American family seeking relocation to Germany or the Netherlands

Please help.

My wife and I are expecting our second (and final) child this June. The prospect of raising two boys in America is both wonderful and terrifying. You see, we’re worried about raising our children in a country whose values are so far afield from many of our own. Particularly, we’d prefer not to raise our boys in a country that continues to worship the car and refuses to build proper mass transportation and infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists (i.e. children).

American children get access to cars at the age of fifteen, which is quite insane. While the historical origins of this unusually low driving age are based in our agrarian past, it is now used to help prop up the suburban lifestyle. Many families can’t wait until their children reach driving age so that they can be freed of the burden of ferrying their kids around a low density suburban wasteland.

Further complicating matters is the American obsession with restricting alcohol from its citizens until the age of twenty-one. In theory, a law abiding child will have several years of driving experience and a university degree before they touch a glass of wine or beer. In practice, we have created a culture where kids are drinking and driving in their high school years. This unfortunate concoction of misguided laws and ignorance of human nature results in untold thousands of teens dying in alcohol and automobile related accidents per year.

In sharp contrast to the American model, Germanic kids experiment with alcohol much earlier in life and get the “crazies” out of their system long before a driver’s license is a possibility. In most cases northern European teens live in a much more densely populated environment where walking, biking, and mass transit opportunities abound. Very few of them are dependent on their parents for mobility. Even if a Germanic teen overdoes things with drink, it’s very unlikely that anything short of a hangover will be the result (since binge drinking is also quite frowned on). The chance of drunken kids then getting into a car and killing themselves is effectively zero, since they don’t have to drive to a remote cornfield to drink and fornicate in peace.

One of my heroes, David Hembrow, had similar thoughts as his children came of age in the UK. Fortunately for him, he already lived in a European Union nation so moving to the mainland was reasonably straight forward. We yanks have a steeper hill to climb. A whole rash of labor protection laws get in the way and make it quite difficult.

In the hope that somebody with “connections” might read my ramblings, here is the brief Salyards’ resume for relocation back to the old country:

Me: IT Professional with 10+ years experience in strategic labor outsourcing (particularly in India), project management, and business analysis for a major US retailer. German fluency (rusty due to lack of use but it shall return). Lived in Oldenburg Germany as an exchange student (Austauschschüler) for one year a long time ago (where I fell in love with Dutch bikes). I am an avid biker and experienced fencer.

My Wife: IT professional with 10+ years experience in solution architecture design, management, systems analysis and project management. Mother born in Germany from an American soldier (who flew the coup) and a Ukrainian “Ostarbeiter.” Tall, blonde, ethnically German. Taking steps to learn German language. Loves good cheese, bread, and organic/local produce.

Son: Super cute three- year old with good experience in traveling by bicycle with daddy. Kids are sponges. No worries.

Unborn son: We shall see.

Dog: English Springer Spaniel named “Winston.” Great dog who is current on all of his shots.

We’d prefer to move to a city in Northern Germany or the Netherlands. Bike infrastructure should be okay or great. Oldenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hannover, etc, all sounds quite pleasant. The Netherlands will work as well, though we’d need to learn Dutch (which is an odd goal I’ve had for many years anyhow).

We’re wondering whether or not we can claim asylum from the United States since they want to subject our children to a dangerous lifestyle of poison-spewing cars, foreign wars (fearing for the lives of my male offspring), and genetically modified food :)

If anybody has the connections to aid us in our escape from the English speaking world, where we can live car free, please contact us immediately.

No, this is not a joke.

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18 responses to “American family seeking relocation to Germany or the Netherlands

  1. atomheartfather

    Well first of all big congrats for son no.2. Great bit of news.
    Second, I (Richard) am in the process of doing exactly what you propose. I’ve got the major advantage of being an ageing baby boomer hippy who can now start to wind down on the income generation. Having never thought much about pensions and the like, I now find myself in the pleasant position of being able to flog my house in the UK, and live like most people in Germany, renting space – in this case from my landlady wife, which should hopefully mean a serious and generous discount. So one way to help finance your move would be to flog off any property you have – though I suspect your bicycles might be the sum total of the Salyards portfolio – and rent in Germany.
    On the GMO front, there’s an abundance of little organic shops in the Viertel where you can buy locally produced GMO-free food (not to mention the organic market). Cycling is strictly gentle here, and the great thing is that most car drivers also cycle, so they respect cyclists and pedestrians’ rights. But you know all that don’t you? The question is how to claim asylum.

