Happy Anniversary to me!
I recently celebrated 3 years in LA – woohoo! I moved 5000 miles from London to LA on Groundhog day (February 2nd) but I absolutely didn’t get stuck in a rut!! I’d say I’m 100% living my best life – but it wasn’t easy… Moving to another country is a big deal. For me it was scary, filled with uncertainty, and included the very occasional ‘oh shit what am I doing’ moment. BUT it created huge personal growth. Whether you’ve newly moved yourself, are thinking of doing so or just curious, here are a few pointers that helped me and relate to moving to the US in particular.
Visit Many Times
Visit your intended new home/country several times before you choose to move and do so in a non-vacation/holiday way. I took 3 extended trips prior to applying for my US visa and set up meetings with potential companies and agents, scouted out the best gyms, took myself out for lunches, dinners and to parties to socialize and meet new people. I looked at property in the area that I liked and met up with as many people as I personally knew or who were friends of friends to pick their brain on the ins and outs of living in LA.
Prepare your Visa
Put everything in place to apply for your visa and do not take short cuts. This can be a frustrating and long process so allow time. Using a visa lawyer is advisable but depending on your type of visa you will put together a thesis length case of evidence, letters, contracts and recommendations! Be willing to write some of these letters yourself for your prospective ‘recommenders’ to approve and sign. Believe me it is much faster this way compared to giving already busy people an extra thing to do! Make a STRONG case in your application! You must prove why your services are essential to the country you are moving to.
Have funds set aside and understand you will have zero credit history in the US despite having good credit in your own country. This means you have to pay hefty deposits for a bank credit card, a cell phone contract and more. You’ll also need a co-signer who does have credit in your new country to help you apply for an apartment. One way around this is to sub-lease an apartment room but this is only if you are happy living with other people. My preference was to live alone. Overall, the visa costs and general getting set up costs will be way above your usual monthly spend for the first couple of months.
Take a Leap
Don’t dip a toe but take a leap! What I mean here is that if you try to keep one foot back home in terms of your commitment to the move then you’ll likely get stuck in limbo, not feeling fully at home in either country. I just went for it. I moved everything, gave up everything brick and mortar back home and switched over all accounts, numbers etc.
Hang Out and Branch Out! Rather than stay inside I worked every day on my laptop from a different coffee spot. I made awesome friends that I met as a result of a bit of friendly chit chat. And Americans are super friendly and more outgoing than us Brits especially so embrace that! The coffee shop culture is booming in Los Angeles (and many other cities for that matter) so there’s no need to feel uncomfortable going alone and setting up shop for the afternoon.
Find your Community
Find your community & you’ll find your people! For me the gym is where I find people with common interests. We workout, make friends and share our network. Find your tribe! Other spots might include meditation classes, cooking classes, Facebook groups of other expats that meet often (Brits in LA for example) or acting workshops (hey this is LA after all!)
Know the Language
Understand you might speak the same language but things just don’t always translate!! Everyday this still hits me in one way or another. Learning how banking, transactions, tax paying and so many other things work Stateside has been like learning the basics from scratch. Be kind to yourself and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I personally chatted to my US bank manager more times in 3 weeks than I’ve ever spoken to my UK bank manager! Furthermore, slang words can mean completely different things! Be careful!
Stay Connected to “Home”
Stay connected to ‘home’. The power of FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype etc makes living far away from family and friends a lot easier. I always plan my next visit home in advance so I don’t allow too much time to pass. I visit home 4 times per year and am lucky to have lots of visitors here (I think they come to see me as much as enjoy the sunshine ha!)
Embrace your Place
Embrace what your new environment has to offer. For me this involved trips to the beach, attending American sporting events, road trips to nearby places as well as other touristy stuff! Too often we get absorbed with work and don’t appreciate what is around us and some of the reasons we moved country in the first place. I breath in the sea air almost weekly, seek out new hiking spots and restaurants and make sure I can show my visitors a good time when they visit.
You aren’t Stuck
Know that if things don’t work out, you can always move home. That’s what I kept reminding myself in the early days of sitting in an empty apartment, yet to be furnished, with a to do list as long as the 5000 miles separating me with my homeland! But right now I’m thriving, loving LA life and excited for what’s to come. There’s a certain strength that comes from making big life changes. Thank you America for making me feel so welcome.