Living in UTC+0
April 7, 2022 10:05 AM   Subscribe

My employer has expressed a strong interest in having me live in UTC+0 (I'm presently Bay Area (so UTC-8). They don't really care where specifically I live, just that it be UTC+0 (or, if I really want, UTC+/-1). It is financially reasonable for me to do this, sooooo.....

Very Expensive Lawyers can pretty much guarantee I'll be given a work visa (or suitably legal workarounds) for any location I pick, let's assume that's not a problem.

My requirements, however, make this confusing for me...

1) I despise driving, and have an attention issue that makes it somewhat dangerous for me, so I need to pick somewhere that's amenable to life without a car. I have in the past been surprised at how car-centric parts of Britain, Italy and France actually are.

2) I need a sufficiently large Indian-diaspora community (large enough to sustain Indian grocery stores). This requirement has sunk a few places already.

3) I speak English and Konkani, with out-of-practice Hindi and Kannada. I was halfway decent at French many years ago. I'm willing to learn/re-learn a language, but I think we can assume I'd be basically non-verbal for the first few months after arrival while also needing to be immediately functional at work (I can't spend ages trying to sort out the local housing authority rules, for example).

4) I need high-speed internet and access to an airport.

5) I would prefer to avoid racist cesspits, but of course some racism is basically inevitable everywhere.

Originally I had just assumed I'd pick London/Paris/Amsterdam and be done with it, but I find myself wondering if there's somewhere smaller and more interesting I could pick instead, as well as potentially cheaper cost-of-living. This would probably involve several years of residence, potentially the point of eventual retirement.

I'm currently considering Edinburgh, Lisbon, Porto, places like that, but there must be some others I'm missing.

And yes, I realize I'm very fortunate in being faced by this question in the first place.
posted by aramaic to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Just confirming that Lisbon ticks a lot of those boxes (good public transit, large Indian community, many other English speakers, hi-speed Internet, Airport, low cost of living)
posted by vacapinta at 10:10 AM on April 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My employer has sponsored moving several people from the PNW (so same time zone) to Stockholm, Sweden (UTC + 2). So almost your target timezone, and I haven't heard of a bad experience yet. Also very easy for English speakers. Of course, I can't speak to the specifics myself but it might be a city you want to put on your own research list if you can squeeze an extra couple hours from your employer. Google suggests it does indeed have Indian grocery stores.
posted by cgg at 10:33 AM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Assuming your line of work can remain very much in the central business district or home, Glasgow is a fairly decent choice (very small subway circle line compared to London hence my caveat but train and buses and taxis are very good imo). I used to only ever shop at East or South Asian grocers as well and I like the Scottish vibe over English at times. That said, if the diaspora part can be a deal maker, Birmingham might be interesting?
posted by cendawanita at 10:49 AM on April 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: In the Netherlands, you might want to look at Utrecht, Rotterdam, or The Hague. Excellent public transportation (and bike infrastructure, if you're open to cycling), decently sized Indian community (India is one of the top countries of origin for the Dutch highly skilled migrant visa), you can handle all of your life admin stuff in English (occasionally awkward but very doable in a major city), you'd have access to Schiphol, and fiber internet is pretty widely available. However, while the cost of living is slightly lower than in Amsterdam, it's still going to be high compared to some other European countries. There are some slightly cheaper cities in the southern part of the Netherlands that are lovely (like Maastricht), but they're further from a major airport (although Eindhoven's airport isn't bad, depending on where you normally fly).
posted by neushoorn at 10:51 AM on April 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I know you are looking for somewhere other ("more interesting") than London/Paris/Amsterdam, but honestly London is lovely and great for people who hate cars (like me). And obviously it goes without saying that London has a huge South Asian diaspora. In my area many speak Bengali, not sure about the other areas of London.

I can't speak about cities in other European countries, but I found that in the rest of the UK, while possible to live without cars, is really incredibly restricting. I used to live in a decent-sized town in Scotland for 3 years. I had no car, and only used public transport/ taxis. Shops, grocery stores, everything are built for people who drive and have cars. There was a small Asian grocery store in that Scottish town, but I had to take an infrequent bus, walk across a busy trunk road with no pavements. I caught lifts from people, but I still found myself stuck from time to time.
posted by moiraine at 11:04 AM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You can live happily in Birmingham without a car as long as you choose your location. It has a large South Asian community (Punjabi, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Gujerati, most likely others in smaller numbers) which makes up about a quarter of the population. You can buy Indian food in regular supermarkets, and there are many small and large shops which sell Indian food. The airport is easily accessible. It is cheap compared to the Bay area. Racism is about the same as other major UK cities. It is not wildly cosmopolitan because it's a touch unfashionable within the UK but it is friendly, young and has a well educated population.

Does Dublin have an Indian community? It could be an excellent fit otherwise.
posted by plonkee at 11:16 AM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Switzerland? Geneva, if you want to leverage your French, otherwise Zürich or Basel? Excellent public transportation, and although it doesn't boast low cost of living, it isn't as bat-shit insane as for example London. I don't know about a large Indian diaspora per se, but you'd definitely be able to shop. As for the racists ... they've gotten used to about a fifth of the population being foreigners, so it could be worse I guess.
posted by labberdasher at 11:22 AM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Does Dublin have an Indian community?
Go Lisboa! Ireland is host to 150+ different nationalities and uncountable multinationals. 10,000+ people from India. More than half of them will be billeted in Dublin. But they'll be stacked like cordwood to afford the rents. In a recent bizarre coincidence, one of my students moved into the exact same address as we [couple + toddler] occupied in 1977. Vithu was sharing with 4 others from Tamil Nadu.
The Web Summit moved permanently from Dublin to a "cosmopolitan city with better infrastructure conditions and a larger number of hotel rooms" = Lisbon in 2016.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:18 PM on April 7, 2022

Best answer: I really like Rotterdam. Have you seen Nomad List? It has some useful filters, including cost and internet speed, etc.
posted by pinochiette at 12:34 PM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Edinburgh is a bit of a building site at the moment, they are slowly turning it into another London. In England there's all the brexit/anti immigration issues to contend with.
My first thought is Grenoble.
posted by Lanark at 12:49 PM on April 7, 2022

Best answer: I'm someone who loved living in the UK, but not in London (too large for me). Cost of living will be relatively high anywhere in the UK, but lower outside of the south-east and London.

My favourite UK city is Edinburgh, but I just visited rather than living there, so I may be just looking at it with starry-tourist eyes. But wow, is it a pretty city!

I think that any city-sized settlement in the UK, even the smaller ones like Lincoln or Cambridge, have enough public transit to live without a car, and most will have a South Asian community, though maybe not as large as in London or Birmingham. As a North American, I was generally impressed with even the rural transit in the UK. It might not be frequent and doesn't go everywhere, but at least it exists. I was able to commute by public bus into Lincoln, for example, from a tiny village an hour's drive away. (And I have to say, riding at the top of a double-decker bus through the rolling hills of Lincolnshire is so much fun, I think it should be sold as a tourist experience). Larger centres have even better networks; my brother-in-law commutes by fast train from a village outside of Manchester, and I've also stayed with a friend in St Albans and that's not a bad commute to the King's Cross area of London - at least as easy as anything I've done from the suburbs of Toronto. (London is massive, though; Kew is farther om King's Cross in transit time than St Alban's is).
posted by jb at 2:06 PM on April 7, 2022

Best answer: Came here to also say Birmingham. Bristol is also worth considering and I can't say enough good things about the art scene there, it's a super interesting and beautiful and walkable city, good transport links. Have lived in both without a car. I've only spent limited time in Lisbon but it struck me as very similar to Bristol in some ways.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 2:34 PM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lived in Edinburgh for a year and deeply loved it. Scotland is sensibly governed, wildly beautiful, and has a likeable scrappiness. Decent diaspora too, and good south Asian food. Plus in-city extinct volcano to run up!
posted by SandCounty at 2:40 PM on April 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: nthing LIsbon. It's cosmopolitan in general & there is a large Indian community (the Prime MInister is of partly Goan descent... there they call him "Babush"). The public transport system could be better, but it's there. And the greater location is excellent: 2-3 hour flights to all the rest of Europe, 5-6 hours to NYC.
posted by chavenet at 3:36 PM on April 7, 2022

How important is the airport side of things? Because the nice thing about London, Paris, and Amsterdam is you'll be able to get nonstop flights to way more places than the other cities in question. Or is there one big destination you need to go to where there might be nonstop flights from many of the cities mentioned?
posted by grouse at 3:39 PM on April 7, 2022

Best answer: Dublin is in the middle of a housing crisis, and the mass transit isn't great. Healthcare is low cost but not free, and basic if you don't have private health insurance. (Which admittedly is a lot cheaper than US health. insurance.) It's a great city, but in terms of moving one's life, I would cast a vote for Glasgow. Better transit than Dublin, more housing options. Fine airport.
posted by Morpeth at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2022

Best answer: UK is too far north for my liking - I like a temperate climate but the days just get too short that far north. So Portugal and Spain would be preferable with a cost of living and culture metric, with France around Lyons being another option as the markets and food there are fabulous.

