Not so long ago, I decided to move from my native country, Italy, to become an expat. These new economic times that many call “crisis” – others call “the new average” – require different sacrifices from people willing to emerge.
Personally, I grew up reading stories about the U.S. I.T. work model, where you could be very flexible about working hours as long as you met your deadlines. This was looking appealing for many reasons – especially because it seemed compatible with my numerous interests – and feasible, because of my studies in Information Technology. Nonetheless, this model wasn’t applicable at that time in countries like Italy, and it seems not be applicable anywhere in Europe, even now. The only viable alternatives were opening your own company or freelancing. The first option might sound ideal: you decide your own schedules, you set deadlines, what’s better than choosing the pace you work at? Sorry to disappoint you: even if you own a company you’re not the boss of yourself, you become the slave of your customers. Especially in countries where taxes are high (i.e. Italy, Spain, France…) and customers tend not to pay (i.e. Italy, Spain…) and to sue you even if you sneeze (i.e. Italy, the U.S. …). If you are a skilled IT specialist, you find yourself fighting with customers to have your money, having to upfront for customers that are going to play tricks on you just to have the service you provide for free. Forget the idyllic I’m the boss of myself.
The second option, freelancing, has huge problems to scale up. You have only a limited amount of time to spend working, and there are limits on what you can achieve on your own. This means there’s a capping on the money you can make. Is that bad? Well, if you measure your success by the money you spend, the car you drive, the house you’ve got a mortgage to pay, the clothes you wear, you might feel somehow limited. If you measure your success by the people you give orders to, this idea is also disappointing: you’re in charge of yourself, maybe, sometimes: you better invest your skills becoming a politician.
Personally I measure my success by the amount of time I have to spend on my interests – which are many and are exactly what makes me happy. And if the money I can possibly earn is limited, I try to find ways to have what I really need for the same amount of money.
This is where I come back to economy and crisis. If you are not very much into economics, you’ll end up believing to the mountains of bullshit you read in newspapers: the economy is driven by banks, big powers, everybody is willing to exploit you, they steal money from your pockets, taxes are a theft, etc. Well, in my experience I have learned a very important lesson: almost every new situation in life can be used to get an advantage, you just have to understand how to benefit from it.
What can you take advantage of, in this new-economy, globalized crisis era? Sadly, somewhere in the planet there will be some country poorer than yours. A poor country will have a weak currency. Visiting that country will make you feel “rich”, you will live with less if you keep earning precious Euros, Dollars or Pounds. And what’s the impact of this on the poor country? Well, it is beneficial, because you’re injecting money into the economy. Are you stealing anything from anyone? No. Is this fair? This is somewhat controversial. The answer is no, but 1. we can’t change it 2. not profiting is not making the world more fair and 3. if you decide to go on a diet, this is not going to solve the problem of the hunger in the world.
I can hear some of you shaking their heads whispering “but paying less, means you’ll have less”. Again, less of what? What are we measuring? Money? Career?
I have accepted the capping on the money I earn. I live a much better lifestyle than I was living in Italy or in London. I have more spare time. I am learning new things, meeting new people, visiting new countries, collecting new stamps in my passport.
I earn less, in absolute value. I have more, in absolute value.
 there are only 2 exceptions, death – unless you’re a undertaker and a court case – unless you’re a lawyer