Hello my lovelies! This year marks my twelve year anniversary of living in the good ol US of A!! Although it’s nothing new for me, I quite often get asked about my immigration experience or how I moved here, along with other America related questions, then usually followed by a comment about my mixed accent 🙂
I’m not phased by much but to most people, it’s a big deal to immigrate so I’m going to share my experience of how and why I moved from a small town in the north of England to jam packed, tourist infested, Orlando, Florida.
It wasn’t a case of picking somewhere on the map and just moving. I had been visiting Florida with my family all throughout my childhood. We visited at least once a year, sometimes twice. We did all the touristy things like Disney and Universal Studios every time we came. We didn’t care, we enjoyed it. In 2000, my parents bought their own villa over here, which we rented out to holiday makers all year round, except for when we were visiting. We loved Florida. It started to feel like a second home to us.
My family consists of my mum, my dad, my younger brother Lewis and me! For years we had always agreed it would be lovely to move out of the cold and live in the sun. At the time we saw America as a big opportunity, like most British people do, they think about their “American dream” (whatever that is). Somewhere in between us making the decision and moving, my parents had applied for work visas. They were lucky enough to have the resources and funds to start up their own businesses. My dad is a Real Estate agent and my mum at the time had her own Property Management company.
I was 16, turning 17 at the time my parents decided to take the plunge and sell their home then move over to America. Good luck hit us when we applied for our Green Cards (Permanent Resident cards), and it wasn’t long before we got them through the mail. I will go into this in more detail towards the end of this post. Everything was moving fast. A little too fast for me. I was young. I was a year into my first serious relationship and totally besotted with my boyfriend at the time. Not only that, but I had a good social life. I went to college, I saw my boyfriend and then at the weekends we went out drinking with our friends. I had a good life, why would I leave that behind?
My parents and brother packed up and moved over without me. I went to live with my Grandparents who only lived down the road. I continued college and continued enjoying my social life. All was good.
… Until I started missing my parents more and more and started to question why I had stayed back. A year went by, and I finally made the decision to move. I told my boyfriend at the time, hoping we could figure something out but he instantly broke up with me. At the time I was heartbroken but I know it happened for the right reason and I thank him for being so selfless (he probably couldn’t wait to get shut of me haha). Inside five days of making my decision, my mum flew over to come pick me up. I left most of my things at my Grandma’s house and just took one suitcase with me.
Leaving my friends and family was so hard. My best friend Jamie cried a lot, then I cried a lot too. My grandparents were happy for me, but also sad I was leaving them. I’ll never forget their faces as we waved goodbye to them. My grandma was in bits and I could tell my grandad was trying to stay strong. I’ve always been close to them, although sadly my grandad is no longer with us. But they made me feel right at home and looked after me the best they could. I will always appreciate that. I don’t remember any of my other friends being all that sad over me leaving. Most of them told me how happy they were for me and thought immigrating to America was so cool.
I almost backed out of moving. I started to panic. I was all of a sudden scared to leave. I told told my mum I didn’t want to go, because I was going to miss my friends but she had flown 4000 miles to come get me, so I agreed to try it out for two months. My parents told me that if after two months I’m happy in Florida, they’d move my horse over for me.
When the plane took off, I had so many mixed emotions. All I remember is fighting back tears, trying to stay strong as England was getting smaller and smaller, then suddenly it disappeared and we were in the clouds. I’d done it. I had moved! I was thinking about my friends, I was thinking about my family, my horse and I was also thinking about my failed relationship. I kept telling myself I’m off to a better life and I will see my friends soon. I got over it pretty quickly though. As soon as the wheels hit the runway and that airplane door opened, I felt like I was in the right place. I was home! The oh so familiar smell of the humid Florida air and the outdated airport. We got in the car and I put my favourite radio station ‘Real Rock 101.1’ on. We arrived at the house and my mum had so kindly decorated my bedroom and made it cozy for me. I knew I was going to be okay.
Settling in took a while. I’ve been here twelve years and sometimes I still feel like a fish out of water. But I feel like that everywhere I go regardless of what country it is. I spent the first few weeks speaking to my friends back in the UK via the wonderful MSN and MySpace. I wasn’t going to get that closure if I just stopped talking to everyone. I knew I wouldn’t settle if I didn’t feel like my friends weren’t there anymore, so I sat on that computer round the clock, chatting away.
