Expat Life: Thoughts After 1 Year

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!

River Tubing Iowa

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.

Sky Tours Dubuque Iowa

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.

Chestnut Mountain Resort IL Segway Tour

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

Winter in Iowa

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!).

VisitMKE Wisconsin WITS17

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!

Kylie Signature

Expat Life Thoughts After One Year

 

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17 thoughts on “Expat Life: Thoughts After 1 Year

  1. Loved reading this. Especially keeping it real ‘Brit’ style. I refuse to call football ‘soccer’, petrol ‘gas’ or the boot ‘the trunk’ amongst other words. I also get the whole feeling sad when you’re meant to be in an amazing country.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 That’s what I thought, it seems to be hard for people to understand if they haven’t been through it themselves. But then it makes it harder when then they ignore how I’m feeling because ‘I shouldn’t feel that way’!

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  2. Happy expat anniversary, Kylie! I can relate to SO much of this. In terms of the homesickness, it does get better, but sometimes it does still rear its head. I agree that it can be hard to embrace certain cultural differences, and honestly some I don’t think I’ll ever get used to (like healthcare!). I’m so glad you’ve found blogger groups and expat groups to join. That’s honestly what made my first year or so in NYC – the friends I made through those groups! Here’s to more expat adventures in year two!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Katie! Don’t even get me started on healthcare haha! Travel conferences are a bit few and far between in the Midwest but in November I’m going to the ‘Iowa Bloggers Conference’ which should be fun! Lots of people that I speak to are going!

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  3. The thing I miss the most is being able to get on a train for two hours and see my sisters or the museums of London.
    On the plus side I own a home that I couldn’t afford in the UK and have access to the lakes and some amazing hiking.
    It took me a year to get a job, but it is a lifesaver.
    I wonder if the understanding of homesickness- which is really grieving for a loss, comes with age or experience of loss yourself. Most of the reactions I get are they they can’t imagine being brave enough to have done what we do. And how weird it must be. I think without that understanding, life would be very hard. I do hope that changes for you.

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    1. Yeah I get the brave thing a lot…and then I don’t know why you done it, which then makes me question if I made the right choice! I think the travel is what I’m finding the hardest, I miss that part of my life so bad, I see other Europeans going to Europe for a weekend and I can’t do that anymore!

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  4. I think it is a question of rethinking what we can do in a weekend. Travelling for me no long means leaving the country, it means finding something beautiful or different that I wouldn’t have found on a normal US holiday. (Let’s face it most tourist fly to the edges of America and leave the Midwest unexplored)
    My focus now is on film and book sets, historical landmarks and Native American history. All of which are far easier to access for us non Europeans. (Just trying to spin the other side of the coin) I also “collect” water falls and water towers and unusually large objects!
    Also don’t question your judgement. While obviously the following is a huge generalisation, it is not entirely untrue: Very few Americans are travellers, they don’t have the economic support systems in place (cheap flights, paid holiday, that we take for granted under European law) As a nation they are encouraged to believe that theirs is the best country in the world, so why leave it. The whole US school system still works on the outdated idea that kids work their parents farms in the summer, so that time is for work not holidays. While their ancestors were explorers and pilgrims, they are settlers now. Settlers are never going to understand explorers and you were already an explorer long before you got here. You met your husband while he was exploring too. You both need to hang onto that xxx

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    1. This is a really good way of thinking of the difference with regards to travel. Like Kylie, I too am struggling with what I know will be less travel opportunities than before (hence why I went on a travel binge in Asia because- that’s what you do!). Canada has a similar 2 month summer holiday. I wonder if that is grounded in the history of working the farms as well. I liked the reminder that whilst initially the pioneers of North America were explorers, what is left is settlers mindset. It helps understand the differences.

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      1. My credit card was declined while I was in Michigan at the weekend and when I spoke to my bank they asked if I had registered my travel plans…I was like errr no we drove 6 hours away…I told them when I left the country in the summer but apparently if you leave the state you have to as well! I’m considered part of the tri-states…I’m on the corner of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin…I can be in the other 2 in 20 minutes so I was like surely every time I cross the border I don’t have to ring up, some times we don’t plan in advance our trips to those states! (Apparently it’s only if I go slightly further afield!)

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  5. What a load of bollocks! I find it so interesting that different States /Provinces are treated like different countries. Eg; in Canada, they have completely different healthcare and education curriculums per province. Doesn’t make moving across the same country easy. lol

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    1. Yes! Like apparently if you move states you’re expected to go and get a new driving license for that state…some will just let you pay and switch it, others will make you retake a theory test!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh don’t even start me on the eye rolling about the banking system in this capitalist land of the free! Or that your bank card transactions don’t show up in real time and they still use checks!
        I’m sorry I did laugh at the thought of registering your travel plans for Michigan. I’ve had to go to the banks to get permission to pay UK bills and that was a total pain. But then they don’t have chip and pin security as a standard, so I guess they have to make up for it.

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