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An Interview with … Caroline

An Interview with … Caroline

"I got married to Simon on 25 April 2009 in England; we’d actually known each other for 35 years (but that’s another story!)  We were both born and grew up in England but Simon had moved to California with work in 1996.  I have 2 daughters Amy 25 and Olivia who’s 23 who both live in the England and a son Jack who’s 17 and lives in the USA with us; the children are from my previous marriage.  Simon was a confirmed bachelor when we got back in touch and has no kids of his own." Caroline shares her story of why she moved to the USA, and how she is settling in.

Tell us a little about yourself and family.

I got married to Simon on 25 April 2009 in England; we’d actually known each other for 35 years (but that’s another story!)  We were both born and grew up in England but Simon had moved to California with work in 1996.  I have 2 daughters Amy 25 and Olivia who’s 23 who both live in the England and a son Jack who’s 17 and lives in the USA with us; the children are from my previous marriage.  Simon was a confirmed bachelor when we got back in touch and has no kids of his own.

What were your reasons for moving to the USA?

When we decided to get married we looked at the UK V the USA and decided everything we wanted was here.  Had Simon have moved back to the UK he would have to have taken a substantial drop in salary if indeed he could have got a job in his field, which is a quite specialized area in computer software engineering.  I wanted to give Jack the chance to sample life out here and it was soon clear that we would have a much better standard of living in the USA.  Oh and Simon cant stand the cold and rain!

How long did the emigration process take?

Forever, it seemed at the time!  Before we could submit the paperwork for Jack and I, Simon had to become a US Citizen, he was here on a Green Card and had never got round to it, so all his citizenship paperwork was submitted on 29 December 2008, and Jack and I moved to the USA on 30 January 2010, so in all 13 months. 

In which state do you live?


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

It has to be the language, when I first started to visit Simon over here, I used to hide behind him in shops and refused to speak to anyone.  It seemed that nobody understood a word I said, and when I did speak I had to talk very slowly, you can hear yourself talking and think, my God sound like the queen.  I guess in the UK we have lots of American TV shows and films so we’re used to the accent, but they are not, I really found it quite hard at first now I seem to switch, I speak American to Americans and British at home.  It’s strange that there are so many words that differ too, but very quickly you find yourself switching when I visited the UK not long ago I was already struggling to remember the English version of words for things. 

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

People here seem so much more positive than in the UK, a sort of anything is possible attitude if you give it a go.  I also love the fact that I live in a city but I can drive for 30 minutes in any direction and be in the middle of nowhere, up a mountain, by the sea and if I want I can be totally alone.  I love the fact that there are so many open spaces and so few people to fill them.

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

Sugar, sugar, sugar!  EVERYTHING tastes sweet, bread, butter, cheese, milk even eggs!  But life’s what you make it, this is where I live so I found ways around it, I make my own bread, I spend way too much money on English butter and cheese and I buy a lot of Organic products which taste “˜normal.’  You’re not going to change the eating habits of a nation so you have to find your own way of adapting to things, Ex pats in my opinion moan too much instead of finding a solution.

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

My daughters and my best friend, you truly don’t know what a luxury it is to pick up the phone and chat about nothing for hours until you cant do it!

How badly, if at all has homesickness affected you?

Of course I wasn’t going to get homesick, I wanted to move”¦”¦..How naive was I!  I love very modern furniture and when we’d been here about 3 months I wanted a new coffee table, I started to look and all I could find was wooden furniture, nasty dark wood, it seemed to be everywhere, the harder I looked the more I saw wood.  I cannot begin to describe how homesick it made me; all I wanted was to go back to my house in the UK with my nice job and my beautiful chrome and glass coffee table!  This of course led to other things, I hated the place, the food, the people, the clothes etc, etc, I could quite easily have got on a plane flown back to the UK and never returned.  Simon was so understanding, he had been through it when he first moved here, so at least I knew it was normal!  Then one day someone on Expats gave me a web site for modern furniture, I found the table I was looking for, ordered it and the homesickness disappeared as quickly as it came. 

