We are excited to welcome Maria to our Expat Life Interview Series. 17 years expat in England, let’s get to know her lovely family and her expat experience.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m originally from the twin island Republic of Trinidad & Tobago.
Q: In which city and country are you living now? Did you move there alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I’m based in Carshalton, Surrey, England. I live there with my husband and two kids but I relocated to England alone.
Q: How long have you lived there and how long are you planning to stay?
A: I’ve been living in England for 17 years. I married and started a family here. It’s home for now but Hubby and I often toy with relocating to sunnier climes one day.
Q: Why did you move and what do you do?
A: There were several reasons for my move but, mostly it’s because I was single and wanted some adventure before settling down. I trained as a Library Technician so I worked in the Library Service for a few months before moving into Curriculum Administration.
Q: Moving from Trinidad and Tobago to England, what was your first impression?
A: Honestly, I was so happy. I felt at home. I’d read so much English Literature, I totally got the landscape and vibe. The bleak weather was more of a challenge but I got over quickly.
Q: What do you enjoy most about England? What were some of your favorite experiences?
A: I love the countryside, the expanse of green, the wildflowers, the food, the history and pageantry that happens on special occasions like the recent Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. One of my best memories is walking along London’s Southbank on a sunny summer day and hearing a steelpan playing the tune to Bailando.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss the beaches, the street food and the ‘happy go lucky’ vibe of my people.
Q: What has been the greatest aspect of your expat experience so far? What are the adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life there?
A: The biggest adjustment came when I became a parent. I find the rules more restricting at times but on the other hand, I’m learning a different way to parent, that’s in sync with my children’s development.
Q: How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country, in terms of cost of living, public transportation and healthcare system?
A: Cost of living in both countries is expensive. Both have free education and healthcare. However, in England, there is more healthcare cover. Food is almost the same price as well.
Q: What are the best things to do or places to visit in England?
A: London is expensive but there’s some much that free. Many of the museums and galleries are free. River cruise is another scenic way to see the city, Little Venice or London Southbank is the place to start. Of course, there’s Liverpool (home of The Beatles) it was crowned European Capital of Culture in 2008; 2018 marks the 10th anniversary. There will be a year of events to celebrate. Then, If you like to be far from the maddening crowd, Forest of Dean, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire Cotswold and the Lake District have stunning panoramic green views. If you want the best of both the City of Bath is incredibly pretty. Pass by the Royal Crescent; see and appreciate the Georgina architecture.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Tell us about your typical day as an expat in England.
A: I’m a stay-at-home mum and blogger. So my typical day is like many stay-at-home mums: the school run, house chores; volunteer at the kids’ school, etc. My me time is gym time.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? Did you feel you fitted in culturally?
A: I have a close circle of friends from Trinidad whom I see from time to time. However, the friends that I’m in touch with most frequently are friends I made after becoming a parent. They are not expats.
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or go through an agency?
A: I came on a working holiday visa which entitled me to work for one year full time or two years part time. I always handled my paperwork myself, in order to that I kept abreast of changing foreign policy that related to expats. I also always applied for my visas in person from the British Home Office, I never sent anything through the post.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: The casual style of dress in some offices always surprised me. Also, the after-work socializing was also a surprise; it seems as though it’s expected. However, in Trinidad work is work and play is play unless of course, you click with someone. It’s not expected or required that you spend time socializing after work.
Q: What are your tips or advice for anyone looking to live and work in England?
A: It’s common that people look for work via employment agencies because to have all your relevant original paperwork and visas for them to see. I’m old school, whenever I was looking for work I’d think of who I’d to work for, visit their website for vacancies, then apply directly to the organization.
Thank you, Maria, for taking the time to be part of our Expat Life Interview Series! Maria is a Surrey-based wife, stay-at-home mum, blogger and aspiring published children’s book writer. She moved to England in 2001. Her career history has spanned from Library service to Curriculum Administration. She left full-time employment in December 2011 to raise my family. Now, she manages her personal blog The Tiger Tales, which focuses on expat parenting and lifestyle. You can also connect with her on Twitter @MsXpat, Instagram @msxpat, and Facebook.
*All photos are the sole property of the author. They were provided and used with permission for this interview only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
The Expat Life Interview Series was created to know more about the country, not just from a traveler’s perspective. We hope to help others who are thinking of working abroad to know how it is to live and work with the locals. If you are living and working abroad even for only a few months or several years and would like to be featured on Wellington World Travels, please Contact Us so we can send you the questions and share your expat life experience.