Siobhan Wilson was born and raised in Scotland, and decided to give west coast America a shot for six months. Nine years later, she’s still there but with a lot more baggage than she arrived with.
More information on expat life in the USA? Read the Expat Arrivals guide here or read more about expat experiences in the USA.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Greenock, Scotland – just outside Glasgow.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Corvallis, Montana, USA.
Q: How long you have you lived here?
A: I have lived in the States for just over 10 years, but have resided in Corvallis for 3½ years.
Q: Did you move with a spouse/children?
A: No, I came here alone, planning to stay 6 months and return home. I met my husband and decided to stay to pursue a relationship. (After much immigration paperwork and fees) we have been married for 8½ years and have 3 young children.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved for a change of scenery; a new direction in life.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your host city, how’s the quality of life?
A: It’s beautiful and peaceful here.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss being able to walk anywhere I please. Everything is so spread out and far apart here in America. I miss an abundance of public transport, historical buildings and castles, Scottish camaraderie, certain food I can’t buy here and mostly importantly, my family.
Q: Is the city safe?
A: It’s very safe where I live. I can say without equivocation that living here in the countryside of Montana is the safest I have felt in my entire life.
About living in the US
Q: Which are the best places to liveas an expat?
A: In my opinion, the best places to live in the United States – if you are from the UK – are Boston, Massachusetts and Seattle, Washington. Although, anywhere in the Bay Area in California would be good, but costly too.
Q: How do you rate the standard of accommodation?
A: I love having a larger home for less money compared to back home. In retrospect, I miss the intricate architecture of Victorian homes.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: For the amount of square footage, buying a home here is much cheaper than in Scotland. Typically, anything the U.S. exports is cheaper here: jeans, shoes, designer clothing… Large appliances are also cheaper in the US. However, food seems to be cheaper in the UK.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: The locals are warm, kind people. There isn’t a wide demographic of people here as Montana is a favourite state to retire to. There aren’t many expats here. I know a few from my husband’s place of employment, he works for a well-known global company and some have relocated here.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: My church affiliations have made making friends much easier. I think if it wasn’t for that connection, it would have been harder.
About working in the US
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: No, but I had to wait a few months after I was married to obtain one.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: No, it’s very difficult to get (good) employment here in the Corvallis area.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: It’s difficult to pinpoint any specific differences. It’s a little more relaxed here than the UK. Notably, there is an interview process when you leave a company. It’s called an exit interview.
Family and children
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: The local school district ranks in the top 5 in the nation. National school rankings change from town to town and state to state, so it’s difficult to make any solid suggestions. School supplies and milk (during snack time) isn’t provided free like it is in Scotland. Meals are subsidised for very low-income families.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: Overall, the standard of healthcare is fantastic. I enjoy being able to visit a specialist rather than going to a General Practitioner, and in some cases, having to be referred. You have the ability to choose which specialist you wish to see, one isn’t appointed to you. Although, if you are without health insurance and you become seriously ill, it can be very expensive. Taxes are much lower, and as a result, seeing a doctor and obtaining medications are not free like they are in the UK.
Q: Is there any other advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Being an expat can be exciting and an adventure, but it is very unlike a life romanticised in films. It is emotionally and socially difficult, and costly at times.It’s easier when you find someone in a similar situation as yours. Locate other expats in your area or around the country. They can provide you with a wealth of information specific to your region. Even after ten years of living here, I still have questions and cultural differences that arise.