Are these good reasons to move back abroad?
May 18, 2020 4:53 PM   Subscribe

You, a US citizen, lived abroad for six years. You've been back in the US for three years now and are on the cusp of moving to NYC, a place you always thought you'd end up. But with Coronavirus and other recent developments, you wonder if it's better to just move back abroad. Am I thinking clearly here?

I'm 30 now. The years I lived abroad were ages 21-27, so a large part of my formative years. I pretty much split my six years between Sydney and Prague. I had a job in one of those places, but in both instances I pretty much used each city as my base..so I was able to travel a lot. All that constant traveling wore me down and I moved back to the US to try to settle down and build a real life.

I've mostly failed at that. But I'm finally in a position to move to NYC. I actually recently asked here on MeFi which urban Northeast city I should move to, and I came to the realization that saving a little bit of money to live in Philly just isn't worth it, and Boston/DC really aren't that much cheaper than NYC while offering much less. I guess I'd only put Philly into play if I really did plan on leaving the US soon and wanted something cheaper in the meantime. I've spent a total of 8 months in NYC in the past, and it's really what I've been building towards in the meantime.

I'm looking to move October at the latest. But Coronavirus. It makes me wonder how a move to NYC would look at this point. I was planning on transferring with my job, but as a new employee that hasn't been working recently due to the virus, was recently told that my 6-month transfer eligibility clock will be reset and won't start rolling again until I get back to work. So I would definitely be going without a job.

I have savings and am not too worried about that. But NYC has been so hard hit by the virus that i wonder what it'll even look like in October, and if that's the NYC I've always wanted to live in. As far as jobs go, and as someone who has moved a lot, I've never had a hard time finding a job. I've always been employed within weeks, and have extensive management experience in my industry. But I've been thinking about how Coronavirus could change that, particularly in NYC.

I don't want to name the country I'm looking at moving to, as I don't want to distract from the purposes of this question. But the circumstances would be this: I'd be able to get a five-year residence permit and turn that into citizenship/EU citizenship. I wouldn't be able to work, at least initially, until after learning the language a bit more. But I have a reliable side gig (think digital nomad-ish) that doesn't bring in huge amounts of money, but given the COL in this country, would be enough to cover living expenses. The income from this side gig is reliable and has barely changed in the years I've been doing it.

In any case, if I went abroad, I'd want to do the same thing I'd be doing in the US, and that's settle down. I'm done constantly traveling. But I also feel a bit "overwhelmed" by the US at times. And also feeling like it isn't for me. I make enough to live on and save a little, but don't make a lot by any means. I don't do social media, and feel that some things in the US culturally just aren't for me. I kind of feel like living in a culture where things are more limited could be appealing.

Another factor is that I know how mentally taxing NYC can be. It's definitely the place for me, but I'd save even less money, and live a fast paced life. But given how my lifestyle has been over the last 3 years, there's really not a better place in the US for me.

Given all of this, what's the solution here? Again, Coronavirus. I'm still very much leaning towards NYC, as it's what I want. It's just popped into my mind recently: "Why not go back abroad?" - I just wonder if I'd be making a mistake by doing that. If you haven't inferred this, I have essentially no social circle right now. That comes with the territory of moving so much and recovering from mental health issues. I would like to stop moving, though.

I would like to be out of here (Chicago) by October, and have to give 60-day notice at my apartment. NYC won't even begin reopening until mid-June or so, so this is making it hard to plan how things will be in August and on. I wanted to be out of here in July, but now it's looking like August at the earliest.

I still haven't really gone away from the decision to NYC, but I've definitely been pondering things. If NYC is really what I want, should I just go and make it work? I suppose I'd have to prepare for 2-3 months to find suitable work instead of the 2-3 weeks I'm used to. Is Coronavirus a smaller factor than I think?

