7 years abroad: Another international relocation

I know I might have been overwhelming you with my Expat Diaries posts, but I feel I have something new to say. It is about employee mobility and how important it has become in expat life.

Just as I completed a year in Prague, it is time for me to move again. For the first eight months, I traveled for business almost every week. I did my first trip seven days after my move, before I had a chance to find accommodation. At the end of the year, my flight tracker showed 98 flights and tens of thousands of airline miles. At some point, I seriously considered renting and staying in AirBnBs and hotels.

It was nice, though, and I never complained. I love traveling; especially flying. The whole experience: arriving at the airport, trying to deal with security control as efficiently as possible, hanging at the lounge (with all these miles, I quickly became a frequent traveler); even the tiny portions of the in-flight meal. As much as I enjoyed the whole process, however, when you come back on a Friday and have to fly out again on Monday, it gets tiring. I missed having a weekday at home and a meal I cooked myself.

I decided to limit traveling and spend more time in Prague. I had already been there for eight months without making any real connections. Prague was beautiful and everything, but now traveling had been replaced by long hours at the office. The only thing I was doing after work was visiting the gym, just to release the extra energy. Yes, Prague was a beautiful city, but it had not won me over. The chemistry was simply not there.

In the first Expat Diaries post, I wondered, “What’s the point of being an immigrant and giving away everything you earn?” Obviously, that has changed. I am earning more than ever because I have been mobile. I relocated for the job; I was traveling every week for business and I had the chance to relocate again.

I was told to choose between Munich, London, and Luxembourg. London was an easy choice. The past year had taught me something about myself: I play to win. I had never realized it, but I was competitive. Looking back, it makes sense, because I never gave up. I wanted to go back to London as a winner, to experience it on my own terms.

I returned to London with 32 boxes and a life lesson that I always share with others:

Work hard and be nice to people.

There is no other way to achieve your ambitions or dreams. I have stayed at the same company because, one year in the role, they threw me into the deep end and I had to swim. I had to work hard. It was a project of such a scale that I couldn’t do it anywhere else. I work smart, hard, and long; I work while I eat, I work while I go to work, I work while I go out for a drink. This is not to say I’m proud of it or that everyone should do the same. I work so much because I know that I am sowing in order to sit later in my chair and wait for the seeds to sprout.

At the same time, I’m polite and forthcoming with everyone I meet, regardless of their status or seniority. Not only is it the right thing to do, it is also smart. You never know who you’re going to need help from in the future. You want people to remember you in a nice light.

When people contact me and ask, “What do you think, should I leave for abroad?”, I really don’t know how to answer. What I do not answer though is, “‘If I tell you not to leave, will you stay in Greece and be unemployed?”

In Greece, most of my generation grew up with high expectations. Somehow, it is common for 30-year-olds to still live with their parents, have everything provided for them, and contribute zero. It seems funny to Greeks that, abroad, when children become adults, they pay a symbolic rent or contribute to expenses. Knowing this, it is not surprising why some Greeks are unwilling to leave the nest.

Some of us left for abroad maxing out a credit card, while others did it with greater financial comfort. At the end of the day, the first night alone in an unknown country was equally difficult for both. It is tough when you get sick and have to call an Uber to go to the doctor alone. It is unbearable when a grandparent dies, and you can’t attend the funeral.

There is only one person who can advise those who wonder whether they should leave or not, and that is themselves. They need to answer two questions:

“Do I really want to work? Can I start from scratch in an unknown place?”

If your priority is to be with your family and struggle together, stay in Greece. If your priority is to sustain yourself and even support your family back in Greece, then leave. But don’t take for granted you’ll only move once. You might be in London this year, Brussels tomorrow, and -who knows- Melbourne the year after.

Employee mobility is becoming increasingly essential in today’s globalized world. Companies are more willing to invest in talent who can easily relocate and adjust to new environments. Thus, being mobile is a valuable asset in the job market, and it can also offer personal growth opportunities.

Work hard, be nice to people, and be open to new experiences. With these three things, you can succeed and thrive in an increasingly mobile world. And remember: nothing is permanent. Your priorities might change tomorrow.