19 February 2019

Nely Kostopoulou - Expat in the USA

Nely Kostopoulou - Expat in the USA

We’ve had the chance to talk to Nely Kostopoulou, 39, a Greek expat who has moved to the USA with her family. Mrs Kostopoulou, who has been living there for almost three years is a homemaker and editor. Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: From Athens, Greece


Q: What made you move out of your home country?

A: My husband's job 16 years ago. Our first move was in Belgium, then England, US, Netherlands and now back to Baltimore, US.


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

A: I am living in Baltimore, Maryland. Again it was a move through my husband's job.


Q: How long have you been living in your host country?

A: It is actually our second time here. We were here for almost 2 years, and now it will be a year this August. So almost 3 in total.


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

A: I am living with my husband and sons. Our boys have actually been born as expats, so this is kind of a normality for them. In general the transition to US was easy especially for my older son because he was comfortable speaking the language.


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

A: Of course I miss friends and family, but in comparison with when I first moved 16 years ago -where I only had a phone to connect, now things are so much different and much easier. Skype, WhatsApp, Viber and Messenger are all the ways I am using everyday so to contact back home, and with all the friends from Greece and from all the other countries we have been. This helps a lot when I feel homesickness. Cooking Greek food or visiting a Greek restaurant is a good remedy too!


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: Locals are in general friendly they will say hi and smile to you, but friendships are a challenge. Especially Baltimorians. They have very strong bonds with their families and their friends a great and a rare thing to see in an American city, but at the same time difficult for expats and people from out of state that are looking to adjust and built a supporting network. Having said that people here are very helpful in case of an emergency, and they will always reach out to help even if they don't know you. Another thing I like is the enthusiasm and how openly say that they like something you wear.


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

A: I think having kids always helps to open the doors so to meet new people. This is how I met some people the first time we were here and helped a lot, especially because I was pregnant with my second kid and I needed help and support. But I was also lucky to have here a friend from Belgium that she was happy to share her experiences and her friendships. That made things so easier and I really appreciate her support.

There is not really an expat community so it will only be by chance if you meet one. In this move I met some Expats and it is nice to have people around you that understand your situation and you can support each other. Again through school and mom's groups was a way to meet and connect. There are many mommy and me groups so the younger the kids is the easier is to meet more people.


Q: How does the cost of living in your host country compare to your home?

A: Overall is more expensive.


Q: How much is a cup of coffee?

A: From 1 to 5 dollars depending from where you are buying, and also the size you are choosing!


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

A: Around 10-15 dollars.


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

A: It can be 40 dollars and over.


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

A: A middle price is around 12 dollars. I don't smoke so I don't know the cost for cigarettes.


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

A: Before you do anything in US you need your SSN (Social security number.) Be prepared for a lot of questions and papers that you will have to provide. From current landloard and employer to previous job history or recent utility bills.


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

A: We were lucky to have the support and navigation for this part from my husbands job. We had to provide all the proofs and personal papers from our end and to attend interviews or follow other mandatory steps.


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

A: It is reliable as long you have a private insurance. Especially here in Baltimore we are lucky to have great medical facilities and doctors. GBMC is one of the hospitals I trust since I had me baby there and my physician. Another clinic that is available after you Doctors hours that you can use when there is a sudden illness is Patience first. There people that are struggling with insurance will be treated too.


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: We secured a health insurance in our host country. It is provided from my husband's company. It is important to have a coverage for all the members of the family for when you are traveling abroad.


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

A: Again in that difficult task we have always been covered from the company my husband works, something that makes things a lot less stressful. For our move from the Netherlands to US we used a relocation company that it is based in UK, named Weichert workforce mobility and has done previous moves too. This time we had a lot of issues with missing and damaged items that they handled very professionally.


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

A: I am not a new expat anymore, but I still feel like one in every move we make. The first few months and up to a year is a very challenging time, especially for the person that is not working and has to restart and organize all the day -to-day aspects of family's life. Meeting people is also another challenge. Sometimes it comes easily and sometimes it takes time. And needs to have patience.


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

A: The positive thing is that coming from Europe we have the chance to experience how life is in another continent. We are looking forward to explore and experience new places here. We are appreciating the big spaces, the big roads and the easy parking! The negative side is that Maryland and Baltimore more specific has a long history of guns, violence and drugs use. These raises my insecurity and fear when I visit areas that I don't know. The easy access and use of guns in general in the US is something that concerns me daily especially with all the violence towards schools and young people.


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

A: It is an area that is surrounded by nature. It has hikes and nice walks to woodlands. Maryland is connected with water so there are many options to visit some nice beaches. It is also close to Washington DC, Philadelphia and few hours drive from New York so a lot of options for long weekends visits. Florida is also only 1 hour and something away by plane. Here in Baltimore there is a nice zoo and an aquarium. Some very nice restaurants and a lot of options for artisan shopping.


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

A: No it is not something we consider for the near future.


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

A: The tips that I will give especially if they are coming from another continent is to be open minded for the different approaches people have on things. To be careful not to caught up in the consumerism and the easy access to quick food and to try to travel within the US as much as they can so to experience the diversity of scenery, seasons and food that has to offer.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about your host country?

A: Apart from my blog (of course) https://neofili.blogspot.com/ where you can find about travels, life and other challenges of an expat, I like also the blog of Susannah https://feastandwest.com/travel/ and Molly Mills http://www.amotherlife.com/about/awards/ a mother from Australia that is leaving in New York