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Stockholm or Silicon Valley - what would you do?

(39 Posts)
HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 15:35:17

I have two job opportunities but can't decide which to take. We have one 3-year-old to consider. Currently live in the UK and are comfortable and happy but it seems like a nice time for a change.

Stockholm - offer is SEK ​​780,000/year​. Is this enough to live in the city centre, with a 2 (or 3?) bed flat and still have enough to come back to the UK a few times a year, and not have to be too frugal?

Palo Alto - offer is $144,000/year. Friend has told me this is not enough to live comfortably (we'd like a 3 bed house, to make the most of all that space, for the move to feel worthwhile).

This does boil down to money and I know it's hard to answer, but does anyone with experience in either of these places know? What sort of lifestyle would the above salaries afford us?

Thanks in advance!

CMOTDibbler Fri 28-Oct-16 15:45:31

The company I work for is based in Palo Alto. No way would you be living anywhere near PA for that salary I'm afraid - very modest homes go for over $1million, and everyone I know commutes at least 2 hours a day as the traffic is terrible from the more affordable areas.

HerrenaHarridan Fri 28-Oct-16 16:04:00

I dont know anything about the financial question you're asking but given the choice to raise my child in Stockholm or Silicon Valley. I would choose Stockholm.
Cleaner, better quality food, closer to nature, less traffic, better school system, better gender equality

Spanielcrackers Fri 28-Oct-16 16:07:13

My husband earned $200,000+, 16 years ago in Silicon Valley. You'd really struggle.

HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 16:41:46

Thanks for your honesty guys. I do feel a little like I'm being shamed for not earning enough, but I'm trying not to take it personally.

There is room for negotiation so I suppose what I am really asking is, what should I ask for if $150,000 is nowhere near enough?

pontificationcentral Fri 28-Oct-16 16:46:08

Does that mean you really want the PA job? <interesting to question your own reaction to the comments, where you specifically said money would be decision point, and then reacted negatively to comments saying it wasn't enough money for the lifestyle you would like to achieve>
It looks as though you would prefer the PA move and are prepared to go to bat on the remuneration?
I'd go for Stockholm personally, but everyone has very different tastes.

HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 16:46:26

Health insurance would be included as a benefit (in both instances) and we'd be looking to rent, if that makes any difference?

HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 16:51:50

pontificationcentral it's just hard to hear people (who clearly earn more than you) telling you "sorry dear, you'd be too poor to live where we do" even if it's true!

I'd prefer Stockholm, partner would prefer California. DP loves the idea of a big car and the sunshine; I'd prefer the culture and proximity of being in Europe.

HerrenaHarridan have you lived in both places? Would love to hear more.

Spanielcrackers Fri 28-Oct-16 17:12:54

Rent on a one bed apartment in Cupertino ( excellent school district) was $1000 per month in 1997.
As you have a child, you really want to be in a good/excellent school district. This will push the rents sky high.
We had aetna ppo health insurance which was excellent. You will need to factor in deductibles and co-payments. I think our deductible was 10%. These are your out of pocket expenses before insurance kicks in. The insurance companies will wriggle out of paying for as much as they can.
Child care is very expensive and depending on when your child's birthday falls, he/she may start school a year later than in the UK.
Refuse collection isn't included in property taxes.
Property taxes are far higher than they are in this country. 1%ish of the value of the property and as a result this pushes rents up.
I'm not trying to be negative. It's a long way from home when your miserable and living in a shitty apartment, when you've left a three bed house and huge garden behind in the UK.

HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 18:48:39

Spanielcrackers this is really useful info. Not negative at all, I need to hear it straight!

It's hard to pin down exactly how much $$ is really needed as people IRL don't really want to talk about it. So it is imperative that we know so we don't rush in to a situation we can't easily extricate ourselves from.

USD150,000 is £125,000 at the moment so sounded like a reasonable amount to me - though of course the current exchange rate skews that, as does the general difference in different countries.

Spanielcrackers Fri 28-Oct-16 19:15:32

I don't know what post you are going out to do. My son's teacher was driving in from Stockton to Cupertino every day.
My husband employed graduate engineers. They were driving in from Sacramento to San Jose every day.
My husband was headhunted for a start up. It went public. He was then employee number 4 in a second start up which went public and became a fortune 500 company. He was the Chief Scientific Officer. We came home because we wanted a house with a decent size garden. The property tax in 2000 was $50,000 per year for a Desperate Housewives style house.
If you are going out for a start up and the stock options are generous, then it might be worth it.
My husband was allowed 5 weeks holiday per year. If he took them he'd be sacked.
If he only worked his contracted hours, he'd be sacked.
I'm glad, and he is glad we came home.

