Everybody who has spent time in a different country knows that expat life is not quite like anything else in the world. The confusion of the first few days and weeks, the slow, but steady process of acclimation, the little peculiarities and quirks that might strike you about your new surroundings: almost any situation you encounter can make for a great story. If you are so inclined and want to blog about it, of course!
Our InterNations recommended blog section features talented expat bloggers from around the world. Their offerings to the blogosphere have been selected for their great entries and high quality, whether they may be funny, informative, interesting, deeply personal or a combination of all of the above.
Let’s hear from our featured bloggers in the USA:
In the beginning (the first 4 years) we had almost no interaction with other expats, since we moved to an area which was then rather untouched by international influence. Since then two German companies launched major investments in our region and we can hear German spoken almost everywhere now. The stores offer most of the comfort foods European expats crave (German bread, Nutella, sparkling water, etc.) and being German is actually considered cool in our neck of the woods.
It really takes time to find “real” friends but don’t give up. Some of my closest, supportive, caring friends are American through and through. Americans are very friendly they will tell you their very personal life stories/health conditions on the bus, at the pool or in a grocery line and then may never talk to you again. Do not take this as a sign of friendship if you are a private, slow to warm Brit!
I didn’t fully realize exactly how bad the American health care system is. The cost of care, the access to (quality) care and the absolute, total, complete rip-off called American health insurance and the greed involved on all levels. Someone get me an icepack! I feel a stroke coming on just thinking about it. Seriously, though, it ends up being an enormous expense and insecurity in life, and it’s something to think really hard about if you are considering moving here.
I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock, because I didn’t think it would happen. I also didn’t expect for it to take so long to get my new life up and running. It took longer than I expected to get my Social Security and to get my driving sorted. That was out of my control though, and it did give me time to settle in and spend some much-needed time with my husband.
I mean, obviously make sure you have a passport that's in date for a few years, enough money to see you through your first six to twelve months, and have a game plan about a job or lifestyle for your new, expat life, but don't fret too much over the finer details. You're going to be surprised by what you find challenging and what you find easy. I have often discovered the exact opposite of my expectations happening in that sense, so I've learned not to expect to know what to expect too much.
I was familiar with the ‘American life’ based on what I have seen on TV, or in movies. I have also visited the US as a tourist in 2001 so somehow, I knew what to expect. However, living here permanently was unplanned. I think psychologically, it would have been a bit easier if I knew that I was leaving my family and friends in the Philippines for good. I think it always helps for a migrant to have networks in the place of migration to assist in adjustment.
Believe it or not, there is a community of Belgian expats here! I was very happy when I discovered that and almost immediately went to a meetup. We also live close to the university so there are a lot of international people in the area and California in general is a very multicultural state.
We try to integrate with Brits and Americans. We are lucky that there is a British community here already and we’ve got to know a lot of them. The Brits do all sorts of social events and keep a flavor of Britishness, but the real experience has been hanging out with Americans, whom we’ve met through the gym, work, school etc. They willingly share their lives with us, which is a wonderful, intriguing and entertaining thing.
When I lived in London I was a bit of a Bridget Jones: young, free, working and single and once I got to the USA I had two kids and became a full time mom so I can’t really directly compare the two experiences. I certainly had trouble adapting to the incredibly hot weather here though and to the driving culture.
The weather in Chicago has also been a challenge for me. The summers can be very hot and humid, which I can more or less deal with. The winters, however, are brutal. As a parent it’s hard because it’s often too cold to take the kids outside, so you end up indoors for months on end.
I did not experience culture shock as such, but it was getting used to the subtle differences. I struggled with getting my head around things like using the coins (money) and remembering what they were. Using ovens and other appliances confused me for a while and I still think my husband is driving on the wrong side of the road!
Be willing to start from zero and work your way to create the life that you want. We came here with two suitcases of our most personal belongings, spent months sharing accommodations with other people, receiving “donations” from friends and sleeping on the floor before buying a mattress. Now, we are living on our own and doing well (at least I do think so). That’s the thing about living here, as long as you work hard and be smart with your money, you can create the life that you want.
When I first moved to Chicago, I was really surprised at how large the city is compared to what I was use to back home in Canada. I also didn’t realize that so many products I could get back home weren’t available here. You’d think they would be, since our two countries are literally right next to each other.