“I’ve been homesick for countries I’ve never been, and longed to be where I couldn’t be.” —John Cheever
When i first started out my blog i wanted to talk about integrating into another culture, being an expat and living away from your home country; the struggles and the joys.
This will be my first official post about being an expat.
So here are ten frequently asked questions i get daily.
1. What are you doing here?
This is the biggest question i get asked, and quite frankly the rudest.
I always immediately lock up and become utterly defensive — wanting to respond with something witty and probably seeded with expletives.
But regardless of that — the simple answer to that question is that i’m living.
2. What made you want to come to America?
When you’re foreigner or expat, unfortunately it automatically makes your life a public spectacle. People become nosey, and want to know everything about you. This can be incredible frustrating and i’m still finding my feet on how to handle questions that i don’t entirely want to answer. As i’ve said i’m a private person and my business is my business. In short i never wanted to come to America – i didn’t plan on it. I didn’t even want to go to America on holiday. I wanted to move back to Denmark and die there, but my plans clearly changed. I met a man i couldn’t even have dreamed of and i moved to be with him. Yes, long distance relationships are hard, but not impossible if they’re worth it and mine absolutely was. People are always quick to cast something aside when it gets tough, but thats not what life is about. Its about taking that bull by the horns and riding him out.
3. Don’t you miss you family?
Yes. Everyday. I think about them everyday. I wonder what they’re doing and if they’re happy. If they ever think of me and what i’m doing. I wonder what i’m missing out on. I picture what life could have been like if i’d moved to Denmark and been there with them 24 -7. And thats when i realise it never could have been me. Realistically i was born to discover and wander. And my family let me go like a free bird looking for warmer suns. I miss out on so many wonderful gatherings, and when i hear others around me talking about not wanting to visit grandma, how their mother was being a pain or their father wont buy them a car … i think to myself. How lucky you are to have your family down the road. Never forget how lucky you are, because there are days when it is torture and a very lonely way to live if you are 4000 miles away from them.
4. What was immigration like?
Well, first off it cost more than a liver, set of kidneys and a prosthetic leg on the black market. But i will say, considering the cost, we had a relatively painless experience regarding immigration. The worst part was probably having to go to do medical things, which i hated but it wasn’t as terrible as i’d thought it was going to be. I thought i was going to have to drop my clothes and get man handled. I do not appreciate being at all trifled with so this was my worst nightmare. It was not as bad as all that. I just had my measurements, bio metrics and some injections done. Pretty painless, but i’d actually looked up a list of the medical things i needed before i left home and got my own doctor to give me most of the jabs i needed.
5. Do you get to go home very often?
Sadly not as often as i would wish. Its expensive and a very long trip. Its a night and a day. Its really enjoyable when theres two of us but thats even more expensive especially with an animal the needs constant attention at home. So no. Sometimes i’ll go alone for a few weeks which is nice but its hard to be away from one life to go to another. Theres also people who want to see you but don’t understand that you just don’t have time to see everyone inside of a short holiday — this can cause a lot of agro so i pretty much stick to just seeing family.
But i always miss Jack terribly. We’re two peas in a pod. And i don’t like being alone in a pod.
6. Weren’t you scared?
Nope. I wasn’t. I honestly never thought it was as big a deal as everyone made out to me. I was excited, but i wasn’t ever scared or in any doubt. I’d made my mind up to go and so i did. I looked back but only to see how far i’d come. Never in regret. I knew there would be things i would lose and be giving up, but life comes at you — you get up and you go.
7. What was it like to move such a long way?
It wasn’t until i’d been gone a year or so that i started to realise how hard the move was getting to be on me. My life ended up having to stop while i waited for immigration to be done. I couldn’t legally work, i couldn’t drive and it was Texas… there was nowhere to go that was in walking distance. Even if there had been — the heat would have killed me 20 steps in.
