An Expat Chat

on March 8, 2017

I’ve been reflecting on expat life quite a bit lately. Fellow blogger Rachel from A Nesting Nomad is about to start her expat journey (from the UK to Australia!) and I recently answered some questions for her about expat life that got me into this little reflective mode. So when I stumbled across a list of Expat questions from Sandra, a Swiss expat in Boston, I thought I would give it a go! I realized that I don’t actually write about “expat life” in particular very much on here, even though it’s really underlying every experience I have in this country. So… maybe you will learn something new about me, and what it’s like to be an expat!

And I would love it if any fellow expat readers, or readers living away from their home state, would give it a go as well! Change the questions as much as you like but consider yourself tagged 🙂

1.Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

I was born near San Fransisco, California. At 6 months old my parents took me on a road trip across the continental United States to what I now refer to as my home state of Michigan!  I also lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts as a child, I went to college in Ohio, I studied abroad in Exeter, England for a year, and I’m currently based in Plymouth, England, where I’ve been for the last two years.

2. What made you leave your home country?

Primarily, a desire to live abroad, travel, see the world and meet new people! But if you’re looking for a more practical answer… I’m currently doing my MSc and not to mention it’s convenient to live in the same country as my boyfriend.

3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?

Lately people have been surprised, as for some bizarre reason people have been thinking I’m Irish. (How?! We may never know). Other than that, people ask me about Trump. Or about US healthcare. Or US serving sizes. One person asked “if it was true that all Americans are fat,” to which I was like, hello, it’s me, the American you are asking this question to……

4. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?

I love the transport in the UK – it’s so easy to get anywhere without a car, and to travel within Europe as well. I like the mild weather (coming from a lake effect state) as well. And I love how much more accessible gluten free food is.

I found it difficult when I first moved here because the people are much more reserved, but I’ve since gotten used to that! I actually enjoy being seen as the outgoing American because back home I am usually not the loudest one in the group. Another hard thing lately is that I’m sick of people asking me about Trump and the USA election and just generally being more aware of some pretty bad American stereotypes. But I do enjoy being an ambassador for more than half of the USA 😉

5. Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

“You alright?”

UGH. British people always say this, which for a long, long, long time I literally took as “You alright?” (as you would?!?) and would carry on and tell them exactly how I was doing and feeling. Well, it turns out that in the UK, “You alright?” is basically the same thing as a casual American “‘Sup,” to which you’re supposed to respond either with a cool-girl nod, or answer back “You alright”… which doesn’t make any sense??? I’ve been here for 3 years and I still can’t get it.

Other than that, I’d say the sound of sea gulls cawing, the patter of rain, the smell of sea air, the yellow grass of moors, the red city bricks, the bright orange train tickets… I could go on 🙂

6. Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?

It turns out I’m a marmite lover. Also scones, clotted cream, cider, lemon drizzle cake, cheesy chips… I’ve gradually adjusted to the whole baked beans and mushrooms with breakfast thing as well.

7. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?

Probably… everything. I’ve done a lot of random things to meet people like playing squash, dog-walking for strangers, meeting up with friends of friends of friends, things like that which I would have said “no” to at home because I already had friends.

8. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?

I cannot bear the Plymouth accent. I really cannot. Growing up in the USA we all fell in love with the poshest of British accents (think Colin Firth) and were led to believe all Brits sound the same… this is NOT the case and my ears are now attuned enough that I can spot a Plymouthian accent from a mile away.

9. What do you enjoy doing most in your new country?

I love the nature… walking on the moors or the southwest coastal path, or just going down to the beach or oceanfront. There are dogs everywhere, it’s great. I also love going for afternoon tea/coffee or going for a cheeky pint of cider. In my experience there’s much less of a casual drink/pub culture back in the USA than there is here.

10. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

I get this question a lot! I don’t like to say anything “for good”… I recently listened to a Hidden Brain podcast about how we should treat our life plans like design problems… where there are many, many solutions to one “problem,” so then no matter how our life ends up we are happy! I also think the concept of “home” becomes complicated as you get older, especially after being an expat. Is home where you were born? Where you grew up? Where your family is? Where your most formative experiences have been? Where your friends are? They are often not one and the same. For me the concept is more muddled than it used to be, but I still definitely consider Michigan home as most of my family is still there. My UK visa does expire this year, though, so we will just have to wait and see what happens!

 

Thanks to Sandra from Going American for this great list of questions 🙂 I’d love to hear from my fellow expat bloggy friends what your experiences have been. Please leave me a comment or do your own post and let me know about it!

Sarah xx

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EXPAT TAG QUESTIONS:

  1. Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?
  2. What made you leave your home country?
  3. What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?
  4. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?
  5. Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.
  6. Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?
  7. What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?
  8. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?
  9. What do you enjoy most doing in your new country?
  10. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

I’m linking up with Lauren of Lauren on Location, Van of Snow in Tromso, Isabel of The Sunny Side of This and Marcella of What a Wonderful World for Wanderlust Wednesday!




I sit on the back porch with my Grandfather, drinking lemonade. It's the same porch from my childhood, but I'm different. And I have reverse culture shock.

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