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Ask HN: EU devs who moved to the States for work, has it been worth it?
117 points by Winterflow3r 54 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 206 comments
For however you choose to define "worth".

ES -> DK -> US

For me it's a mixed bag, and we will be probably moving back to Europe next year, after spending 6 years in between San Francisco and New York.

On the positive side, money. Software engineers make much, much more in the US than anywhere in Europe, including Nordic countries. My income tripled in the US, and my income was considered pretty high Denmark. Another positive side of the US is that there seems to be more opportunities, particularly if you are white or Asian and work in tech. My wife couldn't get a job in Europe, here she joined multiple FAANGs.

On the negative side, the lifestyle doesn't really fit us: too much focus on work. The problem is not -only- longer working hours, but that a lot people center their life around their job. I also find the social issues of the US (unequality, racism) more disturbing than the ones there are in Europe.

> I also find the social issues of the US (unequality, racism) more disturbing than the ones there are in Europe.

On the contrary, when I lived in Europe (Rome) I found it disturbing that the overt racism and inequality was not acknowledged by anyone. I got the impression Italians believed that racism only existed in America and that they themselves couldn't possibly be racist (even though moments earlier they were disparaging east European immigrants)

With all the talk about the USA and Europe being such horribly racist places I do have to wonder why so many people who should expect to be subject to said racism are literally dying to get to just those places. I suspect this is because they think life will be better in the USA and Europa than it is in the even more horrible places they came from. Seen in that light, and compared to the way things were in the USA and Europe not even half a century ago all the talk of these places being racist hellholes really does not seem to fit reality - and that is stating it mildly.

The more things are called racist, the less people will care. OK, so I'm racist for making rice pudding? Fine, so be it.

> I suspect this is because they think life will be better in the USA and Europa than it is in the even more horrible places they came from

Not always, but often times the reason their country is a horrible place to live is because of historical racism in the form of colonisation on the part of European countries or the USA. And it goes without saying that just because something is worse in place A doesn't mean it isn't bad in place B.

What about the "historical racism" from, say, Zulu versus Xhosa? Toltec vs. Chichimec? Chichimec vs. what what was to become the Aztec? Aztec vs. just about any other group they managed to conquer (and sacrifice by pulling their hearts out of their living bodies)? Arabs versus Africans of many colours? Arabs versus whites? The slavers of the Barbary coast - that is, (Islamic) pirates who operated from the coasts of northern Africa - captured and sold millions of light-skinned Europeans on the slave markets in what now is Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, why aren't they up in arms against this "historic racism"?. It took the French conquest of the area to finally put a stop to those slave raids - maybe the French were justified in conquering a region from where pirates had been raiding French (and Italian and Dutch and British and even Scandinavian) villages from where they took slaves to the markets of Tripoli? The Ottoman empire was rife with slave trade but not much is made of that for some reason, why? What happened to the Picts who inhabited the British islands? The Irish and Italians were subject to racism and enslavement but I have yet to see any of them call for retributions, why is this?

Do you know the etymology of the word "slave", that is comes from the Slavic tribes who inhabited central Europe and were enslaved by Arabs: 'The Slav was the most prized of human goods. With increased strength outside his marshy land of origin, hardened to the utmost against all privation, industrious, content with little, good-humoured, and cheerful, he filled the slave markets of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It must be remembered that for every Slavonic slave who reached his destination, at least ten succumbed to inhuman treatment during transport and to the heat of the climate. Indeed Ibrāhīm (tenth century), himself in all probability a slave dealer, says: "And the Slavs cannot travel to Lombardy on account of the heat which is fatal to them." Hence their high price.' (The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. II, 1913).

I can go on forever for the history of humanity is indeed a sordid affair, riddled with accounts of cruelty and - seen through modern western eyes steeped in Judeo-Christian morality - truly proof of the fallen nature of the human race. I won't since it doesn't change the fact that societies and cultures rise and fall through conquest, then and now. Claiming, as you do, that "...the reason their country is a horrible place to live is because of historical racism in the form of colonisation on the part of European countries or the USA" is myopic, it stems from a vision of the world as a European/American-centric place where all roads lead to Europe and America.

This self-flagellation which is so popular in many western cultures needs to stop or those same cultures will succumb to the process of history which gave rise to them in that other cultures will take over. Many of those cultures don't care about racism - they are openly racist - and have no qualms about slavery.

I guess because "racism" is a probable misnomer. Especially in countries where most people are of the same race, but there are multiple different ethnicities or cultures.

you know east europeans are white?

anyway lots of italians come to my eastern european city and we make it extra obvious we are racist against them so its even

If you mean Slavs, the Coalition of Communities of Colour actually formally recognises us as people of colour.

European everyday racism feels a bit different than American racism. It's the end result of many cultures interacting over centuries and accruing generational memories of when X group screwed them over. Meaning, everyone is equally racist to one another. Also, it's not based so much on physical race, as on group belonging. For example, often people from within a single country would be prejudiced to one another, based on the specific city one is born in. Depending on how the country borders get redrawn and what the government decides to call the ethnicity of people within them, those relations can technically flip between being racist and not.

Basically, we can be casually racist with each other, because it's between equals. Americans can't, because it's between two groups, one of which used to inflict horrible human rights abuses over the other.

> Coalition of Communities of Colour

They probably would recognize me too, but I would decline association to be honest, regardless if it is the US or British variant. Also racism to me has a very specific definition. To believe people to be inferior because of extrinsic properties or ethnicity. Not every form of prejudice is racism of course.

The only person I have ever met that though I was too brown was my dermatologist. Sure, others face racism, but it is also used to justify discrimination and I think that is moving backwards. The US has better understanding on multiculturalism but they changed course recently. It is progress as that is inevitable, but I don't see it improving anything.

America has many races. The majority are white or hispanic not black. The opportunities for someone who is black are so much more in America vs Europe. America is a big place.

When you judge someone by birth location you are also judging someone based on race. Would you accept an Indian person born in Moscow as Russian or would you treat them as Indian? This is harmful..

"Basically, we can be casually racist with each other, because it's between equals. Americans can't, because it's between two groups, one of which used to inflict horrible human rights abuses over the other."

I really enjoy the guilty/shame we put upon White Christians about slavery.

Even being the *OnlY* people who fought to end the slavery.

Black merchants/kings? Jesuit Company (Converted Jews), Islamic republics, etc.

All did not care about slavery.

But then these pesky White Christians came and said NO to slavery.

I hope they learn the lesson and be more cultural aware in future.

"It is not slavery it is their society..."

And keep themselves out of helping people.

so are Americans with Polish heritage people of color? There are about 3% of Americans that self-identify as Polish-Americans

Rome was NOT made by Italians (but most probably albans)...but hey they are really proud of the roman empire ;)

But do you know were the word "slave" comes from?


>>Use of the word arose during the Early Medieval Period, when Slavs from Central and Eastern Europe (Saqaliba) were frequently enslaved by Moors from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa.

So brown/black peoples enslaved white peoples, but hey the US only thinks about sold black's by black peoples only, a slave can only be black..end of discussion.

Well, let's not put all Blacks under the same denominator, that sounds a bit racist. As a Slav, I hold no ill will towards them acting in a way that was appropriate for the time period.

That said, I do find it ironic, that we had to remove all mentions of master/slave from our software products, so as to not offend our American customers. Again, I don't mind, but it's funny when you think about it.

You didn't have to. You wanted to. Lots of people wanted to. For no real reason other than to fit in or appease a mob. There's no "have to". You don't "have to" do much these days.

I'm not letting people's stupid actions be marked as a "have to" when they're most definitely still stupid and still neither required nor appropriate.

"I had to" rob the liquor store.

Italians are not racists, Italians are chauvinists. They are acting against other Italians as well. If you're not local (from the village, town, municipality), you're _not local_ and that's about it.

It is part of their culture. The problem runs deep and is shared by countries in the North border (Switzerland, Austria, France).

The history of institutional racism in Europe is different. The levels of institutional racism and violence the US went through in the 20th century are extreme to whatever happened in Europe, barring notable examples (Nazi Germany).

> Italians are not racists

The biggest football team in Italy literally threw around a giant banana to mock a black player. And that's not like it's an isolated incident

A football hooligan a racist I wouldn't believe it till I see it /s

There is a difference between having racist people in population and having whole system set up rules to discriminate negatively against part of population.

