Today marks eight years since I arrived at Athens Airport holding a one-way ticket to the UK. I stayed in London for six years, two years ago I moved to Prague, last year I returned to London, and in a few days I am leaving again. My third international relocation in less than two years.
Next stop: Luxembourg. Terminal Station.
Terminal, because unique experiences and changes are good, but every person needs a permanent base. London has been my base for many years. I left for a business opportunity that I could not turn down, and I returned because I wanted to experience London as I had always dreamed, as a character in a Richard Curtis’ movie. It would be a confirmation that I had finally succeeded. A box I had to tick.
But this kind of life comes at a cost, both in money and in time. London is great, but it is not a city for those over 30 working 10 hours a day. It’s no coincidence that many people in their 30s leave London. You want different things than when you were 25, and sweating in the tube during rush hour is not one of them.
Another reason I am leaving is that the UK is not the country I found in 2011. It was a country celebrating multiculturalism, everything worked like a clock, and politicians had a plan for at least five years. After the Brexit referendum, like many others, I don’t feel as welcome anymore; even without having ever experienced an episode of xenophobia. It is just weird that, after 7 years, a country asks you to justify your presence here.
All roads, personal and professional, lead to Luxembourg, this small Central European country where 40% of the population is expats. When I tell people I’m moving there, they tilt their head. “Luxembourg? Won’t it be boring? London has so many options.” And this is a misconception that raises a lot of talk.
I will simply say that it doesn’t matter how many options a city has in theory. What matters is how much money and budget you’ve got. When you spent the week days working all the day, does it really matter that you have unlimited options for the weekend? In reality, what most of us do is going out for coffee, food, and drinks. How big does a city have to be to do these? Yes, I will miss the theatre scene and the events, but hey, there’s a price for everything.
I’m leaving London feeling full and I’m going to Luxembourg feeling hungry. I am grateful to have this flexibility. I say grateful instead of lucky, because I have worked hard for this “luck”. But it is definitely luck that I was born in Europe. Not in an age of nationalism, but in an age that I can freely travel and work in any country I want.
I have more in common with those who also feel European than with those who put their national identity above all else. The British chose the latter, so… goodbye, London. This time it is final.