Expat Chronicles: Going Dutch
When we first began thinking about moving to Europe, we were aiming for the far north. Brandon and I looked closely at all five Scandinavian countries keeping in mind our big-picture quality of life goals as well as practical factors like cost of living and ease of immigrating.
Choosing a country in this way is a surreal and incredibly complex project! It’s all too easy to get your heart set on a country before realizing that some roadblock makes it impossible. Last summer we settled on a specific plan that should actually work for us. Let me tell you how it came to be.
As non-EU persons without any EU relatives, making the move to Europe is a bit like swimming upstream. One of the clearest paths is to work for an international company. Many immigrants arrive with a job contract in place. Their employer arranges for a work permit to live and work in the country and may assist with the logistics of moving. Unfortunately, we’re not that lucky.
If you don’t work for an international company, the next step is to see if your job might be in demand in a country of interest. If you work in healthcare, engineering or technology, for example, you’ll likely find EU businesses hiring expats. Sadly, Brandon’s work as an arborist and tree healthcare specialist isn’t in demand in Europe.
Maybe you go without a job? There are some countries, like Germany, where United States citizens are welcome to live for up to six months while searching for a job. I can see that approach working well for someone without children and with more financial independence. It’s not for us.
It turns out that our way into Europe is via Stitched in Color. As a self-employed person with a mostly mobile business, I have a shot of immigrating to a number of countries. Typically I would provide a business plan showing that my business would be able to financially support my whole family. What’s frustrating is that this application for a self-employed work permit can usually only be done in-country. With a lot of research you can surmise what the country’s standards are, but it still an unsettling way to move over 4000 miles from home.
It was at this stage that we started talking about Brandon going back to school. He’d long considered getting a new degree in computer science. We realized that Europe may put that in reach, being that college education is more affordable there even to non-EU persons. Plus, if he earned a degree in a high-demand field, our prospects of settling permanently in Europe would be much more secure. Fortunately, there are lots of English speaking college programs throughout Europe.
Brandon applied to colleges in Germany, where college is FREE even to non-EU persons. However, his American high school record was not up to snuff. (This was a good lesson for Aria and Liam. Your performance in high school matters!) Next we looked to the Netherlands. This fall Brandon was accepted at his top choice university in the Netherlands, University of Twente. It’s a three year program that starts this September.
Yes, we’re going Dutch! We’re moving to the Netherlands at the end of May!
Even though we chose this country in a roundabout way, I’m thrilled that we’ve “landed” there. It’s Europe’s most international country, with a high English-speaking rate, which makes me feel a bit more welcome.
They also have a unique program for helping students transition into the public school system via Dutch language transition schools. Aria and Liam will attend such a school for 1-3 years, allowing them to learn a new language, connect with other expat children and more gradually integrate into European culture. All this without expensive private school fees!
Another huge benefit for us is the ease of immigrating as a self-employed US citizen. The Dutch American Friendship Treaty seems to make the immigration process more straightforward than any other I’ve seen in Europe, if you fit the requirements. I believe I do, and I’ve prepared my business plan. It’ll be incredibly tight, but with some cost-cutting lifestyle changes and our savings to back us up (from equity we’ve built up in our home), we should be able to live 3-5 years on my Stitched in Color income while Brandon earns a new bachelors degree and perhaps a masters.
So, yes, I will be bringing my longarm to Europe. It’s probably the most essential possession I’ll be bringing! I’ll write more about what this changes means for Stitched in Color soon. For now, if you live in the European Union and are looking for a longarm quilter, I’m coming your way! Sign up here to be notified when my services are available!
p.s. Those little Dutch clogs are a gift that my father’s Dutch business partner brought to me from Holland when I was a very little girl. Rora loves shoes and took an immediate liking to these. She’s practiced wearing them so much that she can walk around in them without falling. They’re so teeny tiny that she’s almost outgrown them. I’m so glad to capture them here, a memento from my childhood connecting to our future!