“While I’d always wanted to live and work abroad, it was sort of something I stumbled upon rather than a concerted effort,“ says Kevin Schmidt, an American living in London. “After an around the world trip of about 14 months, I found myself back in the US trying to figure out my next steps. An opportunity came up through my old company to move to London with regular trips to Barcelona. Somehow quitting my job and living a life of leisure (with some Spanish classes thrown in here and there) resulted in me finding a great opportunity abroad. That’s life for you. But I know I’m lucky.”
Kevin says that the first few days of living in London felt like a dream—“ but that was probably the jet lag and the pub visits.” He says that for the first year it felt like he was on vacation, but slowly adjusting during his now seven years in London.
Kevin doesn’t consider himself an ex-pat. He says the term seems dated—like a something associated with the 1980s when US companies would offer up a very attractive financial package to compensate for the undue hardship of living overseas, and who would end up socializing almost exclusively with other ex-pats. “I’d say I feel more like a global citizen as I tend to hang out with non-Americans—part of the experience of living abroad (as I can hang out with Americans back home). One of my past co-workers here in London (she’s Dutch) used to say that I was a ‘very European American’. I like that as it makes me feel like I’ve settled in well.”
“There’s so much to discover when you live in a new country—local traditions (Sunday roast anyone?), trends, foods, etc. Even the most mundane and common things are completely new—or very challenging if the local language is something other than English. I remember feeling a great sense of accomplishment when I was able to get some cold/cough medicine from a pharmacy in Spain after describing my symptoms in Spanish. “
Kevin enjoys the number of vacation days (25 days + national holidays)—exponentially more than what’s offered in the States. But he says he misses some types of food that’s hard to come by in London—“good” Mexican, New York-Style Pizza, and BBQ to name a few. “Oh and Peet’s Coffee—I really miss that. I usually take a few bags back with me whenever I’m back in the US.” He does find it difficult being so far away from family and friends—and says that’s probably the toughest part. “But Skype/Face Time help and I’ve had a number of visits over the years.”
As for what he doesn’t miss—"I was glad I wasn’t subjected to all of the political ads in the past two presidential elections."
Kevin expects that at some point he will move back to the US. “Probably when it’s time to have a family—someone has to help watch the kids! But I wouldn’t rule out a move back to Europe at some point if that happens.”
He says he’d highly recommend a move abroad or at least doing some extended travel. “It was one of the best moves I’ve ever made. I even met my fiancé here!”