrive in about a week. No idea what will be the new solution for books in english after brexit, though, since customs here are horrible.


No distribution centre in Portugal, so no Prime free delivery. Also many items don’t ship here, in UK we used to literally get at least 1 delivery per day (courtesy of my good wife bless her) now only twice a week mainly from German site, which is much better than Spanish Amazon and has English option (unlike Spain) delivery costs soon mount up though.


I think that has to mean no Amazon Prime or similar?

I buy things from Amazon.de to Finland very often - often no extra cost for shipping and good prices. Also EUR prices without extra taxes for me.

So while Finland does not have "Amazon" (amazon.fi is a redirect to amazon.de) - I can still buy things from there very easily.


Amazon Spain delivers in 3 days.


> Dividends are Tax free from the UK for 10 years, 20% on local income. EU passport if you spend 500k on property.

Our government is learning from China and Cuba: we have 2 systems, one for locals (ultra-socialist) and another for foreigners (ultra-liberal).


"Dividends are Tax free from the UK for 10 years" - can you share any more info on this?


Search for Portugal non-habitual residence scheme


Thanks for this - been to Portugal a few times on holiday and love it, seems a perfect place too from which to work remotely given decent internet speeds etc. Not familiar with the towns and cities so good to have Braga now as somewhere to look at!


I understand skipping Porto and specially Lisbon as prices literally skyrocketed in last years. I also understand that Braga is maybe the cheapest relevant city in Portugal, but despite that I would pick Coimbra for the intellectual vibe.


Agreed, Lisbon and Porto have become more expensive in the last couple of years but still way more affordable than SF/NY etc.

[Sadly] while AirBnB has made it easier for "tourists" to visit the cities it has accelerated the [ridiculous] house-price inflation, especially in short-term apartment/room rentals often pricing "locals" out of the market completely.

Coimbra https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coimbra is a lovely city. It was second on our list precisely for the "intellectual vibe" (as you say).

What "swayed" our decision toward Braga was:

+ Much Closer to the Porto international airport via Bus, Train or Uber/Taxi. So getting to London/Paris/Frankfurt/etc. is a lot easier.

+ More existing companies both tech and traditional e.g: Bosch & Primavera. So the MeetUps are more "practical".

+ Lower latency and generally faster Internet.

Our plan in Braga is to "recover" abandoned buildings (which are currently empty/unused) and renovate them into amazing places to live & work for "location independent creative/technology professionals".

We are morally against Landlords/investors who are simply buying up the stock of available "rental" property and jacking up the prices so locals can no longer afford them.


> Much Closer to the Porto international airport via Bus, Train or Uber/Taxi.

It's 50mins train and 15mins uber, from Coimbra to OPO.


Yes, the train from Coimbra to OPO is a good option. But having to use two forms of transport when there is a "Get Bus" (direct airport bus) between Braga and OPO for €8 which is basically door-to-door for us.

For reference, the car journey time at the 120kph highway speed limit between OPO and Coimbra is 125 mins see: https://goo.gl/maps/xosQureNf3x

By comparison the journey time (by car) between Braga and OPO is 39 mins i.e. less than half. see: https://goo.gl/maps/bN8GFy2UJoq

Trust me, we have done our homework on this. This was a major deciding factor. We still have a company in London and we need to go there frequently for in-person client meetings. Otherwise Coimbra would have been a no-brainer.

Our "sister company" has just opened a Student Residence in Coimbra: https://www.studentville.pt/en/cidades/coimbra We would have benefitted hugely from being there.

Much love to our Coimbra friends! :-)


I think there is something missing in your story. My Portuguese friends who fled Portugal to London paint different picture of their lovely country. Maybe there are different rules to foreigners there?


Problem being that they are portuguese. Things look a lot better if you're foreigner, keep work connections to the outside can avoid the new crazy renting laws that make it easier to put people out. For a lot of locals living in the big cities gentrification context is pretty much 2008 crysis part II.


Hi,

I'm living a bit north, Galicia, and I still think that Braga is one of the most undervalued cities in Portugal, it's kinda cute, warn, has a lovely downtown. You made an awesome decision. :-)


What do you think of the bicycling culture in Braga/Lisbon/Portugal in general? Are there a lot of protected lanes, do you feel like bikers are respected on the roads, etc.


>"Portugal is very welcoming to US citizens, you won't have any "visa issues" the way you will in many of the [superficially] "cheaper" Asian countries"

Could you elaborate on this? Are there options that exist that Non-Portuguese tech workers can look into? Something like a freelance visa or a start up visa? Do such things exist? Cheers


>and [unlike Barcelona] everyone speaks English.

I was only in Lisbon for 4 days (loved it!), but did run into some off-hand issues with language barriers. Cab/uber drivers in particular seemed to know little to zero English.

With that being said, once we got a rental car I greatly appreciated the cutthroat driving style of the Portuguese - damn they are good drivers.


You could say all of this and more of a number of Spanish cities: Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, and Seville.

International cities, thriving technology hubs, connected airports, visa issues really are not a big issue. We have a completely international team based in our Spain office.


Presumably (as a non EU citizen) one would need a self-employed visa and residence permit.

It's easy (currently) for those of us in the UK, but from April, or for people from outside the UK, countries just haven't really caught up to the remote working situation.


"@paddycosgrave moved Web Summit to Lisbon"

The wanton incompetence of the RDS and Dublin's general inability to get anything done, not to mention mediocre transit and eye-wateringly expensive accommodation?


Not sure you will get sv salary in dollars working in Portugal :-) having said that I got pitched a 100K (euros) Job in Portugal a couple of months ago so it looks like tech skills are in short supply


The GP is talking about remote work.


I did realise that the GP wanted to have their cake and eat it -but why would anyone pay full SV rates for a contractor in a different country.

If they are cool with remote working why not hire much cheaper remote workers at eastern European rates.


Clearly, they're really efficient, especially Poland.


I can't agree more. I worked in both Chicago and London; Portugal (perhaps Lisbon) seemed like the kind of place I would go to do remote work from if I were to move in Europe.


> Portugal is very welcoming to US citizens

What about people from other part of the world? Asking since you live there. Any resource you would recommend to have a general idea?


Good question! I'm simply highlighting the fact that US citizens are welcome in PT because there's always been a "special relationship" between the two countries for various historical reasons.

Portugal is one of the most welcoming countries to people of all nations. You will never be unwelcome here regardless of where you are from. There are communities of people from the Middle East, Nordics, Indian Sub-continent, China, Africa (South America, obvs) and if you go out to the "trendy" parts of town and listen to the range/variety of accents it's every bit as "cosmopolitan" as London's Shoreditch/Soho! Just book a trip and see for yourself! ;-)


Thank you :-)

> Just book a trip and see for yourself! ;-)

Yeah, it's been pending since college. My Euro Trip. Now I can't even blame affordability :)


How hard is it get a remote working visa or something similar to Germany's freelancer visa?


How is the income tax situation in Portugal?


If you're not already a tax resident of Portugal and you decide to legally move there, you can apply for a special tax rate as a "non-habitual resident" that gives you a lower tax rate for ten years.

https://www.livinginportugal.com/en/moving-to-portugal/tax-r...


Interesting. I wasn't aware that it was already valid or so lax (20% vs 48%!). This measure was sold by government as a way of bringing back our emmigrants.


Good question. If you work for a local company income tax is "steep". see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxation_in_Portugal

Portugal has followed the "Nordics" model when it comes to taxes; income is taxed higher but services (healthcare, schools, roads and other infrastructure] is much better than in the US [or most of the rest of the world for that matter!].

The much cheaper lifestyle in Portugal more than makes up for the higher taxes.

I'm not a "tax adviser" and HN is not the place for that "tax efficiency" advice. But you should consider setting up a Ltd Company and paying yourself/co-founders [Tax Free] dividends.

I would [highly] recommend watching "Startup Legal Mechanics" [YCombinator Startup School]: https://youtu.be/BTShgZxiNV8

tldr; start a company [separate legal entity].


> paying yourself/co-founders [Tax Free] dividends.

I'm not a tax expert but I don't think you can do it. Dividends are not tax free. You have to pay 28%(IRS) + ~20% (IRC) so in the end you pay more than a regular freelancer (for salaries below €80K).

edit: except if you are a non-habitual resident..


As a non-habitual resident in Portugal or Spain, it seems that the dividends are tax free if they come from a foreign source but you still have to pay taxes in the country of origin [1].

So maybe if you set up your company in another tax friendly country, you would be able to pay your corporate tax and taxes on your dividends there.

[1]: http://www.newco.pro/blog/en/portugal-or-spain-two-tax-regim...



So basically, if you make more thank 50k euros per year, you start working for your own benefit around mid-june. Yeah ... pass.


Yes. Unless you live alone in the woods drawing no benefit from the democratic, rule of law, first-world country you live in, paga e não bufes, which translates roughly to "cough up".


There are democratic, rule of law, first world countries that work way better than Portugal in pretty mcuh all areas you care to look at and where the top income tax bracket is less than 30%.

This is not about paying taxes, it's when those taxes are essentially wasted by the giant administrative leeches that runs countries like Portugal.


If you're saying that mismanagement and corruption are issues, then yes, of course you're right. But then again, remind me how much is the top bracket in Belgium? Austria? Germany? Denmark? Sweden? Much better run countries (in superficial evaluation at least), yet all have 50%+ tax rates at the top.


Top income tax bracket in Belgium is 50%, but this is after the employer has paid ~30% of that in social security contributions. So your 35K EUR net salary costs your employer roughly 100K (I rounded up, so this is an exaggeration). And you get a whopping 21% VAT rate, a dividend tax of 30%, several other taxes which are seemingly aimed at dissuading people from investing. Oh and there's a corporate profit tax of ~33%.

Long story short: run for the hills, don't come to Belgium.


FTFY

>Long story short: it's one of the best countries in the world to live in, by almost any metric.

Yeah, I'd take that deal.


Yup.


WOW.

Went through rabbit hole.

So much love ! ! !

(beautiful home)


How do I sign up?


That's interesting, as the USD is cheaper than a EUR and generally speaking life is more expensive in Europe than in the US. Would be curious if there are stats on how much a remote worker gets in USD in Portugal.


If you feel adventurous you can consider moving to Poland. I would recommend Krakow. Most young people will speak English, there are couple of top Universities there (PK and AGH for technical schools, UJ for humanities, medicine and some tech too and UE for economics). The tech scene seems to be constantly growing, with lots of international companies having their offices there. As a senior dev in Poland you can earn somewhere between 12-20k PLN a month. Renting a flat will be between 1.5-3k PLN(~400-800USD) depending on thr standard. Additional perks you can enjoy is free(as you pay it on your taxes) healthcare, amazing food, great nightlife and proximity of other European countries (the flights are super cheap).


You'd have to be quite apolitical to consider a move to Poland right now.


If you ignore weekly nazi rallies and all the book burning it's not such a bad place./s

Seriously though, Poland is one of the safest place to live in right now, especially if you're a foreigner. Media's portrayal of current political situation in Poland is HUGELY exaggerated.


I can’t readily discern where you are going with this comment. Perhaps the point would have been better stated another way.


First sentence but unironically and it's getting worse.


Where in Poland do you live that you get such an impression? Do you even experience such things or are you just listening to the propaganda?


Warsaw is a beautiful city with quite an active and thriving tech community. I thought of moving there after a visit recently, until I heard about a recent city sanctioned far right rally attended by 60K people demanding a "White Europe". Any dreams of moving to Poland ended after that


Actually, despite the media buzz, there were about 20 morons with "white Europe" banner, quickly kicked away by organizers, but for some reason media loved presenting their photos, not the remaining 60k of people of all age (0 to 99) celebrating the Day of Independence in a rather peaceful atmosphere.

In reality there is nothing to be afraid, Poland is one of the safest countries in the World (there are multiple resources about that), people are traditionally hospitable, in bigger cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw there is pretty a lot of people from many Western Europe countries, there are also a lot of (about 1 million) refugees and emigrants from Ukraine, emigrants from Belarus, quite big Vietnamese community. So far everyone live in peace together.

A fun fact - my daughter goes to a regular primary public school and in her class there is a boy from India, a boy from western Ukraine, a girl from Ukraine and a girl from Belarus and. They were assimilated very quickly, without particular teachers assistance (public school, so teachers don't have time for anything but teaching); boys soaked into the group immediately, as running around together and screaming plus playing soccer does not require much language skills.

I think that if you consider seriously moving/traveling to country X, relaying on media does not make much sense, as they are chasing something that would make a "news". So, surely, there are people in Poland who bite dogs, yet the reality is that, typically, dogs are biting people.

Luckily, these days it is easy to contact foreigners living in Poland (Facebook groups, native language speakers portals, etc.), so, just ask someone who lives here.


>a lot of (about 1 million) refugees and emigrants from Ukraine

Please don't mix labor migrants (99.99+% of the number you indicated) with refugees.

According to the fresh official Foreigners Office report[0], there were 7.5k applications and around 400(sic!) positive decisions for the "refugee" or "protection" status from the Ukrainian citizens in the last 15(!) years.

[0] https://udsc.gov.pl/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/UKRAINA-01.09...


10x easier to just drive through the border or get a work visa than to apply for the asylum.


Its rather sad how close we are to a 1984-esque "believe everything you hear on the 'news'" society. I hope one day we can move past that, and better realize that nearly all news is founded on Outrage designed to get advertisement views.

Here's your litmus test: If you read a news story and it invokes some emotional state within you, immediately preempt that and use your head. Is it possible they could be exaggerating, or straight up lying? What are their motivations and biases? Are there corroborating "ground" reports from individuals with different biases?


This is what my Polish friend said as well, that they're growing like crazy, and drastic negative politics alongside with it as well.


There's the media posturing and then there's reality. A lot of people in Poland have not had any contact with other cultures and make inappropriate jokes about that, those who traveled a bit are totally ok with it, the last 20 years introduced a lot more multiculturalism but there's still ways to go. The leading right-wing political party is a data driven monsters - they will build their policy on whatever gets them seats in parliament and local elections. One the most successful right wing policies in Poland right now is 500+ - a form of Universal Basic Income for every family with children. This clearly a very socialist idea, but introduced by a 'conservative' party. My point is the conservative party, like most of Poles are very pragmatic and generally will do what works rather than being too principled. If you understand that, you'll gel well with the society in Poland.


Too true. I’ve been eyeing ditching my polish citizenship for a while now.


Is that true in all of Poland though? Many people find Trump repulsive, and they will agree with most of their peers if they move to a big city in a blue state.


Big cities (capitals of subregions and anything over ~150 000 people) are liberal, small cities and countryside is conservative. Western and northern Poland has more people in big cities so it's liberal, Eastern and southern Poland has more people in countryside so it's conservative. Overall more people live in the conservative parts, so Poland is conservative, but the exact division changes with each elections, previously we had 2 terms of "liberals".


Why throw politics into it?


If you live in the country you have citizenship in, with a right to be there, you might be lucky enough not to worry about it. This doesn't spread to all citizens of all countries: African Americans couldn't comfortably just move anywhere in the states in the 1950's, for example.

If you are moving to another country, it becomes even more important. Not only can the politics affect your life greatly (being gay might be illegal, for example, with harsh punishments), but in many places, you won't have a say in said politics. You can rally folks together, but most places won't let you vote.

Even if the laws at the present time fit your lifestyle, the political trends might be geared towards changing this. It really pays to pay attention to such things. Politics and culture are important to pay attention to, especially when moving to another country.


Because the rise of anti-immigrant parties and sentiment is rather relevant to prospective immigrants.


+1 for Poland. I am not living there but very time we visit my fiancée family we literally see how the economy is thriving. Exciting times for Poland.


How bad is it there for sexual/gender minorities (aka gay/trans people). Is it livable if you are visibly transgender?


Rather bad. I guess it's getting better, especially in bigger cities, but even in Warsaw I don't think it would be a good idea for a gay couple to walk hand in hand. Poland is a mostly a great place to live, but this is a disgrace.


I've seen gay people walking hand in hand and kissing in public in the main public space in Warsaw (Łazienki Park). Nobody bothered them. They still got looks because it's unusual.

I wouldn't try that in a backyard alley in a "working class" part of the city, though, especially if they are male. Most of the time it would be OK, but there's a real risk of some idiot being "insulted" by that and reacting stupidly.

I've talked on the internet with a transgender girl that moved from USA to Poland for some time, she had family there, and after a few months she moved out, couldn't handle the shit her family gave her and the looks. So yeah, it's not pretty. Violence wasn't a problem apparently.


East Europe is the most traditional family oriented area that I know. Politics and mentalities follow that trend. Despite being a piece of heaven to a lot of people, I wouldn't recommend it to everybody.


Seconded. Poland is probably the most religious and conservative country in the EU.


It's the fastest secularizing one, though [1]. And, with recent sexual abuse reports and the success of a related movie [2], I sense we're on the verge of an outbreak of an unprecedented wave of anticlerical rage.

[1]: http://www.pewforum.org/2018/06/13/young-adults-around-the-w... [2]: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2018/10/06/church-in-po...


While that's true, there's a long tail of older people still trusting the Church a lot and there's a knock on effect where children are still sent to learn 'religion' at school. I think it will be some decades before the society becomes truly secular and not sure if that's better, the only thing that's replacing religion right now is consumerism, which IMO is even worse for keeping the society as a whole...


Spot on comment. I'm not religious but I believe that religion makes more good than harm in Poland. I've lived there for 5 years and peacefullness is remarkable.


I know some trans people (both f2m and m2f) and they really don't have any issues, so yes, it's liveable. You probably won't find large LGBTQ communities like in major US cities though.

Of course if you ask a local if they know someone who got beat up for their identity (be it nationality, language, race or gender), they will usually respond affirmatively... as would quite a lot people in the West. Just don't mess with drunk idiots and you should be fine. Also, based on my observations, there's way less harassment towards women here than in the Bay Area, for some reason.


Probably not. In 80%+ of Eastern Europe you'll get at least stares and I'd venture the "village idiots" will probably have a go at you...


I wouldn't live there visibly transgender or holding hands as gay. Too much risk. Source: am polish.


