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18 Brutally Honest Reasons to Leave the US ASAP

18 Brutally Honest Reasons to Leave the US ASAP

So, a lot of us are getting overwhelmed with the state of the US at the moment. Even living overseas, it’s hard not to be affected by everything that’s going on. A lot of people have asked about what it’s like moving overseas compared to living in America, and from experience, there are a lot of reasons to leave the US. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list and obviously varies based on where you live in the US, what your situation is, and where in the world you’re thinking of moving to.

This list is just a guide to some of the reasons that living abroad as a US expat can be much better than staying in the States. 

So here you have my 18 reasons to leave the US as soon as you can:

1. Gun Control

Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way first. There shouldn’t be a need to teach kids about active shooter drills.

This is not a thing anywhere else because, on the whole, most countries have much, much better gun control laws. 

Even countries like New Zealand and the UK with long traditions of hunting with guns have gun control laws that have massively lowered mass shootings. One of the leading causes of child mortality in the US is now gun crime. That is horrific and ridiculous. 

No one outside of an active war zone, who is trained rigorously, has any need for an assault rifle. If you want a shotgun that you’re going to use for hunting, you can apply for one in many countries as long as you have a license.

That’s reasonable. I wouldn’t give a driving license to my half-blind grandparent, so why should they be able to access a gun so easily?

The lack of gun control is a major reason that people are leaving the US, particularly by families. It’s sad, but it’s the reality with gun laws as they are at the moment.

2. Affordable or Universal Healthcare

Another major benefit that many expat cites as a reason for leaving the US is the cost of healthcare. You shouldn’t wake up in a hospital after an accident and have to think about whether you can afford to be healed. 

If you have a medical condition, get in an accident, are diagnosed with cancer, or even want to have a baby, the costs in the US are astronomical.

Socialized medicine exists in most of Europe and for the locals, is a no-brainer. 

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3. Work/Life Balance

Following the pandemic, a lot of us have reassessed what’s important in life, and although it pays the bills, work should not be your life.

The hustle culture that has a grip on a lot of the US isn’t half as bad in other countries. If I turned around to my friend and said I worked 60 hours this week, they’d be shocked.

Work to live, don’t live to work. Many countries in Europe are trying to pass legislation to make it illegal to try and contact your employees outside of work hours.

Stress and burnout place a huge burden on medical institutions and cost economies billions each year. Having that all-important work/life balance comes down to health.

In Europe, the standard working week is around 38-40 hours. After that point, you’re not expected to answer emails or be on call. In fact, many companies have early finishes on Fridays to celebrate the weekend.

4. Women’s Rights

After the repealing of Roe vs Wade, this is a pressing issue for many Americans. Women’s rights in the US are taking hit after hit.

Not only do parts of the US now have some of the strictest abortion laws on the planet, but there’s also a lack of support for pregnant people and new mothers, financially, emotionally, and even from a healthcare perspective.

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The maternal mortality rate in the US is shocking considering that it’s supposed to be a first-world country.

Put this together with the lack of equal pay in many industries that’s even worse if you’re a woman from a minority background, and it’s a wonder that all US women haven’t jumped ship already.

Here are the best countries to move to for abortion rights and these are the best countries for women’s safety.

5. Cost of Living

This is very much dependent on where you live in the US, and where you’d be moving to overseas, but by and large, the cost of living is astronomical in America.

Between rising house prices and rental figures, the gentrification of the more affordable areas, meaning that people have to move and then pay more to travel to work and for socializing, it’s a crisis that’s sweeping the nation.

Of course, post-pandemic, we’re seeing the cost of living crises all over the world, including in the UK, but in a lot of countries, the existing infrastructure means that it’s not hitting as hard.

Reasonable wages, socialized healthcare, childcare, and affordable public transport mean that it’s not snowballing quite as much as it is in the US.

Compare the cost of living in your area to the cost of living in Italy, for example.

6. Violence driven by Racism

Again, this depends on where you are and where you’re moving to. Unfortunately, racism exists pretty much everywhere. It shouldn’t but it does. However, parts of the US make racism look like the norm. 

The rise in hate crimes in the AAPI community, the Black Lives Matter protests, the hatred towards immigration coming up through South and Central America, and the continued rage against the Muslim community has created a huge political and moral divide in the country. 

