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Jo: Separated by a Common Language

“It’s a rubber thing that keeps you warm in bed,” I repeated in a slower and more frustrated tone of voice, hugging myself in the process as if to demonstrate how I used it. I was trying to describe a hot water bottle as I stood in the middle of a large chemist chain in US. The sales assistant beckoned me over to an aisle with thermos mugs, pointed at them, shrugged, and sauntered off. I felt like crying. It was January, -20c outside, and my first weekend in Cincinnati. I had moved from the UK and suspected that the first few wintry months would be more challenging than inspiring. Well, I got that right! My husband had already been here for nine months, and after packing up at home and finishing my role I tootled off after him. We had discussed it with great enthusiasm before we decided to take the plunge for a couple of years. With the support of my husband's job, paid accommodation whilst in the US, and two paid trips home every year, we felt all other risks were worthwhile.

As I left the UK, nodding for the hundredth time saying “yes, of course I will be fine”, I knew that no matter the amount of preparation, the true reality of the change would only become real once I was on another country's soil.

On reflection, I feel like my move was quite a stark contrast in lifestyles — from the rolling hills of the British countryside to a previously edgy US city; from rambling cottage to tight-knit apartment; from a full-blown vegetable garden to a couple of tomatoes on the balcony; from a 12-hour-a-day job to no job at all and all without the sanity of my girlfriends to spur and chorale me. What a blessing Skype is.

And so, since January, I have had to change, and — even coming from someone who likes change — I have had good days and some more challenging days. At first it was the small stuff: words which no one understood, jokes which didn’t really translate, getting into the wrong side of the car every day, grouching at worn hired furniture, and despairing at the incessant TV adverts! Then there were greater problems such as being a pawn in the system of a country that calls you an “alien”, and not having access to credit as I don’t have a credit score here. As well as having to fill out form after form to justify my presence, and — after 27 years of driving — needing to take a driving test again!

But then came the really good stuff: getting a volunteering role at a nature centre, discovering the amazing US National Parks, seeing my first black bear on a hike, learning to kayak, and, of course, finding my local InterNations Community. Life is gonna be just fine!


Jo is currently an expat in the US, along with her husband. Moving abroad has allowed her to step outside her comfort zone and become more open to meeting new people and finding different opportunities.  While she misses good British curry, she cherishes living abroad and is often inspired by all the people she has met in the InterNations Cincinnati Community.

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