This article originally appeared in Dutch on our sister website ‘The London Tester‘.
We received an email from reader Danny, who asked us our advice on his decision to live abroad:
“For all my life, I’m 45, I’ve had a love for England and being there feels like coming home and being at home… My question is if it’s doable for someone my age to try their luck in England?”
Danny shared his personal story and his (very real) uncertainty about Brexit, school diploma’s and other circumstances that led him to not make the jump to move abroad yet.
“Deep in my heart, I would’ve rather left yesterday“, he ended his letter.
Should I Try Living Abroad?
The question whether or not somebody has to live abroad (apart from the fact if it’s ‘too late’, is of course not easy to answer.
It depends on so many factors, that it’s hard for us to give personal advice to everyone at once. But, if you already have a strong wish to do something like this in the future and you still have some questions/concerns, then this article might give you some of the motivation you are looking for.
Let’s first share our own story briefly about how we made the jump from The Netherlands to England:
When we moved to London in 2011, this wasn’t necessarily something that we’d be dreaming about for years, or even something that even crossed our minds, to be honest. In fact, Nick had never even been to the UK before that! We just returned from two years of living, working and travel in Australia and were planning to build something in The Netherlands, but because Nick landed in the big fat crisis (being an architect), there was no work for him to be found.
Nick send in job applications pretty much every single day for over seven months, but when you start to notice that as someone with little work experience, you’re competing for the same job as people with over ten years of work experience, who also cannot find a job, you get a little bit dis-encouraged, to say the least. And so we started looking at other options.
We looked for everything from Germany to China and beyond, but when Nick got himself an interview in Manchester and not long after got an offer to work in London through a connection from Sydney, we made a bold decision. Within a week of Nick saying ‘yes’ to the job in London, our life got packed up in boxes again and Nick moved to the other end of the ‘pond’. I arrived a few weeks later, because I had some other things to finish first.
On arrival in London, we didn’t have anything. Not house, no furniture, no job for me, no phone plan, no bank account, and so on. For the first weeks, Nick stayed at a friend’s place and in a hostel and managed to rent a room somewhere, so I could come over as well.
We took care of all the things that we needed to be able to live and work in the UK, what was definitely frustrating at some points, but step by step we got better jobs (especially me, since I went from babysitting Nick’s boss’s daughter to freelance writing, to having my own company), a fun group of friends and a nicer place to live (we went from sharing a house, to a one-bedroom apartment to our two-bed apartment in a nicer area that we live now).
Because we already experienced in Sydney that within two years we could go from having nothing to having a pretty comfortable life in a new country, we always knew we could do the same in England. Of course there were some setbacks and we definitely didn’t pick the easy road, we did take the gamble and that made us super happy!
Excuses: I am too [fill in the blank] to live abroad
You might know the saying that there are 1000 reasons to NOT do something, but you only really need one reason to DO do it. We couldn’t agree more!
If deep in your hart, you want to live abroad one day, ask yourself what reasons you’ve come up with that hold you back from actually pursuing that dream. Perhaps it’s one of these
- I am too old…
- I am too young…
- I don’t have enough money…
- I don’t have the right education…
- I might not be able to find work…
- I am too impulsive…
- I am too late…
- I am too busy…
- I am too scared…
- I might get homesick…
- I have never done this before…
- I am scared to fail…
- I am worried of what other people think…
All these excuses might sound valid, but if you really think about it… is that actually true? Do you now this for sure a 100%? What if you would say the following to yourself:
I am too old…Luckily, there isn’t an age limit on choosing a life that makes me happy. There are enough examples of people that found their dream job when they were over 65 (or older)! It’s never too late to completely change my life, the only one stopping me is… me! I am too young…Maybe I’m too young to do everything on my own, but what are the options my school offers in terms of exchanges or work experience? Perhaps there is a language school I can do for a couple weeks to start of with? I don’t have enough money…London is an expensive city and I will definitely have to watch my money, but there are so many opportunities to live on a budget in London (from sharing a house to save on groceries and many free activities), that it’s doable! And I can always decide to live a bit outside of London, where the costs of living will be a lot less high! I don’t have the right education…There are more roads that lead to Rome (Well, London in this