I always share my experiences about living abroad, but I have never discussed the actual process of moving to the UK. In my opinion, there are 5 stages of expat life when moving to another country.
It’s a bit of a rollercoaster that oftentimes crashes and derails, but it’s totally worth it!
1. PLANNING STAGE
It’s pure excitement and glamour at the beginning! Daydreaming about walking along cute cobblestone roads, having drinks at outdoor cafes and wearing big hats.
Then terror sinks in and the reality that my family and friends will be so far away. Who am I going to have Happy Hour with? Wait, do they even have Happy Hour? What happens when I need a shoulder to cry on? What do you mean they don’t have Wheat Thins?
And all the invasive paperwork is a real treat. For some reason getting your phone records from the past three years is not AT&T’s top priority, even if it means your whole life’s happiness.
Tips: Hire an immigration lawyer. You are already spending a small fortune to be allowed to enter another country, don’t get cheap now. And be prepared when your visa finally does arrive, it’s not accompanied with a marching band or fireworks. I was very disappointed by this. Some confetti, at least, would have been nice.
2. HONEYMOON STAGE
OMG I live in Europe, I’m so cool! Yes, I’m American but I LIVE in Scotland. I know, it’s crazy (causal hair flip).
The people are so friendly and I love the accents. What’s that word you just said, I have never heard it before? Oh I say things differently too, I know isn’t that cute.
How adorable is that pub?! It’s just like the movies!
I’m going to London this weekend, what are you up to?
Tips: Meet as many people as possible while you are still in this novelty stage and showcase the best version of yourself. Then buckle up buttercup, because Stage 3 hits you like a ton of bricks.
3. HOLY SHIT STAGE
What the hell did I do? I don’t understand anyone, the culture is completely different and no I don’t want another cup of tea!
I’m never going to make any friends and my friends back home have already forgotten about me.
I am 16 again with no credit and can’t do anything without my husband, I didn’t know I time traveled back to 1952.
Why does it keep RAINING?!
I want my mommy!
Tips: This stage of culture shock can last a long time, unfortunately. But you will get through it just like any big change in life. Hold out, it gets better! In the meantime, try to avoid crying in public places, because that’s just awkward for everyone.
4. ACCEPTANCE STAGE
Life is not coming to an end. It’s just different and that’s ok. I have started to make friends, understand what people are saying and can even make my way around a grocery store without looking at everything in bewilderment.
My friends back home have not forgotten about me. They just mock me endlessly for going all Madonna and saying things with a slight British intonation. And sentences are coming out of my mouth like “I’m quite keen to do that!” or “Could I have a wee drop of milk in my tea?”. Ugh.
Tips: Get used to the fact that your friends back home will make fun of you for the rest of your life when your voice goes high at the end of your sentences. And your new friends will make fun of you for the way you say “aluminium” and the fact that you haven’t heard of any of their obscure pop icons.
5. MY NEW NORMAL STAGE
I can’t imagine living anywhere else. The novelty part from Stage 2 comes back and I really do pinch myself every time I fly to Paris for the weekend or take a 3 week holiday to South Africa. What? Is this my real life?
I still get annoyed that there are no free refills, that Americans are called Yanks and ice is considered a luxury in this country, but I have moved on. Mostly.
I still learn new things everyday and get excited about a castle or an Outlander film location.
And I now have two places I call home, with family and friends in both. How lucky am I!
I voted in the Democratic primary election for my home state of Florida last month and I had to fax my ballot back to the New World. How did I find a fax machine in 2018 you may ask? Well, I called every electronic store and stationery shop in the area until I found one. Then I created a fax cover sheet with Microsoft Word templates (thanks for still having one, Microsoft) and waited for that busy signal to turn into a long dial tone. Then voila my vote had been sent! I’m a good American, I know.