6 Months in the UK: Reflections of an American Expat

6 Months in the UK Update

I’ve officially been living with Chris in the UK for 6 months now. While it feels like not much has happened, a fair amount actually has. I feel like I’m more settled and am slowly adapting to living in a new country. While some days have been easier than others, some were pretty difficult – but it’s been getting better.

For a long time we were feeling trapped and wondering if we would ever get out of Lancaster as it was never meant to be a permanent place for us to settle. However, new jobs have been hard to find and we feared we’d be forced to live somewhere where we weren’t truly happy, barely getting by and with no money to save up to buy a new home.

We’ve also experienced some lows that hit us when we were least prepared for it. A close friend of mind died unexpectedly in late June, so I returned to the US briefly to attend his funeral and mourn with my friends and their family. Our visa guidance had to be taken down from our website as we (allegedly) concerned solicitors by undercutting their business. I guess we were just doing too well assisting couples reunite themselves together for free!

We learned about harsh feelings that were kept under wraps by some. Then, to top it all off, our dog (Apple) injured herself. She was bed ridden and suffered some severe side effects from the anti-inflammatory medications her vet prescribed.

Although we can never be truly prepared for the curve balls that life throws at us, having each other there for support has been so incredible. Through dealing with life and the unknown issues that have presented themselves, Chris and I made discoveries about ourselves that I don’t believe either of us would have ever anticipated.

Because of this we are stronger and our love for each other has only grown more deep. Finally, things are looking brighter, and by November we will be starting the next chapter of our journey.

So what’s happened these past few months you ask? Let me dish out the good stuff for you.

An Update on LoveMyBrit

Despite having to remove our UK visa blogs, we still continue to meet many couples we’ve assisted in obtaining their visas. Several of these people we never even knew we had helped because they had never previously commented on our website.

But they’ve still managed to find us on social media, reached out to share about their visa journey and what kind of impact we made on helping them close the distance. Moments like this make us so happy. All we wanted to do was help couples understand everything and know that they have the ability to do this all on their own if they wanted.

Chris and I know first hand how much it hurts to be separated for long periods of time without knowing exactly when you’ll see your other half again. We understand that the government doesn’t care about your relationship and forces you to jump through hoops just to be together.

Feeling as though you’re being punished for falling in love with a person from another country is wrong. It’s heartbreaking to think that you have to apply (and pay extortionate amounts) just to live with the person you love in one place.

The Redesigned LoveMyBrit Website

The Redesigned LoveMyBrit Website

Through our website Chris and I have met many amazing couples, and some of these developed into close friendships. Being able to relate to these couples is a wonderful feeling. It reminds me that, although this process is daunting, there are still good people out there in this world. Making new friends is something we enjoy very much and hope to continue to do through both the Love My Brit blog and our YouTube channel.

Our Wedding Blessing

Chris and I celebrated our hugely anticipated UK wedding blessing at the beginning of August which we had been diligently planning for 2 years (pictures are on their way, I promise). This was the wedding celebration that had originally been planned as our legal wedding ceremony – but when time came closer to applying for our UK visa we opted to marry in the US instead (read more about that here).

Our Wedding Blessing

Our Wedding Blessing

We’ve always said that even though we legally married in the US, that we fully intended to keep our wedding in the UK. Instead of a legal wedding, it became our wedding blessing ceremony for our friends and family to see. Many of Chris’ family members traveled from all across the country, and several of my own friends and family made the long journey from Washington State to join us as well.

While my Washingtonian friends and family were visiting, Chris and I extended invitations for them to stay in our home for most or part of their time in the UK. We thought this would help them with the costs of accommodation during their travels while also giving opportunities to spend more time with them.

We knew that we would only be able to see them for a short amount of time on the day of the wedding blessing. Combined with the fact that it could potentially be several months before we ever get to enjoy their company again, we wanted to make the most of our time with them.

