Pauline and Steve: Slow Travel
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Pauline and Steve are seasoned expats who have been away from their original home for well over 20 years. Apart from running their online travel community Slow Travel, they also operate a blog, filled with practical tips, trip reports, and anecdotes on expat life.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.
We are Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen, originally from Vancouver, Canada. We moved to the United States in 1990 and spent 20 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2010 we moved to the Cotswolds in England. We both work from home and do web design.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging in 2002 when I ran the online travel community Slow Travel. Several of us started blogging about our trips. I have kept up my blog and now write about our move to England, as well as our Europe travel.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
A recent favorite entry from my blog is “Waking Up Before the Alarm Goes Off” where I write about wanting to stay in England and how much I miss the US.
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 traveled regularly to Great Britain for ten years, including a trial two-month stay in the winter a few years before we moved here. By the time we arrived we were comfortable with the driving and most aspects of daily life. We had been planning this move for five years so were mentally prepared when we did the move.
Regular walking in the countryside is very important to us. In the US we lived in a small town with good access to hiking in the nearby National Forest, but the hiking in England is better. We love the concept of public access to private land – you don’t see this in the US. We live on a walking trail in Painswick. We put on our boots, walk out the front door and are in the glorious English countryside.
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?
We moved here with the idea of staying for one year if everything worked out. We are coming up to two years now and the current plan is to stay for five years, but I think we are probably here for good. We prepared for this move by wing walking – holding on to our life in the US while we set up a new life here. We are renting a house here and still have our house in the US so that we can move back if we need to.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Everyone knows that I am not from here the moment I speak. One day I was going into the local tea room and a gentleman held the door for me. When I thanked him he asked me where I was from. I said Nailsworth (the next town over, where we were living). He laughed, I laughed and then he said “where are you really from”. I don’t think I will ever lose this accent, and it will always identify me as “not from here”.
The benefit of our accents is that people always want to talk to us. Brits love talking to Americans. We have long conversations with people we meet on the walking paths, or when we are out and about. And people remember us – we are the Americans. We have not met any other Americans here in the Cotswolds, but I am sure there are some.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?
- Visit frequently to find the areas that suit you best, to get comfortable with the driving and to experience daily life here.
- If you have a parent or grandparent from an EU country you may be able to claim citizenship. I claimed my Irish and British citizenship based on my parents. My husband claimed Irish citizenship based on being married to me. This made moving here legally easy for us.
- Make sure you are set up to make your living here. Currently jobs are hard to find and daily life is expensive.
How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I don’t know any other expats! We had made some friends here through the Slow Travel community, and visited them on our trips. This helped us make the transition because we were coming to a country where we already had some close friends.
How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?
The pace of life in an English village and the access to wonderful walking trails suits me perfectly at this time in my life – I love it here!
Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen