26 September 2016

Clarissa - Expat in England

Clarissa - Expat in England

We’ve had the chance to talk to Clarissa, 24, an American expat who has moved to England with her husband. Mrs. Clarissa who has been living there for one year, now works as student services at a community college.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: San Diego, CA.


Q: What made you move out of the USA?

A: I decided to move outside the US because why not? I’ve always wanted to live in Europe, and when Andrew’s job gave us the opportunity to move to the UK, we decided to take it. We were engaged at the time, and we ended up moving nine months after we got married. We’ve taken advantage of our new location by traveling as much as possible around Europe.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: Andrew’s company moved us to the UK, and that was really the deciding factor in choosing to live here. We now live in a little cottage 30 min outside of London.


Q: How long have you been living in England?

A: One year – four more to go (at least).


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: Andrew and I didn’t know anyone in this country before we moved here, and we’ve adapted to expat life in our own ways. Before we moved, I hadn’t considered how differently we would adjust to a new country. Andrew already had a job lined up, and a community of co-workers to be a part of. As the ‘trailing spouse’ or ‘expat partner,’ I had to work a bit harder to find a job and circle of friends. I stumbled across ExpatPartnerSurvival.com, a blog by Clara Wiggins for expats like me that have followed their partner to another country. It’s definitely helped me address real struggles that I face, but Andrew doesn’t necessarily have to deal with – such as postponing career goals, dealing with feelings of isolation, and other fun stuff…

I’m very fortunate to have the right to work as a dependent on Andrew’s visa, and not all expat partners have the option to work. Having a job really helped me “get to know” our new town, and keep a daily routine. Now that a full year has gone by, I can say I feel comfortable living here. We have a growing circle of friends that helps us feel more at home. But building relationships takes a lot of time, and there were several times last year when I was impatient with the whole process and wanted friends NOW.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I do miss being home, but Skype and being able to chat online helps me keep in contact with friends and family. Andrew and I had decided before we moved that we would make going home once a year a priority. We were able to go home for Christmas last year, and this year we’re going back for Thanksgiving. If I have a trip home to look forward to, I find that I don’t get as homesick.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: I like the locals. I’m a quiet person, so I feel like I fit in with the English – ha. I do miss American enthusiasm sometimes, especially around the holidays.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in England? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: We don’t know any other expats in our area, but we’ve met a few people at church that we meet up with for a meal now and then. Blogging is one way I connect with other people and socialise. I recently went to a blogging event in London, and it was a chance to meet other bloggers in the area.


Q: How does the cost of living in England compared to your home?

A: We’re paying about the same amount to live here as we did in San Diego CA, but we don’t drive because car insurance and the cost of driving is way more expensive here.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: £3-£5.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an inexpensive restaurant?

A: £10.

  • Q: How much is a meal in an expensive restaurant?

A: Well this is embarrassing – I can’t say I’ve been to an expensive restaurant in this country. Moving is expensive guys.

  • Q: How much is a bottle of wine? How about a pack of cigarettes?

A: Wine is probably around £10 – I don’t smoke, so not sure about a pack of cigarettes.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in England?

A: Setting up a bank account was such a pain! I wish we would have just hired a service to open an account for us before we moved! We didn’t realise that we needed proof of address in the form of an official document posted to us (no printed online statements with our address on them would be accepted). We had to wait a few weeks to open an account. Also, I wasn’t allowed to be on the bank account since I didn’t have a job yet. Andrew had to provide proof of his employment and income in order to open an account.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits?

A: Applying for visas/work permit is a long process, but it’s unavoidable. It was pretty frustrating playing the waiting game for months and months leading up to the move. Originally, we thought we would move before our apartment lease ended, but we ran into so many delays that it was the other way around. Luckily we were able to stay with Andrew’s parents for about a month after our lease ended.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in England is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Our experience with the healthcare system in England has been positive and hassle-free. We had to register at the GP in our area first, and both of us have had a few doctor appointments since. It’s really nice being able to go to the doctor without having to worry if insurance will cover the cost. I’ve never had great health insurance in the US, so it’s been a major improvement.


Q: What was most memorable about the packing and moving process to England? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: HAHA! Funny you should ask. The most memorable part of our packing/moving process is that the moving company we hired sent our things to New Zealand and shipped somebody else’s stuff to us in the UK. We opened our crate after waiting three months for it to get to us, and were like “this isn’t our stuff!” Our stuff was then loaded on another ship that ran aground near Singapore and had to be salvaged off of it. It finally made it to us in March – we moved in July.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: It’s hard to point to just one challenge as the “big one” because EVERYTHING that happened in the first 6 months after our move was hard. Nothing came easy, and it felt like everything we tried to accomplish (opening a bank account, finding a place to live, setting up a phone plan) was 100 times harder than it should be. We STILL don’t have a phone plan set up because our credit rating in this country wasn’t high enough to get one!


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in England?

A: Some positives: there’s a lot of history here, it’s within easy travel distance to Europe, and we get five weeks of holiday. Negatives: the weather, the weather, the weather!


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There’s so so much to do in London! I’d recommend getting a Royal Palaces annual pass – or something similar – to start with.


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: We don’t have any set plans, but I would love to live in Austria for a while before we move back to the US.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: As someone who has just survived the first year as an expat, I would just like to say: persevere my fellow expats! Things continue to get easier and easier as time passes. I think the most important thing is to give each new experience a “trial period” of a few months at least. Don’t give up on anything too quickly – give your job, your church, co-workers, town, etc. a proper chance to grow on you. I struggled to feel at home anywhere in this country at first, but I truly believe anywhere can become home if you are willing to stay put for a while and grow some roots. It’s great that we can travel more than ever now that we live in the UK, but I think it’s wise to invest in your home too.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about England?

A: Here’s my top 3 blogs based in England: