Contractors’ Questions: Which European cities are lucrative for expats, despite higher living costs?

Contractor’s Question: To make the most of still being able to cross EU borders seamlessly thanks to my UK citizenship, I want to freelance in Europe before January 31st, but not Switzerland nor France, despite those two being the most lucrative nearby countries for Brits.

I’ve read the warnings about cost of living being higher in European countries but I’m looking only at short contracts, not over three months. Beyond the 10 most lucrative nations for expatriate workers, where’s next in Europe that’s still quite lucrative for us contractors?

Expert’s Answer: You do not state which structure you intend to use for your overseas contracting, but you should note that in several EU countries popular with UK contractors, a wholly self-employed solution is easier to use than a UK PSC (registered in-country) or local PAYE solution. Those countries where we believe that operating on an independent worker basis is the least hassle are Germany, Italy, Portugal, Austria, Greece and Spain.

Next, you say that you only want to look at short-term contracts. You should therefore consider that, where a project overseas has a very short lifetime i.e. 3-4 weeks with no possibility of extension, then a UK limited company (PSC), can be used due to the fact there is no time for localisation/registration in-country.

In any other case, a UK ‘Ltd’ (or any PSC not registered in the country of work) may not be used compliantly, as there will be no work/ salary/tax/ social security declaration in the country of work.

As to what else you specifically ask about, Table 1.0 below should provide you with an answer. It shows the most lucrative nations for overseas workers outside of the Top 10  -- five of these six remaining destinations are in Europe. One is also on our rundown (above) of where it’s easiest to operate as self-employed. The average cost of living in each country is specified in the table too.

Similarly, the cost of living for each of the 10 most lucrative nations worldwide is illustrated in Table 2.0. You rightly recognise that living costs can be significant  -- and so should be a significant part of your consideration process as to where is best to contract overseas.

Table 1.0:  Lucrative contracting nations outside the Top 10 -- and their living costs

Lucrative Ranking Country (City) Annual Disposable Income (EUR) Cost of Living (EUR)
11 France (Paris) 41,313 25,506
12 Ontario/Canada (Toronto) 32,169 28,311
13 Spain (Madrid) 28,840 18,402
14 Belgium (Brussels) 25,571 19,250
15 Sweden (Stockholm) 22,072 23,479
16 UK (London) 19,520 33,625


Table 2.0: Ten most lucrative contracting nations – and their living costs

Lucrative Ranking Country (City) Cost of Living (EUR)
1 California/ USA (San Francisco) 49,814
2 Switzerland (Zurich) 36,338
3 China (Shanghai) 17,604
4 India (Mumbai) 9,918
5 UAE (Dubai) 27,261
6 New York/USA (NYC) 47,542
7 Hong Kong 35,296
8 Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) 11,423
9 Singapore 31,116
10 Australia (Sydney) 29,235

The expert was Nikolas Papageorgiou, EU country manager at overseas contracting solutions firm Access Financial.

Tuesday 5th Nov 2019
Profile picture for user Nikolas Papageorgiou

Written by Nikolas Papageorgiou

Nikolas Papageorgiou has worked at Access Financial since 2015. He is Country Manager for Europe, which involves predominantly working with recruitment agencies and corporate clients who wish to place contractors in Luxembourg, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. 
Printer Friendly, PDF & Email

Sign up to our newsletter

Receive weekly contractor news, advice and updates.

Every sign up will be entered into a draw to WIN £100 Amazon Vouchers.

* indicates required