Should You Move Back to the UK?


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.


10 thoughts on “Should You Move Back to the UK?

  1. What an extremely good blog and discussion. You certainly make good points and worth considering all this in the equation of returning! I have not been on the forums lately as my OH told me this week he does not really want to go back to England but at least we have agreed we do not want to stay in the town we are in at moment so it is a step in the right direction! Who knows where we will end up?
    Keep up your good posts and blog – love it

    • I’m sorry to hear that Gail. Are you disappointed, or do you basically agree with him? If you’re disappointed, don’t give up. My husband really didn’t want to come home either for a while, but things changed and here we are. I hope things turn out the way you want them to.

  2. Well done Louise, you know in your heart you have made the right choice you have got what you wanted to live in the country and a village, and now you and your family is part of the community there are lots of British people prefere to live abroad and do not wish to return to the UK ,but also the would like to come back but for their grown up family and grandchildren.
    Please Do keep up with the blogs when you can Louise they are great.

  3. Really really good post, with sensible advice.

    I’m guessing that the short kettle leads date back to the time before those bases were invented, and you plugged the lead directly into the back of the kettle. If those leads were long, it meant that the live end, when unplugged from the kettle, could dangle into sinks filled with water, or over the side of the counter, to be picked up by toddlers and put in their mouths. I think there were a lot of accidents with those leads.

    Why is it annoying that the leads are short? Or maybe you don’t have a kettle on a base?

    I just rejoice to live in a country where an electric kettle is a standard kitchen fixture – though I think they are discovering them in America, finally.

    • You’re right about the kettles, and honestly I don’t get THAT annoyed about the leads. But we have a little guest flat over the garage and it doesn’t have a proper kitchen. I wanted to plug in the kettle on top of a sideboard and of course the lead won’t read down to the plug, so we had to rig a hanging extension cord and I just thought ‘why don’t the kettles have normal sized leads the way they did in America?

      I don’t think there has been much that has really bothered me to be honest. I’m trying to write a ‘what I love and loathe about being back one year’ post and all I have is the love section 🙂

  4. It is interesting to read your advice, having followed your move back. Almost like seeing it in reverse! I can see how all the planning and thinking has really paid off. You had very realistic expectations, and that has really helped the move go well.

  5. Thanks Louise, I just love reading your blog and all your experiences with being back home. One other issue, which might seem small compared to others, but something I have noticed a few people do, is the minute they get back to the UK they immediately start comparing the food prices to those in the US. It’s as though they stand in the supermarket and mentally exchange the UK rate for US to see what the difference is. I think that once you get back, you should ‘forget’ what things cost in the US, and stop making comparisons if something costs £5 then it costs £5, don’t put it back on the shelf and think ‘There is no way I’d pay $8′ for that back in the US (for example)’ If everyone did that, nobody would buy food. LOL

    • What a great point. I am bad at checking prices anyway (always forget to do it, can never remember what anything costs) so I don’t do that. But I do avoid doing it with petrol. Yes it’s more expensive here, but other things are cheaper. Swings and roundabouts. I do feel we’re generally financially better off here but of course we were living in one of the most expensive parts of the US, so that changes things a bit.

  6. I came across your blog by accident while browsing about moving back to the UK from the US. I moved to the NE of the US in 1997 with my husband and 6 week old son. 16 years on we are still here and now have 2 teenagers. I have never felt like I really belonged, just cannot seem to connect with the locals, their strange sense of humor and the things that are priorities in their lives. My son (the eldest) loves Britain and wants to go to University there and eventually settle there. My daughter (13) is an “all-American girl” and states she would never want to move to the UK. All my family are back in the UK (Wales). I have become increasingly miserable here and have started to consider a move back. I am at the ‘idle browsing’ stage rather than the planning stage though, both my husband and I work full-time and getting new jobs in the UK would be an important consideration.
    I did wonder, were you a US citizen when you left the US? If so, did that add any complications? Also, what about US pensions etc? Did you need to do anything special about those? Thanks for any words of advice and congratulations on being brave enough to make the move! The Skipton area is just beautiful, in fact we stayed there for a week this past summer (in a village just outside of Grassington), and enjoyed lots of wonderful walks and pub lunches!

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