Expat Life: Cursed as Soon as I Open my Mouth!

Cursed is a strong word, maybe I shouldn’t say that.  But in small town America, I stick out like a sore thumb.  As soon as I open my mouth and speak I get bombarded with questions.  At first it was a bit novel but after over 2 months of answering the same questions on a weekly basis, I’m getting tired of having to tell the same story over and over and over and over again!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely that people are interested in finding out about me and why I’m here.  For the most part everyone has been very welcoming and they say they love my accent which certainly beats one rude drunk man that I encountered in the week that looked at me with disgust and went “What are you? Mexican or something?”  Guess I had to experience racism at some point and I’m not going to lie, it shocked me a little bit.

On a lighter note, I thought I would share with everyone the questions that I’m asked the most as a Brit in America and answer them again for the benefit of any readers that may not know my back story (I’ve pretty much got my answers on auto pilot now after all!).

  • Where’s that accent come from?

Yep, I’m a Brit!  From England…and as I tell everyone that asks here…just outside of London.  Compared to the distances in America, I am close to London.  I was born in Braintree, Essex.  It’s an hours train ride away from the centre of London or after 30 minutes of driving, there’s a certain hill on the M11 motorway where you can see the London skyline including the Shard tower and Canary Wharf.  I lived there for 27 years and now I’m here it’s surprised me just how much I miss being there.

  • I know someone that lives/used to live/has just got back from/is currently visiting [INSERT ENGLAND TOWN NOW HERE] is that near you?

Just like the question above, I usually say yes.  The majority of places that I’m asked about are within around a 3 hour radius of my hometown in Essex.  If I was to drive 3 hours west, I’d still be in Iowa.  To reach the opposite side of Iowa, driving in a straight line, it’d be around a 5 hour journey.  To give an idea of size and distance, from Essex, going North – I could reach the border of Scotland in this time, going South – have driven to France, going West – almost have reached the opposite side of England or certainly have got into Wales…and East – well I’d be in the sea, it’s less than 40 miles to the coast.  A lot of the time it’ll be people that knew of friends or family members living on the US military air bases (or the old ones that are no longer there).

  • What brings you to Iowa?

I married someone from just outside of Dubuque.

  • How did you meet?

We were both on holiday in Jamaica and just so happened to meet in the swimming pool.  3 years later…!  People always seem really intrigued before they ask this question, like how was an Iowan in a place to meet a Brit as we seem to be a rare nationality over here.  Jamaica is not an answer they expect to hear!

  • Did your Husband live with you in England?

Nope.  We were long distance from January 2014 until my Permanent Resident Visa was approved and I flew over in August 2016.  We saw each other roughly once every 4-5 months.  Either I would fly to America, he would fly to England or on one occasion it worked out cheaper for us to meet in Mexico.  Visas wouldn’t allow us to live in the same country together and this way we could both stay in work the whole time until something more permanent was sorted out.

  • Do you like it here?

Now the quick polite ‘small talk’ answer I give is:  Yeah, it’s different, I’m slowly getting used to it.  But in reality it’s really hard.  I miss my family back home, I miss parts of my old life, I HATE paying health insurance and expensive phone contracts (especially as I can never get a signal), I’m lonely and I’m counting down the days until I can get back on a plane and go traveling again…if what’s left of my tiny wage can afford it.  I’m sure I’ll settle down eventually but I never realised that the culture shock going between two ‘first world’ countries would be so huge!

  • Are you used to the weather yet?

At the moment, the weather is the part I’m loving.  It’s nearly November and I’m still wearing shorts.  (I seem to have little legs so jeans are always too long…shorts always fit no matter what so they make me happy and I live in them for as long as humanly possible).  I’m dreading the winter though.  We rarely get snow in England and last year (2015/2016), I only had to scrape my car window 3 times because we didn’t even really get below freezing.  Iowa winters are well below freezing and often bring lots of snow.  England comes to a grinding halt even if we get less than an inch of the white stuff.  I’m hoping there won’t be too many problems on the roads, especially with my lack of phone signal…if I get stuck, who knows how long I’ll be waiting before someone finds me!

