Moved from London, UK in 2016
In September of 2017 Armen Khachatrian and Arpi Kojayan celebrated their first year living in Yerevan.
Armen was born in Yerevan, but moved to London at a young age. He works as a property manager. Part of his work is based back in the UK, however he is working on expanding his portfolio in Yerevan with an upcoming renovation project.
Arpi was born in Lebanon and moved to London when she was just over a year old. She is a qualified Ballet teacher and Armenian dancer. She dances with the State Dance Ensemble of Armenia (Pari Petakan) whilst also working as a freelance Ballet teacher predominantly teaching private lessons. Arpi is currently looking at renting some premises to expand the classes and begin to establish her own Ballet school for students following the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus.
‘’Despite teaching at a prestigious Ballet school, I always felt like I wanted more practical experience as a dancer. This coupled with my love for Armenian dance, led me want to repatriate to pursue the aspect of my career that I had always wanted to further develop. Armen, being the supportive partner that he is, agreed to relocate, and the rest as they say, is history’’.
‘’When the taxi driver asks you what route to take, and you can actually answer, you are not a tourist anymore. As Armenia is growing and emerging, you can potentially be a part of its development. By offering the skills you have, you can help it grow and flourish. If you can’t move for several years then at least relocate temporarily for several months. Every Armenian should experience living in Armenia, the ups, the downs, the feeling of being home and the frustrations that living here can also bring’’, says Armen.
While talking about the integration process Arpi emphasized, that it has actually been quite smooth for them.
‘’We are very lucky to have some relatives on Armen’s side of the family living in Armenia, so we’ve never really felt alone. There’s always been someone there to show us the ropes! I have to say, personally I haven’t had any problems. Maybe it’s because I was expecting to feel more isolated and I was expecting to feel different, that actually I never really did.
Each person who repatriates brings with them a little something; different backgrounds, different mentalities, different cultures and languages, and this is really valuable for Armenia. It’s not about imposing your version of “right” on the people around you, but just by the simple fact of you being different, you inevitably add a new layer to the society that you live in, which makes life more colourful and diverse. It’s about sharing being Armenian, and there is no one right way of being so, we all are, in our own special way’’.
‘’We should have repatriated 5 years earlier’’, says the couple. The life in Armenia can be challenging just as like anywhere else.
‘’There are two main groups of people, those who embrace new challenges and want to better themselves, and those who don’t question the way they have been taught to think, and who feel more comfortable standing with the crowd. I have lots of personal experience with the latter group, and most of the individuals from that group, deep down do want to develop, but they don’t have the confidence to step outside their comfort zone. There is sort of an unwritten behaviour code for them, and lots of things are “amot” and off limits, but you get the sense that deep down they don’t really truly believe everything they preach, but they aren’t brave enough to be different’’, mentions Armen.
From Arpi’s point of view it’s really important to develop as a person, and change is a part of growth. ‘’I think we need to be mindful that we don’t throw away our culture and try to turn Armenia into a country it isn’t. We have a rich culture, however it’s often evident, walking around Yerevan we are losing a valuable piece of ourselves in this effort for people to become more “modern”, for example you can walk past ten different businesses and the majority of them have foreign names simply translated with Armenian letters. I guess what I am trying to say is that we don’t grow by copying someone else, we grow by finding our own unique way’’.
This couple’s secret places (Not anymore):
-‘’On the hills at the back of my grandmother's house in Vernashen, Yegheknadzor watching the sun go down next to an old derelict orange bus’’.
-‘’Walking up the stairs to the changing rooms in the Opera house. Despite its disrepair the building has a wonderful sense of melancholic nostalgia. You can hear different music coming from each floor of the building and it reminds you of our rich heritage and how important it is to nurture and protect it’’.