However, having been home all that time gave me months of working on interests and projects. I learned to knit, crochet, practice my photography, created art, learned to sew, exercised and practiced Shakespeare. I read as many books as physically possible and taught myself to cook. You have to make the best of the situations that suck. And it really wasn’t plain sailing. It was hard work. Nothing, and i mean nothing worth having is ever easy. Why would it be? You’d never appreciate it if it was. I suffered pretty severely from cabin fever but i got through it. Its a huge struggle that honestly cant truly be expressed in all its horrific-ness. You’ll know when you hit that wall, but remember. Just pursue the interests you’ve never had time for. Get excited about new bird species, sunrises and hailstones the size of your fists. Life is not all about 9 to 5 and paychecks.
8. Was it hard to start working in another country?
It was nerve wracking, and sometimes it still is. Even after a few years i don’t entirely understand the American culture or the way people act with each other here. And obviously, with me it goes slower because i am a notorious recluse. I don’t understand the rules, paperwork or the taxes. I’ve been lucky that i’ve had Jack to help me every step of the way, if i was alone it would have been a very arduous up hill battle. Working in another country never phased me till i tried it in the USA, the language is ever so slightly similar to English but don’t be fooled. Thats where the similarities end.
At least i’m still funny, witty and entertaining in every language. So i can always bring the laughs.
9. Does the magic of being an expat ever wear off?
Only if you let it. I don’t. I enjoy every car ride, every walk and every rain fall. Its another case of making the best of the opportunity you’ve been given. Yes, i just made myself sound like a Labrador but truly, if any animal treasures every day — its a dog. So there are worse things.
I will say that not every day is a bed of roses and full of unicorns, sometimes those unicorns leave giant turds and those roses have thorns. But you cannot expect everyday to be a holiday. Visiting a place for a holiday is VERY different to moving there and creating an entirely new life. You still have to wake up to yourself every morning. This is something i CANNOT stress enough. I was lucky enough to know this from a very young age so i knew this when i moved to the USA. But those of you who don’t — think about it. I’ve met a few people who say things such as “I want to move to London, i had the best vacation for like a week,” or “I love Sweden is looks like so much fun in the snow!”
Stop. Right. There.
London can be a rough area — like any/every capital city. A week with a friend is fun and all, but a lifetime and you could be letting yourself in to some serious problems not to mention dangerous situations if you think its all Mary Poppins and Bridget Jones’ high waisted underpants. Mr.Darcy isn’t that good looking or charming in real life.
Swedish winters are beautiful but you could also turn into an icicle if you don’t know the ropes or you could go insane due to the 6 months of constant sunlight/darkness.
I’m not saying don’t go, but i am saying be smart and remember that life is life — it will have downs just like it has ups. Can you survive Monday to Friday living where-ever you want to go? You be completely starting over and it can be very lonesome.
10. Its easy to integrate if you want to, isn it?
Sure it is for some, but others not. I think a lot of that depends on culture and the country someone is moving to/from.
I don’t know that i’ve ever integrated anywhere, or ever wanted to. In England i was always the funny foreign kid but i still had a pretty great childhood, but i wouldn’t say i “integrated”. I’ve never changed, i’ve been the same person for a good while — i’m worldly, and though antisocial, i do mix pretty well with a lot of cultures and people. For the most part I believe in respecting a country for what it is and not asking it to fit YOU. Its you who must assimilate. The country does not owe you a damn thing. Remember that.
However, I quite enjoy being an outsider looking in. You experience more and get a better understanding of differences.
Your mind broadens.
That is a huge gift.
Do you have anything you want to ask or want to know about being an expat?
You can write a comment on this post, and i’ll try to answer as many as i can !
I finally succeeded in knitting a jumper successfully !
Actually semi-successfully. Its wearable, warm and comfy, not to mention the absolute best colour yarn can be. However it does look like its been dragged through hell and back — but at least it has as much character as i do.
“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.” —J.B. Priestley
I’ve started running in the evenings, and taking “mini” nature hikes. Something i haven’t done for almost 6 years — since i lived in the UK. Sitting in the middle of the forest path alone with my mind, watching chipmunks and squirrels beating each other over the size of nuts and listening to the hawk flutter his span in the branches. Walking around the woods with no one but me, with my mane of hair hanging at my elbows, just like it always should be. Sometimes i swear i can hear my ancestors out there telling me to get my ass in gear and do what i was meant to.
Why, I can’t tell you how good its been for my soul.
The dangerous thing is its got me reflecting.
I’ve noticed that some of my blog posts come across a little blue or negative. The thing about me is that i’m not necessarily a sad person, but i am a wondering person. A ponderer. Often my writing gets misconstrued as the negative ramblings of a depressive soul — no. Whilst i’m prone to the emotion on a relatively consistent basis, thats not to say thats all i see. Having said that — let’s get in deeper.
Recently things haven’t been going the way i’d planned, at all — i would say things had gone completely to utter shit but i’m going to look at it as positively as i can. In itself — that for me is a struggle. That wasn’t my road, and i know what its like to walk in the wrong direction only to keep walking. This time i turned my ass 90 degrees and walked some place else. You see i lost my job not long ago… well “lost” and “lost.” Through no fault of my own the job is no more. A job i gave up two other jobs for and i basically got pissed on like some lame ass fire in a barrel, just as i was trying to warm the hands of the poor by my flame. I wont say it ruined my life, because i work to live — i don’t live to work.
But of course i was peeved.
Who wouldn’t be?
Hold up, wait a minute.
Thanks to Jack, and his magical ways, he pulled me back.
“I fully support you to be creative, thats what makes you happy, you’re good at it — and thats what you should do.”
I swear, if i could “Bottle” his way of being — i’d uncork that bottle and get high on his train of thought.
He really is the dick to my balls.
Life has its challenges, and its not supposed to be easy. I should be thankful for the struggle, and i am — because it means my novels are as well fed as chubby milk cows. Oh my many many unfinished novels. Sometimes i find it so hard to face those hundreds of hours of neglected work. To see all those pages from my soul wasted on a hard drive somewhere waiting for me to finishing them, all stories from places that drain me and break me. But the novels are closure from pain, grief and regrets — i deserve that. Closure, but i don’t need it. Past is past and everything is what it is.
And today was a wonderful day, even though i pulled two ticks out of my leg. See positivity does wonders, no?
They say you should always look on the bright side of life, but thats not what i do. I live in the dark corners of every day. Where the lurkers sit and smoke together watching life roll by. We know what it is to hurt and we don’t play into those new movements everyones singing about, because we know what we do and we wont stop doing it. He or she this and that. Sometimes i think i’m physically incapable of thinking positively. Thats simply not how i’m wired and it makes for some of my best writing. I’m a depressive soul, a poet with a nosebleed and a writer with an anxiety complex. Sometimes i’m just a bastard for no reason, but as i said. It makes for honest work as raw as a bone.
And living with negativity the way i do means that when i see beauty, i see it hard and heavy.
It leaves me breathless like a hefty smack to the chops. And though it may be forgotten and replaced by a negative thought — i can be grateful that i got the chance to see it at all.
That being said. No matter how deeply i disappear into cruelty of my novels or negativity, i have Jack to make me laugh till i fart, and you know what?
Thats the best thing that happens to me all day.
I’m happy lucky to have him to bring me back to where i should be.
So a few nights ago i saw this beautiful and frankly, astounding documentary about André René Roussimoff, famously known as Andre The Giant.
And it caught me thinking.
A man with a soul such as his and all he wanted in the end was to live in peace. He started with nothing, and ended with everything — he worked for what he had, but in the end what did he truly want?
To drive around his ranch in North Carolina that reminded him of his beautiful France over 3000 miles to the east, and be away from photographers, negative people and the pain of memories.
To be truly him.
I tried doing what others do — going out and working 9 to 5 jobs that don’t sit right with me, but you gotta work for your meals.
I’ve wiped asses, i’ve struggled till my knuckles bled and i’ve cried over the stupidity of the many terrible bosses/managers i’ve come across.
I’m in charge.
*que deep ambient – yet hardcore cinematic music*
Let’s all try to live a little more like André the giant wished he could have.
