Expat Life: Why I’ve Decided To Return To The UK

Yep, I’ve decided that after almost 4 years in America I’m going to return/repatriate back to the UK.  It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly, in fact it was a harder decision than the one I first made when I decided to start the US visa process and I’ve agonised over it for a long time.  But I need to put my happiness and mental health first and I believe going home will increase those massively.

Disclosure: This post isn’t meant to offend America or the people that live there, it’s purely to show how I’ve struggled with the differences in culture and life.  I know Americans that live in the UK and they struggle with similar problems there, so I’m by no means saying that the UK is a ‘better’ country.  It all comes down to what you’ve been used to and of course everyone has different life experiences and that’s OK.  People often associate living abroad as being glamorous or exciting and yes, sometimes it is and a lot of people love it, but there’s also plenty of people that do struggle with homesickness and culture shock and it’s not often spoken about.

Why I’m Repatriating

*I wrote this post after I booked my flight. That was before the poop show that 2020 has become had even started. If you had seen this post: Living Overseas: Yep I Had An Emotional Breakdown Thanks To The Coronavirus, you can imagine how hard it’s been. In all honesty, if I hadn’t been moving home (yes my flight has been cancelled twice already), I probably would have found it even harder to deal with what has been going on. It’s like one of my worst expat nightmares coming true. We had this false sense of security that we could always just get home if we had to. With border lockdowns and quarantines, many expats have been trapped abroad and can’t get home, even if they wanted to.*

The Quick Answer

For those that can’t be bothered to read the next 2000 words, here’s the quick answer. Imagine a triangle with a hierarchy of 3 basic emotional needs (ignoring things like health, food, shelter). What would yours be? I’d have thought mine would be similar to most peoples:

  • Family of my own: This would be things like your relationship/partner, if you have kids, you’re own house/life etc
  • Access to ‘Extended’ family: Parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends etc.
  • Feeling comfortable in your surroundings: Such as culture, safety, weather (no winters…), physical location.

Now when I look at my triangle, while I’m in the USA, I only have one of those ‘needs’ filled. Yes I still have my family and I can go home, but I’m in a reality where I have to say goodbye to them often, I don’t get to see them a lot, I miss milestones and events. I find it hard to deal with the culture, it’s different and strange to me, I don’t like the winters, therefore I feel more comfortable and like I fit in when I’m back home.

Having only 1 corner filled, leaves me with 2 empty corners. It’s tipped and balanced in the wrong way. I have more emptiness than what is filled. By being in the UK, I then have 2 corners filled and 1 empty…it pushes me into a balance that’s 66% filled instead of only 33%. Don’t get me wrong, losing that 1 corner, that we both worked so hard for, is by no means easy. In fact it’s extremely painful.

I’d imagine that most standard relationships have all 3 corners filled. I see it all around me. People that love their country, have their favourite places. Even those that have moved states, still have the same cultural celebrations, foods, stores, currency, language, they sound like they belong. They have their own families and yet they have their extended family fairly close by, within a driving distance, it’s ‘easy’ to meet up and spend time with these people. Have their support in times of need etc. I feel selfish for wanting it ‘all’. But so many people HAVE it all, or at least 2 corners, without even really thinking about it.

The Detailed Answer

I’ve made it no secret that I’ve struggled with expat life.  I miss my family and home a crazy amount.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved exploring Iowa and the Midwest and visiting places I don’t think I would have ever seen or even known about as a British tourist, but I do believe that location has also played a big part in my depression.

Silver Lake Sand Dunes Michigan

I grew up just outside of London, England.  I was used to having one of the world’s major cities right on my doorstep.  It was convenient, the bands I loved always had London tour dates, the millions of ‘London’ airports satisfied my travel needs…to go from that, to a small town in the middle of nowhere was a huge shock.  I’m 3 and a half hours away from the nearest major city and international airport.  I’m 30 minutes from the nearest shops and doctors!  I don’t like having to get in the car to do everything, I miss just being able to walk or catch public transport.  Maybe I’m just spoilt or privileged to have had that, but when you know you could still potentially have that again, it does make it hard adapting.