If you know what areas/times of the day/people to avoid, absolutely liveable. Just like anywhere else, people in big cities do not care in general. Still, expect mildly unpleasant situations - gender is embedded in the Polish language and it will make people think and get confused all the time.


Depends on how visible it is.


Avoid working for local companies in Poland unless you like low pay. Just find yourself a nice remote gig (there's plenty of them if you know how to find them) and live like the top .001% of the country or whatever. There's a good reason why being a "digital nomad" is becoming more and more popular.

Healthcare starts at ~$130/mo if you manage to not pay for the retirement fund scam (rarely possible), goes up to like $350/mo if you run your own company (not 100% sure, I can thankfully avoid it). The income tax is 19%.


agree. I'm from Poland but since the beginning of my programming career I've been working mostly for abroad companies (because of earnings).

And about the politics... Only people that want to play into 'politics' game really cares what's happening here - other people just don't care and live happily.


Stick with that attitude long enough and you, too, will care about the "politics game".


I've noticed that many people comment my attitude like this, but I've noticed that the less I care, the more happy life I live (and my friends as well).

Caring about politics is a total waste of time and energy - in my opinion it's just better to turn these resources into e.g. earning more money than e.g. thinking how much politicians are "stealing" it from us - I think that's the main reason why people are so angry these days and live unhappy lifes


You might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you.


of course, but still - most people I know really doesn't care..


BTW. I'm interested in politics (only to get to know what's happening), but nothing more than that - I prefer reading stuff about entrepreneurship or technology than this.


healthcare + mandatory pension contributions are $130 for the first two years of running the business here. After two years you should get a good feeling of whether you can make the larger $350 payments. IMO with any decent income, the relatively low tax rate 19% makes up for the fixed costs of healthcare. $130 is still peanuts compared to a medical insurance in the USA


Currently working for a local Polish company as a dev, how would you go about finding a remote gig ?


Look for openings on various sites, apply on sites like Upwork. Initially it'll take a lot of effort to get a gig, eventually you should be able to just use your network to find projects.


> find yourself a nice remote gig (there's plenty of them if you know how to find them

Any starting point?



+1 for Poland. Haven’t been to Krakow but Varsaw is awesome. I think I would prefer moving there compared to Prague. I’ve heard good things about Budapest as well.


Poland is very cheap, English is common (among 35 and younger), and in university cities the atmosphere is nice.

Deoending on what you value more I recommend:

- Kraków (biggest startup scene, biggest city out of these, most active cultural scene, but also crowded with tourists, worst air quality and slightly more dangerous than the others because of football clubs violence)

- Wrocław (almost as big tech scene, less tourists and smaller city, but still expansive for Poland, safe and good air)

- Lublin (smaller city with smaller tech scene but still OK, very active culturally but mostly targeting students so in summer holidays it's a ghost city, few tourists, very cheap, highest percentage of students per capita, safe and ok air)

I'm biased because I live in Lublin, but I've lived in Kraków for a short time and in Warsaw for a few years too, and I prefer Lublin. Compared to Kraków a flat will be about 1-2k PLN (2k is very good standard or strict center, median is about 1.5k), and you can earn 10-15k PLN as a senior dev.

Food and services are also very cheap because it's basically a surprise university city in otherwise poorest countryside part of Poland.

In all of these cities there's lots of foreigners, in Kraków it's mostly tourists, in Wrocław it's mostly Ukrainians who migrated for work, in Lublin it's mostly Ukrainians and Asians who are studying there and go back afterwards.

Also - all of this is nice, but be warned that Poland has its own Trump-like revolution going on right now, so far it mostly stays political, with few real-life consequences, but it is making business more risky because of government breaking the constitution and the courts wondering which law is actually binding. Also xenophoby is increasingly used as a political tool.


My (American) parents moved to all to Wroclaw when I was 5 for 6 years. I have been back several times. Each time it's like a time machine racing forward.

I love Wroclaw, I'd move back in a heart beat if it weren't for family here in the states.


There's one word that immediately negates all the good things you mentioned.

Smog.


*top in Poland, of course, since the academic record of a typical Polish professor resembles that of a decent-but-not-great grad student in the US (Google some profiles and check on Google Scholar if it sounds like an exaggeration)

Krakow can be really nice and interesting, but you should probably be white and Western. Otherwise, you may be setting yourself up for a tough time (not because of any recent events).


Weather and outdoors aren't great in Krakow. Language is also a pretty big problem: true, some educated youngsters will speak English, but the bulk of the population doesn't speak a word. Would not recommend.


have you actually been around Krakow much? There's climbing spots in the city itself, skiing slopes 1-2 hours away, Tatra mountains 100km away and beautiful Jurrasic valleys to the North-West, lots of green areas in the city and huge forests to the East, perfect for cycling or running. Weather is a mix - some snow in the winter, some lovely sunshine in the 6 warmer months and lots of rain and in-between weather on the bright side it does give you some time to work where you don't mind being indoors and you get to appreciate when it's nice outside.


Kraków has a big problem with smog in the winter. Most Polish cities do, Kraków is one of the worst.


So learn Polish? Why is it up to the locals to adapt to you?


Salary-wise, surely anything in W-Europe is better than E-Europe?


In IT not necessarily.


In programming the differences are minimal. Like 5-10%?

Adjusting for costs of living it makes no sense to move abroad from Poland if you work in IT, unless it's because of some niche you want to work in, that you can't find in your city.


Vienna, Austria.

It has been ranked the most liveable city in the world for some years in a row.

Cost of living is low compared to the European average; you can rent a medium-sized apartment for 600-700€/month.

Everyone speaks English. Co-workers from Spain never bothered with German, because they can get anything done in English.

Viennas public transport system is cheap (30€/month) and excellent. You can get anywhere in the city in a reasonable amount of time. Generally, all public infrastructure is in great shape.

The tech-scene is so-so. It's certainly not London or Berlin, but there are some startups if that's your thing. There are plenty of enterprise IT jobs in banking, insurance or government.

Education and healthcare are free and nature is close. It's a 1 1/2 hour drive and you're skiing in the Alps; 2 hours and you're in the Salzkammergut swimming in mountain lakes.

All in all, it's a great city to raise a family.


As a Pole who moved to Vienna from the UK, I disagree very strongly.

1. Most (as in, over 50%) young adults smoke cigarettes in Vienna. You will inhale the smoke basically everywhere, in particular inside most bars or clubs, but also on the streets. On a windless day, the entire city reeks with smoke.

2. The public transport may be cheap, but the quality is poor. Not very punctual and the trams/buses/trains generally lack conditioning which in the summer turns them into 40+ degrees sweaty, stinking meat containers. To remedy this, they were handing out deodorants at the stations (seriously).

3. You won't be getting a long-term apartment without paying ca. 7 months worth of rent upfront (3 mo fees / 3 mo deposit / 1 mo first rent).

4. Any kind of self-employment is prohibitively expensive unless you charge of the order of €100/h. As a result, if you want to hire, say, a low-end personal trainer, expect to pay of the order of €100/h.

5. The typical level of customer service is really bad and could be described as "the customer is always wrong". It reminds me of Poland pre-2000s.

I have no idea why it is considered the most liveable city. I see very few advantages over, say, Warsaw/Wroclaw/Krakow/Bratislava/Budapest except perhaps the general level of safety on the streets.


Vienna would be a lot nicer if they didn't still allow smoking in bars and restaurants.

"Just don't go to the smoking places."

A very large percentage of the adult population in Vienna still smokes tobaccco. When I was there in 2017 it felt like there were no non-smoking places.


This. Vegetarians can have a hard time when going to restaurants too. As a non-smoking vegetarian, I wasn't having a great time going out.


Wow, when I saw Vienna mentioned the smoking was the very first thing that came to my mind. Funny to see others have shared the same experience. A real shame as it's such a beautiful place otherwise.


As a Italian who came to Vienna to study and started to work his 4th year (besides university) I can confirm those points.

The city is also quite clean, as there are a lot (but still reasonable) amount of trash bins.

Also you have a lot of parks, public "beaches" on the Danube and it's side channels (those which aren't used by ships) and the big Danube island in the middle, where you can escape from the city into nature quickly.

There are also a lot of nice woods and hiking trails around Vienna. I'm also owning a mountainbike, because I can cycle to a forest/nature reserve, with a lot of really cool (down hill) trails, at the city's border in half an hour from my workplace.

I'm from a small town from the alps, and will move back there because I'm not a city person and just love my hometown - but Vienna is the one (bigger) city I could imagine living in, if I had to (considering cities >1 million people and offering at least a metro and university).

> Education and healthcare are free

It comes naturally with a price, i.e., you probably have a bit more tax then in US I'd guess, but the benefits are really great, and even if I wouldn't need it now (no health problems, no real social/money) I don't have a problem paying those taxes. Also, at the end of the month I have >2/3 of my salary left over for leisure/saving/investing/... so I really cannot complain.


I am curious which small town (at least the province) are you from.

Currently in the US, but contemplating moving to Munich to be close to family in Trento. Would never live in a small town in the Alps again. :)

Would love to return to Italy, but the tech sector is dismal from what I see. No connections though, all hearsay.


How international the workforce is there? and How hard would it be for a -non religious- middle eastern family to work/live there? from my experience in Germany it seemed with the exception of Berlin and Cologne people won't view you as an equal in the workplace until you work very hard to prove otherwise.


> It has been ranked the most liveable city in the world for some years in a row.

Melbourne would beg to differ; there were headlines when we lost the first place position a few months ago after quite a few years at the top.

Not proposing Melbourne as an alternative though, while it's a nice place to live it's far from cheap.


It is comparatively cheap compared to SF, London, NYC and Sydney though...

Everything is relative. Personally I find it a very affordable place to live for a number of reasons:

1. I don't need a car (~$10kAUD+ a year) because transport is sufficient. 2. Queen Vic and South Melbourne markets are very accessible which make buying fresh ingredients for home cooking very affordable. 3. Entertainment is cheap, tons of cheap live music acts, art exhibitions, markets, etc. 4. Public transport is cheap (~$20/month, more if you don't live in CBD though) 5. AUD is declining against USD, by mid-2019 it's likely to be around 0.65 USD so if you make USD it's great. 6. Rent is relatively affordable. ~$1600AUD/month get you a 1 bed place in the CBD.

Those are just the money factors. As I said, it's not "cheap" but it's "relatively affordable" meaning that you can buy an awesome life here with a bit more money than traditionally cheap places but achieve a better $/Quality of Life metric.


I'd largely agree with your assessment; it's not cheap, but the cost of living to income ratio is good and therefore it's relatively affordable.

It sounded like the OP was not intending on earning a lot though, and so somewhere that was outright cheap was probably better for them.


€700 is certainly cheap compared to just about any US city but what are the tech salaries like? Even in small US markets a senior developer or architect can get the equivalent of €87-110k. If the highest paid devs are topping out at €65-70k that's an important point.


My sister lives there (though she doesn't work in tech) and massively prefers it to Budapest. Her main issues are that the summers are hotter than she find pleasant and that politics is moving in quite a right-wing/anti-immigrant direction (the latter was also one of the reasons she moved from Budapest).


> politics is moving in quite a right-wing/anti-immigrant direction

Seems to be a global phenomenon. Is there a place where this isn't happening?


Canada and New Zealand, possibly.


Unfortunately Australia isn't in that list. :(

Our politics don't represent us as a nation, if you are from somewhere else come spend some time in our coastal cities and you will be accepted as one of us.

Only the indigenous are Australian by heritage, the rest of us are immigrants too even if some people would object to that classification through their ignorance.

Being an immigrant doesn't make you less of an Australian, we are a country of immigrants and I hope one day our politics reflect that.


I object to being called an immigrant. I don't have any known relatives outside of Australia and I consider myself only Australian.

Everybody in the world ancestors came from somewhere else at some point in time (even the indigenous Australians). Does 10 generations of ancestors living in one country make you less of a citizen than 200?


As someone who travels a lot, I really couldn't see anything I liked in Vienna. Not sure what people see in this city.


Unless you say what you were looking for then your comment is just "I don't like it", which is not helpful.


I look for food, people, bars, atmosphere.


How is the visa situation if given a remote US-based job?


I heard that Vienna has a pretty racist population.


This is easy. Pittsburgh.

Consistently ranked as a top city in the US, and world, to live in, in no small part due to the comparatively cheap cost of home prices, rent, and living in general. For example, there are nice neighborhoods in the city where one can buy a three bedroom, 2000sq foot house for < $150,000. I think that would buy a closet in the Bay area.

With Carnegie Mellon University here, the 'intellectual' and more specifically the tech scene is thriving. I work for (and take classes at) CMU and see this first hand. Numerous big tech companies have set up shop near campus (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, etc). There are many, well funded, startups operating out of the city as well (e.g. Duolingo, Petuum), most of which have spun out of CMU.


Pittsburgh is great. I live in a city you've never heard of and pay $1125/mo for a one bedroom apartment. A good friend of mine lives in Pittsburgh and pays $1200/mo for a 5 bedroom house (rental) in an unpopular but safe and growing neighborhood of Pittsburgh proper. The cost of living is insanely low and Pennsylvania is a low tax state (flat 3.2% person income tax), which compared to California can equal a few hundred dollars a paycheck for the higher incomes.

Keep in mind though that a lot of San Francisco and NYC folks move to Pittsburgh for a year or two then leave because it's not San Francisco or NYC. Public transit sucks. Traffic is really bad during rush hour (not SF bad, but it is one of the worst in the state, probably second only the Schuylkill Expressway going into Philadelphia). Nobody lives downtown because there are no supporting services downtown like grocery stores or anything like that. You 110% need a car to live there.


> Public transit sucks.

There is a light rail/trolley line from downtown into the South Hills area. It's great if you live next to it or can get to a park & ride. I hit it on the weekends to bike the trails along the rivers downtown. I haven't used the buses much, but the few times I've needed them, they weren't bad.

The thing that makes Pittsburgh traffic bad is the topography. Outside of downtown, nothing is a grid, and you'll likely have to go through a tunnel. Not only are they narrow (2 lanes in each direction), everyone seems to practically stop for them.


As a daily user of the PortAuthority bus system, it's far from "Sucks".

$100 all-you-can-ride per month means I don't even think about cost, and the Transit app makes route planning super easy.


And it should be getting even better at bus prediction in a few months, Port Authority's installing new sensors. Right now they disabled a bunch of them so Transit's not that helpful but it'll be very good soon.


Plus they've got an API that I'm using to build my own personal route intelligence around. :)


Looking forward to the Show HN!


I wonder how to reconcile your point about lack of public transport, supporting services and liveability downtown (seems like it's not liveable) and the parent's claim about Pittsburg being top rated city in the world for liveability.


It depends on your definition of liveability. If you require the ability to get an apartment downtown, do all your shopping downtown, and commute downtown without buying a vehicle, Pittsburgh is not liveable. But I would argue that outside of NYC and maybe {San Francisco,Chicago,DC}, no US city is liveable by that definition.

I think it's very liveable if you're realistic about what liveable means in a mostly suburban part of the US - driving into downtown for work and pleasure, and leaving for everything else.


> think it's very liveable if you're realistic about what liveable means in a mostly suburban part of the US

Yeah, for me "livable" means "not suburban." I'm one of those people who came to Pitt thinking it would be like mini-NYC and was massively disappointed.

As you mentioned, if you want to live in a big house here, the prices are a steal... but on the other hand, if you want a nice studio or one-bedroom, the market is just OK. I'm paying $1,300 for my one-bedroom. On the other hand, if I lived in Manhattan I could get a similar place for $1,800 and I'd make at least $15K more a year in salary... so I don't know if the cost of living here is really all that good for what you get.


I meant on the parent's point that it be top rated liveable city worldwide, which to me can't possibly rhyme with bad public transit and nothing reachable by foot. At least if you use a workdwide benchmark. But I've never been so maybe I just don't have a sense for it!


Downtown is very small (less than 0.5 square miles) in Pittsburgh and it just isn't very residential (nor is it intended to be). There are other parts of the city that are much more walkable and while there aren't many trains the bus system isn't bad


I really wish we had any kind of nightlife downtown. It's pretty cool at night but there really isn't much to do apart from a few good restaurants on Penn Ave. I was in Center City, Philly, a few months ago and it was exactly what I wish we had downtown.


> Nobody lives downtown because there are no supporting services downtown like grocery stores or anything like that. You 110% need a car to live there.

Is this by design? Or is there an opportunity for grocery stores, etc. to address a city planning deficit?


It's just a heavily commercial area. Parking is expensive compared to the cost of living (~$400-500/mo for a garage downtown with no access restrictions which will probably be close to or maybe more than half your rent) and that coupled with the lack of services just makes it very hard to make the case for moving downtown. Even if the services came in, you would still absolutely need a vehicle to survive so when you compare downtown to a 30-45 minute rush hour commute it's a hard sell for sure.


One thing to consider about Pittsburgh, especially compared to the bay area, is the weather. The winters are going to be a bit harsher in / around Pittsburgh than they would be in the SF bay.


I've been to Pittsburgh a lot. I agree with this 100%!


What is the driver of the local economy? Ie most people wind up working at/in _____ .

How hard is it to find good doctors and red Chile.


After losing all but 1 steel mill about 40 years ago, it's quite diverse. There is lots of healthcare (UPMC, Highmark), finance (PNC, BNY Mellon) and sports (Steelers, Penguins, Pirates), with plenty of retail and manufacturing. There's a little tech, but it's not big compared to healthcare and finance (check back if we get Amazon HQ2). This list is accurate:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_corporations_in_Pittsb...


UPMC is a massive ($19B) primary healthcare provider and insurer with 40 hospitals and 600 doctors' offices. According to their own stats, 41% market share for western Pennsylvania. It's hard to argue that you can't find a world class physician in Pittsburgh, let alone just a "good" one.

Red chiles are pretty ubiquitous across the US, especially in urban areas; are you referring to something specific?


Source for world ranking?



How is the tech scene around Penn?


Penn is in Philadelphia, not Pittsburgh


I'm a full-time freelancer/remote worker. In late 2016, I made the decision to move to Pittsburgh, partly persuaded Paul Graham's talk about how Pittsburgh could become a startup hub. (PG grew up in Monroeville, 10 miles east of Pittsburgh.)

