As my friends and family know, I have finally (after several years of Euro-commuting) left the UK and have no plans to return. While no country is perfect, and my new place of residence has its share of issues, I thought it might be cathartic to explain some reasons why I’m becoming ever more comfortable with my decision, and why it will lead to a better life for my family and I.
I should say at this point is that I am English and that means something to me – I will always support England in whatever it is they are playing. I will always follow what’s going on in my native country and be interested in the issues of the day. It does mean that those issues for the most part will no longer have a direct relevance in my life, and that will do wonders for my stress and blood pressure levels. I’m the kind of person who gets wound up by things, and while that isn’t ideal, I’ve long since accepted that trait as part of my character. A good way to reduce the effect of that trait on my everyday life is to not put myself in a position to be wound up. By making the issues likely to wind me up mostly irrelevant, that goal is achieved. In a nut shell, moving abroad will make me care less about what’s going on ‘back home’, and because caring causes me stress, caring less will cause less stress.
The obvious retort to that is that surely I’ll then care about what’s going on in my new country, to which the answer is yes and no. I will care in a practical way about how decisions will affect me personally, but less so about the philosophy behind the decision. I chose to live here so if I don’t like the decisions I can choose to leave. The difference is a bit like someone telling you how you should behave in your own house and how someone asks you to behave in their house. With the latter you accept that it’s their house, and their rules, and if you disagree, you can choose not to visit.
So moving abroad doesn’t make me any less English or patriotic, it just means that things going on in England will affect me less. If there’s a tax rise, so be it, I won’t be paying taxes. If there are changes to the NHS, so be it, I won’t be being treated by the NHS. On the flip side, if there are tax rises here, so be it, I chose to live here. It’s easier to rationalise the things I don’t like when I don’t have the same emotional attachment.
An added reason for that is because since the main language here is not English, I tend not watch or read local news. It’s amazing how not watching the local news can lower your stress levels if you have the kind of personality that cares about stuff.
Stress levels aside, there are more practical everyday things I prefer about life here. There is not so much of a consumer culture – I’ve never spoken to anyone who lists ‘shopping’ as a hobby. I think it’s great that shops are closed on Sunday, which makes the weekend different – Sundays really are a day for friends and family and the city is transformed from a bustling center of commerce to something quiet and more sedate. The ‘cafe culture’ helps with this. People don’t seem to have the need to be constantly ‘on the go’. Sitting down and having a coffee and a cake in the afternoon is normal, be it in a cafe or inviting friends over. It’s social and relaxed. There seem to be more family friendly playgrounds and parks which are easily accessible and not infested with teenagers loitering and causing mischief.
The public transport system means we don’t need a car. Sure, one would be useful every so often, and when we offset the cost of hiring a car when we need one against owning and insuring one all the time, it doesn’t make sense for us to have a car. Of course, everyone has different needs, and for me being able to go shopping on my bike with no hassle when there was no way I could in the UK (more on that later), is a huge plus.
In summary, there are many everyday things I prefer about life abroad, and of course, some things I find far worse here. On balance though, the pluses more than cover the minuses especially when taking the stress factor into account. At the same time there are some specific area of current UK life that I really found difficult and these will be the subjects of future posts. Stay tuned.