While I might agree with the part that you said they act against other Italians as well, I can not agree with your 1st statement after 11 years of living here in Italy as a foreigner of non EU origin.

> The levels of institutional racism and violence the US went through in the 20th century are extreme to whatever happened in Europe, barring notable examples (Nazi Germany).

Ask a typical European what they think of Roma ("gypsies"), then get back to me.

IMO The problem people have with gypsies is that they're distinctly different culture. They have found ways to benefit from the social system without giving anything in. That naturally frustrates many taxpayers.

I blame the faulty social system for that. For example, if you never work a day in your life you get higher pension payout as in that case it is based on nationwide average wage. It basically penalizes getting a job.

Yeah, it boggles my mind how many people (here in the UK) who are otherwise very tolerant of other races are openly and unapologetically racist against travelling peoples.

The level of institutional racism is much higher in Europe. It is based on location and genetic group. The stuff being addressed in the US isn't on Europe's radar yet. The US is more progressive than Europe on race.

And note that the Nazis drew specific inspiration from US racists.

Europeans were committing atrocities against Jews for centuries before the United States even existed.

> I also find the social issues of the US (unequality, racism) more disturbing than the ones there are in Europe.

I grew up in the US but have lived in Barcelona for several years now.

I don't believe that racism is worse in the US than Spain; in fact much the opposite. I live in a mixed-income neighborhood in Barcelona and see far more casual discrimination against low-income immigrants and the local Roma subculture here than I've seen in any major US city. The US has historically had really bad racial policies and there are definitely still parts of the country with a backwards view on race and class, but most of the US (and certainly the parts of the country where a high-skilled immigrant might move to) just isn't like that anymore. I can't speak to the rest of Europe, but Barcelona at least seems behind here.

That said, I do agree there's a lot more inequality in the US than Spain. (It seems to me though that's more about the middle and upper class in the US being much richer—the poor in Spain don't seem to have an easier life than the poor in the US.)

Oh, I'm from Barcelona myself. While I agree with you that the upper class in the US is much richer than in Barcelona, I strongly disagree with you about the poor. I think very often about my particular situation, and what would have happened to me if I would have been born in the US. I come from a family that would be on the lower side of the middle class; unfortunately for us, there is a genetic illness running on my father's side of the family. In Spain, to get healthcare was never a problem; I'm not sure if that wouldn't have been an issue in the US. I see the same problem with education: while we were not poor, I am not sure if I would have been able to go to one of the best schools in my country, as I did for free in Spain. Free education and healthcare are very important.

On racism, I don't wanna sound harsh, but I believe you only see less because the US is much more segregated. I am typically perceived as Hispanic by most Americans, and believe me, racism is an issue. I don't want to imagine how it is for an immigrant from Africa or Latin America.

> In Spain, to get healthcare was never a problem; I'm not sure if that wouldn't have been an issue in the US.

Yes, the Spanish healthcare system works quite well; I'm a fan! It does a much better job of ensuring coverage than the US system, particularly for the lower middle class. In the US, the poorest ~25% have good public coverage through Medicaid or Medicare and the top ~40% do ok with the employer-subsidized system, but there's a giant donut hole in the middle with no good options and the system sucks for them.

> I see the same problem with education: while we were not poor, I am not sure if I would have been able to go to one of the best schools in my country, as I did for free in Spain.

I admire Spain's commitment to free university education and I think it's a good deal for some folks, the lower middle class in particular. But for helping the very poorest advance, I'm not sure it works in practice. The Spanish high-school graduation rate is much lower than the US one, and anecdotally at least I feel like the children from low-income families I know here in Spain are less likely to consider university or a professional career an option at all compared to their peers in the US, despite it being free. I'm not sure how to fix this.

> On racism, I don't wanna sound harsh, but I believe you only see less because the US is much more segregated. I am typically perceived as Hispanic by most Americans, and believe me, racism is an issue.

It's possible that US cities are more segregated on average, but I don't think that's driving my personal observations. I've lived in low-income neighborhoods with 20-90% minority populations my entire adult life, so I've had a lot of exposure to race relations to calibrate against. More concretely, my wife happens to be hispanic, and feels she's experienced more negative racism in Barcelona than she ever did in the US.

> But for helping the very poorest advance, I'm not sure it works in practice.

I think it does. I studied in the south of Spain (I am Spaniard too), and some of my fellow students comes from very poor sides of the city.

It is very frequent now to see teachers, lawyers and other careers that requires University level studies that are Gypsies, that were born and raised inside those communities.

IMHO free quality education is the perfect equalizer, but it is true that there is much to do there.

>IMHO free quality education is the perfect equalizer, but it is true that there is much to do there.

There is no such thing as free education. Someone is paying for it

> More concretely, my wife happens to be hispanic, and feels she's experienced more negative racism in Barcelona than she ever did in the US.

I'm a bit confused by this. Racism in Barcelona against Hispanics? It's because she doesn't speak Catalan?

When you speak Spanish but don't look European, some people in Catalonia can mess with you for not speaking Catalan.

> That said, I don't believe that racism/social issues are worse in the US than Spain

My current theory is that the difference between Europe and the US right now is that discrimination is about the same but that in the US racism is openly discussed and criticized. This leads to an illusion that racism is worse in the US because we hear about it more. In this theory Europe like the US in the 60s in which racism was prevalent but sort of more hidden in the dominant white public consciousness.

> Another positive side of the US is that there seems to be more opportunities, particularly if you are white or Asian and work in tech.

Excuse me? If there’s anything I’ve learned in about two months of applying is that no company wants yet another white, male engineer.

If I’ve learned anything in my decade plus in tech on both sides of the hiring table it’s almost no one cares about the race/gender of candidates, and that lack of care generally favors white men.

Not through bad intent from folks doing the hiring just through human things: white men are more likely to know what to expect from a tech interview, or even to know someone who can give them an inside scoop. Without even getting into how off putting some job listings can be to many folks not extremely steeped in nerd culture.

The actual interview process everywhere I’ve worked has been pretty rigid and without doing some form of blinding on the code parts could not be more neutral to the candidates identity.

Which is to say: if you’re not getting interviews as an experienced software engineer you must have something glaringly wrong with your resume. Maybe have a trusted friend or former coworker take a look. If you’re not getting offers from at least some of those interviews you probably need to brush up on your algorithms, and make sure you’re actually conversational in all the things listed on your resume.

>If I’ve learned anything in my decade plus in tech on both sides of the hiring table it’s almost no one cares about the race/gender of candidates, and that lack of care generally favors white men.

I don't think it "favors" white men. Go into any university Computer Science or engineering class and what will you find? Mostly White men and foreign students. Of course there will be other genders and ethnic groups but the majority of students are white men and foreign students. Therefore most of the candidates for jobs right out of school for most engineering positions at tech companies are white men because it is hard for foreign students to obtain work permits.

This would say the issue with diversity needs to be solved elsewhere. I think businesses should be judged on the diversity of the departments based on the diversity of people with the proper credentials. It is as asinine to think a tech company's engineering department should match the demographics of society when the demographics of the people obtaining the necessary skills to work in that department are so far off.

You can find demographics data here: https://datausa.io/profile/cip/computer-science-110701

I kind of agree here, but the problem is that big tech is not even matching the "demographics of the people obtaining the necessary skills to work in that department".

According to your own data, Hispanics got 8.16% of CS degrees; African Americans got 3.81%. Facebook tech workers are 4.6% Hispanics and 2.1% Black. Google tech workers are 5.3% Hispanic and 2.9% Black. Both companies are far away from even matching the percentages of the candidate field.

Sources: https://about.fb.com/news/2021/07/facebook-diversity-report-... https://console.cloud.google.com/bigquery?p=bigquery-public-...

> experienced software engineer

I’m an associate-level engineer. Why would a company, many of which are increasingly proud of their diverse team, pick a white engineer when there are hundreds of equally skilled junior applicants that won’t bring down their recruiting metrics?

I’ve literally seen recruiting KPIs at previous startups involve how many black or woman engineers they hire in a quarter.

My current attempts at breaking into the industry is currently being made more difficult by the previous decades of inequity in software engineering teams.