With the flames being fanned by Trump and the alt-right, it doesn’t look like the situation is going to resolve itself anytime soon, and while no country is entirely free of racism, there are many countries that are much, much better for minorities, religious freedom and people of color.

7. College Tuition and Student Debt

We’ve talked about medical debt, now let’s talk about student debt. It’s massive.

Teenagers are having to make a decision between attending the college that they want to go to or being saddled with a lifetime’s worth of debt.

Parents are struggling to put money away for college funds with the high cost of living. All in all, it’s not a good place to be.

In most of Europe, college is free if you’ve lived in that country for a specific amount of time. For example, if you’ve lived in Scotland for seven years, you’re eligible for four years of free university tuition. This is something that cascades down all the way through to preschools.

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Many preschools are part of primary schools in Europe and are free or highly subsidized. There are also plenty of free-to-attend middle and high schools that pride themselves on high-quality education.

There are fee-paying private schools and boarding schools, but they’re not as popular as they are in the US. The public schools tend to offer a higher quality than the public schools back in the US, so many families don’t see the point in paying for a private school.

8. Food Quality

From chlorinated chicken to not being able to get clean water, there are a lot of questionable food items in the US. This is normally to keep costs down and make food last longer on the shelves, at the detriment of quality.

The reason food in Europe tastes so good is because they have fresh, high-quality ingredients. Even going to the cheaper supermarkets, you’ll be able to get great, seasonal, local produce that you can cook with at home.

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9. Vacation and Parental Leave

This goes back to the sense of work/life balance that the US just hasn’t got, but in other countries, there is a legal requirement for paid vacation leave and paid parental leave. 

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Some countries have higher amounts than others. For example, the legal minimum vacation leave in the UK is 28 days which includes the 8 bank holidays for the year. In Austria, you can get five weeks of paid vacation a year.  

a girl traveling in Europe

For parental leave, there are legal requirements for maternity and paternity leave. Some even have bereavement leave requirements in case of miscarriages or stillborns.

This kind of social care helps new parents adjust, care for, and adapt to their new lives before having a staggered return to the workplace.

10. Outrageous Prescription Costs

As a part of socialized medical care, many countries have free, or highly subsidized prescriptions. In Wales, all prescriptions are free for residents, whether you’re a permanent resident or you’re a student living there temporarily.

If there is a charge for prescriptions, there’s normally a price cap per visit. In England, this cap is £11 per prescription, if you’re not eligible for a free prescription (there’s a list of exemptions). 

If you’re diabetic, asthmatic, or need SSRIs, that’s an ongoing medication that you’re going to need to live. If you’re having to fork out hundreds of dollars a month, that’s just not feasible for many people.

Add in the fact that many countries have free contraception, and these small changes actually save the economy hundreds of dollars a year in social costs.

11. Car Culture

One of the main things I’ve noticed when visiting the US is that everyone drives. So much so, that it’s a part of high school.

Car culture is not as big in Europe. The cities are designed for public transport, cycling, and walking. Not only is this more environmentally friendly, but it’s also safer. 

Cars are one of the leading causes of accidental deaths in the US. The thought that you need to drive everywhere is not something that’s in the European psyche.

Even outside the cities, people walk around towns, cycle in between villages, and take advantage of the much more affordable and efficient public transport.

You also save a ton in gas, insurance, and mechanical bills! It’s not even that US cities are bigger and you can’t walk them.

In places like London, there are tolls to drive in the city and honestly, it takes so much longer to drive from one part to another than it would be if you just jumped on the tube for a couple of pounds.

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12. Wealth Divide

This is another one where it’ll depend on your situation and where you want to move to, but the wealth divide in the US is getting worse and worse.

The stats about the billionaire growth during the pandemic when many of us were scraping by were horrific. 

pennies falling out of a jar

The socialized services that exist across Europe tend to lessen this wealth cap. Of course, there are places where it still exists – looking at you UK – but you’re not one emergency room visit away from losing your house, or choosing between childcare and going to work.

Most European countries have higher proportional taxes for wealthier individuals to help support the economy and subsidize the services that everyone benefits from.

13. Culture

One of the main reasons that people visit Europe is to benefit from the centuries of culture that make the towns and cities here so vibrant and alive.

Of course, there are galleries, museums, and theatres in the US, but the accessibility of it in Europe is amazing.

Many museums and galleries are completely free to enter, and if they aren’t, there are always deals for students, and residents, or set free entry days.