case, haha) perhaps I need to re-train, but on the long run that’s not a problem and more a learning experience than anything! I might not be able to find work…Perhaps I will have to take a step back and do work that pays less or is a bit different to what I eventually want to do, but I’m prepared for that. I will give myself the time to show what I’ve got and build something up from the ground! I am too impulsive…I will read into exactly what I will need to make the leap and write down a 1/2/5-year plan for myself before I make any decisions. I am too late…I might be too late for one specific chance, but there will be more opportunities on my path, that are probably better suited for me I am too busy…Everyone only has 24 hours in a day, but it’s up to the individual on how we choose to use those hours. It’s all about setting priorities I am scared…Doing something new is always scary, but what I will get back for it will be worth it. I can do it! I might get homesick…I miss my family and friends, but this doesn’t mean that I will never see or speak to them again! I might have to make more of an effort to keep in touch, but I will just call/write/visit them more often, or invite people over. My family will understand that I miss them, but they also know that I am enjoying my time abroad and learn so much. I have never done this before…If I don’t try it, I will never know if I can do it! I am scared to fail…We all make mistakes, but almost no decision will be forever. I can always go back! I am worried about what other people think…The most important thing is that I follow my own heart, because, this is MY life and not somebody else’s!
But what about Brexit?
If you’re thinking about moving to the UK, then of course all the changes around Brexit will play a part in your decision. But to be honest, I don’t think that this is something that should hold you back.
Nobody here seems to know exactly what Brexit will entail for people that want to live here in the future, of for people that are already here. There is a lot of speculation, but at the moment, nothing is set in stone.
There will be a few things that will change and maybe you’ll need a visa or something (if you didn’t already need that now), but this was also the case when we wanted to live in Australia and while that made things a bit more complicated to organise, it was definitely not impossible. If they would make it so hard to enter the country as a foreigner, the UK would probably end up empty, I guess, haha!
In short, don’t let Brexit (or any other visa regulation) give you an excuse to not want to move abroad. It will always stay possible to make the move if you really want to, believe me!
Finding luck abroad
Danny writes in his letter that he wants to try his luck in England, but I think that he might want to consider using some different words for his choice, if this is something he really, really wants to do. For me, ‘trying your luck’ sounds very passive: you move to another country… *something* happens… and then you are happy. Well, it just doesn’t work that way!
Of course I understand that Danny doesn’t really think that luck will just find him when he moves to the UK, but I do think it’s important when you’re speaking about your dreams to use words that actually make things happen, so it doesn’t just stay a wish forever.
If there is something we learned in our 8+ years abroad, it’s that things will only chance if you actively take action towards that change. You cannot expect something to change if you keep on doing the same thing over and over. You cannot expect that when you arrive in a new country, the flag will be waving and you can do the exact same thing you did back home and it will work out. Every change in life will take time and effort and you will have to adjust on every front, it’s just the way it is.
Writer Rita Mae Brown once said very accurately (this quote is often wrongfully attributed to Albert Einstein, but nevertheless): “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results“.
If you only keep thinking about all those dreams that you have for you own life, but always put them down right away with excuses on why you couldn’t or shouldn’t do something, or say you’re still waiting on something else to happen before you can make a move, you will stay put. It’s as easy as that.
The only thing that we as humans need to do is (as far as I know) eating and drinking, but for the rest, you’re pretty much in control! The future is (again, as far as I know) not set by someone, so the only thing you can control is what you do in your life TODAY. If that is that you’d like to move abroad… Go for it!
Remember that nothing is forever, in our case, The Netherlands is pretty close to the UK and if you feel after 1-2 years that it just ‘isn’t for you’, then what’s stopping you from just going back to where you came from? That’s not losing face, that’s a life lesson you’ve learned and a step that most people will never dare taking. This is something you can only be proud of.
Changing anything in your life is hard, definitely, and you will have to work hard for it and keep holding on to follow your dreams, but I’m sure you can do it. You deserve to live the life that you dream of. It is, after all, the only life you have, so you better enjoy it! Follow your heart and everything will be ok!