Most normal expats decide to create a blog at the beginning of an international relocation, to give a play-by-play of an exciting new life to family and friends back home. Maybe they want to document the honest feelings and reactions of each new experience to which others might compare their own reactions to similar situations.
Or maybe it's easier to tell everyone at once what's going on in their world so that they don't need to have endless repetitive conversations. After SEVEN long, dark, cold years in the United Kingdom, which I affectionately dubbed "the iceberg" straight away, readers will be glad that I have put some distance between those first depressing months as an expat and my new blog initiative. Time has been my friend and the weather has eventually improved - though others in my situation have not been so patient...
Cold but sunny (for once) on Cannock Chase. - November 10, 2013
Today I stopped by the independent wine merchant where I was employed during my early years in England and had a chat with the proprietor's wife, herself an Aussie immigrant. I had been hearing about their new tenants for months now - an American woman who had followed her Englishman to the iceberg (there are a lot of us about) with their dogs. According to my friend, this lady had been courted by the NHS as she had a specialized nursing qualification and they were keen for her to join one of the largest hospitals in the country. It had taken ages for the UK Border Agency to approve her visa application, and the couple had been paying rent on this cottage for quite a while without actually living there. Eventually, the stars aligned, the visa was granted, the dogs were shipped over, and moving day came. Three weeks into their new life, the gent came home to a note. His American girl had taken the dogs and gone back to back to the US - without a word.
My English husband, the Aussie, and the Wine Merchant. - April 1, 2013
It's really too bad that my Aussie friend never met the new American tenant face-to-face, all of the rental dealings were between the couple and the Aussie's husband. Things may have turned out differently if she had. The Aussie and I became great friends when she first invited me to a wine tasting, then asked me during our train journey how I was getting on in my new life. I stared at her blankly, not exactly knowing what to say - but doubting that she wanted to hear about the depression, the self-doubt, or how no one at the grocery store could understand my foreign words. But she knew all of this already from her own experience. "Don't worry, these Brits aren't as bloody precious as they think," she winked. That immediately put me at ease and she became a reliable ear when I needed to shout about something over the years. She's the one who gave me the penguin card above for one of my birthdays. She'd obviously heard me say "iceberg" one too many times.
First day of spring and I have officially lost the will to live. - March 23, 2013
Now, this is hearsay and there may have undoubtedly been other relationship issues at play with the American tenant and her British partner, but I won't lie and say that the same actions never crossed my mind. I think my husband may have been expecting the same dramatic exit from me during those early months. I landed in Manchester in January 2010, during one of the harshest winters in recent history. During our pre-marital negotiations, my husband boldly told me that it normally doesn't snow in the Midlands, the winters are usually just very dark and wet. I guess Mother Nature got tired of being so predictable. He had to fly to our wedding in the US between snow-induced UK airport closures three weeks before my own journey to the UK. The snow was still wreaking havoc when I arrived with my dogs.
Second winter of snow in a country where "it normally doesn't snow." - November 30, 2010
After a blissful snow-free existence in California and Georgia, they were not impressed with being made to do their business in the snow upon arrival at the airport. I wasn't a fan of it, either, since I'd never lived anywhere with any kind of winter weather events. The next three winters were the same, with me grumbling about not leaving the house since I had never been taught how to drive in the snow - apparently, neither has any Brit. Turns out that a couple of inches of snow in the UK is about as common as it is in Atlanta, with the same catastrophic results. Freeways snarled, employees stayed in bed, and Heathrow was the laughing stock of Europe since it simply could not function.
That's why today, I am feeling like an expat winner! I got a sun lamp. I practiced my inside voice. My ear became attuned to regional UK accents. I learned the art of patience - neither yoga nor meditation has anything on the Brits' ability to queue calmly. I did not leave my husband or my new country. Instead, I got a UK driving license and a British passport - but clearly not a British dictionary. (That's one assimilation step too far.) I WON against the cold and the dark. I have nothing but sympathy for the American tenant who spent so much time and money to get here, only to decide that it's not where she wanted to be. But hearing this story made me realize how proud I am of myself for sticking it out when all I really wanted to do was run back home to the warm sunshine, dogs in tow.