How to Move to Europe?

Thinking to move to Europe? As an American and Aussie married couple, who previously resided in Amsterdam and Dublin for a combined 6 years, and currently publishing this while on a work trip in Berlin, we say do it if you can! And for many, you certainly can if you want to. Here are some ways you can move to Europe, including a break down of how we made the leap.

1) Find a cheap plane ticket and just go!

We’ll start with the easiest way. Though this is definitely geared for people who are more spontaneous, open and perhaps willing to rough it more. Save up some money, research the destination you want to live and then fly to that European city. Start off staying in a hostel. Hostels are frequently looking for people to work under the table. While the pay is typically not good, you’ll get a free place to stay. Earn cash to supplement staying longer, while making connections.

Under the table work in pubs is also prevalent in Europe. In both cases, just rock up and ask if they’re looking for any help. In Amsterdam, you can even work as a legal pot dealer if that’s your bag! Coffee shops are sometimes looking for under the table help as well. If you don’t have a European Union work permit, you can only legally stay in the EU for a maximum of 3 months at a time (or 6 months in 1 year). So before 3 months runs out, you just need to duck over to a nearby country outside the EU. Countries like Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia, Turkey and Morocco fit the bill.

We met in a hostel while backpacking solo just after college. During our travels, we met many people who stayed in Europe for long stretches. They simply rocked up, stayed in cheap hostels, and progressed from there. And if you’re looking for love, we’re an example of how traveling to Europe can really help in this department! But since this isn’t for everyone let’s explore the other options…

2) Teach English

The best English teaching jobs typically require you to have a college degree and to pass the TOEFL exam. With that said, particularly in Eastern European countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, you can possibly score English teaching work without a college degree or passing this exam! When Alex was in Prague he met an Irish guy at the hostel who had done just that.

We also have an American friend without a degree who taught for years in Poland and the Ukraine. He’s now moved on to Asia and has been living abroad for over 6 years teaching English in various countries. Keep in mind, even if you’re accredited, in countries like Italy, Spain and France you need to be persistent. There’s a lot of competition for jobs teaching English due to the popularity of these countries with travelers.

3) Work for a Multi-National Company (and you don’t necessarily need a college degree!)

A good friend in the Netherlands worked in the Dutch office of the Minnesota based multinational hardware company Fastenal. He never went to college and just started working with them in Minnesota, where he grew up. As they expanded, they needed sales representatives abroad. He initially took a position in Shanghai before being transferred to the Dordrecht, Netherlands office.

Our friend made a good salary and his company even paid the rent for his apartment! He’s since transferred back to Shanghai and has been living abroad for over 6 years. There’s currently a lot of tech jobs in Dublin as it’s become the silicone valley of Europe. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Airbnb, LinkedIn, Amazon and more having their European headquarters there. Many of the friends we made in Dublin worked for these companies.

Berlin can make for an excellent kickoff for life in Europe as rents are cheap by European capital standards and the city is buzzing with Internet start ups.
Berlin can make for an excellent kickoff for life in Europe. Rents are inexpensive by European capital standards and the city is buzzing with Internet start ups.

4) Find a PhD or Masters Position

This is one of the least traveled ways to move to Europe. But this is how we made the move to Amsterdam. Bell applied for a PhD position at the University of Amsterdam and they offered her the position. The Netherlands is a great country to earn a PhD because candidates are viewed as assistant researchers. So they are paid a livable salary on an upward sliding scale.

PhD positions typically last 4 years. Candidates receive a raise each year, on a salary determined by the Dutch government. In Bell’s final year of her PhD in 2012, she was earning around 35,000 euro per year ($45,000 USD). That was great, especially since PhD candidates in the United States are typically paid a non-livable wage.

Masters positions don’t pay. But if you’ve recently looked at the costs of attaining a masters degree in the USA, you know how expensive it is. A good friend received a scholarship to study an environmental science degree in Finland, where they even paid his rent! Finland seeks diversity in some of its university programs. So the country offers enticing ways to make up for the previous lack of it.

