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Living in Europe as an expat: our guide to success!

Ready to move to the Old Continent? From the Straits of Gibraltar to the banks of the Danube, the cradle of Western civilization is home to a multitude of languages, cultures and incredible sites, that attract plethora of expatriates from all over the world.

Europe is made up of 50 countries, all in very proximity, but to many, very different one from the other. Although the 27 Member States of the European Union share a common set of values, organizational structures and the same standard of living, it is still incredibly difficult to capture the essence of the European identity. And it is perhaps the very plurality of this small continent that attracts so many to foreigners…

What are the best countries to live in Europe? On what basis should you choose your next destination? Foyer Global Health gives you some insights for your expat plans!

What are the benefits of living in Europe for an expat?

Europe attracts nearly 3 million foreigners a year. Why are people so motivated to move there?

  • Great job and career opportunities as an employee or an entrepreneur;
  • Excellent working conditions;
  • Travel opportunities: you can easily discover new countries in the EU with a single visa;
  • Europe’s rich cultural heritage and diversity
  • High-quality healthcare services (for more details, click here)
  • Overall high standard of living and good quality of life

In addition to these ‘objective’ criteria, choosing a country of expatriation is also certainly a matter of affinity, interests, and emotional connection…

How to expatriate to Europe?

Entry and residence visas depend on a few factors, such as: your nationality, the reason for your stay and the intended duration of your stay. It is recommended to directly contact the embassy in your home country to find out the exact requirements. Switzerland, for example, is a special case.

How to choose where to live in Europe as an expat?

When you choose the country for your expatriation, it is important to consider several factors:

  • Quality of life (happiness, opportunities of leisure, travel and discovery, transport, health and well-being, safety, quality of the environment, online services);
  • Climate;
  • Ease of settling in and adapting;
  • Job opportunities;
  • Cost of living, personal finances and tax;
  • And above all: matching your personal plan with all the above criteria.

What are some of the favourite European destinations for expats?

In Northern Europe

Finland: If you want to find happiness, head far north, to Finland! Happiness is everywhere, deep in the magical forest and in the open air! The locals learned over the centuries to cultivate the ‘onni’ ⁠—a mystical combination between luck and happiness. The country of a thousand lakes often shines at the top of the World Happiness Report rankings and Finland expatriates can benefit from an omnipresent wilderness, an excellent education system, a strong sense of community, and very effective online services. Finland is the perfect expatriation destination for families and nature lovers likewise.

Denmark: In Denmark, too, people cherish the art of happiness⁠— the ‘hygge’. The locals strive to create these small intimate moments of comfort, joy and well-being, in their everyday life to make it shine. Expats are happy there too! A peaceful and safe country perfect for families, Denmark has a lot to offer: a superb quality of life, good work-life balance, great career opportunities and endless opportunities to explore nature’s wonders.

In Eastern Europe

Czech Republic: The Czech Republic is one of the favourite destinations of the expat community. With its sparkling cultural gems, an equally incandescent cultural scene, excellent career opportunities and a vibrant social life, the country (and its capital) are very popular with foreigners. Moreover, the most industrialised country in Central Europe is in the throes of economic development: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is calling on international expertise with specific skills in finance, exports, and information technology.

In Southern Europe

Portugal: On the coast or inland, Portugal attracts expatriates for a thousand and one reasons, including its sunny weather, the warmth of its people, its culinary, natural and cultural heritage, the exceptional quality of life and low cost of living. It is very easy to integrate and work there as a foreigner, and there are countless opportunities to discover Portuguese treasures. Lisbon, in particular, has become a safe haven for digital nomads and international start-ups.

Spain: Spain has it all: radiant hospitality, a sunny climate, sublime gastronomy, and an extraordinary sense of celebration… It is mostly praised for its quality of life: it is possible to enjoy life while working and broadening one’s cultural horizons. Nestled on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is said to be one of the easiest cities in the world for foreigners to socialise and integrate… The royal Madrid is also a city of choice for its magnificent cultural heritage, its high quality of life and the leisure opportunities it offers.

Western/Central Europe

Austria: Mozart’s homeland is a popular destination among expatriates because of the opportunities it offers in terms of travel, transport, but also because of its superb natural environment and health services. You can settle in Austria peacefully and safely.

Switzerland: In 2021, Switzerland was the favourite country for expatriates according to the annual Expat Explorer survey. And for good reason: the land of chocolate, fondues and watches offers an exceptional quality of life, great career opportunities, financial security, high quality health services and natural treasures galore. The only downside is the high cost of living, especially in cities like Zurich and Geneva, which are among the most expensive in the world.

The Netherlands: The flat kingdom is a trendy destination for young expatriates. But the Netherlands also has a lot to give to foreign families and older entrepreneurs. It is a progressive, multicultural country well-known for its high quality of life, but also its economic and social benefits, as well as its excellent working environment. Residents there can count on a solid healthcare system and efficient transport services. In addition, the land of windmills is an excellent base for exploring the whole of Europe!

And what about European overseas territories?

Europe is more than just its continent. There are also 22 European overseas territories scattered  all around the globe that are linked to the Union of 27. If you prefer the Caribbean to Lake Geneva, the Piton des Neiges to the Dent Blanche, why not set sail for Guadeloupe or Réunion Island where you can enjoy the sea and the sun all year long? An expatriation plan to the European overseas territories can be a very exciting adventure!

And why not the United Kingdom?

Even though the UK is no longer part of the EU after Brexit, it is still geographically located in Europe. As an American or as an Asian, it can be easier to move to the UK because of the language and culture, depending on your profile and project. In addition to the ease of integration for English speakers, the UK offers many professional opportunities and social benefits. However, the main disadvantage is that you can no longer move freely across EU countries.