Transcript: http://www.paulgraham.com/pgh.html Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpfdtgW6_oI

I feel really good about the decision, CMU feels like a peer of Stanford and MIT but living here is substantially cheaper than living in Cambridge or Palo Alto. (I pay ~$750 for a 1-bedroom apartment that's ~1.5 mile from CMU campus.) The legacy of Randy Pausch's Building Virtual Worlds was also a draw for me personally, as I work in game development and was coming of age when Randy Pausch's delivered his famous Last Lecture (if you had asked me in 2008 who my personal heroes were, Randy Pausch would be the first name out of my mouth). Going to gamedev meetups has kind of allowed me to insert myself into the CMU alumni network post hoc. Very green (lots of beautiful neighborhoods), hip enough for my tastes, and the intellectual climate is everything I had hoped it would be.

If you want to live in a city where companies like Google, Uber, Amazon, and Apple have offices, Pittsburgh may be your cheapest option.

Some discussion of Pittsburgh's (tech) climate on this article from last year: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14832249


There are some smaller German cities like Göttingen which have - in my opinion - a high intellectual atmosphere because they are so called university-cities: lot's of students and academics in a rather small city. And, in comparison with big cities like Berlin or Munich, the rents are much cheaper: from what I know you pay 2/3 to half of the price for the same amount of space. Example: a flat with 55-60 qm is about 600-900€ in Berlin, and about 400-600€ in Göttingen.

Well.. and if you don't mind high rents: Berlin as the German Silicon Valley has tons of job offers for you, highly diverse and open-minded people and there would be no language barrier because so many people here speak English.


This is true. Lots of other mentions of Germany in this thread with good points. The downsides to Germany that Americans and Canadians (and to a lesser extent British) might perceive:

- Constant store closures. Almost all Sundays and numerous holidays, almost all stores, including groceries, are closed. Don't forget to get milk or you have to trek to the central train station.

- Very bad international food. Even in major German cities, the food (outside of German, Middle Eastern, and some European cuisine) is simply not on par with places like the Bay Area or London.

- Less outwardness as a social norm. I am sure there will be debate over this. But I think many will agree it is hard to make friends with non-expats even when there is no or little language barrier, compared to many North American social contexts.

- Lots of bureaucracy and dependency trees of ID and permits, even for simple things like getting a train pass. As a reference, it costs 1500-2000 EUR to get a driver's license in Germany (including mandatory training classes), much higher than in the US or Canada. Also, there is a refugee crisis choking the German immigration system and it may take much longer than normal to get immigration-related matters sorted out.

- More public smoking, including on patios and inside bars and clubs. If you are sensitive to cigarette smoke don't plan to go to any nightclubs.

- Serious environmental policies, which would be admirable if it weren't for the Autobahn and all the coal that Germany burns. Have fun drying your sheets and towels on clotheslines in the middle of winter and don't expect AC during the summer.

Some of this is generic to Europe, much of it less true in Berlin than elsewhere, and there are lots of positives to Germany that have been mentioned in this thread. Good luck!


> - Serious environmental policies, which would be admirable if it weren't for the Autobahn and all the coal that Germany burns. Have fun drying your sheets and towels on clotheslines in the middle of winter and don't expect AC during the summer.

I'm not sure whether you're trying to imply causality between environmental policies and the prevalence of clothes dryers and AC, but you can certainly get those things (although they might need to fulfill some energy-efficiency criteria).

You won't find them in most apartments, but that's because Germans usually don't think they're necessary. Clotheslines continue to work in winter and the number of really hot days is too low for an AC to be worth it.


Oh yeah, Germans "love" the heat

Their attitude towards AC are offset by how early and high they turn the heat on in the year.

But I never had to dry stuff out in the cold. (Lack of AC is annoying though). You might get that if you Airbnb a place from some old lady though.


Just to add my bit here: - Public smoking in public indoor places is completely banned in Bavaria, including pubs, restaurants and bars.

- No one will forbid you to buy your own dryer in case you're not happy with hanging your clothes on clotheslines. We do have a dedicated clotheslines room in our building thus I never needed a dryer myself (and my clothes are getting dry within 2 days even in the winter)

- ACs are recently getting popular in offices, they're rare in private homes due to too less days we'd have to use them. I thought it was odd what I experienced when working in the States: cooling to 16C in the summer months whereas my colleagues would heat up to 22C in the winter months. I prefer sweating over getting a cold in the summer ;)

- Driver's licenses are valid for a life time and don't need renewal every now and then. We are not allowed to drive with our parents before we do the test. If you're an experienced driver, your (European) driver's license will cost you below the above mentioned # since the price depends on how many driving lessons you will need to do.

- Store closure times depends on which part of the country you live in. Berlin is quite liberal with opening hours whereas the south (especially Bavaria) is quite strict. You get used to it and learn to organize yourself better.

I currently live in Munich which offers a lot of cultural and technical inputs. Meetups are happening frequently and the community is quite active. Housing is quite expensive (if you're in an urgent need for a place to stay) but you can still find affordable housing if you look long enough. Salary when working for local companies is way above the German average.


Drivers Licenses in Germany haven't been unlimited ("for life time") for a while now.

https://www.adac.de/infotestrat/adac-im-einsatz/motorwelt/be...

"Driving licence validity in Germany. Driving licences are valid for 15 years. Licences issued before 2013, lose their validity at the latest on 19 January 2033."


This article does however say that after this period you can just request a new one for 24€. No further tests are required.


Yes, but that’s just the document. You’d apply for a new card and that’s it. No tests or anything required, just an up-to-date photo.

„Nach Ablauf der Gültigkeit des Scheins kann er einfach neu beantragt werden.“


I'm sure I'm drying my stuff in a dryer. If necessary even in summer (though trying to avoid it when it's warm enough). Also, my employer has AC in all offices ;) Public smoking depends on the region; where I live it's prohibited for most bars and clubs (at least indoors).

Not saying you're making stuff up, just pointing out you might be a little bit exaggerating ;)


From all the things that are going wrong in Germany, this is the most bizarre compilation I have ever seen (except the food situation). Probably an indicator for how good life is in Germany in general :)


The shop thing is true though, especially in Munich (all of Bavaria really) where stores close at 20:00. Especially when Saturday or Monday are holidays, the rush in shops is like it is the last days of civilization.

Here in Denmark it is no problem to go shopping on Sunday at least until 22:00 at all and even past that it is possible.

It is so much nicer to not have to specifically plan on when to go shopping.


>Have fun drying your sheets and towels on clotheslines in the middle of winter and don't expect AC during the summer.

would you mind explaining this? Most people have driers and public buildings usually have AC. Homes don't have AC but that's because it doesn't (or didn't used to) get too hot


> - Very bad international food. Even in major German cities, the food (outside of German, Middle Eastern, and some European cuisine) is simply not on par with places like the Bay Area or London.

Thank you for saying this. Whenever I tell people this, they look at me like I'm some kind of crazy German hater who is off their rocker. If you're a foodie, Germany is hard. Unless your a fan of the local food. France, the UK, Belgium are generally much better when it comes to tasty noms.


> - Less outwardness as a social norm. I am sure there will be debate over this. But I think many will agree it is hard to make friends with non-expats even when there is no or little language barrier, compared to many North American social contexts.

Somewhat counteropinion as a native German: It is much harder to make friends in Germany if you do not speak decent German. So simply learn it.

> - Serious environmental policies, which would be admirable if it weren't for the Autobahn and all the coal that Germany burns. Have fun drying your sheets and towels on clotheslines in the middle of winter and don't expect AC during the summer.

Many German homes have a tumble dryer at home.


Berlin is to be taken with a grain of salt regarding intellectual stimulus though. It really depends on OP's area of interest. Effective Altruism is big, as are some research institutions (Charité, Max-Delbrück Centre & similar) and the topics surrounding this research, but if you're coming from outside the academic system, they are not that accessible.

If intellectual stimulus is what you're after, it's like searching for gold nuggets in Berlin. Not comparable to places like London. Can't compare to smaller German university cities.

Source: Living in Berlin for a couple of years.


> [...] no language barrier because so many people here speak English.

I wonder how you came up with that one. From my experience (I am German myself), Germans are not good at English. It is not so bad within the large cities but in the countryside, good luck. Just take any of the Scandinavian countries and you will find that they have a higher percentage of people speaking English.

Living in Germany without learning German is a hard challenge. However, speaking German with an American accent is sometimes considered cool ;-)


The "no language barrier" point was only for Berlin. I know that in the countryside almost nobody speaks English, but inside the city you will be able to get everything you need. As far as I know most of the government agency employees are required to speak at least basic English.


Berlin only has high rents compared to Berlin a view years ago and some, uhm, small places ;)[1]. Compared to many European capital cities or at last other large cities in Germany Berlin rents are still quite ordinary or even cheap (through the 600-900€, for a 55-60m² are right in Madrid for example that would be more like 900-1500 and in Munich its 1500+).

[1] not sure how to express this, I mean just because it's a "small" place it's nor any worse just a bit different.


One of the good things about Göttingen in particular is that it maintains the same (or similar) intellectual atmosphere at not only a lower cost than the bigger German cities, but also lower than some of the other similarly-sized university towns such as Heidelberg.

Moving from Göttingen to Heidelberg was an easy €200 per month rent increase for similar accommodation. The latter is certainly more scenic, but you pay for that with tourists, noise, etc.

Having said all that, there are plenty more university towns to choose from - but I've only lived in those two specifically myself. In both, the low cost of living is assisted by being able to walk or cycle everywhere around them, negating the need to own a vehicle. I only spent money on public transport if the weather was particularly bad, or when traveling long distance/with luggage.


Not sure about English, during my 4-day stay I met many people who struggled with English.


Berlin is nothing like Silicon Valley. It’s a great city but job offers there are 60-80% lower salaries compared to the US, which makes Berlin being marginally cheaper (but with higher taxes) not really worth it.


The complete elimination of auto expenses helps a lot. And frankly, it's hard to put a price on 6 weeks' _guaranteed_ vacation per year.

And true, salaries are lower, but 60-80%?? Obviously headhunters and published ranges are to be taken with a grain of salt but a HH was trying to entice me with 90k in Berlin for data engineering a while ago and that, while not SV money, is better than "60-80% less"


It's min. 4 Weeks (by law) + national/regional holidays, which differ based on region in Germany and might overlap with Saturday/Sunday if anyone is interested in it. It's still pretty nice.


With a higher education you won't find any job offer with less than 25 days of vacation, usually >= 28. In tech most companies offer 30 days. I've seen some offering 38..


But that's almost everywhere in Europe - salaries being a lot lower than in US, right?

PS. Based on my conversations with a friend who moved from Dallas to Amsterdam. He was in US just for ~3 years after completing his MS. He always wanted to work and live in EU for some years before returning home. He stayed in US for the loan.


Yes - I say this as someone who moved from California to Ireland.

Student loans are nearly evil - not that I think being irresponsible with debt is good, but they currently turn in to a near-prison for far too many people. You could spend 100k on lottery tickets and have an easier time getting it discharged than 100k on student debt.

Is your friend in Amsterdam or Dallas at the moment? I doubt you could find enough money to get me to live in Dallas (well, maybe 7 figures so I could tolerate it briefly and then retire) due to the fact that I quite like being able to commute by bike without dying.


He's in Amsterdam.


Yes, competitive salaries in business centers are 3x higher in the US. It is possible you are not acquainted with current prices.


3x isn't really 60-80% though? I understand fb median salaries are 240k usd rightnow, alphabet about 190k usd. Non-faang a fair bit lower. So offers of 70-100k eur in europe, doable in the more expensive bits, would be more like half-ish.


It's more like 340k total comp right now for google and fb.

So yes, about 3x what you get in Europe.

And saving $6k-$8k a year in auto expenses is not that much compared to a 3x increase in income.


If Berlin salaries are 66% lower than California, then yes, it is 3x. For people like me, I would make about 80% less were I to work in Berlin vs the US.


Says somebody apparently... living in Berlin? Calling Berlin "marginally" cheaper than the Valley is something I'd be highly sceptical of. Rents aside I've not been to many other places where food, shopping and leisure has been as cheap.

Also, OP did not mention he wants to optimise his income?


  Calling Berlin "marginally" cheaper than the
  Valley is something I'd be highly sceptical of.
Presumably sneak means "Costs of living are lower, but if you salary goes from $150,000 to €50,000 it's not clear you'll be left with higher discretionary income."


Your salary will just not decrease so disproportionately in relative terms. € 50,000 was a starting salary I was offered for a business position straight out of university. Any software engineer, much more so people with experience will earn considerably more. As other's have pointed out, senior positions rather range from 70k - 90k depending on the position and experience.


Senior positions in the US in certain types of engineering can easily result in income in the 50-70k range.... per month.


You can't directly compare the salaries without taking the living cost into account. You get much higher salaries in the US, especially SV, but you also have to pay way more for living. Flats are way more expensive and don't forget stuff like healthcare and so on which is, imo, cheaper in Germany.

10-20% lower salaries is something I would accept but 60-80? Come on.


How would Berlin compare to a town like Leipzig? Seems like Berlin is getting comparatively expensive.


Absolutely. Berlin is one of the more expensive cities in Germany. I can't speak for Leipzig because I don't know about the "intellectual atmosphere" OP is talking about. Just know that Göttingen is a good example because I have a friend that lives there.


Leipzig is way cheaper. I hear people comparing Leipzig to Berlin as of ten years ago or so when it comes to cost.


And 10 years from now we'll be talking about.. I dunno, Offenburg? Within Germany places like Leipzig and Tubingen seem very appealing (though I quite fancied a 600 year old house in Rothenburg Ob der Tauber - car free towns are lovely)


As much as I liked studying there, it's not a good place to actually work as a software engineer (locally that is).


True. Another great example: Heidelberg.


So you haven't traveled too often, but are considering relocating yourself to somewhere you've never been?

There's nothing wrong with that. However, I would recommend that before you attempt to settle down or start using the word "relocate" you do a bit of serious traveling.

One could say that there's a place in the world for every person. One could also say that people adapt to wherever they are. Both are partially true, I think. The only way you'll know what works for you is if you live there for a while and are able to compare it with other places where you've lived. To do that you need the perspective afforded by a lot of travel.

It's one of those "opportunity cost" decisions. How many places do you need to visit, how many do you need to reject? What is your criteria for a short-list? Only you can answer that.


+1 True

Though, traveling while on "vacation" and moving to a place are 2 different things. You could get a very positive vibe when you visit a new place several times because "entertainment" is roughly 80% of your goal. But from experience, things usually don't turn out that well when you settle and dig a little more by doing "boring" stuff. Things that travelers don't have to think about. But it goes back to your second point: "people adapt to wherever they are".


Yes, you're right about the difference between tourism and living.

By "serious travel" I meant to indicate long lengths of time away in other places conducting one's life-- not simply a PTO allocation.


This. Lots of places are great to vacation in and terrible to live in. I grew up in one.


Check Bulgaria's Sofia capital - is top notch. Lots of concerts, events, bars, meetups, conferences, sports facilities. Is still growing lot in terms of IT, hundreds of job postings, major companies such as VMWare, HPs, Codix, SAP all have big offices here - check Linkedin. senior positions after taxes pay 1000-2000EU. Rents are 400-600EU for a very decent central place 80m^2 + furniture. 4 mountains around the city, 4+ winter resorts in less than 4 hours distance, 4 hours from both Black Sea and Greece's coastal line. Summer time 27-30 degrees, winter -10. Closest mountain is 30min from city center - trekking, and some ski facilities. The city is safe.


You can find senior positions up to 5000-6000EU. That's the good part. Unfortunately, I wouldn't call it a city with a good intellectual atmosphere. I suspect it's one of the worst places if ranked by this factor - it's full with sketchy people in sketchy "businesses", corruption and low level of education.

Disclosure: I'm Bulgarian who used to live in UK and France, and now considering emigrating again due to the reasons stated above.


Hi there, Sofia is not like, say, Munich, but it’s chilled, people are friendly and there is a good IT community. It’s not that I disagree with you, but you can find your way around as a foreigner here.

Disclosure: I got almost burned out and heavily depressed after living 4 years in Munich where everything is perfect but I could not quite accept that.


Not much English speakers there, very mediocre roads in the city. However, the food is great, life is cheaper then in England, but not as cheap, as it may be at Chiangmai. Or in Scotland.


Mediocre roads indeed, but you can manage to get around the city by public transport. While public transit can be sometimes late, or some buss lines use old busses. it's A+ compared to US public transport, but not as great as the London or Paris (tho the metro is newer and cleaner than Paris). Public transport card for all lines for 1 year is 365 levs - 185 eur. Rent prices currently are on the high end and can run you between 300-500 eur. For food, i personally eat take out twice a day and over the last few months my average spend for food & drinks is ~ 300 eur. If someone has other questions about Sofia, feel free to e-mail me or comment here :)


long shot, but any chance you know a way to find short term rentals in the city center? I currently live in Lozenets and while I love it I’d prefer something more central like say Rakovski street


Speaking of Lozenets - it has one of the best wine shops in Bulgaria. And it is definitely a Big Plus. Actually, I have summer office in Sozopol and it works OK, just you will need to be prepared of VIVACOM 24-48hrs downtime once or twice per season. Otherwise OK. Business wise, Bulgaria for a foreigner is very good, banking is OK.


The only thing i can think of is AirBNB, but from what i've seen as prices there, it can be x2-3 more expensive per month, but also depends on your use case. Also try the more larger rental/property agencies like Mirela and Address, they might have few short-term apt.


You can get by with minimal Bulgarian. Roads are terrible so use the very good public transport which is super cheap.

If you step outside of the centre of Sofia then prices plummet. Near Obelya you are looking at 12Euro for dinner for 2.

Tech scene is thriving. (There are much bigger mountains and better skiing than Scotland as well!)


If you would like to remain in United States and do not mind having proper seasons, I would strongly consider Chicago, the last affordable big city in the United States.

University of Chicago pulls a robust intellectual community (81 Nobel Laureates), but there is also a deep intellectual history around the arts and music that transcends the work of the university - something that I'm not sure I can say for a place like Cambridge.

