Emigrating is just going on a slightly longer trip

emigrar viaje
photo: Andy Lapham

Since 2013, more than 100.000 spaniards emigrate every year, y though we don’t have the oficial number since 2014, it will be probably the same.

During the first half of the year, we get a few private messages and emails with questions or asking us for advice and information from everyone planning to come to the United Kingdom to look for new opportunities. That’s why I’d like to write a short open letter to anyone who’s feeling a bit nervous.

Emigrating isn’t easy…

Photos of parties, travels through pretty cities, happy periods… this is what a lot of people see shared on Facebook by emigrant friends. But let’s not kid ourselves: people don’t post photos of when they’re sad or overwhelmed because they don’t have enough time to work in a London café, comments about the money they’re spending on public transport or about how expensive pints of beer are when they go partying… let alone mention the loneliness expats sometimes feel during their “adventure”.

Everyone has a different experience. Not everything is so horrible or difficult, but not everything is perfect either. Arriving in a country without knowing the language well is something that certainly doesn’t help things: in fact, it can slow you down in many ways.

It’s also common to experience frustration about not working in your field of expertise, where you’ve trained professionally for long. Knowing that you have to work every weekend in the services industry when your friends are partying or relaxing, when you could be working as an engineer, teacher, or psychologist (or whatever your job is) also has an effect on emigrant morale, especially when this is true for a long period of time.

And then there are a thousand problems that you don’t know how to solve: arguments with your housemates about cleaning, that manager who makes your life impossible by changing your shifts or not giving you enough working hours, the search for affordable housing when you arrive, meeting people with whom you can go out when you finally have a free day, the money you’re not saving, those headaches you get when you don’t have enough money to last you the month… and your family and friends so far away.

But every cloud has a silver lining…

With time, speaking the language gets easier: you can already express how you’re feeling without messing up, or stop your manager when he or she is being unreasonable. In addition to knowing how and when to talk to your landlord to ask him or her for something (and get it!).

Once you’ve gotten past the communication hurdle, you discover the country’s culture and people. Some things will be strange: they might not seem as extroverted, they don’t shout when they speak, and they might drink a lot more tea than you. You get used to all this and also see the good things, to the point where you think people should do some of them back home.

You visit and fall in love with small towns. Who knows, you might even fall in love with a native English speaker. 😉

The months and years pass and you realize the UK is a country where effort pays off: they’ll promote you if you’ve worked hard. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had prior managerial experience – if you’re good enough, the job’s yours. In the UK, you can sometimes get a job in what you’ve studied, despite your lack of English. With a salary that matches your professional qualifications – the opposite of what you might find back home. There are no lack of opportunities here: if you look for them, you’ll find them.

You miss your mother’s food and going out for tapas with people you’ve known forever… but on the other hand, you discover restaurants with food from all over the world (Indian, Thai, Peruvian, Chinese…). You try new things.

And you also have an eclectic group of friends from different countries… and some of them organize pajama parties or costume parties even though it’s not Halloween. Just for the hell of it – and you love it.

One day you think about it and realize you’ve had some hard times but you’ve also had fun… and you don’t know if you want to go back or stay forever.

My advice…

If you’re not sure whether to emigrate or not, do it. You might lose some savings and the time you invest in it. But, for better or for worse, it’s worth it. You’ll get some positive things out of it.

Sometimes it’s difficult, and then we make a mountain out of molehill. I’ve tried to point this out in these articles and show it’s not as bad as all that. Of course, a lack of experience can hold you back at work.

Remember there are lots of opportunities today. You’ll have problems, but you’ll always have food and a roof over your head, and you’ll always find people who are willing to help you out, in addition to other European emigrants from your country. If you put your mind to it, everything will end well.

A long trip…

When we travel, we’re open-minded and excited to discover new food, customs, and people. You should think of emigration as a long trip: enjoy every day, no matter how annoying the lack of sun or your favourite food is. Don’t waste your whole time complaining. 😉 If you’re curious about everything, you’ll enjoy this slightly long trip and learn a lot. And if the time comes to go back “home”, you’ll have had another life experience.

Good luck to everyone, and leave a comment if you feel like it. 😀

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