Amanda Afield in England

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I’ve traveled to Spain, Ireland, Iceland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, Canada, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and South Africa, and I’m always looking to expand the list.

A lifelong New Englander adjusting to a new life in England, Amanda is trying to travel as much as possible and figure out expat life one adventure at a time.

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Who was Amanda before moving to UK? Do you think it’s possible to fully enjoy this experience far away from our “roots” (family, friends, memories…)? 

I had, and still have, a lot of close friends in the area I was living in before, and we often got together for nights or weekends out.  My immediate family all lived nearby, and we saw each other often.  Only seeing each other a few times a year is tough, but I was living near the beach which I loved, and did a lot of running. I worked (and still do but for a different company) as a structural engineer.

Of course, the experience would be more enjoyable if I could also be near friends and family, but unfortunately, it’s one of the sacrifices that comes with expat life.  Luckily, I’m here with my partner and that helps a lot!

3

You have thought a lot about the importance of the terms (expat, trailing spouse) and its connotations. What do they mean to you?

The term “expat” refers to someone temporarily living outside their country, and I hadn’t realized that to some, it has a negative connotation.  Since I haven’t personally heard it used in a negative way, I’ve continued to use it, as it is the technical term for our status in the UK.

I have a hard time with the term trailing spouse, because I feel like the decision to move abroad should be a joint one, not a decision one partner makes about their career and the other partner is just a follower.  At least for me, having an equal partnership makes expat life much easier to handle, and I would hate to think I was just trailing behind my partner and his career.

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Could you explain us how were the preparations before crossing the ocean and if you had some help? 

We did have help, my partner’s company paid for movers and a house hunting trip a few months before we made the move.  There are expats in the area, so we’ve had a great support network which helped with the transition.  We have a furnished apartment here in the UK, so we got rid of most of our belongings before leaving, and had the rest shipped.

The trickiest part was moving our two cats, but even that wasn’t too terrible (for us at least).  They just needed a medical exam, and a direct flight from Newark to Manchester, and it wasn’t too traumatizing.

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Some partners decide to work, take care of the kids, study… And some others not. Why did you finally choose to work and, was it difficult to find it? For the partners who are in a similar situation, what would you advise them to do? 

I knew I wanted to work when we moved here, because we don’t have kids and we live in a rather remote area so there isn’t a lot to do during the day.  I also enjoy structural engineering, and didn’t want to lose skills by taking years off.  It was much easier to find work than I thought it might be, and while I’ve had to learn a new set of building codes, the work has definitely paid off.

I would recommend that partners take the time to do what they please with it.  Whether it is working, taking time to stay home with your children or learn a new skill, it is a great opportunity.  If they would like to work, I would recommend that other partners in the same situation investigate the possibility of working, and what is required.  Also to be a bit flexible with job type and salary, learning new skills may be tough but it could pay off in the end.  With the visa I have in the UK, I didn’t have to do much to get a job, work permits etc, were not required.

4

How was taking this great decision as a couple? Has it change you living this experience together?  

I would be lying if I said that it went smoothly the whole way.  When I first heard he had applied for the transfer, I was shocked and upset.  I didn’t think it was a great time for us to move away, and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to work or what I would do.  After further research, and discussion, I realized that the possibilities for me to work in the UK were great, and that the area we were moving to (the Lake District) was beautiful!  We decided we couldn’t pass up this once in a lifetime opportunity and took the plunge.  I think it has made us stronger as a couple, and has made us rely a lot more on each other since our friends and family are so far away.  We’ve also made some extraordinary memories that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t moved!

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Do you think that having gone through this experience will make you change the way you treat expats back to your origin country?  

That’s an interesting question!  I worked with a few expats from India and Nepal previously, and now I have a greater respect for how difficult it must have been to adjust to a different lifestyle.  I was a bit jealous of their month long trips home to visit relatives, but now that I’m taking them, I understand how hard it is to be so far away.

Before returning to your country, you have a “While in Europe” List to complete. What do you think of Europe after those travels and which memories will you always take with you?

The list is always growing!!  I’m impressed by the diversity of Europe, while it is not much larger than the United States, there are so many different languages and cultures throughout.  It has definitely given me a new perspective on the world, and I’m more interested in history after visiting so many historic sights.

Some of my favorite memories are of kayaking down the fjords in Norway and wandering the streets of Barcelona in search of tapas and wine.  I look forward to many more, and will definitely continue to travel to Europe even when we no longer live here!

If you want to know how the adventures of Amanda continue: Amanda Afield !

EXPATS IN BELGIUM

If you’re starting your own adventure expat in Belgium, you need expert information or to meet people that are in your same situation, join the e-community of Settle & Connect empowered by Bright Expats !

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