There are so many factors at play here, that some outside perspectives would be helpful. Writing all of this now is making me think: "if NYC is what you really want, and you'd stop moving after that, then just go and do what it takes to make it work." - You are not me, but is that what I should be doing?
posted by signondiego to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
What’s the hurry? Why not wait six months until your relocation window is passed and life is a little more normal, then go to NYC with a job? It’s seems pretty likely that the mother of all recessions is about to hit in which case a steady job is going to be really valuable, especially if your goal is to settle down. Indeed it may well help you feel settled sooner overall than if you went now and had to spend months job hopping and coping with corona fall-out.

If you don’t like NYC even with a steady job behind you, then you know you gave it a good try and can give the overseas option a shot.
posted by penguin pie at 5:20 PM on May 18 [18 favorites]


You might also consider how the outcome of the November election will impact your desire to stay in the US. I wouldn't make any definitive long-term decisions until it's over (like, end-of-January over, one way or the other). Things aren't great here and they could get a lot worse.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 5:26 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Based on what you’ve said it sounds like NYC is something you need to get out of your system. If you move somewhere else now you’ll just need to go there later.

With regards to Coronavirus, New York has been hit particularly hard but everyone is being hit to one degree or another. New York is also an economic powerhouse even on a bad day, so recovery may not take as long as you think.

All in all I’d say go scratch the itch.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:32 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


I would tell you to, if at all possible for you, FLEE THE US, if you can find a country that isn't as terrible at handling virus that will take you. Even if your heart says, "New York! New York!" (which is what it sounds like and under normal circumstances I would just say move there). I suspect under the circumstances now, the place may not be what you are hoping it's going to be. You might want to ask people who actually live there what they are going through, read the NYT interviews with locals, etc. and see if what they are dealing with now is something you can take compared to where you are now.

But seriously, I have no idea how doable it is going to be to move anywhere, whether or not it's international or even to NYC. Borders might be closed by the time you are ready to go.

However you decide to decide, I think the virus should be THE factor in your decision, though. It's probably not going to be improving in this country by the fall, most likely there will be more crap and disasters going on. Like I love Hawaii, but if Hawaii was the epicenter of virus, I would no longer want to move there, personally.

Also, well, there's going to be added difficulty in moving, especially while alone. Read the other threads on moving on Ask Mefi these days and see what those people are dealing with.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:39 PM on May 18 [5 favorites]


A lot of what you wrote resonated with dilemmas I've had as someone who is peripatetic but has at times felt like I should put down more roots. I also lived in NYC, loved my time there, but moved away for very specific reasons.

What you wrote prompted a couple of questions that you don't need to respond to here, but they're what I'd ask a friend who posed this to me:

- Is settling down what you really want or is it something you feel like you should want? It sounds like after being back in the states for 3 years you haven't built the "real life" that you came intending to build; why is that?

Also, I want to validate that your life has always been a "real life," even if it hasn't included a spouse, 2.5 kids, and a white picket fence.

- What does settling down mean to you? Is it being married with 2.5 kids and a 30 year mortgage? Is it being in one location for more than 3 years? Having a very clear picture of what you want is going to help you make this decision.

In a lot of ways, NYC is not conducive to "settling down." You have to be pretty wealthy to afford property, so you'd likely be renting. It's also incredibly expensive to live alone in NYC, so you'd likely have roommates. And that's going to always mean a general lack of stability as people cycle in and out or needs/dynamics change and you decide to move. Most of the people I know who moved to NYC (including myself) moved around quite a bit for their first five years in the city until either moving away or finding an apartment they plan to die in.

That's the thing about NYC: everything is just a little bit more difficult and it adds up. It sounds like you already know that it is mental and physical WORK just to live in NYC, so you have to really want to be there.

- So, why NYC? What about the city makes it feel like such a compelling place to settle down?

You mention feeling overwhelmed by the US; I will say that part of the reason I left NYC is that I found it overwhelming. It was overwhelming in a good way -- I found the city magical and endlessly inspiring and there are so many wonderful people and experiences there, and I often felt guilty that I wasn't taking greater advantage of it. I made the conscious decision to leave because i knew that I needed the simplicity of a slower-moving place at this time in my life. If simplicity and limitations are what appeal to you about the unnamed Euro state, I would probe that a little more. Where do you see yourself wanting to be on the fast-paced vs. settled spectrum?

