Monday, February 25, 2013

Russian Expats Under Pressure From Russia

Screw Expats
Photo courtesy
It's hard to imagine a better time for becoming an expat. The world is opening up, borders are getting easier to cross, companies are searching worldwide for talent ...

... and governments are punishing you for being an expat. Readers of this blog already know about the FATCA nightmare, US parents not passing their citizenship to their childrenmultiple other failings of international laws regarding expat children and France is considering taxing their expats abroad, leading to more legal nightmares (our French-American daughter faces the possibility of living in a foreign country and having three countries all taxing her income).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Common Questions About The Jobs We have

Begijnhof, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Photo by Bert Kaufmann
As most of you know, we're partnering with a company offering jobs in Amsterdam, complete with work permit and relocation package. We've spoken to a lot of people and I thought it would be a good idea to try to answer some common questions all at once.

What's the 30% Ruling?

In the Netherlands, if you meet certain requirements, the company can lower your salary by 30% and you get taxed on the 70% remaining. The rest of the 30% is given back to you tax-free. This is a government program designed to help offset the expenses of living in a foreign country.

There are three requirements to earning the 30% ruling. Candidates have to live  at least150 km outside the Dutch boarder when they are hired, they should have a Bachelor degree with at least 2 years work experience and a minimum income of 52k per year. In case a candidate is under 30 years old, they should have a Master Degree and a minimum income of 40k.

This is a change, I might add. I previously earned the 30% ruling and I would no longer qualify (no Bachelor's degree). I guess I'm not moving back to the Netherlands any time soon.

Bringing Partners?

Yes, you can bring your partner, married or not. This appears to contradict recent changes in Dutch immigration laws, but I'm assured that they've changed the laws again and yes, you can bring your partner.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Photo by Bert Kaufmann
Can I Bring My Pet?

Probably. This web site describes many legal aspects of moving the Netherlands, including bringing pets.

Length of Time for Recruiting Process

CV’s will be reviewed within 48 hours. The next step is a technical phone interview of 30 – 45 minutes, which can be scheduled within a week. If you get invited for a face-to-face interview in Amsterdam they try to arrange this as soon as possible. The company will take care of the travel arrangements, including paying for your flights and hotel. In case a candidates needs a visa in order to visit The Netherlands, the company needs to schedule the interview a few weeks ahead in order to arrange the visa.


This Web site will help you understand Dutch taxes.


The salary is between 40 to 60k euro’s per year. The company also offers a quarterly bonus up to 16% and a yearly bonus for candidates who are performing really well. Salary is flexible for the right candidates. They don’t want to lose good people.

Note that if you also qualify for the 30% ruling, you're effectively getting a large pay hike of several hundred euros a month.

Paperwork for Accepting the Job?

If a job is offered, the company will need copy of a passport and birth certificates (in English and apostilles) for the candidate + partner/family as well. In case a candidate is married, they also need a marriage certificate (English and apostilles).

Language Courses

The company will pay for initial Dutch language courses. Subsequent language courses will be available at a special rate.

Health Insurance

You're legally obliged to have health insurance in the Netherlands. Fortunately, this insurance runs about €100 per person per month and cannot be denied to you. has more information about it.


Being an expat in a new country can be rather daunting. The Netherlands recognizes this and you'll find a convenient Expatcenter in Amsterdam. This center is effectively "one stop shopping" for all of your expat needs. Not only do they help you complete all of the paperwork needed for the government, they have a wealth of information on hand for you to help you find a place to live, child care, or banking services. I've never experienced this in another country and it's fantastic.


Housing costs vary quite a bit. If you want to live in the center, it's going to cost quite a bit. If you live further out, or in a nearby town, costs can drop dramatically. I've found to be a great source for looking for housing in the Netherlands.

Moving with Children

We moved to Amsterdam when my wife was pregnant and we received a lot of support from Amsterdam Mamas. They also have a closed Facebook group where you can ask questions or join other "mamas" (or "papas") for play groups, coffee, get support, whatever. Check 'em out.

Also, several candidates have been interviewed and as of this writing, at least two candidates are being scheduled to fly out to Amsterdam for face-to-face interviews. So far things are looking up and people are getting closer to their dreams of living abroad!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

American Movies in France

The new Die Hard movie is being advertised heavily over here. Bruce Willis' face is everywhere (which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view).

I find American films in foreign countries interesting because they have a slightly different spin at at times. The title of the film, in this case, is "A Good Day to Die Hard", but in French, that doesn't translate too well, so it's Belle Journée Pour Mourir (Good Day to Die), and I think it's a, ah, nicer title.

What I particularly liked, though was the tagline on today's "20 Minutes" a free newspaper passed out in the Paris Métro. The tagline reads John McClane Demande Aussie Son Passeport Pour La Russie (John McClane also wants his Russian passport), a bit of a dig at Gerard Depardieu, to whom Russian President Putin personally authorized a Russian passport. It's not something that would really make much sense in the US, but here, it's good for a laugh.

If you go to the cinema here, American movies are often advertised as version originale, meaning that they're in English with French sub-titles. Look for the "VO" by the movie name if you want a movie you can watch and understand.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Down and Sick in Paris

The Stethoscope
Photo credit: Alex E Proimos
The title is a reference to Down and Out in Paris by George Orwell.

