A few days ago, someone on an Expats forum asked the following question: “what makes the difference between being happy with your return to the UK and being miserable?”
As regular readers know, Phil and I have thoroughly enjoyed our first year back and with the exception of a few niggles (why ON EARTH are all kettle leads only about a foot long?!), we have loved every minute of being back.
After much thought, here’s my answer to why it has been so easy for us to fit right back in.
The stuff that’s just the way it is:
- Not having to find work as we work for ourselves
- Not being broke
- Having friends and family welcome us back
- Not having any kids to worry about (not saying it’s necessarily good not to have kids, but it does mean that stress isn’t there for me).
- Husband is just as happy as I am back here (this is a huge relief).
- Never had a big social circle in America, so no one much to leave behind
The stuff we’ve made happen:
- Making a real effort to connect with friends as they have busy lives now and we’ve been gone a long time. And accepting that we are not as important in their lives as we once were and thats OK.
- Carefully researching where we wanted to live rather than just going back ‘home’
- Planning, planning, planning – especially things like banking and credit so that we experienced very few problems in this area when we arrived back.
- Getting out to enjoy the country every chance we get. This means not slothing round at home but spending weekends and summer evenings out and about sightseeing or just walking and going to shows and concerts whenever we can.
- Not getting hung up on the things that aren’t as good here as they were in America (Kettle leads for example!)
- Going out and doing things no matter what the weather. And perhaps even more important, accepting the weather for what it is.
- Never looking back or considering that ‘this is only temporary and we can go back if we want.’ I think it’s important to make the commitment and then get on with it.
Above all else, I think the secret to our success is a lot of careful thought about what makes us happy, and a very realistic approach to what life back here would be like. We spent so much time analyzing and in the end we realized that everything we needed and wanted was in England, not America. That’s not true for everyone else.
If you live in California and love being out in the sunshine, for example, don’t kid yourself that the weather won’t be really hard to deal with. If you have a spouse who really doesn’t want to return, but you do and he/she has agreed for your sake, be aware that this may cause real issues. And if financial security and stability is important to you, but coming home means giving that up, think very carefully about what you’re doing.
All too often, a returnee will come home filled with hope only to realize that they have minimized the difficulties of their return, not really understanding how much they were leaving behind, or how little they had to come back to.
Whatever else you do, don’t romanticize England in your mind as you plan your return. It’s not perfect. Being back here won’t cure all your problems. You will see a lot of grey skies and in winter it will be damp and cold for months on end. Houses are generally smaller (we have a garage full of stuff that won’t fit in our new house) and may be much more expensive than where you’ve been living. Your friends will have moved on with their lives and may not welcome you back in the way you hoped. And even if they do, you may find that you don’t have as much in common as you once did. You won’t be able to get credit for the first few years. Depending on where you’ve been living, you may experience serious culture shock – sometimes made harder because you were expecting to slip easily back into your old life. Even if you settle back easily, other members of your family may struggle. It may take months for you to find work and during that time you’ll have to manage on whatever money you have saved up. And perhaps worst of all, you’ll have to get used to bathroom sinks with no mixer taps (quelle horreur!)
If you can face all of these negatives – and I mean face them, not just quickly dismiss them without really considering the reality – and still know in your heart of hearts that being in England is what you want, then you’ll be well-prepared to make a success of your life back in Blighty. Coming back here was without a doubt the best decision I ever made. I hope the same is true of whatever you decide.
What about you? Can you think of any other possible negatives that people should consider? If so, leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
And to those planning the big move, I wish you the very best of luck.