Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Expat Q & A - Perceptions of Expat Life in the USA

The great thing about the expat Q & A hosted by the lovely Belinda and Bailie is that it makes me realize that my expat life is, well, normal.

This month's expat Q & A is about how others perceive expat life. It's been fascinating to read the other responses because there seems to be some universally shared experiences. No matter where a blogger moved from or to it appears that their friends and family think they're living a fairytale life abroad, a constant vacation.

But really, it's just life.

Everyday, boring, normal, quotidian, mundane life. And sometimes (most of the time) that life is pretty good. So here are my answers to this month's questions, but don't forget to check out the rest too!

Question #1: How does your family and friends back home perceive your new life, and is it accurate?

Actually, I think most of my friends and family have a realistic impression of how life in the USA works now. I talk about ordinary things like my commute to work, buying a car, nights in with my husband, networking, etc.

But when I still lived in Britain and first discussed moving to America, I usually got one of two responses:

  1. Wow! That's so glamorous! America, that's cool!
  2. So, how do you really feel about moving to a country without public healthcare?

I won't go into the second response here (yet) but the first one is interesting, because it's kind of related to what I said in my guest post on A Compass Rose about the UK impression of the US. It's often one-sided, but America has so many sides.

Two very different sides of America
There is a side of America that's fast-moving, cosmopolitan, urban, and exciting. And then there is the side of America that is vast, open, rustic, and fascinating.

And I live slap bang in the middle of both. Yes, I live very close to two of the biggest cities in the country (Philadelphia and New York). But my daily commute involves all aspects of US living: driving past corn fields and cows, along multi-lane suburban pikes past shopping malls, through little towns, and even a stint on a highway for good measure.

So while my friends know that I'm not on a constant vacation, and I don't live on fast food, I'm not sure they get a whole picture of the contrasts of American living.

Murals in Philly
Hot Dogs in New York
Cabela's - the outdoor outfitters
Question #1: Do you find the need to edit your life from friends and family? 

At the beginning, I definitely did, for fear of disappointing them!

I know that's silly, but after my friends and family had been so supportive in the lead-up to my emigrating from the UK to the USA, I didn't want them to think that I wasn't living the American Dream.

The truth is, those first few months of immigration and expattery can be really hard, and after all the hype and expectation, I didn't want people to worry, or to think I'd made a mistake.

But now, now I'm settled and life is normal, and wonderfully so, I'll confide and talk about my daily frustrations. Recently I had an hour long Skype chat with a friend in Scotland because we're both looking at buying used cars, and that's a universal pain!

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