Moving my US family to UK – a Spouse’s Perspective
We moved from the US to the UK in 2008 for a 6 year assignment. Overall it was a great experience for our family. The UK was a very livable place and we would not hesitate to do it again.
Writing from a spouse’s perspective, the expat community there was a very welcoming one. Personal relationships are not often one of the topics you see mentioned when considering an expat lifestyle. Because people come and go in the expat community, there is no time to lose. Friendships are formed quickly and there is little hesitation in diving into social activities with the whole family. Unlike the US, where we tend to bump into people several times before we approach them as a friend and invite them to social functions, expats are ready to include you for the most part the day you meet. This is what we found in the UK.
And when I think about the toughest times over there, they revolved around the movement of the expats. After you form a fast hard friendship with other families experiencing a new life just as you are, it’s difficult to have to say goodbye when either their time or yours is over. Some compare it to the rip of a bandaid, that gut wenching feeling that expats experience as they say goodbye to their friends that have become their second family, as they are the ones that are left behind in the country that has become their new home. It is such an emotional experience to which many of us expats relate, with or without children. You develop new ways to cope as an adult with this separation and try to formulate ways for your children to do the same..
Switching from personal to lifestyle adjustments those first 6 months of living in a new culture took some time for all of us. Little things, like having a washer that’s also the dryer, fitting all of your cold groceries into much smaller refrigerators than we had back home, and learning what exactly an electric fire is, are a few of the adjustments we made. Heating systems with radiators were novel as well. We had so many power and electric issues with the place were living in, the maintenance man became a close friend. But after you are there and assimilate, life acquires a steady rhythm until that day you have to start readying to go back to the USA. Once again you face a new challenge for you and your family.
Looking back I would highly recommend that you read about the culture and lifestyle so you know what you want to take with you and what to expect when you get there. Familiarizing yourself with the expat clubs available and seeking them out quickly will help you over the culture hurdle. And once you and your family are comfortably settled into your new home, you will find that this experience has brought each family member a broader view of the world, a greater acceptance of other cultures, and the ability to adapt to a new surrounding and way of life. An experience of a lifetime.