Expat stories 5: The Gluten Free Gals

Welcome to Part 5 of my ongoing series featuring real life stories and advice from living breathing expats. It’s a thinly disguised way for me to store up wisdom from others which I can use when I have an absolute freakout about what I’m embarking upon. I thought I should do the right thing and share it with the internet at large, just in case it helps anyone else out. Enjoy.

Today I’m sharing some wisdom from two of my favourite bloggers, Kelly and Sarah. Added bonus, they’re both gluten free like me so I know I can always ask them for food suggestions when I’m travelling and, chances are, one or other of them will have been to wherever it is I’m going.

Kelly

First up we have Kelly, who is now a genuine IRL friend after she realised we lived just around the corner from each other in Bedford, that we both like gluten free cake, good chats, and visiting National Trust properties. Sometimes we do all three at once. I think this photo sums up our friendship quite well:

Why did you become an expat?

I’d spent 7 months travelling through Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2003; when I got back to New Zealand I felt rather restless. I had changed as person especially after my overland trip through Africa however everything was the same so after two weeks at home, I booked a flight and applied for visa to move to the UK with the promise to my folks that I was only going to be in the UK for two years *coughs 13 years later*. I had met G while on my overland tour so I thought I would say hi when I arrived and my plan was to do more travelling through Europe while earning the pound (travelling on the Kiwi dollar when it was £1 = NZ$3 was the pits!).

What advice would you give to a brand new expat?

Don’t expect to be out of the red financially for a good year after your arrival in your new home; I think this is often overlooked and your savings are never going to be enough…setting up a new life is an expensive business and there will be expenses you weren’t aware of until you arrive…and let’s remember you will potentially need to reapply for another visa and they aren’t cheap!

You will want to explore your new home and take some holidays but remember you always need a savings account with money in it for a rainy day (rainy days happen A LOT when you’re an expat!)…do explore but remember to keep yourself within a budget for your first few months…look out for discount vouchers, make yourself a picnic instead of visiting fancy restaurants and plan adventures well in advance.

Sarah

I’m disappointed I didn’t get to meet Sarah before I left the UK, because when you live in the UK Bedford to Devon seems like such a long way but when you live in Sydney suddenly it doesn’t seem so far any more! I love reading Sarah’s posts about life in the south west and the travels she gets up to. Her writing really is excellent.

Why did you become an expat?

I became an expat for a few reasons…I studied abroad in England when I was in college and fell in love…with the country and a guy. So when I eventually returned to the US to finish college, I knew I wanted to move back to the UK after graduation.

Actually getting back was more difficult… I initially tried to get a job, which I was flown to London to do final round interviews for, but although I got the job, they couldn’t sort out my visa sponsorship. So I ended up deciding on going to grad school in the UK (I had been applying for my Masters at the same time as applying for jobs). Currently I’m on a 28 month student visa, have fallen even more deeply in love with the country and its people but have no idea what I’ll end up doing when this visa expires! So,
I’m not a “permanent” expat but expat life is quite a transitory-feeling experience, regardless of your visa status, I think!

What advice would you give to a brand new expat?

I struggled a bit my second time moving to the UK because I felt so, so lonely. The first time I came here, I had the support of my American University and a bunch of my best friends on the same study abroad program. This time around, I was more familiar with the UK so there wasn’t as much culture shock, but I only knew a few people in the whole country and they were all… British. There’s definitely something to be said about building yourself a support network of people who either share your nationality, or are having a similar experience of expat life. I think that’s honestly why we see so many expat-themed blogs – people crave connection to people going through similar experiences!

I ended up joining an international student society and meeting people from all over the world, which made me feel so much better when all I wanted was to have someone commiserate with me over how dumb milky tea or baked beans with breakfast is 😉. [Note from Rachel: I hate milky tea and baked beans with anything, I so would have commiserated with you!]. 

So my advice would be to either join an expat group in your city, or just force yourself to do a lot of random things that are out of your comfort zone (I signed up for a dog sitting website, started playing squash, said yes to literally every invite to the pub, moved into a 7-person house). If you make yourself say YES to everything (for the first couple months at least) you’ll start to build your support network. It’s not sustainable behavior, but it’s a lot easier to meet new people when you first move somewhere.

Thank you again to Kelly and Sarah for sharing your advice with me. I’m pleased to report have been putting your advice into practice already!

-Rachel

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11 Comments

  1. 8th June 2017 / 22:12

    well goodness, these are things i wouldn’t have thought of! while i have not moved to another country, i feel like moving ANYwhere far (me it was northeast US to southeast US) alone, is difficult. can feel so lonely. these are great stories and tips!!

    xoxo cheshire kat

  2. Jen
    9th June 2017 / 00:39

    I love the comment on doing things that are outside of your comfort zone. It’s so true and while it’s hard at first it can be one of the most amazing things ever! 🙂

  3. 9th June 2017 / 01:41

    I’m not sure how I’ve never come across your blog before… but thank you so much for commenting on mine. Oh my gosh. I’ve been thinking about not living in the US… for well.. let’s say since November.. shall we? (if not longer, but more seriously now). These stories and tips were so great to read. Keep in touch! XO – Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

  4. 9th June 2017 / 02:51

    I love that Kelly mentioned budgeting! Especially when you’re moving to a whole new country, I can only imagine the random extra expenses that would pop up!

  5. 9th June 2017 / 17:46

    ❤❤❤ So excited to see this!! I think I forgot to mention but my other advice is eat ALLLLLLLLL the gluten free brunches. But within a budget of course 😉 That actually is such a good tip, I’ve learned a lot about budgeting since becoming an expat! Which has probably coincided with me becoming more independent in general but I know think through my expenses a lot more than I used to!

  6. 12th June 2017 / 04:59

    Love this post – especially advice about saying yes to all opportunities and invitations. Fab photo of you and Kelly!

  7. 13th June 2017 / 07:51

    Hooray for fellow gluten free gals!

    I feel like food restrictions just adds a whole new level of complication to a move or travels – but it is so worth pushing through those complications and just saying yes to the opportunity!

  8. 20th June 2017 / 19:22

    Great advice! We said yes to everything too. I think being an ex-pat takes patience. It’s important to remember that it took years of dedication to build your ex-home life so it’s only natural that ex-pat life will require some time and energy too. Being an ex-pat isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it!

  9. 29th June 2017 / 23:07

    I like the idea about saying yes to more things – it would be a great way for anyone to live, even if you aren’t moving far from where you grew up! 🙂

    Hope you’re still settling in well and the cold isn’t too much for you – I write this wrapped in my flannel PJs and cosy bathrobe but I’m also aware it’s nowhere near as cold as it is in Sydney, ha! It gets cold in the UK but there’s heating to help offset it which you don’t have here!

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