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.

More interesting comments and discussions on hackernews.

You have options — Why we left the U.S. and moved back to Europe

13 thoughts on “You have options — Why we left the U.S. and moved back to Europe

  • April 1, 2018 at 7:55 pm
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    I am surprised that the U.S. hospitals cannot give upfront how much something cost (especially for something simple like blood-work), but look like everything is possible.
    Anyway, interesting read.

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    • April 1, 2018 at 9:12 pm
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      This is true. Trying to get up-front pricing from any hospital or Dr office is nearly impossible. They have a different set of rates for every insurance provider and whether they’re in or out of network, etc. if you’re not insured you probably can’t afford the unpublished list rate anyway (they keep those rates really high so that the negotiators at the insurance providers can look good by getting huge “discounts” for their members. Something as simple as standard blood tests at a private lab can run $600+. Not to mention the various tiers of insurance with differing premiums, copays, coinsurance, large deductibles, and other factors… the US is not a great place to be sick. (I’m a US citizen who has lived here all my life).

      Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 9:10 pm
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    Thank you for your perspective. Living in Germany and only watching from afar I more and more get the feeling, that a lot of what happens in the US (and especially the non-reaction from the population) can only be explained by a lot of a Americans not having experienced the kind of possibilities in other civilized countries.

    So thank you for the point of view you provide to a lot of people.

    Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 9:26 pm
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    I have said it before, and I will say it again.

    The EU truly is the home of the free, and disserves alot more recognition than it is getting.

    The US has become an example what can happen with a country when capitalism goes to far, and a broken political system unable to fix the issues it should fix for the masses

    Reply
    • April 1, 2018 at 10:37 pm
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      Hey Sam,

      I am a German living in the US myself and I am also planning to move back to Europe (Germany) this year. For pretty much the same reason, the health care system is absolutely broken, and it’s not the environment I want my son to grow up.

      Totally agree with Bert Dubois by the way, in the US the unhinged market forces of capitalism are at play. Consequence is that it’s your problem if you can’t compete (e.g. get sick).

      Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 9:50 pm
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    Hey Sam,

    thank you for sharing. I totally understand where you are coming from. I grew up in NYC. Worked on Wall Street for 15 years in IT. Left just over a year ago and moved to Europe. Never felt better! And you are right — there’s always options. I had a job offer in Singapore as well. Super easy these days to move. Even with a family.

    Reply
  • April 1, 2018 at 11:19 pm
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    Hey Sam, thanks for the read. Glad that you are enjoying the baltics! I myself am from Lithuania, and the IT sector in major cities there is blooming as well. That being said myself being a niche devwloper I eventually ended up seeking work elsewhere and ended up in Toronto, after a couple of years in UK.

    UK has gotten increasingly worse since they touted the idea of Brexit, but so far Canada looks and feels great!

    Have you ever considered going there instead of Europe and why?

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    • April 2, 2018 at 7:57 am
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      I haven’t considered Canada or the UK myself. We have family close by and that played a major role in our decision as well. Being able to see family over the weekend with only a few hours of travel is something we have longed for for many years now, and it’s already been worth it.

      Reply
  • April 2, 2018 at 7:46 am
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    Having lived in different countries in Europe, I’m considering US very seriously. I got that the medical system is a total fucked up and that schools are ridiculously expensive, I understand the lack of security, but what about opportunities and people mentality about taking risk and believing in themselves?
    That’s for me the biggest source of frustration here in EU where taking risk is considered irresponsible, opportunities are really not easy to find and not many people believe that they can create a business, achieve something great and make money. Also that, at least in France, Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands, will to make money is nearly considered as a vice… I read an article about a Korean expat leaving in the Netherlands exactly for that reason. It was like “social security is cool and you have beautiful flowers, but no thanks”. What is your experience about that ?

    Reply
    • April 4, 2018 at 8:41 am
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      Thomas,

      Speaking as an American who lived all over the US and moved to Europe a few years ago, I can say that there are places in the US that are suspicious of success as well, so know before you go. If you’re going to the US to start a business, then New York City is a good place to go. Taxes are extremely high there, however. Comparable to Europe. But the opportunities there are incredible, as long as you are flexible and smart.

      Silicon Valley is great if you want to do something digital; although San Francisco itself is not great for entrepreneurs. There are other places that I have vaguely heard are particularly business-friendly. Denver, Seattle, Houston. But I know you’ll do research rather than take the advice of a rando on the internet.

      Also, in defense of my homeland, the perception of expanding violence is only a perception, recent sensational events notwithstanding. Statistically it is safer to be in the USA and NYC now than at any point since the 1960s.

      Downsides: The healthcare situation is dire. That’s real. Education, the vehicle by which the less fortunate can improve themselves, is extremely expensive and getting worse. Society seems determined to humiliate the poor and extract money from the middle class, which is leading to increasing political and social instability. How much? I cannot say. The legal system is largely broken, as demonstrated by the extremely high incarceration rate.

      Harald Eia, Norwegian comedian and sociologist, makes a great case that Scandinavia is a better place for getting rich than is the US. The social stability brought about by the low cost of education, social-, health- and child-care are great for business, despite the high taxes. I’m convinced. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9UmdY0E8hU

      Reply
  • April 2, 2018 at 8:53 pm
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    America is in decline, and if I had skills that were in-demand in other countries, I would definitely go. Unfortunately, I did not want to get into extreme debt when I graduated high school in 2003 so I did not go to college (I have a few credits from community college I paid outright) and now I’m sort of stuck. We haven’t fixed the crazy high prices of college so even if I went back to school now I would still have that debt– and while I have a good work history of customer service, training and administrative work those things are easily found from a native and not something I could convince New Zealand or someplace that they desperately need me. I would be willing to learn another language, but I don’t see the options for me– it is pretty depressing.

    Reply

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