Yes, NYC will change because of this pandemic, but NYC is also incredibly resilient. I do believe the city will bounce back. This is not NYC's first disaster rodeo.

However, I personally wouldn't consider moving until things are significantly safer with the virus. NYC will struggle until we have a vaccine or infection numbers get so low that we can trace contact much better because it is a dense hub with almost infinite international travelers moving through it. So from a safety perspective, yeah, we do have to remember it's the epicenter of a pandemic and will continue to be. I also feel like if you're going to spend all your time in an apartment because it's the safest place to be and/or there's nothing open, then it's not a great idea to spend money on NYC rent to stay inside. You can stay inside anywhere!

Good luck with your decision!
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 6:01 PM on May 18 [10 favorites]


Things are challenging right now everywhere...what happens if you move to the EU country and there's another outbreak there? What would your health insurance situation be? Is this side gig of yours actually legal for you to do there with a residence permit?

It sort of seems like so many people have been infected in NYC that it might be marginally safer there now than in some other places. But I doubt that nightlife will be back to normal for a long time. My job doesn't expect employees to work in person for months. I don't think this is a great time to move, especially if you don't have a job lined up, despite the success you've had getting jobs in the past.

What is your current situation with your job? Have you been furloughed? Is it something that can be done remotely when you restart? This also isn't an advisable time to travel, obviously, but I've seen a couple of listings for people who needed petsitters for several weeks in NYC (in exchange for a free place to stay). Maybe you could allow yourself some sort of shorter-term option to try out New York.

I would also think more about your impulse to move. You say you don't have a social circle right now- has that been true in other places? Would things be different in Chicago, or could you have stayed in Minneapolis, if you had been willing to change in other ways? I understand wanting to move- I definitely love some cities and don't like others. I don't know Chicago- I've only been there a couple of times. But what is it that you specifically don't like?
posted by pinochiette at 6:10 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, @penguin pie: there is a sense of urgency here. It just speaks to how much I don't like Chicago, which was always going to be a stopgap for me. I am really willing to move during Coronavirus and don't want to put off this next phase of my life. So I'm not putting this off any longer.

@Colonel_Chappy: Incredible comment. Oddly enough, what I mentioned about feeling overwhelmed and wanted a more simple culture, the opposite of NYC being that is exactly what appeals to me. Some of the things you mentioned that you can't do in NYC are things I wouldn't be doing anyway. So maybe my definition of settling down is a bit different. But your questions are very valid.
posted by signondiego at 6:15 PM on May 18


If you are sure that you can afford NYC*, then I say go for NYC ... with two provisos:

1) consider what you will feel if Trump manages to win the election (or loses it, as your preferences may go)
2) consider what you will do if you decide NYC isn't for you in about two to three years

...your answers to these questions will tend, I think, to help you decide between the EU and NYC.

* I mean actually find apartments and work out potential commute times etc. Yes, there are cheap apartments in NYC. They are cheap for many reasons, many of which you may not like. Commutes can be QUITE different depending on exactly where you are, and where you are going.

bias disclosure: I'm presently considering doing early retirement (next 5-7 years) to an EU country where I can get residency (followed by citizenship in 5 years) easily for non-ethnic/non-familial reasons. I mention this because I may be selling NYC short, or perhaps over-compensating in the other direction. I dunno, but I thought I should mention it.
posted by aramaic at 7:43 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


You should think seriously about the social safety net as you age and are perhaps no longer able to work.

Or what will happen if your industry changes and you have a harder time finding work before that.

Of course, it's possible that things will change in the decades between now and then. There's no sure bet. But to me, the lack of a social safety net is a major reason to want to leave the US, so it should be seriously considered by anyone considering moving here.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 8:00 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


if that's the NYC I've always wanted to live in.

