When American Expats in Britain Choose Activation over Stagnation

Posted on March 23, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15There will come a time in your  “I am an American expat in Britain” life where you will  be on the cusp of knowing what will make you happy.  I would say this happens about 2-5 years into the expat in game. You might have been living in Britain a while and the excitement has worn off a bit, the excitement of being somewhere new where even builders take tea breaks and you have learned finally what to call all those English Bread products.  The cusp I am talking about is the breaking point between activation or stagnation. The cusp is where you realise  living here is “for real” and unless you: a) find happiness where you are at and figure what is ‘going to do it for you’ in Britain or  b) Make the move back to America, you will forever be feeling like you are unsatisfied.

So, that’ s what us  American 3 ladies did. We chose “a” or “b” and are now activating this week through our decisions , which involves  moving in some way or another (we didn’t plan it that way, just in case you were wondering!) You might have read that Yankeebean is moving ‘down south’. And that Pacificbird is moving back to America. Me? I am just moving down the street. But all three of our moves represent a change in our expat lives to finding our happiness.

We have done the soul searching and have made the action plan about whats going to serve us in the long run. We were all in the same boat when we met randomly here in Yorkshire– late twenties, no kids, great British partners, good jobs. We shared a lot! But, we have all relised that it wasn’t going to last forever. Living where we were wasn’t fuflfilling anymore for our long term vision of our careers, our future kids, growing older.

Yankeebean and Pacificbird will fill you in about what they needed, but I knew that I could not live in my small Victorian Flat anymore. If I was going to stay in Yorkshire with Mr. Chill I needed space and a place to play my harp to my heart’s desire.  Back in America I had a garden. A house. Lots of room to move about in. Privacy from the neighbors. So I knew that if I were going to stay here in Britain I was going to search for that as well… but on a musician’s salary (no small feat) . But, here I am packing boxes as I make way to move into my quirky Victorian terrace house with three sprawling floors and a garden to call my own. I will even have a room dedicated to harp playing!

But, this move was not something that could have ever been immediate (well unless I was Madonna). I will be the first to tell you that upon arriving in Britain as an expat you will no doubt make sacrifices, only because you are in a foreign country. You might not like the flat you are living in decked out in Argos because that’s all you can afford, you will probably be broke from visas, moving and the weak dollar. You will  eat British pastries all too much and you might spend too much time indoors online chatting to your friends back home. You might not know how to make these changes to make you happy. Gee, You might not even know what the hell to call yourself in Britain. You might not feel you deserve to make the changes because you should “just be grateful to be in a foreign country” (I felt that one a lot).

No, it will take a while to figure out what you need. My point is that when you reach the cusp where you don’t have to sacrifice anymore, you should celebrate, because that means that you have integrated and Britain is your new “reality”! That will be about the time you feel like you will know what will do it for you, and you will be on that ever so special cusp to find your own fulfillment in expat life.

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What Others Are Saying

  1. AcornMoss November 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Just stumbled across this, and I am so glad that I did. You hit upon things that I’d been thinking and feeling 2 years into living in the UK but hadn’t quite found the words and thoughts for. Made my day a bit! Thank you.

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  3. peacefulyorkshire March 27, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Hi NFAH, Yes definitely, I do think that when you first arrive in Britain you are just in “survival mode” where you are just happy to have any kind of roof over your head. Its such an unsettled feeling living temporarily. It always makes me feel on edge–! Is this a sign of one getting older? I am thinking it is:eek.

  4. notfromaroundhere March 24, 2009 at 9:44 am

    What a great post, and so true. I’m still a bit in limbo after 2.5 years here, and I wonder some days how much longer I can stand to live in the small rented corporate flat instead of my own home where I could change things and paint things and generally make it my own. I envy your move–congrats!

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  6. pacificyorkshirebird March 24, 2009 at 7:46 am

    Hi Peaceful – I really related to this post. I also had little twinges of feeling like no matter what I should “just be happy to be in a foreign country” – my adventure! But not only do you sacrifice things when you get here (or any new country I should imagine) but you also sacrifice things back home – way before you even leave. Being an expat is so full of ups and downs.

    I’m keeping all of this in mind because Mr. Charismatic is now on the cusp of his new adventure in the states. Your post will help me remember this. Thanks!

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