The weather is a huge factor.  Massively.  I always suffered from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), where I’d get depressed in the winter, but in America it’s unbearable.  The cold makes me miserable (-50c is not fun) and hurts my face and skin and driving in the snow gives me anxiety.  It seems like winter starts in November and goes all the way to April.  Every time I arrange something during winter the weather is then extra bad so I have to cancel and then I get disappointed.

Polar Vortex 2019 Iowa Snow

I see other expats living in other areas of the country and they are like ‘yay we love the weather in America, we’re never going home! UK weather is miserable!’.  I’m sure I’d be feeling the same if I was living in year round summer because it WOULD be an improvement compared to the UK.  But winter in the Midwest is so much worse.  I’m not used to the snow or the cold temperatures and I struggle.

Cultural differences are another big one.  I’ve often clashed with people for not having the same opinion.  I’ve been told I’m wrong and if I don’t like it then I should go home, so guess what?  I am.  The gun culture is just ridiculous and scary, no child should be made to do lock down drills at school in case a gunman decides to come in and shoot up the school for example.  Yet a large majority of the population thinks guns stop guns.  Fight violence with violence.

The way people seem to wear their ‘Driving Under the Influence’ badges with pride because they have ‘no other option’ if they want a drink.  Here’s an idea, have a Coke and be a responsible grown up.  I don’t drink and drive but I don’t want someone else’s poor choices potentially killing me.

And don’t even get me started on healthcare.  So much of my wage goes on health insurance that I don’t even use, and yet for a while it was something you HAD to have, otherwise you’d get fined.  It feels like I’m just burning money.  The amount that I waste in health insurance could buy me the equivalent of around 6 or 7 RETURN flights between England and America ANNUALLY.  If I ever got sick or injured there’s then a bill on top of those insurance premiums.  In all honesty I’m terrified of something happening to me and then I wouldn’t even be able to afford to visit home.  When I first moved here, an insurance broker even went as far to say ‘never get pregnant on this insurance plan, if you want to, I’d highly advise you getting a different plan first because it’ll cost you a fortune’…that plan was costing me $300 a month.

USA to UK flight price watch

I miss British food.  I can get some things in the States but sometimes you just crave the things you can’t have.  British food is sometimes described as bland, sounds appetising right?  But my body hasn’t really adapted well to American food, it often just makes me feel bleugh.  Things don’t need to be brightly coloured or full of additives or sugar and for some reason I can’t drink milk here but I can back home.

Of course I miss my family and friends.  It’s hard being away from them, missing out on spending time with people, births, milestones, celebrations.  In the Midwest family culture is huge and an important thing to many people.  For me, that doesn’t have any of my blood family around can often just make me feel worse or alone.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the people that have included me here but sometimes you just want/need your own relatives too.  When I’m feeling sick or need help or support, it’s always those back home I feel the need to turn to, however that doesn’t always work when you factor in time differences.  I can’t just jump on a plane last minute to go and see them, well I could, it’d just cost me a fortune.  I couldn’t even go home for Christmas because the flight prices were so expensive.

I Feel Like I’ve Failed

I do honestly feel like I’ve failed.  But I shouldn’t think like that.  It takes a hell of a lot of courage to risk everything, pack up your life into a suitcase, say goodbye to everything you know and move to the other side of the world.  That alone is a huge achievement.

But ultimately my decision effects and hurts a second person and that alone made me feel like a selfish monster. It’s not easy to walk away from something we worked so hard for. I feel sad that we’ve had to deal with challenges, such as immigration, that most couples don’t have to even think about. The fact that we can’t just both live in the same country easily. If I leave, I can’t just come back. I give up my right to a Green Card and if I was to return, I’d have to go through the process again. If my partner wanted to come to England, we’d then have to go through the UK visa process. For ages I’ve carried a lot of guilt. Guilt that I just couldn’t settle and that I’ve put a huge pressure on our relationship. I’m sad for us both. It seems cruel that in a different ‘world’, if we were the same nationality, our relationship could have been easy.

Believe me I gave life in America 110%, I had a job interview the day I landed, I’ve built up this website to the point where it can pay for a flight home in profits, I’ve had some great opportunities.  But it just wasn’t enough.  It has felt like a huge part of me is missing and while I’m living in America, that hole can’t be filled.  I feel empty.  You can take the girl out of England but you can’t take England out of the girl.  My health has suffered to the point where my hair fell out for 5 months through stress.  I want to be able to blend in again and not stand out like a sore thumb.  No one likes to feel as if they’ve failed at something.

