Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Expat's dilemma: should I stay or should I go?


Today I am going to talk about the typical sentences a family father answers when he is asked about the reasons why he does not leave his Country, if he is already finding himself in a bad economic or working situation, with fewer and fewer perspectives of improvement.
I took inspiration from this article, and I tried to adapt it according to my European/Italian background, my age, my education and my working skills.

"My parents and grandparents were born here; I have roots in this country/I'm not going to be unpatriotic. " : Italians have never been very patriotic nor nationalistic, and this statement does not apply to me. My grand-grandfather left Italy for America and then came back. However, it is true that when you leave your Country, you have to take into account that long-dated and true friendships are harder to find, simply because real friendship is achieved after living common experiences. You may find very good acquaintances, good colleagues and good neighbours, but friendship is another thing. Fortunately, there are cheap flights, and there are social networks. You will not loose your friends, you will only see them less frequently. Coming back to patriotism, it is funny that those politicians or people who have thrown in the flush our economics and well-being, by adhering to the eurozone disaster without safety precautions and claiming we are a whole super-nation, now are accusing those who fly away of being unpatriotic if they decide to move to another state of their super-nation.

"I can't leave my aging mother behind." : well, my mother died in my thirties, and I was working hard abroad at that time. It was a terrible, terrible period. She was dying, but I had to work for a living and I had to travel back and forth from Europe to America. For sure, if your parents need care and are not self-sufficient, it is a hard decision to take. Nevertheless, just try to think to your children too. If you cannot give your children a better future, or even your living standards when you were their age if you stay in your Country, what are you going to do? Your parents will pass away in any case. If you can earn more money by moving abroad and pay better medical care to your aging mother, who is going to stay back in her homeplace, is it not a good choice to leave in any case? Or, even better, you can bring her with you, to your new place. For sure the problem would be the language if she decides to have a talk with the grocery guy, but if she can do that, then she is not in such a bad shape and you can leave the country with less apprehension.

"I don't have enough capital to make a move." That is exactly the reason why you should be moving! If you are in your forties (like I was when I decided to leave Italy with my family), and you are struggling to get to the end of the month with your money, trying to live a decent life with a decent car and decent holidays, what the hell is preventing you from moving abroad if you are confident that you will earn more money and maybe have more free time to spend with your family or for yourself (ie going to the gym, reading, studying)?

"I don't speak the language." That is YOUR fault. You need to learn English as a minimum. English courses are super cheap today. If you are Italian, it is easy to learn Spanish or French. If you move to Germany/Netherlands, it is very often the case that if you speak only English, that is enough at the beginning. You can learn German/Dutch at work or by attending evening courses. They are typically reimbursed or paid completely by your Company. Of course if you are reading now, it means your English is already good. Be aware that to learn a new language may be more difficult when you are older, for a simple reason: first, you have less time to study; second, if you are an educated person, your native language is already complex, so it is hard to learn to re-formulate concepts in a simple new language. You have to "de-complexify" your way of talking.

"I am too old to leave.".  I was 41 when I left with wife and children. I know people who left at 53. The question should be another: is the salary and the living standard I get there worth the effort of leaving? the new experiences I can make in another Country are worth the struggle to get used to new weather, food, sunlight, habits, etc? So, take a piece of paper and start writing, next to each other, pro's and con's  for staying or leaving. Try to be objective, not emotional. These decisions will affect your future and the future of your family. By the way, do you think you will get your pension at 65? well, if you do, you are very optimistic. It may be the case that you will have to work until you are in your seventies. So if you are 50 and healthy, you are still young for working.

Of course everybody has his own experience and story to tell: on average, it is easier for a graduated guy to leave Italy in his late twenties, it is harder for an older guy with a family. The older guy takes more risk, undoubtedly. If both parents work, maybe only one can move to another place at the beginning. But I want to stress out the point that you leave your country if you are not feeling well staying where you are, not if you are happy with your environment and working conditions, of course! In my case, I hated the place I was living in, most of my uneducated neighbours, the traffic, the impoliteness of Rome people, the crisis my company was experiencing. All this was a powerful driver and motivator for me to fly from Italy, counting only on my brain and working experience. I did not want my kid to raise with uneducated boys, speaking dialect. There would have been good people around him, of course, but I would have had to fight for poor school teachers and organization. A good hospital was 30 Km away, due to crisis cuts in medicalcare in Italy.
Taxes were raising, services were getting worse, policy makers were still the same of 2008, press was giving wrong information about the root causes of the crisis. Did I need other inputs for leaving my Country?

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