How To... Make the Move Abroad
Chris Kiser, EP and new business director at Glassworks Amsterdam, reflects on his transatlantic move from New York to the Netherlands.
In the summer of 2018, my wife and I made a decision to leave our comfortable, established life in NYC for a new experience in Europe.
It had been a dream of ours to live overseas and after crossing the decade mark in New York, we realised it was quickly becoming a now or never situation. Certain political climates, both local and abroad, were all the more reason for us to take the leap.
Oh, the places we (could) go.
As a typical monolingual American, my natural inclination was to aim for London as a destination. Even though I am the spouse of a British subject, the path to living and working in the UK was prohibitive for a number of reasons. When we expanded our search to other places with good film production and ad industries, Amsterdam quickly jumped to the top of the list. Brexit was closing the window for easily using a UK passport to live in the EU and also seemed likely to boost Amsterdam as a top destination for international business in a place which has been ranked with the most proficient non-native English speakers in the world.
Same same, but different
After an initial investigation into the landscape in Amsterdam, I saw a number of similarities to what I was used to in NYC. Big brands and corporations have roots or recently planted their EMEA flag in the Netherlands, including heavy hitters such as Nike, Adidas, Philips, and Netflix, among others. Many of my friends and clients at New York production companies and creative agencies like Wieden+Kennedy, 72andSunny, and Anomaly were happy to extend introductions to their European counterparts on my behalf. These connections helped confirm that a global creative hub such as Amsterdam would be a viable place to land. I found my new home at the renowned international VFX boutique, Glassworks, and dove right into a new assignment as executive producer and new business director.
Production in a foreign land
Although my production experience ranged from feature-length to six-second snippets across the United States at companies big and small, my international experience was limited to shooting abroad and the occasional foreign client bringing a project to the states. It’s easy to stereotype a local industry with the typical assumptions of a country’s culture, but we are more alike than you may think. As you would suspect, budgets are tight, turnaround times are shrinking, and the competition is fierce wherever you go. I will say the value of having a life outside of work that is prevalent across Europe manages to seep into production in a way rarely seen in the US. This doesn’t mean that people don’t work hard, but it does encourage everyone to wrap things up and get home for dinner whenever possible. There’s that and the advantage of paid time off well beyond the two week standard, of course.
The pitfalls of puppy pit stops
On the personal side of things, we came across a few challenges getting used to our new home town. The laid-back lifestyle was a bit of a shock for a couple of spoiled Americans and our small dog with a well-developed Brooklyn attitude. The first thing that hit us was not being able to order takeaway at midnight or even find a place serving a proper meal past 22:00 (practicing 24 hour time here). We fully embraced the new-found freedom of taking Nash, the dog, with us everywhere we went – cafés, bars, an occasional museum, and even our mandatory new apartment trip to IKEA. Most places are happy to have your pet as a dining or shopping companion, but it turns out the giant blue maze is not one. We found that out the hard way, whilst being escorted out by security, thanks in part to little Nash pausing in the middle of an aisle to make a puppy pit stop. We decided after that it was best to embrace small businesses and local markets, especially the outdoor variety to avoid any further embarrassments.
Doing a Marie Kondo on clutter
It was important for us not to leave any loose ends back home that would set a time limit on our adventures abroad. We did a bit of a Marie Kondo-style purge of worldly belongings to make our physical footprint as tight as possible and detached ourselves from leases, phone contracts, etc. Even though we did not have an exact length of stay in mind, we wanted to ensure it would be our decision when to return and to have the flexibility to choose any future destinations. We plan to return to visit family and friends and also hope to find work opportunities to bridge the old world with the new one.
Following in the footsteps of generations past
I take inspiration from my ancestors and others that have uprooted their lives to travel to a foreign land. As adventurous as I am, I really don’t think I would have made the decision to move if it weren’t for the online tools available today, global connections through social media, and access to key advisors who paved the way. Navigating the bureaucracy of apartment rentals and visa basics would be daunting enough, but there is a plethora of information available on the web and many people willing to lend a hand once you put out the call.
"I want to inspire others to take a chance and go on the adventure of their choosing."
It is not lost on me that a move to another country was a choice for me while others often move due to more desperate circumstances. For all of us, it’s a new start in a new place in which you hope you will be welcomed by those you meet and supported by those you leave behind. I am thankful for everyone along my journey that helped make it possible for me and I want to inspire others to take a chance and go on the adventure of their choosing. You never know what the next political shift, environmental change, or personal life event may be, but you do have the power to choose your own adventure and now is certainly better than never.
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