The Art Institute has many of the paintings you might have seen in middle school history books, which is telling in of itself - and while everyone remembers Chicago's jazz, few know that it also invented house music (and a variety of other genres). It's home to many a political movement. It has unparalleled and extremely diverse architecture. The tech scene is doing great - and if any place will upset racial diversity in tech, it will certainly be this city.

People feel like they have a general sense of good will towards their neighbors, without losing the quick pace only a big city will offer you.

Most importantly and to your point - there is a respect for intellectual exchange no matter the discipline - Tech? Economics? Art? Policy? Medicine? Michelin-starred cuisine? I can't think of a field that you can't pursue with confidence in Chicago.

A completely trivial aside - one of the biggest complaints I hear from expats of the Bay Area is a lack of great Mexican food in Boston/Europe/etc. Thanks to a neighborhood called "Little Mexico" (which really does feel like being transported to the Mission), Chicago may be the furthest east you can go while still being able to find authentic Mexican food.


"Chicago, the last affordable big city in the United States"

I love Chicago, and would consider living there were it not for the harsh winters. But, Dallas and Houston would like a word about being the last affordable big city in the US. I'd wager they're more affordable than Chicago, actually. Then again, if your definition of "big city" includes mass transit worth speaking of and corridors where you can live affordably near that mass transit, I guess you'd be right. Texas is stupidly backward on transit. Big roads, big trucks, big houses in big suburbs are the rule in Texas (this is changing in the major cities, though slowly).

But, they've both got all the big city stuff most people think of: Museums, food, music, culture, etc. Houston, in particular, will surprise you, as it has excellent art museums (including the Menil collection, which is probably my personal favorite museum of any I've visited, and I've traveled a lot), and one of the best opera companies in the world, among other things. Also amazingly good food due to large immigrant populations and a lot of produce that doesn't have to be shipped very far since it's grown in nearby areas. And, a very low cost of living, relatively speaking.


Despite what 'tptacek and others might say about winters, I don't find them bad at all. There have, in fact, been one or two that are outright frauds, with 72 degrees on Christmas Day. And the lowest temperature is only -29F.

(Full disclosure--I grew up in Montana on the prairie, with more wind than Chicago, so my perspective might be unusual.)


I grew up in the south. -29F sounds like hell on earth. I get seasonal depression, there's no way I'd put myself through a winter like that to save a little money on rent. Though, again, there are major southern cities with lower cost of living than Chicago, so it's like not even saving money, despite the possibility of living without a car. Since I work from home, my car/commute costs are negligible, and I drive a 10+ year old vehicle that's fully paid for.

I'm not saying Chicago isn't a great city for some folks. It is, but it's not the city for me, though I love to visit and when a conference is happening there I'm more likely to want to go.


I can't argue. But as a northerner, it was slightly funny how freaked out everyone was about that -29. Diesel fuel was coagulating, tires felt funny. The good part of it was that there wasn't very much wind.

But there is was an extreme that was not so funny. That was the heat wave in 1995. Nearly a thousand people died during that time. High temperature of 106, high temperature overnight (which I feel is a crime against nature), insane humidity. The city learned, in that there are now cooling centers for crisis like temperatures.

Humorously, the second-highest actual temperature I experienced was 112 during one year of harvest back in Montana. Fortunately, the humidity was low (sometimes as low as 4%) and, as it should be, it cools off at night, as the universe intended. The higher temperature was in Phoenix, when it hit 117 at sunset. Riduculous.

Yes, it can be depressing with the shorter days, and the harsher winters encouraging biological hibernation.

My take is, as a country boy, if you are need to live in a city, Chicago is excellent.


We are polar (heh, polar) opposites. Those high temps are hot but not awful, to me. Texas sees those kinds of temperatures every summer, and I've summered in the desert, as well (Tempe/Phoenix in spring is awesome). This summer in Austin was particularly brutal, and currently the rain is among the worst I've seen (because mosquitoes, when combined with record breaking high temperatures), as it's been going on for weeks nearly daily. We handle the heat fine, here, but the rain less so. I would guess it's the opposite in Chicago.


I am sure Dallas and Houston are great places to be, but my own prerequisite for "big city life" is the ability to live comfortably without a car (and because the poster is from the Bay Area, I assumed they had something similar in mind). This doesn't just mean public transit, either, but high density architecture to eliminate the amount of time I need to spend traveling for groceries/food/coffee/social activities (so I can continue working asap).

Good public transit gives me freedom to concentrate my income on things that are important to me - no car maintenance, no debt, and an even further increase to the amount of time I can be productive in a day (by doing work on a train/bus).

So keeping this criteria for "big city" in mind, I think few in the US can compare to San Francisco, New York and Chicago, and out of those three Chicago has a drastically cheaper price point.


I think the Bay Area outside of SF is only barely qualified for a carless lifestyle, and most of it is not "big city". I lived for three years in Mountain View with only a bike, but still had to rent a car now and then. There's the Caltrain corridor (which I lived on), but if you get out into the suburbs of San Jose, Sunnyvale, etc. you pretty much need a car.

Chicago is better in that regard, but Houston and Dallas both have a train (and some buses), like much of the Bay Area, which also has a train (and some buses)...you can live on that line and live without a car most of the time, if everything works out (like your commute also happens to be on that line). But, most people in those cities have a car, as is true of much of the Bay area. And, it's probably not useful to treat "Bay Area" as a singular city. There's really only one big city in the Bay Area that works for this argument, so someone accustomed to the Bay Area life could very well have a car.

Cars suck, of course, and every great city should stop relying on them. But, the necessity of a car is not the only factor in what makes a big city great, even though it's important.


Fair point, I don't know that the poster lives in San Francisco. But it's not the only big city in the Bay Area that works for this argument - Oakland and Berkeley with their multiple train lines would like a word about that!


Chicago pro's:

* Cheap housing with lots of options, even if you stay in the city limits (Chicago is huge).

* Cheap office space.

* Vibrant, 1st tier business community; Chicago's not the best place to try to get a tech job, but it is one of the better places to start a tech company, especially if you're bootstrapping.

* Really fantastic food and drink scene.

* Top tier venues for touring music scene; we get better shows than SFBA does.

* Functioning, wide-reaching public transit system.

Chicago con's:

* State finances are truly fucked.

* The crime situation is not a joke, though it's more a moral catastrophe than a middle+ class safety issue.

* I like cold weather but you probably don't and Chicago cold is not fucking around cold.

* The startup scene is has a serious cargo cult vibe and can be cliquish.

* Apart from the lake, outdoors stuff is adequate and unspectacular at best.

* It won't be nearly as easy to raise money here as in any tech hub.

I think if you buy into the premise (big city, cold weather 1/4 of the year), Chicago is easily the best value in the US. But lots of people reasonably don't buy into that, and if you don't, you probably won't love the city the way its boosters do.


Chicago is a really wonderful city and I can vouch for everything tropdrop says here. I will also add, it's good for cycling (though do take care when not on dedicated lanes) and though the winter will leave you breathless and the summers will leave you panting, the vibrancy of city and everything it has to offer, and the affordability it still has, make up for it. It's one of my favourite cities in the world.


I've lived there for a while and there were a lot of deal breakers for me:

* security: you feel unsafe in most of the city, past a certain hour and you can't walk nor take the public transit (actually even during the day, the public transit is filled with crazy people). I could never take walks around my place when I was living there. A lot of poverty.

* no real life: there is the loop, but it's mostly offices and it dies down at night. Then there are a few single streets (wicker park, logan square, etc.) but they are rather small places where you can't really walk for a long time.

* the winter: it's freaking cold


It's a big city. There is big city crime.

Your nightlife thing is pretty weird. The Loop is Chicago's business district. It is dead after business hours. Don't be there. Wicker Park and Logan Square are neighborhoods, not single streets. There's also Lakeview, Avondale, Pilsen, Andersonville, and a bunch of others I'm forgetting. Maybe the argument is that together these neighborhoods constitute a pretty decent night-life, but it's hard to walk from Wicker Park to Andersonville if you want to start an evening eating tacos at the Big Star walkup and end it with beers at Hopleaf? That's fair, but that's what NYC is like too.

It does get cold here!


> It's a big city. There is big city crime.

Compare that to London or Beijing where you feel safe at all time. Being a big city is not an excuse for feeling unsafe.

> Wicker Park and Logan Square are neighborhoods, not single streets

After one or two streets there is not much to see. Again I'm comparing this to european cities/asian cities where you can walk for hours in lively old centers/districts.


I'm not going to compare it to London or Beijing, but while I wouldn't move to Chicago from San Francisco to get away from crime, for most people, a move from SF to Chicago wouldn't be a move into significantly more crime either.


Oh yeah definitely. Note that I'm doing the inverse move (to SF) and I have no idea why I'm doing it.


Yeah, I'm not sure why you're comparing to European/Asian cities here - I did qualify my recommend for Chicago only applies if you'd like to stay in the US. In my experience, the nightlife in Chicago is more diverse (with many more places and neighborhoods to go) than in San Francisco.


I'm making the reverse move at the moment, so I hope you're wrong :D but when it comes to nightlife aren't NYC, Boston, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. better?


NYC and LA, yes, of course (both are larger and more expensive). Maybe Miami? Miami seems like a metro area that specializes in nightlife. But Boston? Why would you think Boston was better in that regard? Move there and report back, please.


I haven't checked myself, but I visited and I saw a lot of students so I extrapolated.


I would take CT/IL/NJ off of any list just due to the situation of the state finances. Taxes are going to rise a lot in the next 10 years, and government services are going to be reduced to make their debt payments.


What would be authentic Mexican food?


Chicago has an enormous Latinx population and very good Mexican food. Tripe tacos. Ridiculous mole. Goat stew. Tortas and cemitas.


Not OP but for me...something that's not TexMex.

Obligatory fajitas is not Mexican. It's American-Mexican (TexMex).

One TLDR/cusory menu check for authentic Mexican: are there mole sauce based dishes on the menu?


as tptacek noted in a sibling, there is seriously good Mexican food here, and Latin American food as well. All over.


If you want to remain in a major US city with a lower cost of living, great quality of life, and thriving intellectual community, I'd strongly recommend checking out Chicago.

While it's not as cheap as many cities you'll find abroad, it is extremely affordable compared to US cities. The food is fantastic and affordable. There is a wonderful intellectual community. The nightlife is amazing, if you're into that. It's also possible to find lots of space, as the city is geographically massive with many different neighborhoods with diverse vibes.

The big downside is the winter. However, if you know how to dress for the weather and don't live somewhere incredibly remote, you can mitigate a lot of that inconvenience.

Again, you'll be paying more than you would in Thailand, but for the US it's really fantastic.


To counter this, as someone who lives in Chicago, there are some additional drawbacks beyond the weather:

- Taxes are extremely high here, with no sign of slowing down

- Political corruption is rampant in the state

- Crime is mostly relegated to south side of city, but it's still an issue

- Public works are decaying: train stations, airport, and everything else look like they need work

- Schools are undesirable and a magnet/charter school has very high competition.

My wife and I have lived here our whole lives and are considering joining several friends who have recently moved to the Nashville area to alleviate the above mentioned items. There is no state income tax in TN, public schools in suburbs are good w/ only a 20 minute drive into the city. There are some drawbacks but we're comfortable with the trade-off.


I hear taxes brought up a lot, but they're actually on par with major metro areas. Let's compare Chicago to SF:

1. Effective property tax rate: SF ~1.2%, Chicago ~1.7% *

2. State income tax: SF 9.3%+, Chicago 4.95%

3. Combined state, county + city sales tax: SF 8.5%, Chicago 10.25%

(* But property taxes do get much higher in the suburban townships!)

Altogether, the lower state income tax more than offsets the slightly higher property tax.

But taxes is a favorite bugbear in local political campaigns, because they're an easy item for politicians to harp on (who doesn't want lower taxes after all?). The other day I saw a political ad where the actor proclaimed, "I'm moving out of Illinois because taxes are too high! Support XYZ for governor." But let's be honest, uprooting one's family just to optimize a few percentage points on the tax return is a terrible idea. And as long as there are good jobs available, taxes are just one living expense among many.

As for the other items, I can't agree with them either. Chicago Public Schools are totally fine - they're very much focused on educating working-class and/or immigrant kids, so they're not like rich suburban schools with all the bells and whistles, but they do their job very well. And the magnet schools are top notch. Public works are a patchwork, but for example CTA is very well funded and runs much better than either MTA or MUNI. As for corruption - ok, I'll give you that one. ;)


If you're thinking about long term, 10 to 20+ years into the future, you need to look at the state's debt, namely unfunded defined benefit pension obligations. IL is the worst, and that's using rosy assumptions:

https://graphics.wsj.com/table/Connecticut_102015

Combined with the fact that the rest of IL isn't burgeoning, and that Chicago is the main source of income, it would be prudent to expect ever increasing taxes and reduced services. Other states also have problems, but there are a few states whose problems are in another league.

Personally, I would need a big discount to consider Chicago, as being outdoors is a big part of my life.


Yeah, if the pension plan had no assets, the state would be in deep trouble, as would most others. But in terms of pension cashflow as a fraction of total assets, IL is actually doing really well, better than the vast majority of states: https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/issue-bri...

Which is what allowed politicians to kick the can down the road for so long. So yes, there is a hole and it needs to be plugged. But this is a big state, plan assets are considerable, and there's a lot of new contributions coming in all the time as well. This won't trigger "ever increasing taxes" as some doomsaying politicians put it, there can be a correction once there is political will to do so.


The deficit is including any returns on existing plan assets. And each year, the share of the tax receipts that go towards paying debt (including pensions) keeps increasing. Obviously, something will have to be cut to make up for this.


Most families (who likely pay the most in property tax) live in the surrounding suburbs, which as you have noted are indeed much higher in terms of property tax. Similar suburbs around Nashville are averaging 50-70% lower property tax rates, which is significant enough to move oneself out of the state. This is only going to increase the tax burden for the remainder of residents of the state. The city proper only comprises 2.7m residents per the 2010 census, while the metro area is 9.5m residents.

My evidence on the other items is anecdotal, but that is my opinion and I'm understanding of the fact others may disagree.


Regarding taxes, are you talking about Chicago proper or the surrounding suburbs? I rented in North Chicago for a couple years and I don't recall any taxes other than local and state sales tax, and state income tax. Granted that's pretty far north. Are the taxes higher as you get closer to the metropolis center?


He or she was probably referring to property tax. Illinois has one of the highest property tax rates in the US.


Welcome to Nashville! We love the growth and all the culture that comes with it. Hit me up if you have any questions, been here for 14 years after trying NY, Cali and Florida.


Also, Chicago is highly racially segregated. http://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/March-2017/Why-Is-Chicag...


Also, there's a lot of traffic. Not as bad as LA or DC but still can be horrendous.


With all due respect, no. I live in the Washington DC suburbs and used to be married to a woman from Chicago. I would recommend DC over Chicago any day of the week.

It may be slightly cheaper. But as they say "there are two seasons in Chicago: Winter and Construction." Either way, traffic is gonna suck.

And of course there's the weather, the Political Machine that runs the city (and to a lesser extent the State), and of course the traffic.

While I agree Chicago offers incremental upgrades to many of the "worse" major cities in the US, the difference does not justify the cost of uprooting and moving there.


> a major US city with a lower cost of living

Offset by an insane tax rate. Highest effective in the nation. Also, any actually desirable place to purchase a house is going to be just as expensive as anywhere else minus the tech hubs.


I've spent a lot of time working in Chicago over the years, and consider it to be one of my favorite cities in the whole country... from about the end of April until the middle of October.

That said, the food scene is great, the night life is great, and the city just has a nice, chill vibe in general. For somebody who likes, or can tolerate, cold winters, it's probably a great place to live. For the rest of us, it's a great place to visit.


Agreed, I lived in both SF and Chicago and much prefer Chicago. As a city, it's much better, more livable.

Plus it's cheap. There's so much housing stock available, you can find a place at practically any price point you want, from super affordable to very expensive. I tell my SFBA friends how much I paid for a condo in the city and their eyes pop out. :)

Also the hiring situation is desirable. Northwestern and UChicago are top notch schools, and many of their graduates would prefer to stay in the area for work.


Barcelona - one of the best all-around cities in the world (climate/culture/architecture/world proximity/quality of living/beach/mountains) and a growing tech scene.

Very easy to pick up development work here for a local company, you won't be required to know Spanish/Catalan for a job. The only downsides are that the pay is relatively low (€43k average for SE) and it can be quite difficult to find a place to live without local contacts.

Edit - on the intellectual front, I am the least qualified person in my friend group with a lowly Bachelors in Computer Science. Most people have a minimum of Masters with PHDs being pretty prevalent.


Barcelona is not one of the best all-around cities for sure.

1) climate -- not moderate, only good if you enjoy extremely hot summers

2) culture -- obscured by the tourism industry in the city. Pretty much all restaurants try to rip you off, public parks charge entry for certain areas, everything culture-related is aimed and priced for tourists.

3) architecture -- nice, but not really exceptional. buildings really tight together in the city center.

4) quality of living - very high cost of life, low local salaries

5) EXTREMELY dirty. Diesel car pollution makes the air toxic and unbearable. No walking culture, everyone drives everywhere (which makes sense, the air is toxic)

I would not move there.


As someone who has lived in Barcelona for over 23 years now I agree with some of these points, but it also depends where you go in the city.

1) Climate - Yes the summers are warm, but not extremely hot, I have a lot worse time when i go visit the southern US for example.

2) Yes I totally agree we have way too much tourism in the city. However, the restaurants that try to rip you off etc are all in the touristy areas, and most of us who live here dont go down to those areas anyway. Regarding paying for parks, its 1 park, and if you live here its free. Most colture-related stuff has good cheaper offers for local citizens.

3) This is just personal taste, the city center is the old city with over 1000 years of history, its normal that the streets are small and disorganized.

4) Yes its expensive to live here, but we also have a great quality of life, with lots of places to go eat, drink and enjoy yourself. Yes the local salaries are quite on the low end, but if you find a good international company you should be fine.

5) I dont know where you come from, but its not unbearable; also there is tons of walking culture in this city. There is an great public transport that can get you almost anywhere in the city in just a few minutes. Most people dont drive, or even own a car, its mostly people living outside the city (or on rainy days). We do have days that are worse in regards to traffic and pollution, but this is a problem most large cities are facing and there are projects in place to improve.

So im sorry if you have had a bad time in Barcelona, and I agree there are things that need work, but its not as horrible as you say. Hopefully they keep adding bike lanes and continue to reduce the car traffic in the city center.


Thank you for the sane response.

Having lived in the worlds most liveable city, Melbourne, for several years, I have so far found Barcelona to be far more enjoyable. The thing that has stood out is that people actually care about their city and socio-political events that affect their lives.

I personally think the tourist issue is overhyped and most of them don't stray from the centre of the city.My local beach, Mar Bella which is only 1.5-2km from the city has zero tourists. Airbnb is a problem but this is a global phenomenon.


For me Barcelona easily wins of Melbourne; no idea what the criteria of most livable city is; streets littered with homeless, completely dead nightlife during the week and only average during the weekend (and I am 44, so I am not looking for much but even that is not there) and expensive. Barcelona or Lisbon are a lot nicer imho.


> also there is tons of walking culture in this city

Your biggest pedestrian street, La Rambla, is a 10m wide sidewalk with intense car traffic on both sides. You walk in the middle of traffic and inhale the diesel exhaust that makes you choke whilst strange looking people try to offer you counterfeit bags and shoes from the large blankets they've (probably illegally) put across the pavement. Not my idea of a good time and probably not the best way to run your most famous street.

> Regarding paying for parks, its 1 park

could be, but you can probably understand how charging entry for (parts of) a fairly small park is unusual and is going to make visitors feel like they're being nickel and dimed wherever they go.

> So im sorry if you have had a bad time in Barcelona, and I agree there are things that need work, but its not as horrible as you say. Hopefully they keep adding bike lanes and continue to reduce the car traffic in the city center.

That's alright, I had an OK time overall, but I came in with higher expectations and was disappointed that some things (like the traffic pollution in the city center) felt a bit behind the times for modern European cities.


In every city sidewalks are near the car traffic. That's why you call them sidewalks, lol.

Next time use numbers for the air pollution level, maybe will sound less ridiculous.


I'm having a hard time understanding whether you are actually unaware of the concept of pedestrian streets (and that they, too, have sidewalks, LOL).


Really? If 100% of the street is for pedestrians only, what for there should be sidewalks? Can you provide some example, maybe photo?


For example, there are cities that operate weekend (or certain hours of the day) pedestrian zones where streets in the city center are closed off to traffic.

There are versions of this basic idea in many towns in England, usually looks something like this: https://previews.agefotostock.com/previewimage/medibigoff/58...

Separately, there are cities that closed conventional asphalt roads to cars, without doing any physical road reconstruction, and just marked them as pedestrian-only. I've seen examples of this in Bulgaria and Romania.

My point is, don't get too hung up on the terminology, but question why is there the need for so much car traffic in the city center and pretty much no restrictions on polluting vehicles. For example, in Berlin, your car needs to be at least Euro 4 compliant to enter the city center. As a result, the roads are less busy and the air quality is much better.


No way, terminology is what we are arguing about. Only examples you were able to find are either temporary pedestrian zones or roads without physical reconstruction. Sidewalks are to separate pedestrians from cars, it was my point, so do not try to move discussion.

About your main complaint, air pollution (at the moment I write it):

Barcelona, center - 17,

Berlin - 38,

London - 46.

https://aqicn.org/city/spain/catalunya/barcelona-eixample/

http://aqicn.org/city/germany/berlin/

https://aqicn.org/city/london/


> No way, terminology is what we are arguing about

Not really, my original point was that it's stupid to have intense car traffic surrounding the pedestrian part of La Rambla. But either way, your terminology argument is completely invalid too, as demonstrated by the examples.

> Only examples you were able to find are either temporary pedestrian zones or roads without physical reconstruction.

So, to sum up, according to you, my argument is invalid because, excluding the proof that I gave you, I have no proof :) Hilarious.


Because I asked you for examples of 100% pedestrian streets with sidewalks and you couldn't show any of them, only "ex non-pedestrian streets" and "temporary pedestrian", so yes, it only proves my point, thank you for it. La Rambla is not only for pedestrians, deal with it.

So what about numbers of air pollution level? Any comments? Or you "feel" something else, what can't be described by numbers? Pretty sure you will try to ignore this part again, because you have nothing to say :)


> Because I asked you for examples of 100% pedestrian streets [you showed only] "ex non-pedestrian streets"

These streets are 100% pedestrian.

> So what about numbers of air pollution level? Any comments? Or you "feel" something else, what can't be described by numbers? Pretty sure you will try to ignore this part again, because you have nothing to say :)

I have already commented on this in the rest of the thread. If you're interested, feel free to read that and also consider how diesel exhaust (NO2 / NOx) gets converted into other pollutants and that isn't accurately captured by the numbers you sent me. Whilst other pollutants tend to damage your lungs in a way that you can't immediately feel, diesel exhaust causes choking and feels like suffocation. And there's plenty of the latter in the streets of Barcelona - let's not pretend that inhaling exhaust from 15+ year old diesels is great for your health, that's pretty dumb.

But I suspect that you aren't really interested in any of that and won't do any of the reading required to understand this point, that is why I didn't bother to type it up in the previous post.


> These streets are 100% pedestrian

In some days, lol.

My numbers are "wrong" but sources with "correct" numbers you can't find. So predictable. Just learn to admit when you are wrong.


1) Summer is less hot than in California;

2) Looks like you were here only as tourist - locals just avoid touristic restaurants, there's a plenty of good restaurants in Barcelona;

3) Barcelona has a lot of really exceptional architecture examples, not just "old church" buildings like in all other cities of Europe. "Really tight together in the center" - 4.75 meters sidewalk on the each side of the street, it's numbers for Eixample district, center of Barcelona. If all you saw was Gothic district ("old town") - it's just small district of the culture legacy;

4) It depends on skills. Salaries here are good enough by Spanish measures;

5) Pure lie. Really, you want to say you measured air pollution levels? Or you can see transparent gases? Try to check your map next time - maybe you'll see huge source of the fresh air - sea. See some photos of the streets to argue about "extremely dirty".

One criteria is against OP: it's not a cheap city, definitely. Most expensive in Spain, one of the most expensive in Europe.

https://instagram.com/p/BgYt8jwAiAp/ https://instagram.com/p/Bh_gZkcHRvf/ https://instagram.com/p/BgJJQlWA_mJ/


> 5) Pure lie. Really, you want to say you measured air pollution levels? Or you can see transparent gases?

I don't need a special device to tell me the air is bad whilst I'm suffocating :)


If you are suffocating near the sea, where do you live?


There's no way you've spent more than a week total in the city if these are the conclusions you've come to. Barcelona, like all large cities, has its drawbacks, but they're not the ones you've listed.

1. Climate is far better than most large US cities, and moderate. July highs of 86F are hardly "extremely hot".

2. Absolutely not true for 95% fo the city. Maybe get out of Gotic next time?

3. I don't even know how to respond to this point. Most cities have dense centers. Few have buildings like the Palau de la Música Catalana, the Sagrada Familia, or the Cathedral.

4. High cost of life? Compared to the rest of Spain, sure. Compared to the US? Not particularly. Salaries are low locally but purchasing power is higher.

5. Again, no idea what you're talking about. Most people walk or take the metro everywhere. Average air pollution in Barcelona is lower than most major US cities and many other major European cities as well.


> 1. Climate is far better than most large US cities, and moderate. July highs of 86F are hardly "extremely hot".

How about August. I was there in September, it was 28-30C throughout the day almost every day. Either way, that's a personal preference.

> 2. Absolutely not true for 95% fo the city. Maybe get out of Gotic next time?

I did and I have also been to places outside of Barcelona. For example, I've had much better quality food at same or lower prices in London, Rome and Milan. The truth is, in this regard, Barcelona is very much second rate.

> 3. I don't even know how to respond to this point. Most cities have dense centers. Few have buildings like the Palau de la Música Catalana, the Sagrada Familia, or the Cathedral.

Sure, I don't really mind it. I was somewhat amused at how certain parts are overbuilt, but not with really old buildings, but just stuff that looks to be from the 70s or 80s. Most historical cities have done a better job at protecting their historical city centres.

> 4. High cost of life? Compared to the rest of Spain, sure. Compared to the US? Not particularly. Salaries are low locally but purchasing power is higher.

I think your claim here is obviously false. According to Numbeo:

Local Purchasing Power in Barcelona is 40.50% lower than in San Francisco, CA

Local Purchasing Power in Barcelona is 20.21% lower than in New York, NY

Local Purchasing Power in Barcelona is 48.42% lower than in Austin, TX

and so on. I don't think there is even one mid-sized or major city where that holds true.


The culture point was a shocking one for me. I spent a week in Barcelona and you had to spend money to do pretty much anything, and if you've not pre-booked it's likely that you won't be doing what you want to do until at least tomorrow.


It sounds like you really didn't try because there are things on literally every weekend for free or low cost.

Everything from free or lowcost music festivals, to street parties, to lighting installations in the park. And thats just been the last 3 weeks in a very small radius. Theres also free museums and music gigs are incredibly good value.

Plus the beach is free, the mountains are free, walking around Montjuic is free.


That's no different to any other major European city. The difference was that in Barcelona you had to have pre-booked, otherwise things that usually aren't ticketed in cities like Amsterdam or London like parks aren't fully accessible to you.

We still had a lovely time, but when you've got limited time in a place it's worth noting that you need to book things before you go. People that like to set plans to see certain things at certain times might find themselves disappointed, even if they were happy to pay a bit extra to book on the day.


Barca has a specific kind of interesting architecture in places, but in others ... it's like ugly blocks of buildings from the 1960's. It's an odd town.


Barça is the football team. Barna is a nickname for the town.


How would you compare it to Madrid?


Madrid is a thousand times better. You feel the spanish culture everywhere you go. You’re also not suffocating in Barcelona’s tourism.


The reason for Barcelona not having as much spanish culture might be that they are catalan..


There's no one "Spanish" culture. "Catalan" culture is just one of the many facets that make the "Spanish" culture as a whole. Barcelona isn't any more different from Madrid than Valencia, Sevilla, or Bilbao are.

Basque, Valencian, and Andalusian culture are a just as "strong" and unique as Catalan.


I lived in Barcelona for eight years and I would not say that my experience was that the intellectual atmosphere was very high. In my view excessive tourism and Catalan nationalism play a negative role on both the intellectual and cultural spheres.


One clarification: Gross salaries in Spain are not as gross as in other countries.

For example, a salary advertised as EUR 45K in Spain does not include taxes and benefits (mostly unemployment insurance and medical) paid by the company.

So a SE with a gross salary of EUR45K directly costs the company employing here some EUR60K (i.e. some USD70).

The employee full cost to the company is never konwn to the employee (some 30% is somewhat hidden), unlike in other countries such as France. I guess it helps government to appear they do more with less taxes seen by their voters.

There are other indirect benefits, such as layoff benefits. If a Spanish company fires you without cause, it is liable to pay you 33 days per year worked.

I'm mentioning because comparing gross salaries in different countries, is a bit like comparing apples to samsungs.


That's not exclusive to Spain. At least Czechia, Slovakia and (I think) Germany have similar gross not-really-gross salaries.


A month per year worked is awesome, but that seems insanely expensive. How can anyone afford to hire anyone with that risk?


By offering a smaller nominal gross salaries than in “wild west” countries.


Ah, that makes sense. A conscious choice to trade high salaries for high security, I assume?


A more paternalistic approach by the state.

It adds more protection by law for the population less likely to purchase such protection out of their pocket.

It’s probably less efficient but less ruthless for those who do not know any better and could easily become homeless shortly after losing a job.


Barcelona is an amazing city to live in but with the recent Airbnb market growing the rents have become way too expensive. You should expect around 1200 euro/month for small apartment for a single person.


I second this. But definitely try to get a remote SE job there. The pay is laughable compared to for example Berlin. Which is also a great city to work and live in.


Not sure if it is much of an English-speaking friendly place, though. After visiting Barcelona and Valencia, I definitely think that without learning Spanish one can hardly thrive in these cities.


If you move to a city and don't attempt to learn the local language then yes you won't get the full experience. But you can definitely get away with minimal Spanish here, being seen to be making an effort is more important than fluency.


I have a different experience. It's easy to live there without speaking spanish. However, you should not move there if you don't want to learn it at all. In fact don't move outside any non-english speaking countries if you don't want to learn the local language. ;)


I have been here for ten years and managed up until the last year with English speaking jobs.


I saw some jobs in Berlin that payed around 70K Eur. Assuming it's before taxes, it means that after taxes it's around 3.8k/month; a bit low if you ask me.

I know pay is not the only factor, but heck, I make half in my home country, but the living costs are far lower (and I don't even pay rent).


70k is anything but low in Berlin. It is actually really, really high. For reference see here (monthly before tax) https://www.morgenpost.de/bin/bmo-213539703.jpg

With that amount of money one could afford a very sweet place to live easily, and still have plenty of spending money for intellectual pursuits or whatever.

Speaking English is no issue here, at least in the "hip" parts of town.

Would I say it's the best place to live? Probably not (Switzerland would probably rank higher), but one could do a lot worse. And with a decent IT job it's easy living. Dirt cheap compared to Silicon Valley prices.


You have to compare it with where you are coming from though.

I might move from Tokyo to Berlin and due to a combination of cost of living and taxes have the same after tax income, even though absolutely €70000 is a fuckton more. That goes for anywhere in Europe though.

I would recommend Tokyo as a great place to live overall, but intellectual and english, not so much :P


Salaries all over Europe are like that. Except for London (maybe) or Switzerland. Don't compare them to Silicon Valley or the US in general, you'll be disappointed.


> it means that after taxes it's around 3.8k/month; a bit low if you ask me

3.8K after taxes anywhere in W-Europe (outside of London) is pretty good salary


London is pricy yes but 3.8k is not a bad salary for London. In fact it is about double the average London salary.


Are you comparing that salary to US salaries? Because the still relatively low cost of living in Berlin makes that anything but low


And the social benefits should not be ignored either (health care, child support, ..)

That actually seems like a rather good salary indeed, surely from a Belgian point of view.


Besides, the salary already includes social security and health insurance.


Barcelona doesn't fit at all. Housing is expensive in comparison to local wages, people in Spain is not confortable speaking english. TBH Barcelona doesn't match any of the criteria, he should be living in the US or a commonwealth country.


In the rest of Spain sure, but in Barcelona, in the tech & design communities, everyone speaks English. I just got back from a three day design festival in Madrid and all of the studios present from Barcelona spoke English perfectly.


I cannot think better place in Europe than Barcelona to live. I used to live there for 5 years. Now I am living in Copenhagen. In Barcelona weather is perfect, great food and culture. Good connections everywhere. Cosmopolitan. However, recent nationalism movement on the region puts toll on all this.


Barcelona is the worst place you can go to in Spain, it's just filled with tourism and lacks culture and identity. Go to Madrid.


What about the recent independence trouble?


It is only "trouble" if you are involved.


Barcelona is very expensive, though


Edinburgh could be a good option. If you look hard enough, it is still relatively affordable (especially compared to the Bay Area) and I’ve found very intellectual people to work with. There seems to be a big focus in the U.K. on collaboration between academic and industry and if you’re into data, Edinburgh is home to a The Data Lab, an innovation centre around data.

I moved here from North America and have previous work experience in Silicon Valley. The startup vibe is slowly getting stronger and we’ve been very fortunate to get linked into the ecosystem.


I would add that if you want something cheaper than Edinburgh, but in the same neck of the woods, then you should try Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There is the same academia-industry collaboration and a growing number of tech jobs.

The pay is a bit lower than other parts of the UK (for tech), but that is changing and you can always find yourself remote work as well.


I not recommend any UK city, until the UK figures out the whole Brexit mess, because currently it looks pretty ugly.


+1 to Edinburgh, from a biased local.

Most (but far from all) startups in Edinburgh are based in the Codebase building: https://www.thisiscodebase.com/. We also have a couple of unicorns that were started here, Skyscanner and FanDuel; Amazon and Smartsheet also have offices; and Rockstar North is where GTA is developed.

All of the above companies are within 10-20 minutes walk of the Edinburgh Waverley train station. Public transport is awesome mainly because the city is quite small and buses are frequent and cheap.

There are plenty of meetups too - see https://techmeetup.co.uk/ for the biggest general one, which is also live streamed. There are others on security, JavaScript, Go, Machine Learning etc.

If you like hiking/camping/hill walking then Scotland is a great country for you - you have a view of the Pentland hills from the city, and Arthur's Seat in Holyrood park right next to our parliament buildings. You can be in the Cairngorms national park within a few hours by car/train.

Upper end for Senior Engineer take home pay after taxes is around £4,000 pm. You could rent a nice apartment for £1,000 pm, but could get something small and habitable for £600.

Edinburgh is Scotland's most international city, which is a double edged sword as the tackiness of the tourist shops up and down the Royal Mile showcase. But there's lots of great things to do and see, and varied places to eat and drink. The University of Edinburgh is one of the UK's best (I recently walked past Prof Peter Higgs :) and students come here from all over. The Edinburgh Festival is (one of?) the biggest arts festivals in the world and runs for the whole month of August. The Fringe Festival is a world famous testing ground for stand up comics - there's a great Netflix special from Hannibal Buress about his experience of the Edinburgh Fringe.

Big downside to the city is that it doesn't have a tech sector as well developed as, say, London. Also for as stunning and booming as the city is, the weather is pretty bad especially owing to its unpredictability i.e. four seasons in one day. It's drier than most of Scotland but that's not saying much. It's cold and the winters have short days. The flip side is that a sunny summer's day will be one of the most enjoyable of anywhere in the world.

EDIT: and yeah, I echo other warnings about waiting until the Brexit debacle has concluded to see what things are like for the UK


Before I entered this thread, I was already thinking about spending a couple months from late Jan to late March in Edinburgh. Could you expand on the weather and the Brexit warning you mentioned? Thanks!


