My Way Home
11.04.2015Armenian by Birth
How To ‘Repat’ Part Two: Making It Here
Specially for Repat Armenia
By Raffi Elliott
Now that you’ve visited and fallen in love with Armenia, you should better understand why so many of us have chosen to make our lives here. This isn’t to say that everything is rosy of course. We face daily challenges, and regularly rethink our decision to stay. But each time, you find the rewards still far outweigh the costs. To ease your transition into life Armenia-style, I will save you the trouble of finding some things out by yourself with this handy “do and don’t” guide to life in Armenia.
DO weigh all your options before deciding to move to Armenia:
One point that can’t be stressed enough is the need to understand the place you’re going to BEFORE making your decision. I have met too many people who came with rosy expectations and no concrete plans, only to come across them later at Zvartnots Airport waiting on a flight back home. Armenia is a developing country and this comes with a set of challenges and realities. Don’t consider trying to live in Armenia without understanding that. If that’s too much to ask, being a tourist or contributing from a distance is probably best for you.
DON’T come without a plan
This happens more often than you’d expect. With the World Economic Crisis making it ever so hard for young graduates around the world to find work, extended vacations to Armenia routinely drag on for years. While these people profess to wanting to live like Armenians, they’re packed and gone once the bank account runs dry. For those who truly want to live in Armenia, it’s worth setting realistic expectations. Set a budget, find out how much you can afford, preferably come with a job, and plot a future.
DO become an entrepreneur
Though I mentioned the importance of landing a job before coming to Armenia, that doesn’t mean you should stick to it. This could very well act as a stepping stone towards a successful career in Armenia. Armenia is a small and relatively new country, meaning that there are A LOT of things to do here, and few people willing or able to do them. If you have a unique set of applicable skills, why not find a way to put them to good use? When I first moved to Armenia, my mother made sure to tell me “not to compete (read rob) for jobs with the locals”, so when I arrived, I looked at the resources at my disposal, and became an entrepreneur. Thanks to recent amendments to Armenia’s startup laws, and a very robust tech scene, it has never been easier to start a business in Armenia.
DON’T live in a bubble:
You’ve moved to Armenia to regain your rightful place as part of this great nation. Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity by getting involved in the country’s social life. Try to understand how people think, and how you could contribute your knowledge and experience to that of your peers. If you’re living in Armenia with the same neighbours you had in Los Angeles, you’re “Repat”-ing wrong!
Do be part of the discussion:
As a new repatriate, you have essentially two responsibilities: 1- to discover and understand the traditions, history and culture of your ancestral land and 2- to figure out how you can contribute to making it a better place. Much of the recent socio-cultural development in Armenia has been fueled, at least in part, by diaspora involvement. From Yerevan’s thriving nightlife scene, an enthusiastic guerrilla gardening movement, to ongoing political awakening of the country’s new generation, there are countless ways to become engaged with the vigor of today’s Armenia. Once you feel comfortable with your knowledge of Armenia’s internals, be part of the discussion. Don’t be afraid to share ideas, innovate, take part, and help build the country that we all want our children to live in.
DON’T Assimilate, but Integrate:
As the saying goes, if an Armenian finds himself on a desert island, the first thing he does is to build two churches: one he prays at, the one he avoids. Divisions are an all too common part of Armenian society, and the same noxious spirit arises when discussing repatriation.
The Republic of Armenia’s Motto is “One Nation, One Culture”. A more fitting motto is “Unity in Diversity”. It is the unique experiences that Armenians from around the world bring to the table which make the Armenian nation that much more resilient and dynamic in the 21st century. Indeed, as most repats are, by definition, from somewhere else, we have to undergo a period of adjustment when re-settling in our homeland.
Most national success stories tend to involve countries built by immigrants: Canada, the United States, and especially Israel come to mind; people with various sets of complementary experiences working together to build a stronger homeland. Imagine a country where, through an infusion of argentinian-Armenian repats could be a world renowned center for Tango, or Australian BBQ, all while remaining Armenian.
To what extent are we expected to acculturate to the local environment, and to what extent are we to preserve the heritage of our adoptive countries is a personal choice, but the idea is that every single repatriation should be a net gain for Armenia.
DO invite your friends to join you:
You’ve been in Armenia for a while, and miss your family and friends? Invite them to join you in the homeland. Give them constant updates about your life here, and offer them tips on how they visit, contribute and potentially move to Armenia. Everyone has a role to play in this nation-(re)building experience. This way, you’ll get to live in your country, and insists that your friends and family join you.
Hopefully this guide helps make your repatriation a success for yourself and your homeland.
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