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  1. #1
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    Expat in waiting- relocating overseas

    I'm something of a regular here... and have mentioned in passing a few times that I'm relocating. Here are a few more details.

    I gave my notice at work today- official notice. I told the CEO (my boss) about two months ago. We are moving to Norway.

    TODAY:


    I have a job I love (they send me on vacations - twice to Paris-, I have a nice office with a window, great pay, I work when I want, been with the company almost 15 years- it truly is a cush job- I'm widely respected in the industry- although I didn't realize the extent until word escaped that I was leaving)

    Our house sold in twelve hours- we close in just over two weeks. I love this neighborhood- a cool neighborhood neighborhood in the city.

    We finally sold both cars... I'm now borrowing a Porsche Boxster that has about 2000 miles on it... rough, I know, but it eases the sting. Import duties on our cars would have been $10,000 US - for EACH vehicle.

    I'd been commuting 40 miles round trip to work- store my bike indoors, have a great shower room (that nobody else seems to use)- 20 miles each way does get a bit long when it is freezing outside... or raining... but I love it.

    I have great friends and family nearby

    As of November 1:


    I have no idea where we'll be living... I'll be unemployed until I find work... I barely speak the language... it is an empty painting with my wife and me- nothing else- no other details to visualize the future, other than the fact that we will be in Stavanger Norway. The weather will be more mild than the MN winters we have- they have very little snow on the SW coast.

    I truly have an amazing wife. I trust I'll land on my feet as I always do. I know I'd forever regret NOT giving it a go- if we were to stay. It only becomes more and more difficult the older we get- we don't have kids yet... I guess it is better to do this than play it safe and have a midlife crisis in a decade. I never thought I'd last this long at my job-- but again, I've been treated so well- although I don't leave feeling I owe something.

    ...I worry about my parents' health.

    A few months ago I was terrified of the move- now I am beginning to look forward to it.

    Some days I feel like I've lost my mind. At work I've been anything but a lame duck- the boss wants me to finish all sorts of projects, since no one else really knows my job yet). I've never worked so hard in my life! Fortunately for her, I'm still rather clinging to this job, so they are getting more than their money's worth.

    I'm thinking I might start my own business when I move... then I don't have to worry about finding a job ;)


    Any other expats here? (I really hate the word)... any US citizens living abroad?

    It will be cool being an hour and a half flight from any cool european city... no need to worry about COBRA (I'll stop at the police station when I arrive and pick up my national ID number).

  2. #2
    AYHCSMB etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by suonata
    Do you already have a place to live there?
    "I have no idea where we'll be living... I'll be unemployed until I find work... I barely speak the language..."

    i learn more about hot chicks every day.

    sheesh.
    One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

  3. #3
    AYHCSMB etc.
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    Quote Originally Posted by suonata
    Ok ok, I see it now.

    Why don't you just go take another "shower", smarta$$?
    male cheavunist. (sp???)
    One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know.

  4. #4
    Motorator
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    Reading your post, I can feel your excitement! I sense your pulse is pounding at supersonic speed, feeling kind of like a kid feels on Christmas Eve. Norway??? What the he!! made you decide to move to Norway? Nothin' aginst Norge, but....

  5. #5
    I heart team Zissou!
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    Good on you for stirring things up a bit in your life!

    I assume you know Norway a bit -- beautiful country... dark winters (be prepared!)

    I'm not an expat since I am living in one of the two countries whose culture and nationality I share -- but I have many ex-pat friends and have seen more than a few hit a wall when they get over here and limp back to their country of origin without ever really knowing why things took a turn southwards...

    Here is the single most important piece of advice I can give you on your forthcoming move:

    Do not be fooled by appearances -- Norway may seem a "little" like the US (and MN in particular) and you may be thinking that Norwegians will be less exotic than say Laotians, but do not be fooled! You are moving to a country that is as different from the US as Laos is! Do not expect to understand your new country of adoption or its inhabitants through the prism of your experiences in the US. Do not judge their "idiosyncracies" or rate them on how much better/worse they do things from a perspective with which you are more familiar. See yourself as an anthropologist that has moved into an exotic and foreign locale. Try to understand why things are the way they are, not how they could be better. try to understand how the locals function and on what terms. Tell yourself that they have been successful as a society despite all the "things they could do better". Accept that you will be a fish out of water and suppress the urge to judge. Accept also that your new neighbours may not be as "enlightened" and will sometimes try to tell you all that is "wrong" with your/the US way of doing things. Be zen and in a few years you will be as rooted as Larch in the permafrost!

