Some advice and guidance based on my relocation move to the USA in September 2003. Part 3 - The One-Way Ticket
The day has finally arrived - all your worldly possessions are on a ship somewhere, you have your one-way airplane ticket, and enough luggage and personal items to last the several months until your shipping container arrives, and it is now time to embark on the next stage of your life ....
This will be a very emotional time for everyone - both you and your immediate family who are leaving and the family members and friends you are leaving behind. Everyone will deal with this in different ways, but the key thing to remember is that you can still keep in touch with each other even if you miss not having them around.
As the plane takes off, you will most likely feel like a Pioneer setting out on an adventure to discover new territories, and that is a very appropriate analogy. This is the start of a whole new phase of your life, and it is both scary and exciting at the same time.
Similarly, when the plane lands at the other side, you will experience a very different feeling compared to any other airplane flight you have made in the past. You are traveling on a one-way ticket and this is now your home country. Again feelings of adventure (both scary and exciting) are hard to avoid.
Once you leave the airport and get to your temporary accommodation (either rental accommodation arranged through your relocation package or an extended hotel / suite / rental arranged yourself) then it is natural to start to feel somewhat overwhelmed with what you should do next in order to settle in and acclimatize.
This is the start of the CULTURE-SHOCK that you need to work through.
The simplest advice is to take a few days just exploring and finding your way around. Get a map / GPS system and drive / walk around to get your bearings. Make an effort to discover new places like nearby parks, garages, restaurants, banks and shopping malls which will provide some landmarks and help you with the initial domestic tasks in the first few days.
Food shopping will be one of the initial priorities, and also probably one of the biggest challenges! Take it slow, and plan to eat out for the first few days while you work out the translation from British supermarkets to US supermarkets. Brands are different, the names for food and ingredients are different, and the way supermarkets are organized is different.
If possible, the best way to overcome this food shopping hurdle is to try to find an ex-patriot who has been through the process before and can help with the translation. Alternatively just try asking the store personnel! You will quickly find that one of the biggest single differences between shopping in the US compared to the UK is talking to the shop assistants in stores -- in the US they will actually be friendly and helpful, and really do want you to ask them questions! Talk to them, and you will be surprised by what they know about the store merchandise and how willing they are to help you find what you want.
Sites like Facebook and Plaxo provide great ways to let relatives and friends keep up with what you are up to, and of course e-mail / IM / webcam / telephone provide a more direct communication channel too.
Voice-over-IP (VOIP) services also help to reduce the communication barriers in both directions. There are also several companies offering VOIP telephone services with an unlimited international calling plan for about US $25 per month that allow you to chat very cheaply to the folks back in the UK for as long as you want / need to. With these services you can add an additional phone number in the UK for about US $2 extra per month, which make it possible for people in the UK to call you direct in the USA for the same price as calling to another town within the UK.
With the cheap VOIP phone services, we now talk to our parents and relations living in Ireland and Yorkshire more frequently now that we live in the US than we did when we lived in Manchester or London.
A couple of things to watch out for with these VOIP services are the time zone differences (you have to educate your family and friends in the UK what times they must not call you!) and wrong numbers (for a time we had a UK access number very similar to the one used by O2's Customer Service department, so we regularly got misdialed calls around lunch time UK time [but the middle of the night in Redmond!] until we changed to a different number!)
Experiences Relocating to the USA from the UK
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