Expat life: returning to the United States

Last week, I wrote about the pros and cons of living in Scotland. This week, I thought I’d do the same about the United States. There were some great things about living in the United Kingdom, but all in all, I’m glad to be home. Here are the pros and cons of returning to the United States!

The pros

The United States has seasons

There were some great things about living in the United Kingdom, but I’m glad to be home. Here are the pros and cons of returning to the United States!

Can’t beat the views when the seasons change. Photo: Forever Evolving via photopin (license)

Sure, Scotland has cold and less cold. But the United States offers a proper spring, summer, fall and winter. While it’s been a little too hot in New Mexico this summer, I know that in a few months the temperatures will drop and it’ll be time for sweaters again. Sometimes. Spring brings a lot of wind and allergies, along with blooming trees. A lot of Glasgow stays green all year, and it’s never really warm and pleasant, nor is it usually snowy and crisp. Just a whole lot of wet and gloomy.

America has the best food

Okay, I’ll give you that Scotland has great seafood. But, they don’t know how to do good Mexican food and they don’t even have ranch dressing! America offers every kind of food you can imagine, and there’s a lot of deliciousness to be had.

I know how to get things done here

There’s something to be said for knowing how to do things. When I first arrived in Scotland, I didn’t even know where to buy a trash can! In America, I know the stores and where to go when I need something. From mailing a package to getting a driver’s license, I know the rules and how to get it done.

The cons

Politics, guns and racism

In the past week, there have been black men killed by white police officers, one during a traffic stop and the other for selling CDs in front of a store. Then 5 police officers were killed and several more shot by a sniper. The sniper was then killed by a bomb robot. According to Gun Violence Archive, 7,182 people have died in gun-related incidents in 2016 so far (as of July 10.) In 2015, the US saw 13,438 gun deaths. Compare that to the United Kingdom, which has much stricter laws on guns. In 2011, the UK had 146 gun deaths in the whole year, and in years before that generally stayed below 200 deaths annually, with just a few exceptions dating back to 1996 when the gun laws changed. Even when you multiply UK numbers by 5 to equalize population numbers (318.9 million in the US vs. 64.1 million in the UK), the UK still has considerably less gun deaths than the US.

It’s not getting any better. Our Congress refuses to enact stricter gun laws, and one of our major political candidates is known for sharing white supremacist memes on social media. It sounds like a movie, but sadly, this is the state of my homeland right now. We need to change.

Having to think about (and pay for) healthcare

I almost paid the hefty fee to extend my visa in the UK for another six months just to stay on the National Health Service (NHS.) Instead, I decided to come home and see what would happen here with Obamacare in effect. I first tried to get on my state’s health exchange, but then learned that my income was too low for that. Now I’ve just applied for and received Medicaid. It is a “joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources.” As soon as I get a job, I will have to either move over to the health exchange at cost, or pay for health insurance through my employer. Ironically it’s easier to get health insurance with no income than it is if you’re in the middle class. And don’t think that you can just go without; not only are you legally required to have health insurance, but the cost of hospitalization, medications and disease treatment is insanely high here. This is a crappy system and we should all have healthcare as a basic right.

Filing taxes

Something that surprised me in the UK was how easy taxes are. They charge a flat percentage on income that comes out of your monthly check, and that’s it. No filing at the end of the year, it’s just done. Compare that to the US, which does tax your paycheck, but also has a complex system of credits that requires everyone to file a tax return annually to figure out if you’ve paid enough, or too much, for that year. When you live abroad it’s even worse to calculate! This is another system that could be significantly simplified, but probably never will.

Looking back, it seems like my complaints are much worse than my loves are positive. I do love my country, and would still pick it as my home despite all its faults. But, seeing how the UK has handled gun violence and health care for shines a light on the issues we have in America. I don’t know where life will take me next, but I look forward to the next adventure at home or abroad!

Are you an expat who has returned home? What was it like? Did you experience reverse culture shock? Tell me in the comments!

Expat life: grocery shopping in Scotland
Expat life: comparing food labeling laws in the US and UK

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