Why Americans leave their country: Your answers

Why Americans leave their country: Your answers

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The US government didn't ask you why you left the States. But Expatica did. Here our American readers explain what they were looking for when they moved to France – and what they found.

After deciding to move back to France permanently from California, my husband and I sent out an email to friends announcing our decision – and blaming Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was just too embarrassing to stay in a California led by the Governator, we joked.

But the truth is that politics had little to do with it.

Although many may have talked about leaving the US in protest in recent years, the idea of the Bush-refugees is largely apocryphal. (One exception did write us!) Lots of people cite politics, as we did, but they weren't the real spur.

Instead the real reasons most Americans leave the states are, like my own: love and money. (French spouse! Good, free health-care and public education! Vacation time! The relative cost of a housing!)

Expatica solicited the following responses from American readers after publishing a story from writer, and resident of the Canary Islands, Paul Stiles. In our story, Stiles asked the question: How many Americans are deliberately leaving in search of a better life? We promised a follow-up with readers' answers.

As Stiles pointed out, the US doesn't track outgoing Americans; there is no office of expatriate affairs that can answer for us so our conclusions must remain anecdotal.

But it's clear that most of our readers moved from the States to Europe in pursuit of 1) a romantic interest or 2) a job opportunity or 3) that hard-to-define element: quality of life.

But the thing about quality-of-life is that you can come here in search of it, but you can't measure it until you've put in your time and built your new life. And that's hard work; once it's done, you may well not be tempted to give it up.

Perhaps the fact that so many of you have report having made a good life here in Europe says more about the kind of people willing to start over in a strange, 'new' world than it does about Europe or the United States.

(Our thanks to everyone who responded. Letters have been edited for length)

Reasons: Laid-back life, lack of fast food....and French beauty

I have summered in Montpellier for the past several years. I enjoy the opposites the two countries offer. Fast food in the US; none in France. Laid back life in France; busy productive life in the US.

I will never get used to the inefficient way things work in France and adore how the Americans have their act together. I marvel at the way things stop for lunch in France.

I adore the beautiful thin women in France.

I'm not running from anything but really enjoy the French way of looking at the world.   
Jim Roberts
Naples, Fl and Montpellier

Reasons: French spouse and 'quality of life'

The primary reason I moved is my husband who is French. However, we had the choice of moving to the US (yes, he has a green card, and as a civil engineer with a doctorate would have no trouble getting a job in the States).

But we decided to live here because of the better life. I am not speaking just economically, but the quality of life here. France’s quality of life is much higher than that of the US.

The US rat race is tiring and stressful.  And who can go back to 30 minutes for lunch after they are accustomed to 2 hours?  And I do not think that the benefits of the US rat race are any greater — my husband and I both have very successful careers here and live a very nice life, with much less stress.  Our income is roughly the same as it would be in the States, but it is definitely easier to live here.

And it is nice to escape the politics of the US, George W Bush, in particular.  I have always felt that he was terrible for the US image abroad and only promoted the already widespread opinion that the US meddles in things where it does not belong. 

This is not to say that France is without its troubles and problems, but when the whole is looked at, this is a better place to live than the US, and I love my new country.

Yashka Herb,

Reasons: Intellectual stimulation, cost of living and French spouse
I decided to leave the US after the first time I left to study abroad in Europe in 1995. I found that I was simply more satisfied and stimulated abroad, that I was more in touch with the reality of the world and able to understand the diversity of cultures and languages from a first-hand perspective.

When I returned to the US after each study venture I felt like I returned to a bubble where the quality of life was low, and the people had become flaccid of mind and body.

Life whizzed by too fast and for what? I had no idea how to leave the US and decided my best bet was international development and I was sent as a first assignment to Iraq. I met a former French Legionnaire assigned to be my bodyguard and I married him. I now live in France.

I did not marry him to live in France though, the actual decision to ship my stuff and take up residence in France was a little frightening, though I am a fluent French speaker. The decision was based on the cost of living and mostly the cost of health insurance.

Also, after 9/11 it would have been difficult to get his immigration paperwork done in the US, and besides, who ever heard of a massive French migration to the US?

I have discovered many things the US does better than other countries, for instance integrating immigrants into the mainstream population. But I am still happier abroad.

Ultimately, I am simply uncomfortable in the US anymore.

This is not to mean I wholesale accept the state of affairs here in France. It took me two months to get a driver's licensee when it would take two hours in the US.

But ultimately there is a joie de vivre here that I do not experience in the US.

Anonymous American
Aix en Provence
Reasons: Professional opportunity and 'quality of life'

My husband, daughter and I left the Midwest for France because my husband was offered a position as a management professor in France after completing his PhD in an American business school.