Savour every quiet moment, the sound of the birds and the walks other people don’t take.
Do what makes you absolutely happy to breathe every morning. Do what makes your chest pump 5 times harder. Do what makes you weep. No one is happy all the time and every feeling you get is an important one.
So i’m going to be creative. I’m going to finish those novels hiding on hard drives, i’m going to publish those poems, i’ll clown around like i was born to do and i’ll be damned — i’m gonna figure out how to bottle Jacks mind and sell it for profit if everything goes tits in a hand basket.
But i will leave you with this.
“Today could be my last night, tonight could be my last night, it doesnt matter. I just keep going..” André.
So what about you? What should you be doing?
Darling, go do it.
The stars in Texas could have been taken from Van Gogh’s Starry night. They shine like crystals freckled across a deep velvet sky and are laced in a fluff of cloud. They bring the coyotes to song and lullaby bluejays to sleep. Crickets hum and tweak somewhere in the brush. When I looked up I was surrounded by a circle of what seemed the worlds tallest trees. The moon danced delicately around; being kissed by stars as it swung by. How small I was here. I was so far from anything familiar. Yet, I think I found it. “It.” What many never find in a lifetime, I found by the time I was 20.
I found me, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t find me in Texas.
I flew almost 8000km to meet a man I’d never met. Some would say I was foolhardy. This is probably true. Others would say I was brave, I was.
“But what if he turns out to be someone else? He could be anyone!”
“He might be one of those lads that sits naked behind a pc screen, weighs 150stone,plays world of warcraft and eats crisps out of his belly button…”
“You’re flying all that way to meet a guy you met online?”
Yes sir, I did and I never looked back. I will admit to being worried he might run me down to Mexico and try to sell me for a couple of tortillas, but I kept that quiet so I didn’t worry my lovely mother.
I flew from Bristol-England; I had a layover in the Netherlands and from there flew to Houston. It was about an 18 hour journey. This was nothing compared to my terror of US Customs. I’d been a fool to watch programs about airports before i left. I was terrified. I was never easy to scare, especially with travel as I’m very good at it, but this was a huge country, new culture and I didn’t know a soul. If I ran into trouble the closest person I had to run to was a man my stepfather knew in Dallas. If anyone knows Texas: that’s a good few hours from Houston. I watched people get taken away to offices, some crying and others getting searched. After four hours it was finally my turn. I walked up to the desk like I owned the place. She asked me where I was going, who I was meeting and where he worked. She was lovely to me really. She took my fingerprints, protocol and all. Before I left she asked me, “Ma’am, did you say Huntsville? Sure hope he hasn’t seen the inside of one of the prisons.”
I hadn’t researched anything about where I was going. All I knew was where it was on a map. I like to pretend it’s the dreamer in me, ending up somewhere that I don’t know anything about and learning the old fashioned way; without Google.
I continued on my walk for my luggage thinking what a peculiar but nice lady she was.
Now it was the moment of truth. Who will be there waiting?
This was it. I felt like my heart was going to beat right out of my chest; that I was going to vomit and cry all at once. There was no backing out. I had my luggage and now was the scariest part of my trip. The reveal. I rolled my suitcase behind me, noticing the men rolling their baggage were wearing cowboy hats and pearl snap shirts, like something right out of a John Ford western. Now that’s new! The doors opened in front of me as travellers filed through to meet their loved ones. I swear to you my heart stopped. He wasn’t there. I hadn’t thought what I would do if he didn’t show up! Keeping my cool I walked through the crowd. I had no phone. Oh bugger. No American money. Oh gosh, what was the man’s name in Dallas? I started shaking but I kept walking. How much is one pound to a dollar? Was the Texas chainsaw massacre real? When did that film come out? What the hell happened in Waco? I have to pee. Just as I was about to stop breathing there he was; this beautiful man in a brown sports coat, white polo, jeans and big John Wayne boots. I would recognize that smile anywhere. His blue eyes were shining and his smile was crooked in a most charming way. Now I wanted to freak out because he was real.