    ... if you survive the long winter nights that is!

    I have just heard that a good friend of mine could no longer take living in Norway -- the people were too "unfriendly" (read "unsmiling"), the culture too unforgiving, the Norwegians too aloof, the cost of living too high and the winter nights too long. She was Italian, but I think was hoping that Norway would be more like Italy with blond-haired blue-eyed inhabitants.

    Best of luck!

    A+

    Philippe
    Biking round the world -- Where have I been with my bike?

  6. #6
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Filter,
    Be open minded and curious and integrate as much as possible. Don't be judgemental and expect that things will be like MN. It took me a year or two to feel comfortable about living in Sweden. Luckily, we had friends here who made me feel welcome and eased me into Swedish culture. I don't know Norwegian culture that well, but I expect it to be similar to Swedish culture. It takes time to appreciate a new place and new people, find the good in them. There is a series of books entitled "Culture Shock" for people moving abroad, buy the one for Norway. Stavanger is not that far from us. Pm me if you want to chat.
    Cheers, Wayne
    ps. Welcome to Scandinavia!!
    Albert (5 years old) to Uncle Peter (family friend): "Why don't we play another card game, something you can win at."

  7. #7
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    Moved to Germany

    This past summer, my wife and I moved to Germany. Like you, I don't know the language very well at all and it is just my wife and I here. I thought I would spend months unemployed and have plenty of time to learn the language......I ended up getting a nice job after a month of being here. I managed to take a basic level intensive language course during that month of joblessness.

    Be prepared for some cultural differences. It is things that you don't pick up on immediately but become apparent over time. People seem to be more serious up in the north of Europe than in America.

    My advice to you is to fill your unemployed time period with language classes. For myself the most frustrating part of living here is the language difficulties. Even though about 50% of the people I meet speak english pretty well, I want to speak German with them and be part of conversations that they have amoungst each other.

    For temporary work maybe you can keep working for your current employer but as a subcontrater through the internet....I have no idea what you do anyway...just a thought.

    By the way, I am very happy with the move. Europe is quite nice.

  8. #8
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolando
    My advice to you is to fill your unemployed time period with language classes. For myself the most frustrating part of living here is the language difficulties. Even though about 50% of the people I meet speak english pretty well, I want to speak German with them and be part of conversations that they have amoungst each other.
    I just wanted to add that I agree with Rolando on this point wholeheartedly. Initially, all of my Swedish friends spoke English to me as their way of easing me into Swedish culture. Most people here of a certain generation speak English rather well, except my in-laws, for example, who are in their 60s. It is very easy to just speak English, and because I am a native speaker, they want to speak English with me all the time. Then after about 1.5 years, my friends decided that no more English would be spoken when I was around. This helped immensely. Learn the language, it is your doorway into the culture and people.
    Cheers, Wayne
    Albert (5 years old) to Uncle Peter (family friend): "Why don't we play another card game, something you can win at."

  9. #9
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneanneli
    I just wanted to add that I agree with Rolando on this point wholeheartedly. Initially, all of my Swedish friends spoke English to me as their way of easing me into Swedish culture. Most people here of a certain generation speak English rather well, except my in-laws, for example, who are in their 60s. It is very easy to just speak English, and because I am a native speaker, they want to speak English with me all the time. Then after about 1.5 years, my friends decided that no more English would be spoken when I was around. This helped immensely. Learn the language, it is your doorway into the culture and people.
    Cheers, Wayne
    I have to mention that I was up in Malmö, Sweden last month for the first time in my life. The people I met spoke english so well! With perfect american accents too. My impression of Sweden was very good in general. People have told me that the weather there is actually a bit better than in northern Germany. Is this true?