This line in your very long question jumped out at me. Because there are a lot of NYCs, you know? Riverdale is not the Upper West Side is not the West Village is not Astoria is not DUMBO is not.... You get the point. Of course, those neighborhoods flex and change internally, but reading through this question and your previous question, I don't have a good sense of which NYC you want to live in, so it's hard to say how much that NYC has been affected or will continue to be affected by covid. The whole city has been hit hard, but with stark neighborhood disparities that basically follow the existing segregation lines of the city.

The one thing that seems likely is that neighborhood-to-neighborhood transportation will continue to be fraught well into the fall. Not non-existent, but taking the subway or buses or rideshare will entail extra risk, even for upper-middle-class white dudebros who never used to think of such things. (I'm remembering a conversation that I, a 5'2" brown woman, had with a 6' white man about the relative risk of taking the subway to work at 4:30am. Different circumstances, but this guy had clearly never needed to consider safety on the subway.)

So if you do move there, think hard about what you want in a neighborhood -- it's probably best to think of NYC neighborhoods as little independent towns, for the purposes of this question -- because you'll probably be accessing most things on foot or with your own bike for the foreseeable future.
posted by basalganglia at 6:52 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]


We can't know what October + Pandemic will look like. This will sound uncaring, not intended, but people may leave NYC due to the stress of the Pandemic, so housing may be more available when restrictions are lifted. Jobs, maybe. Find forums populated by New Yorkers, listen.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on May 19


Greetings from Queens. Like you, a lot of us who are here are spending a lot of time thinking about what it really means to want to live here, and whether that nebulous thing will still be here when the dust settles. Even if we can figure out the former, a tall order in itself, the latter is unknowable.

I do know that we won't know by October. If you come, you'll be here with us while we figure it out, probably a one-of-a-kind experience. Yes, the pandemic has affected the whole world. But in addition to the high numbers here, our usual way of doing things simply can't be done halfway, and masks and even contact tracing can only go so far.

We still have a thousand new infections every day. Something like 4% of New Yorkers are known to have it. People who are only going out for essential supplies are still newly contracting it. Until we have a vaccine or cure, even if places open back up, there will be some portion of New Yorkers (including me) who won't feel comfortable riding the train or going to a bar or restaurant for fun. The people who do somehow manage to go and enjoy will be in smaller numbers, and I don't know about you but that's not the New York I know. It's also a question mark whether those businesses will be able to survive that way.

We're already hearing about NYC employers deciding now that they won't have people come to the office for the rest of the year, and that will only increase. Anecdotally, people are starting to decide to leave more permanently. This does mean there will be housing available, a wider selection than usual (cheaper? time will tell). At the same time, New York is New York because of the people. If too many leave...well. At the same time as that, you could offset that a little, by coming here.

If you really think this is your long-term home, and you can stand that it won't be what you want it to be for at least several more months, maybe more, it might be a good opportunity to secure a good place. Even given that, with no social or financial ties to any one place...the wisest advice would probably still be to find a place with a yard in as high a hospital-bed-per-capita area as you can afford until 2021. But if you do come here, you'll be welcome.
posted by lampoil at 6:16 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


The things I love most about living in NYC, I still love them right now.

My neighborhood, the people, the camaraderie, the incredible depths and breadths of talent and curiosity and engagement, the ability to walk/bike to almost anywhere I want/need to go, I’m not feeling it any less, and I’m not any more tempted to move than I was before.

If this is a place you think you might want to be long term, being here now is a very meaningful way/time to be here, and there are and I’m sure will continue to be so many ways to help and do good.

I completely second everything that basalganglia wrote about being thoughtful about your neighborhood and specific living situation. My life is definitely better now because I have a door that opens to the fresh air, even if it's a cement courtyard with scrap water and occasional urban wildlife. I also love and feel at home in my neighborhood (in Brooklyn) and it’s fairly central, and a doable bike ride to most places.

Also, I agree with theora55 that October is a big unknown. It’s whether you want to come along for the ride here, or somewhere else, and that’s such a personal subjective decision, especially with all the factors you weighing.

Like also, if it will make your life feel easier in the short term to move to the other country, NYC will still be here for you later.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:52 PM on May 20


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