No problem.

The unpredicatable nature of weather in Scotland means that if it looks bright and sunny in the morning, you still need to leave your house with a jacket because you cannot guarantee that it won't rain heavily later in the day. Depending on when you take lunch or arrive at work, some people will be drenched, some will enjoy clear skies and sunshine. This isn't necessarily like this every day, but prepare for variability.

The dry air in the winter can make dry your skin, so moisturise well. It can also get windy.

That said, it's fairly temperate. The weather usually goes as low as minus single digit celsius, and as high as sub-30 celsius. And compared to other locations in Scotland it rains a lot less.

https://www.climatedata.eu/climate.php?loc=ukxx0052&lang=en

With regard to Brexit, it's hard to know where to begin so I'll recap and potentially editorialise.

The Conservative party (popular right wing political party), which is currently ruling as a minority government, has historically been split on the subject of integration with Europe. One side likes banks, free trade, free movement and big business and doesn't mind a bit of bureaucracy (pro Europe); the other likes deregulation, sovereignty, controlled immigration, "brass plaques", and small/medium business (anti Europe). This argument led to a polarising vote to the populace about whether we should leave the European Union or not.

Joining the European Union, which the UK did in the 1970s, was initially about centralising trade agreements. Now though it has a common currency (though the UK retains its own independent currency), legislates and regulates on many varied aspects of life and business, and takes huge membership fees and pays out lots of grants. Some see this as a good system even if reform is needed, some absolutely hate this with a passion.

The public vote polarised the country greatly and ended 52%/48% in favour of leaving the EU. Even if the result was conclusive the fact it's within a rounding error, the winning side committed electoral fraud and made lots of promises which they instantly backed down from, and there's evidence of Russian intereference, so there's a lot of bad feeling from both sides as many can't accept the result as final.

The key take away is that the UK has had 2 years to negotiate leaving but being in the EU affects so many aspects of life, that almost nothing has been decided and there remain so many grey areas. The worry now is that no deal will be reached and leaving the EU without a deal creates massive legal uncertainty in almost every industry conceivable, and means all trade between UK and the rest of the world (currently done via EU trade agreements) will instantly get WTO tariffs - in effect putting instantaneous costly barriers to all goods and services.

At present we're hoping politicians will become sensible and sort something out that doesn't plunge the country into financial ruin, but it's the uncertainty that's the problem at the moment.

Add to this, many in Scotland wish to be independent (another similarly polarising issue) and feel their wishes regarding Brexit are being ignored by the UK government (Scotland in comparison to the rest of the UK wanted to decisively remain in the European Union 62%/38%).

So in conclusion: (a) there's a lot of uncertainty about the UK leaving the European Union in spring next year and what this will do to the smooth running of the country (b) if the UK does leave in a crash and burn style, that may lead to renewed calls for Scotland to become independent and who knows what that will look like. Caveat emptor.

(and for full transparency of my personal bias: I'm pro European, anti Conservative party, pro Scottish independence, and was on the 100,000+ march for a 2nd independence referendum at the weekend)


Thanks for the very thorough reply. I hadn't realized the exit would occur next Spring, which is around the time I plan to visit. I understand this can be tumultuous for residents, do you think it will also affect tourists?


The date of Brexit at present is 29th March. One worst case scenario is that all aeroplanes entering/leaving the country are grounded. I think it's unlikely but it has been discussed in the press https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/09/brexit-airl...

You'll probably be fine as a tourist but as I said, it's the uncertainty that's the problem. If it were me, I'd leave a week or two before 29th March.


Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are pretty good in Scotland/UK.

Glasgow's tech scene isn't the biggest but we're a friendly bunch and there's lots going on.

https://opentechcalendar.co.uk/

This site is pretty good for seeing all the tech meetups/events in the UK.


Thanks for sharing. Agree on your sentiments that Glaswegians are friendly! Are you based in Glasgow?


It's my nearest tech scene and I get involved when I can.

I live in Paisley (town 20 minute train ride away) but that's the opposite of a tech scene.


The train links into Edinburgh are pretty good - I moved from central Edinburgh across to Fife and although where I live is only ~30 minutes from Haymarket it is pretty rural and property prices are much lower.

And every day you get to go over the Forth Bridge is a good day...


It reminded me a lot of Dublin, so +1


Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Per month: Rent is 500-600 EUR max (worst case unless you're actively looking to splurge), with the average going around 250-300 or so.

You can cover food and taxes at a basic level on another 300. Of course, YMMV if you only order restaurant food and such, but if you stop by a supermarket every now and then you're set to go as low as 600 EUR/mth to live comfortably. I got by on 400 when I really had to in the past.

It's full of tech companies (most involved in outsourcing for Germany, the UK and the US) that pay decently for the appropriate experience - at least when you compare how much you'll have left at the end of the month vs UK and Germany for example.

There are several major universities around, foreigners are a common enough sight and virtually everybody (that you're likely to run into) born in the 90s or later speaks English on at least a basic level.

There are plenty of events on a general level, though if you're looking to find communities focused on very specific niches, you will likely have a harder time than in SF, mostly due to the smaller population size.

You can likely afford to not have a commute at all if you go in the 500+ range for rent.

I've been living in it ever since I started college in it many years ago, and weighing the pros and cons, I find it can really go toe to toe with a lot more famous cities in terms of the kind of lifestyle you can afford and the problems you put up with in exchange.

Not sure if US citizens require a visa or not.

LE: Based on points made in other posts - it's rated as one of the safest cities in Eastern Europe and has very affordable private health care. Getting a tooth fixed, for example, is around 40 EUR. A doctor's appointment is usually in the 25-40 EUR range for most specializations. Public healthcare, unfortunately, is worth avoiding if it can be helped.

Water has decent quality - you can drink the tap water - but a filter is not a bad investment. Air quality is rated quite high relative to most other cities in the EU as well.

Great net speed.


I heard that Romania have great internet speed, especially comparing to fellow nations in Eastern Europe. However..... what about its stability?

BTW what about food? I am picking a location for doing remote job next few year in Europe, now it seems that Romania should be part of my short list.

Like, I really love to eat, so it would be nice to know whether Cluj-Napoca have a diverse catering service.


I'm Romanian so I might be biased.

I think Romania is awesome in terms of food. There are plenty of options (in the big cities, Cluj being one) in restaurants as well as in supermarkets. I always urge for Romanian food after traveling abroad. Home cooking is still big in Romania and you'll find a lot of restaurants offering "home cooked" like dishes.

In terms of stability I wouldn't worry, at least not for the next 3-5 years. Romania is a member of EU and NATO and I know it gets a lot of bad press (which is deserved and actually there is a lot of political turbulence lately) but for a foreigner I think it doesn't really matter (Poland and Hungary are still great regardless of the current political struggles).

A 1Gbps (1000Mbps) internet connection is ~9Euros/month

Downside: Bureaucracy, lack of highways, public healthcare system (there is a private one though wich is decent), very slow trains


Stability of what? Internet? There are riots in the streets if the internet goes down. And I'm only half joking.

Regarding food, I'm from Bucharest and the food variety and quality is not amazing compared to a major Western metropolis. But food is cheap and if you ask some locals plus you do some research you should be ok. Cluj is smaller so I don't imagine it being better than Bucharest regarding food.


I have visited Cluj few times and stayed in hotel. Office life is international but the moment you step out the street it's Eastern Europe in terms of difficult to navigate in English. But everyone is nice. I assume living there would require learning the language. Local food is not interesting, if you value food. Look into Mediterranean direction. The city is nice but it is not cosmopolitan, but I think it might be moving that direction.


I moved from Bucharest to Cluj-Napoca. The food is far better in Cluj and with great variety: vegan, asian, italian you name it! Some restaurants are Michelin star level according to some, though none have been officially evaluated. Most food places close at midnight. 1 in 10 people work in IT in this city, there are meetups on any tech stack you want and the Universities are the best in the country.


Romania has great local food! But not so much when it comes to international cuisine - it's either bad or very expensive. Internet is fast and stable and on top of that super cheap, compare with other UE countries. I'd recommend RO if you enjoy nature, specially the mountain/rural side.


There are very good restaurants in Cluj. Check Baracca, Da Pino, Bujole, Roata, etc.


I was there, cool little city. I think I could see myself living in Cluj if I wanted to save a lot of money, but I did stay in cooler cities in Poland, Czechia. Also heard a lot about Budapest or Istanbul. But a short term stay in Cluj (maybe 3 months) would definitely be an option.


Kiev , Lviv , Kharkiv in Ukraine are extremely cheap, it’s still in Europe, and it has tons of talents. It’s a known talent pool actually. Eating out starts from $2 usd, for $3-4 you could even have a service in the restaurant. Renting a flat starts from $200/mo for some sub urbs areas. You can rent some office space for $150/mo I bet in most places you called cheap you spent more on coffee and smoothies.


And just be prepared to be invaded by Russia on a cloudy afternoon.


I think of the cities listed above this only applies to Kharkiv. And even Kharkiv is much safer now than it was three years ago.


Seconded.


Eindhoven, The Netherlands. Kind of like the silicon valley of Holland still with major tech companies around (Philips, NXP Semiconductor, ASML, Tomtom, Here) and a growing startup culture. Eindhoven University of Technology is a major force in e.g. Solar and rent for a centrally located appartment will be around 1000 Euro. Train connections to Amsterdam and Germany (Düsseldorf) and a local airport with cheap connections throughout Europe.


+1 for Eindhoven. Very cheap beautiful (quite small) houses. Very nice people. Lots of tech. Great transport, both trains and airport.


I’d recommend Ann Arbor if you don’t mind the midwestern winters. [0] UMich is there, and you’ll find people in academia working on very interesting problems. Very friendly locals too.

[0] https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/most-educated-cities-i...


I'm a software engineer living in A2 and also recommend moving here. It has a small town feel but has most amenities anyone would need. Comcast provides gigabit internet for $120/mo in some areas of town. There's a great downtown scene with a ton of university students to stimulate intellectual curiosity.

There is a growing tech scene here with companies like Duo (sold for 2bn to cisco), barracuda networks, and a thriving startup scene (farmlogs, trove, spark incubator, etc.).

We have excellent meetups -- at least for javascript (regularly 100 people attend them).

The food here is pretty great considering the size of A2.

The cost of living, however, is quite a bit more expensive than most places in the midwest. Getting an apartment downtown is going to run you close to $1.5-2k.5/mo. There is definitely affordable living here, but you'll have to look further outside the 2mi radius of downtown A2. Purchasing a house in A2 is extremely difficult and fairly expensive.

Also, we are 45 mins away from Detroit, which is making a huge comeback. It has a ton of cultural diversity and some excellent food, things to do.


I see fairly reasonably sized houses in the 200k - 400k range in Ann Arbor. That seems totally fine. What's your experience purchasing?


I grew up in Michigan, and hated it until a few years ago when my sister moved to Grand Rapids. GRR has some of the best veggie/vegan food I've had in the world, a strong arts scene and an equally vibrant underground music scene.

Ann Arbor is also quite fantastic. I study middle-eastern percussion, and Ann Arbor is a hub for my musical world. Every time I visit family in Michigan I take a couple of days to play house parties, go to concerts, take lessons, and jam. The Arabic/Turkish music scene there is very vibrant, and the city itself is unexpectedly diverse for the midwest.

The cost of living in Michigan is lower than in some third world countries. I bought my mother a house in Grand Rapids, in cash, for less than 25% of what it would have cost me for a down-payment on a 750 ft^2 condo in a really bad neighborhood in San Francisco.

The weather, however, is the deal-closer for me. Winters are pretty miserable.

(edited for clarity and punctuation)


Second this. GRR is not too far from AnnArbor, Kalamazoo, BigRapids,Lansing. Which are all college towns. All of them are may be an hour away or two hour tops. GRR has an incredible beer scene,midwestern non-chalance,salaries are not too great, but it is cheap to live there. My buddy used to work for Atomic Object-in GRR and he never had anything bad to say about them.


I've recently moved to Chicago and am thoroughly loving it. There are tons of programming meetups here, seems pretty progressive, super good public transportation (at least for the US) and costs seem to be mostly reasonable.

My studio apartment is about $1k a month in a nice part of town right next to a train stop. I really like that since Chicago is the third largest city in the country, you can probably find just about anything here'd you want, without having to pay as much to live here as you would on the coasts.


Curious to hear your thoughts after winter


Ha! I spent about a year in Chicago a few years back and got the full winter experience. I actually like the cold and snow, so I wasn't bothered too much. I was the digital nomad who went to Lithuania in November and December and somehow it didn't occur to me that I was setting myself up for endless twilight (and ended up really enjoying it anyway).

That's definitely something to consider though if you need the sun. I found that having access to the train makes it way easier to get around in the snow compared to having to drive everywhere, but YMMV for sure.


Winters are fine here if you're from the northeast. It's comparable to Toronto, which is actually not that cold.


It depends what you mean by cheap but you can live in Somerville next to Cambridge MA for a fraction of SF rent and be in perhaps the best intellectual environment in the world.

https://boston.craigslist.org/search/aap?bedrooms=1&maxAsk=1...

Looks like it’s pretty easy to find a sub-$1000/mo bedroom


Sub 1k/mo bedroom...! Times do change, and fast. I lived there for seven years. I travel very extensively throughout the world for (research) work and Somerville offers by far the best social environment for hacker and intellectual types that I've ever found. I would be happy to return.

If the OP is into anarchism, art, and culture I would recommend Napoli. An apartment in the best location imaginable would never be more than €700. Airport is a few minutes from the city center. The food, from restaurant to Farmers markets, is unbelievably good and costs little. The intellectual life, well...


The OP asked for a place where he/she can speak English as well, and unfortunately this is not really the case.


Actually, you can get by pretty well in Napoli on english. Initially it was a struggle for me (native english speaker) to avoid using it all the time and learn the local languages.

It's true that it's not Berlin, but on the other hand it's not any harder to get around in english in southern italy than in portugal (the suggestion in the current top post in this thread).


Agreed! I live here now and there are tons of high tech jobs, lots of great restaurants and bars, fun festivals, and it is moderately affordable, though I do have several roommates which seems to be the favor that offsets the cost.


Bangalore,India:

Rent price : 200$/month for a 1000sqft apartment. Bangalore is often called the silicon valley of India, filled with software professionals.

Majority of the city's inhabitants are migrants from other parts of the country and almost everyone communicates in English.

The living expenses for a couple is not more than 600-700$/month including rent for a decent lifestyle.

The city has a good pub culture and mostly urban population. The weather almost throughout the year is pleasant 25-30 degree C and light rains for around 4-5 months.

Ample available Shared co-working spaces filled with emerging software startups.

Although I would also like to point out some cons:

As an American, you might find the chaos of an Indian city overwhelming for some time. There are people literally everywhere and all common use services(taxi service, public transportation, laundry services, cafes, restaurants) are usually exhausted to the brim.

Traffic: Imagine NewYork in peak hours.


Sorry but $200/month for 1000sqft? Thats not in Bangalore, or just a shitty place. Any place in bangalore thats not upscale but good amenities nearby, its easily $400 with Maintenance for a decent 2BHK in an apartment.

$700 is just not gonna happen for an couple with rent, and you are talking about an American with a different food habit. More like $1000.

Horrible traffic, non-existent public transport, water scarcity, pollution and dust are just cherry on top.


The only good thing about Banglore is that it has a very big tech community. But the wages are really low compared to the west. Traffic is just terrible. Sometimes it may take you 1 2 hours even to cover 1 KM. Its overpopulated and has too much pollution. Night life is nowehere close compared to SFO and so is the intellectual community. Again nothing to justify to move all over from SFO.


I have been living in Bangalore for 5 years and this is completely exaggerated opinion.

- In no situation it will take 2 hours for a km unless there is a natural disaster period. - Bangalore is one of lesser polluted cities in India. Pollution index is mostly green. SFO is much better though in terms of particulate matter index. - Nightlife, i haven't experienced in SFO so will not comment.

You can justify a move from SFO to BLR if you want a multitude cheaper place to live without losing out too much on the tech community. I live an above average lifestyle for less than 500$.


It's nowhere exaggerated. What part of Banglore do you live in? Try traveling in Bellandur at around 5 - 6 PM and see by yourselves. In most places it's almost impossible to predict whether you can cover as low as 10km - 15km even if you have 2 hours to spare[1]. Banglore is over populated with people everywhere. You should travel to west for a vactaion so that you know how bad a place is Banglore compared to western cities. It changed my persepctive when I did that. I also used to think Banglore was a place to settle. Not anymore.

Pollution masks are almost a necessity if you are in Banglore and care about your lungs[2]. There are traffic everywhere. Also have you seen Bellandur and other lakes of Banglore recently? Bellandur lake is the most polluted lake in India[3]. I dont even want to start on water scarcity.

> You can justify a move from SFO to BLR if you want a multitude cheaper place to live without losing out too much on the tech community.

He would be also be making an order of magnitude less. After working for some years and going back to US he would be having peanuts as savings. The tech community is also not anywhere good as SFO. What you see in SFO today you can expect to see in Banglore after a few years rebranded in a diffrent name.

And the nightlife and quality of life is just terrible when you compare to SFO. I don't understand why will anyone who is on their senses will move to Banglore from SFO.

[1] https://www.quora.com/Why-is-there-so-much-traffic-in-bangal...

[2] https://medium.com/@selfishaltruist/how-bad-is-bangalore-air...

[3]https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/bangalore-india-...


How does a non-Indian English speaker go about hunting for an apartment lease in Bangalore? Especially short-term leases. This is the biggest bottleneck for me.


everyone speaks English in India (mostly).

Also the online ecosystem is very highly developed in India. Look at http://nobroker.com, housing.com, 99acres.com , etc etc


Leases are typically 11 months long (apartments). If you need options shorter than that, you should either find a cheap hotels, or Airbnb before settle on a longer-term option.


I used a neat service called "nestaway" while I was there, definitely recommend it.


Airbnb?


Visit for at least a week before taking any decision about Bangalore. Unless you like chaos and Indian food, there nothing much here which other places can't offer better


This, except New Delhi.

