American expat, US, UK, Canada, migration, election, trump, brexit

Leaving after the election for greener grass?

Many Americans are afraid of who will become the next president, causing them to consider leaving their homes.  Google reported a 350 percent jump in searches for ‘how can I move to Canada’ following Super Tuesday.  One poll says 1 in 4 are ‘likely’ to consider leaving the US if Donald Trump becomes president.  The numbers are much higher for young African American and Latinos, with 73% and 64% saying they would consider leaving.    

The headlines are hard to miss: 

But is leaving really the answer?

It is tempting to think life will be better someplace other than the US.  The allure of greener grasses growing across the border is hard to ignore.

However, leaving your home country is not without its own challenges. Some challenges can be anticipated.  But others cannot, only revealing themselves once you’ve left.

The reality of immigrant life
is always different than imagined.

In September 2013, I boarded a plane from Boston with my British husband, American daughter and feral-born cat to move to the UK.  We decided on a ‘clean break.’ We came with two suitcases each, a few boxes of books and a boat load of optimism for a better life.

Three years later, nothing has worked as planned. But, it has worked.  Is it greener?  I can’t say, grass is simply grass.  But what I can say is, you can’t run away from fears, they have a funny way of following you.

So if you’re considering moving out of fear of an election result, I would ask you to think twice, think three times, think a hundred times and read on.

Do you have 3 years?

A year after moving to the UK, I was lucky to meet an ex-pat expert, Clara Wiggins, author of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide. I was having a very hard time adjusting to life in Britain and asked for her advice.  She reassured me that what I was going through was normal.  She also told me it would take 3 years to adjust.  I thought she was crazy!  It wasn’t my first time coming here.  Surely 15 years’ worth of visits to the UK would help speed up the process.

It didn’t.

It only made things worse, because I expected life to be easier.  My expectations got in the way of accepting the life I had and kept me clinging to the one I expected to have.  I expected to be able to cross the street with ease, drive myself to the store, set up a bank account, make friends, get a job, pay my bills, help my daughter when needed.

I did not expect to lose my independence – taking two years to drive on my own, over a year to find a job, working with less responsibility and pay – and being financially dependent upon my husband.  It has taken several years for the expectations to work their way to the surface and to let go of them.  I know more will surface, but it does get easier once you see the pattern.

Now approaching my third anniversary
since moving to the UK,
I can tell you, she was right! 

 The reality is, that you will have only adjusted to your new life, just in time for the next presidential election.  Or afterwards, taking into account the time it takes to apply for visas.

Do we really have a common language?

Canada is the first place many Americans consider when thinking of migrating.  Both countries share a similar culture and language. 

Sharing words is not the same as
sharing the use of those words. 

Inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s quote, the saying “two nations divided by a common language” can only be appreciated once you’ve left.  Only then can you detect how subtle differences have a major impact on your daily life.  Simple tasks become complicated as you struggle to understand the contextual meaning of both familiar and new words.

When we hear the same language we speak, it automatically puts our minds at ease, creating a false sense of security.  In some situations, it is okay if we don’t understand all the words, as long as we get the gist of what is being said.  This is okay for the visitor who wants to know where to find the best pub or fish and chip shop.

However, if you’re writing a covering letter, opening a bank account, getting interviewed by an immigration officer or attending a business meeting – and you’re faced with these words, in a variety of accents – it is overwhelming!

  Papers? Tabling? Telephonic?
Sitting exams?
Why sitting, not taking?

First, your mind blanks.

Then, you isolate the ‘strange’ familiar word to get a contextual meaning. 

Next, you search for comparable words in American English. 

When you’ve found the words that make sense to you, you hope you can remember the complete sentence so you can recite it back to yourself (in your head lol).  When you’re ready to respond, you reverse the whole process, so your response is received in a way the listener will understand.  It is the same process when writing to others.  If you do this all day at work, you come home exhausted. For months.

This also created another, unforeseen problem, which blindsided me.  Once I started working and interacting with British people all day, I could no longer watch British television during the night!  Much to my husband’s frustrations, I switched to watching only American television, just to give my brain a break.

Are you ready to lose your right to vote?

Immigrants to a new country are only eligible to vote after they become citizens.  In the UK, it can take five to ten years, depending on your visa.  It can be frustrating when you are contributing to your new community and country, obeying the laws, paying taxes, health care and national insurances, but you do not have a say in decisions that impact your life.

It is difficult to lose your right to vote in general elections.

It is terrifying when you lose your right to vote in ‘once in a generation’ decisions.

It is petrifying, if the outcome influenced your decision to move in the first place. 

Case in point. 

In one week, UK citizens will decide whether or not to remain in the European Union.  The campaign to leave is called Brexit, short for Britain exit.  One of the main benefits I saw in moving to the UK was the security and strength of being part of a wider EU community.  Like other immigrants that call the UK home, we cannot vote in this ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum because we are not citizens.

By moving to another country without citizenship,
you lose the most important right you have,
the right to vote.

Do you have financial security? 

When you move with a job and salary, you have two advantages over those who move without them.  First, you will have already proven yourself to your employer.  This takes the pressure off having to apply for job and show that you meet the requirements. Those who move without a job may find their qualifications are not accepted or recognized, requiring them to retrain or sit exams to do the same work or be faced with changing careers.  Fees for retraining and sitting exams can be expensive.

Whether transferring to a new country office or starting a new job, you will also have to rebuild your credibility with customers, co-workers and employers, as credibility is earned over years of consistent, positive experiences within a community or network.  Therefore, when applying for jobs or seeking new customers, it is critical to have an in-country reference.  Employers and customers alike will readily accept information from someone that understands their language, culture, people, market, and sector, over someone from a foreign country.

The second advantage is knowing how much money you will have each month.  Whilst knowing your salary may give you some of measure of security, it is only one half of the financial security equation. 

The other half is understanding the costs associated with living in your new country.  And, to the standard you are accustomed to living.  It can be tricky to assess these differences from afar. 

From sizes of houses, gardens, bedrooms, refrigerators, to access to specialty healthcare, dental, novel prescriptions, to food, clothing, transportation costs…

it may take many years to fully understand
the financial implications of immigrating.

 Are you are running away or toward something?

Ask yourself: am I running away from something I fear or running toward something I love.  If you are not sure of the difference, then it may be that fear is clouding your judgement.  It is important to have absolute clarity about your motivations before leaving.

Here’s why. 

Moving to another country is easy.  Adjusting to your new life is hard.  Adjusting demands that we: accept changes out of our control, adapt to unknown environments, be flexible enough to change our views, and have optimism to spare!  If you are not clear about your reason, you may be carrying fear with you. 

This fear will only make it harder to adjust,
as your focus will be on what you fear,
rather than adjusting to your new life.

 Running away from things we fear takes away our power, the power to stand up for what we believe.  Running toward something we love brings with it power, the power of freedom.  This power will carry you through those challenges.  This power is positive and shines through us like a beacon, inviting your new foreign friends to welcome you with open arms.

For me, I ran toward love, love for my husband and a country I fell in love with 18 years ago.  It has not been easy moving during a recession, without a job, over the age of 40, and losing my mother after moving.  All of these have caused a tremendous amount of stress and pain.  It has taken 3 years to overcome these challenges and with each day, I’m falling in love again with the England I once knew.

Thank you Mr. Trump and Brexiters,
you made me realize that
no matter where you live
grass is grass.


If you like this article, please share ~
Thank you, Marcie x