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British Expats Shares The Story of Their Move to California

British Expats Shares The Story of Their Move to California

I had only visited San Francisco once before moving here, so was not 100% sure what to expect. I was surprised at how friendly everyone in our neighborhood was, everyone stopped to talk to you and seemed genuinely interested in you. I think it wasn't until I first went back to England that I noticed bigger differences, the level of customer service is so much higher here especially in restaurants than it is in shops.

Tell us a little about yourself and family.

Our family consists of my husband and I and our two small dogs. We moved to the US in late 2009.

What were your reasons for moving to the USA?

We moved here for my husband's work, he works in the gaming industry – so the Bay Area was the place to be.

How long did the emigration process take?

Initially we applied for a L1 visa for my husband and that got declined, turns out we had applied for the wrong visa! So round two we applied for the H1b/H4 visa, the whole process took around 8 months. We then went on to apply for Green cards once we had been here just over 2 years and they were recently approved. So in under 3 years we became permanent residents.

In which state do you live?

California, we are actually in our third house since moving to the San Francisco area, first we lived on the Peninsula, nice weather but commute was longer, then we moved into San Francisco – hello fog! Now we are living in the East Bay where the weather is much nicer, but the commute does involve the Bay Bridge each morning which can be frustrating!

In your opinion what are the biggest cultural differences between the USA and the UK? (Perhaps things you were not prepared for, or were surprised about)

I had only visited San Francisco once before moving here, so was not 100% sure what to expect. I was surprised at how friendly everyone in our neighborhood was, everyone stopped to talk to you and seemed genuinely interested in you. I think it wasn't until I first went back to England that I noticed bigger differences, the level of customer service is so much higher here especially in restaurants than it is in shops.
In England we drove but not a lot, here it's not uncommon for people to drive for several hours or to get on a plane for a few hours to go somewhere different for the weekend, people don't think twice about the length of journey, but then there are so many magnificent places to visit.

What are the things you enjoy most about living in America?

The weather (yes I said it!!), especially in the East Bay the weather here is much nicer than in England, although the other day I did confess to missing the rain (and that night it did actually rain!). Sometimes it can be a bit too hot, but luckily we have AC in our house. I like how you can travel in the car for just a few hours  north and you are somewhere completely different, you can drive from the heat to the snow in a few hours at certain times of the year, or down to the dessert. There is so much to do and new things to discover everywhere it seems. Also living somewhere so nice, friends and family are eager to visit!

Could you describe anything that you dislike about living in America?

I thought about this for a while, and I don't think there is anything I really dislike except for the fact I'm so far away from family and friends back home.

What do you miss most now you are not living in the UK?

Family and friends, they make it hard sometimes, especially around birthday and holidays, although having Skype and Facebook etc makes it much easier to stay in touch with them. Of course I need to mention food! I miss proper bacon and decent sausages and of course Greggs sausage rolls, also I love to indulge in Cadburys chocolate when I go home.

How badly, if at all has homesickness affected you?

I find that I tend to get homesick around Christmas as we always used to spend Christmas visiting families and doing lots, but now we have our own little tradition that we do here, which involves Skyping with everyone. The weeks leading up to Christmas can be tough as everyone is talking about Christmas and getting together on Facebook, and we know we wont get to spend it with them.

If you, or your spouse, work how easy has it been to find employment?

When we moved here my husband had the H1b visa and his job was sorted before we moved here, I had the H4 visa (also known as the visa from hell!) as it meant I wasn't able to work. Which everyone says sounds fantastic, but after a while it gets frustrating. I spent a lot of my time volunteering at various places and it worked out handy when people came to visit as I was around all the time to entertain them and enjoy their visit. Now we have green cards and I am able to work, although I do spend 5 days a week volunteering at the moment, so need to decide what compromises to make.

Has your quality of life improved?

I would say yes :o) We go out a lot more now and the house we are in is a lot bigger, and we have a much larger network of friends. We have so many more options here for us than we did in England.

How does cost of living compare?

I would say the cost of living in the Bay Area is higher than where we lived in England, but the salaries here are higher too, so it’s comparable. Rent is the most expensive thing here, you don't get a lot of space for your $. Eating out can be quite cheap, I have noticed on previous visits back to the UK that grocery stores there seems a lot cheaper, but then here we have a lot more fresh produce available, so that could be the reason why.

In what way does America fit into your long-term plans?

We have our green cards and are very happy living here, we get to go home and visit friends and family each year and they get to come visit us. We haven't made any long term plans as such, but I think we will be here for a long while.