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Thread: Crazy idea

  1. #1
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
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    Crazy idea

    Here's the deal: I want to move to Europe.

    Anywhere, really, but France would be ideal. I spent 5 years of my childhood there (father works for IBM and family was over there "on assignment") and never really got over it.

    That was a long time ago, and now I'm grown with a wife and two kids (4- and 1-year-old) of my own, and they (read: the wife) will take a lot of convincing, but that's a topic for another forum entirely.

    I'd like to move there for a span of at least 5 years or so, more than just a quick, temporary thing, so my question concerns gainful employment.

    Is it difficult to find web and/or design work there? I suppose it's like any other industry--it depends who you know--but I guess I'm just trolling for any input at all. I know many of you have never even met most of your clients, but only deal with them over the phone and via e-mail. What about building a decent "remote client" base and maintaining contact with them over the course of the move? That doesn't seem like the most stable thing in the world when a family's livelihood is on the line, so my first choice would obviously be a standard 9-to-5.

    I'm an industrial designer by degree and a display, product, graphic and web designer by trade. Fluent in French. Resume (or "CV") is here.

    Thoughts? Anybody done it/wanted to do it?
    matt | design | blog

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    Regular Coder croatiankid's Avatar
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    I wouldn't know about the job opportunities, but you ought to be aware of visa requirements (IIRC, they changed them for Americans quite a bit in the last few decades).

    I don't know how this will be for your kids though. They're about the same age as my brother and I were when our family moved to New York from Croatia, and we had no problems whatsoever adjusting (but I guess that's just the huge international community in NY).

    Back to employment, you probably realize that locals (French) will have a huge advantage when searching for jobs over you, but that, although riskier (and IDK if you can do this visa-wise), you will probably have more luck getting a job if you moved there first, or at least went there ahead of your family.

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    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply. I'm honestly less concerned about the kids adapting than I am about my wife. I was 7 when we moved to France and after three months in French elementary school I was speaking like a native. So no worries there.

    Quote Originally Posted by croatiankid View Post
    you ought to be aware of visa requirements
    That's definitely something to look into.


    you probably realize that locals (French) will have a huge advantage when searching for jobs over you
    Perhaps, unless I aim for a job where cross-cultural/bilingual experience is a requirement. More than that, when it comes to web design, it makes me wonder about the state of the indigenous industry. Are they as web-savvy over there? The last time I was there (2004), my feel for the state of the culture was that they were "ahead" of Americans in terms of cell phone usage--literally everybody had one and knew how to use it--but internet sophistication was "behind," with many, many poorly-designed websites and lots of internet cafes vs. home use, which said to me that the web is less integrated into daily life there than it is here.

    Those are generalizations based on an admittedly short trip and limited cultural immersion, but gives me hope that the perceived lack of internet sophistication means my skill set will "count for more" there than it does here. We'll see, I guess.

    you will probably have more luck getting a job if you moved there first, or at least went there ahead of your family.
    That would be hard... but I see your point. When we moved to France my parents went there for a week to find a house, my dad already having had the job lined up. And that was hard enough. I can't imagine being there for weeks at a time job hunting and then having to take time off to return Stateside to help the rest of the fam move. Hmm.
    matt | design | blog

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    Regular Coder croatiankid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msuffern View Post
    The last time I was there (2004), my feel for the state of the culture was that they were "ahead" of Americans in terms of cell phone usage--literally everybody had one and knew how to use it--but internet sophistication was "behind," with many, many poorly-designed websites and lots of internet cafes vs. home use, which said to me that the web is less integrated into daily life there than it is here.
    That's generally the picture in Europe. Mobile technology (cell phones) is ahead (you can do tons of stuff with your cell phone even in Croatia, like pay your parking, pay your tram ticket...), but web design isn't very... pretty (for the most part), but it is improving (at least where I live).

