97 Comments
Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

After talking about leaving the USA for years, we took the leap three years ago and moved to rural Portugal with our (then 10, now 13 year old) daughter. My husband is a freelance event producer/video guy. I'm a writer so I can work from anywhere, though I was never fully freelance before moving here because of the astronomical cost of healthcare in the States. We are both lucky that our careers are portable--and that we could stash a nice nest egg away after selling our (very modest but still astronomically expensive) house in San Francisco. Although adjusting to life in the EU has had its rough patches and steep learning curves, we have never once regretted the move--especially as we keep an eye on everything happening in the States.

We are all three thriving in new and unexpected ways, learning to let go of that capitalist urge to constantly Be Productive and just slow down, breathe, and take our time. Everything runs slower here, especially in Portugal (as compared to the northern EU countries). We joke that you can't have an American-size to-do list for your day here. If you get one thing done in a day, that's brilliant. Time to stop and celebrate.

Best of all, our daughter (who attended public school in California and attends public school here in Portugal as well) no longer has nightmares about getting shot at school. She feels safe here, and that alone makes the move worthwhile.

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Fantastic! How wonderful. Publics school, huh? That's really great.

Yeah, I've never once regretted our move either. On the contrary, I imagine how close we came to NOT doing it, and that scares me.

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"If you get one thing done in a day, that's brilliant. Time to stop and celebrate." Ha! I love that.

Regarding your daughter's nightmares, what an appalling commentary on America...

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Apr 19·edited Apr 19Liked by Brent Hartinger

It is appalling, isn't it? Her summer school ran a lockdown drill one day when she was 6. (Six!!!) One of the staff came into her classroom with a Nerf gun and started "shooting" students who were hiding underneath desks and behind curtains. (The school didn't alert parents ahead of time or I would have made sure she was absent that day!) When I picked her up she said, "Today we learned how to hide when the bad man comes with a gun." She had nightmares ever after. Even now, at age 13, her anxiety spikes when we return to the States to visit family. She doesn't want to go into stores or theaters or crowded places for fear of a mass shooting. The infuriating thing is, her fear is not unfounded.

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Infuriating, indeed!

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That "drill" is just nuts. "How to provide PTSD in one easy lesson!"

I'm surprised the school wasn't sued (unless it was!).

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Apr 19Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

You’ve hit on some great points here. The living spaces being smaller I actually see as a pro though! I’ve learned I don’t need nearly as many things as I thought I needed. Not to mention keeping the house clean and organized is significantly easier! ;) And as you mentioned, the trade off is the public spaces are so much nicer and you spend more time outside of the home, most importantly with other people, therefore feeling more connected.

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Thank you. Yes, it turns out we much prefer smaller spaces too, and we absolutely prefer more human contact.

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We love not having the ability to have a bunch of stuff!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

I lived in Europe “unintentionally” for four decades after arriving less than a week after graduating high school. I was still half hungover from grad parties when I began my gap year and left with eyes wide open when we moved to Canada and I became an immigrant in the city I grew up in. (We moved so we could be closer to my aging parents.)

A few observations:

- Arriving in Canada was like time travel, especially when looking at hospitality where things seem inefficient and unprofessional compared to Europe.

- As an immigrant, you’ll never be perceived to be a local. After 20 years in Norway, people didn’t introduce me as a “colleague” or “neighbour”. They often felt it necessary to introduce me as “from Canada” even though I had a Norwegian name through my ancestry and learned to speak the language without a detectable accent.

- That said, the same thing happens here. In the city I grew up in, people often introduce us by saying, “they moved here from Europe”. The John Irving quote from “Son of the Circus” is true: “Immigrants are immigrants all their lives.”

- Living abroad for an extended period of time, especially if you’re outside the expat bubble” expands your understanding of life and in my experience that translates to a greater appreciation of diversity, tolerance, and the fact that most people are more alike than they are different. You’ll find all kinds of people everywhere, most of them care about other people, and if you learn to challenge your biases you’ll discover wonderful things about yourself that you otherwise would never know.

Great article, Brent. I encourage everyone that has the opportunity to try to live abroad. Not just Americans to Europe, just everyone to somewhere else! It ain’t always sunshine and rainbows, but in my experience it is the best education you can get!

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“Immigrants are immigrants all their lives.”

Love that quote. Somehow I was born an immigant even though I was born in America to American parents. But from very early on, I wanted to live other places desperately.

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Thank you. Great observations! Sounds like you've had a rich, interesting life.