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This immersion and affordability mean that many European children grow up exposed to great art and culture, helping them to become more appreciative of art and well-rounded. 

14. History

Similar to the cultural aspect, the historic nature of countries outside of the US is impressive. As the different countries interact so much throughout history, through wars, marriages, and empires, you tend to learn about the history of many different nations at school, rather than just your own.

Especially if you’re interested in Medieval or Ancient History, moving to Europe, Asia, Central America or South America have ample opportunities to explore some of the most iconic historic sites.

15. Walkability

Carrying on from the lack of car culture in Europe, there is a definite walkability to many places. The town and city planners actually factor pedestrians in when redesigning sections of a place.

For example, you’ll notice pedestrian-only streets, where businesses can have tables and chairs outside without fear of getting hit by a car. 

It’s not uncommon to walk into town for a meal and a drink of the evening. It’s a huge part of many European cultures and there’s no need to choose a designated driver or worry about parking.

Having walkable cities is also great for the healthcare system as people are more active, especially kids. 

16. Ease of Travel

If you love traveling abroad, you’ll know that US flights are expensive, even if you’re traveling internally. In Europe, you can fly from London to Berlin for $20.

It’s a super-low-cost airline and you’ll only be taking a handbag, but the point is if you want to go on an impromptu city break, you can without breaking the bank.

The train system across mainland Europe is insanely good, with young adults frequently backpacking across the continent using Interrailing passes. If you want super cheap options, there are Flixbuses where you can travel from country to country for as little as 4 euros.  

a girl at a viewpoint in Lisbon, Portugal
Me on a trip to Lisbon, Portugal

There are plenty of options that mean you can check out different destinations really easily. Also, if you’re a resident of a country in the EU, you’ll be able to take advantage of borderless travel, making it even easier!

17. Language Learning

One skill that we don’t prioritize in the US is language learning. You might have a couple of rudimentary Spanish or French classes in high school, but bilingualism isn’t something that’s common outside of immigrant families.

In Europe, most children are brought up at least bilingual if not trilingual. It’s not unusual for kids as young as five to learn both English and their country’s first language at the same time.

In towns and countries with multiple close borders, the language numbers increase. For example, if you’re in Switzerland, it’s common to be able to speak French, German, and English. 

18. Childcare

Finally, we have childcare. In a lot of countries, childcare is free or highly subsidized. This is because a lot of preschools are within primary schools that are free anyway, so it all feeds into each other. 

It’s also common to get childcare vouchers from the government or financial benefits to help with the costs of raising a child. In the US, this is super rare if not non-existent.

If your workplace doesn’t have some kind of childcare benefit, or you don’t have a big family to help out, it’s really tricky to balance everything, both from a time perspective and financially.

So, there are plenty of valid reasons to leave the US for a new expat life elsewhere. There are loads of other reasons that are specific to certain towns, cities, or countries, but these are some of the big-ticket issues that most expats flag as their main reasons for relocating.

If any of these reasons are speaking to you or you’re thinking of leaving the US, do your research and take the leap. 

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Scott

Thursday 25th of May 2023

Hi Vanessa,

Great Article!

I am surprised that one of the things left off the list is the political gridlock and complete failure to serve the people of the US. To me, this is the number 1 thing that has me considering leaving the country. Im tired of no "good" options yet again as the presidential race seems to be heading toward a race between 2 people in their late 70s trying to govern a nation that they have nothing in common with. The nation seems to be in active decline and everyone is standing around looking at the fire and wondering whos going to put it out instead of taking control of the situation themselves.

Vanessa

Friday 26th of May 2023

Hey Scott! Great comment and great point, I'll work on adding that to the article. Thank you for reading! -Vanessa

HH

Tuesday 25th of April 2023

Hi, Great article! Thank you for putting this together! Been having similar thoughts about this topic for a while now. I can relate to Rogers comment. I was also born and raised in Sweden, been in Florida for 30 years looking to possibly return. Thank you!

HH

Roger Schinkler

Tuesday 11th of April 2023

Wow! Great article.

Was born and raised in Sweden Stockholm, but been in the US for over 40 years. I have been scouring the Internet for validating my reasons for wanting to move back to Stockholm. These 18 points are so on point, makes me realize how tired I am of living in the US. And I live Florida, book burning state and an all out war on LGBTQ.