This post is part of a series describing an expatriation from Belgium to Ukraine. The goal of this series is to demystify the expatriation, tell our story and all the challenges we faced.
Here is the first and most important step : Motivation
When I say to anyone “we are moving to Ukraine”
First reaction is usually “Are you crazy ?? Why would you want to live there ?“.
The short answer is taxes & family
Keep in mind that for my relatives & friends (who live in western Europe), Belgium is a very comfortable place… I drive a company car (no gas cost), I have an extremely good healthcare (ending up with more money back after getting a child…), I’m paid on 14 months & receive a yearly bonus, company also pay my mobile phone, internet at home and contribute to a pension plan
But… We pay over 50% of taxes, so we have indeed a relatively stress-less life but an expensive one. It’s very demotivating to work hard, work overtime & be taxed so much. We could obviously continue the usual way, like everybody else. Borrow thousands & thousands and be enslaved to a bank for 20-25 years for a small flat in the city or a house far away from the work place. We would be in our 50s with a small flat and 200.000€ in savings, a small pension. We would still travel & spend all our vacation to see our family in 2 different countries twice a year.
It give the feeling of having no influence on our own lives. My wife and I are both adventurous & smart. We don’t enjoy missing 50% of our income for “nothing” (to phrase it politely, the Belgian government is not really efficient… Belgium holds the European record of the most costly political system: no less than 57 ministers and state secretaries spread across six different governments, which are surrounded by seven parliaments and a dozen provincial governments (for a country 5 times smaller than Michigan).
Another point is that it’s very difficult to stay in touch with our family and to see them often it force us not to have any vacation for ourselves.
So the game plan was to move closer to one of our family so we could travel only to the other one while keeping some vacation for us. And we wanted less taxes :
With one of our pre-requisite of being closer to family, we were limited in terms of location to South of France & Kiev, Ukraine. To compare costs, we took in account our potential income (salary & different taxes) and our expected costs
|Taxes||50-55%||30-45%||15-17% (5% for IT)|
France, we would get similar salaries as in Belgium. I would probably earn a bit more but get less benefit in kinds (like the car). My wife would get a bit more
Ukraine, here the situation would be reversed, my wife would earn more (as she would be multilingual which is highly valued in the IT industry). I would earn probably a bit less as I don’t speak good russian for now. But I could try to become freelance and work for european companies (which then would be jackpot…)
Friends & family
This is one of the main point, most of my friends are in Paris, while most of my wife friends (and all our commons) are in Kiev. But I have most of my family in the South of France, while my wife family is in Kiev.
In France I could easily get a job, but it would be much harder for my wife. And it would be the opposite in Ukraine… But I could try to work remotely for my Belgian company
France & Belgium have the same socialized healthcare so coverage/costs would be similar. Ukraine has only a private sector (or you end up paying as much in bribe in the public sector anyway). So cost would be higher but not to the level of USA 😉
Costs would be pretty much similar in all country. Ukraine would be 5.000-10.000€ cheaper but with higher unexpected costs (healthcare/transportation)
In terms of net income after taxes, France would be a bit lower than Belgium plus with the risks of my wife not getting a nice job. In Ukraine it would depend if I look for a local job (which would be similar salary), or work under belgian law for my current company (also similar) or if I become freelance (much higher income).
Overall we decided to move to Ukraine because the risk is more limited than in France (as I eventually have the option to work remotely for my current company). And there is much more potential of growth in our careers, me with freelance & with management position for my wife.
Luckily, nothing is set in stone, as we are both in IT, we can easily find a job in nearly every country in the world so if it doesn’t turn out well, we can just move again
Have you ever thought about expatriation ? Which criteria have you used to take your decision ?