Cleo Shahteet has lived in Mandria, Cyprus, for three years, he moved there from West Virginia, USA with his wife and child. Out of the hundreds of reasons people could give for wanting to leave their home country, pure curiosity actually figures quite highly. Fed up with cold weather, lack of job opportunities and even just boredom can lead peoples mind to wander to foreign plains. Many people have more practical reasons for wanting to move abroad but for Cleo Shahteet, downright curiosity was the original reason he considered a life elsewhere. ‘At the time, things in America were difficult. I didn’t agree with any of President Bush’s policies and was starting to wonder if I should make my life elsewhere’.
Many people get fed up with unpopular politicians and feel frustrated with the way their country is headed. Depending on the media in your country, you can sometimes feel like there’s a better life elsewhere. But what gives people the push — to believe they can survive in an alien environment? For Cleo, he was absolutely sure he could acclimatise with different ideals and culture because he already had. ‘I was actually born in Amman in Jordan but moved to America when I was ten years old,’ he explains. ‘I was granted US citizenship and the place has always felt like home to me’. Cleo had made an exciting move before and had loved the country he came to call his own. But that was just proof that he could easily move again. Unlike most of us, the idea wasn’t even slightly daunting.
If you’re thinking of moving then the timing must be right and Cleo began to feel that he was in a now or never situation. ‘My son was young and I knew moving wouldn’t affect him too badly at that age, I wanted to try it out whilst he was still young’. Although the seed of thought was planted, there was another factor that almost pushed Cleo into thinking of moving abroad. Like most men, he couldn’t resist the repetitive demands of his Mum!
‘My wife grew up in Cyprus — her step-Dad is Cypriot and my Mom was living back in Amman which is only a short flight away from Cyprus’. ‘With all of our family living in that area, we thought it would be nice for our son to grow up around his grandparents’. And since Cleo had got so much out of his move at a young age, he felt sure it would be positive thing for his child.
For many people, it’s when they enter into a different stage in their life, for Cleo this was parenting, that makes them reconsider where to call home. After all, when you have a child you have to choose what type of environment you would want them to grow up in. ‘When it came to actually making the leap and moving there my Mother and Father in law were the ones who convinced us to do it’ he confesses.
When he set his mind on his new life it was obvious they would move to the area in Cyprus where Cleo’s in-law’s lived, Mandria. His son was a baby and so there weren’t any complications with schools. However, the one downfall to moving away was that Cleo had to give up something he’d worked his whole life on achieving.
Having always wanted to own his very own restaurant, five years ago, after years of planning and waiting, Cleo was finally able to buy one. ‘I put in five years of hard work and it was finally getting off the ground — it was tough to leave it behind’. Apart from his restaurant Cleo says there are no real obstacles that stood in the way — if you think you can do it, you can.
Cleo and his family made the decision to move, said goodbye to their friends and home and threw themselves into life in Mandria. Although having flown over many times to visit family and being pretty familiar with the country, there was still a bit of a culture shock. ‘The work ethic is so much slower, in fact the whole pace of life is,’ he explains. ‘There’s a really small population here which means a lack of choices, something we took for granted when we lived in America’. It just goes to show the pros and cons you have to weigh up. If you’re moving to a place because you want peace and quiet you’ll have to except there will be very few amenities. It’s very, very rarely that you can find the best of both worlds and the people who have done this, usually have had to work at it.
‘I do miss the choice,’ Cleo confesses, ‘I miss the food we have at home, I miss sports like American Football and I miss the US holidays like July the 4th and thanksgiving — they have special memories for me’. The degree to which Cleo misses these things from America just goes to show how easy it is to become completely involved with a country. After all, America is not Cleo’s home country — yet he still feels an affinity to it. It also exemplifies that just because there are things you dislike about your hometown does not necessarily mean it will be better elsewhere. You may be sacrificing one lot of negatives to just to take on a different bunch of downsides.
When asked if he would move back home the answer needs no mulling over. ’Yes I would. I think the US has a great educational system, especially in Northern Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C, where we used to live. Schools are free there and offer so many choices for the kids. The area also has so much to offer, lots of activities and cultural experiences which would prepare my kids for college’. Having adapted to American life so much, it seems Cleo just can’t let go of some things that are intrinsic in American culture. ‘The sports in America are great for my boys, there is loads for them to get involved in,’ he adds. ‘The kids are still young though, so we still have a few years’. From the sounds of it Cleo is pretty convinced that when the kids reach school age he’ll return to the states. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. Some people move for 6 months, a year, some will move and then live there for the rest of their lives. However, it does depend what stage of your life you are in. Elderly couples about to retire are the most likely to emigrate — they have no strings or jobs, the children are grown up, the only thing they need to worry about it where they want to live. However, for people like Cleo, the dream may just not fit in with the reality and if the circumstances aren’t the best for your family, there’s no choice but to move. And family comes first for Cleo, especially after having another baby whilst being in Cyprus.
There are huge positive aspects to Cleo’s life in Cyprus, which is perhaps why he wants to stay on there until his children get to school age. ‘I get to spend so much more quality time with my kids and can now work from home all the time,’ Cleo boasts. He has set himself up in a profession, which is easy to move around. He’s always been an entrepreneur so can set his hand to forming any type of business. However, for others, moving career will be one of the most difficult aspects in moving abroad. As well as having more time with the family, the country in general offers a lot more security. ‘We feel safer, there’s less crime, it’s easy to travel around and of course the weather in the winter is glorious’. It seems that weather is an integral part of choosing where to move. Proved by the amount of snowbirds that fluctuate to southern climates during the winter. Some of us just can’t handle the cold. Winters in West Virginia can be chilly, so Cleo loves the fact he can now enjoy the outside, every month of the year, thanks to the mild climate.
However, Cleo still notices the difference in the amount of activities on offer. ‘We still do the same things we used to at home, except now it’s Limassol Zoo instead of the National Zoo or a walk to the harbour instead of a walk around our local lake’. ‘There is a difference though, in America we had loads of choices, we could do something different every day if we wanted to, in Cyprus it’s far more limiting’. Despite the drawbacks Cleo still enjoys Cyprus, even if it doesn’t look to be a permanent move.
‘It’s relaxing here and that’s exactly what we need whilst the children are still so young’. With such a varied and contrasting experience of emigration it seems there is a lot to learn from Cleo’s move. One of the most interesting things to note is that it was his home countries politics that had originally got him thinking about leaving. He was fed up with the president. However, with Obama now in power, Cleo feels completely different about the States and is excited about the new administration. In some ways, he’s taking the break he needed.
Cleo’s move also proves that your motives for emigrating need to be clear. Is it for the long haul? Temporarily? Are you just trying it out? As Cleo shows, there may be things you hate about your own country but the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Cleo’s used his emigration wisely, for the time of life he’s in, but will return home to make use of the fantastic schools and home life. It’s important to take into account the services like this you may take for granted. If you live in a country with expensive living costs it can be easy to think that wherever you move to must surely be cheaper. But it’s incredibly important to do your research. When you try the place out, buy all the things you normally would in a week, shopping, groceries etc and compare it to your receipts at home. Cleo thankfully knew what he was getting himself in for, although, thanks to having close family around him, was given a helping hand. ‘It is much more expensive here. My father-in-law kindly set a house up for us before we moved. He paid it all up so we had no mortgage or rent, nothing. We’d never been in a position like that before so imagined our life would be relatively cheap. However, groceries, electricity and utility bills are generally more expensive then we were paying at home’. Thankfully, due to the lack of housing payments, Cleo’s family can afford the hike in prices.
Cleo’s other advice is: ‘Do your research, research and more research. Also think of spending at least 1 to 2 months in the city you plan on moving to before actually do it. If you can it’s best to try it out for 6 months. That way you know it inside out before making the leap’