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Melissa (11/05/10)

Expat Experiences: UK - Melissa (11/05/10)

QUICK LINKS: UK Guide - UK Discussion Forum - UK Property Listings

Who are you?
Melissa Richards-Stoey

Melissa Richards-Stoey.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to England in 1988 as a member of the U.S. Air Force. I joined the military with the intention of travelling and I chose England as my first choice for duty station. I had been an Anglophile since the age of 13 so going to England had always been a dream of mine.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I didn't know a single soul, not even another American. I was supposed to be picked up at Gatwick by a bus that would take me to RAF Chicksands where I was to be stationed. The bus never showed, so there I was in an airport in a new country with no idea of how to get to where I needed to go. All I could think to do was jump in a cab. Sixty pounds later I arrived at my new home. On the very first weekend there, I met a Scottish man at our NCO club and we hit it off instantly. Ten months later we were married. If it weren't for him, I think I would have had a lot more challenges than I did. He made it easy to get to know the culture and make friends.

Can you tell us something about your property?

I rented two different flats while living in England and the rental process was as simple as it is in the U.S. Back then I think I paid something like £400 - £600 a month. Property in the U.K. tended to be quite a bit smaller than what we are used to in America, although that has begun to change in the last ten years or so.

What is the property market like at the moment?

I haven't been there in a while but I understand that the British property market has suffered the same fate as the American housing sector.

Were there many other expats in your area?

When I lived in England all of my friends were British, except for one or two Americans on base.

What was your relationship like with the locals?

I didn't have much contact with the locals other than in local businesses. Most of our friends lived elsewhere and if we went on a night out together it was usually in a larger town or city.

What did you like about life where you were?

I liked our friends a lot and the English people in general. There were so many interesting places to see and things to do but not enough time or money I'm afraid. I really enjoyed visiting local markets on Saturday morning and walking to the news agents for a paper at the weekends. The slower pace of life was nice and I really enjoyed living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

What did you dislike about your expat life?

It was difficult to stay in touch with home. We didn't have the internet obviously, so we had to write letters and make calls, which were very expensive. I missed some of the conveniences found in the United States.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

Use all of your available resources to stay in touch with home which will make dealing with the culture shock and homesickness much easier. Use some of these same resources, like the internet, to meet other ex-pats in your area and find out about local social groups where you can get to know the locals.

What are your plans for the future?

To find some way to return to England on a semi-permanent basis. My dream is to own a property there where I can holiday every year for as long as the government will let me!

Melissa now shares her passion for Britain through her blog. "Smitten by Britain" at www.smittenbybritain.com

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