One of my little travel fantasies, which I never really put much more effort into than some occasional day-dreaming, is to go and live somewhere in Europe for a while – not just a quick mini-break or passing through on a holiday, but actually to move somewhere to live, to immerse myself in the pace and rhythm of the place, to learn the language, take cooking classes, and paint landscapes.
This particular fantasy requires me to have enough money saved up so that I don’t have to be distracted by anything tedious like getting a job, so it does clearly remain in day-dream land. But indulge me, where would be the best place in Europe to live? How would you decide? What criteria would you use? Here’s the list that I’ve been working on to help narrow down the options.
I’d like to live somewhere where I could at least feel that I was getting to grips with some of the local language. Having grown up in Australia, I am starting from scratch with all European languages, but thankfully English will get you a long way in most places. However, I’d like to be able to at least order dinner in a restaurant, or ask for directions with a basic grasp of the key words. Madrid could be a winner, and while Copenhagen is a beautiful city, Danish words seem incredibly difficult to pronounce.
I’m looking for a city that ticks my romantic-fantasy boxes. Somewhere where there is some decent weather occasionally, where they serve good coffee, where I can sit in a park and write poetry – that kind of thing. Barcelona definitely has a lot of appeal, or maybe Marseilles, but then again Berlin would be fairly amazing even though the weather can be a bit bleak. It’s a compromise isn’t it – do you go for the cool edgy, urban attitude of Berlin or the laid-back beach party vibe of Barcelona?
The cost of living
It would be amazing if money was no object, but however well off you are, there has to be some consideration given to the cost of living in the different cities on your list. On the whole, European cities are fairly developed and there aren’t too many bargains to be had, but some cities have cheaper housing (a huge factor), some cities have expensive transport systems, and other cities are so cold that you’d spend a fortune on heating.
This interactive tool can help you compare rates in different cities in Europe. Starting with £1,000, it calculates in which city your money would last the longest. For example, my £1,000 would last a bit over 10 days in Paris and just under a week in London, but a whopping 20 days in Prague.
The bottom line is that my travel fantasies require me to do a bit more research, to try and learn a few conversational phrases in some of the key European languages, but (perhaps most importantly), I’m going to need to save a bit more money.