Expat

I lived in Guatemala City for about 27 years without putting any serious thought on moving abroad. However, in 2012 I got an offer to work for a boarding school in Switzerland and decided to take it to grow professionally.

Living as an expat has done a little bit more than help my career. It has also allowed me to know great people, see the world and grow as a human being.

Leysin, Switzerland

The reason I searched for a job abroad was because I wanted to write Ruby code on the job and not only on the side and I wasn’t able to find any local jobs in Guatemala. The reason why I applied to a job in Europe was because I thought it would be a good way to train for when I applied to a job in the US but I ended up loving it so much that it’s not in my plans to move to the US in the foreseeable future.

Leysin is a small ski and boarding schools village in canton Vaud, on the French speaking region of Switzerland. To get there, you need to take an hour and a half train from Geneva airport passing all the beautiful cities around lake Geneva until you reach Aigle. From there, you take a cog train up the mountain for another 30 minutes.

Before leaving Guatemala, I sold everything I owned so when I arrived to Leysin I had nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and a backpack. I didn’t own much more during my stay because I was living in a furnished studio and walking home. Living this way showed me a lot about what’s really essential to life and that everything on top of that doesn’t necessarily add up to living well.

It was the most challenging of my experiences abroad because my wife and I spent two years apart. Being far way from the person you love, for such a long period of time, requires a lot of energy and I’d never attempt to do this willingly again. However because all we were able to do during this time was to talk, we did so every day. To this day we still reap the benefits from having learned to communicate well early in our relationship.

You should go to Leysin if you’re interested in the breath taking views of the French Alps, a good hike, and the best fondue and mille-feuilles in the world.

Nuremberg, Germany

After Leysin, I was almost ready to move back to Guatemala but my wife and I both found good career opportunities in Nuremberg at the last minute. Me working for SUSE Linux and my wife doing a masters degree in human rights. On top of that, this was also a good opportunity to experience live abroad as a couple so we went for it.

Nuremberg is a mid size city in the region of Franconia in the south of Germany. It’s famously known for hosting the Nuremberg Trials after WWII and the biggest X-mas market in the world with more than one million visitors each year.

This time we decided to rent an unfurnished apartment and make it our home. However, we only bought those things which we really needed or liked e.g. we don’t own a microwave oven. This dramatically increased our footprint but not so much that we were not flexible to move again if we wanted to.

You should visit Nuremberg if you want to experience the traditional German culture with some of the best beer and sausages and a beautiful medieval old town.

Berlin, Germany

After Gretel finished her degree, she started looking for jobs but the options were very limited in Nuremberg so we decided to move to a bigger city. Berlin was our top choice so I took a job at a local company while Gretel searched for work in her field.

Mostly known for being Germany’s capital and the home of the Berlin Wall, the city is full of history, art and cultural events. The cuisine was one of the most diverse I’ve found in Europe with good quality while staying cheap. It’s the only city outside Guatemala where I’ve found a place that serves Guatemalan tamales.

We lived in the Friedrichshain district, just a block from the famous Rigaer Straße, which is full of punks, squatters and collective pubs. We loved it there and could have probably stayed for another couple of years.

You should visit Berlin if you want to party, have multiple cultural options of things to do, join a tech startup or an underground group.

Ghent, Belgium

The reason why we left Berlin, was that Gretel got accepted to do a PhD research in the University of Ghent. I decided to quit my job and join her on a reunification visa and search for something once I settled in. This was the first time I was following Gretel and not the other way around and we were very excited about that. I ended up taking a job in Brussels.

Ghent is a university city in the Flanders region of Belgium. They speak Flemish, but everyone I’ve talked can speak English without a problem. It has a very unique left-wing but posh vibe, which I don’t really get the hang of just yet, but I really enjoy it.

My first experience with this city was back in 2012, when I went to a tech conference. It left a very good impression on me, so when

You should visit Ghent if you are into good coffee and hipster coffee shops, vegetarian food, chocolate, beer and fries.

Where Next?

I don’t know where we’ll go next, but I know that we won’t stay in Ghent forever. Where we go, depends on the work options my wife is able to find. Thanks to my line of job in tech, I’m a bit more flexible.

If I could choose, I I’d like to go somewhere in Latin America. Mexico City and Sao Paulo would be at the top of my list, but I’d be open to many more. But before that I’d like to go to Japan and stay there for a couple of months.