Wisconsin Dells Tommy Bartlett Exploratory

I came over hoping that eventually I’d settle in and I’d get used to a new life and be able to adapt.  Maybe I just held on too much to my ‘old’ life for that to happen.  Or maybe I’m just making excuses for myself and it’s actually OK to admit that I’m not OK and life in another country just isn’t for me.  A prime example that shows that I’m not quite alone in my thoughts, is the recent situation with Meghan and Harry…yes I don’t have press hounding me all the time, but she didn’t like living in England and had the guts to move back to a country where she was comfortable.  People argue that she knew what she was getting into when she married a Prince, but then I knew what I was getting into when I married someone that had a different nationality to my own.  I’m sure their decision was even harder than mine when it potentially meant dividing the Royal Family.  Sometimes your best intentions don’t always work out.  That’s life unfortunately.

People often argue the expat vs immigrant debate, thinking it’s a class thing because ‘privileged white people’ are considered expats and everyone else is an immigrant.  I entered the States on an immigrant visa, that was stressful, cost an absolute fortune and yet Green Card holders are constantly threatened with ‘we’re going to take it away from you if you do this, this, this, this, this, this etc’, the rules are constantly changing and it’s scaring people into getting citizenship, just so they don’t get deported.  I don’t have the same rights as an American citizen, I’m kinda just treated as a tax paying monkey.

Despite being on an immigrant visa I’ve always considered myself as an expat.  An immigrant emigrates to another country, usually with permanent intentions.  An expat is someone that lives outside of the country of their nationality.  I’ll always be a Brit, I have a British passport, I was born in the UK.  I moved with the intention that the UK would still be in my future, I was honest from the start of this journey and that me moving to America was just what needed to be done at this particular stage in my life.  In my mind, it was always temporary.  I just didn’t know if temporary was going to be 5yrs, 10yrs, 15yrs.  Luckily I’m in a position where this is an option.  Not all immigrants have the choice to return home.

London Nomadic Community Gardens Brick Lane

I’m not saying the UK is perfect.  It’s far from it.  It’s going to be hard leaving people behind, repatriating, going back to dealing with endless traffic jams and small houses.  As another fellow British expat recently said, “America has a better standard of living, but the UK has a better quality of life”.  I trust my gut that this is the right thing for me to do for my mental wellbeing and I hope people respect my decision because I’ve honestly been beating myself up over it for a long time.

Kylie Signature
Why I've decided to move back to the UK: Expat Life - Brit living in the USA

72 thoughts on “Expat Life: Why I’ve Decided To Return To The UK

  1. Kylie, thank you for your honesty and vulnerability evident in this post. I’d never say that you’d failed – more like you’ve experienced life in ways that many others would have never seen or felt. You have taken that gamble and can bring that experience to light for others.
    The concern with health insurance is one that, for those in the UK, we may – as yet – not have really understood, especially the magnitude of the payments. I have only recently caught uo with you and this blog. I’d like to thank you for highlighting so much. Travel well.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m wishing you all the best. I hope you find peace and joy and I’m sorry you couldn’t here. Its been a delight getting to know you online as fellow Iowa bloggers!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well Done You!
    It’s not selfish to put you first. It’s important. Wishing you all the best in the next steps. Looking forward to following the story.
    Bests from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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    1. Not at the moment. He’s still deciding what he wants to do and that’s completely ok, I understand that totally, it’s not an easy decision. He had mentioned selling the house and building something smaller so it’s paid for but he’d still have to base here in the states without the worry of a mortgage. Obviously that takes time too.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a brave and terrible decision darling. I’ve always felt for you so much, leaving your parents and family behind. But when your body is literally rejecting parts of itself to highlight your stress you have to stop and listen. You haven’t failed! You’ve written a book, guided others through the immigration process and shone a light on an area that rarely gets tourism coverage. You have touched the lives of every one around you and all your readers! This was supposed to be a new life, not a life sentence and I look forward to reading about the next stage of your journey. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sarah, I appreciate it! ❤ Thank you for all the help you gave me too! I leave in 2 weeks today, so i'm feeling a bit weird right now. I was excited but now I'm sad. It's the right decision but it doesn't mean that it's an easy one!

