I am Sarah German. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland but spent the 9 years prior to moving to US in Northampton, England. Decided in 2006 to try to move abroad so husband and I both started applying for jobs in US.
I am Sarah German. Born and raised in Edinburgh, Scotland but spent the 9 years prior to moving to US in Northampton, England.
When and how did you decide to move to the United States? Is it complicated to settle down there?
Decided in 2006 to try to move abroad so husband and I both started applying for jobs in US. After 2 attempts at H1B visa being unsuccessful due to quota being met, we eventually got our visas and moved over with our kids, aged 4 and 6 at the time, in October 2009.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?
Yes I had lived abroad before but my husband had not. I lived in Central Michigan for a year as an exchange student when I was 18. I loved it and wanted to come back. My husband visited the US for the first time with me in 1999 and did not think that 10 years later he would be living there.
What do you like the most about the US (or South Carolina)?
We like the weather for a start. Now we live in the South it is never really cold but it does get very hot and humid. It does take a bit of adapting to and as being a Scot my body has taken a while to get used to it. We also lived in Indiana for 2 1/2 years before moving to South Carolina so we had proper white Christmases and lots of snow. We even experienced the big ice storm of early 2011. That was something very new to us. I like the fact you can get in your car and drive for a few hours and be somewhere totally unique and different, sometimes it is almost like being in a different country. The drive to succeed and to try new things is also great. If you do well you are not discouraged or made fun of which I did find in the UK. Just this morning I was at my sons 3rd grade award ceremony where they were awarded for making Honor Roll (all As & Bs) or Principals List (all As), being a 'Terrific Kid' as voted by their classmates and for getting Perfect Attendance. This is not something that my school did and I like the fact that kids who do well and recognized regularly and the hall the ceremony was in was packed with parents, grandparents, relatives etc.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with UK, your home country?
Culture shock was not too bad for me because I had spent a lot of time here before. I came with an open mind and I try to not compare here to the UK as that really doesn't help you if you do have home sickness at all. If you know that you have to adapt to where you are and that the natives are not, and should not adapt to you, then you will be alright. The biggest things to adapt to are the fact you really do have to drive pretty much everywhere. I used to walk to the local store in England to buy milk or a few groceries. I could walk there and back with my kids no problem. Now I need to go in the car unless it only was milk and simple stuff like that then I am lucky in that I can walk 5 minutes to a CVS pharmacy and get it. Otherwise it is everyone in the car and off to one of the many grocery stores.
Another difference is healthcare. Being used to the free coverage with the NHS is one thing and having to pay here is something else entirely. Luckily mu husband works for a company that have great healthcare plans and our premiums are not too high, we do have a high deductible though and I am still getting used to that. However, if any of us have needed referred for something, it has been arranged within days. No waiting months for an appointment. I literally went to register with a new doctor 2 Fridays ago and I had a referral appointment through to see a dermatologist the following Tuesday and that was with Memorial Day holiday in the middle. Another biggie is school summer vacation is 11 weeks here. I got 6 weeks as a kid growing up in Edinburgh and now my ids get 11 weeks off school!
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
The main thing I miss is certain foods and occasionally being able to walk to places. I know a lot of people say they miss their family, and I do miss my family, but I have lived hundreds of miles away from them for over half of my life and I see them pretty much as often now as I did then. Here is now my home and I am a visitor when I go to the UK.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
My father in law hates flying. He absolutely hates it. Even the flight to Italy was too far for him. Then we moved to the South Carolina coast where we have gorgeous sandy beaches just minutes away. You can swim in the ocean without freezing your extremities off by mid-May and continue to do so through Labor Day weekend pretty much. All the plantations, gardens, beautiful architecture and of course the Southern Hospitality finally persuaded him to take the longest flight he has ever done and come across the Atlantic to visit us last summer. In fact it went so well and they had so much fun that they are coming back to spend Christmas with us. I think that fact we sent pictures of us walking on the beach last Christmas Day may have tipped the scale.
What does a typical day as an expat in South Carolina look like?
Right now it means getting up at 6am as my kids’ school bus leaves at 6.50am. School starts at 7.40am and gets out at 2.40pm. I have to get all my chores done by then, which is good really as it means I beat the heat of the day. My husband is home by 6pm and we all have dinner and talk about the day before the kids go to bed and we do it all again the next day. The weekends are pretty much what the next 11 weeks are going to be like for me as the kids break up for summer break this week. We may have a late breakfast and go to the beach or one of the waterparks that are dotted around the area or go to a county park for a walk and let the kids run wild. My daughter does Girl Scouts so she meets every other Friday during the school year and there are always things in the calendar that the kids are doing. No chance of getting bored here.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I started my blog just before we left for the US and I wanted it to be a way to let my family know what we are up to over here. Where we go and what we see and so on. It is sort of like a diary and just gives people an idea as to what you can do when you live where we are.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
I have made some new friends with my blog and through social media as a whole. I am currently not legally allowed to work here so I have the time to make connections and network that way. I have gotten advice and been able to give advice to people too.
Why did you register on expat.com and what do you think of the website?
I registered as I thought it would be a good way to make more friends and network with similar people.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in South Carolina (or in the US)?
I would advise any expats who go anywhere to do it with an open mind and know that at some point or another you will be out of your comfort zone, you will be homesick and you will feel lonely but, and this to me is the important bit, make sure you get out there and meet new people, join clubs/societies and make new friends. It will be hard and you may not be successful but stick at it. Don't surround yourself only with other people from your native country. Why move to another country if you are only going to surround yourself with people from your native land. As for people moving to the US just make sure you understand that it is not like it is on TV or in the movies. A lot of people who have never been to the US base their opinions on what they have seen on the TV and in most cases they are wrong. People talking about the stereotypes of Americans are just the same as someone talking about the stereotypes of Scots and that is something I have had to and will continue to live with, I just have to remember to laugh and smile and not take it too seriously.