Hannah Drake

The Expat Diaries, Vol. 16

LifeHannah DrakeComment

Holy smokes! How is it even possible that as of today, I’m exactly a month away from being a resident of England for two years. Was that confusing? I’ve lived in the UK for exactly 23 months and I can’t believe it! I’ll never forget the day I moved to England. Luke was in Colorado for my last week. The morning of the move, my mom took us to breakfast and then dropped us off at the airport. We had one easy flight and one flight I would very much like to forget. (I’ll never fly Thomas Cook/Condor ever again.) We landed in Manchester and took the train back to Birmingham, where I moved into the house Luke would be sharing with three other guys for another two weeks or so. I think we had fish & chips for dinner, Luke went out to vote for his local MP, I went to bed, and woke up in the middle of the night, hours before our flight to Berlin for holiday with Luke’s family. It was a crazy week. And as cliche as it is to say it, I still can’t believe this is my life.

I still can’t believe that I like in the United Kingdom. I find it so ironic that years ago, a guy broke up with me, citing a throwaway comment I made once about wanting to temporarily live abroad someday. I remember being so confused as that being his reasoning because I barely remembered saying it. But it was like that idea continued to grow deep down inside me, so when I made the decision to move (rather than Luke being the one to move), it felt right. It felt like something I could handle. It was an exciting new adventure and I felt really at peace with that.

Thanks for indulging my little moment of reflection on the last (almost) two years. Now I’ll get to the last two months, which has included two fairly major life things.

A few months ago, I called a counselling office to book time with a counsellor/therapist. It’s an office set up in town where counsellors basically volunteer their time to meet with patients. You get a block of six weekly appointments, plus an initial evaluation where you just meet with your counsellor and determine if it’s a good fit. Per appointment, t costs £5 if you’re unemployed and £10 if you’re employed. And that’s what I think is truly amazing. I had my sixth (technically seventh) appointment last Thursday. It was really good to be able to talk to someone about all kinds of different things.

I think this second year abroad has been a bit more difficult than the first. I still love living in England and Luke and I are working to put down even more roots, so it’s not like a move back to the States is even on the table for now. (Side note: It always is. It’s always an option for us, but we’ve chosen not to consider it until it begins to feel right. We’re both open to it near or far down the line, but neither of us ever want to put a date on it until we actually need to for logistical reasons because it’s actually happening.) I have a feeling that the difficulty has been more about the personal changes I’ve experienced in recent months and less about living abroad. Maybe just the new city and country further highlight those shifts and changes. Or maybe there’s no more distraction of wedding planning and the fact that I’ve been back to the States twice in my second year and didn’t go back at all during my first. Who knows!

But either way, therapy was good. I’m able to “reapply” in the future since there’s a waiting list, but I’m also kind of welcoming the break and hoping to dig in more with the things that came up for me in those conversations, especially about my anxiety. And by the way, therapy is freaking awesome. You should try it if you haven’t and you shouldn’t ever feel ashamed that you’re in counselling or therapy or whatever you want to call it. You wouldn’t feel ashamed about getting a physical from your doctor, so why feel shame about taking care of your mind?

So about those roots we’re working on. It all kind of hinges on getting a house. If this isn’t your first Expat Diaries, you might know that we’re desperate to get a puppy and a kitten. (Yes, at the same time.) But we’re not able to have pets in the rental we’ve lived in for the last 22 months. (Woah! I can’t believe it’s been that long!) Buying a house has been on our radar for quite some time. We were hoping to buy in early 2019, but then figured we’d wait until after Brexit (at the time planned for March) to see what happened with the market and to get an additional three months of savings. In January, we decided to sign another six-month lease, taking us almost through the end of July, with hopes that we would move from our rental into our own house at the beginning of August, but with a fallback plan to go month-to-month on our lease if needed.

We started looking at houses in March, with an idea of our financials, but without confirming anything. (I’m not sure I would recommend this.) After seeing half a dozen houses, most of which were solid no’s, we finally got in touch with our bank about a mortgage. One afternoon, we sat in bed, Luke on the phone with our bank, to find out if we could be approved for what we wanted.

“Does Hannah have a British passport?” the woman asked while gathering our information.

“No, she has an American passport,” Luke replied. I got up to get it, but it turns out I didn’t need it at all. When I came back into the room, Luke was in the middle of a line of questioning about my residency. What visa do I have? How long have I lived here? It ended with a frustrating conclusion. I’m not eligible to be a part of our mortgage. I’m not on the right visa. I haven’t lived here long enough. Even as Luke’s wife, I can’t get a joint mortgage.

That was obviously not what we wanted to hear and it meant we could only go forward with Luke on the application. Because of that, he didn’t get a yes or a no right away, but later got approved, thank goodness. It would have been so frustrating if we hadn’t been able to buy a house because of my residency and we totally lucked out.

Hopefully I’ll have more information in two months in my next Expat Diaries with where we’re out with the house hunt since we’ll be close to the end of our lease (though we can go month-to-month after our lease is up), so in the meantime, send us first time homebuyers lots of good vibes!