The next installment in my Ten Things series, in response to all the lovely Sisterhood of the World Bloggers tags I received, are these great questions about being an expat. Ersatz Expat is a great blog charting an incredible expat journey, the places this family have lived! So, as expected, she put together a really interesting set of questions.
So, here goes!
1. What was your first expat posting?
This is my first expat posting. Before this, the furthest I’d got was work experience in Belgium when I was sixteen and six weeks in Finland on a secondment when I was in my twenties! We moved to the US in 2012 when my husband was transferred to his company’s head office. I was on maternity leave with our youngest and we decided we’d come over for two years. Three and a half years later, we’re extending our visas!
2. What was your most memorable posting?
As this is our first, it’s definitely the most memorable, so far :) Who knows what the future might bring!
3. What is your advice for settling into a new posting?
When we first moved I made a conscious decision to make it home. For however long we were here, I refused to count the days. I wanted to feel settled and enjoy it. And, it worked. We settled really quickly; we made friends, got involved in the local school communities, joined baby groups and took classes. So, my biggest advice is to do what you can to make it home, invest time in ‘fitting in’ to your new life. In the first few weeks, stick to known routines (especially if you have children) and most importantly, be kind to yourself.
4. What are the biggest frustrations in your current posting?
Paper! Honestly, if you could sign one piece of paper here, you’ll have to sign twenty. Thankfully, my husband deals with all the paperwork, but buying houses, opening bank accounts and doing our taxes etc. involve so much paper!
5. What are the best points of your current posting?
The lifestyle, weather and people. I’m not working and I am very grateful to have had this opportunity to stay home with the kids. They may drive me nuts at times, but I am very lucky to be able to do it. The winters may be harsh, but the summers are fabulous, LOVE that! And, we’ve made some wonderful friends here, we live in a lovely town with a really strong community. It’s been a great experience so far.
6. How do you come to terms with saying goodbye when it is time to move on?
Saying goodbye is the worst part of being an expat. You say goodbye, a lot. As we haven’t ‘moved on’ I don’t know how I would cope with that, but visiting the UK and leaving again is always hard. I’ve found that easier to do when we already have a plan in place for the next visit.
7. Where would you like to move to next?
Honestly, I’m not sure I want to do this again. If we move, it will be to move back to the UK. Having said that, the thought of moving no longer phases me the way it did before, and if we ended up doing it all again I’d go into with open eyes and far less stress.
8. What is the thing that you miss the most from your home country?
People. I’ve come to realize that most things are just stuff. Sure, I miss silly things like proper chips and Marks and Spencer (!) but I’ve found that I actually miss very little. We’ve found new favourites and I now approach things from a different perspective. Family and friends are the thing you can’t replace.
9. Why did you decide to start blogging?
I wanted to chart our journey, to record our (two year!) posting, so that we could look back on all that we’d done. It was a way to keep everyone back home up to date with what we were up to, and it gave me a much needed outlet.
10. Please tell us a little about your most embarrassing expat/cultural mishap.
To be honest, I embarrass easily, so most days some missing bit of cultural, contextual knowledge will have me feeling like an idiot or asking a silly question. We’ve avoided major incidents, the US and the UK are similar enough that I don’t make horrible mistakes. But, they are also different enough that I often feel that I’m missing some important piece of information that would make everything fall into place far more easily than it does!
Thanks again to Ersatz Expat for the great questions. Next time, I will be answering the questions posed by Tamsin over at A Single Mum’s Journal.