5) Be an Au Pair

We’ve also had friends who have done this and had great experiences with host families. Some nannies even get taken on luxury trips where they have some time to enjoy an exciting foreign location in between minding the children. A good friend of ours recommended the agency, Aupair-Nederland for those interested in positions in the Netherlands. She had a good experience with the company.

6) Seasonal Work

If you happen to be a ski or scuba diving instructor, there’s an excellent chance you can score seasonal work in the respective European locations where these activities are popular (the Alps for skiing and Mediterranean for diving). There’s also seasonal farming and camp work in certain areas, with France being particularly popular for this.

Moving to Europe Recap

There’s many options to move to Europe. We hope this inspires some people who are stuck in a bit of a rut at the moment. Perhaps you’ve just gone through a break up and want a major change in your life, or there’s currently job opportunities lacking in your area. There’s many ways to move to Europe, even more than the many ways we’ve listed here. Think outside the box and don’t be fooled into thinking life has to be the same linear tract we are indoctrinated into thinking it is in school, by the media, and by society. 


  • Alex&Bell

    Alex and Bell originally met while solo traveling after finishing university in 2002, in Brugge, Belgium. Alex grew up in the USA and Bell hails from Australia. During our nearly 20 year marriage we've lived around the world, including spending six years living in the Netherlands and Ireland. We have traveled to nearly 70 countries and enjoy giving readers authentic and quality travel tips. Alex is an award winning travel journalist and travel planner, who also freelances for other outlets. Bell is an award winning PhD scientist who currently works for a non-profit lung cancer advocacy research organization called Lungevity. Happy travels and if you have any questions leave a comment or drop an email!

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5 thoughts on “How to Move to Europe?

  1. It’s so true! It’s way more achievable than we as Americans think it is. Growing up we never thought we’d even have the means to visit Europe, but it was as simple as finding a job opening and applying. We just moved back to the States from spending 2 years living in London and travelling around Europe. My husband had a tech job and I found a company with both a London and LA office. Now, when our kids graduate HS in a couple years, we can get visas again and head back! 🙂

    Great suggestions on jobs to look for!

    1. Hey Jennifer, thank you! That’s wonderful that living in Europe was fruitful to both your careers and now makes this experience very easily attainable for your kids too.

      We have several friends who live abroad with their children, in countries ranging from Germany to Malaysia to Japan and we think its really cool to do it with kids. We don’t have kids yet, but we could definitely still see ourselves moving continents again in the future if we did. Cheers!

  2. Hey Guys,

    Well done on sharing some ways in which people can make some money in such an expensive part of the world! Teaching English is a good one for sure – something we’ve done in Asia. We can’t wait to travel to Europe, but the one thing that is hanging over our heads is the fact that we can only stay 3 months in the Schengen Zone…guess we’ll just have to figure out a way around that 🙂

    Thanks for sharing these tips.

    Cheers from sunny Grenada 🙂

    1. Hey Dariece, thanks! Yes Europe is generally expensive compared to Asia and Latin America, but you can get a hostel bed in a city like Berlin starting at under $10 a night. And this price would be similar in many Eastern European countries and Mediterranean countries, or just a few dollars more. So some people can easily sleep for a month for $300, while they search for work and an apartment to share that could provide more comfort for a similar price (again, Berlin is quite cheap, and $300 per month can definitely get you a decent shared apartment here!). But yes, you’re right, in many Asian and Latin American countries hostel beds start at a few dollars a night so that’s definitely cheaper.

      You’re right about the Schengen Zone issue and Europe seems to be getting stricter about it. But if someone has just a little savings and can get to Europe and find work and maintain a little savings, they can bounce over to a country like Morocco or Turkey for awhile, live cheap (and you can also find hostel, hotel or restaurant work in the touristy area of say, Istanbul) and then legally you can spend 6 months in 1 year in the European Union, so it’s still not so hard to be gone a year with not much savings in advance. Generally this type of plan probably works best for people in their early 20’s. But who knows, a single person can potentially find a European spouse in a short time too and eliminate that whole Schengen problem 😉

      We’ve traveled a bit around Southeast Asia and a few parts elsewhere but never lived there. Maybe we’ll have that experience some day (we definitely don’t rule it out!). Thanks again and enjoy sunny Grenada, never been there, but seems very relaxing!

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