  10. #10
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rolando
    I have to mention that I was up in Malmö, Sweden last month for the first time in my life. The people I met spoke english so well! With perfect american accents too. My impression of Sweden was very good in general. People have told me that the weather there is actually a bit better than in northern Germany. Is this true?
    I'm not familiar with the weather Germany, but the main difference between southern and northern Sweden is the winter. The winters down south are rainy, grey, and cold. The north is snowy, cold and bright, with the sunshine reflecting off the snow. Malmö has wonderful springs, something we do not have. Here, spring lasts a few weeks, and then, poof, it's summer.
    Albert (5 years old) to Uncle Peter (family friend): "Why don't we play another card game, something you can win at."

  11. #11
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by wayneanneli
    I'm not familiar with the weather Germany, but the main difference between southern and northern Sweden is the winter. The winters down south are rainy, grey, and cold. The north is snowy, cold and bright, with the sunshine reflecting off the snow. Malmö has wonderful springs, something we do not have. Here, spring lasts a few weeks, and then, poof, it's summer.
    Thanks for the weather report. Looks like cold rain for the winter down here too.

    Back to the subject for Filter. Make sure you take care of all your loose ends before leaving the US. I'm talking about bills and change of adress sort of things. I spent 2 months try to take care of loose ends in the states via the mail and the internet and over the phone. My heating gas bill for instance didn't come until after I moved. The company was not equiped to take payment by internet or phone. The first time I mailed the check to them it somehow got lost and never made it. The second time it made it. This took a while.

    Also any dealings with government departments in Norway will likely be completely different than what you are used to.

  12. #12
    E Plurbus Elvis
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    Stavanger is awesome!

    I've spent a lot of time all over Northern Europe & Scandanavia, and I have to say, Norway is truly an awesome place.

    If I had the money, I'd buy a summer home there -- either Bergen or Stavanger. July and August are ideal, but, I'm not a big fan of Europe(ans) in the winter -- you may not see another person smile for 10 months.

    It's funny people mention Malmo. I was there two summers ago and there was a murder just outside my hotel. Some guy walked out of a nightclub (right in the town square) and got gunned down. After hearing the gunshots, my wife & I got up and went outside. When the Swedes found out I was American, they all assumed that I was somehow accustomed to cold-blooded murders on my doorstep. Hilarious.

    Good luck in Norway! If you drink, be sure to load your bags in the duty free shops before you arrive, and be sure to take a hike up to Preikestolen ASAP.
    "How can I, along with thousands of recreational sportsmen, know that Crack contains Methylhexanamine?"
    -- Rudy Taelman

  13. #13
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    Thank you all...

    I've been to Stavanger many times- and last time I was smart enough to take a bike- so it really helped with my impression of the place. I've been taking Norwegian language classes for four years, so I can get by- but am not professionally proficient in the language (something about learning a foreign language as an adult...).

    Stavanger is the oil capital of Norway, so it has quite an American business presence- or Aberdeen Scotland (with all the off-shore industries). Of course, most Norwegians speak better English than the Scottish... ;)

    My wife is from the area- and we will have all sorts of relatives nearby- far more than my relatives. Her entire extended family lived within a mile radius of one another- so we'll will have plenty of family help and support.

    Long winters? When I moved to MN, I noticed how much shorter the days were than living even just a few hours south of here. Frankly, even here, it is dark the entire time I'm not at work. Even been to Norway during the winter solstice twice- and that is the worst it gets... and besides- at least it is southern Norway. They have such little snow that I should be able to bike all year- and between that and a gym membership, I won't need full-spectrum lighs, antidepressants, etc...

    Booze is obscenely expensive in Norway. I wish it were like France where a bottle of wine is cheaper than bottled water.

    I really get it that the people are "different"- but it is a cool difference. In the US, people are much more superficially nicer- in Norway you wouldn't just say hello to a stranger, for example.

    I have decided not to compare the cost of living between countries. It will drive me insane. While EVERYTHING is more expensive there, if I were earning and spending Kroner (rather than the dollar) everything would be 20-30% cheaper, because the dollar is so weak. Interest rates and consumer debt are almost nonexistent- and I won't need to pay for health insurance or the kids college education.

  14. #14
    scruffy nerf herder
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    Well...

    I hope you find blazing fast and cheap internet service there because I have grown accustomed to reading your blog. I truly hope you are able to continue posting about your transition.

    I still think you are half crazy, but at the same time I admire your resolve and somewhat comical spin on this whole process.
    so sayeth the funk....

