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Updated 3 Feb 2010
Melissa Stoey fell in love with Britain as a child after listening to Rolling Stones records. That lead to a love of British comedy and an appreciation of rainy days.

Later she met and married and Scotsman and now only reluctantly leaves the British Isles. She writes the colourful and passionate blog

For more information on expat life in the United Kingdom read the Expat Arrivals guide to Britain or read more about expat experiences in the United Kingdom.

About you

Q: Where are you originally from?
A:  United States

Q: Where are you living now (city + suburb)?
A:  United States but I lived in the U.K. for three years.

Q: How long you have you lived here?
A:  All of my life except for the three years in Britain.

Q: Did you move with a spouse/ children?
A:  No.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A:  I was stationed in England with the United States Air Force.

About your city

Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A:  When I was in England, I enjoyed the people the most, followed by the beautiful landscape and fascinating historical landmarks. My favourite cities were Edinburgh and London.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A:  I lived in England twenty years ago and things were much different then; it was much less “Americanized” than it is now (which is a good thing in my opinion.) But that meant that I had to transition from a 24-hour culture to a culture where the shops closed at 5 and they weren’t open on Sunday. The types of conveniences I was used to were not available for the most part. It was hard to go from having 200 television stations to only four. I felt very isolated and it took quite a while to make friends. Things got better when I met my husband, a Scotsman. Through him I experienced more of the culture and made new friends.

Q: Is the city safe?
A:  I lived in Huntingdon first and then Shefford. Both of these towns were very safe. I don’t remember ever feeling unsafe, even in London.

About living here

Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A:  Without a doubt it has to be London, Glasgow or Edinburgh. These cities have the most variety of culture and things to do.

Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A:  The standards were just fine. If you want to compare them to American standards where everything is bigger and there’s usually more of it, well then, the standard is different.  Kitchens in the U.K. were small so appliances were smaller. But I’ve learned that in recent years a lot of this has changed and homes are getting much bigger and much more modernized (by U.S. standards anyway.)

Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A:  Because I was paid in dollars, the cost of living was tough. At the time, the exchange rate was £1 = $1.60. So it was very difficult to live on the economy. A night out could get expensive. It’s one of the reasons I did not travel as much as I would have liked to. I found that food stuffs were reasonably priced but clothing was more expensive and petrol was outrageous.

Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A:  I mixed mostly with my husband’s friends and their girlfriends. Other than visiting the local pub, I had very little contact with locals.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A:  It was a bit tough at first, especially since I worked on an American military base. Everyone there was American. Once I met my British husband, things changed. If you have trouble making friends, I would definitely seek out an ex-pat group or join a local organization.

About working here

Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A:  It wasn’t required.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A:  At the time, Britain was coming out of a recession, much like now. So times were tough for a lot of people. Good jobs are hard to come by.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A:  Well, at the time it was quite different. Even in the 1980’s Americans worked long hours. Britons normally started work around 9 a.m. and would finish close to 5 p.m. even if you were a shopkeeper. Most people did not have to work weekends. Where the two countries really differ is in vacation (or holiday) time.   U.K. workers and indeed European workers get a lot more vacation time than U.S. workers and this continues today.

Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A:  Yes.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A:  My heath care was provided by the U.S. military but I did have to use the NHS a couple of times and I found the care to be adequate and equal to what I had experienced in the U.S.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A:  Use your resources to stay connected. When I moved to the U.K. no one had a personal computer and the internet only existed for government use. Now you can easily stay connected to friends and family at home through email, instant messenger and Skype. You can make international calls through your PC and sometimes it’s free, depending on the service. But don’t limit your socialization to just people at home. It’s easy to isolate yourself. Reach out and find an ex-pat group or join a local group or a neighbourhood church or gym – something that will give you access to the locals. Friday nights at the pub are always good!


I featured a post from an ex-pat in Britain who took matters into her own hands and started a local ladies group for ex-pats. Take a cue from her. If you can’t find a local group, start one of you own. But whatever you do, enjoy your time abroad. Make the most of it. See everything you can see; experience everything you can experience because one day you will look back and regret it if you don’t. This I can guarantee.
~ interviewed February 2010
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