24 August 2016

Caroline - Expat in Texas, USA

Caroline - Expat in Texas, USA

We’ve had the chance to talk to Caroline, 36, an English expat who has moved to the USA with her family. Mrs. Caroline, a mother and homemaker who has been living there for ten months, now works as a writer.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I was born in Hampshire, England and lived the past ten years in West Sussex where we still have a home.


Q: What made you move out of England?

A: I felt ready a number of years for a change of scenery, every January I would watch the relocation programmes intently and would often drop into conversation with my husband whether it would be possible for us to move abroad. Then one day the phone call came from his CEO would we like to move to America? Without a second thought, I said yes!


Q: Where are you living now?

A: Austin, Texas. We live roughly 15 minutes outside of downtown Austin in a more suburban neighbourhood compared to the diversity of downtown. I have found people to be open, very friendly and accommodating of new and different cultures. The first time I spoke to my daughters’ new friend (age seven) and listen to her describe how she hunted deer and hogs but is currently too young to hold the right kind of gun to hunt doves was quite an eye-opening conversation for sure!


Q: How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: My husband’s CEO chose Austin for a number of reasons such as low tax, warm weather and free thinking people.


Q: How long have you been living in Austin?

A: We have been living in Austin for ten months now and to be honest I came here with a completely open mind of what to expect. We have never lived outside the UK before so we decided we would jump in feet first, make a ton of friends, explore America and this side of the world as much as we can and just see what happens!


Q: What has been the most difficult experience you’ve had when you were new in Austin?

A: I found driving on the other side of the road the most difficult experience when we were new to Austin, even though I have been driving in the UK for almost 20 years without an incident I have always struggled with directions and have a fear of getting lost. It took about six weeks of driving almost every day in Austin before finally my heart stopped pounding every time I got in the driver’s seat.


Q: Would you say that formalities like getting visas or work permits and international health insurance were particularly difficult in Austin? What was your experience with these?

A: The visas, work permits and international health insurances were organised by my husband through his work, they were not difficult to obtain through this path there just seemed to be a lot of waiting for the next stage.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family?

A: I live with my husband, our two children, two cats (from England) and soon we will have a puppy joining our family too!


Q: How are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: My husband is working with colleagues he has known for years so for him it was mainly the food and warm weather which were his biggest adjustments. Our children have adapted amazingly well to the weather, food, new school, new accents better than we could have ever imagined. There were, of course, tears at bedtime the first few weeks due to missing friends and family, they found looking through their baby books helped and I put up photos of friends and family on their bedroom walls. Our older cat was wide-eyed and suspicious for a few days and left a few ‘accidents’ around the house for us, but he soon settled down, our younger cat was straight outside sniffing around and climbing trees for hours!


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

A: I have found it easy to meet and make friends and create the beginnings of a social circle through my children’s school, the school is extremely keen on parental volunteering, and we live in a neighbourhood with a HOA (Home Owners Association) who organise street parties on all the holidays. I have met with some British expats, however, they have been at different life stages than me such as their children were teenagers or they were returning to live in the UK soon so none of those meetings led to friendships.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Anything to recommend to future expats?

A: I feel we have barely scratched the surface of what Austin has to offer, there are a wide variety of restaurants to choose, plenty of natural springs to swim and bathe in, parks and hikes to explore and so on. I would absolutely recommend future expats to attend as many annual events as possible, as everything else you can visit almost all year due to the fantastically warm weather.


Q: How does the cost of living in Austin compare to the UK?

A: Most things like homes, cars, electrical goods, furniture and petrol are much cheaper but things like food and clothing are about the same as the UK.

  • The cost of a cup of coffee is $3
  • The cost of a meal in an inexpensive is $7
  • The cost of a meal in an expensive restaurant is $30-$40
  • The cost of an average quality wine is $14, the cost of a pack of cigarettes is $7


Q: How do you find the local culture and people in Austin?

A: I have found pretty much everyone to be very friendly and helpful and many seem to love the British!


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

A: Positives:

  • The warmer weather
  • Cheaper living
  • The lakes
  • Education


  • People asking what part of Australia am I from?
  • The American food industry using products banned in Europe
  • The need to drive to get anywhere
  • Residential pest control is required


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes?

A: I miss home, family and familiarity a lot, some days I feel homesickness stronger than other days, but it is always there in the back of my mind.


Q: How do you cope with homesickness?

A: In the beginning, I bought clothes, food and magazines online from my favourite UK retailers, plus I continued to watch British TV through YouTube. I continue to use Skype, Email, Facebook, WhatsApp and ring friends and family as forms of communication on a daily and weekly basis.


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

A: We have always discussed the idea of living in Europe and going back to the UK would always be an option but nothing will be finalised for a few years, we are very much enjoying what Austin has to offer!


Q: What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?           

A: The hardest aspect to my expat experience so far is saying goodbye to friends and family at the airport; it never gets any easier and affects me for days afterwards


Q: What tips can you give other expats living in that country?

A: Accept every offer to meet up that comes your way.


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

A: My own blog Expataustinmum.com