After almost 9 years, I've decided to leave London and the UK.
Blaming the pandemic for this decision is easy, but there are prior and maybe more important factors that led to this decision.
From Pisa to London
I moved to London in 2011 when I was still a student in Pisa, thanks to the Erasmus program, that granted EU students the ability to move to another country and study for a semester.
It was a much more difficult move I had expected, in part because my English skills were much poorer than I thought. Secondly, because London was so very, very expensive.
Afterwards I had the possibility to work at KCL as an intern, a job that then became a fixed-term contract. As a 21-year-old not yet graduated, this was unreal.
You don't get possibilities like this everywhere, but in London everything is possible - which is also what makes it so special.
The early days in London and why I miss them
When I arrived in London, the vibe around the Old Street/Shoreditch area was unbelievably energetic. The coffee shops, coworking spaces, pubs: you could see people coding anywhere, anytime.
The motivation and inspiration I gained from just being able to be around people with similar passions and values is still one of my best memories about the city.
I had the pleasure to work in one of the first WeWork in the city. Despite what you think about the company itself, I can never forget the time spent in there, with loads of companies working on the coolest products in town, and the brightest minds a few chairs away.
New companies were growing: I still remember the Monzo (remember Mondo?) launch party, when it was still a small startup. It was exciting to see, even just as a spectator.
The beginning of the end
It all started around the time of the Brexit vote: a feeling of gloominess suddenly hit the city. The day after the Brexit vote was still one of the weirdest days I remember of my time in London. Most people I talked to were dumbfounded.
It was the first time I started thinking about leaving the city, but it wasn't the right time: London has still too much to offer.
I would become a contractor only months later, and I started working for some of the best financial companies in London: SocGen and Barclays, where I helped write financial software used by thousands of traders every day to move unbelievable sums of money.
It was a dream come true.
Although working in finance is not as exuberant as you may think, it was probably the time I grew the most as a software developer. It was the first time I had architectural responsibilities, and my decisions had never been as impactful for the product I was building.
Not to mention, the domain was both the hardest and the most challenging piece of work I have had to deal with. It wasn't just about writing the technology, but also understanding the logic and the finance behind the product.
Admittedly, to this day I am still very bad at it.
After spending months by myself in my flat in London finishing my last contract, I decided to apply for a Taiwan Gold Visa to rejoin my girlfriend in Taipei.
Goodbye, London 🇬🇧.
See you soon, Taipei 🇹🇼