Michelle: A Mississippi Expat in Scotland
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Scotland, etc.
I was born in Mississippi and was based there for most of my life. I am a journalist with a background in archaeology, and presently I am a travel and food writer for a media company based on the west coast. I moved to Scotland in 2013 to marry my long-distance Scottish sweetheart, whom I met when he was on holiday in America.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
When I first moved to the UK on my fiancé visa, I was not allowed to work until I received my residence permit. I had been reading other expat’s blogs that were very helpful to me in my new life, so I decided to start my own blog to share my own experiences. Through the blog community I have met some fantastic people, traded stories and gotten inspiration.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
One of my blog entries that got a lot of sympathetic comments was called ‘Driving Like an Idiot’. It was about learning to drive on the opposite side of the road, and how this has perhaps been the most difficult aspect of moving to the UK.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Scotland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
There was not a huge amount of negative culture shock for me, other than the driving issue. I’ve been so lucky to meet warm and wonderful friends who have helped me along the way with things like that, and my husband has been a paragon of patience with me. Even strangers have been nothing but friendly and helpful. There has been a very slight language barrier — Scots English has its own colloquialisms that I’ve had to learn, and sometimes I have a bit of trouble understanding someone on the phone. I’ve also had to learn UK spelling for things — there are more differences than you think.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Scotland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I definitely didn’t have the proper wardrobe. Coming from a semi-tropical environment, I had to get kitted out with warm clothes and wellies — my collection of spaghetti strap dresses and sandals had to go. I wish I had learned to drive a manual transmission back in America. My husband was thoughtful enough to buy me an automatic, but to get a ‘full’ driving license here, you have to do it on a stick shift. I still haven’t gone that far yet, but will need to eventually. Trying to learn a stick is hard enough without doing it on the wrong side of the road!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I host a weekly radio music programme on Oban FM called American Jukebox, under the moniker Mississippi Michelle the Southern Belle. A local listener called in to compliment me on my put-on southern accent! I’m not sure he believed me when I told him my accent was real.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Scotland?
I tell future expats to Scotland that if their experience is anything like mine, they will be enchanted by this beautiful and friendly country. My top tips are:
- First, be prepared for the weather (yes, it’s rainy and cold much of the year but during the summer it can be paradise!).
- Second, know that Scots have a great sense of humour and good natured ribbing is par for course — so be prepared for a good tease, and just back give as good as you get.
- And third, don’t expect everything to be just like home — there is a slower pace of life here and sometimes things are not as convenient, so just get in the groove. No one cares ‘how you did it back home’ so just adjust and enjoy.
How is the expat community in Scotland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I mainly know other expats here through blogs, as I live in the remote highlands. I recently met two other American expats in my town, but I went nearly a year before I heard another American accent here. As for like-minded people, frankly I find more of those here than I did back home. Perhaps I have found my true spiritual home?
How would you summarize your expat life in Scotland in a single, catchy sentence?
Living in Scotland has been like living in a fairytale, complete with the castles — sometimes I look around and I have to pinch myself.