Along with ‘what do I miss about living in the US‘, my 2nd most asked question is do I regret moving there. For those that may not know my ‘story’. I moved to the US in 2016 on a spouse visa and I really struggled to adjust. I was really homesick and suffered from depression and stress. In 2020 I decided it was time to move back to the UK after 4 years overseas. Do I regret moving to the US? No, I don’t think I do.
Things I Learnt From Living Overseas
At that time of my life it was the ‘right’ thing to do. I didn’t know that I would find it so hard and I had to give it a go. I also ‘learnt’ some things which I wouldn’t have experienced if I hadn’t moved. Do I wish I had done things differently? Maybe. But I didn’t have much control in some of the aspects that I found the hardest. For example, if I was choosing to move somewhere personally, I wouldn’t have picked Iowa. I would have gone somewhere warmer, somewhere closer to a major city and somewhere nearer to the coast. In this post I’ll share some of the lessons that I learned from my time living overseas.
When you think you are done with paperwork, there’ll always be something else…
Endless, endless, ENDLESS paperwork. I documented all of the spouse visa process, I did it all myself to save money on hiring an immigration lawyer. But my goodness it was TOUGH. Just when you thought you had it sorted, there’d be something else. A few years later I needed to remove the conditions…more paperwork. You then had all the other things like making sure social security numbers turned up, getting a new driving licence, keeping up my UK overseas voter registration every year.
In the US, everyone has to do their own taxes. In the UK, we’re spoilt. If we work as an employee, all the taxes are just done automatically through your job. But in the US you have to fill in a form every year, a bit like if you were a self employed person. I attempted to look into doing my own return once I moved back. I got so overwhelmed I’m potentially giving someone £500 to do it for me. There are so many weird things such as when you are a Green Card holder you are taxed on WORLDWIDE earnings. They wanted to know how much was in my UK bank account. Despite leaving in June they want IT ALL up until December.
When you leave, you then have to ‘close’ everything up. I had to fill in another form to surrender my Green Card, send back the licence etc. Closing my US pension meant I lost £1000 because I withdrew it early. I just wanted to close the account and forget about it. I’m now behind on a UK pension and National Insurance. I’m 32, back home living with my parents, technically have nothing and now have to ‘start again’. It’s just always a lot happening at once. Usually in life things happen in stages. When you’re an expat there’s always a lot happening at once, it’s hard to keep track of everything!
Driving In The Snow
I’ve always had a tough time with winter even in the UK. But in Iowa I was just absolutely MISERABLE. We might get the odd snow day in the UK but it never really lasts that long. Especially on the roads. However in Iowa you’d go for days and the roads would be white, it would be deep and it SUCKED.
I was lucky in a way, working in a school meant that if the roads were TOOOOO bad. We’d get delayed until the ploughs had attempted to clean the majority. They were still slippery though. I’d white knuckle my steering wheel so hard that I’d have a bad shoulder all winter, where I was so tense. I learnt to flip my rear view mirror so I couldn’t see who was behind me. I’d just drive slow because everyone would just drive like an idiot. So I guess I didn’t really learn THAT well…I often missed out of going places because I was scared to drive long distances. If the roads were going to be bad I just wouldn’t go places and I’d try to avoid being designated driver.
I Learned To Ski
Just because I learned, didn’t mean I enjoyed it. I decided I hated the snow even more, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn. I lived close to a small ski resort, so I had a lesson and then went back again to try ‘on my own’. The bunny hill was great but even the main green run was just horrible. The slope would be like a sheet of ice. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t slow down and I constantly thought I was going to crash into trees. At least I didn’t waste it on going to a big resort and paying for highly expensive lift passes. I don’t think I’ll try it again. I tried dry slope snowboarding and now skiing twice and I just don’t enjoy it.
Stress Does Strange Things To The Body
I shared my experience of this, but now I’m aware how my body can potentially react to stress. As hard as it is, I now know I have to do everything in my power to not get too wound up. I was struggling so much that my hair started falling out and I had giant bald patches…which made me even more stressed out. After 2 years, I’ve been OK. My hair has grown back and hopefully *TOUCH WOOD* I’m back to ‘normal’. Just when you think you are being pushed to your limit, life likes to try and push you a little further. But I came out the other side and I don’t want it to happen again.
Putting My Happiness First
Leading on from the above, the biggest thing I had to force myself to do was put my happiness first. It just seemed silly that I was so unhappy. I felt like I had to put other people first, so my own happiness was suffering. I got to the point where I had to decide if I was going to be selfish and put myself first after spending years making sacrifices for other people’s happiness, or just continue kind of just ‘existing’. It was by no means an easy decision but in the long run I now feel 100 times better. It felt like such a waste to be spending my life so unhappy when I had the power to potentially improve things for myself.
