Thursday, 21 August 2014

LIFE: How I've Changed Since Expatiation

Lake

Sometimes I wonder if how I've changed as a person over the last two and a half years of being an expat if it's all been because of moving countries or because of growing older and everything else that's been thrown my way. How much difference have those 3,656 miles made?! So for today's Expat Revelations link up with Holly, I'm exploring how becoming a British expat in the USA has changed me - for good, or bad.

To back track I was a bit rebellious in my teen early twenties - the time that was matched with my university years. I went out drinking three times a week, probably drank too much, smoked a little, went to gigs and had lots of friends. Now I'd rather stay in of a night and watch Family Guy or read a book. Is that because i'm eight years the wiser? Because I'm nearly 28 and growing up (or old), or because moving countries knocked my confidence and i'd rather stay in and lets be honest here, hide a little. 

Which is odd when you think about it. Moving countries is a big deal, it's nothing to take lightly. You have to have confidence that this is the move, the life change for you. You pack your bags, you move thousands of miles. I moved to the US and had never stepped foot in the country before. I left family, friends and a job behind. I didn't have plans, other than being with Joe. Surely that took a huge ball of confidence? I guess it did just for some reason it knocked me down rather than built me up.

See I don't like bigging myself up can't you tell.

Being an expat makes me feel like the odd one out, being the one with the funny, the odd accent (that everyone thinks is Australian) or jokes that I was Joe's mail order bride knocked me for six, it's made me so self aware of myself that I pull myself apart. Waitresses sometimes can't pick up what I say, you get double takes, you get people complaining about foreigners right behind you. All that compiles in pushing my social anxiety to the forefront. It makes me question myself about being the outsider. 

Regardless I remind myself that being an expat has made me strong. It's given me opportunities to do things I would never have otherwise, I mean after being in a long distance relationship I get to be with my guy that's worth it all. But it's additionally the estate sales which created a vinyl collection through which I got into blues music. I'm a lot more aware of the beauty of the world and just how vast it is and of how sheltered my youth was. Maybe moving countries gave me the kick up my arse to grow up, to take a bit more responsibility. It's certainly made me a bit more adventurous about exploring places - something I regret not doing more at university. Granted I need a push from Joe at times, but I love finding new places to eat, new places to visit, it's given me a new and better appreciation of the world around me, and I certainly would never have thought about promoting Detroit like I try and do here even knowing it was going to be my home until I took to exploring the city for myself. 

Being an expat certainly changes you, it makes you so self aware, it makes you aware of the world around you - the small things, the big things. While it can make you aware of yourself, your nationality, your confidence in doing such a huge thing, it can also make you so, so aware of being an outsider and as someone who likes to fade into the crowd a little, it's hard to handle at times.

I for one certainly could do with reminding myself how strong I am.


26 comments:

  1. I can't believe it's been that long already! I'm still in awe of how strong you are to make such a move x

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    1. Thank you - time has really flown!

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  2. I only lived abroad temporarily (9 months), it's definitely difficult. Can't imagine doing it permanently!

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    1. It still surprises me when I catch myself thinking that America is my home. Mind you I still feel like i'm living in a holiday home even after moving into our first house. Takes a long while for everything to sink in for sure.

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  3. I'm always interested in hearing how other expats view their new life abroad, being the wife of a Brit and all! I am sure the experience is as varied as the expats themselves. Maybe it is because my husband has been here over 15 years, or perhaps because he is a man, but he seems to have come away without hearing any negativity from others about foreigners. He does get misunderstood at times, even though he only has a mild southwest accent, and usually only with the word 'water.' We are amused by waitresses that just look at us in confusion. When I was young and newly married I didn't think about it so much, but these days I realize more than ever that it is such a huge undertaking to move to another country and try to fit in day to day. I'm sure you'll find it easier as the years pass and as you get older and care less and less what others think! Oh, and I do know what you mean about being the odd one: when I visit the in-laws in the UK I am always the odd one with the funny accent and peoples' less than positive attitudes towards Americans is pretty obvious! Can't say it bothers me too much after all this time though!

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    1. Tomatoes is the one word that confuses everyone and especially the difference between the US and the UK way of telling time - that gets confusing for people every time! I think for me, it's a mixture of just being naturally shy and naturally a bit lower in my confidence so little things jar and bug me a bit. Most probably as I carry on growing older it'll bug me less and less for sure.

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  4. It's a stunningly brave person who makes such a big move, and it will have changed you - made you who you are. Courageous.

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    1. Thank you - certainly takes a lot of getting use to that's for sure.

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  5. I can certainly relate to this, having lived in America for almost a year now. I still feel very aware of being in a different country, despite the many similarities between England and the USA. I've always been quite reserved and I've found it hard to put myself out there but it's happening, albeit slowly. It can be hard but I have to remind myself that this is such an awesome experience that a lot of people can only dream of having. It takes a lot of guts and I was scared half to death to go through with it, but for the right person it's entirely worth it!

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    1. You're right - we certainly have to make the most of this experience and opportunity and rather than a in a bad way that I tend to focus on, I really need to see my difference as being a positive. I'm sure there's even more Americans that would even love to just visit the UK and we had that luck too.

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  6. I honestly could have written this myself, every single word rings true for me too. I can't get my head around that feeling of having no confidence yet we were brave enough to make the move in the first place, I wish I had the answers to that one! We do need to marvel the fact that we have achieved so much more than most people could ever even dream of. We are braver and stronger than we realise!