Big cities are big cities - so if you can opt for smaller scale near an airport, that is probably better.

My daughter was in England for two years and lived at Brighton (where American Express has their UK HQ) and places near Gatwick.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 6:17 PM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Outlier idea, but you might consider Iceland! There’s a small Indian community there (any community would be small by definition), but it’s a welcoming place and they gerrymandered themselves into GMT specifically to be in synch with Western Europe business time.
posted by sjswitzer at 7:34 PM on April 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One place I haven't seen mentioned yet is Oxford. Beautiful center city, you don't need a car at all, an hour to London Paddington by train and ninety minutes to Heathrow by coach, which means you can get there quicker than from some remoter parts of London. Not the large South Asian neighborhoods of London or Birmingham but lots of South Asian folks and food around. Smaller than Edinburgh but dense in cultural offerings; larger than Cambridge and closer to London/airports. Rents are high but if London and Paris are in your comparison set anything will look good.
posted by sy at 1:41 AM on April 8, 2022

Best answer: Any place in the Netherlands will fulfill the non-car-centric criterium, as suggested before. Schiphol is a well-connected airport, and since the country is small, you can get there from anywhere in < 3 hours. As far as Indian community goes, there are over 200k people of Indian descent, mostly via the former Dutch colony of Suriname. AFAIK, this community is concentrated around The Hague and Rotterdam, which might make those stand out from other options in the Netherlands.
posted by snusmumrik at 2:06 AM on April 8, 2022

Best answer: My experience, as a non-driver in the UK, is that if you don't want to be in a city, you can live anywhere you want to as long as it's walkable to a railway station (and you're OK with the fact that every so often you will be trying to go somewhere, perhaps home, and the train will have other ideas, e.g. preferring to stop and spend the next five hours halfway between two stations). Our trains are bewilderingly expensive, our ticketing system can only have been thought up by someone in a fever dream, and we seem to make a lot more use of rail replacement buses than anywhere else I've lived, but I've found the railway reliable enough that until Covid, I never really felt limited by my lack of a driving licence.

By contrast, I am not comfortable relying on rural buses at all, because the timetable can be very sparse and because routes can be (and are) changed or dropped on a whim.

I think your other criteria probably mean you'll want to be in a city, but maybe it's helpful information anyway.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:21 AM on April 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Similar to sjswitzer's idea, but on a larger scale, you could go with my hometown Oslo (or any major Scandinavian city like Copenhagen or Stockholm). Oslo has fantastic public transportation and you don't need a car at all if you live centrally. And, yes, there is an Indian community there.

Access to the airport is super simple with the air train. The internet is great. The one thing is, Oslo is definitely not cheap. But on the other hand, you get a lot for your money, in terms of how well the society works.
posted by edlundart at 4:05 AM on April 8, 2022

Best answer: For a non-Paris French option, you should consider Nantes. Well connected, cosmopolitan, techy, green; it has a strong self-identity, but at the same time is a deal more generally progressive and welcoming to outsiders than other French regional cities.
posted by protorp at 5:22 AM on April 8, 2022

Best answer: How important is it for you to make this decision now, before you've moved? Do you have enough flexibility to (for example) rent a flat in London for a couple of months, and use the weekends to explore and get a feel for other cities and locations in the UK and western Europe? That would be my advice.

London-wise, the two major south Asian areas are Tooting and Southall. Tooting is on the tube network, while Southall is very convenient for Heathrow Airport. But 18.5% of Londoners are Asian (figures from 2011 census) so most areas have relevant shops.
posted by Hogshead at 7:09 AM on April 8, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you everyone, all of your remarks have been helpful!

I also want to say that the NomadList site has been very helpful, and I was not aware of it so thank you for that (perhaps I did not see myself as a "nomad" per se because my search terms didn't appear to even get me close to that result).
posted by aramaic at 9:44 AM on April 8, 2022

« Older Parakeet - one or two?   |   Not my job! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.