Building My Blog
Moving to the US gave me the direction and foundations to start building this site up. I went to a blogging conference in Wisconsin. I had the time to (attempt to) learn about the inner workings of Google. The Midwest Travel Network was an amazing find and had opportunities to work with brands and destinations. It’s been awesome to earn a bit of extra cash from sharing my stories. I’ve now created a second website using the knowledge that I gathered during the time I was in the US. Ironically I now don’t have as much time to work on my websites, but they are doing fairly well regardless which is quite good.
Skills Gained From My Time Working In The US
I used to work in a school in the UK and I changed my job because I didn’t really enjoy it and the money was minimal. When I moved to the US, going back into school work seemed to be my only option. I wasn’t exactly happy about it, even though I know I’m good at it. The pay wasn’t great (I was only paid for 8 months of the year) and there were no benefits (that are so ‘important’ in US living). BUT I did get time off to travel…which in a regular job, you don’t really get anything.
However, I learnt a lot after 4 years in PreK. In the long run it’s helped me to get the job I have now I’m back in the UK. It’s still not in the travel industry but I can set my own schedule, I work from home or can be ‘location independent’ (I can work from anywhere with good internet), give myself the day off whenever I want without having to ask anyone. I do actually really enjoy what I’m doing now. My experience at the school in the US has meant I can really market myself at the same age range for my online teaching and it’s something that a lot of the parents seem to love.
Who Your Real Friends Are/Making Friends As An Adult
When I moved to the US, a couple of my oldest friends ‘ditched’ me. They deleted all connections with me and I haven’t heard from them for over 4yrs now. Moving away shows you who your real friends are: the ones that come to visit you, the ones that make the effort to meet up with you when you are back, the ones that still message you all the time despite living miles away. These are the friendships I want in my life, not ones that drop me at the first opportunity.
They say making friends as an adult is hard. It’s even harder when you move to an area where everyone grew up there and have had their friend groups since school. It’s hard to break into that, especially as an outsider. I found I didn’t have much in common with a lot of people. I’d often be left out of conversations when they would be about people and places that I didn’t know. I never really knew what to talk to people about.
My Body Doesn’t Like US Food
Ohhhhh my body LOVES being back in the UK. American food just did not agree with me. I just felt rubbish all the time. Milk and dairy didn’t like me and I put on loads of weight without even really changing my diet. I would be eating similar things but the way they are processed and what they contain are completely different. Almost a bit like you can drink tap water in the UK but if you go to many countries around the world, it’s not really good enough and can upset your stomach etc.
I learned that in the US dairy is processed differently compared to the UK. It makes you wonder if the amount of ‘lactose intolerant’ people in the US maybe wouldn’t actually be ‘lactose intolerant’ in the UK. I couldn’t drink a glass of milk in the US, but I can in the UK. So it’s not even like it was an intolerance that I’d just got…because I’ve come home and I’m back to normal.
When it was getting close to me coming home, I ended up losing a load of weight just because I didn’t feel like eating anything. I like bread, but US bread is nasty, dairy made me feel rubbish, bacon was gross. I just didn’t know what to eat because I was eating for the sake of eating, not because I was actually enjoying the things I was eating.
There’s Nothing Wrong With Familiarity
I always knew that I would find it hard being so far away from my family, but I just missed knowing where I was and driving down back roads, I missed my favourite foods and music bands. When I was ill, the first person I wanted to ask advice from was 4000 miles away. It’s strange because I LOVE travelling, it’s my all time favourite thing in the whole world, but I think part of the reason I like it, is because I have the UK base.
Travel insurance is cheaper in the UK, international phone plans are cheaper, not having to worry if the border will turn me away because paperwork was screwed up. I just found things frustrating rather than enjoyable. When I travel, the differences are often exciting. What was my new permanent ‘normal’ was just an inconvenience and harder than what I was used to, it was exhausting. People sometimes say there’s such a thing as the ‘travel burn out’ and I was burned out from 4 years away from home. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
So I don’t think I regret my time in the US. I’m not sure what my life would be like if I hadn’t gone. I probably wouldn’t have my blog, I wouldn’t have met the people that I have made through doing this. I probably wouldn’t be teaching online and have met the students that I talk to now multiple times a week. Maybe it needed to happen to have put me on the path that I’m on now.