After having visited the USA many times I have no doubts about wanting to live in Europe, although I enjoy visiting the U.S. from time to time. I have avoided writing about the topic on this blog since I never really had to think hard about it and weight the pros and cons of each; it was just clear to me which I preferred.
Growing up I like many other millions of people worldwide thought the U.S. was the ultimate place to be, but after visiting I saw that it is far from the idolized place that we see in movies.
Since I call Spain home these days, a tweet from entrepreneur Martin Varsavsky on Twitter caught my attention and I thought I’d repost his thoughts here for anyone interested in comparing Spain to the United States.
Of course, there are many other nuances one should consider, and I wouldn’t stay that Spain is better than the U.S. outright, but it’s good to know about the ways in which they differ and then make an informed decision on where you want to live. To the below I would also add that America is not as much of a free market as everyone believes. I see much more competition in many European countries when compared to the U.S.
Just landed in Madrid flying from San Francisco and traveling around the USA where I lived for 20 years and I frequently work. The San Francisco vs Madrid change makes me wonder.
- Why are homeless people so rare in Madrid and so common in San Francisco when here GDP per capita is half?
- Why is the murder rate 500% higher in California than in Spain?
- Why is health care free even for tourists in Spain paid for by Spanish taxpayers as a human right and so incredibly expensive and cumbersome in California? Our son fell in the bathtub and we had a $12k bill for a few stitches at Stanford University emergency room.
- Why are universities in Spain free and there is no student debt while in the USA there is more student debt than the GDP of Spain?
- Why are there in the USA more people in jail/parole than there are inhabitants in Madrid the third largest city in Europe?
- Why is litigation so common in the USA and so rare in Spain?
- Why is inequality in the USA twice as high as that of Spain?
- Why does Spain who borders Africa and has a much bigger illegal immigration problem than the USA provides amnesties for those who work for three years and USA separates parents from kids and conducts violent raids? Has 11 million hard working people who it refuses to legalize.
- Why do people live 4 more years in Spain than US while Spain spends 70% less per person in health care?
Spain is not perfect, housing costs are high, good jobs are tougher to find, half of Catalonians want out, political corruption is unacceptable, universities produce no Nobel prizes.
But here cancer does not mean bankruptcy, pregnancies come with maternity leave, long vacations available to all, gun deaths, opium deaths are almost unheard of and in 09 when unemployment shot up crime surprisingly went down.
Spain has the fastest growing large economy of Europe. It is a welcoming democracy loved by the millions of foreigners who live here. Looking for an alternative country to live in? Consider Spain.
USA is amazing at solving intricate science and technology problems that no other country has solved but struggles at solving every day life challenges that all other developed nations have solved.
North American living is many times a case of living in suburbia, and this contrasts quite sharply with European living in general. Here’s an interesting video contrasting North America and European cities when it comes to raising kids and letting them outside the house.
There is no doubt that over the 60 years after the second world war, the USA could be considered as not only a superpower but the world’s most advanced nation in many respects, with many innovations arising there, as well as a sense of freedom and entrepreneurship that was unmatched anywhere else.
However the glory days are behind, and in my opinion, this country has been in decline in many ways for the past twenty years.
General John Grubb described seven stages that most empires go through:
- The age of outburst (or pioneers).
- The age of conquests.
- The age of commerce.
- The age of affluence.
- The age of intellect.
- The age of decadence.
- The age of decline and collapse.
I’m not sure exactly where I would place the USA, but my gut feeling is that it has crossed into the 7th stage of decline and collapse with all that’s happened there in the past 5 years. Europe might not be in an exciting phase, but it remains a place that is much richer in culture and diversity and in my opinion a way better place to live in. You also have the rise of Asia as a continent which has grown immensely in affluence, innovation and political clout.
If anything, I think that the USA is no longer the undisputed world leader, and now has to share the stage with the rest of the world. Its domination of world commerce through the dollar as the default currency is also at risk after the immense money printing that has occurred, and time will tell whether a basket of other currencies will take its place, or even something altogether new like Bitcoin.