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    1. Too right - I can moved thousands of miles - but strike up a conversation and have people hearing my accent, nope that's okay! Maybe if I still had all my confidence that I had at university (which was all lost having to then move back in with my parents afterwards) this post might have been writing differently but I could do with cutting myself some gratitude and realising what a strong, brave person I am and how darn awesome this opportunity and adventure of living in the US is.

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  7. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to live in the US - part of me always thinks I'd love it, but given how incomprehensible my accent (Geordie) can be to Brits, I can't think how it would go down elsewhere! But I'm glad to see that you can find the positives in it - you're stronger than you realise.

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    1. Having a Geordie gran and having lived in Newcastle for four years I use to say certain words with a bit of a North East accent - especially 8 and mam etc, but my overall accent was East Yorkshire based (like we don't tend to say "the" so it's always "off 't market" but my accent has certainly got a bit bland and is just general Englishness. The everyday American accent I hear of Joe's isn't even from Michigan - so I hear his somewhat died out Pittsburgh accent, it's all very weird and fun around ours when it comes to accents, local words and ways of saying things lol.

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  8. I totally feel you, I am not as confident as I used to be, but I feel like the past 6 months I've sort of gotten myself back a little. I think blogging actually helped. It's hard when you're older moving to a new place and not knowing anyone but your bf. The constant staring from my accent gets old, but I've learned to embrace it and use it as a conversation starter to talk to new people.

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    1. I'm hoping these blog posts get me thinking and rethinking myself and the way I see myself as an expat. It's great to finally have the questions to confront the way I think and it's certainly making myself rethink certain things, big myself up a little and see just what a big thing I did in moving and how that shows positive things about me.

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  9. I totally feel you here! Confidence is a strange thing for me. I didn't have too much before I came here and when I came, I wanted so much to start again. I gained so much more confidence than I ever had because it was like, people had to take as I was from day 1, plus Kris is constantly in my corner, pushing me to do as I want all the time. At the same time the constant staring, pointing and just overly questioning attitude of the people makes my confidence waiver a little. I'm forever having a conversation of 'it is me or is it the culture of here'...

    I really struggle to find others with similar interests. I don't try that hard to find them though, so it's a bit my fault. With my colleague and some of the friends we have made when Kris took the Masters, I still can't find people that share similar hobbies, likes and what not to me. Blogging has definitely helped there :) Although, I have found a real life person (one of our friends) that has a blog, not that his blog is anything I would follow but it's nice to know he has one! He even started talking to me about it and it was quite nice to have another person to chat too!

    I do love that we have moved abroad, it makes you different and it alters your priorities and such... it's hard to explain how it makes you different! It made me realise how much I love exploring new places and how I don't want to settle into a career/life right now, not for a good long few years and I'm glad I realised that!

    I enjoy the feeling of not really feeling at home.

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    1. These men eh, they certainly keep us in the right direction don't they?! It's certainly not easy to talk to when it comes to describing being an expat especially the emotional side, and to display anything other than it being all merry and light seems to go against the grain. I don't even think I have anyone outside of blogging/twitter/Joe I could really sit down and be open about it when it comes to the good and the bad.

      I actually enjoy the feeling of not being in the UK but I think that could be a post in itself!

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    2. I'd like to meet someone with a merry and bright expat life!... liars! It can seriously suck arse at times. We have lots of international people at work, but sometimes when you get to together you spend so much time 'Belgium Bashing' as I like to call it... to me that's not fair. The country is a little weird but it's not all that bad, minus the racism.

      I miss the UK from time to time, but I don't want to go back anytime soon.

      Maybe I do have a lot of expat-ness to talk about, I think I might start writing more about it. I seem to shy away from it for a reason I haven't worked out haha

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  10. I can't imagine what a big change that must have been! I think it's awesome you were brave enough to do it!

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    1. Thank you - i'm trying to make myself finally see that too!!

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  11. There is part of me wanting to move and live in a different country. I've done only for six weeks in Germany where I rented a flat and live my life, which was amazing and almost the best times of my life. I was more mindful..independant..happy and hard working. Maybe it was the "newness" that changed me. I certainly hope not because I wouldn't mind to move outside UK!

    Katrina Sophia

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  12. I think it is harder for us girls who have moved for love. Some people move to a new country because they want a better life. We don't necessarily, we do it for one person and so of course it will be harder. Life without that person would be unbearable though and that makes it worthwhile. I too have grown up a bit since moving here. Like you, I was a bit of a wild child and I don't think age had much to do with that for me! Now though, I am uber responsible - maybe having no family to fall back on makes you feel like you need to stand on your own two feet.

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  13. So happy to find your blog - I am about to up sticks and move to US to be with my American fiance! Confidence is something I am worrying about - this is a really inspiring post. I hope that becoming an expat will change me for the better too :)
    Also nice to find a fellow Yorkshire Lass! x

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  14. I could never live abroad. I'm nowhere near as confident as I think you have to be to do something like that. It's such a huge thing to do. I'm the kind of person who likes to stay home more often than not - even in my own country - so move me to somewhere unknown and I would be lost!
    I often wonder how much I've changed is to do with "growing up" or the curve balls that have been thrown my way. When I simply moved out of my parents house I think I grew up a lot so I can only imagine that moving country would have made me grow up even quicker!
    Debi x

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  15. It's an amazing thing to move country, you should be so proud! I am dying to live in different countries for a bit but think my heart will always be in England. I already moved country twice with my family but I was much younger, but even as a school kid, I was always the odd one out with the funny English accent. People should be more empathetic! x

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