CookieDoughKid Fri 28-Oct-16 20:14:21

£125k isn't very much in terms of California standards. Sorry but I do think you would struggle more on this salary if you wanted good housing and all the rest.

CookieDoughKid Fri 28-Oct-16 20:17:59

I remember looking at 3 bed mezzaninr flats near Silicon Valley. No garden but shared courtyard and allocated car parking space and we having to budget for £3000 a month almost. Take a look.at rentals and you will see just how extortionate it is living there. It is worse than London IMO. At least in London you have the tube.

Diamondsandpears Fri 28-Oct-16 20:21:47

No knowledge of current rental market prices in Stockholm but it is a fabulous place to live. I've heard that a lot of subletting goes on and sometimes there is a need of buy a rental contract.

Spanielcrackers Fri 28-Oct-16 20:37:31

Oh, I sound so negative.
We don't regret coming home, but we don't regret going out there.
Americans are lovely. Generous, friendly, kind. Just lovely.
I would always encourage my children to go out there, anywhere, should the opportunity arise.
If you go to the USA, you will have no credit history. The fastest way to establish a credit history is to save a chunk of money. Use this money to open a credit card account with an American bank. The limit on your credit card will match your lump sum. Do not spend more than your limit and pay it off each month. You will soon establish a credit history which will make you more attractive as renters etc.
I honestly think you will struggle on that salary to live on the west side of the bay. I think, realistically, you will be east bay and more central valley. Your commute will be long.
I was the partner on the spouse visa. I was not allowed to work and I gave up my career. Do not under estimate the resentment that can cause.
I'm back to being negative again. Sorry.
You should try to get opinions from expats in both locations, preferably recent expats. It is really bloody hard.

Somerville Fri 28-Oct-16 20:40:23

Will you be on an expat package with things like removal costs paid, for either job? Would you be able to negotiate all that, if not?

What about health care and benefits- including annual leave? Generally much more generous in Sweden than the US, but again you may be able to negotiate more.

Do both companies know they're in competition? If not - let them know, pronto!

Finally, as long as you can provide for your family, I wouldn't make the desicion based on salary. I'd make it based on these factors:
1/ Which company wanted me more. How far they'll move in negotiations will be a good indication.
2/ the lifestyle and work hours/annual leave on offer in each location.
3/ Which job/location is best for my career. (Better company, role and colleagues in short term, better experience, CV and promotion opportunities in longer term).

For what it's worth, in my industry (tech/creative) there is nowhere better to be in terms of cutting edge companies and career progression potential than Silicon Valley, right now. If I were ten years younger with fewer ties, I'd be there in a shot.

HowMuchDoWeNeed Fri 28-Oct-16 20:46:09

"£125k isn't very much in terms of California standards." Well yes CookieDoughKid I thought it sounded like it could be a decent amount - clearly, it isn't.

Moving on - the sort of living arrangement you describe sounds quite nice to me (Melrose Place anyone?!) - you mention £3000/month, do you remember what it was in USD? As it's hard to make currency conversions at the mo due to the [previously unheard of] exchange rate.

But in GBP terms, if I were earning £10K a month before tax, it doesn't feel like that much of a stretch to spend 3K on rent - I expect housing to be the biggest expense, is there another huge outgoing I'm not taking into account?

I know we can look at Zillow (which we have been), but it's stabbing in the dark a bit when we don't know which areas are "good" or why some places seem suspiciously cheap iykwim!

Spaniel I see what you mean about good schooling areas. I think we will avoid those as we don't plan to be there long term though - we couldn't afford it and I don't think there's a need yet. DC is 3 in November so I think we could be there for a year and then move either back here, or to a more school-focussed area, after a year or so.

CookieDoughKid Fri 28-Oct-16 22:00:55

Find out the tax situation and medical expenses (and pension) as £10K after tax might not be so appealing. California has some of the highest taxes in USA. There's property tax, federal income tax, state taxes etc. Also you'll be paying out for medical and dental premiums. I would get some financial advice. Plus if you want to visit UK, you'll have x 3 full price flight tickets. And flying to and from Cali is not cheap at all.

GetOutMyCar Sat 29-Oct-16 22:53:08

Sweden is the best place to be if you have a small child. A full time nursery place will cost you approx £125 a month. Yes really. You also get paid time off work if your child is sick and you need to look after them. Free school meals for all children. Free university education when they're old enough. Free language classes for any foreigner who wants them.

