Who are you?
My name is Elena Leeming, and I am originally from Western Siberia in Russia. I am 37 and I am married with two kids. We live in North Yorkshire, UK.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I was 16 and I moved abroad with my mother originally.
What challenges did you face during the move?
We moved to a French-speaking side of Belgium, and I definitely struggled with the language, which made it difficult to make friends with locals.
Did you need to obtain a visa, residency permit, or work permit? What was the process like?
My mother did all of that for us.
How does the cost of living compare with your previous country?
The cost of living was definitely higher, but we managed by spending very little and seeking out deals and sticking to buying supermarkets’ own brands.
Is it easy to open and use an account with a local bank?
I thought it was a lot easier than in Russia!
How did you find somewhere to live?
We rented. I am not sure how exactly, but it wasn’t via the internet, as I only got access to the internet about a year after we moved.
Are there many other expats in your area?
We had many expats in the area, and we were friends with them.
What is your relationship with the locals?
I had only two local friends back then. The people were cold, but since then I made many friends as I moved around a lot and am now settled.
What do you like about life where you are?
I like that it is safe.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
It’s harder to integrate. I definitely don’t take people for granted. It takes time and effort to make friends, and I treat those who come into my life now well.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Be patient, take your time with people, and try not to overspend.
What are your plans for the future?
I am hoping to move again in the future when my kids are a bit older. I’m not sure where, but I am definitely up for another move!