Richard left the UK to live in Lithuania with his wife and son in July 2019.
1) How did you feel on 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
I was in a state of shock and utter disbelief! I could not understand how this had been allowed to happen. I was very angry for some time mainly directed at the tactics used by Farage et al. I could not believe that they were being allowed to get away with false claims (anybody selling products / concepts /ideas under false pretences would be dragged through the courts and scandalised within the news media)
At the time I was working as a Senior Manager within the private Health Care Sector and having to go into the services following the result and facing the frontline staff (predominantly non-British) was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I felt as if the country that they had given their all to had slapped them in the face.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
Worry – mainly around my Wife, Son, and some friends. My wife is Lithuanian( but had lived in the UK for the last 15 years), my son, although British has a Lithuanian forename and my friends mostly comprising of Polish, Lithuanian and overseas people were going to face a tough time as the move toward the UK leaving gathered pace. It was already being reported that hate crimes were on the increase since the vote.
We all know how cruel children can be and my son was still in Primary School and faced the possible taunting and name calling being witnessed elsewhere.
The Consumerism Culture – I had become totally disillusioned with the way of life in the UK. Working all hours god sends just to pay bills and basic living costs. House prices had gone ridiculous, but wages remained relatively static. The never-ending circle of spending and debt just to “fit in”
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
My wife had been aware of my despondency of having to work until you drop just to survive which was having a detrimental effect on my mental health. She floated the idea one evening of selling up and moving to another country. To basically get back to living our lives and reducing our impact on consumerism.
Lithuania was chosen as it was the easiest for two thirds of our family to relocate as both my wife and son are fluent in Lithuanian. My wife’s mother lives in Lithuania after living with us in the UK for many years and during which she struck up a special relationship with Konstantinas who sorely missed her when she returned to Lithuania.
In addition, property, of the type we were looking for- village, farm, is relatively cheap. As an example, the property we left in the UK was a 3 bed semi with a small garden. This property sold for 6 times the amount of the property we bought in Lithuania which is a 12-room house in its own substantial plot of land complete with another detached house, 3 large barns and apple and plum orchards. In the UK you would have to either be very well off or to have won the lottery to gain what we have now in Lithuania.
The biggest driving force though was the promise of getting up and close to nature which we certainly have achieved and boy are we up close… within three weeks of us arriving at our new home we had a wolf stroll through our land ! Mind you not all nature is so awe inspiring such as the plagues of Horse flies in the summer and the Giant European Hornets…if you have never seen / experienced one of these behemoths before, pray that you don’t. They are the pure embodiment of evil…and with an attitude. These buggers are aggressive and HUGE with a capital aaarrrggh!
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
I do not have citizenship for Lithuania, I have a 5-year Residency Permit. I think the current length of stay to gain citizenship is 7 years (if your spouse is Lithuanian) I was hoping to obtain EU Citizenship but the process is too convoluted now as I could apply as a British Citizen but I do not have an address in the UK.
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
Ideally, in my mind, I never want to return to the UK. However, it is not just me and at present my wife and son are not 100% OK with remaining here in favour of the UK. Whilst village life is idyllic it does come with some drawbacks for the nurturing of a growing child in terms of social identity and awareness. Also, as my age increases then so does my health have a likelihood of decreasing. As I cannot speak Lithuanian this puts a lot of pressure on my wife for medical arrangements etc. At present we are staying for another 2 years minimum and then review the situation.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest you challenge you faced in moving?
The most difficult aspect I would have to say was saying goodbye to my family and our friends. All my family reside in the UK including my 93-year-old Mother. Also, saying goodbye to a life and property that I had spent my life building. Some may say “but that was your choice ” and I would say yes it was but I believe it was a choice I was forced to make due to no longer “fitting in” with the place of my birth.
The greatest challenge was the logistics of moving everything and everyone (including Geoff) over to Lithuania. We would not fly Geoff out as it would be too traumatic for him. So, we basically hired a minibus in Lithuania to drive over to the UK to pick us all up and then drive across Europe to Lithuania. In all a 23-hour road trip, nonstop bar toilet breaks. As for all our worldly goods we hired a 17-meter articulated truck plus driver from Lithuania to come over, load all our possessions on the lorry and take to Lithuania. The Lorry set off on the Thursday and we set off on the Sunday morning. The lorry arrived 12 hours after we did.