Univeristy isnt free. Public univeristy still costs from 1 to 3000 USD a year.
It is a lot when the GDP per cápita is half to a third of the one of the US
But our healthcare is great
Problem in Spain are wages
Donna Nichifor says
US citizen looking for a home in Spain. Husband is Romanian and we are excited, yet scared since we are seniors and not sure of all the steps I we will need to take. But open to the adventure, meeting and learning. We will be looking to buy a a home in Alicante and Advise is welcomed.
I am a Spaniard living in California since 1986. Unfortunately, life in the US has changed for the worse, the country is a powerful train derailed. In the nineties the Corporate world took over and it was the end of the incredible life full of opportunities that we had in the US. After the total control of Corporate entities the nation was hijacked by special interest groups. I couldn’t agree more with the late George Carlin, the only choices that the American people have are plastic or paper.
Jean Galea says
That’s a good one by old George; he had a fantastic way of delivering those truths.
Donna Nichifor says
Lou cannot agree with you more. Coupled with the politics and craziness ready to leave and become expat. What few years my husband and I have left looking to live in Alicante, Spain.
Rafa M says
The U.S. gives you the opportunity for a better life. Is that simple. I grew up in Spain, and I still go back occasionally. Love to visit Spain, absolutely, but live there? No, thank you. Life in the U.S. isn’t easy at first, but jobs are plentiful, and lots of universities offer night school programs. Because of these opportunities I was able to study at night and obtain an engineering degree. As a result I was able to give my children a good education and they are now all gainfully employed and happy. They own their own homes and their future is bright. I’m glad I crossed that ocean some years ago.
Jean Galea says
In terms of job opportunities and professional advancement, there is absolutely no doubt that the U.S. is better than Spain. But if you are location-independent then I think offers better quality of life.
Diego Lopez says
I’ve always loved the idea of living in Spain. From the culture to the people, I love that country. Im from Cuba living in USA and Im happy for that. But, my grand parents all are from Spain so I guess is in my blood. For the last 10 years my wife and I have been dreaming of moving to Spain but different things have been in the way to realize that dream. We hope we can be able to move there in the next few years.
Fred N says
I wish USA would be more like Spain on all those points.
However, it’s disingenuous to draw a direct comparison: different geopolitical statuses, different cultures, not the least different population sizes. Love it or hate it, the US is a country where folks get to vote every 4 years for now almost 250 years. It’s almost 350 million people and it’s messy.
Although… If the idiot gets reelected, I’m gonna join you guys in Barcelona. 🙂
Jean Galea says
Agreed, it’s always difficult to compare two countries. However, the points mentioned ring personally true for why I prefer Spain over other countries like the US.
Unfortunately, the “voting” or popular vote you addressed was overridden with the electoral college which created a nightmare. As a senior, I am completely disillusioned with America at this point and its inability to resolve so many issues as pointed out in the Tweet comment. Why anyone wants to come here baffles me. Having lived in Spain before, I am seriously considering moving back and renewing my language skills and researching pros and cons, areas. Got to be a nice quiet, sleepy town for me somewhere.
As an American, with healthcare insurance, I still can’t afford to take care of myself without considering the costs of co-pays, deductibles etc. Just keeps getting worse.
Mass shootings, gun-lovers in the hands of crazies, crime, healthcare, corrupt politicians, spam, robo-calls, costs of cars, insurance costs, cost of living, etc. etc. etc. Ridiculous. The cons are outweighing the pros.
Fred N says
Margie, you are not alone: I am also against the gerrymandering, the big money, the distorted social media influence in the elections. The very least, the minimum we can do is vote. Please remember to vote!
Why do people still move to US? because despite all these unnecessary issues of our own making, some still find opportunities to better their lives. Last year Spain had over 14% unemployment.
Consider Jerez de la Frontera!! My mother is from Sevilla and most of her family lives in Jerez and I now have an apartment there that I will one day end up living in. It’s sleepy enough and busy enough, perfect balance! Arcos is even sleepier. CHECK IT OUT!