Because diversity efforts are largely ineffectual and, if you are interviewed by people of your own race, unconscious bias will help you.

Some studies showed certain ethnic markers are harmful for applicants: https://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/employers-replies-racial-n... https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/minorities-who-whiten-job-resumes...

As an immigrant to USA, I think inequality is valid but I have never faced any racism or seen any in engineering jobs. It is overblown. There might be some racism in blue collar work (probably same as EU) but my observation in tech/engineering jobs is always professional.

Maybe you have been lucky. I have seen racism in engineering jobs, most typically in the form of bias or preconceived ideas of how people of certain "races" are supposed to behave, or what are their perspectives in life.

I’ve never observed that having worked in several Fortune 50 companies. It is quite the opposite. Whites in US tech scene are being impartially treated and open-reverse-racism is more commonplace (witnessed it several times in hiring committees. It was quite shocking and blatant). I can imagine racism being rampant maybe 30 years ago in the tech scene.

I am quite frustrated that being colored means I get to be put on posters, literally got a photo taken of me and the diversity/inclusion HR put it up on the company website to further their agenda which I completely disagree with. It always felt condescending to me. I want to be judged by merit and not my skin color.

> It always felt condescending to me.

I completely agree with you. Pity is a particularly disturbing version of contempt. But if you think that this contempt is only reflected in the diversity circus, you are fooling yourself.

High-caste Americans (sorry Wilkerson, the simile is too good to let it go) want to virtue-signal and maybe give some breadcrumbs to the minorities they feel pity for, not put them at their level.

I want to be totally clear - I don’t think “they feel pity for, not put them at their level”. That’s not what I was trying to say.

Every white leader I’ve met have given me opportunities and often their higher ups are not white. The problem is the corporate HR wokeness and their agenda feels condescending to me. That’s the distinction I want to clarify.

Thank you for the perspective! At the moment, establishing a social life has proved so difficult due to constant relocation and general difficulty of socialising in Sweden, that I'd prefer to go somewhere where at least I'd have better career opportunities in tech.

I think it's totally worth to try it. While I will be coming back soon, I am happy that I was able to have this experience. Good luck!

You don’t have to be white or Asian to get a job in tech. I’ve literally seen anyone who can code even somewhat get jobs here.

You can probably be green and get a job if you know how to code.

You don't have to. It just helps significantly.

British, moved to San Francisco for work (actually an acquisition) in 2014. Still in the USA 7 years later, as are the rest of the team who moved over at the same time.

Financially definitely worth it - salaries here are so much higher even than London, not to mention stock options and suchlike.

California is a really lovely place to live. We saw a whale from our back deck once! It's November and it's sunny and warm outside. Very different from the UK!

Even with the best insurance plan we can find, interacting with the healthcare system here is so stressful that it's the main thing that makes me consider moving back again.

How cool that you were able to move through the acquisition! And I definitely agree that weather can be a pretty big deal. I thought UK was pretty decent weather compared to my home in the Nordics so I guess California must be a real dream. I can understand the healthcare issue too. I needed some dental surgery while in the US many years back and it was basically all paid out of pocket - was not cheap.

What do you find stressful? Personally when I want healthcare I just find a doctor that accepts my insurance and go.

NYC. Pretty solid healthcare. Went to a new doctor for a routine physical, front desk said it would be free, and I got a $450 bill – after insurance.

Spending weeks fighting that was definitely stressful. And that's just one example.

>Financially definitely worth it - salaries here are so much higher even than London, not to mention stock options and suchlike.

Seems like they should just pay for it then, no more stress

As a fellow American, I don't know how you don't find this stressful. My wife and I have amazing insurance and we've been fighting an $1000 bill for a 5 minute visit for months.

Just one recent example: I had to go to an emergency room for a chest pain (turned out to be nothing to worry about). I had to ask my doctor for help figuring out which ER was "in network" for my insurance!

If you can afford the out of pocket maximum and monthly premiums, which I presume people in tech are, then life is pretty easy as long as you do not lose your ability to work.

NL -> DE -> US for a FAANG, my net income has tripled. Cost of living is similar. Worth it from the view of financial security.

We enjoy the US, especially Washington but will probably move back to the EU in ~7-8 years. Miss a lot of things from Europe though, especially the school system and public transportation.

Isn't health insurance like 10x the price? I always hear that US people pay 1000$+ per month. In Holland it's around 100 i think and here in Spain it's free. That works be a big issue for me because any time without employment would drain my savings

> In Holland it's around 100 i think and here in Spain it's free.

You personally pay around that amount in "insurance", but a big part of your healthcare costs are being taken out of your general taxation. The Netherlands spends around 13-14% of its GDP. That's pretty far from 100/EUR/month per person.

I live in The Netherlands and I'd take Western European healthcare over the US's any day, but let's not sugar coat it by hiding the ball about how it's being paid for[1].

Before I moved to The Netherlands I paid 0 EUR/month in "health insurance" (a country with a true single payer system). Does that mean I wasn't actually paying anything for healthcare? No.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_total_hea...

Well yes but if you're unemployed you don't pay a lot. This is what makes it much less of a pressure.

If you're employed by a top company in the US, your health insurance is generally much better quality than most public option in Europe

It's an important point for software developers.

US healthcare for the top 1/4 is far better than what public healthcare is like in most of Western Europe.

In the US if you have good healtchare you have exceptionally fast access to among the world's best healthcare services. You also have a freedom of (ab)use when it comes to utilizing healthcare services; it's a luxury you do not get in most of Europe, where service rationing and very long wait times are normal in the public healthcare sphere (also true in Canada). There are trade-offs in all of these systems.

It sucks if you're in the middle ~40% in the US. It's spectacular if you're in the top 1/4 and your health insurance is covered by your employer.

> Of the Dutch adults surveyed, 59 percent said that they were very confident of receiving high quality and safe health care, compared to only 35 percent of the American adults surveyed.

-- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Healthcare_in_the_Netherlands

Since you were replying to a comment about Holland this seemed relevant. Don't know about a general study covering all of Europe or something.

But I guess that's where the "if you're employed by a bigcorp" part comes in. You can get better service if you pay a lot, yeah that much seems a bit obvious.

> You can get better service if you pay a lot, yeah that much seems a bit obvious.

Not exactly - larger organizations in the US are able to negotiate better rates with insurance companies. So it's more so that your buck goes further than it is you paying more bucks ;)

the issue i have with this argument, is that it makes healthcare for those who are not in a privileged non existant. (with the boatload of social issues that come with it).

Sure, you might get proper and very good healthcare, but what about those around you in your community?

It's not an argument. It's just the reality of health insurance in the US at this time.

As an argument in favour of privatised healthcare, this is valid, but in the context of Europeans moving to the US, it doesn't seem relevant. The US is not going to reform its healthcare just because a few Germans don't immigrate.

That's not true in the US.

The very non-privileged get moderately ok, free healthcare via Medicaid (along with numerous other programs for poorer people, including coverage for children, SS disability and so on). That covers the poorest/worst off quarter of the US population approximately.

It's the working poor and middle class that really get screwed with the US system. The well-off pay taxes to cover the free healthcare system that the US has. The working poor and middle class often can't afford the healthcare system, are more frequently at risk while unemployed, and their employers are less likely to provide good coverage as a benefit.

I'd like to understand this better. If I was a software engineer for 20 years and had cover and savings etc then was between jobs for a few months for whatever reason and got into a car crash how would that work.

Would I get medicare/aid?

Are all people students / unemployed expected to be paying monthly premiums to get any kind of cover?

I have had healthcare in the US for a serious accident, but I had travel insurance (UK based) which likely saved me 100,000s of dollars. Fortunately they paid up without question. I'm not sure how that would have worked if I was just some regular student from the US travelling around, would I be bankrupted for life or hoping for crowdfunding? Sounds like if you have an accident in the US you need to be rich or popular (or maybe really poor).

Even if we argue the very disagreeable notion that European healthcare is:

1) heterogeneous

2) subpar

3) public only

Then we’re still left with the fact that most big companies do offer private health coverage in Europe. Mostly this is for less than life threatening illnesses, psychological help and physiotherapy.

Well that notion is wrong anyway because every European country has their own system. Some are mainly public with a purely optional private option, like Spain. Some are kinda forced private because otherwise you have to wait for years, like Ireland. Some are absolutely mandatory private like the Netherlands.

And yes in most countries some classes are purely private. I think Britain is a big exception though I've heard the NHS is also not what it used to be.

> If you're employed by a top company in the US, your health insurance is generally much better quality than most public option in Europe

Assuming you are high up enough in the organization. Unless junior developers get the same plan and coverage as the CFO.

The bigger assumption would be that a person with a good employer plan today, had no health conditions that went under-treated as a child and are more acute in adulthood.

Someone in a UHC country may not have top-quality access to care, but it is the simple act of access to primary care itself that can have conditions diagnosed and treated early. That in turn will have a compound effect on QOL, even if you do earn the Tim Cook-level coverage plan when you're 50.

> Assuming you are high up enough in the organization. Unless junior developers get the same plan and coverage as the CFO.

Companies are required to offer the same benefits to all employees, so yes you do get the same health insurance as the CFO.

This is one reason that companies keep pushing low-level labor jobs to contractors or falsely separate contracting companies. They want to attract software engineers with good health insurance, but avoid offering it to their janitors.

not sure why you get downvoted, but yes - it is

The US out of pocket expense for healthcare is a lot lower than you probably think:


The overall US healthcare cost per capita is around double the median of affluent Europe typically; higher than double vs Britain, and lower than double vs eg Switzerland or Norway.

A lot of US healthcare is covered entirely or partially by employers. If you're a software developer making near or over six figures, it's very common that your healthcare costs are covered by your employer.

What you're talking about when you say "100" for Holland is subsidization by way of taxation for covering healthcare costs. When you say it's free in Spain, you're talking about subsidization by taxation. Around 1/4 of the US population also gets "free" healthcare (ie the higher income brackets are paying higher taxes to cover those people).

US healthcare is artificially very expensive, for numerous reasons. The employer provided system can also make unemployment quite risky, definitely. There is no free lunch however, someone is paying for the healthcare in France, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and so on. Whether it's $7k (Germany), $8k (Switzerland), or $11k (US) per person, it's a lot of money.

> ower than double vs eg Switzerland or Norway.

Norway? Really. Health care costs here in Norway are capped at about 350 USD per year. If you pay more than that you get a card that exempts you from paying for things like GP visits, X-rays, MRIs, prescriptions, etc. Anything you did pay in excess of that you get refunded in the next tax settlement.

> Health care costs here in Norway are capped at about 350 USD per year.

You are confusing "individual out of pocket extra costs" with "total costs".

Norway's annual per capita expenditures on healthcare are about 71883 krone (about $7,000 USD). Only the United States and Switzerland are higher.

Source: https://www.ssb.no/en/nasjonalregnskap-og-konjunkturer/stati...

Sorry, I was misled by the reference to out of pocket costs.

I know it's always paid by someone, but what I mean is that it's a big pressure on an employee to stay employed. In the EU we don't have as much pressure.

My understanding is that the important difference is in the tail of the distribution.

In the US, your employer will buy you health insurance, which covers some but not all of your healthcare costs.

If you don't need much medical care, your costs in the US will be small or nothing, essentially the same as in Europe, probably with much more expensive and luxurious service.

But if you do need extensive care, then even when a good insurance policy, you may be facing substantial costs.

A friend who moved to New York with a big tech company told me (lightly paraphrased to anonymise):

> I’ve had a surgery, a ton of dental work, and a new child. It’s cost me tens of thousands of dollars, but the experience has been consistently better than in the UK.

If that child had been ill and needed special care when it was born, that could have been hundreds of thousands. Whereas in Europe the cost is still zero, or only a little more.

There's also the issue that the insurance is tied to your job, and it's extremely hard to get decent insurance directly from an insurer. I'm not sure if this is still true in the Obamacare era, but I've read of extremely rich people being unable to get decent insurance.

That's weird, if you're extremely rich, couldn't you just set up an LLC and employ yourself? And then you can give yourself health benefits :) I thought most of these guys do this stuff anyway for all the tax breaks.

I know all the self-employed and entrepreneurs in the Netherlands do this, they all have "BV"s and "Holdings" so they pay less income tax.

It depends heavily on your employer. Mine pays the insurance but there is a deductible. That deductible is a bit more than what it is in NL but my monthly costs are zero. It works out to about the same.

Almost all employers will pay your health insurance. Also, the salary often 3-7x greater than EU. Who cares even if you have $1k more expense while making $10k more a month.

True but it's not all about money. It would worry me a lot if I would have recurring costs that high. Especially if it was directly tied to employment (e.g. getting healthcare through the employer).

It makes it much harder to change jobs in case of difficulty and a much bigger blow to getting fired.

That’s still not really true. Your healthcare is approximately free when employed and you pay ~1k/mo when unemployed. But your saving rate is much much larger so that expense isn’t actually high. I think the bigger issue is housing prices (if you live in US hcol) as even modest apartments can be 3k+.

I’m the US if you’re unfortunate enough to be so ill that you cannot work you’re much worse off.

This is one of those questions where knowing the median value won’t do you much good. The true cost is highly individualized, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that, yes, it’s more expensive, and yes, it can be more treacherous, especially if you have existing medical conditions you must maintain or that could cause you to become unemployed. To answer your question directly: roughly on average for families it is, yes. However, even that isn’t so cut and dry. For example, some plans just have a family rate, whereas other providers will offer plans tailored to family sizes. Anyway, for individuals, the average is around $500 from what I can find. It’s going to vary a lot by employer. Regardless, for the kinds of jobs we have, it’s usually better across the board. I, for instance, pay less than half that.

It can be even worse than that if you’re buying your insurance yourself and you have a family.

But if you have insurance through your work, it’s usually not that bad, it’ll probably be under a thousand.

I Germany you pay close to 1000$ monthly too for public health insurance. It covers whole family, that is single advantage. However better treatments cost something, but mostly <500€. That’s ok too.

Sorry, but that's just wrong, the maximum you're paying for public health insurance (as an employee) in Germany is around 7.5% of your pre-taxed income. BUT, there is a limit called "Beitragsbemessungsgrenze" which caps the amount of yearly income when calculating the amounts. The cap is currently at 58050 Euros, which translates to roughly 385 Euros.

Only if you also include the public pension and unemployment insurance deductions (both of which are also percentage based and capped) you'll max out at about 1050 Euros.

Let’s face the truth. It does not matter if it’s paid by me or partially by my employer, the health insurance costs me 779,5€ every month. I don’t get that money to my account. It’s AOK Bayern basic package and not that far from 1000$.

Wow I had no idea it was that expensive in Germany.

How do people cope that are on minimum wage?

Half of it is payed by the employer. You pay around 7.5% of your income before taxes (up to a certain limit aka Beitragsbemessungsgrenze).

Many countries use this trick “payed by employer” trying to hide the real amount of taxes. 385€ does not sound that bad, but in the reality it’s twice that with another half “paid by employer”.

One item of note - public transit is pretty common in the northeastern US. In the major metros (Boston, NYC etc.) most people do not own cars.

I think this is a bit of an exaggeration. Maybe in the major cities proper it’s true that a majority don’t own cars, but I doubt it’s true for the metro areas as a whole.

This is true about NYC but not about Boston or any other U.S. cities.

According to https://www.valuepenguin.com/auto-insurance/car-ownership-st... even in new york the vehicle ownership rate is only half (23) of the highest state (Delaware with 44 registered cars per 100 inhabitants). Assuming basically every family has one or two cars in Delaware (that's the impression I get of what is the norm in an average USA state), that translates to nearly every family having a car on average in New York as well.

Then again, the Netherlands reportedly (https://longreads.cbs.nl/european-scale-2019/car-ownership/) has 48 per 100, which would be higher than the highest USA state, while I think most people are aware of the difference in car mentality between the two countries so something doesn't add up here. I'm not sure what I'm missing.

America has low car ownership rates compared to western Europe, possibly due to income inequality. See this 2012 article.


> The U.S. is ranked 25th in world by number of passenger cars per person...The Carnegie paper explains that car ownership rates are closely tied to the size of the middle class.

Huh okay. I knew there was larger inequality and considered writing that in my comment as a possible reason, but I was also under the impression that you are going to have a hard time living without a car in the USA and figured those people would sacrifice other things instead (not spend any money on healthcare, for example). If they just don't have one at all, despite the car culture, that makes the income inequality hit even harder than it would in Europe I guess.

As a Bostonian I would disagree, I only purchased a car after 8 years in the city and even then only use it to escape the city.

Depending on how you count there are between 4 and 9 mass transit lines alongside a fairly extensive bus network and commuter rail system.

Granted, if you live in the suburbs you’ll need a car for most activities.

Metropolitan New York spans a gigantic area of land that includes Edison, NJ, Bridgeport, CT and other areas that have nowhere near the level of public transit as NYC itself.

That makes a lot of sense. I've moved UK-> SWE and am not liking it here in SWE at all. I studied in the US for a few years so I totally understand missing public transportation and school systems. However, the software salaries here are low when you compare it to the cost of housing :(

What didn't you like in Sweden? I'm a brit looking to buy land out their for the hunting opportunities.

Don't know anything about hunting other than it appears to be a very popular hobby here. There is a really strong brand of Sweden being a "come here, everyone speaks perfect English here" type of country but the reality is something completely different. In my experience, you definitely get treated differently based on how accented your Swedish is or if you speak any at all (and I live in the largest city here in Sweden where there a lot of people with a foreign background).

There's definitely a difference in people if they hear you have an "English", Indian(?), Arabic, Finnish, "eastern" or others.

As in, some of those accents are treated better, some worse

Can you find a country in Europe, where the majority of population does not treat non-tourist people with a foreign background, if not with hostility, then at least as a strange specimen, not sure what to make of them?

Actually I think that’s true of every country, EU, US, and elsewhere, to varying degrees. I think it’s much better in Western countries than elsewhere though - nobody would treat a foreigner as “normal” in eg Thailand, Turkey, Philippines, etc.

The exception is melting pot cities like London and NYC - where you are likely not interacting with the native population at all.

Serbia, Bosnia

In what way are you treated differently?

Maybe I've just been unlucky and come across the wrong people but here are some things that left me a bit disturbed tbh

- medical staff demanding to know if I'm Polish or Ukrainian in the middle of a big medical procedure where I am already in tears and in pain

- easier to get things done at banks and other admin places if you call the customer service number and speak (good) Swedish

- first thing that anyone asks in any social interaction is "Where are you from and what are you doing in Sweden?" Might not be malicious, but it's starting to grate on my nerves. Where I am really from is probably the least interesting thing about me.

And by the way, I am originally from another Nordic country and look Western European. I can only imagine what it's like for someone who looks different.

Usually it's very subtle, definitely not in your face. For some it will be the glass ceiling at work they'll never manage to break,no matter how good they are, for others it will be people simply not wanting to interact beyond 'hi, bye' level.

Sounds like you've been unlucky. Not my experience at all.

I wouldn't say I had bad experience myself, but then again I haven't lived there as long as I did in the UK. As I said, things are usually subtle and underneath the surface,so not everyone can/want to see.

Come to Norway instead. Much less judgemental.

Especially the school system, transportation, healthcare, and housing require much higher expenses in the U.S. than in Europe for a comparable standard and security of living, to the point where it may consume all of the extra salary.

If you don't have kids that need a school or daycare (or have the luck to live in one of the few areas with good public schools), that alone may be a 5 digit difference.

I'm interested in the same question as the OP but referring to Academia instead of Industry.

It's probably pretty comparable, as academic salaries in the US are significantly higher than anywhere else, except perhaps Switzerland.

I moved from Stockholm to NYC 3 years ago.

Yes it's been worth it for me. I really enjoy my time in New York and I was looking for a change.

Being far away from friends/family is clearly not fun. I already changed countries several times within the EU before so I was used to it.

Some random notes since the question is a bit open-ended:

- I stayed with the same company, which helped me a lot because it gave me social contacts when I first moved (my colleagues).

- Having a guest bedroom is great because having friends or family over for a longer time is easier.

- The visa process is a pain while you're in it. Looking back on it, it's mostly the frustration at the lack of efficiency and unclarity that made it bad. Considering all the other things, it's a visible and easy to discuss "cost" but changing social circles is the bigger challenge and less easily discussed, I think.

- Moving to a country where English is the native language is a _lot_ easier than moving to a country where you don't know the language as well. This holds even if a large part of the population speaks English very well; if you don't speak native language of a country, it's hard to feel like a part of society.

- I personally don't like the "X in NYC" (X being your citizenship) facebook groups. Bonding based on interests (sports, books, ...) has been more rewarding for me.

The experience has been totally worth it for me and I don't regret moving one bit. That said... I don't plan on having kids in the US/growing old in the US.

(salary is better but I assume you looked that up already)

Hej! I am preparing to move abroad from Malmö, due to lack of social life, and language barrier I experienced here (similarly as you describe with English not being local language)

I am trying to decide between London or California. London seems so much easier to move to. I am on the verge of giving up trying with California.

I don't have any job opportunities at hand at either right now. I am an IT Consultant, and as you know, most contract brokers for Nordics are actually UK based and offered to find me contract immediately.

UK offers some visa pathways for IT Consultants, whereas with US; I literally don't know any direct/clear pathway for it.

Compensation-wise; as IT Consultant in EU, I already make as much as in US and can do same in UK. So that's not a factor for me.

While London and Londoners are very friendly, I would recommend considering secondary cities in the UK as a destination, for example Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh or Cambridge. The pay is usually comparable to all but the highest London rates and the cost of living is lower. They also tend to have very active music and art scenes and are slightly less tainted by the sheer amount of money sloshing around London. If there's an internationally known university and a reasonably sized city centre you won't go far wrong. A word of warning, some ancient and well renowned universities are situated near otherwise quiet cities, which have a charm of their own, but some research will be required.

Indeed. I plan to start with London for now, but I am definitely seeing myself moving to a slightly calmer city a bit later. I hope to own a house with a garden later in life, and London housing market is pretty expensive from what I heard.

Hej! I was a contractor in the UK before I moved to Stockholm (also severe lack of social life which is why I need to get out asap) and I'm curious, was your comp the same in the EU as an IT consultant as US employment with stock? Because the highest daily rates I was able to find in the UK were usually somewhere around 650-900 GBP per day which would still put you below US comp with RSU.

I can't speak from experience for US, but from what I read/heard online; SW. Engs. salaries there range from 90K to 250K. I just turned down an offer of a contract annually adding up to 220K$ roughly (total into my company before MOMS/VAT), because people are extremely antisocial here, and I ran out emotional patience/capacity. I just really can't anymore and need out asap. After 8 years here, I barely have a social circle to throw a birthday party. I moved here as a Tech Evangelist, very sociable person and my social skills has and is diminishing away.

650-900gbp per day sounds similar to southern Sweden. Hourly rates here go between 750 to 1300 sek.

just to check if we are doing the math same way;

650gbp x (365 per year - 30 vacation days) = 217750 gbp

Isn't that already very high? in comparison to some US salary?

You’re including weekends in your calculation :) I believe OP is talking about contract/freelance work where you only get paid for the days you work.

For a fair comparison vs a full time job in the U.K. when I compared the two recently, I was using 226 working days per year (261 week days - 8 bank holidays - 27 paid holiday days). Of course if you don’t want to take so much holiday or want to and can work weekends then you’ll earn more!

650 x 226 is £144,460 for the record, still nothing to complain about!

Ah sorry, you're right. I wrongly added the weekends there. But you get the idea. It is still not much lower than US salaries. Note that also we are using the lowest hourly rate here with 650gbp.

Working as a consult comes with its own risks (not much worker rights, very little or no notice period when terminated etc). But those risks are not too bad when you consider how little worker rights one has in US.

10th percentile compensation for senior engineers in the US looks something like 350-400k/year. (At a rough guess, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple employ 6-7% of the software engineers in the country, and there are enough other firms paying similar amounts of money that 10th percentile sounds about right.) This is with pretty great benefits, too.

I'm pretty happy with the trade-off w.r.t. freedom of association where a business can fire me for ~any reason at any moment, and likewise I can go and get a new job paying mind-bogglingly huge amounts of money with minimal friction. (No amount of "worker rights" will save you if the company employing you goes under, like so many did in the dot com era.)

That is the top performer salary, if any. When I check glassdoor for software engineer salaries at Amazon; average base salary is around 128K$ and top is 225K$ among all disclosed on glassdoor.

That being said, I don't know if I would plan my life entirely around being in the absolute top %10 of engineers. Avg. seems like a better figure to compare when speaking of whole markets/countries.

I plan to be at top %40 of engineers in a given field as a specialist and be a generalist overall. Seems like EU is a better fit for me then.

Check levels.fyi, not Glassdoor. Glassdoor systematically underreports compensation for a wide variety of reasons. (And is in general pretty inaccurate; Amazon is publicly known to have a base salary cap of 185k in high cost-of-living locations, and 160k elsewhere, with the rest of the compensation coming from bonus/stock.)

40th percentile compensation in the US is probably still much higher than in the EU, but you do you.

Thank you very much for the very detailed and informative post! If you don't mind sharing - was it easy to convince your employer to get a transfer to the US?

- Moving to a country where English is the native language is a _lot_ easier than moving to a country where you don't know the language as well. This holds even if a large part of the population speaks English very well; if you don't speak native language of a country, it's hard to feel like a part of society.

-> I had to learn this the very hard way here in Sweden. Even though I come from another Nordic country, I guess I have an annoying or very noticeable accent which makes socializing extremely hard.

Only speaking for my case; I told my manager I no longer liked living in Sweden and wanted to move to a different country. At the time, we only had engineering offices in Sweden and the US. That meant either 1) asking to be an exception in remote work, which HR didn't really like, 2) leaving my company or 3) my company helping me move to the US. I never saw it as a negotiation/threat of leaving, I just honestly told him that I never really connected with Sweden and that I wanted to move. I think he understood that, as we had quite a few expats and a lot of them leave after a few years to go back to their home country. Fortunately on his part, he was very supportive and helped me connect to several teams in the US to see if we'd be a good match professionally. I'd say it was easier than asking for a raise, hehe...

It is relatively easy to move to the US if you've been at your company for 1+ years, have a good education background and if your company has a "blanket L1 visa petition". My "Im-not-a-lawyer" summary of L1 blanket visa is that it allows a company to move special knowledge workers to the US with a simplified and fairly certain path to get a visa (vs. H1B which is a lottery, O1 has hard requirements, etc.). The downside of an L1 is that it's tied to your employment at your sponsoring company, so you can't move to the US and then switch employer (... unless you first switch to H1B/greencard, etc...).

I've lived in the Bay Area for 10 years now -- one thing you should be prepared for is that it can be a very 'transitory' place. The majority of people you will meet have plans to move back home in a few years, so it's harder to form long-term friendships. Not sure if this is a regional thing or if you'd get the same phenomenon in big cities like New York or London.

This makes total sense and was my experience with attending college in the US as well. But tbh, most social relationships get pretty hard after you graduate university because I guess people just don't have as much time for random socialising which decreases one's ability to meet someone one clicks with.

New York is like that too - everyone has the “transitory” mind set and won’t waste time on long term social ties - even the people who have lived there for 20 years.

I don’t know if that’s how the rest of the US is, never having lived there. But from my own experience and that of friends, it’s very different in Germany, Britain, Ireland and Israel.

I cannot emphasize it enough - CA is a special place designed for rich people. You don't come here to settle down, you come here to strike gold or die trying. The outdoors is fabulous too though you'll probably change your mind on CA summers after a few years.

Unless you are smart enough to pass FAANG interviews (or better yet, live through an IPO) you should keep in mind that people like you are supposed to leave once they get older and want to have a life. Which likely includes a family. Basically, the SFBA is for people who can buy a house for cash.

Same in London.

same with Copenhagen

Lived in the US throughout my 20s, lived like a grad student (with a few splurges here and there to celebrate career milestones) and saved+invested most of my money earned during a FAANG career, during covid i bought+restored an old manor in a rural area in my home country where I can live on a few hundred euros a month (it blows my mind what 30 euros gets me in fresh produce from local farmers compared to $100 at BiRite in SF). I'm still ~40 minutes away from a mid sized city and airport that directly connects me to large cities in Europe.

It's been worth it although it's come at the cost of personal relationships somewhat.

What did you invest in? (if you don't mind sharing)

I mainly worked for one big co through the 2010s and let the stock pile up, and it just grew significantly over time. I've reinvested a bit into basic things like VTSAX/VTIAX/VTBLX to have safeguards, but that recent real estate purchase was the first time I really sold a big chunk of it. (I worked for a few startups too, but those options never contributed meaningfully to my net worth)

not sure that the investments the parent made 5-10 years ago are good investments today.

I did the reverse. American who moved to EU for work. I would say go for it! Unless you land a gig in Silicon Valley or working for FAANG tho, I would tamper your expectations of the salary in the States being that much better than (Western) Europe. I would never say not to do it though, I think it will be "worth" it 100% regardless of potential monetary compensation increases.

Thank you very much for the reverse perspective! Do you mind sharing which EU country you moved to? Are you planning to stay longer term or just for a few years and then go back? I recently relocated from UK to Stockholm, Sweden and boy has it been tough going so I was wondering if maybe change of continent would be better. I feel kind of stuck here - mostly socially, but also a bit career-wise.

Germany! Yeah, I feel you on the socially "stuck" part. I've been over here almost 6 years and it took at least 3 to get a social life going. Perhaps I'm just not outgoing enough, perhaps there are a lot of other factors at play. I would say that making friendships in US is a lot easier on the whole, but this is based on anecdotal experience and not any sort of hard evidence. There are many US immigrants here who echo similar experiences. I found my first good friends were also immigrants and then later made a few close German friends.

Someone explained it to me with two circles of how close the different cultures let someone in: in the U.S. it's pretty easy to get through that first layer and make some acquaintances, but deep friendships may take longer. Germans are not big into casual acquaintances, but once you're in that first circle, it's easier to get through to the second one as well.

There's also a difference in push/pull: Germans will often expect you as the new guy to make the first steps, whereas that will be the opposite in other cultures that are more inviting.

Joining some Verein or taking a class at the Volkshochschule can help crossing that first circle.

> Germans are not big into casual acquaintances, but once you're in that first circle, it's easier to get through to the second one as well.

Someone explained to me that this is the case in Sweden as well, but during covid (even though we had lighter restrictions), meeting people on any circle has been near neigh impossible.

I'm an American who did the same, and I echo this. The compensation tradeoff was much more pronounced when I moved to Berlin 4 years ago. Covid and remote work changed this: you can now make more-or-less median comp for a second tier US city after adjusting for cost of living (and before accounting for quality of life).

Everywhere's still low compared to the Bay Area, don't get me wrong. But it means you either need to be a salary maximalist, determined to nationalize, to have a strong pull toward a certain US city/company for the move to make as much sense these days.

Still, I'd encourage everyone regardless of home/destination to live and work at least some of their life in another country. The merits of doing so are vast, and extend well beyond renumeration.

I'm thinking about doing a short stint there, but I'm afraid the cultural differences may be too for me (sexism, pessimism, poor perception of those who are highly invested in their work, social isolation by ethnicity...)

Can you say more about why?

sure! I moved over here with a girl I met in college who is an EU citizen. So it wasn't directly for work per se.

Not quite what you asked for, but I’m an American who went to Germany for five years and then came back recently. Quite happy to be back, though certainly there’s things I miss dearly about Munich.

The people talking about a lifestyle downgrade in the US aren’t wrong, exactly, but it does depend on your own preferences and values and situation. For me, the lifestyle in the Seattle area is better overall I’d say, but I definitely miss the transportation system in Munich a ton. Seattle is practically drowning in nerd culture, which I adore, whereas Munich had relatively little.

Also, not everything is as the stereotypes go. The public school our son is in here in Kirkland is fucking awesome, way better than the private school he was in in Munich (we were going to do public school there, but the system didn’t want him). Part of his better adjustment is obviously being a native speaker, but that’s not the only thing that’s better.

Could you elaborate on why you found the German schools lacking?

Our son went to a waldkindergarten (forest kindergarten) which was great, but the elementary school situation seemed a lot different. He basically failed the try out day in two different schools (we moved), the first said he was too disruptive, the second that he was too quiet. Both wanted to send him to the special ed school far away. So we sent him to a private Catholic school nearby instead. It was okay, but strict, and they were pretty bad at technology. His new public school in the states has vastly nicer facilities, much friendlier staff, no school uniforms (fuck that shit), knows how to use email, and of course it's been easy for him to make local friends.

Oh, and the fact that in Bavaria you need to decide on your life's path at fourth grade I find pretty stupid, too (tracked schooling after that year).

I would like to notice, that significant portion of people moving abroad for work in high-tech industries are top performers. Extrapolating from their experiences isn't necessarily helpful if you aren't top performer yourself.

I don't believe that's true, and even if it was I don't believe it's would make a difference.

I've lived in the Bay Area for six years, made a bunch of money and am now moving back to the EU to enjoy said money.

You make a lot more $$$, but it's definitely a big lifestyle downgrade. I wouldn't wanna live there permanently, but as a temporary thing to set yourself up nicely it's not too bad.

Are you planning to move to a major metro-region in the EU or somewhere more quiet?

I'm a city person, so I'm currently eyeing Amsterdam.

It's not exactly cheap, but still a lot better than the Bay, plus it has a lot of the things I'm looking for - a working transportation system, social cohesion and a generally socially liberal attitude (this was the one thing the Bay Area does better than a lot of Europe!)

I moved from London to work for one of the FAANG companies in SV and my salary has grew more than 10 times over 5 years (partially due to insane stock run). Having said that I still enjoyed life in London more and planning to come back to Europe in few years since I will be able to live comfortably with money saved.

Edit: by salary I meant total income including RSUs, the salary is also much better but obviously not 10x.

Your answer below was exactly what I needed man. I am trying to decide whether to move to Cali or London, from Malmö, Sweden.

It looks like I am will be going with London, purely based on clarity of visa procedure. But my heart is torn about giving up on California.

I work as a self-employed IT Consultant, and I already make like top US salaries in Nordics. I will be moving my company to UK. Compensation-vise, I am fine either way.

I feel like, in London, I will miss the summer weather, mountanuous nature...and end up going for vacations down south in Europe to compensate. Whereas in Califorina, you live in the right climate & nature if you like that.

Would you say other advantages (public transport, european nice city arch., close to other european centers) in London weigh heavier than climate/nature part?

> It looks like I am will be going with London, purely based on clarity of visa procedure.

Have you a sense of which US visa you would qualify for? Most people don’t qualify for a US work visa from outside the US. Folks are often surprised to learn this. If you’re considering moving to the US the first step is to figure out what visa you could get, otherwise it will just be disappointment when you’ve invested in the idea of moving and then realized later it’s not possible legally.

Exactly. US is barely possible. Hence I am warming up to the idea of moving to UK for good.

If you don't mind me asking: how does the visa work for the UK from EU? For a long time now I've had your same idea to move to London (or close by) for a stint, from a different EU country, but then Brexit happened and I had basically given up hope.

Basically, there is no advantage to being from EU on paper. Subjectively, when your papers are processed, it will definitely be faster and less scrutinized.

> Having said that I still enjoyed life in London more

Asking as a London-based dev who'd love to work in the US, how did the lifestyle differ? What did you like about London and DF, and what don't you like?

Silicon Valley is a very unique place so I am sure there will be other places in US that do not match this description but here you have a choice of:

Living down in the Bay Area: - long uber (or car and no drinking) drive any time you want to go out in the city.

- lack of diversity in terms of what ppl do for living, almost everybody does something tech related and we are sadly rarely a party starter type :)

- high rent if you want a nice apartment or a house

- if you are single guy dating life is a real survival of the fittest here, not that it's impossible but it definitely puts you in more desperate mindset than most other places

San Francisco:

- Used to have to drive 40-50 min to work everyday but that's no longer the case due to covid

- To be honest for me it's just too dirty and dangerous. I originally came from Central Europe so even London was a bit gross with all the trash piles around restaurants etc. for me but SF is a whole another level. The things you see on the streets here take some time to get used too. I am a fairly large dude so I get to avoid allot of things but my girlfriend had mentally ill folks throw needles at her, chase her with a lighter trying to set her hair on fire. Not that you cannot have fun here but you eventually learn to Uber straight to your destination, no walking around just exploring like you would do in Europe.

What I loved about London and Europe in general is relative safety + public transport combo. No need to plan everything out, no need to worry if you gonna drive/how much you can drink, no need to be on guard several times a night when something weird happens around you.

Edit: Just so I am not only listing negatives. There is allot of cool things you can do here.

Skydiving, paragliding are super common in California and weather is great for those type of sports. Water sports like surfing, kite surfing. There is some beautiful nature around so if you like hiking you won't be bored for a while. Tahoe is close so in the winter you can go sking multiple times a year with only a 3-4 hour drive. Money you make here will allow you to travel more than any other place.

The US is a big place. Which city are you actually interested in? SV is suburbia. Housing tracts, car centric. NYC is a large city with reasonable public transportation, not London but as close as you can get in the USA.

Mainly places like SV/SF, Seattle, Boston, maybe Austin. I'd love to work in NYC of course, but yeah I imagine it's as close to London as you get in the US.

I’ve been in the Bay Area for 4 months and have enjoyed it, however I’ll go back to Europe in the next few years. You can get similar salaries if you find remote jobs out here or contract in London so the main reason should be for the lifestyle, not the work. If it helps I’m paying literally 7x more for my apartment than I did in England while my salary is fairly similar lol. It’s all fun though.

That seems like a very unusual financial situation. Paying that much more for an apartment probably means you weren’t in London before, and then it would be extremely odd to make the same in the Bay Area as non-London UK.

Haha yeah - my flat was in Oxford and heavily subsidized so £350pm and it’s now $3k plus bills. I’ve worked remotely for the last few years so always been on six figure rates.

Cool! I used to live in London and was contracting quite a bit but then decided to move to Sweden with a remote job. But wow 7x more for your apartment! And here I thought my London rent was sky-high...

Rent in London is high but little compared to the other international cities. My experience working for international companies is that a flat that goes for £2000 for me in London can go for $5000 for a coworker in NYC (maybe less now after the pandemic).

A factor of 7 is entirely believable for England (non London) and most of the EU.

That's still high. In Barcelona you can find a city center flat for 1000€/month

ZA -> UK 5 years -> US. Transformative for me. I ran a job search engine in London. There was no startup community to speak of and talk poppy syndrome is very real. Got to USA and relaunched it here, and found it laughably easy to do business here, incredibly supportive, failure is celebrated and there is no easier place in the world to raise cheap, enthusiastic and helpful money. I now run a 40 person cybersecurity company with the help of amazing US based investors and mentors, most of whom are also immigrants.

That’s my perspective as an entrepreneur. I actually worked for eToys.com in the UK and spent time based in the USA in LA and loved it. Faster moving, no classism, faster advancement and plenty of other amazing businesses surrounded me.

The States is amazing in my opinion for employees and entrepreneurs.

A good friend of mine moved from Germany to the US. He's got some grumblings about the social issues in the US (homelessness, public transit, dirtiness in cities, etc.) but seems happy overall. His income roughly tripled and he's not even at FAANG.

3x income is nice, but what about expenses? Groceries, utilities, and taxes all seem to cost a lot more in North America, not to mention health insurance in the USA.

>Groceries >utilities

From what I can tell these might cost 25% more in the US than Germany but that's such a drop in the bucket compared to engineer salaries it's irrelevant. These also vary drastically based on the location you're living since the US is a fairly massive country.


The US has generally lower taxes. Sales tax is 0-8% depending on the state versus 15-27% for VAT. From what I can tell the average German workers has a tax rate of 39%. In the US it's 22%. Obviously tax brackets, state taxes and so on come into account but in general the US will have lower tax rates for the same income.

>health insurance

Covered by your employer and will be quiet nice at any decent company. The paperwork is the biggest pain point to be honest and it's convoluted sometimes. Even if it's a crappy plan the total cost to cover a family might be $10k a year worst case. Given the salaries that's a fairly minor cost and at a decent company would be much lower.

