As an American expat who has been living in the UK for about five years now, I have found myself struggling with culture shock, trying to make friends and motherhood. This is the reality of uprooting your life and moving abroad.
If you move abroad it is a HUGE undertaking. It can be stressful and expensive but I found it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. Following your dreams or the love of your life by relocating to a new country challenges you in many ways – you are doing something many people only talk about. My move was never pre-planned. I had an idea I would be living in the UK and had a rather fantastical view about the UK which included royals, castles and quaint little villages. Boy, did I have a reality check?
I was, however, an exchange student in high school and lived in Germany for a summer, studying and getting a little taste of European life, awaking my inner travel nomad spirit.
When I met my husband in Texas in 2014, it was love at first sight and we had no question we were meant to be together, all we had to do was figure out a way to make that happen.
I came to visit him in the UK for two weeks to visit and ended up staying for six months. I then had to fly back to the states, in which he accompanied me, were met, my family. We then got engaged in February 2015 and married the following May. I was back in the UK in August, with a spousal visa and had been here ever since.
Only A Few Steps…
When moving to a new country it can feel extremely overwhelming. You have to break it down into small goals that you can achieve one at a time. The idea of picking up your life and moving it hundreds or thousands of miles away can feel exciting, adventurous but it is very stressful at times and it will test your will. Thankfully it just takes a few main steps to the finishing process.
The first step is to make sure you are eligible to move. Studying, working or joining your loved ones abroad is the most way people end up moving to a different country.
And depending on your eligibility, people normally spend a lot of time trying to decide if they actually want to move and they often study the culture of the country they are moving to so they are prepared when immigrating into the country.
If your lucky, you will be provided courses in this and is often provided by employers or schools before you make the move.
There are different types of visas, you
Must spend time doing detailed research into what each offers.
If you are filling out your own visa application, you must find the best immigration lawyer you can that will explain the process of your visa application. You will also have to consider the taxes and employment laws in the country you want to move to.
Think about how much the move is going to cost you…
Do you have any language test or skills assessments that you may need to take?
Do you have the funds for moving cost, while supporting yourself/family until you are settled?
How will you find your move? Will you be selling your house and car?
Do you have any savings or other assets?
Moving abroad is expensive; there are so many costs to consider. This is what we had to budget when I made the move:
- migration agent fees,
- medicals, NHS health surcharge
- hotel and transportation
- Our wedding
You need to make sure you ready financially to move, and if you don’t feel like you are there yet, but a plan of together with a deadline to help manage your ideas.
I found useful to keep a notebook just for my moving plan and write everything down! I spent time in Facebook groups and in forums asking questions. I found a moving checklist for the country you are moving to so you can work through everything like organising shippers, closing down your bank accounts and getting your new life ready!
You Made It…
So, you made the move…your here. The next step is to get to know the people in your country. The biggest problem I ran into with social situations was that I was only limiting myself interactions with close family members, and then basing their explanations to me that every British person is quiet negative, reserved and constantly moaned about the weather.
As a very bubbly, high energy person and what I would consider a quiet positive, this made it hard for me to muster up the courage to approach new people and I constantly felt as if people only accepted invitations or asked me to hang out was out of feeling sorry for me.
I had this implanted into my brain. This made it very hard to make friends. I soon realised the people I had surrounded myself with, where not in fact…the kind of people who I’d normally find friends in.
All people have different personalities and being afraid to make friends because of stereotypes left me friendless, clueless and quite stupid.
Eventually, I made friends, and those who tried to understand my position when I first moved here, they remained my friends. Those who maybe thought I was standoffish or odd…didn’t. I don’t blame them. But once you find a good friend or two they become like your family when living abroad. When you move to a new country and all your family may be left behind you have to develop your own tribe. These new friends eventually were there for me when I was down, had family problems and supported me through motherhood. A family I got to choose.
Most of my friends with me here in the UK live spread out, mum groups and common social circles will help you expand your social circle. Just be patient…and the best thing you can do is put yourself out there. And don’t expect everyone to like you. People all have heard stereotypes of the kind of people that come to your country. Take it with a grain of salt. I am told constantly about how “loud” I am or “American”, but most likely people are excited about me because I am someone new to them and are quite keen to learn about my culture.
No, I know I don’t need to go all Bear Grylls on ya’ll..but moving to a new country can be a test of mental survival. You may find yourself beating yourself up over your choices when major life changes happen.
Having a child was my first “oh $hit” moment. I was struggling to come to terms what motherhood was. I had a goal to breastfeed and be a semi-crunchy mum. But, I soon found out quickly how some people felt about this and my confidence was soon diminished. I was told breastfeeding was a waste of time as I sat on a couch with a newborn and my breast on display not giving a flying fudge with tears in my eyes, all while my mothering instincts were being questions and constantly felt like I had to defend the way I wanted to raise my child.
This absolutely ruined my spirit. As a young mum, I desperately needed the support of my family back home. Even though my own mother never breastfeeds, she constantly gave me reassurance and told me to find help at the hospital etc. But that only helped me when the midwife came to visit. The first three months of motherhood was hell. I felt judged, out of place and lost.
That soon faded, I found great friends to call my family. I also now have people to depend on and we help each other when we need an extra hand.
Moving to a new country is a fun-filled adventure but mostly romanticize by pre perceptions. Things soon fade and become normal life and you will be fine as long as you are open, accepting and willing to make sacrifices in areas of your life that may be difficult at first, but you will soon adjust.
Some great resources for expats coming to the UK: