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For software developers: must-read before moving from the US to Europe

Not long ago, we, RelocateMe team, presented you our article on how to find a tech job with relocation to Europe. Having got to the ‘Best of Hacker News’ in just 3 days and being excited by your numerous positive voices and 250+ comments, we decided to move forward…


This time, in addition to the job search tools that were given before, we’d like to make your day ‘informative’ with some meaningful content: what exactly should you be ready for moving from the US to Europe?


What to start with? What points are worth to be aware of?


Europe is a pretty big place. All countries are quite different from one another with diverse requirements, attitudes, etc. So you’d better start by selecting the country (and also the city) where you would like to live in. Test the waters, see what is around and what the people are like, study other expats’ feedback about it. Search for a tech job after such a place is found.

Moving from the USA, you must clearly understand that you wanna relocate to Europe to experience another lifestyle with a decent quality of life. Thus, be ready to take a 50-75% pay cut while bearing in mind a few important points:

  • You’ll work less: more holidays, shorter work weeks and working hours, etc.;
  • A nice benefit is that most European cities are a short flight away. Moreover, there will always be many interesting places to travel to for the weekends with a $50 plane ticket;
  • Health and education are dіrt chеаp in Europe compared to the American sky-high prices;
  • The margins are much lower than in the US: you’ll never see a mаrgin higher than 20% of the base value;
  • Unlеss you lіve іn Nеw York, your future Eurоpean ‘home’ will likely be more diverse when it comes to culture and fооd.


Is the English language enough to live and work in Europe?  


Language is also something to be taken into account and varies greatly across Europe (both the languages and how common multilingualism is). In most cases, there’s no need to worry about the native language. You’re able to land a great IT job in many European countries being fluent only in English. But how easily varies, and how easily you can carry on daily life varies even more. For instance:

‘You can get many jobs in both Copenhagen and Berlin speaking only English, but in Copenhagen you can also do almost everything else in English (all government agencies speak English, most forms are bilingual, banks and doctors’ offices all do English, etc.), whereas in Germany the civil service, and even doctors, generally expect you to interact with them in German. Not that you shouldn’t also learn some Danish in Denmark, but how critical it is to quickly become proficient in the national language(s) varies a lot between countries.’

So, it will probably be useful to check The EF English Proficiency Index before choosing your next work destination in Europe.


What if you don’t have formal IT/Computer Science education?


Most of the European countries don’t consider the lack of a formal degree as an obstacle to hiring. For example, it isn’t essential in the Netherlands for a ‘highly skilled migrant’ visa (you can find more details on this matter here).

For other countries in Europe, if you don’t have formal IT/Computer Science education, it isn’t a reason to give up. Alternatively, save some money up, research the country you enjoy and go there on a Schengen visa.  You are gonna have 90 days to stay there – quite enough to try to find a tech position you’re interested in on-site and arrange/have an in-person interview. If you have experience in your field, you can probably get an IT job in Europe. That’s one of the ways how you can get it done. You’re almost always allowed to work while waiting for a visa to be approved. In other words, once you have a job offer you can apply for a work visa, and as soon as application process has begun, you can start working. It’s also pretty easy to set yourself up as a freelancer in many European countries but you have to do more things on your own (like taxes, etc.).


European tech companies don’t hire non-EU citizen. Is it a myth or reality?


It’s rumored that European technology companies don’t take seriously non-EU developers as potential candidates for their open positions. We would like to break down the myth by sharing our own experience as an IT recruiting agency. The more world-oriented company is, the more diverse team it has and hunts for ‘bright minds’ from different countries. What’s more, almost every company in Europe devotes much time and attention to such things as ‘culture fit’ and ‘company fit’. A quite open atmosphere in tech companies in the US is very similar to the European ones so it will be easier for you to meet the requirements.


A shocking gap between Europe and the US


It is commonly believed that companies in Europe pay significantly less than in the USA for the same tech positions. And indeed it is. But we have to take into consideration that living in a European country is a lot different. You’re not going to get the same salary you would in the US but the quality of life is different, expenses are different, probably you don’t need a car, apartments are cheaper, etc. Depending on where you go, it’s quite possible that a lower gross salary could end up being quite reasonable simply because costs are lower.

Even though, at first glance, it certainly sounds shocking that a software engineer might go for $150k in Chicago or Seattle and only about €50-55k in Berlin, and the first idea that pops into your head might be to sit at home and earn 3 times more. But what do you say to that?

‘You can live, for example, at the very core of Berlin for around €1500 a month, and much cheaper in places only a few blocks away from the subway. Food costs are about 50% less than in the USA and at the same time for better quality. You can travel to any other city/country by fairly inexpensive train or cheap flights. You can spend €1600 on room/utilities, €400 on food, €100 on transportation and have €1600 a month for whatever you want at that salary, with no worries about your health or looking after your kids.’

Doesn’t that sound attractive? Even you will be earning less than in the USA, all your personal needs will surely be met and you’ll live comfortably there.




Of course, obtaining a work permit in Europe is rather challenging. You’ll often bump up the impossibility of its acquiring without a job. At the same time, most companies won’t hire you without this document. So get yourself ready for this, take a deep breath and go ahead to your goal.

3 things worth knowing about Work Permit:

1) A work permit is a non-transferable legal document that allows a non-citizen to work in the country for a specific company.

2) Technically, it is illegal to enter the country to seek a job without a permit. To get it, you must have a valid job offer.

3) The company which hires you must be able to prove that it has made an earnest effort to fill the position with a EU citizen.

You can rid yourself of too much stress and anxiety by applying for a permit before you leave for Europe. Thus, the first step is to find an employer that is willing to sponsor your application for a work permit. Ideally, if the company could apply for it on your behalf. However, if they are unable (or unwilling) to deal with all the paperwork, you can also appeal to the immigration agency (e.g. 

To explore this issue in more detail, follow this link.




Healthcare isn’t particularly a difficult issue. The healthcare systems in developed countries are almost universally good. Health insurance is based on your income, rather than any pre-existing conditions or your job, and is universal. For instance, in Germany you will be paying €400 a month being in the highest income bracket.


A few resources that might come in handy when looking for a job in Europe


Andrew Stetsenko Tech Talents Relocation
    • Monica @ Not a nomad blog

      Hi Andrew, thanks for sharing a link to my blog! It’s always great to see companies that encourage developers to think outside the San Francisco box 🙂 I would add that experienced developers in Berlin *take home* only marginally less (say, 10-15k a year) than many of our SF counterparts after taxes and rent. Folks in SF could easily get rid of that superfluous money by taking as many vacations in Europe as we do 😉

    • Juanma Menéndez

      Very good article! Thanks!

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