“Hey, baby.” He drawled. He hugged me and took my bag. I didn’t know what to say or do. Its not every day you get picked up at the airport by prince charming in cowboy boots. I knew I was blushing and I knew he could see me shaking. Was he disappointed? He looked so handsome. I thought I might be disappointed, what the hell would I do if HE were disappointed? My poor heart couldn’t take much more. When we got to the car he opened the door for me. It’s a little thing, a Jack thing. Jack is the epitome of a true Southern Gentleman and its one of the many reasons I think he is so unlike anyone I’ve ever met before. That and he doesn’t try to impress me by blowing bubbles through his nose. I was moving up in the world baby!
Thankfully on the drive from the airport I started to relax. He got us lost on the way to his apartment though. He will deny this indefinitely, but he got us lost. He was busy paying attention to the little Danish redhead in his car. Probably not entirely believing I was real. So he wasn’t disappointed! He asked me about my trip. I told him I’d followed a man with a cowboy hat in the airport, assuming he was flying to cowboy country, to the gate… only to realize I was in line to go to India. Not Houston, Texas. He got a real kick out of that. He has the best laugh, you know.
After two hours of chatting and nervous laughter, from me, I saw a giant white figure in the distance. He glowed in bright lights and his head wore the stars like a crown. President Sam Houston was standing on the outskirts of Huntsville. Welcoming me. Well howdy to you too sir!
Soon barbed wired fences rolled by. I saw towers filled with armored guards and bright lights. I wondered.
“Jack, are there any prisons here?”
He looked at me strangely and looked back to the road — like he’d hoped i wouldn’t ask.
“One or two.”
I looked at him a little harder, as I now tend to do when I know he funning with me.
“How many are there?”
It took me 20 minutes to find my jaw on the floor of the car. Queue my third minor freak out. Where the hell am i? How did I get here? Did my mother know this? Yes, she did. She researched the place before I left which I did not do. Welcome to South-East Texas darling girl, you’re in for a damn tough ride. I will admit to this day — theres something utterly and completely exciting to me about moving somewhere without knowing a damn thing about the place. I thought Texas was everything you saw in the black and white cowboy movies.
From that day Texas became home to me. I loved everything, everything apart from Walmart. The summers burnt the hell outta me. Like a good girl I’d put on my seat belt, only to be given second degree burns. I found snakes in my living room, scorpions in my shoes and I had a shower with a very traumatized lizard. The coyotes screamed outside my window at night. I love those sounds now, but they terrified me at first. June bugs annoyed me to no end and my love of Dr.Pepper is far greater than it ever was. I love my boots and pearl snap shirts. I’ve worked as a cowhand on a horse ranch and a couple of farms, sailed in the Gulf of Mexico, driven a tractor and nearly killing Jack in the process and I will always remember when I first saw the Alamo.
We married on the 17thof April in 2014. I was never the little girl with a pillowcase over her head dreaming of wedding bells. I was the child wondering what was beyond the horizon. The wedding was never important to me. It didn’t matter. All that ever meant anything was to never be separated. Giacomo Casanova once said, “The sweetest pleasures are those that are hardest to be won.” We defeated the odds together. We eventually passed immigration. I was poked, prodded and tested for everything. My life was put on hold and examined. I was interviewed. There were no secrets between me and the United States of America. I can tell you. I travelled 5000miles and left everything I knew behind. Looking back now I realize how brave I really was at that young age of twenty.
So here I stand staring at the sky holding his hand: stars rolling on and time passing. Mosquitoes buzzing and bleeding us dry. Texas taught me that freedom does exist you just have to find it: whether it’s riding in the dusty brush or sitting at the bar with two southern gentlemen talking about absolutely nothing. Jack taught me how to find happiness in the darkest corners, how to fight for love and how to make tacos that don’t need to be dipped in ketchup. Now I’m living in a wild and dangerous country, and everything is trying to eat me alive. Its true, Texas made a woman out of me.
I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
Jack and i have been married for four years today, April 17th.
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Happy Anniversary handsome.