About leaving London

About Leaving London: Why I decided to move back to the Netherlands after being an expat in London for four years.For those of you who wondered if I’m still here… I am. Only ‘here’ is no longer London. I moved back to the Netherlands.

As an expat you’re used to getting questions like ‘When are you coming back?’ or ‘Do you think you’ll ever come back?’. You get them a lot in the first two years and my answer was always the same: ‘Not any time soon’. And at some point the questions stop.

I meant what I said. I absolutely love London. Not loved, but love. It’s one of the most interesting and beautiful cities in the world. And the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made are simply amazing.

Right, so why am I writing this from my apartment in The Hague and not London?

Why would you ever want to leave?!

Now that I’m back that’s the question I get all the time. Even from my friends and family here. I expected the questions from the people in London. But apparently, whether you’re moving away or moving back, people want to know why.

Which is probably why I’ve been absent on this blog and on social media these past weeks. Knowing I have to at least mention that I no longer live in London. But at the same time having no idea how to explain why I did it.

The Londonist once wrote a story about How to write a “why I’m leaving London” article. It’s a funny story and basically saying that whatever argument people have for leaving the city (the high rent, the commute, …), it’s all nonsense and you’re simply an idiot if you think about leaving.

And that’s why making this decision wasn’t easy. Am I an idiot? (Don’t answer that.) What’s not to love about London? You left the Netherlands for a reason, what if nothing has changed when you go back?

But in the end it comes down to a feeling.

What feels like home?

Almost a year ago now, a friend in Amsterdam asked me that old question again. Do you think you’ll ever come back? And I gave her the same old answer: not any time soon. But saying those words felt differently. And I wondered if I actually still meant them.

Yes, there are several reasons why you may consider leaving London. Like paying more than double for a (smaller) apartment. Taking the Northern Line during rush hour is something nobody should have to experience. And – dare I say it – Brexit also didn’t help.

But none of this would have mattered if I thought London was my one and only home. Where I could see myself living for the next coming years. And as much as I did all these years in London, something changed. I missed Holland. And being realistic enough to know that no place will ever be perfect, I wanted to move back.

Still, not an easy decision to make. A little voice in the back of my head kept screaming ‘idiot!’ every time I thought about it. And the mixed messages I got from the few people I discussed it with made me even more confused.

Where are you from?

So when I started planning my sabbatical, I decided to use this time to make a decision. What became clear to me on this trip was that I very much missed my friends in London, but not necessarily the city itself. And when people asked me where I was from, I soon shifted from ‘From the Netherlands, but I live in London’ to simply ‘From the Netherlands’. So I knew what I had to do.

My love for travel has only grown since I moved to London, became friends with other travel addicts and started this blog. I want to travel as much as possible, be in London as often as I can, but with the Netherlands as my home base.

Missing London

Do I miss London? Of course I do. Still, most of all I miss the people, but I also miss the city. I’m experiencing a bit of a reverse culture shock. Everything is very familiar, but time hasn’t stood still here either. And there are little things I need to get used to again. But it still feels good to be back. And every time I miss the city too much, it’s only a 45 minute flight away.

So this is my version of the ‘Why I’m leaving London’ article. And now that I’ve shared it I can finally start posting all those photos, videos and stories of the countries I visited these past months. And I’m sure there will be some new London stories coming too. It’s almost as if I never left.

  • I’m so pleased for you – mostly that you didn’t feel so pressured by the ‘tired of London, tired of life’ myth that you were paralysed into indecision like so many people. London will always be here, and will always welcome you back for a visit. But being where you feel at home is an amazing feeling, and I’m so glad you’ve found it. Best of luck with the readjustment – and I hope we cross paths again soon!! xxx

    • Thanks Elle! Knowing that London is so close and I can visit whenever I want does make the transition easier. And oh man, the ‘tired of London / life’ thing did cross my mind of course (it’s hard not to). But the thing is, I’m not tired of either, I just don’t necessarily have to live in the city to enjoy it. Hope to see you in London again soon (or visit me ;-).

  • And the great thing about leaving London is that you always have the option of coming back! 😉

  • The slow pace

    Wow. The expat dream/nightmare… coming back home. During the first years abroad we were always thinking about going back to Spain but now… we just don’t know. Somehow knowing that you just “felt it” makes me calmer. Will I ever feel what I want to do? Now I’m all indecisive and kinf of paralysed. I’m afraid of changes, I guess. So I applaude you. And now that we are country neighbours, let us know if you ever visit Bremen, we will be happy to be your cicerone! 😉
    The best of luck for this new chapter!

    • Thanks so much! And yes I’ll definitely let you know when I’m in the area, would love to meet up again.

  • With your smarts, lady? You can go wherever you’d like. And just call us to chat about the culture shock 🙂 xx

  • That is definitely the toughest decision an expat will ever have to make, but with as much thought as you put into it, I’m positive you made the right decision. I’m so looking forward to seeing posts from your sabbatical travels and anywhere else you decide to go in the future. 🙂 I hope you’re adjusting okay. xx

    • Thanks Sarah! It’s nice being back, so I think I made the right decision. And let me know when you visit your family!

  • Eeesh, a tough decision indeed and one that’s definitely part of my future. It sounds like you timed it perfectly – not too tired or frustrated with London, but being realistic about what moving “home” would mean. I look forward to seeing you here or in the Netherlands sometime soon x

    • On the one hand still liking a city makes it more difficult to leave, but at you said I’m glad I can still look forward to visiting the city frequently and enjoy it when I’m there.

  • no need to explain, your choice is your choice:) plus London’s only a short way away from your new (old) home…

  • We’ll be here love (and occasionally on your couch I’m sure!!)

  • Haha I almost could have written this except substitute Stockholm for London and Glasgow for Amsterdam! It’s strange being a… re-pat?! Exciting to see home in a new way, but also strange seeing it as a newcomer all over again! Welcome home 😉

  • I love this post. And so happy for your move! Just because you leave London, doesn’t mean you’re a crazy person. I’ve lived in London most of my life, but am also beginning to see the benefits of leaving for somewhere else. Mainly to experience somewhere new. London evolves and you evolve, not always in the same direction. x

  • Succes met alles in NL Jacintha! Gelukkig ligt Londen ‘om te hoek’ en je kunt altijd bij ons op de bank 🙂 Wij zijn ook zeker van plan weer terug naar Nederland te gaan, misschien zelfs volgens jaar al, dus weet helemaal wat je bedoeld! Benieuwd naar al je wereldreis verhalen! xx

  • Great post Jacintha! I can definitely relate to many things you wrote, specially regarding all the family/friends questions when you initially moved to London. I have my ready-made answer as well that I just give to anyone who asks me that.
    I love following your travels and this space you created to show them to us so just keep doing it no matter where you are based 😉 Nancy