    Chris

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  15. #15
    A Canadian in Sweden
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    Quote Originally Posted by filtersweep
    I have decided not to compare the cost of living between countries. It will drive me insane. While EVERYTHING is more expensive there, if I were earning and spending Kroner (rather than the dollar) everything would be 20-30% cheaper, because the dollar is so weak. Interest rates and consumer debt are almost nonexistent- and I won't need to pay for health insurance or the kids college education.
    I laugh when my mother comes to visit and starts comparing the prices of everything from fruit to petrol. It drives me crazy sometimes. Trying to explain to a 77-year old woman the differences, socially and economically, between Sweden and Canada is just too much for her. Like Norway, a lot here is more expensive, but not everything. We live in an extremely socialised society here in Sweden, and we pay for it. The fact that Norway has no debt is just incredible to us living to the east.
    Albert (5 years old) to Uncle Peter (family friend): "Why don't we play another card game, something you can win at."

  16. #16
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    Off to SA

    Me too, me too.
    I am moving "back" to South Africa in about 22 days to be with my family. I look forward to it expecially being closer to my family, but life is VERY different. I was born in Cape Town, grew up in Zimbabwe, came to the US for college and have been here ever since. (Unfortunately there is no sub-micron semi-conductor design in sub-Saharan Africa....)

    Can anyone explain the basics of what US citizens have to do about taxes when they are a permanent resident over seas?

    Andrew
    (I know I have been lurking for ages around here and now this!)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by funknuggets
    I hope you find blazing fast and cheap internet service there because I have grown accustomed to reading your blog. I truly hope you are able to continue posting about your transition.

    I still think you are half crazy, but at the same time I admire your resolve and somewhat comical spin on this whole process.
    Cool that you enjoy the blog... it is getting quite a few regular readers. I keep checking up on your latest exploits as well.

    Actually, broadband is far ahead of the US in Stavanger (where it is mostly fiber). I'm actually contemplating (a possibly illegal) VoIP phone with a US phone number to avoid international calling charges. Those things should work anywhere in the world, so long as there isn't too much latency.

    Internet access is more important than food, in my estimation.

  18. #18
    E Plurbus Elvis
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewL
    Me too, me too.
    Can anyone explain the basics of what US citizens have to do about taxes when they are a permanent resident over seas?
    International tax laws can get really complicated. But, the short answer is: If you pay taxes to SA, don't worry about paying taxes to the US. If you don't pay taxes to SA (but earn the money there) and you also don't pay taxes in the US, you could end up in jail. If you go this route, stay in close contact with the US Embassy in Cape Town and hope for detention in a US jail, I hear the AIDS rates in SA jails are out of control.

    If your net income (after paying taxes to SA) is more than, say, $75k/year, you should probably consult with someone at the US consolate about the tax implications.

    Your immediate concern should be how much US currency you can bring into SA without being taxed by SA, because paying taxes twice on the same money sucks almost as bad as going to jail for not paying any taxes on it.

    Good luck.
    "How can I, along with thousands of recreational sportsmen, know that Crack contains Methylhexanamine?"
    -- Rudy Taelman

  19. #19
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    US Citizens Overseas

    You're basically screwed. The US has a global taxation policy for all of its Citizens, regardless of country residence. The US has very few tax treaties covering individuals which have reciprocity with other countries. The good news is that you will be able to claim credit for some of the taxes paid on SA income, as declared on your US return. I'm not a tax accountant or lawyer but there are deductions available. Go to the IRS website and there are lots of publications covering these matters. I would be surprised if you did not have to pay income taxes in SA for SA earned income. Find a good local tax accountant who's familiar with doing expatriate filings who can advise and prepare both your US and SA returns.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElvisMerckx
    International tax laws can get really complicated. But, the short answer is: If you pay taxes to SA, don't worry about paying taxes to the US. If you don't pay taxes to SA (but earn the money there) and you also don't pay taxes in the US, you could end up in jail. If you go this route, stay in close contact with the US Embassy in Cape Town and hope for detention in a US jail, I hear the AIDS rates in SA jails are out of control.

    If your net income (after paying taxes to SA) is more than, say, $75k/year, you should probably consult with someone at the US consolate about the tax implications.

