Expat Life | What they didn't tell me...

A couple of weeks ago I posted about maintaining your confidence as an expat. And today I'm teaming up with HiFX and their Expat Tips campaign to bring you some advice that I wish someone would have told me before moving to England! But to be honest, I'm not sure I would have listened to anyone telling me about the realities of moving to another country. Before we moved, I imagined a fairytale life ahead of me, frolicking through the European streets, eating delicate pastries and sipping tea. No one could interrupt my fantasy with reality!!

So maybe friends did tell me these things....I just didn't listen. Maybe you might happen upon this post and let some reality sink in a bit, unlike myself. So I'm lending my advice to the online world of expats or soon to be expats with things I wish someone would have told me.....


I remember purchasing a gorgeous Calvin Klein raincoat and Hunter wellies in Dallas before I moved. It was mid-September, about 100 degrees, hadn't rained in weeks and they looked at me like I was crazy. Really in my mind, I expected these items to be just a nice wardrobe addition that would look wonderful in my fairytale life. Instead, they became essential everyday wardrobe items in England and it wasn't glamorous. My expectations of the weather were so far off from reality. The weather can really keep you from exploring your new land. But don't let it get you down. Just be ready for it!


You will feel awkward in your new country. They speak English in England, so why would you feel awkward? Trust me, as soon as you hear your American accent in public in England, you know you are different. People may stare or they may try and talk to you. Either way, you feel like the center of attention all of the time. If you like attention, this is great. If not, get ready for the awkwardness. I've actually thought about faking a British accent just to stay under the radar....and then I realize how ridiculous I would sound and probably garner more attention!! Take the attention lightly and don't focus too much on it. Be polite and friendly and everything will be fine :)


Food does not taste the same, do not expect it to. For example, sour cream, marshmallows and ranch DO NOT taste the same here in England. Be ready for a difference in seasonings and tastes. It will be strange at first but allow yourself time to adjust and eventually you won't notice it. You will start to miss restaurants that you thought were commonplace however, like Buffalo Wild Wings, or even a good steakhouse. Oh, and Mexican food. I MISS MEXICAN FOOD :( But guess what, there are so many amazing new things to try that you will rejoice in your new food experiences!!


Keeping in touch with family and friends will be hard sometimes. With time differences and schedules, it can be difficult to schedule time to chat. Some days, I'm walking home from town and normally I would pick up the phone and call my mom, but with the time difference, she's still asleep. Social media helps, but the luxury of calling friends and family whenever you fell like it is not possible and this can be a hard adjustment. I would advise setting Skype dates with family members throughout the week. It's such a nice date to look forward to!


Give yourself a good 6 months to feel normal again. Gosh, I wish someone would have told me this. Having just passed the 5 month mark in England, everyday is getting easier. I feel so much more comfortable in my surroundings. It was only when I stopped being so hard on myself was I able to relax and adjust with time. I really expected to adjust with lightning speed. And I gave myself a hard time when I didn't. You may adjust faster, but really, don't be hard on yourself. Everyone adjusts at different speeds and this is OK.


Finding a house can be stressful. Be ready for the whirlwind. Finding a house can be difficult anywhere and I felt like I knew this before we moved. You will most likely be on a strict deadline and working with agencies in England can be a chore. I found that we had to do most of the work. And we had no clue about all of the rules and setting up new utility accounts etc. was crazy! I had no idea that we would need 2 months rent deposit, and then add on pet deposits. Yikes. And by the way, we are still making American dollars. Ouch. Which leads me to my next tip.


You will freak out about finances at first. If you are moving to a country where the dollar is weaker than the new country's currency, you may have a bit of a freakout moment. Right now, the dollar is averaging about $1.67 to England's £1. So, in larger sums $2000 only equals £1195. So as you watch your American savings dwindle before your very eyes, remember to breathe. Banking in your new country will most definitely be another trial you will face, as well as taxes. Nobody told me this!! But, as time passes, you begin to get back into your financial groove and things will return to normal.

And last but most certainly the most important....


RELAX. Enjoy this moment and relish in your experience! Remember the mushy feelings you had about moving to a foreign land before you actually moved? Well, get back to those thoughts! You have made it and yes, it has been a bit stressful, but you're here and you need to sit back and enjoy. Get out and experience what your new country has to offer and cherish these moments.

I hope these ring true with my fellow expats. If you want to find more tips from other expats, check out HiFX's campaign at their website here, they have some really smart advice. And of course, I also have plenty of other info under the expat tab :)

Do you have any additional tips? What has been the hardest part about being an expat for you?

Happy Hump Day!!

-Jamie

13 comments

  1. These are all so true. I have been abroad for 5 months now and am finally starting to feel a bit more settled but I thought for sure I was going to settle in quickly and have no issue at all adjusting within the first few months. Being patient with myself has not been easy but I am trying.

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    1. I am the exact same! I really thought it would be no big deal. I know that everyday I am becoming more settled and content about being an expat. It is such a strange transition!

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  2. House hunting in England is 100% more stressful than in America. The renting/buying system is inherently flawed (in my opinion.) x

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    1. I have nightmares about it! And having pets just upped the stress. We move a lot and I really thought I would be prepared....I was wrong!!

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  3. These are really great, Jamie! I think the US dollar to GBP was our biggest surprise. I mean, I knew before we moved that our dollar wouldn't go as as far as we were used to, but when you move a big chunk of money from your US account to your UK account and you see the huge drop in what it's worth, it definitely stings a bit!

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    1. It doesn't sink in until you actually experience it! Ugh, the transfers....I actually laugh sometimes when I see what the difference is!

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  4. Agree with everything you'd written, in particular about giving yourself TIME. I've now been an expat for over a year and a half and can say that about 90% of the time, I really feel at home here in Holland. But my first four months - at least - were stressful! On top of all of the delights of setting up new bank accounts, getting a new phone, dealing with immigration, etc, even the most basic of things like going to the grocery store felt stressful and difficult. It can be so easy to feel ashamed and weak when you're not immediately happy in what others see as this amazing experience (which it is!!) but I think it's inevitable at times. It's such a huge change! Great tips :)

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    1. I think you are totally right on about feeling ashamed! That is the perfect word for it. It's such a strange experience sometimes. Once I finally allowed myself time to adjust, I really started to feel like myself again :)

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  5. We've actually had more issues renting with cats in the US than the UK in all honesty - especially when most places want them declawed which we refuse to ever do. They didn't tell me it snowed so much in Michigan haha!

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    1. That's crazy about the claws! I always had problems with people allowing my dogs, I guess it all depends on where you live in the states! I bet this winter has been tough for you!

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  6. Being from Florida, Mexican food is something I truly love. It's authentic and available EVERYWHERE there. I miss it tremendously. I also can't cringe every time I look at the exchange rate between the dollar and pound. It's hideous! Great post!

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    1. Mexican is my favorite, hands down and I am still grieving the loss! White queso and a margarita....I can taste it now. That will definitely be my first stop when I return to the states!!

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  7. Great advice! One thing that is different here living in Australia- no one seems to notice (or care) about our accent. I expected people to ask us where we're from all the time but honestly it rarely happens. I guess living in a big melting pot of a city being a foreigner isn't unique. My parents have been expats in London for the past two years and have absolutely fell in love- they don't want to move away!

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