I've not posted much because I've been sick for the past couple of days. Unsurprisingly, being sick in Paris is not exactly an exotic vacation, but a visit to the doctor is quite an eye-opener. I've pointed out repeatedly that France is considered to have the best health care in the world and does so at a fraction of the cost the US spends. One difference one notices is that France focuses on health outcomes, not on number of patients seen or controlling costs. For my doctor's visit, not only did she figure out what was wrong and treat me, she also is sending me to referrals for arthritis screening (she said I'm probably too young to have it) and to have my hearing checked.

She also didn't try to rush me out of her room to see the next patient: she took her time, something in marked contrast to what I've experienced in the US. Oh, and it cost me a whopping €23 for an emergency same-day appointment — but I'll be reimbursed for that.

Update: Per clarification from my wife: this was not an emergency "same-day" appointment. Apparently it's perfectly normal for doctors to have walk-in hours. If I wanted an appointment, I would have had to wait a day! As someone who's "enjoyed" the US version of health care for many years, it's a pleasant surprise. This is even better than the excellent care than I received in the UK.

Rather than try to make a lengthy, thoughtful post on this topic, here's a repost an old blog entry of mine from 2007, shortly after I moved to Nottingham, UK and was again lying at home, sick.

Bored. Bored, bored, bored.

Lying in bed in my flat, getting annoyed that the flu has gotten progressively worse.


I got out long enough to get more drugs and a couple of new books to read and barely made it back home.


So when I'm shut in like this, I get stir crazy. Fortunately, the standard model human comes with a built-in "Little Voice" to keep you company. This is the Little Voice which says things like "it's beer goggles, dude, you'll hate yourself in the morning," and then laughs uproariously the next day, chanting "I told you so" over and over.

Other times it will say helpful things like "if you ask her for her phone number she'll probably stab you in the left eye with a stapler and laugh while the vitreous fluid dribbles down your cheek."

That's usually followed by an awkward pause in the conversation while I try to figure if you can really stab someone with a stapler.

So today, Little Voice decided to try and help me be less bored by offering suggestions on what I could do to distract myself. Did it suggest that I do more packing for London? No. Did it suggest that I answer some email I'd been neglecting? No. It said "cut your hair".

Now it's just fucking with me.

Obviously I can't go anywhere to get my hair cut because I'm reasonably certain stylists charge extra if you vomit on them while they're trimming your bangs. No, Little Voice was honestly meaning I should cut my own hair. Of course, this is about as stupid an idea as you can get, but Little Voice said "just put your electric clippers on their max setting and rub them all over your head. It'll be fine!"

Somehow, a few minutes later, I found myself with clippers in hand. Being this bored and stir crazy leads one to do really, really stupid things.

I took the first swipe out of my hair -- no turning back now -- when the obvious problem hit me: I only own one mirror. I have no way of knowing what the back of my head is going to look like. A short while later I found myself holding my toaster behind my head for a second mirror and trying to figure out how the hell I cut my ear with safety clippers.

It took a ridiculously long time and I'm still trimming ends that I missed. I hate you, Little Voice.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Visit to Chartres, France

On Saturday, we visited the town of Chartres, home of the finest Gothic cathedral in France. This is the joy of being an expat: driving an hour to an historic town and digging through its history is magnificent.

As usual, clicking on any of the pictures will open up a larger image.

I had steak tartare for lunch. It was my first time eating
it and I must say that it was a bit of a letdown.

And finally, the cathedral.

Needless to say, we peeked at housing prices. Chartres is very affordable. If we move again any time soon, it's likely to be to southern France, along the Mediterranean. We like the warmth, but Chartres is a beautiful town and there is some temptation there.

Friday, February 8, 2013

An Expat Video Blog

A friend of mine (hi Gabor!) dropped me a line about, a video travel blog which is effectively what I do here at Overseas Exile, but in video! I had planned something like this myself, but I never quite had the time to pull it off. Here's an episode about volunteering abroad.

It looks like they post regularly and have episodes about taking a gap year, how to study abroad, success stories and many more. I strongly urge you to check it out.

And don't forget that we have work permit jobs now!

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Weekend in Brussels

I've been slacking off a bit in posting for the past few days as life has again been hectic here. Case in point: I received an email a week ago asking me if I could please make an emergency trip to Brussels to speak at a very hastily organized event at FOSDEM in Brussels, Belgium, which I did. There wasn't much time to prepare and sightseeing was out of the question.

This photo doesn't do justice to the lovely gardens

These homes were quite impressive.

Liz, one the left, and Wendy. Liz is a well-known Perl hacker and
Wendy, her wife, was one of the organizers of this event at FOSDEM.

The ceiling of the restaurant we ate at on Saturday.
I've posted Brussels photos before at this mix of photos of different cities and this photo post.

The poor photos I've posted aren't particularly brilliant and don't do justice to a city both my wife and I love. It's one of the cities that we've considered moving to. We never know what the future holds, but Brussels is still on the list.

I took the train from the Paris Gare du Nord and arrived at Brussels' Midi/Zuidstation about 80 minutes later.  A quick taxi ride to the hotel (where the driver ripped me off by claiming a 20 euro fixed rate) and the next morning was a short walk to the venue.

I love this about Europe. In the time it takes you to drive across many cities in the US, I can be in another country. It's awesome.