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Michelle: The American Resident

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in the UK makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Great Britain, etc.

Over 20 years ago I moved from Minnesota to the UK where I lived in Northumberland awhile with my English boyfriend, then we moved to Whitechapel in the East End of London for his studies.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I had an operation on both feet, which kept me sofa-bound for 6 weeks. A friend in the States started a blog and I thought I’d try it out as well as it seemed like a fun way to connect with other writers. I fumbled around with it a bit, researched How to Write a Good Blog or similar, and realized it’s best to have a niche when blogging. By looking at the few posts I had already written I saw that my niche was obviously the expat niche.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

Most of my writing is about making a life overseas as a long-term expat. My favorite posts are the one’s readers respond to the most, such as

Tell us about the ways your new life in Great Britain differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

One of the biggest differences is the sense of humour in Britain—much more self-deprecating, which also extends to making fun of others. You need a thick skin in Britain and understand that it’s not personal. Once you achieve that the humour is actually quite funny! You just have to be careful to not then use it on friends and family from home who aren’t used to it—I’ve made that mistake and got some hurt looks.

I did experience culture shock and one of the difficulties for me was that I didn’t know culture shock existed and neither did my British boyfriend or his family. I was labelled as emotional and difficult. I could have really used the fantastic resources and connections that now exist across the Internet, back then! Meeting up with other expats would have been a great benefit as well.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Great Britain? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I definitely was not fully prepared for my life in Britain. I moved with too much stuff and I didn’t account for the culture shock I would experience, which affected me in negative ways and almost destroyed the excitement I had about living overseas. If I could do that time again I would move with much less and I would have taken better advantage of the few books on moving overseas and definitely joined one or more of the expat groups in London.

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

Most funny anecdotes for me arise from the language differences. There’s a phrase in the UK that is used when someone doesn’t want to do something for various reasons, mostly disinterest. The polite way of saying it is ‘I can’t be bothered,’ but there is also a way of saying it where bothered is substituted for another word. Can I swear here? Anyway, I thought the word was ‘asked’ as in ‘I can’t be asked to do that so don’t ask me.’ I used it a couple of times in suitable circumstances in front of my very proper mother-in-law to be. She always made a funny face when I did so. It took about five years to realize she thought I was swearing in front of her!

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Great Britain?

  • Research the location before you go, but expect to truly learn what it’s really like once you’re there.
  • Research what culture shock is and expect it.
  • Take advantage of expat groups where you live. Definitely meet and get involved with the locals, but don’t ignore the valuable connections and resources the expat groups provide!

How is the expat community in Great Britain? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community in Britain today is buzzing! There are a lot of great groups online as well as in real life thanks to the Internet and some savvy expat entrepreneurs. I didn’t really look hard enough when I first arrived over 20 years ago, but even without too much effort I see a lot around today—seems to be a group for every type of expat.

How would you summarize your expat life in Great Britain in a single, catchy sentence?

The title of my soon to be published book says it all: I love living overseas!

Jan-Peter van Tijk

"I wish I'd found InterNations sooner: It would have made my first few month as an expat in London much less overwhelming."

Therese Yeboah

"For me, the InterNations events are the best part. I attend almost every get-together and always get to know lots of friendly fellow expats."

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