5 years abroad: Reflections on life in the UK

As of today, I’ve been living in the UK for 5 years. 60 months. 1,826 days. Did I make each one of them worth it? No. But I did make enough of them.

I don’t intend to write a full retrospection, like I did in my three year anniversary. I just want to write down a few thoughts, scattered and perhaps not that meaningful.

Is it worth it for someone to come to London? Yes. Is it easy? No. London is one of the liveliest cities on the planet, but it is also a harsh, rather faceless metropolis that couldn’t care less about who you are. If you survive, you stay; if not, you leave. If you survive and have time and/or money to enjoy what London offers, you think of extending your stay here. If not, you’ll end up leaving again.

I have an almost passionate relationship with London. When I’m in a good mood, I adore it. When I’m down, I hate it. I know, however, that if I make the mistake and leave, I will miss it. The theatre, the strolls next to the Thames, the variety in ethnic cuisines, people in general, colours, cultures, religions.

On the other hand, I won’t miss the dirty night buses, the expensive transport system, the overpriced rooms in flat shares, the fierce competition when looking for a job, the smell of fried food coming from the chips shops.

Following the three-year retrospection, quite a few people sent me messages, asking me if I would recommend them to come or not. I always found a polite way not to tell them what to do, concealing how dumb I found this question. These are decisions you take by yourself, so that you are the only person responsible for them. I still find it difficult to understand how and why my advice to a stranger can be useful. We are different people, with different starting points, different backgrounds and different needs.

Living abroad is not for everybody, and the same goes for Greece. If I returned home, I know I would become either a terrorist or depressed. What I enjoy mostly in the UK is the fact I don’t need to explain the self-evident: why we MUST keep a door open instead of letting it shut on somebody’s face, why we DON’T PARK in disabled parking spots, why we don’t clatter a PEDESTRIAN way with all our stuff, why we DON’T bribe doctors who have SWORN to heal their patients, why we HAVE TO be patient in a customer service position.

At a more personal tone, what I regret for those five years abroad are the moments I miss with my family and my friends. I don’t like it that my godchild is growing up and I see him just twice a year. It hurts to hear the question “when are you coming back, godfather?”.

In a similar way, but obviously with much less gravitas, I’m sorry to hear the question “when are you going to present your book in Thessaloniki? In Crete?” I made the mistake of wanting to become a writer, while I was born Greek. By itself, when I first got published I moved abroad. I always had a problem with timing, and I don’t see it getting any better. The more I grow up, the more irresponsible I feel. My friends tell me I’m having an age crisis. I tell them to go to hell.

Moral of the story: Five years ago, I took a decision. I’m vindicated, but it took many efforts. What I learned is to try and make every single day add something worthwhile to my memories. I hope the next five years will be even more worthwhile.