This week marks 2 years since we got on the great big iron bird that brought us all the way to Atlanta, GA to start our new lives. Thankfully, the weather is being much kinder to us than this time last year when our first anniversary was marked with snowmageddon but it still got me thinking of how the past 2 years have changed me into the person I am today.
When I first jumped onto that plane and started this new life I didn’t think of myself as an expat, for some reason that term just never crossed my mind. I was going to live in another country and start a new life, the term expat was never mentioned. It wasn’t until I got here and started reading other blogs and articles that I realized that I too am an expat and I’m on my own expat journey into the great unknown.
I left the UK with an open mind and a plan to embrace everything America threw at me. To submerge myself into American life and adjust to it accordingly and I think I have definitely done that! I now drive everywhere, including from one end of a strip mall to another. I realize this isn’t something to be proud of but it’s part of American life and those strip malls are so damn big it can take you a good 20 minutes to walk from one end to the other! Time is precious people!
I eat American food. I’m not one of these expats who lives in the European aisle of the supermarket (grocery store if we’re going all American!) the only thing I have in my cupboards that is British is some PG Tips tea bags (I’m a northern lass, you can never get me away from my tea!) and 2 Cadbury’s chocolate selection boxes bought for us at Christmas, and let’s face it, Hershey’s chocolate just doesn’t compare to the Dairy Milk! Bring on the BBQ, pizza, wings and of course the queso! It does mean I have to watch my weight a little more though – damn you fatty American food!
I watch American TV. We have a VPN connection which means we can watch the BBC iPlayer, ITV player, 4 OD and any other internet streaming from the UK but the only thing we watch is the BBC news. The news over here definitely does not compare, especially if you want to know what’s going on outside of the U.S. or even outside of Atlanta!
I even wear exercise clothing when I’m not going to the gym. I noticed this just about as soon as I got off the plane in Atlanta – American’s like to wear their gym kit no matter what they are doing! I’m currently wearing mine as I write this. Yes, I did yoga earlier and went for a walk but it’s still on me now and it’s about to get dark. I haven’t gone so far as doing exercise at home whilst watching one of those exercise channels on TV although I’m pretty sure my neighbor is doing that right now – the blinds are shaking, the floorboards are creaking and it sounds like he’s jumping up and down. (I realize now I’ve typed that that it sounds a little dodgy!) I dread to think what it sounds like for the neighbor underneath him!
As well as all this trivial stuff though, being an expat has changed me as a person. I’m definitely stronger than I was 2 years ago. Living away from family and friends who have been by your side for your entire life and suddenly not having that support system as easily on hand is tough, but you find ways around it. Thankfully I have the German who looks after me very well indeed and the delights of FaceTime, social media and every other form of communication we have at our fingertips right now – that is invaluable when you’re an expat.
My outlook on life has changed. I now want to take every opportunity that is thrown at us and get involved in it. I want to climb that mountain up in North Georgia, I want to go to that event that’s taking place in Downtown Atlanta, I want to head to that beer festival, check out that new restaurant, take a random road trip or jump on a plane at a minutes notice and explore a new city and accept every invitation we get because I want to experience as much as I can. Right not we have no end date on how long we will stay here, but we also live with the fact that it could technically end at any moment so we have to make the most of everyday that we have here. I would hate to have to leave and have regrets because we didn’t seize opportunities.
I’m a well travelled person. I was always up for taking a trip somewhere but last year saw us hitting up some of the many places on my ever expanding bucket list, including New Orleans, Chicago, Savannah, Indianapolis, Nashville and Destin, many of which I never thought I would even visit in my lifetime. It’s opportunities like this that make me value expat life even more. I am such a lucky person to be able to live this life and for that I am so very grateful (and to the German for working his butt off to get us here!).
But, most of all, this expat experience has changed me as a person. I am definitely more independent. Without that support system around me I have to make decisions on my own (and with the help of that lovely German of mine of course!). This doesn’t mean I can live without my family and friends, that I definitely cannot do, but I now try to figure things out on my own first.
I’m less fearful and more confident. Upping sticks and moving to a new country where you only know one person, the one person you left the other country with can be pretty daunting. And for a quiet, not so confident person like myself, it can be pretty tough to get yourself out there and make friends. When I moved to the States though that was something I was forced to do and I did it. I now have some great friends over here who I would miss so much if we had to leave.
I’m more open minded. Living here and experiencing a new culture and lifestyle means you have to be more open minded to change. There is no way you could live the British lifestyle and fit in with your surroundings. You could try but I’m pretty sure you’d feel a little alienated. You need to head out to those American gatherings, play some beer pong, eat out every night (well maybe not every night but our time in restaurants has definitely increased) and embrace your new home. I may not agree with everything the U.S. lifestyle throws at you but I’m sure as hell willing to give everything a try!
Becoming an expat was one of the best decisions of my life and I wouldn’t change it for the world.