I’m an American, and for a little more than two years, I’ve been living in the UK. Nothing unique, right? Relocation is, after all, the industry I work in. To my surprise, knowing about it and actually living it are two completely separate things. I miss the States. I miss the food, driving on the right side of the road, and my family – among many other things. So, what can I do? Well, the only thing I know how to do of course – try to make it better. According to my British husband, all Americans seem to have a “can-do” attitude, which is the tonic to my occasional expat blues. Here are some ways I’ve found to help me cope.
Things from Home
This site offers overall advice for expats with an article entitled “Ten Ways to Make a Country Feel Like Home.” It includes a few of the points above plus this one that I also feel is very important:
- Bring Along Your Favorite Things: Does your new room, apartment, or house still seem rather bland and impersonal? Luckily, there are various ways to make your new place your home. Think of an item that you have had in every place you have lived in and bring it along. This can be anything from pictures of your family or your favorite piece of art to your beloved old leather couch or your favorite blanket. When you have something familiar to hold on to, settling down will be much easier than expected.
It’s a comfort for many of us and probably the first difference I became keenly aware of after moving. Not being able to locate the brands you’re familiar with, an ingredient to your mom’s recipe, or the ability to grab lunch at your favorite local restaurant can be frustrating and make you feel even further away from home. To ease these culinary woes, here are a few tips:
- Brands: You might be surprised that several of your favorite brands can be found locally, they’re just named something different. If you can’t find the one you want, it’s time to try something new … or stock up next time you go home.
- Cooking: Check out websites like American food: UK substitutions and ingredient swaps to help with your mom’s recipe or take this opportunity to make it your own by adding something new! Either way, you’ve moved to a new country, not to the moon. Be patient and you’ll find what you need.
- Dining out: Get to know the restaurants near your new home. Ask neighbors where they go and read reviews on Google, Yelp, or TripAdvisor.
If it’s not necessary, don’t feel pressured to learn how to drive right away. Most places outside the U.S. have excellent public transport options. Getting on the road before you’re ready can cause anxiety and accidents. When you are ready, check out the local guidelines like this site for the UK. Even if you’ve been driving for years at home consider, taking lessons at your new location.
Being away from home during major holidays can be difficult and isolative, but it is important to celebrate in your own way. I found these links to be helpful on this subject:
- The Importance of Celebrating Your Traditions as an Expat
- 7 Expats on How to Spend the Holidays Away From Home (this is Christmas-focused, but you can apply these tips to any holiday). For me, it’s about celebrating where you are and including local friends who will be eager to learn about your culture and traditions.
I hope you find these resources helpful. I find myself revisiting them whenever I need to, particularly so close to the 4th of July holiday upcoming in the States. What have you done to help yourself adjust to a new place? Let us know.