After looking at all offers, France won out. Economically, it appeared to be the best offer. We also were attracted to the notion of changing our quality of life.

Three years later, we are firmly planted in France.  We feel we have improved our quality of life, our daughter is receiving a superior education in the French system with the opportunity to get a college education that won't bankrupt us, and after three years, our political beliefs and values, seem even more out of tune with US values.

While we will always be Americans, we don't envisage living the 'American Dream'.

Sadly, I believe those days are gone for ever.

[Name and address not submitted]

Reasons: Professional opportunities and family ties

We left the United States in 1958 to take up residence in Geneva, Switzerland where my husband was transferred by his company in the aerospace field.

We have kept up our permits to live in Switzerland; some of our six children have become Swiss and have married non-Americans and set up house outside the United States. Others have returned to the US and married Americans.

Seventeen years ago we bought an old, historic house in the South of France and continue to spend part of the year there.

We make at least one trip a year to the US but a permanent return to live there is out of the question. But that said, we have remained Americans and hopefully represent our native country in an intelligent manner.
Felicity Strommer
[Address not submitted]
Reasons: French spouse and 'quality of life'

I left California in 1973 having decided I didn't want to live the rest of my life in a consumer culture. 

Yet the official reason I moved to Paris was that I met and married a Frenchman while in the states.  

Still, the move was on a trial condition; if I didn't like it we'd move back, and I'm still here more than 30 years later, mostly due to a quality of life in Paris which surpassed my expectations.

My reasons are: a better public education on every level in Paris; the finest medical care for which my family; the best food in the world; public transport is great; the visual beauty of Paris; the village-style atmosphere; pharmacies within waking distance; local mayor offices in every borough.

Culturally there are more museums, theatre, opera, conferences than any American city I know.

The French are internationally aware, totally cosmopolitan, less youth-oriented, and there is a greater social mixture of diverse nationalities.

Political and philosophical discussions are everywhere, in cafés, cinemas and in newspapers.

Yours sincerely,

Celie [last name not submitted]

Reasons: Professional opportunities

Like many Americans I meet in Europe, we moved here because of work, and not for political reasons, or to make a statement about American culture.  We chose to come here, but we did so for professional reasons.

James and Jacki Gildard
[address not submitted]

Reasons: French boyfriend, 'quality of life' and politics

I moved from Texas to France as a 'lovepat' but the impetus to stay instead of moving back after one year (my original plan) comes from the following:

  1. Lack of work/life balance in the States
  2. Lack of vacation time in the States
  3. Genuine disgust with the current administration 
  4. Concern regarding the overt religiosity prevalent in the States at the moment 
  5. Rampant conservatism in politics and thought

Rachael Stockment (Marketing and Sales representative for Expatica France)

Reasons: Politics and vacation time

I left America partly because of my disgust with the Bush administration – but that was back in 1991!

However, I also left because I realised that the 2 weeks' vacation you get in America is not enough time to see other parts of the world, such as Europe.

Since I've been here, I've taken the opportunity to travel all over Europe – and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Of course, France has not lived up to all my expectations (that's impossible), but overall, I have been very satisfied with my choice and I intend to stay here as long as the French will have me!

Patricia Bailey

Reasons: Cost of living and politics
I've lived outside the US for four years and don't plan on going back anytime soon. 

I teach in an International School with better students than I had in the States, don't have to pay federal taxes, and I told my parents if they voted for Bush I wouldn't move back to the States while he  was in office. 

Kent Blakeney
[address not submitted]

Reasons: Still thinking it over…

I just read Paul Stiles article on Why Americans Leave Their Country, which I am seriously considering.

I will be most anxious to read your article with the results of your survey of American expats, why they chose France, and whether it has lived up to their expectations.

It is one of the countries I am considering, so this will be of great interest to me. Although I am not yet an expat — except in spirit — I can tell you that there are several reasons for leaving.

The first is attempting to find a location where I can afford to live, as I have been single for 28 years, but foolishly never financially prepared for retirement; the high taxes on a single person who is self-employed; the decay of our government and my feelings about how they are spending my hard-earned tax dollars.

I also love travel and was particularly taken by the ambiance of France when I visited years ago.

Joy Linsley
United States



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1 Comment To This Article

  • you'll see posted:

    on 3rd June 2011, 08:07:44 - Reply

    I m french and living in the US since 5 years almost.
    I didn t even go back for vacation or other..
    I'll have to say it seems quite true all of this.
    I m probably dumping out the "american Dream"...we re in 2011.
    thanks taking the time and COURAGE for some about Religious Perversion in the US that is continuing.