New country: Scotland
Home country: USA
Why did you decide to move abroad?
I had never lived abroad before, and had only been to Central America. This was my very first time to Europe. It was just supposed to be a semester abroad to study at the University of St. Andrews and experience a different culture, but then I fell in love with Scotland and it turned into a whole year, and then I transferred my degree and stayed another year to graduate. I still wasn't ready to leave, so I got a year-long internship, then met and married my (Scottish) husband and still haven't left. I'm currently living in Edinburgh and working on my PhD.
What has surprised you most about living in a foreign country?
I am still surprised at how different the cultures are. I think part of me assumed that because we all speak English, there'd be tons of similarities. But it is definitely a completely different culture in so many ways, big and small. I am still amazed at how reserved and private Brits are - I really struggled with the lack of encouragement/affirmation for awhile, but I think I'm starting to turn into a Brit!
My best advice for ex-pats is: make friends with the locals!
Don't get stuck in an ex-pat bubble or else you'll miss out on so much. But also make sure you have a few ex-pat friends for when you start getting homesick and just need someone who understands where you've come from. Also, be open-minded and willing to critically evaluate your own cultural preconceptions - your new country may have quite a lot to teach you!
What do you miss most about home?
Mexican food. And Chick-fil-a. The UK is very lacking in the "good food" area (apart from curry!).
I also miss good parking lots. They are so rare here, and even when you find them they usually have the smallest spaces that make parking really difficult.
What are your favorite activities in your new town?
Hill-walking! Houston is super flat so I never got to do this growing up, but in Scotland there are hills and mountains to climb everywhere. Also, going to the pub - it's such a fun aspect of British social life. I've enjoyed learning how to ceilidh dance (like Scottish barn/country dancing) - it's so much fun.
There's also so many amazing castles and architecture, most of the museums are free, and it's also really easy to get to the rest of Europe, so travelling and sight-seeing has become a much bigger part of my life.
Any cultural/language barrier funny moments?
My husband kept calling our new flat "homely." It took me awhile to realise he meant it was cosy and nice, rather than ugly and plain.
Another all-time favourite moment for me was when my best friend (American) planned a birthday party for me and asked people to say a few nice words about me. Every single British person in the room took a step back and looked very uncomfortable. It was so funny. That story still gets told as an example of "typical Americans".
I plan to finish my PhD in the next 2 years. After that, who knows? I hope to get a teaching position at a university, but that could be literally anywhere in the world which is really exciting!