Europe? USA? I can’t decide!
Published by MartinVarsavsky.net in General with
After a childhood in Argentina I have spent most of my life alternating between the USA and Europe. And for good reason. Both are incredible places to live in. But I just can’t choose one over the other.
Europe for our family means a Madrid base, with a lot of London/Menorca and some Paris, Berlin, and sailing the wonderful Mediterranean Sea. The USA means a NYC base with a lot of Miami and East Hampton and some Bay Area. Because of our 3 young children our Atlantic crossings are limited. I would say we can cross “the pond” at most 4 times a year. The crossings are hard because of flying with a 6 year-old a 2 year-old and now a 3 month-old, and also because US immigration is becoming just horrible. To stand in cattle-like lines for 90 minutes after flying 9 hours is tough for a family. Global Entry does not work for children and babies in a family that is a mix of US and non US citizens including Spanish for which there is no Global Entry. Also because of the type of family we are, we like to be together and I can’t spend more than a week away from my loved ones. I just miss them too much. So we travel together and that makes it hard.
My professional life is mainly running Fon, doing angel investments, and teaching entrepreneurship at great universities. Fon is Madrid-based where we have a great team. We now have a phenomenal NY team as well, but much smaller and for engineering resources Spain is now more competitive. So we design in NYC and build in Spain. Now for angel investments (e.g. my recent Tumblr exit) and teaching both at Columbia and NYU it is better to be in the USA. In Europe however I teach at IE which is also a good choice and I have had another “billion plus” exit in Spain in Eolia where I was a blend of co founder and angel. So all aspects of my professional life can be pursued on both sides of the ocean really with some being temporarily better on one side or the other. It is surprising for many Americans to learn that with all its problems, the GDP of Europe is still considerably larger than that of the USA.
So the race is so close that the last 12 months we spent around 9 in the USA and 3 in Europe. The next ones the proportion will be reversed. We alternate which is not hard because we have homes in NYC, Miami, Sagaponack, Paris, London, Madrid and Menorca. Some consider this a sign of instability but for us it is our life. We find hotels tough with little children and in each home we have what we need.
And then there’s the issue of where is it that children grow up to be better people and here the answer is also split. In my view Europe is better for young children and the USA mostly beats Europe after high school. In general I think the USA has an awesome over 18 culture. What I mean here is that I prefer my children to grow up in Europe and then go to college in the USA as two of my older kids have done. On average I like European values of solidarity and camaraderie better at a young age. I admire European culture and what it does to young children’s vision of society. There is much more emphasis on cooperation than competition. As far as I am concerned it is fine if extreme ambition develops later in life but not at the toddler stage! Competing to get your children in a rat race that starts at 2 (getting into NYC private schools and so on) is not ideal, at least not for our family. And in the USA there is also extreme competition of parents through their children. But when kids are older I love what American ambition can do to motivate them to create, to build, to succeed.
We have also given thought to spending more time in London, where my son Tom goes to Imperial College. If you are in love with US culture and Europe then London is probably the best “in between” choice. London is a kinder version of NYC. A top financial, advertising, some tech center but where people are more “civilized”. What has stopped us from moving there is the weather. The outdoors plays a big part in my life and the 300 days of rain compared to the 70 days of rain say of Madrid, make London a tough choice for our family. Madrid is phenomenal weather wise. Four seasons and yet mostly sunny.
As you can see I can’t strongly favor one side of the Atlantic or the other. More than pros and cons I see pros and pros. I love Europe, I love the USA! I can say that in my view these geographies are better overall than any other part of the planet, at least for us. Certainly better than Latin America where I grew up. I find the cultural and geographic isolation, crime, corruption, and economic inequities of Latin America hard to cope with. Argentina, where I lived as a child, is a beautiful country but it can also be brutal, back stabbing country that has had tremendous political and economic instability. As far as Africa and Asia, Australia, well they are just not a choice for our family. China is fascinating yet extremely polluted and hardly a nice place to live.
Pity the Atlantic Ocean is not narrower, the Concorde that I used to fly was amazing but as proof that not all progress is forward, it is now out of service. It was amazing to cross the ocean in 3 and a half hours! Now it’s back to 7 to 10, and we continue doing it because we love both sides.
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