I totally agree about having assumptions challenged. It's discombobulating, but usually in a good way. Like you, it has IMPROVED my view of human nature, quite dramatically. People are basically...decent!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Thank you for re-posting this! My partner and I have been traveling full time through the US for the last 5 years and we're ready to go international. We've done 6 months in Mexico and a month in Canada, but we crossed borders with our "house" in tow. This will be different since we won't have a house and we'll be flying and not driving. We're planning to start with Central and South America in 2025. Hopefully, we'll be ready for Europe in 2026. I'm leaning heavily on your experience and advice for this, lol, and I appreciate all that you offer here!

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You're very welcome. Michael is very interested in the RV life. I didn't realize it was possible in Mexico, but duh -- of course it is. You liked it there in a RV?

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

We didn't do the mainland in the RV. Instead we put it in storage in Texas and drove down in our little car and stayed in an AirBnB in Mexico City for 3 months. But we have taken the RV to Baja twice now and loved it. We stayed down there for 3 months last year and basically lived on the beach for next to nothing. There's nothing quite like finishing up a day's work and walking out your door to hop on your SUP and paddle around crystal blue waters, cooking and eating the fish you caught that day and then having your own cozy bed to crawl into at night. Some roads can be rough, but they've improved a lot since the first time we went down. We never feel unsafe, but we also don't stay around border towns and we travel with other RVers most of the time. It's something that I would recommend everyone experience at least once in their lifetime.

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Fantastic. You[re living the life!

God, I loved Mexico City. What an amazing place!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

It is! I would live there if it weren't for the smog, insane traffic and impending earthquake, lol.

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That sounds wonderful!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger

I’m also looking at starting in Central & South America, but probably not until 2026/2027. I’m interested in Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, & Colombia (so far).

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So am I. I'm looking to move in the next 18 months.

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Apr 22Liked by Brent Hartinger

One important note: there seems to be an exodus of American people—not restricted to the US—flying to Europe lately, notably in Southern countries. Their arrival with increased capital has exacerbated inequalities, squeezing the purchasing power of Europeans already living there. It's crucial to carefully consider where you establish your home, to avoid repeating comparable living crises triggered in Latin America.

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it's a fair point. Thanks for adding it.

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Apr 20Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

As a Malaysian, I’ve heard the lament “Malaysia no hope already, better to move overseas” all my life. I have relatives who have made that move, most to Australia or United States. Heck, I myself moved to Australia for a few years, though not to migrate, but because “my life sucks so let’s move abroad to find myself”. Unlike most of my relatives, however, I moved back to Malaysia. A move many find incomprehensible because it was generally perceived that life is better abroad.

So it's really interesting to hear this now from Americans now. Peronally, I don't think america is as hopeless as so many people make it out to be but okay, i have to admit the politics seem dire, but speaking as someone who comes from a country whose politics was deemed corrupt and beyond salvegable, whose democratically-elected govt was ousted by a coup during the pandemic, and yet manage to elect a PM who has been a political prisoner for decades ... eh miracles, can happen.

I just have a feeling that all that hugely negative noise from your media is affecting your perception of your country. TBH, American media is awfully toxic, so much so that sometimes I'm relieved that my country's media is more, er controlled.

Anyway, about Malaysia, the reasons for this perception is many, but boils down to the societal pressures minorities face in Malaysia. (That would take too long to explain in this Note, but a future Substack beckons.)

But for me, the quality of life is better in Malaysia. It’s in Malaysia that I could get debt free, be agile with my career and now have a career in tech, and live a life with rich access to culture and fly to anywhere in Asia cheaply.

Australia is great, but it didn’t suit me in the long run. I found it stifling to my career as my experience wasn’t valued there, and it would be tough to “proove” myself to the right people to get anywhere quickly.

But most importantly, in Malaysia I could be with my family and i realise that i needed to be close to them more than I realised.

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Interesting perspective on why Malaysia works better for you. And if we've learned anything over the past seven years, most every country/government has its pros and cons.

I will, however, have to respectfully disagree about the media being why we feel the way we do about the U.S. There are many wonderful qualities about America, but having grown up and lived in it for most of my adult life, my perspectives are based on my experiences and the changes I have actually seen happen in my lifetime.

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Definitely that my case isn't applicable for all. Likewise with you. I think whether an individual will find a move abroad is, well, a very individual thing. Therefore, your situation is legit for you.

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Oh, I think you're right! Our media are very toxic these days. For us (poor writers), living in America simply became too expensive, especially living in REALLY expensive Seattle (our income did not go up, we did not benefit from the local boomtimes). Plus, we are very lucky that our income, despite being "low" in America, is "high" in most of the rest of the world -- we've very privledged.

But I can absolutely see your point, and it absolutely depends on multiple factors. Truly!