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  4. What a brave and honest decision you’ve made! You’ve obviously thought it through and though not an easy decision it’s one that will benefit your health and well being and that’s worth it’s weight in gold. Wishing you a future filled with lots of happiness!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can only imagine what a very brave and difficult decision this would have been. Your health and well being is most important and I’m sure knowing that has helped you with making this move back to your home country. All the best in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 we spoke about it last March (2019) and I didn’t book the flights until this year, so it gave us well over a year to ‘prepare’ for it. I’m just sad it means leaving my husband behind 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sending you all the hugs Kylie!

    I don’t think you have failed at all! You had 4 years and built this awesome website! Good luck in the future…you may find that now you will see the UK with new eyes!

    P.s. I relate to this post in so many ways after being an immigrant in Japan and Canada. I have to say it is easier (and feels more welcoming in Canada…. But the immigration paperwork is still blooming stressful!)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I have a few friends that have been through it. The UK treats immigrants like criminals. 😦

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      2. I felt like a criminal coming to the US! They wanted physical proof that I was a girl like I said on my form!!! I believe they’d changed that requirement now but that was awful!

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Whaaaa!? Oh god that is so weird!

        It’s so strange to me that borders (which are a totally man-made, cultural construct) make it sooo hard for people to move around the world. We are both in very privileged positions, and it is STILL hard. I imagine what a nightmare it must be for say a Muslim to attempt to immigrate, or how hard it is for people that have ‘weak’ passports.

        Urgh.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, Kylie! I so admire your honesty. Thank you for sharing your journey. I know this must’ve been an incredibly difficult decision for you. It takes strength and bravery to put your own needs first, and I’m proud of you for doing what is best for you. Good luck, friend! I hope you find the peace and comfort you need. ((hugs))

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you April! I still go through days where I wonder if it’s the right decision, but I think it’s because it’s so final…once I go it’s not easy to come back…well I get 6 months before I have to give up my residency. It’s a scary thought!

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  8. I hope that you can get past that feeling of “failure”. I cut short my stay in London for a few reasons, but one of them was the weather. I couldn’t handle the winters and the lack of sun. I completely understand your need to go home.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. As someone who’s known you throughout all of this (and much longer!!), I think you’re far from a failure! You’ve given it your best shot and you were brave enough to do it in the first place. Now you’re having to go through this, while writing about it and addressing your feelings publicly, which is also extremely brave. You’ve made the right decision for yourself (and if you doubt it, I WILL make that list! lol) and I’m looking forward to seeing Smiley Kylie back! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really interesting post! I’ve actually been back to the UK every year, maybe that was part of my problem? But I still very much wanted my family to be a big part of my life do I made it a priority to go and see them. I only had to worry about my own ticket though! I flew from Chicago to Australia via Tokyo back in 2018. We went with ANA, very impressed with the service we received! We had a long layover so spent most of the day in Narita…such a cute little town!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. >We had a long layover so spent most of the day in Narita…such a cute little town!

        Yes, Narita is nice and has a very “Japanese” feel. Did you visit Narita-san Temple?

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I hope you keep writing as I enjoy reading about your adventures and life experiences. Good luck, I’m sure you know you’ve made the right decision in your heart, your head will catch up. X

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I absolutely understand not wanting to stay in Iowa. It’s really too bad you couldn’t have lived in another part of the US. Every state is different, and regions have even more differences. I think you would have had a completely different experience in Michigan, for example, even though it’s the Midwest.

    I was unhappy in Germany my first year-and-a-half here. I think I would have gone home by now if we had moved to a small town. You just don’t get the same “expat experience” if you move somewhere with nothing going on.

    Anyway, good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. I would have loved to have given another state a chance but unfortunately it just wasn’t on the cards! I really loved Michigan on my 2 visits AND it’s 1 time zone closer to the uk too!

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  12. Even though I’ve never lived overseas, I can relate. I haven’t lived in Minnesota for over 20 years but it is home. Home is always home. Take care of yourself. No shame, just more knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 🙂 I can imagine it’s just as hard within the states, it’s a huge place! We drove from Iowa to Colorado over Christmas, it’s crazy that it’s just 2 states across yet took us 16 hours to drive there!

