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Marina & Kevin: Hercules Gets A Passport

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in the UK makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.

Our names are Marina and Kevin. We’re both from the United States, and before we moved to London we lived in San Francisco, California. We moved to Great Britain in January of 2011 for Kevin’s job.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

We started blogging almost immediately after we moved, mostly as a way to keep in touch with family at home.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

One of the best parts of living abroad has been having the chance to travel a lot. Two of my favorite entries are about last December’s trip to the Middle East: Beirut to Baalbek and A Road Trip Across Jordan.

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?

The most challenging aspect of living in Great Britain has been totally unrelated to culture. It’s the weather! We are spoiled, outdoorsy Californians and the endless grey, dreary, rainy days have been a challenge. I think we were also unprepared for the drinking culture here. Neither one of us is a big drinker, which has been a challenge in a country where a big part of socializing occurs with a pint in hand. Fortunately the British know how to brew some great beers, so we’re catching on.

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 think it’s almost impossible to prepare for an international move. We read books, packed carefully, and planned as much as we could, but there were still a lot of challenges. Looking back, I’m not sure there’s anything I would change. You just have to go with the flow and embrace the steep learning curve!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

Luckily the English will go out of their way to avoid embarrassing someone, so we’ve been very fortunate in that respect. The funniest moments tend to happen when someone makes a funny assumption about American culture. One of my favorite moments happened at a concert we attended in London. The band is American, and they perform Motown/R&B music. Everyone was dancing and having a great time, and an English guy standing in front of us heard our accents and turned around. He was really excited that we were American, and he drunkenly exclaimed, “You’re American? That’s awesome! I bet you do this, like, every night!” We still laugh about that one. I wish that were true!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?

My tips aren’t specifically for expats in Great Britain, they’re for anyone planning to live overseas:

  • Use every resource at your disposal to make connections with other expats (as well as locals). Expat life can be very lonely if you are shy or wait for people to come to you. A support system is really important when you’re far away from home.
  • Reach out to friends and family at home as often as you can. They might not realize or understand what it’s like to be so far away, so you might have to reach out for support.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s better to ask a stupid question than guess and make a cultural gaffe!

How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

When we first moved to Great Britain we were dead set against making a lot of American friends. We wanted to avoid the expat community and really immerse ourselves in British culture. Over time we realized how completely silly and single minded that was, and we’ve since made a lot of expat friends. They’ve become such an important part of our lives in Great Britain, and we couldn’t have survived the past 18 months without them. InterNations is a great resource for making friends, as well as other social networking groups. The blogging world is also really welcoming. It’s not hard to find like-minded people as we are all in the same boat!

How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?

We are enjoying the weirdness of living abroad, and though we sometimes wonder if it is making us weird, we aren’t quite ready to go home yet!

Jan-Peter van Tijk

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

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