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Speaking of media being toxic, and this is something I've observed - and since you're a writer and have written screenplays etc. I seem to get the impression that there are very few dramas with a "positive vibe". For example, I don't see many sweet romance or slice of life dramas depicting travel or small-town living, which are very popular in Asia. On the whole, is it my imagination, or has entertainment media gotten darker over the years? Do correct me if I'm wrong, but that's what I've noticed as I don't remember dramas depicting a more positive outlook these days.

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That is a complicated question, and could probably a whole essay in itself. I think there IS a lot of that programming in America, but it is not considered "cool," and it is not at all critically acclaimed. So it ends up on places like the Hallmark Channel and on religious channels (and, frankly, it's often low quality). I think mainstream/liberal entertainment got very dark for a while in the 00s and teens, but I think there's a hunger for lighter stuff, and I think we'll see more of it in the decade to come. There's always a lag, but I think that's the direction we're heading.

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(Truthfully? The "dark" stuff is a real pet peeve of mine, and the cynical stuff annoys me ever more. I don't want my programming telling me it's all hopeless and people are all assholes!)

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I hope the trend comes soon! The reason I asked this was because this was what fans of Chinese dramas who used to watch lots of Hollywood dramas said - that Hollywood tv has gotten very dark lately. That got me thinking. Thanks for answering btw. I guess there are slice of life dramas but I guess they are not considered cool

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Apr 19Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

We moved to Cuenca, Ecuador, in Feb 2023 on a retirement visa (while still working remotely)—for fitness (no car needed), social, political “detox,” and retirement catch-up reasons. In the U.S., we were barely making it—even on two decent salaries. After selling everything and now being able to invest/save half our income (while living very well), we’ll also benefit from FEIE on this year’s tax return. We’ve made expat AND Ecuadorian friends. And so far, we’ve had 10 (!) family members visit us. Amazing. Like you, we’re very grateful.

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It is a great life hack for certain Americans, isn't it? We're very lucky.

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

You make me miss Europe! But I’m pretty content living in (Southeast) Asia too!

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Well, I'm in Europe, and I'm currently missing Southeast Asia! LOL

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Another amazing part of the world!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

I can vouch for a lot of what is said about Europe here. However, the education systems vary greatly in Europe. Personally, I thought Canada’s education system was better than Belgian’s and way better than Spain’s. I Canada there was a lot more freedom to choose different subjects and electives, depending on what you’re good at. They don’t look down on kids who want to go into trades and encourage it through electives. They also make it easy to take your kids from school for a month or more to travel. In Spain and Belgium, all this is almost unheard of.

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Interesting! Michael went to school in Australia for a bit, and he's talked about how study of trades was encouraged at a young age. In America, that's supposedly anti-democratic, because you're not supposed to make that kind of choice so early. But I can see the benefit.

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

A great read, as the most often are...the big difference is this time it is relatable. My hubby and I have made the decision of retiring to France. We are living in the US , he is still working, we came from Canada with his work. He has 449 days left...but who's counting? Ok...I'm counting! LOL As it sits know one of the HUGE driving forces, other than the elephant in the room, couch Trump cough, we cannot afford to live here when retired, at least not the way we want to, and Canada is in a VERY similar situation! Thanks for waking me up again!

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Thank YOU.

Yeah, we are comfortable, not rich, but we live so much better in Europe (and even better in Eastern Europe). Which Europeans probably hate to hear, since it's probably driving up their cost of living.

Good luck with the planning!

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

I think about it every day, but after looking for a remote job for the last 2 years I’ve decided the stress is too much and I need to have a different plan. So now I’m focused on working 2-3 more years here in the PNW, then retire & travel - and find opportunities to work or volunteer where ever I chose to be. I love America but it’s just too dysfunctional and stupid, it’s exhausting.

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My number one fear these days -- other than one of us getting seriously ill -- is being forced to return to America.

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Sounds like a good plan, yes. There is much to be said for American incomes!

(America is exhausting, isn't it? Oh my oh my.)

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

Yeah, I spent a couple of days on the phone with various government agencies when I went back to Ireland, and it’s one of the toughest. I barely miss the cut-off for ancestry. The only option for me as a self-employed writer would be the retirement visa, but…my writing would probably count as work? Ugh. Next possible option is to just….somehow make 250K Euro and donate it through Portugal’s program 🤪

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Well, there IS always the handsome Christmas prince option. LOL

Yeah, I'm bummed neither of us the right ancestry either. Grrrr.

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Apr 28Liked by Brent Hartinger

This was a good, and generally fair-minded, article that I think did a good job at describing key differences between the US and Europe.

However - I am going voice some criticisms!