I dunno about that, electricity is expensive in Germany compared to the US. Internet is more expensive, but nowhere near 3x. Groceries can be worse, discount groceries aren’t as common in the states, but if you specifically seek out cheaper grocery places it’s not too much worse imo.

Taxes generally aren’t worse, though this depends on specific region. NYC might be worse, while Seattle is better.

And there’s stuff that’s cheaper in the US. Almost anything that comes out of a factory is like 10-20% less, like electronics, partially due to VAT vs sales tax. Ditto for media stuff like streaming subscriptions or Steam games.

Having kids or not will make a huge difference in that calculation. Childcare, excellent public schools, and college that cost a couple hundred Euros easily cost tens of thousands in the U.S.

Also, internet & phones: I have friends who keep their French cell phone contract because even though used from the States it is still much cheaper than any local contract. Internet is mostly a monopoly in the U.S., resulting in easily 5x European prices at much worse performance and service.

Health insurance is nearly always paid by the employer. And aren't US taxes quite low compared to much of Europe?

Depending on the tax bracket and the state, they might or might not be.

At the top tax bracket in NYC or CA, you have iirc 35% federal + 13% state so almost 50%, and that’s not all of it (there’s payroll tax, social security etc).

Products in the US are cheap, but services are expensive, and healthcare is tied to your employer.

My impression is that if you’re young, healthy and without children, the US is much cheaper.

But e.g. putting a kid through college is $200k in the US vs free in the EU.

>Depending on the tax bracket and the state, they might or might not be.

I looked it up for Germany. Let's say you make $400k married with children sole income earner. In Germany your tax comes out to 41%. In NYC it comes out to 34%. Not sure if Germany has the same number of deductions and loopholes as US taxes. If it doesn't then the US one would be even lower due to those.

>But e.g. putting a kid through college is $200k in the US vs free in the EU.

There are cheaper state schools which can be rather good but in general yeah. That said when the post-tax income is $150k more in the US versus Europe the $50k/year for college isn't that much.

> And aren't US taxes quite low compared to much of Europe?

Maybe if you go through the pain of having 'do taxes' be something you have to do, maximise your 'deductions', and look only at income/sales tax, neglecting tax-advantaged savings vehicles & home ownership.

>pain of having 'do taxes' be something you have to do

You mean pay someone $300 and send them a bunch of forms that you download from various websites?

I have no idea, I don't have to do anything like that thankfully.

Non answer, but after years of waiting and further delays due to Covid, I'm finally due for my visa appointment and preparing to relocate to the US. I'll let you know how it goes in 1 year!

Ooh congrats and hope it goes well with your relocation! If you don't mind sharing are you going to work for a FAANG (or I guess it's MAANG or sth now) or somewhere else?

More like MAAMG because MS is way bigger than Netflix ;)

According to Wikipedia, Jim Cramer who coined FANG and later FAANG has suggested MAMAA which makes that replacement, along with Google->Alphabet.

Nice, it sounds like a better acronym yeah. More pronounceable and memorable.

but Netflix pays way more

I haven't really found a job that's 2-3x more compared to Europe when not taking equity into account

One thing you have to be aware of, is that the US assumes any financial dealing outside the US is strictly for evading taxes.

If you have a pension fund in your home country, you’ll likely be reporting and paying tax on its interest. Be prepared to have your looked country banks refuse to deal with you or limit you to saving accounts, and lots of other complications. When living in the US, my tax filing (because of I had to sell some non U.S. assets) one year topped 200 pages; and every year it cost me about 5-10 full work days to prepare the tax filing.

Many people just don’t bother reporting everything, whether out of ignorance or out of negligence - and very rarely get audited. But I wasn’t willing to take the risk.

My advice is: before moving, find an accountant who specialized in US tax for people in your country (and the treaty), and discuss your specific situation. Minor changes before moving could make your financial life incredibly less stressful - and most of them cannot be done once you’ve moved.

At the very least, you must know of FBAR, FATCA, and the treaties that apply to you. But really, two hours with a professional tax person will probably have an ROI of x1000 or so.

UK —> US (when it was still in the EU), I was approached by a top 5 company right as I graduated (to helps to put in internship applications). West coast. I've since got my LPR (Green Card), and changed employers 3 times now. I now work for a tiny company that I partly own.

Definitely worth it: my total comp is 3x-4x what it would be in the UK for the exact same kinds of work.

You did an internship in the US after graduating and stay there?

No, international undergradautes don't really gets internships due to the lack of visas, but it meant that my contact details were in their database when they decided to look for new people that had the right keywords in their resume text...

If you have the opportunity to work in the US definitely do it. Its a great change from Europe, esp if you like business & tech. Once you're here Europe really feels like its heading for relegation.

After that I'm not so sure, we got citizenship and now feels a bit like a trap. I like the land, people and climate (though too hot) but it seems a bit shallow and corporate. A lot of people from other parts of the world make huge sacrifices to bring their kids here to the land of opportunity, I worry there is too much materialistic reward and not enough culture.

Interestingly dont have a problem with the inequality, I think the rich here are almost to be pitied working non-stop to buy an even bigger 2nd house and a more luxurious car? I'm not even sure why they do it.

For a few years it's worth to see how our grandparents lived in that era. Also good money.

But we eventually came back to a democracy, and saw what we paid our taxes for.

It has been worth it for me. My quality of life here is far higher than back home in the UK, I've found a city and state that I enjoy living in - 300 something days of sunshine a year vs grey skies in the UK - and the salary delta is outrageous.

Although, I didn't move strictly for work - I intended to build a life here, and my initial visa was dual intent for that reason.

What's the diff between EU and US when it comes to free days?

How many paid, free days per year that you can take in almost any amount in a row do you have?

I guess this is the biggest difference i observed between American and European colleagues. The latter are often concerned with how many days off they get and not so much about what they could achieve. No judgement (i love my 24 days min) but an observation


This site is very accurate

I'm sure they're aware of the equivalent compensation, and that it's often higher in the US. But there are a lot of other factors to QoL that are more interesting to compare.

I've worked in a lot of Europe and spent a lot of time working in all over the US too. I genuinely believe that it's down to the person. Personally, i'd stay in Europe, but one of my good friends (who did the same route) set up in Austin Texas. The compensation is a lot better in the US that Europe in general (but you can still find ~$300k+ in EU if you look for it). I didn't enjoy SF (downtown, not Palo Alto) and Florida at all. SF was dirty, both felt unsafe, and Florida felt very fake, etc. However, just down the road from SF (San Diego) was beautiful and a totally different vibe. Boston was also really cool.

As for the working environment, the general thing I found was that the US tends to have more people which are absolute experts, whereas EU is more general. If you get hired to do, say, firewall config in the US then you'd be an absolute expert on Cisco, and there would be another separate person who is an absolute expert on Checkpoint. In EU there would be one person who (whilst they might be shit-hot) would be 80% as good as their US counterparts, but on both Cisco/Checkpoint. Just an observation I had across several companies. The main things which drove we away from the US were the working environments - long days, and the general intensity. Also unsaid things like travel time in general being a lot longer, just because stuff is more spread out, than EU. I also found that a lot of the meetings were very confrontational, there was a lot of competitiveness/trying to make others look bad, etc. than their EU counterparts.

That being said, the time I got completely eviscerated in a meeting on purpose (to make the consultant look bad) was in Eastern Europe. YMMV, but of course these are just my general observations. It sounds weird, but being from the UK I missed the music scene a lot. The US people were absolutely lovely though, everywhere I went everyone made me feel welcome, even the people who look to tear you a new one in meetings 30 minutes later.

These are just some random sunday evening musings from someone who has worked a few years in both (some FAANG, some large, some small companies) in both. My observations are pre-Trump though, it does seem recently that there's a lot more division in the US these days, so the environment might be totally different now. I'd honestly give it a go if you're young, see if you like it. You can always move back. FWIW my favorite places in both were probably a smallish company in San Diego, and work in Malta. To choose any places to live for me, other than the UK, i'd most likely pick Boston and Sweden. 99% of the time the people you work with make the atmosphere though, so you can get lucky and unlucky, which is why i'm trying to generalise my experiences as much as possible. I realise i've gone on a mad tangent here, but yes it was totally worth it and i'd do it again if i could.

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