I love living in Sweden although I've not lived in Stockholm.

strugglinginsweden Sun 30-Oct-16 08:12:56

Sweden has 30+% tax rates, I think Stockholm is around 32%. 25%VAT. A 2/3 bedroom flat would be around SEK 10 000. I'm not in Stockholm but Sweden in general has a big housing shortage, so hopefully your employers are finding your accommodation. Doctors visits are around SEK 150-300. Free child prescriptions and mammograms have just been introduced.
We spend around SEK 27 000 for living expenses, groceries are around SEK 5 000/month. I assume like any big city Stockholm is a little more expensive.
Is you child going to day care or are you going to be a SAHM?. Day care is cheap and it is the norm to use it so you can get back to work. Your company could apply for a place at an International school day-care, if you are only planning to be here a short time?????
Not sure any of this is helpful, but any questions just ask away. I wish I had asked more questions before I came wink

HowMuchDoWeNeed Mon 31-Oct-16 23:17:08

Thank you all so, so much. I really do appreciate all your responses, and sorry I dropped off the radar for a couple of days - much soul-searching going on here!

Spanielcrackers the credit rating info is extremely useful. Thank you. You don't sound negative - it's good to hear all this stuff. You can simultaneously be glad you went somewhere, yet be happy you left! And we are not in this to spend hours every day in the car, so the commute info is also good advice.

Somerville the relocation package is good (even if the opening salary offer is not). Would it be ok if I PMd you?

GetOutMyCar are you from the UK originally? What is it you love about Sweden? Nursery options sound great - but when I think about leaving DC in a new nursery, with a different language and no friends, my heart breaks.

strugglinginsweden your username is making me worried! But the info you provide is incredibly useful. Can/do employers help with accommodation? We would be put up at first as part of the package, but after that I'm not sure how much they would help - am in the process of finding this out, but in your experience is this something employers would get involved in?

International school day-care - is that a thing? Would be very interested in that.

Again, thank you all so much.

Laptopwieldingharpy Tue 01-Nov-16 07:27:35

What's not to love about california but finding decent housing and a good school district in budget sounds hard. The commute could be an absolute misery if you need to put in the hours required. It's a very different work ethic, very deifferent to stockholm. But your DH and DC would live a very happy life ( and you too at weekends). I get your peeve about salary levels. Not everyone is in the top tier and certainly people from all walks of life chose expatriation and make it a success or simply an adventure they are willing to take.
It's about what is in it for your family at this particular stage in your life. What can you compromise on for a few years. Where does it possibly lead you. Maybe just back home disapointed but with that experience under your belt. I assume in your line of work PA is a good line on your resume?
Finances are only one part of the equation.
Stockholm i know nothing of except from the recent threads. Sounds absolutely grim in terms of social integration. I guess you would be fine, dc will learn sweedish but the sahd may find it really hard to adjust.

Somersetlady Tue 01-Nov-16 07:41:43

If you intend to have another child then definitely not America.
I have never lived theor myself but have numerous frienda who do maternity leave it dire and annual leave even worse. Ten days leave max outside of public holidays and even then youre not really expected to actually take it all.

strugglinginsweden Tue 01-Nov-16 08:39:06

I would think it essential that your employer find/help with accommodation, also with setting up utility contracts and so. Even though the majority speak English it is not easy to get information here.
I would definitely talk to your company about help with applying for an place at an International school. I think there are a few in Stockholm.

GetOutMyCar Tue 01-Nov-16 08:47:29

Yes I'm from the UK.

I love the peace and quiet in Sweden and the work/life balance. The pace of life is so much slower here. I love that I can go to the supermarket on the Saturday before Christmas and it's as busy as Asda at 2.00am. I love that Swedes genuinely care about other people in a quiet, calm gentle way.

If you like the hustle and bustle of Britain and the fast pace of life, Sweden is not the place for you. I know lots of foreigners from big busy places find it dull and boring. I love dull and boring. I love the monthly crime report for my borough which usually consists of a few collisions with moose and a bike pinched from the train station (and that's a bad month).

Also pretty much everyone speaks English. This is both a blessing and a curse. It makes it very easy to function without Swedish, but makes it very hard to learn Swedish as they default to English once they hear my accent. DS goes to nursery to learn Swedish but he refuses to use it so his teachers speak to him in English instead. It drives me up the wall because I want him to speak Swedish

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