Saturday, December 13, 2008

Accidental expats

In response to a question from Stinking Billy, I posted a question on this blog a couple of weeks ago:
For British expats in the US: Stinking Billy wants to know - when you first came here, did you plan on putting the UK firmly behind you and never returning to live there again?
It would seem to make sense that if you're going to move several thousand miles that it would be with a plan. People like Sarah, for example, emigrated quite intentionally, knowing that they were committing themselves to their new country. The long-term plan wasn't that clear for some of us though. My original plan was to stay in the US for as long as it took to get a Master's degree and then return to the UK. Other people also emigrate on a temporary basis - moving because a job posting has forced them to, but not really intending to stay in the country they've moved to any longer than the job lasts.

Admittedly my sample was small, with 20 people responding, but 75% of us said that when we first left the UK we either had no intention of leaving the UK for good, or we weren't sure that we were leaving for good.

I did actually try to return to the UK, back in 1989. I spent several months over there fruitlessly looking for work, only got one interview, and got not one but two job offers back in the US. It was a no-brainer - continue to be unemployed in the UK or accept a job with a former employer who really wanted me back and was even prepared to pay half my moving costs back to the US. Even when I moved back to the US at that point I still wasn't sure that I would be staying for good, although obviously the odds increased.

Right now it would be really hard to make the reverse trip. I have no doubt that both DH and I would have a hard time finding employment in the UK, even though work visas are not an issue. The sheer logistics and expense of moving would be overwhelming. I am sure people do it and survive, but we would really have to need to do it. A move back to the UK for us would be very deliberate, almost certainly permanent (for DH and I at least, if not the kids) and not at all accidental!

The poll results:
When you first came here, did you plan on putting the UK firmly behind you and never returning to live there again?
5 said Yes (25%)
12 said No (60%)
3 said Wasn't sure (15%)


Expat mum said...

Very interesting. You could probably say that, since I had just married an American, when I moved it it was highly likely that it was for good, but I don't think I thought about it like that. We had, after all, met in London, and there was a good chance that we could be sent overseas again. It didn't happen and although I've now been here for over 19 years, there is still a chance we could end up back in the UK. It's more complicated now with a child in high school, one in middle school and a 5 year old. It would have to be well planned, but it's not beyond the realms, as they say.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Would still love to return and raise my boys in that quintessential British village, but not sure it will ever be feasible.

Mmm said...

I missed this survey, but let me add to your results:

I moved here with NO intent of staying longer than 4-5 years to get my degree with no intention of marrying and here I am 20 years later! We couldn't move back for much the same reasons. My sister and cousin both married Americans and moved back to Uk after 15 years or so and both have struggled hugely financially. My cousin was desperately homesick but living close and travelled back adn forth a lot as she was in DC but now, 5 years later she told me she realises jsut what a great life she had there and visiting shoudl have sufficed. biggest issues for both was the teasing of their kids in the schools adn lack of employment adn opportunities. My cousin says NEVER to move back as I have a good life here--even though we struggle a lot financially it would be 10 times worse there.

Stinking Billy said...

AA, thanks for your trouble. I asked because I have often thought what it must be like to be a foreigner living in another land, and whether it would become all that much easier as time passed. The figures are convincing, given the freedom of bloggers to tell it as it is, and not a mile away from what I would have thought. Thanks again. x

Almost American said...

Thanks Toni, Karen and Mmm for your perspective. Mmm - your relatives' stories confirm my fears about returning permanently to the UK!

Billy - no trouble at all - it was a question I'd not really thought about before but once you raised it I was intrigued.

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