Bigger roads, much better infrastructure/subway system. We actually have close to 7-8 world class universities in the city (IITD, AIIMS, NSIT, DCE, IIITD, etc).

Rentals are also cheaper.


Delhi is overpopulated and is one of the most populated cities in the world. It's also not a safe city to begin with. And you would not be making anywhere close to what you make in SFO. There are good Universities when compared to other Indian universities but I don't think nobody calls Delhi an Intellectual city. Has nothing to justify moving from SFO unless you are a lot into Indian politics probably.


You can also consider NCR , India. It's the national captial region which includes Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. Pros. Internet - 1 Gbps internet at ~20$ a month

Lots of great colleges - IIT D, JNU, AIIMS, DCE Housing - You can get a 2500ft 3BHK high rise condo in gurgaon for ~800$/month. With that you'll get a jacuzzi, modular kitchen, round the clock security, pool , gym etc.

Labour is cheap - Maids which do cleaning, laundry and cooking cost ~150$/month. Drivers cost around 300 . You really don't have to do chores

Great food - Everything is app based anyway, so you can get good quality pasta/salad home delivered to your place at 3AM for less than 10 dollars.

Activities - you get go karting, mystery rooms, great dining places in both delhi in gurgaon, also an f1 track which has track days where you can drive your own car on the buddha circuit for cheap!

Good Roads - Unlike some cities in India, the NCR region is connected by highways since it's made up of multiple states. Though if you have got friends in another part of town, it can mean a commute of upto 70 kms. It has a population of 24 million.

Great quality weed - weed is virtually legal and will set you back by ~10$/quarter and concentrates for ~70$/q. Lots of microbreweries in gurgaon too.

Cons

Pollution - It can get a bit bad in winter, but you can install airpurifiers in your car and home to offset most of the effects.


Delhi is not really an intellectual city. Also, forget Delhi if you're a girl.


Given the political, LGBT , and arts movements originate in Delhi and fan to the rest of India, I disagree with you. But I suppose you are entitled to your opinion.

It's one of the few places where pedestrian art markets are actually created - show me the equivalent of Dilli Haat, National Gallery of Modern Art anywhere else in India.

It would be interesting to hear you think that's true about the rest of India as well.

Market salaries for senior engineers in India are at valley level. The startup scene in India rivals only the Valley and I do not think any other country (including Europe ) comes close to the action here.

Most interestingly, as an expat you are not blocked from starting up. This is just the latest of a bunch of expats raising large venture money in India - https://yourstory.com/2018/09/how-a-chinese-entrepreneur-bui... . That in itself puts India miles ahead of locked down ecosystems in China, Europe and several other countries.

Medical care is dirt cheap. People travel to India from the US to get surgeries done which cost less than a day visit to a US clinic. Oh and the food ain't bad.


Haha so true! Forget anything India if you are a girl


+1 for Bangalore There is Hyderabad and Pune as well


Air quality is pretty rough in certain parts of Bangalore but the low cost of living is hard to beat.

Source: I’ve been there.


Bangalorean here. I'd +1 what's said above. (both pros and cons)


And an intellectual community?


Absolutely, and aplenty! But be prepared to network/dig-in a little to find exactly what you want. We definitely have people :) and communities which are both technically and intellectually strong.


I just moved to Hobart, Australia from SF. It's quite affordable. I pay A$400 /mo rent in a share house, and walk 20 mins to a downtown co-working space every day (also A$400 /mo). Lifestyle is pretty incredible. It's small, but still a state capital city, so there's plenty going on. Hobart is also the home port for the Australian and French Antarctic programs, so a lot of smart folks come through. Plus it was a trial zone for the National Broadband Network, so everyone has cheap fiber to the home.

edit: also the exchange rate is favorable, so if you have savings in USD they will go a long way.


I live across the pond, and though I love Hobart and tassie, intellectual is not exactly in the top 10 words I'd expect most people to use to describe most australian culture, let alone in its smaller cities.

Edit: which is mainly why I'm in Melbourne.

Edit2: though to be fair, looking at half the suggestions so far, no one seems to be taking said criteria very seriously.


Yeah, I was thinking of the "focus on my own intellectual pursuits" part of op's post. I imagined this to be something like writing open-source software, or doing math.


Tasmania is legitimately one of the most beautiful place I've seen anywhere in the world. Bruny Island, Huon Valley, most of the East coast, Hobart itself... but you absolutely pay for the beauty with lack of amenities and convenience.

The entire state only has 500k people in it, and you feel it. Shops close early, and close multiple days a week to save staff costs. You have to buy most stuff online, and shipping takes a while longer than anywhere else (for obvious reasons). The internet is mostly fixed wireless, unless you're in the middle of Hobart. There's regular power and Internet outages. There's a lack of people-stuff, so very few meetups, and it's very hard to find friends.

Most my family are down there (chefs and farmers), and it absolutely suits the outdoors types. Fishing, boating, hiking, and photography are all just cheating down there.

But I wouldn't call it a hub for... anything. You're on an island, and it very much feels like it.

Without a doubt one of my absolute favourite places in Australia (and the world) to holiday though. It's in my top 5 "places people must see before they die" list.


It's definitely not a hub. I wouldn't recommend trying to find a software job here. However, if you are a software engineer focusing on intellectual pursuits (like writing, math, OSS) and not working, then Hobart is pretty damn good. Other places that are as cheap and beautiful can have some major downsides in terms of language barriers, safety, looking like a tourist, etc.


I'm in Melbourne right now but I'd love to move over the strait to Hobart. Do you have a remote job? The only thing stopping me is not being able to find work there - of the many things Hobart has, a thriving high tech industry is not one of them.


Melbourne here too wave -- greatest city on Earth, IMHO (I'm not from here), but we were in Adelaide just last week and it's getting interesting there. I assume rent is cheaper than Melbourne due to lower demand.


Yeah, I've been writing open source software mostly, plus a bit of software consulting. Several folks in my co-working space work remotely for companies in Melbourne.


tasmania has historically been a relatively poor part of australia, recently hobart has been having an issue with availability and affordability of housing, particularly relative to local wages: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-23/hobart-beats-sydney-mo...

hobart is not a great choice if you are looking to find software-related work locally. you'd be better off in one of the bigger "mainland" australian cities, melbourne, sydney or brisbane, or perhaps perth if the mining industry is in full boom phase. +/- intellectual atmosphere.


I agree that this isn't a place to find a software job. I interpreted op's "follow my own intellectual pursuits" as not working. If they are coming from the bay area as a software engineer then their savings will go a very long way here, but not so much in other big cities.


As a fellow Aussie living on the main land - Tassie is absolutely gorgeous. I'd love to work remotely from Tassie and live on a big farm. Oh boy... One can dream.


I'm not Aussie (yet), but I think you could pull it off!


Remote role with NBN, it's probably do-able!


Funnily enough I had faster/better internet on a farm at the very bottom of Tasmania (50mbps fixed wireless) than I did in an inner Melbourne suburb (ADSL2 only, walking distance to CBD).

One of the weird things about the NBN roll-out was rural areas getting more attention than city suburbs.


> One of the weird things about the NBN roll-out was rural areas getting more attention than city suburbs.

In some ways that makes the possibility of getting out and working remote better, you could buy a much cheaper house and have it paid off much sooner in a nice town, if that's your bag.


Yeah, I've been pleasantly surprised with fiber here in Hobart. The only thing that sucks is the latency of ssh to US cloud providers, but I haven't found it to be a big deal.


I am doing this in Taipei right now.

The living costs are low and there is a thriving intellectual community, but there is definitely a language barrier. Most Taiwanese can speak enough English to be friendly and helpful (which they are), but not enough to have intellectual conversations. If you are willing to tolerate the language barrier and put in the time to find the people who can converse intellectually in English then it's a good option. I can't say how much of an intellectual English-speaking community there is since I haven't explored that.

Otherwise, I can't say enough good things about Taipei as a city. You can find a nice apartment downtown for $600/mo or less, the public transportation is amazingly good, and I've never traveled anywhere with better food for the money, provided you're willing to eat Taiwanese, Chinese, or Japanese food most days.


What about Singapore, Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur? The first two are definitely more expensive (KL maybe even being cheaper) but in SG and KL English is the primary language and in HK you'll be fine with it as well.


Singapore and Hong Kong are options but they're not inexpensive.

Haven't been to KL personally, but from what I understand it's relatively polluted and doesn't have the same quality of life as the other three.


I'm in KL right now and I am actually very surprised by the high quality of living here. You're right it's not on par with SG or HK but closer to those than any other big city in SEA (Bangkok, HCMC, Jakarta, Manila, etc) - while still being quite cheap.

(That said most people I speak to don't share my opinion here)


Well in that case, it's awesome that you're enjoying things in KL! Glad to hear another opinion.


Thanks, you too :)

To make my store complete (for anyone thinking about coming to KL), here are some precise reasons why I think KL is nice:

- Literally everyone speaks English, basically fluent.

- Great public transport.

- Road traffic is light outside rush hours.

- Huge middle class, I don't see any poverty here really (compared to the rest of SEA). A ton of nice condos, very very reasonably priced.

- Mix of cultures (lots of Chinese Malay and Indian Malay) -> amazing food

- Almost no crime (this is the same in all of SEA)


Hk is too expensive and stressful


I've been to Taipei, and the language barrier was quite horrible. People speaking English seemed to be the exception, not the norm – I'd never appreciated Google Translate as much as I did in Taiwan. And a lot of things work quite a bit differently than in the West – so a few times I had to be borderline rude to trigger someone enough to attempt to explain stuff to me in English instead of just shooing me away.


It’s better than a lot of places though. If you want an english friendly country in Asia it’s going to be expensive (hk, singapore, tokyo, etc.)


While in Tokyo I was not impressed with my ability to communicate in English. If you don't learn Japanese your options are very limited IMO.


very much agree, lived in tokyo for 1 year, i even had a private japanese tutor, but could hardly even order stuff from mcds, sure you could point to the pictures, but the follow up questions would be something along the lines of do you want this as part of a set or individually ordered, would you like it super sized, and/or would you like to swap coke for sprite or something along those lines. the funny thing is that i found out a lot of chinese students worked those menial jobs, so i could use mandarin to order. the machines were the best, just follow the pictures.

i love japan in general, had a lot of friends luckily that spoke great english, but the cost of living for me was 1700 usd per month (this was back in 2006, of course i lived in high flying shinjuku), and the english barrier was difficult to get over. probably if i was a bit younger and didn't need to seriously advance my career, i would have stuck it out and learned the language. you could probably find a decent apartment for 800-1200 usd, not sure what the rate is now.

i do think the high-tech scene is good in tokyo, the food awesome, the culture one of a kind, i just wasn't patient enough to learn the language.


Yeah, English ability in Japan is really limited overall. My mom (who's a Japanese national) was surprised/disappointed at my cousins' English ability after taking six years of English classes (the norm, I think).

From what I understand, part of it is just English being vastly different from Japanese, and the other part is the Japanese school system being really terrible at language teaching.


Agreed. For a long termer, you need to make a 5-6 month full time investment in learning the language. From then on, being immersed means you’re gradually improving and your options and understanding of the everyday expands considerably.


I travel a lot, and the top 3 or so interesting conversations I had with locals were in Taipei. It is also clean, tolerant, laid-back, super bike-friendly, and has some great nightlife as well as outstanding natural scenery nearby.

On the other hand, if you live there, it might be necessary to learn Chinese if you don't want to feel like you're living in a bubble in the long run.


I have friends doing the expat life in Taipei, I +1 this. Everything is super cheap and you pretty much have everything a developed city has.


Taiwan has quite a lot of (hardware) tech companies. I'm curious, how much exposure by being there can one get from that fact? Is it like an open ecosystem or is it more like a cluster of (Chinese) forbidden cities leaving you wonder about them from outside?


How concerned are the locals about the potential of getting "harmonized" by mainland China? I wouldn't want to be there if that goes down.


Generally very concerned, but it depends on who you talk to. It's extremely, extremely unlikely China would take any sort of violent military action to bring this about. More likely to continue be a long process of exerting geopolitical pressure over decades.


0 chance


It's not sexy, but college towns in the midwest can usually be pretty affordable as long as you're not trying to live exactly next to campus: Madison, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, South Bend, Ames, etc. If you hear people talk about how cool Austin used to be 20 years ago, they're basically talking about what these towns are still like.


Agree Big time... good luck convincing the HN crew though ;)


In order to give any kind of really meaningful feedback I'd have to ask a couple of other questions:

1) Define "cheap". You're in the Bay Area, which is by every definition the opposite of "cheap", but substituting that with something like Seattle or Austin or Brooklyn doesn't sound like it's accomplishing what you're looking for to me, even though it's absolutely cheaper. You said you want to focus on your own intellectual pursuits, so are you planning to quit your job and just try to pick up freelance gigs here and there to pay bills or live off your savings or what?

2) Related to #1... if you plan on quitting your job and just freelancing it or living off your savings, you're going to run into visa issues if you move abroad. If you're planning on finding a job somewhere else that heavily impacts the situation - it needs to be a tech center that offers other options that will sponsor you. What's the intention here?

3) What non-work features/perks/requirements/options are you concerned about? Middle of nowhere Kansas is one of the cheapest places you could possibly find in the US, but it's absolutely not for everyone and won't work out if you like having new restaurants opening every week, going to museums, and the other little things a big city provides to add variety to life.

4) Living in the Bay Area means you're used to cool and rainy but still mild weather year-round. Do you think you could deal with snow and wind with temperatures well into the negative? If not winters in Northern Europe (and, realistically, a lot of the rest of Europe) are going to be a problem. Not a fan of humid and stagnant with no air conditioning? That's going to mean the Caribbean, Central/South America, and parts of the Pacific aren't going to be an option - it's not standard there because of the power requirements. If you end up somewhere with a drastically different climate that can completely destroy your motivation and mood, which could be a deal breaker.


  Living in the Bay Area means you're used to cool and rainy
Rainy? Rain averages 13-14 inches a year in San Jose.


Are you saying the Bay Area is synonymous with San Jose?


Rainfall is similar around the Bay Area, with the North Bay getting generally more rain than the South Bay, but everywhere in the Bay area is below average rainfall for non-desert areas.

Also, only SF proper could be considered particularly "cool".


Seattle gets less rainfall than Atlanta, by annual volume. The way we speak about and measure rain don't always match.


Exactly! I swear that sometimes I feel like I’m on Reddit here.

Gray and miserable is a quantifiable thing, but doesn’t match with the normal measure. It doesn’t have much to do with climate overall but can be disasterous to your mood. He’s looking at leaving the area in debate, so does it really matter what anyone else thinks about it? Of course not, it was purely a talking point to make sure OP thought about the climate.


I'm not saying it's Seattle or Portland... should I have said "misty" or "gray and miserable"? The specific amount of sky water wasn't really the point of the question.


The Bay Area is far from "misty" or "gray and miserable". Go live in some places that are truly like that, and then compare. Examples: Scotland, Luxembourg, etc.


???

Have you ever actually been to the bay area? Compared to the most of the country, compared to most of the developed world it's sunny as all hell.


The answer here is places that are COLD. For any type of city, the one in a colder place is cheaper. Minneapolis might be a good choice, or Chicago if you want a bigger atmosphere. You’ll have to put in elbow grease to create an intellectual milieu but it is there.


That cold-cheap bit is decidedly not applicable to Europe, by the way. Scandinavia is overall among the most expensive places in Europe. I'd imagine Switzerland is more expensive by a bit, but Oslo and Stockholm are brutal as well.


I think it is applicable to Europe, but in a different way: Scandinavia and Switzerland are expensive, but salaries are equally high. Compare that to the French Riviera for example, where house prices are nearly as high as Stockholm, but salaries are much lower. That's the problem with sunshine: it attracts a lot of wealthy retirees and tourists, who distort the local market.


Ha! No they aren't!

I lived in Sweden for seven years, and this is so far from the truth it's hilarious.

Relative quality of life is garbage in Sweden for a tech worker. Your life will be not that much better than if you work in Carlings selling plaid shirts to hard-rock hipsters.

My Swedish friends have decent jobs and still live unglamorous, frugal lives. As soon as I left Sweden, my quality of life completely transformed for the better.


I think it's all relative... I have two colleagues who moved from our offices on the Riviera to our offices in Stockholm, and they gained about 15% take-home salary each, with cheaper rents and public transport. I really don't think anyone's life in Sweden is garbage, as long as you can stand the winters


Minor clarification: I did say relative QoL for a tech worker, meaning less difference between how a low-skilled worker and a tech worker would be remunerated in Sweden vs another country like Poland.

If you're a low-skilled worker, QoL is likely going to be better in Sweden. If you're a tech worker, QoL is almost certainly going to be better in Poland.


My anecdata says otherwise. I still work for a Swedish company and visit frequently. I still know many tech workers who's lives are miserable, quite frankly.

If you go to live and work in Sweden, where will you actually stay? You can't rent an apartment — the waiting list is around 16 years for a decent apartment in the city. It's even several years wait to rent an apartment in the ghetto.

How did your colleagues find apartments? If they didn't buy places or have apartments provided through their employer, I'm guessing they're sub-letting through Blocket.


Work deals with finding apartments, but only by contacting estate agents, the lease is signed and paid by the employee. They're both next to "Skytteholm", apparently it's quite nice and not too far from either city center or airport?


Everyone has a different idea of a reasonable commute distance, but I'd say Skytteholm is pretty far — it's an hour by car to the city. Not sure what the public transport situation is like there.

For reference, Stockholm's suburbia is places like Hägersten.


Swede here. I think this is because it's really, really hard to improve your quality of life in any meaningful way by just spending more money. Especially in the city.


…Then what is this discussion about? The title of the thread is "Ask HN: Cheap places to live with a good intellectual atmosphere".

I might be misinterpreting your point, but it seems like you're taking the position that it doesn't matter that Sweden is outrageously expensive in many regards, because money has no impact on quality of life anyway. If that is indeed the position you're taking, well, it's a trite and nonsensical one.

Your final sentence makes me believe I've misinterpreted you, so apologies in advance if that's the case.


There was no point to misinterpret, it was just an observation. You claimed that quality of life for a tech worker is relatively garbage. I was simply providing context as to why — tech workers make lots of money (comparatively) but it’s hard to spend that money to improve your quality of life.


