If you’re planning a move to work and live in a European country in 2023, either from inside or outside the EU, and English is your first – or even your second – language, you might want to consider a move to a country in which English is widely spoken.
Learning the language of your new home country should be one of your top priorities if you want to truly appreciate its nuances and culture.
But we all know that’s not so simple. And anyone who’s ever moved to live or work in another country will tell you that even if you knuckle down to language learning as soon as you arrive, it’ll still take time.
Being safe in the knowledge that most people will understand English is reassuring as you toil with grammatical genders, prepositions, and any assortment of linguistic torture.
Although globally, approximately 1.5 billion people speak English, fewer than 400 million use it as a first language, which means that more than one billion speak it as a secondary language.
In its latest English Proficiency Index, the global education company Education First (EF) analyzed data based on test results of two million adults in 112 countries and regions. From this information, it assembled a list of the top countries in Europe when it comes to speaking English. It turns out that only one of the top ten countries for speaking English is not in Europe (Singapore).
The fact that most European countries have fairly high standards of spoken English is probably not so surprising given that many European nations have historical trade links with the UK and the fact that English is one of three ‘working languages’, along with French and German, of the European Commission.
Some of the European countries best for English speakers:
France has long been a popular destination for international workers, especially English speakers. Local reader, Annie Khoury is from Los Angeles but lives in Nice, in southern France, for two months of the year. She says the French are quite laidback about speaking English.
“We spend about two months out of the year in France and own property in Nice. We are English speakers. We have no problem living our daily lives, frequenting shops, and going about our business. We of course try to speak as much French as we can, but are never made to feel bad for mispronouncing words, grammar, etc.”
Germany has become very attractive to English-speaking internationals in recent years, and Victoria Salemme, originally a native of Boston, in the United States and now living in Munich, thinks it is because of the similarities of the languages.
“German and English have the same roots, so people here seem really eager to practice speaking English. It’s almost always possible to speak in English or find someone who can translate. I also would say that the use of a lot of English slang helps too because if I don’t know a German word for something often I can substitute the English slang word and that almost always works.”
Victoria Ferguson, originally from the UK, but now living in Liguria, believes that attitudes to English speakers in metropolitan Italy and rural Italy are totally different.
“If you live in a bigger Italian town or city, it’s totally fine as an English speaker and you can have a wonderful life. Small-town Italy? Not so much.”
“Many rural Italians don’t have connections or much interest with the wider world! I have had a few experiences in rural Italy when my attempts at speaking Italian were mocked,” Victoria says.
Gabriela Carbajal from Chicago, who now lives in Madrid in Spain, is very enthusiastic about his new home country and its approach to English speakers.
“Spain is a great country to live in as an anything speaker! I love the openness here to different languages. I want to live here forever.”
Finally, in Switzerland, we found one very happy English speaker, Nicole Garcia-Lemelin, from Boston, who now lives in Luzern.
“I think that because four official languages are spoken here, mostly everywhere I have gone, people, all have at least a basic knowledge of English! I’ve never had a problem here.”