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Moving Abroad...

Adam Drabik (M0NIQ) on July 5, 2003
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Moving abroad...

We have just had a discussion going on about non-US hams not contributing much here. I decided to make a brave move and publish my first article on eHam. Hopefully more will follow...

I'm very sorry about the pigeon English I'm using here, but it's not my native language, so I will never be as good as you...

I would like to share my experiences when moving to the UK and the Netherlands. Nowadays when Europe is united and EU is extending next year moving between different countries is common.

I've started my professional career as IT engineer in my home country - Poland, but due to work assignment I had to move to London. Well quite a change in my life but at that time I didn't exactly realize how difficult it might be…

I was already holding a Polish license with SQ5BIQ call and took it along with the rest of huge pile of personal documents. My Polish station became QRT for good.

First year in the UK was really difficult and busy; I wasn't having too much time to spend on amateur radio. Well in fact all I had was my trusty old Motorola handheld somewhere deep down in the cupboard... After this "initial period" when I settled down quite well I decided to pursue my hobby and bought the modern handheld, a Kenwood TH-D7E. My old Motorola was faulty beyond the repair and SK forever. I switched the Kenwood on immediately after getting home with the new toy.

I was aware Poland had finally implemented CEPT rules so I could go "on the air" once again. Luckily my first contact on 2-meters was a member of a local radio club. I was given the directions and attended my first Sutton and Cheam Radio Society meeting. The venue was a local football club in Sutton, there was a pub inside so after few pints I finally got the courage to at least say hello to few blokes sitting next to me. They were very friendly and immediately presented me to the whole auditorium hi hi. I signed up, paid the annual subscription and become a new member of SCRS. This was a really good move; I've met so many nice and helpful people there. We had monthly meetings and 2-meter weekly nets.

I realized my M/SQ5BIQ call sign is a bit difficult for some of the OMs. That was the first reason to get a British license. I started to seek for my old Polish license and ... of course couldn't find it at all. My family back in Poland found the sheet and sent it to me immediately. I decided to go for the full license so signed up for the CW exam at the ML&S shop in West London. Well getting up to speed took about four hours of solid practice. I passed the exam with flying colors (bear in mind it was only 5wpm, not the 12 I was able to copy and send years before). Well explanation to the Radio Communication Agency took few minutes and I finally got the full British license after two weeks.

Unfortunately M0BIQ was already issued so I went for M0NIQ call -- nice and easy for CW... My "serious operation" started. After a year my station contained of: Icom IC-706Mk2G, Yaesu FT-847, a short wire (longwire only 15 meters long) and a mobile vertical for 6m/2m/70cm. Not very impressive, but having to live in a block of flats with no flat roof makes it very difficult...

Soon I became interested in multi-multi contest operation and was invited to M4U station near Harwich (east coast of England). From then on I was always invited to the M4U operations and I tried to attend every time I could. The station is organized by Radio Group Harwich club (G0RGH), very very friendly people.

At the beginning of 2003 due to work assignment I had to move on. I have to admit that leaving Britain was not easy -- both of us (I'm married) really liked living there and we left plenty of good friends. The Netherlands was a big question mark to us.

I wasn't wasting the time as I did in the UK, and got on the air immediately after we rented a house. We decided to move out of the Hague and live in a small "suburban" town -- Zoetermeer. The terraced house was a blessing to both of us. My XYL had her little back garden (by little I mean little even by European standards - 30ft by 15ft) and I had the shack room and just enough space to upgrade from a "short wire" to a full size G5RV. The number of rigs also changed because I've bought the superb Kenwood TS-870. Not so long ago I also bought the Ameritron AL-811X so I should be heard bit better on 40 and 80 meters bands. I'm now awaiting for a Dutch call sign (most probably PA5NIQ) So from the ham radio point of view - living in the NL is definitely better than what we had in London, but life out of work or hobby is very very different. The Dutch people are quite closed community and it is very difficult to get assimilated. The expatriates usually form their own groups and those two environments don't really mix well. That's a big difference than what we got used to in London (where almost everyone is a foreigner hi hi).