Since then I’ve had a few moments, but I expected them, I actually went back to the UK last month, I think I needed a reality check, its so easy to forget the bad bits and fantasize about the UK and how wonderful it is.  I’d been there 3 hours and all I wanted to do was come home, I felt that the place had somehow shrunk, and there were too many people, I felt claustrophobic and longed for the space that we have here, I felt quite simply that I’d grown out of it.

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

I still haven’t found a job, but in this economic climate I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.  I’m an ex Police Officer and after that I spent the last 10 years working in UK Magistrates Courts, British Criminal Law isn’t much of a qualification around here!  I think you just have to keep at it and what will be will be, something that’s right for me will come along eventually.  Until then I have a part time job looking after 3 horses for a few hours a week, it gets me out and I’m doing something I love.  However, I do know how lucky I am that Simon can support me, many people don’t have that luxury.

If you have children how easy was it to enroll them in a new school?

As Simon already lived here enrolment was very easy, we went to the district office with proof of address and Jacks all important vaccination records and he started school the next day.

How does the education system differ from the UK?

A very tricky question, it’s a minefield and I really struggle to understand the system, I guess if Jack was younger and I had got to meet other parents over the years taking him to school etc it would have been a lot easier, learning as he grew up as it were, but we’ve muddled through and he’s now applying to Universities.

Have your children settled?

Jack found it very hard at first, and as a parent it’s heartbreaking to watch, he went from an outgoing bubbly 16 year old that I rarely saw to someone who stayed in all the time, talking to his friends in the UK on Facebook.   But a few months on he passed his driving test, got a car and a part time job, and he’s his old self with lots of friends and once again I’m back to the Mom that only see’s him when he wants food or sleep!

{mosbanner right}Has your quality of life improved?

Yes, employees have less time off here but there’s so much to see and explore, we have lots of weekends away.  Of course because I don’t work I can do all the household jobs in the week so weekends are ours to do as we please.  It’s also helped by the fact that we have gardeners (as do most people) so that’s a huge weekend strain crossed off the list, and the cars get washed at one of the numerous car washes around so another job we don’t have to do.  People work harder here but they seem to have more leisure time, you walk around the downtown areas at the weekend and see people meeting for lunch or enjoying a coffee together, simple things that I never seemed to have time to do in the UK.

How does cost of living compare?

It’s too difficult to answer, we live in one of the most expensive places in the USA (right in the heart of Silicon Valley) the prices here reflect the now long gone dot com era, they stayed up salaries didn’t!  I’m from a small village in the UK so, housing here is much more expensive, were I from the centre of London I doubt there would be much difference.  It’s hard to gauge utility costs as here we use a lot of air con in summer and less heat in winter, all in all it seems more expensive here.  Shopping can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be, I’d say prices are comparable to the UK.  There is however a lot more choice here, the UK has the big 4 supermarkets here there are dozens to chose from, and lots of little places to buy specialist items. 

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

This is our home now, so this is where we will stay, both myself and Jack will become US Citizens as soon as we can, so we’re here to stay.  Never say never though, were we to move countries again I can’t see going back to the UK in our plans, nowhere is perfect but for me personally the UK will never be home there’s just too much going on there that I don’t agree with.

In retrospect is there anything you would change?

Make UCIS a bit more user friendly!

Are there any final thoughts you would like to share?

I don’t ever want to wake up and ask “˜what if?’  It’s not easy, to give up the lifestyle that you know, job, friends, home, everything familiar, anyone who thinks it will be is in for a shock.  I guess you never know until you try, there are those that will and those that wont; I did and I can honestly say it’s the best thing I ever did, I’m a very different person to the one who moved here, for the better?  Yes I think so!

Caroline Spooner AKA Traceym


If you have a story about living abroad that you wish to share, and would like to take part in one of our interviews, please email [email protected]