21 September 2016

Michael Harling - Expat in England, UK

Michael Harling - Expat in England, UK

We’ve had the chance to talk to Michael Harling, 61, an American expat who has moved to England with his wife. Mr. Harling who has been living there for 14 years, now works as a writer.

Read more about his experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: The USA, rural New York State, Columbia County.


Q: What made you move out of USA?

A: I met a woman from Britain and moved there to marry her.


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

A: West Sussex, England, UK.


Q: How long have you been living in England?

A: 14 years.


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

A: I came over on my own. I live with my British wife.


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

A: Yes, I miss my family and friends sometimes, but not often. I am not prone to homesickness.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: They are all right. The southerners are fairly standoffish, but they are friendly once you get to know them.


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: It was not easy to make friends. I worked for the first 12 year I was here and did not make any friends with the people I worked with. I did socialise with other expats, but they were ALL women, and they lived a distance away. We only got together occasionally, and now we don’t see each other at all. I have managed to meet a very few people who I socialise with on occasion, but for the most part, I don’t really have any close friends.


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

A: It is more expensive here. Britain is an expensive place.

  • Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: From about £1.50 to £2.80 depending on how large or how fancy.

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

A: When my wife and I go out to local restaurants, we usually spend about £60

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

A: As much as you want to spend. We have a Michelin star restaurant here in town, and we’ve spent about £150 on a meal there.

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

A: Wine is cheap. You can get a good bottle for around a fiver. If it’s not on special, you pay anywhere from £8 to £14 for a decent bottle. Cigarettes are about £6 a pack, but they come 17 in a pack. Many people—men and women—buy loose tobacco and roll their own cigarettes (rollies, they call them) because cigarettes are so expensive.


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

A: Thanks to the FATCA legislation passé by the US government, it is now very difficult for Americans to open a bank account anywhere in the world. Many banks simply refuse to do business with Americans. I was fortunate enough to have my accounts before the laws were passed, but I have been denied a new account with a different financial institution because I was an American. The best any new expat can do is check the bank’s policy on new accounts and specifically ask about Americans opening accounts.


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

A: It was…interesting. If you come over to work, or school or, as in my case, to get married, the paperwork is different. I think my way was easier because my future wife simply had to show she could support me. I had to get a visa to remain, which lasts a year. To do that, I had to go to Croydon and stand in line for half the day and fill out forms and stuff, but it all went smoothly enough. The following year, I applied for Leave To Remain, which meant I could stay as long as I wanted. Getting a job was not an issue, once I had the visas. For the most part, the paperwork was straightforward.


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

A: Britain has a national health service. It is reliable, but can be a little slow.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or host country? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: When you establish residence in the UK, you are assigned to your local NHS doctor’s office/clinic, and you go there for whatever ails you. You do not have to pay anything for visits or procedures or operations.


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

A: I packed up most of the stuff in my flat and mailed it over. It was hugely expensive and took a long time and when the boxes arrived they were pretty beaten up and when we opened them I couldn’t remember why I sent all that stuff over in the first place. I could have bought dishes, silverware, towels and the like here for less than it cost me to mail them.


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

A: Learning the customs and language.


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

A: Positives: beautiful countryside, lots of history, great beer, good food, very close to Europe so visiting other countries is easy and cheap.

Negatives: It is very expensive.


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

A: I don’t know about the best things, but what I like to do is hike through the Downs, visit historic locations, and sample to local beer in the pubs.


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

A: No, but I never say never.


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

A: Keep a sense of humor.


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

A: Not anymore. I’ve been here long enough that I feel like a native, so I don’t do much of the “I’m an expat” thing these days.