We chose to use the Lithuanian vehicles and drivers due to the different in cost. If we had used British companies the same trips worked out to be over £7000 more expensive than the Lithuanian services for exactly the same journeys / vehicles.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
In terms of the UK as a place to live I do not miss one thing. However, in terms of what is available not necessarily only in the UK but not available here or I should say in rural Lithuania my number one would be BACON! followed closely by a good mature cheddar or cheese that does not taste like it is just a lump of butter. Oddly enough these are two items that you cannot find in the rural areas. Very strange for a country that is reliant on farming / dairy products and pork being one of, if not, the most popular meat sold here.
Purchasing items required for maintenance of the property I was hoping to be able to use online services to overcome my language difficulties. However, away from the main cities there is a distinct lack of online services available.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
The land, the space, the strength of the people. By strength of the people I refer to those living in the villages. I have personally seen significantly older people walking down the road with a yolk on their shoulders carrying milk churns. These people can barely stand up straight even without the yolks.
People in the UK whinge about not having enough benefits to live on and say that their lives are hard…they do not know the meaning of the word.
The people here must chop their own logs to provide heat for the winter, lift buckets of water from their wells as mains water does not exist in many places. They must tend their land by hand to provide enough food to store over winter. I have the utmost respect for these people and that is before you consider the hardships that they faced under Soviet occupation and the subsequent break for independence which was not that long ago.
I also love the “richness” that this country has given my family. The “wealth” I refer to is not material but spiritual/mental/emotional because of the simplicity of life here and the closeness to an unspoilt natural environment. As I mentioned earlier my mental health was deteriorating in the UK. Since being here I am feeling an inner peace that I have not felt in a very long time. I am able to pursue my interest as an Artist (you can see my work on Instagram – @anubisram) The first few months were not all roses and sunshine and both my wife and I had several difficult months coming to terms with the choice we had made. However, we came through the other side of winter with renewed vigour and hope for the future.
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
I have always considered and spoke of myself being a European rather than British. It means a great sense of social inclusion. As a Union of Countries Europe has so much social and cultural diversity to offer its citizens. A shared knowledge of experience and knowledge is the only way to move forward in today’s world. Ideally, a World Union is the way to go, after all we are all Human Beings and passengers on this lump of rock in space – maybe the creation of an Earthling Citizenship is the way forward?
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
I have never considered myself to have had a British Identity. I do not align myself to the “typical” British view on life, race, creed, and culture.
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
It restricted my family from returning to the UK to visit our friends and my elderly mother due to the UK being on the “no go ” list for Lithuania. Even if we could have got a flight, we would have faced 2 week isolation period upon return.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
My answer to this also applies to question 11. I am in the high-risk group of people due to age and having a history of COPD and Bronchitis. As I watched and read of how the UK were approaching Covid 19 it made me happy to be here in Lithuania.
From day one the Lithuanian Government have been clear, decisive, and swift in the actions that they had taken to prevent the spread of Covid 19. Lock down of non-essential businesses and schools was carried out whilst infection numbers were still under 100. The Lithuanian citizens have and still are extremely compliant with their Governments directives which to me shows a sense of respect for their fellow humans regardless.
On the other hand, I was horrified to read of the UK Government response or should I say lack of timely response to the escalating situation that they were facing, albeit of their own doing. I strongly believe that the Government should be held accountable for their management during this crisis and the unnecessary deaths that they had caused due to their lack of timely directives, the stupidity of originally opting for “herd immunity” despite global advice to the contrary.
My beliefs on this matter are based on having theoretical and practical training and experience in infection control and epidemiology.
I can only highly commend Lithuania for their actions and view the British Government with utter contempt for their mismanagement of this in all stages up to present and I have no doubt in all stages in the future.
The British Isles showed their “isolation” from Europe many times during the pandemic around group purchasing of much needed medical equipment at discounted rates in favour of the “I am British we do not need the help of Foreigners” typical attitude.