I don’t write a whole lot, and this is something I would like to change. So, for my first non-technical writing I was wondering “What can I offer the world? What unique perspective do I have of the world that may be worth sharing?” So here goes my first attempt.
I’m now 28 years old and I’ve moved quite a bit around the world. I grew up in a small town in Germany and moved to Florida with my mom and step-father when I was 16, and about half a year ago I moved back to Europe; this time, to my wife’s home country, Estonia. We live in Tallinn, and let me tell you, this place is beautiful. Don’t take my word for it, go ahead, open up another tab, search for pictures of Tallinn and then come back, I can wait…
…told you… beautiful.
So, why did we move? I keep getting asked this question. When I tell Estonians that we moved from Florida, the reaction has always been very similar: “What the f*** is wrong with you?! Why would you come to cold, rainy Estonia from the beautiful beaches of Florida?” This reaction makes sense, but only from one perspective: The weather in Estonia isn’t great. It can drop to -20℃ or lower in the winter, the fall is really cloudy and rainy, which can be very depressing… don’t underestimate seasonal depression, I’ve heard from many co-workers that moved here from warmer climates that they felt the same way. The common solution that I’ve heard, is to make sure you take plenty of Vitamin D, which is what I’ve been doing.
The Florida Heat
The Florida sun and heat isn’t for everyone. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great place to visit and vacation, especially if you’re coming from a colder climate, but after living there for over 10 years, I will say, that I do not ever want to live there again. I could probably bear just the heat, but the humidity makes it so much worse. Every day felt like stepping into the sauna. I remember that in the summer months, we would take the kids outside, and they would overheat so fast. I don’t think they could stay outside longer than 30 minutes without being completely drenched in sweat and having bright red cheeks. To me, this didn’t feel right. I remember being outside for hours playing games with my friends as a child without being concerned about the weather.
I’ll stop here about the weather… It’s really just preference, some people really love the climate in Florida, it’s just that my wife and I prefer 4 seasons instead of 1.
U.S. healthcare is broken
Another major reason why we moved was because the healthcare system in the United States is completely broken. When my son was born, my wife and I were still in college and I was working part-time at a startup as a web developer intern making $23 an hour, which at the time I was very happy with. Still, it was barely enough to keep us above water. We had scholarships and grants, but our education was still putting us into some debt. Books for classes were ridiculously expensive, and it was obvious that it was a rip-off, but that’s a story for another time. One thing that was amazing at the time, is that during my wife’s pregnancy, everything was paid for by the Florida government. We were making little enough to where we didn’t have to pay anything for the pregnancy or the birth of our son. Thank you for this Florida, I really appreciate it. Shortly after our son’s birth, I graduated, got a decent job as a Software Engineer at a bigger and more stable company, (after the startup suddenly fell apart, which is also a fun story I like to tell and will write about sometime) and my wife was pregnant with our daughter. This time I had health insurance through the company I was working for. They were paying half and I was paying about $350 every two weeks for my whole family. We were visiting a clinic for all my wife’s prenatal checkups and all together we paid this clinic over $10,000 before the birth, this was on top of what the insurance was paying. After the birth, we started getting bills from the hospital, other attending doctors that we had no clue why or when they were there. Some were there during the birth, just in case something happens, some came into our room to visit my wife after the birth to give advice. The number of bills we received was overwhelming, and even after we paid some of them we would get duplicates or follow-ups, so we had to call them to check if we already paid them or not. Most of the bills barely had any description on them, so it was almost impossible to figure out what exactly we were paying for.
Long story short: My daughter is now 2 years old, and we’re still in debt from her birth.
Estonia takes a different approach, I’ve only experienced it on a smaller scale, but from what I’ve heard, the government pays completely for the birth of your children. Heck, they encourage you to have more children by paying you monthly depending on how many kids you have. It’s clear from the advertisements on TV and in the streets that the government is concerned about the declining birthrate in its country.
I’ll give one more example: In Orlando, we were asked to get our son’s blood-work and X-ray done, so we went to the nearby hospital to do both in the same place. I asked the hospital if they accept our insurance, which they do. I also asked if they could tell me upfront how much it will cost. This, apparently was impossible. I would have to find out from my insurance how much they would cover to see exactly how much it would cost. At the time, I figured it couldn’t be too much, I’ve gotten my blood-work done before and I don’t remember it being a significant amount. Well, turns out the hospital was out of network… Yes, the hospital ‘accepts’ my insurance, but they are out of network. I guess I should have looked it up on the insurance’s website. I learned my nearly $1000 lesson and never made that mistake again.
We just got our son’s blood-work done in Tallinn a few months ago at a private physicians office. They told us upfront that the visit with the doctor and the blood-work would cost 50€. My son was screaming and kicking that day, so the first attempt at getting his blood failed as they couldn’t get enough, which meant that we had to go back. I talked to my son about it before we went back and distracted him with a game (“Ich sehe was was du nicht siehst”, or “I spy something …”) while they were taking his blood. This time they got enough blood, without the drama and at no additional charge.
Fear and paranoia
I’m a bit reluctant to share this, because to me it still sounds a bit crazy, but I’m guessing that my wife and I are not the only ones with this feeling. The number of shootings in the U.S. has been insane. We had a shooting in Orlando, about 20 minutes away from where we lived. Every time we went to the movie theater we were constantly watching people that entered late. Events with large crowds and malls made us nervous. We just didn’t feel safe or comfortable any more, enough so that we decided that to leave the country.
With the latest gun-law changes in Florida that allow teachers to carry guns in schools as a precaution, I’m glad my children are no longer in this environment, and I feel that we’ve made the right choice.
You have options
Moving across the world wasn’t easy by any means…. we struggled quite a bit and made some mistakes on the way, but it is possible and companies are hiring people from all over the world these days and some will even support you with work visas if you need it, as well as moving. I’m not trying to encourage people to leave the U.S. or any other country, but instead hope to open some people’s eyes just a little. You don’t have to stay in the country that you are born in. To me, home is not a place, but the people that I have around me.
Moving to a foreign country has been quite the experience in the positive and negative sense. Language is the biggest challenge so far. Most of the time people speak English, but I’ve been in plenty of situations in which I’ve had to ask people around me for help, when communicating with someone that does not speak English.
I hope this is helpful to anyone. If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment below.
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