Wanderlust: From Europe To America and Back

Jan 29, 2021

Health & Lifestyle | Lauranne Heres

This month, we’re talking to Emilie, who moved from Europe to South America, and to Bea, who moved from North America to Europe!

Where are you from originally?

Bea: I’m from Mexico City

Emilie: Originally from England-France (born in London, raised in Lyon).

Where did you study?

B: Mexico City and London

E: I went to St Andrews, Scotland

How many countries have you lived in so far?

B: 3 (but it’s hard to say because I’ve lived a few months in a few countries, so counting only the ones that I’ve lived more than 6 months in) Mexico, England and Switzerland when I was a kid.

E: Lived in 5 countries now (France, England, Scotland, Germany, Peru)

What is the biggest move you've done so far? (if there are several please describe all)

B: From Mexico City to London was definitely the biggest and more permanent move!

E: The biggest move was from France to Peru. The move from France to Scotland for uni felt like a massive one at the time (and oh my, was there a culture shock) but nowhere near the one to Peru (which feels like a totally different world).

What where some hurdles you had to overcome?

B: Cultural differences: Latinos are very warm and sociable, and it was hard to adjust to being alone most of the time. Weather - Mexico is a pretty sunny place and you can drive to a beach in a few hours or a warmer climate. It was difficult getting used to winter and trying not to get depressed.

E: The language barrier, difference in culture, physical difference (standing out everywhere I go), being treated differently...

How difficult was the visa process?

B: VERY difficult, I have had about 6 visas in 11 years! Every time the process was difficult and painful but happy to report that I got my British Citizenship a year ago.

E: The visa process wasn’t so difficult once I found a job at a company that was willing to provide the necessary paperwork. But finding that company was rather a struggle at first, most of them can’t be bothered to jump through the hoops needed to get me a work visa.

Was it easy to find a new job, or did you move for work?

B: It wasn’t easy finding a job. I was lucky enough to get a post-study work visa and even then, it took a long time to find a company that was willing to consider sponsoring me when my visa finished. Then, when I wanted to move company, finding another company that would be able to sponsor me took about 8 months. But once I got hired by a “big company” plus having a few years work experience in London (rather than Mexico) it was easier to move and I even got poached!

E: Finding a job in the field I would have wanted was impossible here, so once I understood I’d have to settle for something else it wasn’t too difficult, as most jobs here for foreigners are in tourism or teaching. I’m in my second job since being here - had to update my work visa when it came to making the change.

Why did you move?

B: I always knew I wanted to live somewhere else. I adore Mexico but I am a Citizen of the world at heart as I have travelled often since I was a kid. I lived in Mexico City for a long time and I love it. But I had travelled a lot and I felt my personality wasn’t matching the much more traditional values in Mexico. I am still in between a more liberal European and a more conservative Mexican but I feel that I can be more myself here.

E: I ended up in Peru because I randomly decided to do some volunteering in another country (to delay deciding what to do with my life after uni) and just as I made that decision, an email about volunteering in Peru popped up in my inbox. I took it as a sign! I learned the language simply through living here surrounded by Peruvians. And I improved my skill of adapting quickly to situations and finding my way around a new culture and customs! Ended up staying for love!

Would you consider moving again?

B: Yes! But moving and adapting to a new city is quite energy consuming and I have built so much here already, and I now have a chosen family. I am not closed to opportunities, but things do become more complicated as you get a house etc. Possibly Portugal!?

E: I’d love to move back to Europe, probably to a big Spanish city!

How has living away from home affected your relationship with friends and family?

B: A LOT! Some parts are good, as we miss each other and when we spend time together it is really valuable. And others not so great - I moved when my half-sister and half-brother were 8-10 years old which means I missed watching them grow so closely. Not seeing my parents regularly is also not that great but that means I have to make plans with them and maybe travel to places and meet there which is cool!

E: Living away from home hasn’t affected my relationship with friends too much - thank God for WhatsApp, Skype, and of course I make a superhuman effort to visit them every time I go back home. With family it’s been more of a struggle especially with my dad, but again going back as often as possible and calling on FaceTime whenever I can definitely helps. My brother lives in the US, so I can visit him and his family a little more often.

You both mentioned a culture shock, can you explain?

B: All of it is different. 1- size, México city is huge! To cross the city, it takes 2-3 hours in stand-still traffic. It makes me really appreciate public transport in London even on the worst days. Trains here are expensive but in Mexico that isn't an option. You have to drive, fly, or take buses. I find it amazing that you can take a train to lots of places in the UK and Europe from London easily. 2- people are warmer, friendlier, and chattier in Mexico, and here it's very rare to talk to someone on the tube or bus or in a shop. You are also always with friends or family, it takes a while to get used to being alone for long periods of time. 3- Making plans, in Mexico, people are more spontaneous, they will call you and be like, what are you up to? Should I come over and we can hang out? Sure! Here it’s like let’s hang out, sure! Well, the next date I am available is in 4 months, let’s pencil it in…. 4- Food, Mexican food is delicious. And over there 100% fruits have taste.

E: In Scotland, the amount of alcohol consumption was the biggest shock. Binge drinking to be specific! My first night at a Scottish uni I was taking care of a student who had drunk until he passed out, and waited with him until the ambulance came outside our halls. My first night. I had never seen anything like it in France. And Peru, is so much more colourful, noisy, disorganised; everyone is always late and makes no apologies about it; family and religion hold a place like I’ve never seen in Europe (apart from maybe Spain); the food is more varied and colourful than anything I’ve ever seen; there’s such a divide between the classes (wealthy and underprivileged) like I’d never seen in Europe...

Would you consider applying for citizenship?

B: Yes! I applied and got it last year, mainly because I got to the end of the road and it was just safer to have it. So now, they can’t kick me out!

E: No, I don’t think I’d ever apply for citizenship, I’m happy being here with a work visa and if I ever get married to my Peruvian boyfriend, I’ll then have a family visa!