Relative to Sweden, I believe there are other European countries where the equivalent job would net you far more disposable income. By quality of life, I understand we're talking strictly about material things (since they cost money, and we're discussing money).

If you're a tech worker in Poland, you will feel far wealthier living in Poland than if you're a tech worker living and working in Sweden. You will be able to live in a nicer home, eat out at restaurants more often, and generally have more money to do stuff with.

Buying things (clothes, gadgets) is a different story, because they can't import the stuff any cheaper than Sweden does, but I don't think the difference there is enough to counteract the general difference in QoL and buying power between living in the two countries.

Edit: Also, to clarify, I did not say that quality of life for a tech worker is garbage. It's actually generally great, as I think everyone here knows. My point is that if you want to reap the financial benefits of being a tech worker, Sweden is not the place to do it.


Scandinavia

Salaries and cost of living between Norway and Sweden is different enough that it doesn't make sense to talk about them is a unified block.


The cost of housing / income ratio in Stockholm is so out of whack that it’s basically impossible to enter the housing market without at least €50k-75k in savings to have as a down payment for an apartment anywhere nice.


And in addition to this renting is basically kafkaesque. You might be able to sublet a place for up to a year, but the rents are equally horrible compared to the average income. Getting a first hand contract is essentially impossible unless you know a private landlord who will give you preferential treatment, as generally the is a queue in which you need AT LEAST 10+ years to get something not nice at all


It's the same in Switzerland. There is just almost no way to be able to afford a house (or just an apartment), because most of them start at 1 million and I am not even talking about apartments in Zurich.


Thats disappointing. After visiting, I found I really enjoyed both Sweden and Norway, and wouldn't mind moving there someday. Sounds like that may be difficult.


Who wants to live in Stockholm anyway? Malmö is much better connected to Europe. You can basically drive to Germany, You can fly anywhere from Copenhagen which is 20 minutes train ride away from Malmö. Copenhagen airport has a lot more flights than Stockholm.

That said, you get advantage of being right next to Copenhagen. It is a big market of jobs there. Salaries are high because it is a big, crowded city with high living expenses. So you could live in Malmö for cheap and commute to Copenhagen for work.

All that said, as a 26 year old, I managed to take a gap year in Malmö now, after working/saving for 4 years, while managing to keep paying my mortgage, owning a car etc.


The job market for tech in Stockholm is larger than Copenhagen + Malmö combined.


Is it really? I imaged Copenhagen being capital of tech and pharma in Nordics. Am I wrong?


Norway's rental market is nothing like Sweden's. In Norway rents may be higher but it's trivial to get a nice apartment in the center of town basically immediately.


That's reassuring. If I had to pick between the two (assuming I had a choice), I would pick Norway. How's the job market for developers?


Honestly I haven't checked for a few years (currently living in Sweden), but last time I checked most programming jobs where working for engineering (mainly connected to the oil industry) or finance companies as opposed to more pure software companies. Not that this has to be a bad thing in any way. That being said I gather from friends in Norway that the startup scene is slowly growing even there and there are more and more small software companies looking to hire.


Switzerland isn't that cold. The weather in Geneva is basically identical to Paris.


GDP is corrolated with distance from the equator where it's warmest. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2012/03/20/why-is-there-s...


Seasons are definitely a catalyst for evolution.


> For any type of city, the one in a colder place is cheaper.

Did you leave NYC and Boston just completely out of your calculations?


The cold there is not comparable to the cold of Chicago and Montreal


There are outliers. But in general, places that are cold and/or hot and humid are not as in demand as others.

NYC and Boston are unique in their institutions and history, giving them enough momentum to stick around as desirable destinations despite the weather. And NYC isn’t that bad cold-wise.


But, then I'd have to be cold. What kind of crazy math is that? I really don't like being cold.


Yeah, that’s why the cold places are cheaper. The benefit is that a certain kind of person stays out of there. The best way to describe it is people who don’t have their shit together. In a place where not dressing for the weather can be a fatal mistake, there isn’t room for fuckups.


I guess I'm a fuckup, because I really like nice weather.


Obviously the logic doesn’t work that way, but you absolutely do not see people showing up late to meetings and canceling plans last minute in Minneapolis or Boston the way they do in Los Angeles or Atlanta.


I live in Atlanta. People cancel their plans in Atlanta because they don't want to sit in traffic. (Or at least that's what they say - it's a good all-purpose excuse.) From what I know of LA it's probably the same way there.

Next question: why do Atlanta and Los Angeles have such horrible traffic?


Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. Both of these cities have loads of expats and intellectually stimulating environments.

Big and spacious apartments for $1000/mo or less. Fibre @ 40mbps for $100/mo or thereabouts. A country that has both tropical and Mediterranean climates (think of the fruit and veggies!) with beautiful nature (esp. CT where it's integrated with the city).

Eat out every night in style at prices cheaper than a European corner cafe. In my experience EU food is overrated and expensive. Have been to America many years ago an all I can remember is that people and portions are big!

Yes, there's crime. Happy to answer any questions.


How bad is the crime? I've talked to a few who've lived there but they always tell me the crime forced them to move out. Do hijackings at robots still happen often?


The fact that you call a traffic light a "robot" makes me suspect you're a South African or your parents are :)

I have never been hijacked, robot or otherwise. The worst that happened to me was getting mugged in a dark alley around 7pm in Cape Town. Rely shouldn't have been walking around that neighbourhood well-dressed.

In general I leave my laptop in the trunk and ladies leave their bags there too. The most common form of traffic light theft is "smash and grab" which is entirely mitigated by getting the right kind of windows and not leaving your stuff on the seat/where it's visible.

In ZA 80% of the crime is committed against poor people, which really sucks but which realistically means that only 20% of the crime stats actually would apply to the affluent/expats. Ultimately you need to be a little more vigilant and aware, but not much more than you would be in any major city.


>"The most common form of traffic light theft is "smash and grab" which is entirely mitigated by getting the right kind of windows and not leaving your stuff on the seat/where it's visible."

That's quite a statement that the experience of waiting at a stoplight would be improved by investing in special windows for your car. Does this to all of ZA or just Cape Town?


Its quite common for almost all new cars to come with driver and main passenger side windows with the “smash and grab” tint.

I would recommend this to anyone driving in South Africa. I’ve never been smash and grabbed because I generally pay attention to anyone approaching my car and try to make eye contact. Usually people are zoning out on their phone or whatever and make easy targets.


Most honest comment. Love how it unfolds.


Capetonian here. Crime is generally relative to where you live. Bad crime mostly happens in the extremely poor townships in Cape Town. That said it does find it's way into the suburbs and the city. But if you're a relatively street smart person in Cape Town city and suburbs, petty crime probably won't affect you.

In terms of my personal experiences with crime I was mugged once when I was a teenager, and had a friend killed when he tried to stop a mugging. But neither have made me want to leave, the murder made me consider it, but this is still my home, and once you experience a Cape Town summer you'll understand why so many people come for a few weeks and end up staying a few years...

In terms of crime in Joburg, that's a whole other ball game. It can be wild up there, and for that reason I wouldn't move there. Although the pay is far better than Cape Town, it's nowhere near as idyllic place to live as Cape Town is.


Spent 2 years in Joburg (Otherwise split my time between Manhattan and Bangalore). Joburg has some of the best of the world in terms of food, sport and nature.

But.

The fear of being mugged or shot at always lingered - always. When you sleep, when you drive, when you go for a jog. We stayed in one of the expensive parts of Joburg (Sandhurst / Hyde Park) and still that did not help feel secure. Next door neighbors got shot at. The neighbors on the other side got their gate rammed in and plundered.

Our company refused to give us our rental allowance if the property did not have 24/7 surveillance including armed guards.

We did not mind losing our possessions, but a break in would have affected my wife for life. As sad as we were to leave Joburg, and South Africa in general, we were happy we left safe.


> How bad is the crime?

From experience (several yrs ago), you keep a gun in your lap when you drive the car. All the time.


From personal experience of being a South African, I have never ever heard of anything like this, unless you're in Joburg and paranoid about every second of your life.


Appreciate the perspective. I was visiting people who lived in Jberg for more than a decade or so, I wasn't about to question them.


Yeah way to escalate a smash and grab into a homicide! Getting a new phone is always cheaper than dealing with the dead guy pooling blood next to your car.

I’m a South African and out of all my friends and family only one carries a gun and never in his lap.


The northern parts of Durban (Umhlanga / Ballito) is also nice. Good fibre infrastructure, relatively safe. Well developed. Tropical Climate. Very English.


I'm actually a Durbanite living in Westville but I can't recommend Durban having lived in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Mumbai and Berlin. Spend too much time in Durban and I end up feeling like I'm intellectually frustrated. A lot of it might have to do with my race group and the fact that it is a minority nationally with a high concentration in KZN. You probably know what I'm saying ;) There's implicit racism in Durban which is very difficult to live with if you are not expat or white ("English").

There are very few tech meetups and general opportunity for intellectualism/tech in Durban. Shoutout here to OpenDataDurban and Code4SA! I'd love for you to correct me, though. And if you're in Durban, maybe we can get a coffee? hnusername@gmail.com

That being said Durban is really cheap and has the best beaches in the world!


Yeah for sure... I get exactly what you're saying. I surf so this is the main reason I'm here for now.. I am working remotely though and will be moving back to Asia later this year, before the vaalies pull in.

But otherwise, in terms of weather - you can't beat it.

And yes... I think this place is kinda giving me "island syndrome"... That's why I need to get out of this place for a bit. haha


Get Slack and check out ZA Tech slack: https://zatech.github.io/

A really great community, also the look for the #tech-for-good channel which is in conjunction with Codebridge SA is a really great resource.


Having lived in Durban my high-school years… I can't recommend it. I hated every second of it. I found the place to be utterly corrupt and demoralizing. It takes a toll on you to have to rely on private drivers and gated communities only to feel remotely safe. It's like living in a prison. Seeing the decline of the country via Jacob Zuma's rise, and the breakdown of infrastructure while I lived there was another level of depressing.

The traffic is horrendous too.


While I can see where you’re coming from with the other points, private drivers are not really a thing (you do need a car though).

Traffic is also basically non existent if you have lived in any other major city in the world. Like 15-30mins max in peak times and the max commute is 15mins anyways to get from most places to anywhere else.


According to a quick Google Maps check right now, my commute every day to school was ~20min by default, but probably closer to 40min in morning traffic. From the Bluff to Glenwood.

Granted private drivers aren't always a thing — but certainly driving from safe place to safe place is — whether it's driving yourself, being driven by family, or by a driver.


I agree with you and have often noted that it’s like you’re driving from one prison to another.

Re: commute time, was more in context of this thread, where one would be more likely to live in {Glenwood, Umhlanga, Westville, Morningside, Etc.}.

Durban isn’t the best, but there’s a good early morning beach culture and a cheap standard of living. Owning your own free standing property is relatively cheap by international standards and you can get one in a new secure gated estate on a golf course which you have no reason to ever leave if one of the old English/Dutch mansions doesn’t suit you ;)


I live on the South Coast. I deal with R1400/m (±$100) for 220gb data (LTE) to be able to work. Our Neighbourhood's Telkom copper got stolen 8 times this year. Shitty, I know.

But on the bright side, waking up with a gorgeous view over a river and the ocean every morning, nice and quiet does a lot of good mentally, especially having lived in one of the largest cities in the world for 5 years prior.

And yes, there's crime. Gotta activate the alarm system at night.


If you really consider moving abroad, then Berlin might be a good option. It has a decent American expat community, it's relatively “cheap” and culturally rich.


BTW: of course another great option in Germany is Munich, my favorite city. But: rents are higher, salaries too though. The range of employers is larger. You can go for companies like BMW if you like but also startups. Shoot me a mail if you’re interested to get more insights


Munich is an amazing town but it is literally one of the most expensive places to live in Germany. Getting an affordable flat close to downtown is a nightmare.


I was talking to someone about tech culture in Germany earlier. How easy is it to get a tech job out there?


Comes down on what you want to get. It is easy to find jobs at startups because there is a shortage of developers here but on the other side it is hard to find entry level jobs overall. But I guess this is true for most of the major cities.

Mentioning here that startups are not really obsessed by technology, at least most of them. There is this a weird mindset going around I think that technology is a 2nd class citizen. But it is depending on the startup I guess.

To get into one of the bigger companies like Zalando, contentful, N26, GetYourGuide, Klarna, Auto1, GoEuro, DeliveryHero, HelloFresh or SumUp takes more work and experience but it's completely doable. I am now at one of the companies above after 1.5 years of company experience.


When I looked into it there were a couple of issues:

Visas they will be different for wach person but for most people but if you're not under 30 and not from a western country it is a hassle

Jobs : a lot of jobs require German and the ones that don't you'd face more fierce competition which drives down the wages considerably.

Wages: on average is lower by 20-30 percent than Toronto, 50-60 percent than sf again taking these numbers out of my ass but you get the gist. Higher end more senior jobs pay even less.

Benefits and holidays: significantly better than NA you get like 30 holidays in Bavaria last time I checked

Overall if you don't have a big friend group/ family it's worth the move in my opinion the lifestyle is much more sustainable.


Since you mentioned Toronto, how easy is to get a job in Toronto if you don't have a work Visa or PR, is not from North America and have like 1 year of work experience?


Very easy, but Berlin is booming so rents are going up and vacant apartments have lots of competition. Zalando has 245 open tech positions: https://jobs.zalando.com/en/?search=technology


Not local, but I try and keep up from time to time, and I have seen a lot of hand-wringing on the Internet about how low Berlin tech wages are.


Depends where you're comparing them to in the US but in general most European tech wages are lower than the US. If comparing to SF perhaps even shockingly lower.

It can be hard to swallow at first, but when you account for lower rent, much cheaper health insurance, and far more vacation days (~20-24 by law - and no one actually expects you to be available) along with safer cities with generally higher quality of life, in my opinion it ends up being a very, very good trade off.

I moved to Amsterdam some years back (and have worked for a Berlin based company) and don't know if I could ever move back to the states.


+1 for Amsterdam (the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht). Rent is getting more expensive, but quality of life is very good, healthcare is 60€/month, top universities at 2000€/yr and overall good job prospects


I'd like to add that I've found the Netherlands to be among the most welcoming countries to expats that I've spent meaningful amounts of time in. I've moved away, but I'll always feel like home there.

Also, at least in the cities, everyone will be fluent in English.

If you pick city other than Amsterdam, or are willing to have a 45 min+ commute, rents should still be reasonable.


Where do I get healthcare for so little? I pay €90 per month in insurance and an additional €240 per month through Zvw tax.


You should compare US wages to EU contractors income. The rights between the two are similar and the income is too (~ €150.000 per year). But everything is cheaper here so you quality of life will be much higher.


I've heard that before from contractor friends, especially in London. Another option is working for a US company from Europe which I've done twice now. Wages can be quite a bit higher than working for a local company. Often both the US company and the employee feels like they're getting a great deal as you meet in the middle on wages.

Also the rights point you bring up is pretty key, the amount of protections, safety net, and rights you get as an employee in Europe makes it so that needing to save copious amount of money in case things go sideways is not a thing.


It's not that bad. Expect 50k EUR for a junior position.


Lots of startups there, if you're the right person you will get hired.


It is definitely culturally rich. Amazing city.


If you can weather the weather, Madison or St. Louis. Rent is cheap in both places (< $1000/mo is easy to find).

Madison benefits from having University of Wisconsin campus. It is also the capital of Wisconsin. While being around the same size as a flagship state school "college-town," it retains its own identity and culture (you never feel like the city revolves around the university). I've heard many people compare Madison to Austin, TX. UW-Madison has one of the oldest computer science departments in the US--high ranking department. Extremely bike friendly town. Winters are LONG; I suspect the cold keeps the city population a manageable size.

St. Louis is a mid-sized city. It has all the cultural amenities you'd expect from a big city (airport, food, arts, parks, etc), without the traffic or sprawl, and at a fraction of the cost. Wash U is the top academic center in the area. It's not a great city to visit as a tourist, but it's a fantastic city to live in, especially for the frugal-minded. Summers are hot and humid.


I don't really know what you mean by thriving intellectual community. I think this will depend a lot on your exact interests and what you want out of a local intellectual community on the ground.

Manhattan, KS has a big university in a small town. When I lived there, it had intellectual things like used bookstores and an incredible local zoo, stuff you don't typically see in small towns. But it is also an Ag college. Probably not really what a techie from the Bay Area is seeking, though I loved it to pieces when I was there (other than the ragweed, so you couldn't make me go back at gunpoint).

When I applied for an internship with a National Lab in Washington State hoping to get back to the Tri-cities, I interviewed for a position in a satellite office in Sequim. They do marine biology type stuff there because of the unique marine ecology right there.

Port Aransas, TX also has marine research stuff due to unique marine ecology. It's a town of under 4000 population year-round, but snow birds and tourism swell the population to up to 60k at times, so it actually has a grocery store, something you don't normally see in such a small town.

I considered moving to Idaho Falls, ID in part because it has a National Lab, so it likely has a serious intellectual environment even though it's just 60k people and very affordable.

So, you might want to flesh out some details concerning what exactly you are hoping to find. Because I'm guessing you don't really want to move someplace like Port Aransas, though I'm cool with tiny little places with an enclave of uber-geeks.


I lived a year in Vilnius and after the usual struggle to get connected found the startup community there quite thriving. Still, most of my friends where expats.

You can live comfortably on 1300 EUR/month. (Average salary is 1000 EUR, but probably a bit higher in Vilnius). To evaluate visit first in winter because it’s the worst time.


As a local I can confirm, Vilnius has became very strong with its startup community. A lot of international businesses are moving in, a lot of big companies are already in. And that all gathers around the smaller companies and startups.

Super cheap 1-gig internet, super cheap unlimited data mobile LTE / 5G, great food and people. Accommodation is somewhat average, 500-600 euros for a flat in the city centre on average.


I've been living in Vilnius (and surroundings) for the past two years, and I would definitely recommend it. The city is very cozy, well kept, and relatively cheap (small flats in the center run for around 500€/month).