What to Do If You Get Cold Feet Before Moving to America


There’s no need for cold feet, warm up your toes with the below tips. (PS)

Moving to the United States is a lot like attending school for the first time: there’s a new lingo to learn; a certain dress code to acknowledge; a list of rules to follow. Moreover, the food is not what you are used to and—until the first conversation has taken place—everyone is a stranger.

It is possible, therefore, that you might experience a degree of anxiety ahead of your transplant across the Atlantic. Whether you are moving for a spouse, for work, or for education, getting cold feet can happen to the best of us.

If you do get apprehensive, there are some very important measures you can take to put your mind at ease.

Chief among these is conversation—be willing to talk to the other person (or people) involved in your move. For me, it helped to talk things through with my American wife, who—through her own experiences of working and living in the United States—was able to put my concerns into perspective.

On the other hand, if your move doesn’t involve other people or you just want some tips on what needs doing once you arrive, do some research of your own. There are plenty of resources on the internet, including James Bartlett’s 12 Essential Websites for British Expats in America. Remember that knowledge is power. The more you know about your destination, the more your apprehension will recede.

While weighing up your options, try to concentrate on the positive aspects of your move. For instance—and it’s easy to take this for granted—you are unlikely to encounter an insurmountable language barrier. Though there are countless word differences and accent variations with which you may not yet be familiar, the predominant language in the U.S. is the one you have spoken all your life—albeit with bells and whistles.

The similarities, meanwhile, do not end with the language. While sloppy joe sandwiches and pumpkin pie are as American as they come, most food items bear more than a passing resemblance to those of the British ilk. For every U.K. delicacy (I use that term both lovingly and ironically) that is absent from America’s food vernacular, there are many foods—from meat and potatoes, to salads and veg—that are fairly reminiscent of those back home.

Of course, it’s all good and well trying to stave off your anxieties by sticking to what you know, but adopting the various idiosyncrasies of American life can also be a rich and liberating experience. The United States—a nation noted for its apparently confident and direct people—has had a profound influence on my own outlook since moving here in 2008. In short, try to see your move across the Pond as a chance to broaden your horizons.

Indeed, while you are busy discovering all that is different about America, know that Americans will be busy discovering everything that is different about you. And this can be a good thing. Because the United States is seemingly replete with Anglophiles, you might just become the subject of both their inquisition and their admiration. With your “awesome accent” and “wonderfully dry sense of humor” at the ready, you’ve practically ensured an immediate new circle of friends. Well done.

And so, if you are brave enough to take the plunge and willing enough to give the U.S. a chance, your so-called first day at school might evolve into some of the best days of your life. Who knows, if you like it enough to stay, you might one day find yourself—like me and my fellow expatriates—passing on wisdom to the new kids.

When’s your move date? 

See More:
12 Essential Websites for British Expats in America
A British Hitchhiker’s Guide to Understanding American Driving Lingo 
One Year On: A British Mum’s Update on Raising an American Baby

Head Shot - Laurence Brown

Laurence Brown

Laurence Brown is a British freelance writer living in Indianapolis, Indiana. Having graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in English Language and Creative Writing, Laurence runs a blog called Lost In The Pond, which charts the many cultural and linguistic differences between Britain and The United States.
View all posts by Laurence Brown.
  • sal

    Good article. I like the way you write because you never come across as intentionally inflammatory as many of the other authors here do.

    • Ryan Pooler

      I’m not familiar with all of the other authors on here, but you are correct. I am tired of being represented by “tacky rude Americans” on tour in the UK. I am a fit, educated, upstanding citizen. I am definitely not alone. Overweight Walmartians on parade exist, of course, as much as creepy people of the night exist anywhere. We are successful because we innovate, work, and push for growth in everything. We are faithful and accept challenge and do not accept answers that do not move us forward. We push forward to make the world and our lives better. We like large houses, big infrastructure, big comfortable vehicles, and we work for that reality. We are bold because we don’t tolerate what gets in our way without good reason. We are no better or worse than anyone else, but we live large, are free, and feel blessed to live where we do. We are also very generous. (usually) 😉

  • ukhousewifeusa

    Do it! It is eye opening and challenging and will ultimately make you appreciate things from your own culture and your new American one. It’s fascinating, I can assure you! 😉

  • frozen01

    As a person who suffers from an anxiety disorder (so I have more experience in “cold feet” than I’d like), I offer this advise: Remind yourself that it’s completely normal to feel anxious. Any doubt you feel is probably just your brain dealing with the natural emotions your body is experiencing. Focus on what your thoughts and feelings were BEFORE the anxiety set in, because these reflect your true feelings far more accurately.
    It is a temporary feeling, and it will pass before you know it. When it does, no matter what, you will probably love your new life. And if you don’t? You can always move back, whether that’s tomorrow or five years down the road. But you’ll never know if you don’t stick to it and at least give it a shot.
    Also, be patient with yourself, and give yourself lots of time. Do not expect things to be amazing immediately. It’s normal to feel homesick, to feel depressed, even a bit lost, and it could take a few months before those feeling begin to go away and life starts to feel more normal again. But (and this is the part I struggle with) how you feel right now is not how you will always feel. It will pass. Just take care of yourself, take things slowly (as slow as you need… there is no right or wrong here), and look forward to the day when you’ve “settled” and are enjoying the strangeness of your new life.

  • TMarius

    Recall that we offer medical marijuana in many states, as well as cheaper alcohol. And when you develop full-blown substance addiction, know that American biomedical science is on the cutting edge of experimental research into neuroplastic mechanisms of treatment for addiction/withdrawal symptoms.

    The only downside is that you have to pay for your healthcare now.

  • niamh17

    It was late in March when my husband came home and said he had been offered the move to the States. We got a five day relocation visit and by the end of July we had sold up our house, packed up our children and moved four thousand miles! The first year was tough, good, bad, exciting and at times lonely, but we stuck it out and now 9 years later I couldnt imagine living anywhere else. I have two children at an excellent university and one doing great in school and summers are great, winters, not so much!!! We are also fully fledged Americans so were here to stay.