11th August marks the day that I moved from the UK to America 1 year ago. What a rollercoaster ride it has been. Just call me a yoyo because I swear I have been up and down more times than a little…and I’m still partly living out of a suitcase…! Here’s a look at my first year living the expat life.
What I did right
I started at a job within 2 weeks of landing in the States. This provided a huge distraction and gave me a daily routine straight from the off. I had money coming in and I met new people. I started the ball rolling back when I was in the UK. I applied for the job online, even had the phone interview while I was in England (via Skype at 9pm!) and then had the face to face interview the day after I landed! My co-workers are all amazing!
I joined a group for newcomers in the area (Distinctively Dubuque), it forced me out of my comfort zone, I met new people and I learnt a lot about the area. I can’t remember whose blog I read it on, but someone said ‘always say yes’ if you get invited places. So I do try to say yes as much as possible, even if I don’t feel like going out initially. I’m usually glad that I went in the end though!
What I did wrong
…and I’m still doing it wrong. I really struggle to embrace the cultural differences. I should accept that this is where I’m living but I can’t help but feel some of my ‘rights’ have been taken away from me.
I resented the fact my other half got to ‘keep his life’. I’d hold it against him that I had to compromise everything: my family, my hobbies, my friends and he still had all his normality.
The high points
I found the Midwest Travel Bloggers! Such a great group of people that love talking about travel as much as I do! I had the pleasure of meeting up with some of them at the Women in Travel Summit and I’ll hopefully see some more at the Iowa Bloggers Conference at the end of the year!
The expat blogging community is honestly amazing. They are lifesavers. I speak to so many great bloggers who know exactly what it feels like when no one else understands. No matter where in the world we’re all based, it’s a situation we all have in common.
The thing in common with the 2 points above, is my blog. It was one familiar thing that stayed with me during the move and has just gone from strength to strength. It’s given me opportunities, new friends and I love helping and inspiring people.
I beat the USA’s lack of ‘vacation days’ and went overseas for 6 weeks! I work for 28 hours a week, for only 9 months of the year, I have a yearly health insurance bill of $4500 (that’s a lot of holidays) and STILL manage to travel. This years wage paid for Belize and my flights home along with all my local trips. Austria was out of my English savings but I still have money left over in my account. If travel is that important you can find ways to make it a priority!
The low points
There’s no getting around the elephant in the room. The homesickness. Some days it’s unbearable. I’m often made to feel guilty (?) for the way I feel by people who don’t understand…why wouldn’t I be happy in this country? Rather than being there to support me and love me, they just turn their back and shut down on me, making me feel even worse. But it’s completely NORMAL to feel homesick. It’s human emotion. Of course we’re going to have days when we just want to go home. Go back to what’s familiar and be surrounded by our families who love us unconditionally.
I believe it’s important to speak up when we do feel like this. Can you imagine how depressed we’d get if we just kept it to ourselves?! It’s OK to struggle and if any other readers feel the same, please know that I’m always here if you just want someone to release it all to, someone that won’t judge you and understands how you feel. I’m just an email away and I’ll always reply if you need someone 🙂
When you move away, you realise who your real friends are. The people that I have considered my best friends for the last 25 years cut me out of their lives when I left. It made me question if they were truly my friends in the first place? I have one friend who has stuck with me through it all, no matter where in the world we both are, no matter what time zone, she’s always there, now THAT’S a true friend.
The British quirks that I still have!
I always thought the little flag on the mail box was to tell you when you had post (so you just look out the window and see without having to walk allllll the way across the road just to check an empty box). In fact it tells the postman that you have mail that you want to SEND. But I still can’t help but walk down to the proper post box at the post office!
I drink more tea than coffee. I even Googled how to get just water from out of one of those pod coffee machines!
My guilty pleasure is streaming Radio 1! If I’m not at work, getting up at 8am co-insides with Scott Mills’ show, followed by Greg James! This is how I get most of my UK news too!
I think in celsius for the weather, stones for weight and centimetre and millimetres for measurement. I still say the date as 3rd December instead of December 3rd. I don’t so much think in pounds (£) anymore, only when I have to convert something accurately for people back home.
I still have my accent. At work I have to say American words, but I still say them with my common voice. Anywhere else I still talk like me!
…and I have Marmite shipped over.
What I miss
I really miss fish and chips from a chip shop! During my 3 and half week trip back this summer, I had fish and chips 4 times and then just a portion of chips on another occasion!
I miss the way that in the UK everyone sings the National Anthem. There’s something magical the way before a football (soccer) match especially, that the whole crowd sings along…usually in their most common singing voice. It just brings a sense of country pride that joins everyone together. In the USA, it’s usually one random girl that will be singing (read as murdering/trying too hard) the National Anthem, while everyone else stands in silence.
What surprised me the most
That the Midwest has ski slopes! It’s somewhere that I would never have associated with being able to ski! Yes they get hit with a ridiculous amount of snow and the temperature drops so low it’s unbearable to stand outside because it feels like your eyeballs will freeze up and fall out of their sockets, but they do in fact have ski slopes even though there are no mountains!
My tips for new expats
Make buying a SatNav a priority! I should have bought mine a lot sooner. It gave me a sense of freedom and the confidence to drive ANYWHERE (including 3 hours to Milwaukee!).
If you’re a Brit, KEEP YOUR PHONE NUMBER! Make it pay as you go or something! My USA phone contract doesn’t even give me a signal if I leave the country (I barely even get a signal IN this country!). After 6 months here, I ended up getting a UK pay as you go sim card that I use whenever I travel. It works out cheaper! Especially if you head back home! I paid £1 a week for minutes, texts and data!
Keep your British bank account…IF it’s not making any interest (because then it’s taxable…plus it has to be less than £10k). On my visits home, I used my UK bank card, plus it can be used as an Oyster Card if you happen to be in London (USA technology is milesss behind), this avoided overseas fees.
If you’re an expat, I’d love to know how you found your first year!