The only hope was again the ham radio hobby. I've done some research and found the Veron (radio society of the Netherlands) club in the Hague. People there are very friendly and I got a warm welcome. I would advise any visitor to at least pop in when the club meeting is on (every Wednesday evening). They have a Kenwood TS-940 and a G5RV so you may also make few QSOs as PI4GV. There is a small bar with coffee, tea and Heineken if that's your preference hi, hi. I've also got in touch and visited the well-known contest club in Hoek van Holland (very near Rotterdam) - PI4CC. I was also invited to join the IARU HF Championship and hope to join the PI4CC for good. They are also very welcoming people, very friendly and nice. A definite "must go" if you're a ham, and visiting Hague or Rotterdam…

The bottom line is -- if you have any difficulties or troubles, fellow radio amateurs are usually there to help you. The vast majority of those I met were very supportive and helpful. This really cheered me up, despite having quite unfriendly neighborhood. My big thanks to all who are really trying to make a difference to the person in need...

73 de Adam PA/M0NIQ (ex SQ5BIQ)

Member Comments:
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Moving Abroad...  
by LU1DZ on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Many thanks for nice article.
We hope to meet you visiting LU land.
Best regards
Alberto LU1DZ
Moving Abroad...  
by KP4HLR on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Reading your article reminds me of what Ham Radio is all about. When I state "remind" I mean refresh the real meaning of the Hobby. Hams are friendly and ready to help ,so Adam best DX es 73 de KP4HLR 73
RE: Moving Abroad...  
by K0BG on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Adam, there is nothing the matter with your English. Fact is, we'd all be better off if everyone had as good a command of it as you have.

Great article.

Alan, KØBG
Moving Abroad...  
by KY6R on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
In the late 1980's I was lucky to be sent to work in Europe - with an office in London. From London I frequently travelled to our software distributors in France, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

I thought your article was interesting because like you, I found that after a while you find the good in each country. Sometimes a city seems friendly, and sometimes the country seems more friendly. The best thing is that its an adventure - there are no formulas regarding where you will feel most comfortable. Just about every stereotype I had heard about were wrong. I made an effort to learn enough conversational language in at least two countries - and that helped a lot, but my command of those languages was nowhere as good as your English!

I do wish that I would have hooked up with hams in those countries - but my business associates were very nice to me. I taught programming courses for a US software company - so that made it easy to meet people. I guess I was offering something rather than trying to get something which I know makes all the difference. (My company was doing the "getting" I guess).

Good luck and please post again on eHam.
Moving Abroad...  
by KG4YJR on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Nice article Adam. Please encourage others there to speakout too. I've heard before from other hams who have lived abroad or know other hams in other countries that in the US ham operators are over-regulated but that overseas there are a lot of countries where there are less government regulators (like the FCC) but that there are extremely high taxes for getting licensed and for operating amateur radio equipment. What's your opinion?

RE: Moving Abroad...  
by K4TBN on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Nicely written piece.
It would be nice to see more articles like this as it adds more of the 'people' aspect of the hobby.
Moving Abroad...  
by W4ZYT on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Excellent article. Thanks for sharing. I'm pleased to hear that the tradition of welcoming newcomers remains alive and well across borders.
Best wishes to you and your wife in the new QTH. Hope to see you on the air.

Vy 73, Don W4ZYT

RE: Moving Abroad...  
by N6AJR on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Great article, thanks for the insite. Keep us posted and up to date thanks good DX tom N6AJR
Moving Abroad...  
by K7LA on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Adam: Your English is excellent. Thank you for sharing this article. GL and 7 3,
de K7LA Jim
Moving Abroad...  
by K7LA on July 5, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Adam: Your English is excellent. Thank you for sharing this article. GL and 7 3,
de K7LA Jim
RE: Moving Abroad...  
by K8KS on July 6, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Dear Adam,

Yes, I am in total agreement, having operated in EU myself. Thanks again and kudos for a nice article.

