Friday, October 28, 2022

There’s an old adage, adopted from the title of a 1940 Thomas Wolfe novel, that declares, “You can never go home again.” 

But what if your new “home” is in a new place?

Since moving back to the U.S. in August 2021, I’ve been trying to figure out my new home in Charlotte, North Carolina. After living abroad for 11 years as an expat with “homes” in Istanbul, Warsaw, Melbourne and London, hubby and I moved back to the US for his new job opportunity. I’ve gotten used to moving around even though I lived the first 23 years of my life in Nebraska, a nice place to live but one I couldn’t wait to escape. I wanted to live in a big city and see the world, and I’ve done all that. 

So, now what?  


The truth is that London had become like a second home, a familiar place where a lot of amazing things happened in my life and where I established some wonderful friends. I really miss my former life, at times, and sometimes feel out of place being an American in America. It’s probably difficult for most people to understand unless you’ve moved away from where you’re from. However, I’m always the optimist, and I’ve tried to embrace our new city, reconnect with old friends and get out and explore as much as possible.

Autumnal view in our new city of Charlotte, North Carolina.

But here’s a list of 7 Shocking Things Moving Back to US from Abroad


1. Everything in the U.S. is BIGGER!

Americans seem to like big trucks and even bigger houses. The average home in Charlotte is about 4,000 square feet – about 370 square meters. I wouldn’t even know what to do with all that space! In London, we lived in a 2.5-bedroom flat that was about 105 square meters (1,130 square feet), which lacked much closet space, but we made it work.

Today, in Charlotte, we rent a 3-bedroom apartment that measures 1,500 square feet (about 140 square meters) with a large balcony. We have closets or storage space in every room, so much so, that parts are unused. Americans don’t know how lucky they are to actually have space. In London, we had a storage space under the stairs called the “Harry Potter closet” that was stuffed with items we didn’t use very often and was a pain to access if we did want to use something.

I’m grateful for our spacious apartment.

2. America is built for cars and public transportation doesn’t exist.

When we first arrived in Charlotte, we bought hybrid bikes before we bought cars for two reasons. First, we quickly realized that U.S. public transportation is nearly non-existent outside of big cities like NYC and Washington DC. Charlotte does have two light rail lines, but unless you live near them, they won’t help you much. So, I’ve learned to cycle on the haphazard streets and bike paths here. Secondly, buying a car was difficult as demand was high, and supply was low due to issues stemming from the pandemic.

Hubby and me cycling in Charlotte.

After two months of being carless and transporting groceries on my bike, I bought a used Mini – thus bringing a piece of London back into my American life. My ‘lil Lizzie is perfect for city life.

3. Prices for some things are more expensive here vs. London.

An American pint of craft beer in Charlotte costs about $7USD on average for 16 ounces compared to £5-6 for 20 ounces (the size of an Imperial pint) in London. So basically, we pay more for less beer here in the U.S – on average. Also, most UK pubs and restaurants serve large pours of wine – 250ml or 8 fluid ounces – while the average size of a U.S. wine pour is just 6 ounces.

Additionally, when we first moved from London to Charlotte, I felt like groceries were very expensive here. Sometimes, I’ve paid nearly $1 for one lemon or one lime, when I used to get a whole bowl of citrus for £1 in London.

Our local fruit and veg stand in London sold bowls of fruit very cheaply.

But over the past year, I’ve discovered that prices are increasing in both the UK and the US, partly due to the pandemic and the Ukrainian-Russian war. In September, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in the cost of food, housing, gasoline, utilities, and other goods, rose by 8.2 percent over the past 12 months in August — nearly a 40-year-high. The UK is also dealing with high inflation rates.

Excerpt from The Economist magazine 2022.

4. U.S. domestic flights are very expensive!

Since we lived abroad for so long, we’re now trying to catch up with our old American friends and our family. However, we’re finding it more difficult and expensive to do so. In May, we paid $700 each for flights to meet up with a friend in September in Albuquerque, New Mexico, whom I hadn’t seen since 2016. Even when travelling locally in North Carolina, hotel prices average $200-300 a night. We both don’t remember U.S. travel costing so much! Is this the result of a post-pandemic world?

When we lived in London, we had access to five main airports and could easily travel to numerous European destinations for less than $100 each. On one of my last girl trips in July 2021, I flew roundtrip to Dublin, Ireland, for only £50 (currently $60USD), but sometimes Ryanair advertises flights for only £5.

 5. U.S. healthcare does seem better.

I’ll stipulate that the type of healthcare you receive in the U.S. all depends on how good your insurance coverage is. Fortunately, the coverage from hubby’s new job appears to be outstanding. While I appreciated the “free” NHS system in the UK, it does have its faults, mainly that it takes a long time to see a specialist. Since I’m over 45 now, I was eligible to get a colon cancer screening, mammogram, and skincare check at a dermatologist – all at a very low cost in the U.S. The UK (generally) doesn’t start doing mammograms until a woman turns 50. I know too many friends in their 40s who have had breast cancer scares, and I don’t want to be one of them.

 My only complaint here is that my thyroid meds are more costly in the US. In the UK, I used to pay £25 for 6 months’ worth of meds compared to $12 per month in the US – approximately 2.4 times increase in costs. But since this is the only medicine that I take, I’m quite lucky.

 6. U.S. companies are stingy with vacation days.

In my part-time job, which is under 30 hours per week, I’m not eligible for ANY paid time off. When I want a day off, it’s unpaid. However, in the UK, the system in the hospitality industry allowed me to earn paid time off depending on how many hours I worked. And, even though my husband is working in an upper management position here in the U.S., he receives 21 days of paid holiday compared to 25 days in the UK.

 7. Decorating like crazy for every holiday.

People living in the UK and Europe don’t decorate very much for the holidays like we do here in America. (And I think the reason why is that people just don’t have storage space.) You’ll see some Halloween decorations in London, but nothing like what I see here in North Carolina with giant inflatable pumpkins and black cats in every yard. It’s honestly a bit overwhelming to walk into Target, At Home or any other large home store and see aisle after aisle filled with Halloween or Christmas décor. I’m enjoying seeing the decorations as I drive through my city, but it’s definitely a shock after living in such a different environment for so many years.

I’m sure there are other things that I’ve found different moving back to the U.S. I understand that it also takes time to settle into what once was a very familiar environment. I’ve heard of reverse culture shock, but I didn’t realize that’s what I would experience once we moved back. So, if you’re reading this and you know me, please be kind and know that I do enjoy living in America at times, but I also miss my other “homes.”


Have you ever experienced reverse culture shock?

My Traveling Joys

View of Uptown Charlotte at night from one of the rooftop bars.