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  13. I wish you safe travels and happy times back home. I know this is easier said than done, but please don’t view it as a failure. I think it’s a success that you recognize what will make you happier and you are seeing to those needs. Be well!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kylie, my husband and I have both been through this too. It took several years of marriage to settle in Iowa. I felt all of those feelings when I lived in England. My husband feels them here. It’s just part of our marriage. We do have more peace in our lives( we have been married 20 years now!) But it isn’t easy. You haven’t failed, this is just part of the process of figuring things out. I do want to warn you that you will probably have some reverse culture shock too. Things I used to think, I don’t anymore. But I see it all as a learning experience that has on the whole taught me to be more open-minded. You are no longer an English person only but you are now also partly American. I love England, It’s my other home, with the rest of our family and friends.(once you gain an English friend it’s for life!) My husband and I both hate the extreme weather here now( I grew up here!) We miss the sea. I hated the clouds in England and the lack of summer, but so does the whole rest of country! I’ve always found the UK to be the kinder country when it comes to immigration. The US people are scary! 😆
    All the best on your journey! Amy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad it worked out for you! I miss the sea SO much and the weather extremes are scary…I just want boring English weather back…they’ve had it so good there at the moment, knowing my luck it’ll continuously pour as soon as I get off the plane lol

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      1. It’ll be 26c here when I leave…I don’t have room for my winter coat so I was going to carry it as hand luggage…I might be needing it now though!!

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  15. Sounds like you made the right decision especially now with all the riots! That’s just crazy. You really gave it a good shot, four years is a long time. You might go somewhere else in a few years. Enjoy being back in the UK 🇬🇧

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately I’m getting no lounge, welcome drinks or food on board 😂 typical my first time flying business and it’s been ruined by ‘rona!

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  16. You haven’t failed at all Kylie, in fact you’ve been pretty brave in making such a big decision. It can’t have been easy but I think you are 100% right. We have visited a lot of the States and I have to say that we couldn’t live there. Such a different attitude towards absolutely every part of life that we just didn’t understand. Where in England are you heading back to? Well I guess you are actually there now aren’t you?

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      1. It’s all part of life-s big adventure isn’t it? A big decision but it will definitely be for the best. Not sure I could live in the US so admire you for doing it for so long.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s definitely different from being here as a visitor! I was always under the impression that I’d be better off in the US…cheaper house prices, cheaper petrol etc, but the health insurance alone is crippling…I pay $6000 a year!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Unbelievable isn’t it? We found food and drink very expensive there too when we travelled around. Not the cheap country a lot of people imagine is it?

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      4. Yeah once the tip gets slapped on it suddenly makes everything so much more expensive! I pay $32 a month (because of course tax isn’t included on a $30 plan) for a phone with 1gb of data…I’ve just ordered a uk sim for when I’m home and the first 3 months are £9 for 20gb (!!! It was either 20 or 50 I can’t quite remember) and then it goes up to £18! Still less than the $30 but with a million more gbs!

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    1. It was a bit of a shock when I first got back, just being like wow I’ve left…but I’m not even at the end of my 14 day quarantine and I know I made the right choice 😂

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  17. I just began the expat journey in Germany and it was helpful to read this! Even with a foreigner partner, who you love SO much, loneliness and depression is so very real. Thank you for your honesty!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good luck with your journey! Yes, I feel there was also a big pressure on him to be EVERYTHING to me. Not just a husband and a friend but all the other people I’d usually rely on for support then became his job too. I am loving being home but I do miss him being left in the US!

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  18. Hi Kylie, I came across your BA youtube video whilst I was watching my BA video! And then I read your blog and this post. Sorry to read the expat life in the US didn’t work out. I have migrated to the UK with my British husband and the initial days were tough but I now love and can understand you coming back.
    Hopefully your husband can join you soon. I would guess the immigration red tape may well improve by that time if there’s a UK\US deal. But at the moment it is expensive over a period of 5 years.
    PS like you I had my first Club world experience just before the lockdown. So it was a shame you missed out on the lounge, service and food. But a whole cabin to your self seemed fun!
    All the best with your channel and blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yeah I had pick of the toilets too…I had 3 to myself so there was never a line lol. I’m hoping the visas get easier, I was looking into it and it seems that it’s like £1000 every 2 years! I’m glad you’re liking it in the UK! I’m so happy to be back, I just struggled being so remote and the winters were grim!

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