Lessons Learned while Living Abroad

US

Five weeks after our wedding, I moved to the U.K. with my British born husband. To say that it was a transition is an understatement. I could only take two fifty pound bags of my stuff with me, and we had no idea how long we would be living in England. We guessed that the U.S. government would grant my husband a visa to move to the U.S. in 6 months. We guessed wrong, but that’s another story. To leave sunny Colorado and arrive in gloomy England in the middle of February was a giant shock to my system. Needless to say, I went through some culture shock. Here’s just a bit about our journey and what I learned through it.

Prior to our move, we made the decision to live in a town that would be away from my husband’s hometown. we knew that the two of us needed time to get to know each other and to establish ourselves as husband and wife without either family. So we looked at a map, looked at a list of church locations (we already knew what type of church we wanted to attend), bought a car through ebay, and made plans. As soon as we landed into Manchester Airport, we picked up our newly purchased car and drove to the town we had chosen. First lesson that we learned was to never buy a car through ebay. :)

Second lesson that we learned was that nothing goes as planned or as quickly as planned. When we arrived, I had terrible jet lag and could not stay awake, so we immediately booked a hotel and I headed for bed. My husband scoped out the area, took a nap, checked out the car, and kept busy until I awoke. We then began our search for a place to live. Unfortunately for us, the town was not at all what we hoped it would be, and after encountering a very rude estate agent who told us we had no hope of finding a place to let (i.e. rent), we headed out of town. We drove to the next location on our list, which was called Shrewsbury in the county of Shropshire. I had previously joked about how I would never pronounce the name right so I couldn’t live there, yet that’s where we were headed. It turned out to be a beautiful old town that featured the architecture of the Tudor era, and we quickly found lots of options for places to live. We decided that was the place for us, and we headed back north to my in-law’s house where we would stay until we could get approved to rent a flat. We had hoped that this process would take one or two weeks, but it ended up taking four. And because of the delay in the process, my husband was forced to find temporary work while I worked on the paperwork for our flat. The third lesson learned during that time was that the British aren’t in a hurry (ever). British businesses work at a far different pace than those found in the States. Patience was quickly found to be lacking in me.

Learning to have patience became a theme throughout my time in England… Yet again, that’s for a future blog post.

That first year as an American living in England, as a newlywed, and as a foreigner away from home taught me so much. I fell on my face (figuratively) so much as I learned the British words, the way of life, the ideas and customs, the way that they (the English) think of us (Americans), and even the foods. So much of who I was before arriving changed by the time I left as I worked to make the best of a new situation and to fit into my new family. My husband and I ended up living in England for a full 18 months and then returning to the States, and as I look back now, I can easily see that time as a gift. To live indefinitely in a new country requires that you make it home. And that process of becoming at home in a foreign land is very hard as nothing is familiar. Yet if you absorb yourself into the new culture there is so much to be gained. It took me months to lose part of my American self, it took me a few months to get into a groove of being okay with being the foreigner in town, and by the time we left England, I was quite comfortable in my new British tinted skin. Now after 6 years of being partnered with a Brit, I finally don’t see myself as the American and him as the Brit. I see two hearts molded together, two hearts that are first citizens of an Eternal kingdom, and second, citizens from two different cultures. Yet a lot of what I thought was important – my right to speak, my opinion, my independence, my idea of what is timely and what is not, and my home being the United States – no longer matters.

Ironically enough, I’ve come to miss the U.K. and to feel homesick for it just as I felt about the U.S. while I was living in England. I miss parts of that culture, that way of life, and the people. I miss the beauty of the land, the slower pace of life, and the continual tea/instant coffee drinking throughout the day. I miss the old shops, the chatting about the weather (which rarely changes), and the comments about how unusually pleasant my American accent is. ;) I speak to my husband of someday returning to England so that our boys can know the other half of their heritage, and so that we can be reminded even more of how our “home” is really a heavenly one and not an earthly one.
-Micah

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