Eventually, I knew I needed to make an effort to live, plus I was an adult, I needed a job. I applied at an English Tea Room of all places, and got the job. I started working there which was great because it was full of my own kind. I didn’t feel like just an outcast. If you’ve ever been to America before, or spoken to Americans, you’ll know we don’t have the same humour. Being around people who laugh at the same things as I do and have been on the same journey was comforting. I took my driving test and my parents bought me a new car, so I had that freedom. I was slowly settling in. It wasn’t long before I made friends and started living my own life. I even opened my own horse business a few years back and I’ve had my fair share of traffic citations, and got myself into all sorts of trouble and new adventures. I’ve had three beautiful children. I’ve been to many gigs, I’ve met some amazing human beings. I don’t regret it one bit.
The hardest part of settling in was making new friends. I made plenty, but only a select few have the same humour as I do. Only a few of them got the jokes I made or could relate to me in any way. It was culture shock for sure. But I eventually learned that it wasn’t really them, it was just me having a hard time opening up to people and welcoming change. I now have lots of friends here, all with different personalities, and all of which I love.
Another cool thing about living in America is that my two favourite cousins, Scott and Martin live here too. Although they don’t live in Florida, I get to see them more often than I would if they were in the UK. They’ve actually been here way longer than I have. My Auntie lives here too!
I never really told my parents if I was happy after the two month “trial” or not, I just stayed here and didn’t mention moving back. I was happy enough to stay and I did. Soon after, my horse moved over. That was an experience for her. She was trailered from our farm in Bolton, and shipped to Amsterdam and then from there they flew her to Miami. From Miami they trailered her up to Ocala which is about an eight hour drive north, where she stayed in quarantine for two weeks, then she was brought to me at the farm I was staying at, which is about another two hour drive. She is definitely a well traveled horse. Not one scratch on her. Moving didn’t phase her at all!
How I was able to obtain a Green Card
We already had work visas (or my parents did). We were then fortunate enough to have friends who lived here, and were Green Card holders. They also owned their own set of businesses and were kind enough to sponsor us throughout the whole process. I don’t remember it all step by step because I was just a kid who didn’t care at that point, but I remember we had to fly to the Bahamas and visit the US Embassy there, to do our interviews and bio-metrics. It felt intimidating at the time because we had never been through such a process. I also felt my mum and dad’s tension as we were sat waiting to be interviewed, but it worked out fine and we got a holiday out of it too. A few months later, our cards arrived in the mail. We were permanent residents with a new life ahead of us. It was exciting.
Do I prefer England or America?
I can’t possibly answer that. It isn’t a case of just being black or white. There are things I prefer about the UK and there are things I prefer about the US. I think overall, if I was to pick, I’d say America, just on the basis that there is always something to do and the overall vibe here is a more positive one. People tend to be happier, and be a bit more friendly. Take New York for instance. I visited twice. Both times were overwhelmingly amazing. The people I met there were so full of life and positive. Just the whole vibe of the place is absolutely blinding. I love it, and you’d never find places like that in England. No, London doesn’t compare, sorry! There are other amazing places in America too. But there are also amazing places in the UK!
I find Florida summers hard, because they are so hot and disgustingly humid, but I cannot stand snow and constant rain either so I think for now, I’m fine where I’m at. The things I do miss about England aren’t enough to make me want to move back. I get to visit, that’s good enough for me. England will always have my heart though. My English friends will always have my heart. I’ll never forget where I’m from and I absolutely love visiting. I still feel excited and my heart races when the plane is coming in to land in Manchester. For a while, I thought that meant that I wanted to move back.
I’ve always struggled with if I fit in here or not and always questioned whether or not I’m actually happy here. Part of me resented my parents for moving here. Sometimes I still do. I go through phases of being really homesick, and I probably always will. But I found out that if you’re truly happy in yourself, you’ll be happy wherever you’re living and when I think about it, I’m truly lucky and happy to be where I’m at. Even if Florida drivers drive me f**king insane!!
In the grand scheme of things, maybe moving was a huge deal and still is. It took guts to leave my friends and family. It takes guts for me to be away from them still, because I do genuinely miss them so much but you know what? I still have all my old friends, they are just on the other side of a computer screen or phone. It really isn’t that bad. I mean, how many times do you see your close friends who live in the same country as you? Not often right? Because we all grow up and start living our own lives. So to stay back on the basis that I would see my friends, doesn’t make much sense. I get to see them when I visit and I speak to them all the times. One of my biggest worries was that they would forget me and no longer care, because I left. But that wasn’t and still isn’t the case.
If you’re looking to immigrate, even if it’s not America. Feel free to email me or comment and ask any questions you want. If you do want some tips on how to move to America, I’ll be happy to help.
Thank you for reading!