What was your main motivator to relocate for your career? Had you always wanted to live and work in the USA?
I studied performing arts pretty much my whole life, so the dream was always to end up on Broadway, and I ended up on Broadway… But just the street, not in the actual theaters! So it all worked out in the end.
I was at a point in my career where I wasn’t personally happy. I was in a rut. I needed to change something, and dramatically.
A move to the US had always been on the cards, the option came up and I took it!
I’d never actually been to the US before I relocated, so it was quite a bold move from my side.
You’d never set foot on US soil before you went to live there permanently? Was there any back and forth, to test the waters for a bit?
I went in completely double footed. To move to somewhere like New York having never been to the US is intense.
I remember being on the flight, and it was just like you see in the movies. I saw the skyline as we landed, at night when the whole city was lit up, and thought ‘Holy heck, what have I done? I’ve never been to this place. I’ve packed my bags, to a place that I’ve never even seen before.’
I got into New York and just stood there in shock.
What are the main pitfalls to avoid, from someone who’s been through the process?
One is knowing that the US is really strict on credit history.
When you move there you start at zero. Finding apartments can be really tricky, because you need to find somewhere that’s willing to take the punt on you, having no credit, being new to the country, with nothing that can prove that you’d be a good tenant.
I spent probably my first month sofa hopping with colleagues, because nobody would take me and I needed to pay a ridiculous amount upfront.
I had to work for a bit to make sure that I had enough money, because it was outside of what my relocation package had provided. It was just very intense.
The value for money is a tough one. I’m quite a homebody, so I wanted somewhere very homely. Even though you’re always out and about, it was super important to me. I was probably fussy, but I would definitely recommend that you find:
- People you want to live with
- Somewhere it’s easy to get to work
- A short and safe walk home
It’s very important that you have some exposure to living in a house share when you first move, because if you go straight into living by yourself, that’s such a horrible place to be when you’re homesick.
One of the beauties of New York was that not everyone you meet is necessarily from there. Whether they’re American or British or European, they’re often not from New York. Everybody’s facing the same battle of homesickness. When you do have those bad days, you’re not alone. And that’s comforting in a very weird way.
Just be prepared that you might have to pay a lot of money upfront, because that’s something I had no idea was coming.
What was the adjustment like? Was it a massive learning curve?
For sure.The general cost of living is an issue.
I realised this when I went food shopping for the first time, just to make a salad. Now, here in the UK, cucumbers, bell peppers, they’re like what? 60, 70p each?
In America, it was two cucumbers for $5.
The total cost of making this salad, I was looking at about $20! It would be cheaper to get takeout. I was just like, this is absolutely barbaric. Yet you could go to a Wendy’s and you can get a cheeseburger, nuggets, fries and a milkshake for $5.
Another thing was the subway. I didn’t know that on the same track line, you have a local and an express train. The Express always goes to the main places. But the local one will stop absolutely everywhere and sometimes not where you need it to! I made a lot of mistakes getting on the wrong train.
On the social side… shots are so expensive!
I love a jagerbomb. They’re $15. For one.
When you’re used to paying ‘two for five quid’, that was definitely a tough pill to swallow. A very expensive night out for me.
There’s the measurements as well. They free-pour all of their drinks. It’s definitely your choice of spirit with a dash of mixer rather than the other way.
I remember asking a barman once ‘Can I have a bigger glass please’ meaning more mixer, but he thought I was asking for a double. I basically got what I would class as a pint of Captain Morgan’s with a little bit of coke.
I genuinely thought I was going to die.
What would be your advice to anyone who is considering a relocation for their job, but experiencing the fear of going into an unfamiliar place?
Honestly, just do it.
I think one of the biggest lessons that I learned with this experience… It was very up and down for my first six months.
There was a lot of doubt, missing my family, and taking time to adjust.
But once I did, I found a completely new side of who I was. I not only matured in myself, but I flourished professionally. I had this confidence in me that wasn’t there before.
It’s a very eye opening experience. I think I speak for a lot of people that have made this sort of move. It’s scary, but you’re only going to regret it 5, 10 years down the line when you don’t have the opportunity, maybe life’s a little bit more complicated, you have other things to consider.
I would just say, do it. Best thing you could ever do.
Don’t forget to read on for part 2 of this interview, where we discuss the surprises of a new culture, the big essentials like visas and ID, plus what moving with a partner or family looks like, what makes the ‘right kind of person’ for a big move, and …. A lot about food.