    Native-speaker knowledge of English is an asset across Europe, but like I said, it's more important for most of them to be able to speak with you face to face (even in the early stages of applying) than what your skills are.

    Here's a good start for you as far as visas go. The European Union doesn't have borders, so once you're in, you can go from France to Hungary without anyone asking you for your passport.
    Last edited by croatiankid; 08-07-2008 at 02:14 PM.

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    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by croatiankid View Post
    it's more important for most of them to be able to speak with you face to face (even in the early stages of applying) than what your skills are
    Thanks again, and thanks for the link.

    What is the job application process like in Europe? Similar to the States in that you give them your resume and a sample of your work, then talk with various levels of managers until (hopefully) hired? I suppose it depends on the company structure and cultural setting, but are there any constants you've run into? I remember hearing, in France in particular, companies are very choosy about who they hire given the strength of the unions and laws governing workers' rights that make it very difficult to fire someone.
    matt | design | blog

  • #6
    The fat guy next door VIPStephan's Avatar
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    I’m not sure about industrial designers but there’s a lack of skilled workers in Germany (mostly technical professions such as engineers, though). If you have good references you won’t have huge problems finding a job, I guess. Best is to know someone who wants to hire you as that helps a lot – I know it’s the same vice versa.

    It’s a plus to speak english (of course) and you’ll probably get some help in forums for Americans overseas (don’t know any but I know of Germans that emigrated) that are here already. There’s a website for “creatives on the web” (in German) where companies (mostly from the design/media business) post job offers and where you can post your profile and look for jobs etc. Also, StepStone might be of help when looking for work in Europe.

    As far as the web business goes it also depends where you go. In Germany there’s a big and high quality market. Education in design is very good (Bauhaus style is coming from here) and just as good are the graduates in average. I think most middle class households have internet and there’s no sign of underdevelopment here in my eyes.

    I've been pondering about a point myself: All of my clients/employers are spread across Germany and the world and all communication goes by phone, IM, or email, so it actually doesn’t matter where I am as long as I have access to the internet. Usually domestic laws prohibit any commercial engagement (work) in a country if your’re not explicitly allowed to. However, since my location doesn’t matter anyway and I have partners in different countries anyway I wouldn’t even potentially take anyone’s job.

    Anyway, I don’t know the legal situation in such a case but it could be an advantage to have steady remote work while you’re moving and applying for a 9 to 5 job in a foreign country. Application procedures are to send a CV (with mugshot!), go to the interview and talk about your experience and ideas in terms of salary etc., and eventually get hired or not. However, my experience was that in the States employers are generally more relaxed about education or degrees and rather look how good you actually work than in Germany where it seems to be somewhat of importance. But I think in the creative business actual references are the most convincing arguments. Eventually, if you’re good employers don’t care for degrees.

    You’ll find some VISA info in the embassies of the respective country where you wanna go and some more personal experiences in forums, or maybe the Association of Americans Resident Overseas is a good starting point?

    Good Luck.
    Last edited by VIPStephan; 08-07-2008 at 05:14 PM.

  • #7
    Regular Coder BoldUlysses's Avatar
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    Thanks for the reply and the links. I'll definitely check those out.

    Quote Originally Posted by VIPStephan View Post
    I've been pondering about a point myself: All of my clients/employers are spread across Germany and the world and all communication goes by phone, IM, or email, so it actually doesn’t matter where I am as long as I have access to the internet.
    Let it be said: I wish I could do what you do. If I may ask, why do you live in Germany? Job? Background? Pure desire?

    I think in the creative business actual references are the most convincing arguments.
    I've found this to be true. Networking is HUGE in creative fields. I've honestly contemplated the idea of starting a conversational French group in the area (there isn't one to my knowledge, and I've looked) with the ulterior motive of amassing potential contacts and ties back to France. Devious, perhaps, but I honestly do need to practice my French, and as long as I don't let my true motives hang out too much, right...?
    matt | design | blog


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