    Let us ponder on that later on….

  2. Richard just said, his post was not finished, but then I want to comment myself and he had just hi-jacked my computer. I pushed him aside.

    So now Beatrix:

    I am extremely pleased to hear that an American citizen (or three comma/dot/point 50 to be more precise) is pleading for asylum in good old Germany (or the Netherlands, o.k., accepted). That was the other way round 70 years and a bit ago.

    But first of all: Congrats to the new baby coming up. Is Marek pleased with the threatening competition?

    Now of course, how do we get you out of your dangerous environment? And Marek and Baby 2? How serious are you 3,5 about it?

    We would love to have you over here, no doubt.

    Richard says, I am too German, taking everything seriously, but then you are not British and maybe you are not as satirical as those Brits on that funny island over there.

    I was immediately thinking of my cousin who works for THE Apple business over here, but maybe that is not what you are looking for, or?

    Great stuff, let me know how we can help you 3,5 Salyards.

    Hugs et bisous Beatrix

  3. IT professionals should have an easier time getting a job in the EU. In the meantime, the Netherlands has something called the Dutch American Friendship Treaty which makes it easier for Americans to start a business there. Basically with a small investment of cash and/or equipment – something like 4,500 euros, a business plan and the ability to live and support your family from the income of your business, you can live there. You don’t have to prove that your business have a specific Dutch interest. Lots of freelancers do it and have been successful. I’ve researched this through and through as I plan to do the same, and know people who have already done it. Check out: http://www.expatlaw.nl/dutch_american_friendship_treaty.htm

  4. I’m not sure what to make of the “hero” thing, but having got that out of the way, I have to congratulate you as well.

    I guess the biggest problem you face is finding a job. That is, I think, the main obstacle for an American to getting residence in Germany.

    I also used to work in IT. I wrote (mostly) embedded software for a living for 20 odd years. However, try as I might, I couldn’t find an equivalent job here.

    For that reason, a rather different approach was needed and so started the planning for our rather circuitous route to relocation: First we saved up money and paid off the mortgage, then I changed to a self-employed job in the UK which I could relocate (making baskets), then we started looking around at places we could afford, and finally we bought a house outright here (no chance of a mortgage in NL with no track record) and moved. We’ve been scraping a living ever since – I currently have four different jobs each paying a little of what we need. While we had no problems with immigration, it’s still not actually been easy.

    However, it has been an adventure, and we now live in a really great place. Germany’s not at all bad either. If you can do it, do it !

  5. As we have discussed before, you are not allowed to move. EVER. I have been perfectly clear on this point since Marek was in utero. NO MOVING.

  6. Pingback: Refugee Status Please? | Cog-itate

  7. Thanks for your wonderful post! You are saying something that I think is important for Americans to hear. I got me thinking and I have posted about your situation and my reaction to it on my blog.

    We lived overseas for nearly four years and it really opened our eyes. We have seriously considered going back many times, and if the day comes that we feel the balance tips in favor of leaving in order to gain a better life for our children, then we will do so.

    I hope you do get the chance to go overseas and that things work out well for you! I will be following your progress;-)

  8. Don’t come here to Holland as I live here with 2 cars and do not need a wacko like you spewing your liberal crap! Dutch people by the way also love cars so move to Greenland or something.

  9. Hi, Steve. I’m aware of the fact that car addiction is a global phenomena, and yes, it exists even in the Netherlands. Perhaps you’d be happier here in the States amongst like-minded folk. If you’re ever in the area I’d love to show you around some of my other “liberal crap” activities like rifle shooting, bird hunting, perhaps a handgun or two…or is that too scary and conservative for you? Steve, you don’t know me, and if you did, liberal is not a tag you would apply.

  10. Hello Steve, are you aggressive or joking? If you are aggressive you fulfill all my prejudice. If not, then your joke is at least strange.
    The Netherlands are still a car country – that is true – but they are also cycling happily in huge numbers. Maybe you should try it once.