It was really great to be able to show everyone who stayed with us around Lancaster and other parts of the UK. We went to the local castle tour, ate dinners at historical pubs, walked through the parks around our home, visited Morecambe beach front and spent a day at a theme park in Blackpool.

Exploring the UK with Friends

Exploring the UK with Friends

We also visited Lake Windermere, the Beatrix Potter Museum, the castle ruins in Kendal & even more in Edinburgh Scotland. Being able to share the amazing places I’ve seen here in the UK with my friends and family has been an unforgettable experience!

Nerding Out

For a long while, Chris & I were really into mobile game Pokemon GO. We even started a Facebook group for players in Lancaster, which led to us being invited to help moderate a combined group for the Lancaster and Morecambe area.

We were the only Pokemon GO group in our area to hold large scale lure parties on a regular basis. On average we had about hundred people attend (and quite often more). These lure parties lasted several hours each time. One of these lure parties was sponsored by GAME. This all happened because a GAME employee contacted me on Facebook after seeing how successful the lure parties were. The store held a raffle to win a free copy of Pokemon Sun or Moon, as well as other prizes. It was a spectacular event.

Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO

Chris and I thought it was awesome that we could bring so many people together through the Pokemon GO app. We didn’t agree with the negativity we heard about the game because we only saw and experienced the positives. Pokemon GO and our lure parties got us out of the house and walking around our town so often that people’s faces became more and more familiar.

Some of these people became our friends outside of the game and we found ourselves hanging out together throughout the week – they’re really amazing people. Although we rarely play the game now, the friendships we built are genuine and have remained. We even went shopping with them at Costco in Manchester recently (read more about that here).

Moving to Nottingham

Before I moved to the UK, Chris and I both agreed that while living in Lancaster we didn’t think it was a wise idea for me to start up my dog training business. The city is very spread out and without a car or reliable method of transportation the business would not be successful. It just wouldn’t have the right opportunity to grow properly like it had back in the US.

I needed to be in a city where there were more people per square mile so I had less area to cover. We had accepted the fact that if we wanted to have a good Christmas, be able to afford gifts for each other and buy birthday presents as well that I should take on part time work as Chris’ job search was strained and had not been looking very promising.

We were preparing ourselves to live in Lancaster through the winter and were trying to make sure that we could enjoy the holiday season. I had started handing out a few job applications to stores and restaurants in town, and applied online for a number of jobs in the hope of picking up some part time positions.

Then Chris had landed a job interview for a company in Derby that looked promising. I put my job search on hold as Chris had two amazing job interviews with the company and was eventually offered the position – which he happily accepted.

Visiting 5 Guys in Nottingham

Visiting 5 Guys in Nottingham

This takes us to our house hunting trips to Nottingham. Derby is not far from Nottingham, a much larger city, which is where we are looking to live. Once we’ve moved into our new home and settled I will be starting up my business in the UK. I admit that I have missed dog training and look forward to doing it again. We’ve spent some time in Nottingham to view properties that are available, as well as looking through the town. I can safely say that we are very excited to be living in a city where more is happening.

In Conclusion

Although my first 6 months living in the UK has had it’s fair share of ups and downs, I wouldn’t look back on my decision to live here as a bad one. I know that meeting new people and building friendships will take time, work will come and Chris & I can start saving comfortably to buy our first home in the nearby future.

Apple is continuing to heal, and regardless of any negativity we come across or hardships we face, we are our own family who support each other and are strong.

We look forward to sharing more about our expat journey over the coming year as we continue to build new friendships & explore more of the UK together. If you’ve got an expat story to share, feel free to leave a comment below.

-Chelsea

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Chelsea Martin

Chelsea Martin is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She has been training dogs professionally since 2007, and is the Head Coach for Dogs Trust Dog School Nottinghamshire. She met Chris on a trip to England in 2013, Married him on New Year's Eve - celebrating 2016 as husband and wife!