  • What’s it Like Driving on the Wrong Side of the Road??

It’s actually not that bad, I found that I picked it up quite easily.  The only time I really have to think about it is if I drive really late at night and I’m getting tired…it’s like ‘stay on the right, stay on the right, stay on the right!’.  I had to take a practical and theory Iowa driving test, so I now hold an Iowa Driving License.  I find the roads much emptier compared to the roads at home and driving an automatic is a bit like driving a go kart.  Cruise control is also amazing!  I’m not looking forward to driving in the snow though!

  • What do people in England think about our Election?

My answer to this is kinda along the lines of “Poor America”.  The way it’s portrayed on the TV in the UK is very much who is the best pick out of a bad bunch.  (I’m sorry for any British people who do not share this view, sometimes it feels like I’m being put on the spot and being made to be the spokesperson for a whole country!).  I wrote this post [HERE] on my view of the election as a Brit living in the States.

Are there any questions you have about my life as a British Expat or my life in America/Iowa?  Feel free to comment and let me know!

Expat Accent

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18 thoughts on “Expat Life: Cursed as Soon as I Open my Mouth!

  1. I kinda guess my Cream Teas & Cornwall pics stirred a few memories for you, sorry old girl, but here in Blighty we haven’t got the sunshine as much, so a pint of cider in a pub and moan about the weather will have to do 😁

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  2. I still get the “Do you like it here?” question, and I feel I answer more honestly now that I’ve been here longer and am more settled. You’re right, though, the culture shock was a lot more extreme than I ever expected, and it can be lonely at times; I think it’s something that really only other expats can understand. I definitely recommend joining travel or expat meet-ups if there are any in your area 🙂 I joined a Scottish expats meet-up a few months ago and it’s been brilliant – sometimes it’s just nice to have a chat and a laugh with a group of people who have the same cultural touchstones and references you do!

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    1. Yeah I looked in to an expat group but I can’t find anything! I’m in the middle of no where, I think there are British groups in Des Moines and Chicago but they are both 3 hours away! I’m finding more Midwest and Iowa travel blogging groups so I’m hoping that helps!

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      1. Yeah I find a lot of people around here don’t have the time or money to travel so I feel lost not being able to talk about it all the time! It’s a case of ‘oh I’ll love to go to X but I probably never will’, no one has to drive to make dreams happen!

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    2. Great ideas Katie and Kylie. I’m a little worried about the feeling lonely part (and sometimes I can be a bit of a hermit!) so it’s good to know about expat meet-ups. I’d never heard of Travel Massive before, but I think I will check it out.

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      1. Yeah definitely try and make your own friends. My husband’s friends are all very nice but I like have people that I can call my own as such!

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  3. I have free national calls if you want to chat to a Brit who is here. I think I have been lucky in some sense that with face time and email I still chat with friends and my sisters as often as I did before. (Lived out in East Anglia with no car) Missing my parents will always be with me and can’t be fixed, although I am glad my American Politics teaching dad didn’t see Trump. I do resent the health payments and cell phone bills too lol. But I love it here in all the day to day ways. We had our first snow already.

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    1. Yeah I still FaceTime home every day, it’s definitely a life saver! Health insurance truly is awful, my premium went up by 40%!! I’ve switched companies ready for January, I just wouldn’t be able to afford it! I think we’re due snow tomorrow! I’m still settling in, it doesn’t really feel like home yet!

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  4. Hi Kylie, stumbled on your blog a couple of months ago and have enjoyed reading your posts, many of which I can really relate to. Its also been helpful practically as my scenario is very similar to yours – I’m a Brit who married an Iowan, and, after 9 months of bureaucracy, have just received my visa to return permanently. My wife and I have been living in Korea for the last two years and will be heading home to Cedar Rapids in March.
    Thanks for taking the time share all your information and insight!

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  5. haha! The times I have visited I’m treated a little bit like a celebrity because of the accent and my husband says he has never received so much attention! Though I’m sure it will get tired once I’m out there permanently…

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