It’s an interesting time to be living in the UK. The nation is preoccupied with Brexit uncertainty which raises interesting questions about how the UK sees itself, and of course how others see us. We spoke with businessman Dmitry Leus to get his take on London life, from both a business and family perspective.
Dmitry Leus is the founder of Imperium Investments, a family office based in London. He has settled in the UK with his family, a move that he considers positive from both a work and family perspective, regardless of Brexit anxiety. “This country deserves its steady confidence and that confidence should remain, whatever path is taken with Europe.” For Dmitry, the success of the UK, and its ability to thrive, has its roots in the education system, an open and welcoming society and a business-friendly approach.
Dmitry starts with the British education system, in which he currently has two younger children, the other two being grown up already. “I have had a close-up look at the British education system through my younger children and there is a lot that is positive. It is striking for someone born in another country to see how much a British child is allowed to just be and how they are encouraged to express themselves. It is as though they are being offered a chance to learn, rather than being forced into it. Of course this means that children open up much more.”
Some people born in other countries, such as those from France or other countries where the education systems are known to be quite rigid, sometimes are a bit taken aback by the seemingly softer British approach. Did Dmitry and his wife feel the same? He responds: “Relationships between children and other students, as well and between children and teachers seem to be much closer and friendlier here in the UK, compared with other countries. Kids are given quite a lot of freedom until quite a significant age, around 11 or 10 and this has a positive impact. Primary school can often take quite a playful approach but at the same time gives children a good base for further development and education. Their learning seems more enquiry-based and this system allows children to learn and sort themselves out more. This actually fosters a love of learning, which we then see as a great asset in their adult lives. ”
We British are sometimes unsure of how warm a welcome we really give to those who are newcomers. We like to think of London as a great, cosmopolitan melting pot that easily absorbs people from all over the world. But we also know we can have a reputation for being a little frosty. Where does the truth lie from Dmitry’s perspective? He laughs: “Definitely not frosty! There is a strong sense of community in the UK and my family and I received a warm welcome. That community spirit allows you to build and maintain new relationships and collaborate with like-minded people. Whether it’s a membership at a London club or getting involved in local village or town life, I feel as though Britain offers you a way, a chance to find your place.”
How would Dmitry advise others to settle in and make friends? He says: “Joining a club in London that allowed me to practice fencing, the sport I love, meant that I met a lot of like-minded people who share similar interests and values to me. It is easy to understand each other. My passion for fencing and my later decision to get involved in helping to support the British national team have really helped me and my family to feel even more a part of things here in the UK. Helping rising British stars to fund their training and also introducing children to the sport who might otherwise not have had the opportunity – well, that it fulfilling for me and allows me to make a meaningful contribution to this country, something that is very important to me.”
The UK’s tradition of volunteering and charitable giving is also remarked upon by Dmitry. He explains: “There is a culture here of helping others, of getting involved and making a contribution.” He goes on to explain his own strategy of charitable giving. “There are so many causes to support but I think it’s better to focus on an area that really motivates you. For me, the relief of suffering for children is something that underpins the choices I make about charitable giving. Whether it is through supporting children through the psychological challenge of cancer, providing them with entertainment and distraction, or providing special devices to be used at a London hospital to make all those blood tests less scary for children, the aim for me is to make childhood illness less tough, less scarring. I also admire the work of British charity, HealthProm, who work to improve child, baby and maternal health in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and I support them. It’s important to really believe in the work that a charity does or to see the impact and value of charitable projects you initiate. I notice that volunteering and charitable activity seems such a part of the fabric of British life. People care about those around them.”
There is a lot of discussion about work/life balance in the UK. What does Dmitry make of that? He chuckles: “It’s funny. I never thought of work and life as two separate things before I moved here! There was no concept of balance for me. Before I arrived, work basically equaled life. Life in Britain has taught me that this outlook was not right. This country has helped me realise that a balance between work and life is a vital aspect in human life. A person, in order to progress in life, should be able to pause, observe, evaluate, recharge, and move forward. It is important to be able to contemplate, reflect on the things done, which can only be done if you stop and glance at the situation.
The current preoccupation in Britain is the looming Brexit. What is Dmitry’s take, as a relative newcomer, on this momentous step for the country? He responds: “It’s not my place to comment on the original decision to leave. That was a choice for the UK population. But I think this country should continue to be confident. I think that Britain will get through anything whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations. We only have to look at the UK’s past to see how it managed to overcome everything and seems to always find a solution.”