-It irks me when people act as though mass shootings are a rational thing for normal people to be afraid of in the US. This is NOT because mass shootings are good, or because gun laws in the US are sane. I'm all for gun control. But as a factual matter, a random individual is VANISHINGLY unlikely to be the victim of a mass shooting; this is not a rational thing to be afraid of in day-to-day life. Current panic over mass shootings in liberal circles reminds of the panic over terrorism in conservative circles in the 2000s - they're both high-profile, extremely-low-probability events that cause people a lot of needless anxiety (which is what they are designed to do).

Does this mean that mass shootings are fine? No! Of course not! But if someone is afraid to go out in public in the US due to fear of mass shootings, the proper response is not "you should move to Europe," it's "you should consider therapy."

-It is not true that "having a car in Europe is a luxury of the wealthier classes." The number of cars per inhabitant in the EU in 2021 was 0.57 (here: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-eurostat-news/w/ddn-20230530-1) and in most EU countries the percentage of households that own a car is somewhere between about 75% and 90% (I can no longer find the link for this). Both of these figures are lower than the US, and the first is substantially lower. I also believe European drive less than Americans on average and - as the figures indicate - one-car households are more common. And I'm all for walkable cities and public transit. But, factually speaking, it is hardly the case that most Europeans don't have a car.

-This is more of an FYI for anyone reading, but pretty large proprortion of Italian-Americans would probably qualify for Italian citizenship. The rules are a bit convoluted, but not *that* hard to understand, and you can go as far back as the 1860s for most regions of Italy (it depends on when the region in question became a part of the Kingdom of Italy) if you have the right documents. However, I have heard that the process takes several years or more - even consular appointments book two or three years in advance.

That is, if you can get one. I check my local consulate from time to time to see, and there never is one. For me, this is no big deal, as I have no particular intention of moving to Europe - I just like the idea of having the option. Still, if you're Italian-American, the key takeaways are a) there's a decent chance you can claim Italian citizenship, but b) actually getting the citizenship will probably take four or five years or more, and a high tolerance for paperwork.

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Thanks for the comments! Yeah, I very much agree with you on mass shootings and gun violence. In fact, I frequently make this point myself to non-Americans. That said, we did have shootings within a mile of our two houses in the U.S., and we've heard gunshots fairly frequently too -- so statistics are one thing, but the reality is something else.

Interesting about car ownership. Genuinely didn't know that, and it surprises me (since no one I know here has a car). Although yeah, I think you're right, one-car houses are the norm in Europe, but not in the U.S.

Thanks again for reading!

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Just as America is cursed with anti-black racism, Europe is cursed with hatred of the Jewis. Europe was the seat and citadel of Christendom for two millenia, and Christians, to some extent, were united in their belief that the Jews killed Jesus.

In my youth, I was fervently left wing, and I was attracted to Europe, but the pervasive anti Semitism of the continent made me sick. In any event, America may be quickly doing down the same path as Europe as a cursory review of academia wiil readily confirm. Of course, graduation day is on the horizon, and I am bracing myself for the torrent of terribly boring commencement speeches that will, naturally, castigate Israel as a colonial, imperialist power. In this essay, I examine some of the basic flaws in cognition which generate pervasive anti-Jewish sentiments.

https://davidgottfried.substack.com/p/graduating-seniors-disregard-most

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How very sad. You're not wrong that history of European antisemitism is long and terrible. In fact, we're currently living in the Balat neighborhood of Istanbul, which is where all the Jews came after Spain kicked them out of the country. (Jews are much less welcome in Turkey these days.)

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Apr 21Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

really useful. It's interesting think how all of us has dufferent perception on other places, i kean not the oggettive pro and cons, but as we see life overseas. I'm european and recently even I dreamed to move in America. Now I'm studing pro end cons, (and I'm Italian, i have more cons 😛), but at the end I'll stay here, or maybe near here. but thank you for this point of view.

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Thank you! Oh, I'm fascinated by how the US seems to Europeans. It's a mirror image!

(I do love Italy, of course, but I also wonder what it would be like to live among so many tourists...)

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Apr 22Liked by Brent Hartinger

Yes, movies, music, and generally American culture are part of each of us in the Western world, some more than others. Italy is stunning, but in my opinion, honestly, the well-being and livability are significantly higher in the countries of Northern Europe than in Italy. But it compensates with its beauty. There are many tourists, but not everywhere; there's still much to discover even though we are small :)

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Apr 18Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

I have a few family members pursuing their Italian citizenship, and I may follow suit eventually. So many temptations!

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Yet another chapter in your fascinating life. You best get to Italy fast so that impending kid has EU citizenship! ;-)

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Apr 19Liked by Brent Hartinger, Michael Jensen

God if only I'd been that organized.

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Yeah, every time I get your newsletter I read it and think, "Yup, Kelton has so little going on I can't imagine why she isn't more organized!"

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Lol, alright alright.

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Jealous. Wish we had that option.

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