Living Abroad in Europe: What You Should Know
With more than 6 million Americans living abroad in over 160 countries, the expatriate lifestyle is clearly an adventurer's delight. If packing it all in, selling all of your belongings and high-tailing it to some fabulous land faraway for years at a time is merely a reverie and not in your immediate plans, considering a short-term extended stay in Europe might just fit the bill.
Europe's countries are within reasonable proximity to one another and are easily accessible by train, bus, car or a short hop on an inexpensive local air carrier like easyJet or Ryanair. Make an advance reservation with Viator, for example, and hop an early bus from Paris to Bruges for the day and you'll be walking through a Belgian UNESCO World Heritage Site in no time. Buy a Eurail Global Pass and travel unlimited by train through up to 24 countries for up to 3 months.
Before you hop the first plane smokin' to Europe, here's what you should know that will make your short-term extended stay a blast.
No Visa Required
Thinkstock As an American, entering most European countries for business purposes or as a tourist does not require a visa, although you will only be allowed to stay for 90 days at a time within a 6-month period. If you are traveling on an internship, as a student or as an employee, different rules apply and it is imperative that you perform the appropriate research with the US State Department before you depart American soil.
Once you arrive in your new home-away-from-home, feel free to store your passport a little deeper in your backpack -- but only if you are traveling within the European Union's Schengen Zone, which comprises 26 countries without internal border controls.
Finding a Place to Live
Thinkstock Unless you can afford the cost of a 3-month hotel stay in Europe, one of the most important decisions you will make before you hop that plane will center on finding a suitable apartment or hostel. With popular accommodation rental companies like HomeAway, airbnb and HomeExchange, you won't have any problem at all compiling a list of prospects, although you might have to sharpen your research skills to get the job done.
Link Up With Expats
Connecting with the local expatriate community in your selected European country both before you get there and once you arrive can be an excellent resource and great way to find the right apartment in the right neighborhood, get questions answered about local medical care and emergency services, find a low-cost cell phone carrier or the best currency exchange rates, and possibly seek out an American breakfast, homesickness remedy or a place to get a good haircut. And while expats can be a great resource, don't forget -- meeting and hanging out with the locals is a big part of what makes living abroad so special.
Getty Images Europe boasts a spectacular history along with centuries-old architecture and iconic landmarks that, of course, are all an incredible part of its charm. Just as important, however, are the local people and families you are sure to meet and befriend as you make your way from country to country learning a bit of the local language, gaining knowledge about unique cultural practices, and getting personal insights from your new-found relationships.
To not immerse fully, during what most would consider an enviable experience, would be a travesty! Revel in the beauty of Europe's amazing cities and its people on your short-term extended stay. And if you aren't ready for the life of a long-term expat just yet but have become smitten with a short-term stay -- as many are known to do -- repatriate to the United States for a mere 6 months … and then just turn around and do it all over again.
Plan ahead and see our list of best places to visit in April.