Some people would journey to the end of the Earth for the chance to live and work in Europe – and did I mention work tax-free! For those people I have a word: Svalbard.
Europe is screwed, everyone agrees. With Brexit and the rise of far-right parties in Europe, most of us here dream of escaping to a place far, far away.
Svalbard is the nearest such place, at the 78° parallel it’s not quite the end of the world, but it’s damned near close. And for those outside of the European Union who’d love to move here, the good news is that thanks to a historic agreement between 43 countries, you don’t need a visa to visit or work.
After Scandinavians, the second-greatest number of residents on the archipelago comes from Thailand. With the arctic night lasting a full three months, there’s potential for a heck of a full moon party – amiright amiright?
Capital city Longyearbyen attracts internationals from all over, such as Maggie, a young Argentine who’s been pouring beers at the Svalbar since April.
“How long are you staying?” I asked, over half-pint of delicious local Spitsbergen IPA. “I don’t know. I came for the summer, but we’ll see. Maybe I’ll stay the Nordic winter, or two.”
In theory she could stay until she dies…which is illegal, so that’s not going to happen any time soon. Something to do with the impossibly long time it takes a buried corpse to break down in the permafrost, and the lack of adequate end-of-life treatment options, means dying on the island is strongly disincentivised.
Work, on the other hand, is: thanks to the so-called Svalbard agreement, work is tax-free – “…and you get paid really well,” Maggie volunteers, adding a positive-negative caveat: “There’s nothing to spend it on”.
So, to summarise, you can live and work in Europe, tax-free, get paid well, and be surrounded by internationals. There’s the promise of an amazing outdoors life, and if that’s not your cup of lingonberry tea, there’s also high-speed Internet connectivity thanks to a recent investment from the Norwegian government.
What’s the catch? It’s remote: three hours’ flight north from Oslo. If you want to settle there, you need to prove to the governor that you can fend for yourself.
There is not the usual welfare entitlements available to workers in Norway proper, and the healthcare available is not the full palate of care.
Oh, and the 3000 residents are outnumbered by polar bears, the most formidable apex predator on the ground.
As one bronzed Norwegian lady said, as she marched up a glacier towards the ice-cave, her rifle slung over her shoulder: “You have to find a home, find a job, and you can’t call your mum.”
If you come from any of these countries, you might be eligible to live and work in Svalbard: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, India, Iceland, Italy, Japan, China, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Korea, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, South Africa, South Korea, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, the USA, Venezuela, Austria.