Ariana: And Here We Are...
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.
My name is Ariana, and I am an American expat that is living in England - but this is not my first overseas rodeo. I grew up on the Philippine island of Mindanao, speaking the local dialect (Cebuano) fluently, eating dried fish with gusto, and snorkeling every week until I went to boarding school in Manila. When I graduated from high school, I moved back to California for college, but continued to hop on an international flight a couple times a year, both to visit my parents and to discover new places. I always had a hunger to see more of the world, and to get involved in humanitarian projects wherever I could.
After growing up overseas, I always imagined that I would probably live in another country at some point in the future. It was hard for me to imagine living in America for the rest of my life, since I didn't feel a particular sense of belonging or ownership for my "home" country. So, when the opportunity came up for my husband to take a job in Europe, I was on board without hesitation!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
My large family is spread all over the place, so almost everyone started blogs about ten years ago, as a way of sharing more of our lives with one another. I have kept a family blog for about eight years now, but I started And Here We Are... when we first moved overseas, which was to Germany. I wanted to document all that we were discovering, for our own sakes, and also as a way of sharing our life with people we love. It has taken on a life of its own, and having my blog has definitely helped my family through some rough transitions - it has been such a cool source of connection and support for me, as well as other expats.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Here’s a recent post about having an American lemonade stand in our very English neighborhood.
- This post is about a super-fun day we had, just driving along country roads shortly after moving here:
- And this post is just about struggling with alienation as a foreigner.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Great Britain differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
We love living in England, and are glad we’re here! That said, we have definitely had some challenges. I think the biggest one is that I am from a very warm, friendly culture, and people here are much more reserved. They don’t talk to strangers much, and it seems pretty hard to get to know people, even in my own neighborhood. We are really doing our best to reach out to the people around us, without being too aggressive and making them uncomfortable! Also, the food has been kind of a bummer.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Great Britain? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I would have kept more of the appliances we bought in Germany! Almost every appliance I have bought here has fallen apart or stopped working within a few months of purchase! Also, things are just more expensive here, so I would recommend buying things like sheets, blankets, etc., in the US and bringing them over, if possible.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, I don’t know if this is really funny or not, but it does fit the faux pas category... I haven’t known quite how to reach out to the other moms at our local school. I pretty much acted like I would in the US, which one day found me hollering cheerily across the street to a fellow mom that I liked her dress. She looked shocked and offended, and hustled in the opposite direction. I have asked a few people about this, and they have all said that she probably thought I was being sarcastic, and was insulting her fashion. This is unthinkable to me, but I have to laugh that someone might think that I (absolutely harmless!) would go through the effort of hurling an insult at a perfect stranger I have to see on my way to and from school each day!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?
- Learn to love tea.
- Befriend your local butcher.
- Be patient with the social dynamics, and don’t take a cold shoulder personally.
How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
My husband is lucky to work with all Americans, so we have a small base of families that we can get together with who are American. However, since I don’t work, nearly everyone I know here is English. I am looking forward to getting to know more expats, and of course they don’t need to be American-- I love the perspectives that come with all of the various backgrounds!
How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?
There is always, always something new to discover in England - I could spend years here just checking out all of the historic and beautiful places around me.