Interview with Molly - A British expat living in the USA

Molly is a British expat, making her home in the USA. Settling down with her husband in Toledo, Ohio, she works on her blog, The Move To America. While she misses British food, she enjoys the city's vibrant art scene and friendly inhabitants.

Read more about the USA in the Expat Arrivals USA guide or read more expat experiences in the USA.
molly toledo ohio

About you

Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Britain.

Q: Where are you living now?
A: Currently I am living in Toledo, Ohio, USA.

Q: When did you move to the USA?
A: I made the move in October 2013, so coming up for 4 years.

Q: Did you move alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved on my own, but to be with my husband who is American.

Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A:  My move was to be with my husband.

Living abroad

Q: What do you enjoy most about Toledo? 
A: Most of the people I have met here have been incredibly friendly and polite. There is also a really good arts scene, and Ohio has a great mix of built-up cityscapes and countryside, so you get the best of both worlds.

Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to Britain?
A: The quality of life, I would say in general, is better, as you get more for your money here. There are many ways to build a good life, more so than I found back in Britain.

Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: The main negative on a general ‘new life’ perspective is going from a country that has free healthcare to one that does not … and mostly what I miss about home is my family and friends, but also the food! Being British (or wherever you are from) is so connected to our food that you do miss what you grew up with.

Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in the USA? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: The strangest thing I experienced was the fact that culture shock still affected me. The U.S. has a very similar culture to that of Britain, and one that British people have very easy access to (via music, news events, clothing, language, food, movies etc). I had assumed that I would not experience any culture shock, but I did, and it was quite subtle, which somehow made it worse. You suddenly become aware that things are ever so slightly unusual to you, and it makes you question just how comfortable and confident you are in going about your daily life. It does subside though as you get used to your new life.

Q: What’s the cost of living like compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Things like housing is the main difference as you can get a place to rent/buy generally for less than I experienced back home, and petrol/gas is considerably cheaper here. There seems to be a lot more food available at a cheaper cost, but the quality is often not as good as similar cheap food back in the UK. 

Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: Public transport here is awful in comparison to the UK. The frequency of services and routes covered are considerably less available than Britain (again, in general, as it does depend on where you are) and you definitely need to have a car to get about here.

Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: Healthcare here is not free. It can be provided through your employer, or you buy into coverage offered by other companies, but what your employer/company will cover will differ greatly. Religion and politics are so intertwined into healthcare here, you could find yourself having an employer refusing to cover something you need based on their own religious or political views. So what doctor or hospital you can visit is dependent on your coverage and circumstances.

Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Toledo? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: I cannot really speak to this as I have only ever experienced positive things about being an expat. There are areas that locals are wary of, so generally you do as the locals do, and heed their advice about not going there.

Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: Housing is much the same in the UK, so there are houses or apartments to buy or rent, and there is a difference in standards depending on the price you are paying or the area you are looking into. From my own experience (I rent the bottom half of a duplex) the standard of housing is good.

Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: North America is such a vast and varied country, that every taste can be catered for, so if you want countryside, busy cities, desert, coastal areas etc you can find something. I would recommend experiencing the major cities as you will get some wonderful new experiences, and meet a range of people, so look at each state and the large cities that they have and research what they have to offer.

Meeting people and making friends

Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: I have experienced nothing but positivity, but as a white, English speaking woman, I am not a target for any discrimination. I am aware that my colour etc affords me a privilege where I won’t encounter any racism etc, but I do know of foreigners who have a negative experience based on the colour of their skin, which is a sad situation and reflection of some views here.

Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: I have experienced making friends quite easily as the majority of people here have been very welcoming and sociable.

Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: I am in a rather unique situation as the area I live does not have any large groups of other British expats (I have only met two British people since I moved). There are no ‘expat’ specific groups that I am aware of, but locals seem to mix well most of the time with foreigners.

About working here

Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: We tackled the visa process ourselves, which was a huge mistake, and took us a long time. There were delays because we were learning the process as we went while trying to compile the paperwork and gather the required evidence. I would recommend everyone looking to live abroad to get professional help with the visa.

Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: I write my blog, and for various other expat sites, so my job was easy because it came with me, but if you are looking for a job as an expat, I would recommend going online and using various job boards, and looking in the local ads/paper. If you are planning on getting a work visa, obviously you need employment sorted before you get your visa and/or move abroad. I am not an expert on work visas as I came over on a family visa.

Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in the USA?
A: There is a strong work ethic here and a firm belief in the fact that if you work hard you will get the benefits of a good life. This is not always the case as basic wages here differ hugely on a state-by-state basis, possibly more so than my experiences back in the UK, but work culture here is solid and encouraged. If you are an expat looking to do business here, my only advice would be to do your research thoroughly before embarking on anything as you need to know what you offer is needed or wanted, and what you bring to the business that is unique.

Family and children

Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: My husband is American, so no issues adjusting as I am the one who moved, and I personally dislike the term ‘trailing spouse’, or at least the idea of it, as nobody should be trailing behind anyone as you do not live your life vicariously through your spouse as soon as you marry them. If a move abroad is part of a job offer that your spouse has, you are not going to move and leave all you have behind to simply exist in their wake, you have your own existence and life to fulfil, just as you did at ‘home’.

And finally…

Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: I recently wrote about this on my blog, but I think you need to mentally prepare before you arrive. You can focus on the paperwork and logistics of it all and forget to allow yourself time to prepare for the fact you will be away from things that are familiar, so spend time researching what life is really like where you are moving to, speak to other people on expat forums who have done the move already. Rose-tinted glasses will only make you feel less at home and make any culture shock more pronounced. Be real, be aware, and know that life will be a mix of the good, the bad, and the moderately (to alarmingly) confusing but that ultimately, if you have prepared well, you will be ok and you will make the best of your new life.

Interviewed in June 2017

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