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From America to England: The Salad Days
28 June, 2012 12:04
My name is Sarah – wife to Jake, mama to Maren – and I am the writer of the salad days blog. We had moved around America quite a bit but recently made our biggest move yet by moving from Tampa, Florida to Oxford, England.
1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband, Jake, is a medical doctor in residency and was offered the chance to study Applied Mathematics at the University of Oxford. We had always wanted to live overseas so we happily jumped at the chance to have a big adventure for our little family.
2. How do you make a living?
We are lucky in that regard, since my husband’s salary through his residency program in America continues during our time overseas. Well, I guess if you do the dollar to pound conversion, maybe we aren’t that lucky…
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
We are on facebook frequently, send emails regularly and the blog is updated almost every day – so we stay fairly connected one way or the other! We also try to Skype every week, but sometimes getting the timing right can be tricky. But when we do get the timing right and the connection is clear, it is SO amazing to have that face time with family!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Oxford?
It’s hard to pick between the people we’ve met and the traveling we’ve done, but I guess I’d have to say the people. We’ve met the kindest people while exploring England and have also made wonderful friends, making England quickly feel like home.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Oxford?
We live in a lovely furnished townhome but sometimes I just miss having our belongings. From our books to my cookware to Maren’s toys to family photos on the wall, sometimes I’d just like to look around at “my house”. But, if that’s the worst part of being an expat in Oxford, I guess things aren’t so bad!
6. What do you miss most?
Our family and friends, without a doubt.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
My husband, Jake, was fortunate enough to be enrolled in University, so he met people quickly through classes, social clubs and sports. As for Maren and me, the village we live in is near children’s centers, playgroups and parks, so we soon met many mothers with children by going to those places. Add to that, Jake and I were both pretty shameless about introducing ourselves to anyone that seemed like a potential friend – people in grocery stores, at parks or even walking down the street! At the very least, striking up a conversation with a stranger led to a pleasant conversation for a few minutes and, in the best cases, it led to a new friend. So, even if someone is shy (like me!) I think that stepping out of your comfort zone to make small talk with the people you see is a great way to speed the integration into your new home.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Driving on the left. I just can’t understand it!
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
We had been told that English people may seem “cold” or “hard to get to know” and that we should expect difficulties making friends but this hasn’t been the case at all! We’ve had some of the loveliest moments with complete strangers and have also made great friends. So, I can happily say, in our experience, the English “chilliness” is a myth – unless you are talking about the weather!
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
It is higher and we’ve had to budget accordingly, especially since our income is paid in American dollars. But, luckily, some of our lifestyle changes in coming to England - like not owning a car - have helped us save money so it all seems to balance out.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Be prepared for the first 2 weeks to be difficult. Your sleep schedule will be off, you will be learning to navigate a new city, you will be learning a new language or set of cultural norms, you will miss the convenience of your “life at home” and you will be trying to establish a brand new routine. Any of those things would be difficult by themselves but when you land in your host country you have to deal with them all at once - and it is hard! But, once a basic routine takes shape – like knowing where the grocery store is and sleeping at the right times, for instance – things get easier. So, I’d say, be gentle with yourself (and your family!) in those first weeks and if you are having a hard time, don’t worry that the whole experience will be that hard – because it really will get better! And, once you are settled in, I’d also give the advice to be interested in the opportunities around you. Get to know what makes your host country special. Chat with locals, travel around, eat traditional foods and enjoy the experience of living overseas!
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in April of 2011 as a way to keep our family up to date on our move and to show them our life in England. It has since become so much more – a family journal, a creative outlet, a photo album and a meeting place for other expats who have since become friends! Blogging has become something I really enjoy and I am so happy my husband encouraged me to start!
Sarah's blog, The Salad Days
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Great interview & on-the-spot advice! Thanks, and good luck in your adventures.