    Your immediate concern should be how much US currency you can bring into SA without being taxed by SA, because paying taxes twice on the same money sucks almost as bad as going to jail for not paying any taxes on it.

    Good luck.
    i've got limited minutes left in life, don't waste my time

  20. #20
    RoadBikeReview Member
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    Don't sweat it

    Stavanger is fine. Some of my best friends when I lived in the UK were from Norway. Stavanger and they would go back every year for one or two months. As for Swedes and Norwegians being the same, uh no but that's neither here nor there. I wouldn't sweat the language bit unless you get outside of town at which point you will find that not everyone speaks English.

    As for language, I feel your pain as I'm trying to learn Mandarin in two weeks. My view is to learn what you can and then pick it up in country. Okay, you might not get the newspaper you asked for but it will come. I'm going to Shanghai for 3 years and personally, Stavanger is a walk in the park so hang in there, it will all come good.

    Norway is not cheap as you've no doubt found out. Food, drink, housing is expensive so I hope you found a good job to cover the costs.

    As for biking, sometimes it has to go on hold for the job. Not great but there are other things to do, like travel. I was overseas for the past 6 years and we hit a different European city every month during that time.

    As for the parents, you're not that far. It's all relative but it certainly can be an issue. I came back and my dad died shortly thereafter and yes, I was able to see him about 12 hours before the end but unless it's sudden, you can make it. You just can't hang about for long periods of time.

    Good luck.
    i've got limited minutes left in life, don't waste my time

  21. #21
    OES
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    I call bullshit.

    I bet a million bucks you're REALLY going to Italy with suon.

    I'm about to get this damn mystery figured out.

  22. #22
    Misfit Toy
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldEdScott
    I call bullshit.

    I bet a million bucks you're REALLY going to Italy with suon.

    I'm about to get this damn mystery figured out.
    I knew it! I just knew there was something going on here, I could smell it! Suon and Filter, whodathunkit!
    It's all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone.

    Don't make me go all honey badger on your ass

  23. #23
    confirmed masher
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    Look out for the Vikings, run if they have mushrooms.

  24. #24
    wheel to wheel
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldEdScott
    I call bullshit.

    I bet a million bucks you're REALLY going to Italy with suon.

    I'm about to get this damn mystery figured out.
    WHAT is this MYSTERY that you keep going on and on about?
    I'm so confused by your raging hormonal Learishness lately....

    filtersweep is going to Norway, right?
    Wayne's in Sweden, right?
    Wayne wants to see suon's collarbone, so he tells her to bring "some" clothes for the winter....
    (And I'm sure it's not like YOU haven't used that strategery before, too, in your bag of debauched tactics (does debauched have an accent on the "e", like in "debauche'd"...???).)
    Uh huh....but, still, it's all CLEAR so far.

    So now YOU want filtersweep and suon to hook up in the cold, cold north, just in case Wayne doesn't come through....

    So, where's the mystery? It's CLEAR: it's just your latent, unrequited, Priapian lust....

    Gawd, first it was that fat elephant, then it was von's knee, then it was Sp*nchick as your podium girl, now it's suon and her collarbone, along with getting plied with expensive Bourbon from leggy blonde R*publican operatives who realize you're too thrifty to pay for it yourself...jeemeeknees, when you obsess about something you really go after it, don't you?

    No wonder you get pols elected (or not)...it's that you just LOVE to live vicariously....
    But I tell you this: if I ever, ever get myownself a pic of suon's collarbone, I ain't sharin' with you, 'cause I know you won't share ONE DROP (Lemon or not) of that Bourbon.

    Refill, Ed?
    "Gimondi un eroe umano, che viene sconfitto ma che continua la sua corsa fino a tornare a vincere." - Enrico Ruggeri

    Kish ti road

  25. #25
    Lurkaholic
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    Better lose the Boxster quick smart....

    Do not, I repeat, DO NOT exceed the speed limitin Norway, unless its on your roady.

    I thought the Swiss here were pretty tough, but Norway is the is extreme to say the least. In no other country is jail time handed out so easily for relatively modest breaches of speed limits.

    Don't take my word for it, visit Road MC website
    "It takes two to lie, one to lie and one to listen" Homer J. Simpson

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