British Expats: 10 Unexpected Consequences of Emigrating

Prepare yourself for a transformation when you move to the U.S. (Photo via Maison Du Monde)

Prepare yourself for a transformation when you move to the U.S. (Photo via Maison Du Monde)

I suspected moving abroad would have some weird side effects, but there are some repercussions I’d have dismissed as absurd if you’d told about them in advance. Things like these:

Family members are always visiting
Somehow, I see my parents more now than I ever did when they lived a 40-minute tube ride away. They’re always here, in Brooklyn, demanding to be shown a good time and complaining about the hipsters.  r, I’m back in London sleeping in their spare room, grumbling like teenager and eating all their food.

I put on 20 pounds
Don’t kid yourself: joining a gym and eating at home a lot will not save you from a certain amount of scales-related grief when you emigrate to the U.S. The problem is, food manufactures hide sugar in everything from “healthy” multi-grain bread to those ten-dollar pouches of “all natural” granola.

I miss Jeremy Paxman
Believe it or not, there will come a time when the mere memory of the presenter doing his best Rottweiler impression gives you a throat lump and prickly tear ducts. You’ll also start replaying episodes of Loose Women in your head and humming the Embarrassing Bodies theme tune in the supermarket.

I crave American food when I’m back home
If you’re at all health-conscious, you’ll spend much of your U.S. shopping time trying to avoid buying products steeped in sugar, antibiotics and hormones. But head back to Blighty and, like a crack fiend in rehab, you’ll find yourself craving crispy bacon (siphoned from pigs with three heads) sandwiched between slices of fructose-pumped bread.

I join groups
If you’re like me, you’ve spent your entire adult life refusing to get involved with any kind of enforced socializing. You might think it’s possible to take this comfortingly sneery attitude with you to your new life in a new land where you know no one, but it’s not. You will become a joiner. And you’ll bloody well like it too.

I’m forgetting the British words for things
I was perusing strollers on Amazon the other day when it occurred to me that they might cheaper in the U.K., so perhaps I should get my parents to bring one over on one of their 90 or so annual visits. Only, I couldn’t look into this because I forgot the British word for stroller (pushchair). I’m expecting to have my passport revoked any day now.

I can go weeks without feeling homesick
I assumed the longing for all things British — the people, the places, the attitude — would never wear off. And it probably won’t entirely. But now, nearly two years in, I can go for several consecutive weeks without once wishing I was back home munching Marmite crumpets.

British politics looks silly and small-time
American lawmaking impacts a population roughly six times the size of Britain’s (I’m just counting domestic policies here). So, I can’t help but be more concerned with what goes on in the U.S. than back in little ol’ Blighty.

Flying long haul is easy
A six-to-eight hour flight to or from the U.K. used to feel like an epic voyage filled with snarling officials and incomprehensible cardboard forms. Now, it feels like hopping on a bus for half an hour.

I’m happy to complain about stuff
My pre-U.S.-dwelling self would have rather stuck forks in her knees than send something back in a restaurant. Now, not only will I complain vigorously, I’ll enjoy it. I’ve even publicly nitpicked back in the UK and let the resulting snarls bounce right off my newly thickened skin.

How has moving to America impacted you, expats? Tell us below:

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.
View all posts by Ruth Margolis.
  • Michelle

    lol I can identify to quite a few of these

  • expatmum

    I readily admit to being a much better complainer than I used to be, however, I also know that complaining isn’t enough. You have to state your expectations, otherwise it’s not likely to get a result and it’s just whining.
    I too miss Paxman and decent TV journalism. The non-answering and political grandstanding that goes on here is just annoying. Politicians never answer a question, but that happens everywhere I know. The difference here is the TV journalists just let them get away with it and move on to the next point.

    • Minnesnowta

      American journalism really is abominable, coming from an American.

  • Neil

    hmm, I half-agree with just two of those points, but then we’re all different I suppose. Certainly I haven’t gained any weight, and I’ve been here 11 years so…there you go. I will also NEVER crave American sliced bread – horrible stuff! As for TV, I have full access to BBC iPlayer,, 4oD, etc., so I don’t miss that. If you really miss Paxman that much, Ruth, get yourself a VPN service for about ten bucks a month and watch Brit TV to your heart’s content.

  • tgilbrea69

    I miss the public announcements that start with the word “SORRY” – “Sorry the train isn’t running, Sorry for the inconvenience, Sorry this isn’t working, etc, etc.” This really struck me that last time I was back – I counted 4 on my journey from Northampton to Aldershot. I think you must just block it out after a while.

  • sue smith

    My hubby is a Brit and this list is TOTALLY spot on.

  • Mark Finney

    We don’t want you back. You’re tainted. 😉

  • Nick

    Please bear in mind that forsaking UK citizenship forecloses your ability to move freely among the other nations in the Commonwealth. However, it is quintessentially American to feel that travelling to other nations is unnecessary, expensive, fraught with peril, and best left to the armed forces.

    • Winston Bishop

      I’m sure it’s that and not the fact that leaving the continent costs >$1000 nor that almost every kind of climate, landscape, and experience can be had domestically.

    • Max_Freedom

      Most Americans can’t afford to even travel to a different state, or stay in a hotel room. I sure can’t.

    • JR48

      Wow, what a caricature!

      I lived on the west coast and spent 2 weeks in Italy on a tour in the mid 90s and even with using frequent flyer miles for our tickets (which now cost zero), that vacation was six thousand bucks. God knows what that trip would cost now.

      I would LOVE to travel more but I just don’t have the extra cash between the economy and the cost of raising kids.

  • colinmeister

    I have been living in America for 25 years now, and every day I look upon the day I moved here as the worst day of my life. Given the chance again, I would never have set foot in the United States, most t.v. stinks, the food is mostly horrible and the beer is worse.

    • Bob

      At we have good dentists!

    • mumstheword

      And you are still here because….?

      • jonny

        ha ha good point

  • Paul R

    I miss proper TV shows. The BBC has some really good shows but none of them are on BBC America. All I see on there is Dr Who and Top Gear. Great if you like them but there are so many better shows that never see the light of day here.

    • Rob King

      The internet is your friend

  • David

    I’m a Geordie who has lived near the Mississippi/Missouri confluence for 6 years now and I agree with most of these points. One additional thing I had not thought about is that all my holidays (I’m using the word vacation more and more these days) are spent back in the UK seeing friends and family and I rarely get a proper holiday.

    Also, after my car was written-off by baseball/tennis ball sized hailstones last year and a tornado demolished 50 houses nearby the year before, I’ll never complain about UK weather again.

    • JR48

      I’m an American but also a STL transplant. I don’t know where you live, but you need a home living space with an interior garage and know where you’re parking your car in severe weather. (That includes parking IN a garage at the airport if you leave to go on vacation.) I’ve been here almost nine years now, and have seen hail take out vehicles at Lambart more than once because they were the parked outside. Not going to save you from everything, but it might help.

  • Deborah Lehman

    having lived here continuously for the past 26 years (yes I AM still a UK Pat, I swore an oath and to that I must stay).
    That said, I miss home and yes, I still consider it home, this is just an abode for now! I too find myself not remembering the Brit word for something, or even worse…the spelling.

  • Mike313

    i’m an expat living in Chicago. Never in my British existence did I think I’d miss kippers and custard (not in combination!)

  • TheWanderer22

    I miss hot cross buns with the comfortingly weird-tasting pastry crosses as opposed to the newfangled American icing crosses. They’re just not right. Tell me I’m not the only one?

  • MJTD

    I’m an American, and I sympathize with all of you. My brother

  • MJTD

    Sorry about that…as I was saying I do understand how you feel having lived abroad in France for several years. What is nice is that not everything is lost in translation between our two countries. I do love your radio programming so much more than what we have here, and listen frequently via internet. Never the less, we do love you being here!