H. Kaz Soong
K8KS (ex. JA1YGN)
Currently in Bern, Switzerland and on my way to Koeln (Cologne), Germany
RE: Moving Abroad...  
by G3ZPS on July 6, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Adam, I looked you up in my log and saw we worked a few times on 40m SSB in June 2002. Hope you can keep in touch with us here in the UK, listen on 80m around 3.750 in the evenings. Good luck.. Steve G3ZPS London
Moving Abroad...  
by EA5ON on July 7, 2003 Mail this to a friend!

I thoroughly agree with you. I moved to Spain from the UK 12 years ago and at first had some difficulties getting integrated, and that wasn't just due to the language problem I had at first - even my wife, who's spanish but from a different area, had difficulties! Just as you did, I joined the local club, got my licence sorted out, joined the national society, and all the time had the backing of plenty of local hams. I learned a lot from them, and would like to thank them publicly here for all their help.

And to quote W2VU, I've been paying forward ever since then....!

73 de Duncan EA5ON

Moving Abroad...  
by M0NIQ on July 7, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you all for your encouraging words, I'll try to publish more articles. My English is getting rusty and my Dutch is not getting better hi, hi.

Knowing licensing laws in three countries, I'm more than sure US regulations are overcomplicated.
The UK is a prime example of how easy it may be. There are currently three types of licenses: Full 5wpm code(CEPT A), 30MHz+ no code (CEPT B), Foundation (10W All bands bar 10m; all mode; non-CEPT).
That simplifies things a lot. Generally speaking it suits all needs, no problems with having subbands or another silly ideas.
The Netherlands and Poland have similar systems (both have implemented CEPT requirements) with slight variations. Soon if code ceases to be a requirement for Full licence - there will be just two categories.
Moneywise - well it's not too bad. Full UK licence is valid for one year and renewal costs about 30 pounds (50 bucks). In the NL I believe you have to renew every 5 years and it apparently costs about 100 Euros (110 bucks). In Poland things were even more simple - if you have an old form license (non CEPT form) - they are valid forever or as long as you live (whatever comes first hi hi) and no renewal/subscription fees are collected (yes - it is FREE). If you have a new licence (CEPT form) - it's roughly the same as Holland.
Anyway if you work or are a pensioneer - no big deal at all.
RE: Moving Abroad...  
by JF1GWJ on July 22, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Dzien dobry, Adam. Jak sie masz?

Well. I am a Japanese ham in Manchester UK. I've lived in this mad town for a year previously, and this time since earlier this year to do a graduate programme.

Compared with what we have in JA, I think the UK is a ham heaven in terms of the regulations. In Japan we have to register every bit of equipment to the government, but over here you can just buy or build a radio and use it as soon as you can. Such a big difference! And, the UK RAE seems really easy to me. To have the highest-category licence in Japan, we had to pass a set of morse test, i.e., 12wpm English and 10wpm Japanese, along with a couple of really nerdy paper tests (the JA code test was dropped some years ago, because it was just too painful to most of the DXers).

But, here comes another serious problem. To this day the UK RA hasn't agreed to have a reciprocal agreement with the Japanese government, because our notorious no-code HF licence had been a violation of the ITU-RR until very recently. And, because of the stupidly complicated licensing system, we cannot sign on the CEPT agreement. As a result, my Japanese "First Class Amateur Radio Licence" is a mere piece of paper for me and I need to wait until the RAE in December, leaving my CW skill in a rubbish bin.

I also enjoy travelling, so I cannot wait to sit the exam and have a CEPT licence so that I can take my 2m FM radio on a trip. A few years ago I visited the Eastern part of Europe (including a few Polish towns: Krakow, Wroclaw and Warsaw) and heard many local hams chatting on 2m band, but I couldn't call them, just because of this stupid licencing problem. It was really irritating.

Maybe my patience runs out before December and I may end up in sitting an exam in another country, such as Ireland.

See you later


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