  11. Just curious if you all made the move…. I’ve been living here in the Netherlands for two years, I still can’t find a job! I have such a general background and work experience though, IT is a little more in demand so you may have a better chance. I love it here and am happy my kids will be raised here unless I can’t find a job and then we will have to return to the USA.

  12. I am also curious if you have moved…we are preparing to move next month. One way tickets are purchased and many boxes are packed. My husband is Dutch, so moving for us is a little easier than it would be for most people….
    About the car issue-gas is very expensive and roads are packed. Many people use bikes and trains simply because it is cheaper and less frustrating-not because they are green.
    Good luck and I hope it all works out for you guys!

  13. Hello, from Germany.
    have a look this city: Aachen, it is in the corner of three countries (Germany, Netherlands and Belgium). It is a lovely city, everybody use bike here and there is a lot of work opportunities. People are very nice and friendly.
    there are many It companies in the area, as:
    http://www.cycos.com
    for more information:

    http://www.aachen.de/en/ts/Current_information/index.html

    Relocation:
    http://www.relocationlivegermany.com
    Good luck.
    alfredo

  14. Hi Tad, Lisa, Marek and your second son,

    we feel the same way as you do about America – the infrastrucure, the lack of bicycle lanes, the genetically-modified food, violence, etc…
    We lived in Munich, Germany for 6 years and came back to the USA in 2007. At the moment we are trying to set up the manufacturing and retail sides of our business – we design and manufacture waterproof bicycle commuter backpacks and panniers here in Seattle, WA. Once this is all up and going, we are planning to move back to Munich and live there and set up our company there as well for the European bicycle market.
    Germany would definitely be the better place for raising our son and he is the main reason why we would like to have our business running successfully here in the States, so that we can provide a better environment for him.

    We would appreciate it if you stay in touch with us. Here is our email for contacts: bobbi@velotransit.com.

    Great article! It was nice to find out that there are other people in the USA thinking the same way as us.
    Thank you.

  15. I enjoyed reading this. Did you ever make it to Germany/Netherlands? Since your wife was born of a German mother, has she looked into obtaining German citizenship? I am not familiar with the German regulations, but I know that a child born of a Dutch mother and non-Dutch father can obtain citizenship. If she were able to get German citizenship, I assume you could all relocate there…

  16. Out of curiosity, did you get any further along in the process of moving abroad? My family (with similar demographics) is considering a similar move for similar reasons, so I would to hear any further thoughts you have on the topic

    Cheers!

    Michael

  17. This is a good post! I also live in Minneapolis and came across this as I was looking for more resources for my own slow bike commute! (I’m fortunate enough to live about a mile from my workplace).

    That said, your post is definitely thought-provoking. I lived and studied in the United Kingdom for two years after college, having had difficulty finding work in the US (2008ish). Once I returned, it was very hard to readjust to the long winters, and the lack of being able to get anywhere with my bike. I’m grateful to have the Midtown greenway nearby, but biking in the States is still challenging, and our modest efforts at public transport (see: e.g. light rail) are still well-behind adequate. It is nearly impossible to live here without a car, and yet I don’t want one at all.

    I never thought of myself as a liberal either. I guess you could say I’m skeptical of both sides of the aisle and the same old talking points that come from each. Like you, I continue to question the benefit of remaining here in the US. Due to the cost of living in the UK, I’m not sure it would be a good option, but I don’t want to stay in the US, drowning under the cost of my health insurance premiums, student loan payments, car payments, and all those other things that one must have to have that revered “quality of life”. By the time I graduated college, even with the modest scholarships, I was struggling under debt. A few years of unemployment when the economy dipped in 07′ was enough to ensure that my student loan payments would never end in this lifetime. And so I must wonder whether it is all worth it. Is the “quality of life” we are promised in the US so wonderful that we are willing to take on a lifetime of debt slavery in order to purchase more possessions and thereby incur more debt? I’m not sure it is.

    I’m also in the IT field, and if someone knows a way in which a move could be made, I’d love to hear from you too. My email is anewcastle[at]gmail[dot]com. I guess you could call this my version of the American dream.

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