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An Interview with …. JerseyGirl in the USA

An Interview with …. JerseyGirl in the USA

My husband had been working for client’s in the US. For 2 years he worked Monday to Friday in the US and travelled back to the UK at weekends. My daughter and I joined him during school holidays and enjoyed our time here. He had the opportunity to transfer to the company’s NJ office, so we decided to experience life Stateside. We thought we would return to the UK within 2 years….. but here we still are 10 years later.

Tell us a little about yourself and family.

I have been married for 27 years, we have a 21 year old daughter. I was born and raised in Sheffield, but lived in Chester after getting married. We have been in the US since June 1996.

What were your reasons for moving to the USA?

My husband had been working for client’s in the US. For 2 years he worked Monday to Friday in the US and travelled back to the UK at weekends. My daughter and I joined him during school holidays and enjoyed our time here. He had the opportunity to transfer to the company’s NJ office, so we decided to experience life Stateside. We thought we would return to the UK within 2 years.

How long did the emigration process take?

Approximately 2 months. We had L1 visas.

In which state do you live in?

New Jersey

In your opinion what are the biggest differences between the USA and the UK?

Americans have a tendency  to “work to live” rather than “live to work” – an almost compulsive and unhealthy obsession with working long hours and taking little time off.

This is very much an ‘every man for himself’ society; there is no universally available healthcare.

US drivers have to be amongst the worst in the world. Driving is almost incidental to drinking coffee, talking on the phone, applying makeup (sometimes all at the same time). There is a laziness and casualness to driving that you rarely see in Europe. Poor road signs and dangerous highway intersections are also much more prevalent in the US than the UK. In the UK there seems to be more formality around the whole driving experience – it’s something you take seriously and not simply as a casual means of getting from point A to point B.

What are some of the things you enjoy most about living in the USA?

The climate – four clear seasons, including dry, snowy winter days and gloriously sunny, golden autumn days. I love the long hot summers and the fact the sun shines and the sky is blue most days. I enjoy the absence of damp weather and foggy days. I enjoy the variety of food and restaurants, the movie theaters, the wide open roads, the spacious houses and neighborhoods, the absence of petty crime, the absence of loutish behavior amongst teenagers, the respect for authority. I love the countryside –  from the South West deserts to the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the Jersey Shore – it is a truly spectacular country.
I see more of my husband than I did when we lived in the UK.   His daily commute is 30 minutes, it used to take him approximately 2 hours to drive into Manchester.

What, if any, are the things you dislike about living in the USA?

Things I don’t understand, for example navigating the healthcare system, especially if you are sick and need care, trying to sell a house without going through a realtor.

Being  so far away from the UK if an emergency arises with family.

I dislike the obsession with sport in the US and the peculiar celebrations of so called “holiday weekends” which apply only if you are a federal worker. (e.g. Presidents Day, Columbus Day)

What do you miss most now you are no longer living in the UK?

British television programs – drama, news, documentaries, comedy and Coronation Street in particular. I miss the self deprecating and cynical British humour and the warm good feelings and fun you have when with UK friends and family. Marks and Spencer, Cadbury’s chocolate and British food.

How badly, if at all, has homesickness affected you?

It didn’t seem to affect my husband and daughter, they adjusted to life in the US quickly;  I was affected most. When my daughter started school the September after we moved, I began to feel extremely isolated and homesick. As the months went on, it got worse and worse.  It took me almost 2 years to overcome and I can honestly say it was the worst time of my life.

If you or your spouse work how easy was it to find employment?

My husband has maintained employment since the day he transferred from the UK.  He has never been in the job market, so I am unable to assess how easy it is to find employment. I suspect it is not hard, particularly for those who are prepared to be flexible and take on new challenges and relocate.

How does the work environment differ from the UK?

I had to ask my husband about this, so the following comments are from his perspective.  The US work environment is obsessively, politically correct and lacks the humour and warm spirit of the UK work environment.  In the US “self-managed” benefits environment, you spend a lot of time on personal administration of healthcare, pensions, savings plans, tax, insurance, etc. I don’t recall doing this in the UK.

How does the education system differ from the UK?

US schools don’t teach geography and there is no national, or even state level standard curriculum. Standards vary widely so it’s impossible to assess the capability of students.  Everybody seems to be an “A” student or an “Honor” student but I am not convinced.

Sport, the US seems to be a nation obsessed with it, schools are obsessed with it. College entry seems to be based on sporting ability rather than academic ability.

For anyone who has children college fees are unbelievably high. The time it takes to achieve an undergrad and masters degree is longer than the UK.

{mosbanner right}Have your children settled?

Yes – made friends easily and quickly and loves the lifestyle.

Has your quality of life improved, if so how?

It’s Probably the same as it would have been if we had stayed in the UK.  Possibly a little better financially, but that‘s at the expense of the things we miss.

How does the cost of living compare?

I Haven’t lived in the UK for over 10 years so it’s hard to assess.

When we first came here I remember the amount we paid for electricity, gas, car insurance, phone was approximately the same as we paid per year in the UK.  We lived in a rental for 2 years the rent was expensive compared to the UK.   Property tax is outrageously expensive in New Jersey.

In what way does the USA fit into your long term plans?

We applied for US citizenship at the end of August.  Our daughter’s interview and oath ceremony is on December 6th., we have not received our appointment yet.  She became an American shortly after we moved, so the citizenship is just a formality.

In retrospect is there anything you would change?

I don’t think so. We had the opportunity to move here and we took it.  I try to look to the future rather than dwell on the past.

On second thoughts, looking at the UK property market now I wish we had not sold our house.

Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?

Do not underestimate how stressful life can be in a foreign country, how much you will miss family, friends and all things familiar to you.  Things that you haven’t even thought about because you have taken them for granted for so many years.

The US is still a land of opportunity but don’t expect anything for nothing. You have to work hard, seize opportunities and maintain a positive outlook to succeed. You can enjoy a good standard of living but you need to plan carefully if you intend to stay in retirement. Healthcare costs are almost prohibitively high and long term care can run into several thousand dollars a month. By my calculations you need a sizeable 401k plan to cover this.

BritishExpats member "Jerseygirl"
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