West Virginia to Scotland - Expat Interview With Mary

Published: 8 Mar at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Scotland
Mary is an American expat living in Scotland. Mary met her husband online and used to ask him for dating advice.They were just friends after all. As the online friendship progressed they decided to meet--in Portugal. Friendship quickly grew to romance and they began dating long distance. That got really expensive! So they married in February 2008 and Mary moved to Scotland to be with him. Armed with only two checked bags and a carry-on Mary was ready for an adventure and that is exactly what she got. Learning to navigate the unpredictable Scottish weather and making a life among the Scots has proved to be a life changing experience. She has taken a road trip through the Highlands, been to the northern most point of mainland Scotland, and visiting old castles remain her most favorite Saturday activity. Mary and LD now have one son, Sebastian who's first word was, "Hiya!" a typical Scottish greeting. Mary's expat blog is called My Life in Scotland (see listing here)

Meet Mary - US expat in Scotland
Meet Mary - US expat in Scotland

Here's the interview with Mary...


Where are you originally from?
I was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia. Most of my family still live there.

In which country and city are you living now?
I currently live in Motherwell, Scotland. It is a small city, outside of Glasgow, housing about 30,000 people.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I have lived in Scotland for 5 years at the end of February 2013. Wow! Time really flies. We came to the conclusion over the summer that we're making our stay in Scotland permanent. We're making Scotland our home.

Why did you move and what do you do?
I met my husband online in 2006. I hate telling people that. It sounds so - desperate. I used him for dating advice way back when. My husband, LD, was born and raised in Venezuela to Portuguese parents. He was living in Scotland for work. We dated long distance and traveled back and forth to see each other for over a year. That got really expensive! I moved to Scotland 3 days after we got married in February 2008.

I'm currently a stay at home Mom to our 2 yr old son Sebastian. I love it. Before Sebastian came a long I was a supervisor at a bakery in Scotland. I still miss the cookies.

Did you bring family with you?
My husband was already living in Scotland so I came all by my lonesome. I brought my two checked bags and a carry-on and here I am! My family are all still living in America and my in-laws live in Portugal. It is just the three of us here but we're making it on our own.

St. Giles Cathedral along The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
St. Giles Cathedral along The Royal Mile, Edinburgh
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
Moving to a new country wasn't a completely new experience for me. I had previously worked on board cruise lines cruising the Caribbean. I knew there would be an adjustment period - and there was! It rained every day for 3 weeks and I hadn't seen the sun in just as much. I didn't know a soul and wasn't getting out as much as I'd hoped. But, once I got myself grounded it was amazing that everywhere I went was new. There was always a new experience to be had. A new place to see. New people to meet. Even now after 5 yrs I can still see the newness about it.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I only know one other American expat. All of my friends are locals. It's really fun! I think it is really important when expatriating to a new country to get out there and take a class, join a church, or a local book club. The more you get out and do things the more opportunities you will have to meet people and make friends. You'll need to be the extrovert though. Most British are reserved. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself.

Bothwell Castle is our favorite picnic spot
Bothwell Castle is our favorite picnic spot
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
There is no shortage of things to do in Scotland. It oozes culture and history. Some of my favorite places to visit are Edinburgh Castle, The William Wallace Monument in Sterling, the beach at North Berwick, and George Square in the heart of Glasgow. One of our favorite things to do in town is go to Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton. There are walking trails, a playground for the kids, a gorgeous home on the estate, and we love to take a picnic and enjoy a rare sunny Scottish day.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love all the history. It blows my mind when I see a castle that was built before America was even thinking about being a country. The Scottish have traditions that span hundred's of years. It is just incredible. The beauty is astounding and I've never gotten tired of it.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Oh boy, it is expensive to live in Scotland! Sales tax is 20% and you are even taxed for owning a television. Can you believe it? Housing is really expensive considering the size of property you get. I stopped converting pounds into dollars long ago to save me from the shock.

We hit some typical Scottish weather on our way through Campbeltown
We hit some typical Scottish weather on our way through Campbeltown
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
The weather! It really does rain as much as they all say. But the worst is literally not seeing the sun for months. It is always grey and overcast. We don't have a summer either. It is my least favorite thing about living here for sure.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Get yourself a pair of wellies. You're going to need them.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I'm always the odd woman out. I'm not Scottish. I didn't grow up here. I don't have family close by. I'm always having to change the way I think or would normally do something. I'm always having to think outside the box. It can get exhausting at times.

Loch Lomond pulls the highlands and the lowlands together in stunning beauty
Loch Lomond pulls the highlands and the lowlands together in stunning beauty
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Do your research. Before you even get here you'll need all the proper paperwork. You'll need a bank account--that could take months to get. Find out about the local grocery store and shopping. Make public transportation your friend. Learn all about it and then try it out.
  2. Get out there! Find a group to join or something to do. Find a place where you can meet people. You'd be surprised what can be cured with a good old fashioned conversation.
  3. Make a list of things you want to do while you're here. Always keep 3 things that you're looking forward to doing in the near future. When times get tough you'll want to keep yourself busy.
  4. Find some kind of work. This doesn't have to be formal employment, but maybe take a class or learn a new skill. Find a hobby. Having too much free time can make you feel idle. It is a law of physics in practice; an object in motion stays in motion, an object at rest stays at rest. You'll want to stay in motion.
  5. Have fun! Do the things you always dreamed about. If you wanted to visit every castle there is, then do it! If you wanted to sit at a cafe and write your novel, then do it! How about hike Ben Nevis? Just do it!


"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined." -Thoreau

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
I started my blog My Life in Scotland shortly after I moved here in 2008. It was a place for me to keep my family updated from so far away. Blogging is my way of chronicling my travels, disasters, family life and experiences while we live in Scotland. I get a lot of emails asking about expat life and so I try and add a few how-to expatriate posts from time to time.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
I can be contacted via my blog My Life in Scotland. I love helping future expats. You can also find me on Twitter. I'm @SweetBookshelf. Introduce yourself!

Mary blogs at http://www.marydebastos.blogspot.com/ which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. My Life in Scotland has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Mary, please also drop her a quick comment below.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Mary De Bastos wrote 4 years ago:

Thank you so much for the interview. I had a great time!

ExpatsBlog.com wrote 4 years ago:

You're welcome Mary - thanks again!

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