Monday 8 April 2013

How long does it take to become a local?

I’ve moved many time during my life, in fact 14 times, spanning 3 countries (Wales, England and South Africa) from birth to 17 this involved 4 moves from Newport – Leicester – York - Ross-on-Wye. Every time I’ve moved there have been things to sort, work, family, education, transport plus the usual hassles of changing utility bills and the actual move itself. We’ve all been there and done it and it ranks as one of life’s most stressful things to do.

Moving 6000 miles away has been harder, because on top of the above I’m also dealing with a different culture, language, way of life and way of doing things.

But what I’ve never had problems with is making friends. I’ve moved as a child and made friends at school, then as an adult and made friends through work, then as a mum and made friends again through school. I have life long friends, I have friends who have come and gone, I have friends I’ve been on holiday with and survived.

But when you move so far away from everything you know and your kids are older and you don’t work, then making friends is that little bit harder and it takes an awful lot longer than you can imagine.

So I now know how to do things here, expect the unexpected and be prepared to wait for hours, spend many visits and accept that sometimes what you want to do and what you can do are two separate things.

I’ve established my volunteering, the kids settled emotionally into school and country and through that I have friends, I have a support network. There are people I can party with, people I can call in to see. People who can help me with lifts when my car is off the road or if I’m ill, lend me money when I lose my bank card and hubby is out of the country.

I can now give directions when asked, recommend services, help someone sort out a problem. I know how to talk to people to get what I need, what words to use if I want something done ‘just now’ and not ‘now’ (which means never) I understand the language, the culture, the whole way of life. I can drive to various places without the need for a GPS.

I know there will be issues, things that drive me up the wall, things I’m unable to resolve but I now believe I am settled, I am a local. I belong here and the depression I’m still having issues with is all part of the transition phase of adapting to the culture, of moving 6000 miles away from family and friends and familiarity and re-establishing my whole life.


  1. One thing that I've often noticed, is that when you're new in a place, you assume that everyone else has been there for donkey's years. Then, over time, you find out that some have been there just a teensy weensy bit longer than you. By that stage, you are among the ones who seem to newcomers like a real local, even though you still feel inside like a newbie.

    1. I've also discovered that being an expat is a process that has to be experienced. Many expats approach me for advice, if its practical info i.e sim cards, numbers for rental agents etc I can do that willingly. If it's emotions then im afraid there are too many variables to advise on

  2. Hi, I found your blog by chance and I like the way you describe being an expat. I´m an expat mum myself, although I´m not an English native speaker so please don´t be too hard on my grammar. I´m from Venezuela, I lived in Mexico and UK before moved to Hungary. I live currently in Budapest. I will come to visit as often as I can.

    1. Thank you for your comment. Although I'm a native English speaker, my grammar ain't that hot either