Expat Interview With Bonnie Rose - TCK Living in England

Published: 8 Apr at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,England
Bonnie Rose was born in England and grew up moving frequently in Europe on US military bases as a child. Though she moved 'back home' to the USA with her parents at seventeen, she knew she would return back to Europe. In 2011 she moved back to England with her husband with no jobs or a place to live. It was a risk they both were willing to take. Now settled in Bath with their sons they look forward to living in England for the foreseeable future. Bonnie Rose blogs in between her work as a photographer and hairstylist. Her family moved abroad for their love of travel. Bonnie's expat blog is called The Compass Rose (see listing here)

Meet Bonnie - TCK Living in England
Meet Bonnie - TCK Living in England

Here's the interview with Bonnie...

Where are you originally from?
That has never has been an easy question for me. I have American parents, I was born in England, and I lived on US military bases across Europe (England, Germany, and Italy) until I was seventeen. Which makes me a Third Culture Kid (TCK).

What is a TCK?
A Third Culture Kid (TCK) is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents' culture. The TCK frequently builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into the TCK's life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background.

In which country and city are you living now?
I am currently living in Bath, England.

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I moved to Bath, England in December 2012. We were previously living in Brighton, England since relocating from the USA to May of 2011. This is the very first time in my life I have not known that we would be moving somewhere else in the near future. We plan to enjoy that comfort and stay here for while.

Why did you move and what do you do?
Since I left Europe as a teen I knew I would be moving back 'home'. I met my husband in University and we started our family. In my father's footsteps my husband joined the USAF in hopes it would take us to Europe. Though it did not, it did take us to California and Hawaii during his enlistment. When my husband got out of the military he started a masters programme in England and that was our inital ticket back. Having been born in England I retain dual citizenship, though I am regarded as an American expat. I have been working in England as a photographer and a hairstylist.

A family photo of my family during our first year in England while in London.
A family photo of my family during our first year in England while in London.
Did you bring family with you?
Yes my husband and I live in England with our two sons. We initially moved without them to get ourselves set up with jobs, a home, and school. Few months after arriving in England our boys rejoined us. We have always wanted to raise our children in Europe and be able to offer them a world of culture, history, and travel.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I have moved frequently my whole life and have not lived in one place longer than three years at a time. I went in thinking I would be a pro. However we have still faced different challenges that we may have not expected initially. What has helped us is that it is still a new experience for the four of us as a whole. We can experience new things together while I can reminisce aspects of growing up in England as a child with my family.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
Yes and No. People in England tend to be a bit more reserved than perhaps Americans. I grew up in a world where people are always moving in and out. It trains you to be more extrovert and to make friends quickly. I have found everyone here to be extremely helpfully and friendly. But I have recognized its a little harder to make closer friends as an adult than it would be for my children in school. My sons have transitioned very easily and quickly to both of the schools they have attended here in England. My husband has also made a lot of friends with expats and students from all over the world at his University last year. I have befriended a fellow expat living in our town with her family. I think as we stay in one place in England for a while without moving it will be easier to continue building friendships.

Myself with my sister Zoe in England when we lived in in the 90s and again with me recently.
Myself with my sister Zoe in England when we lived in in the 90s and again with me recently.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
One of my favourite things about being in England is being able to go out on country walks with my family. It is something I remember doing as a child with my father. There are so many public footpaths in our area in Bath and we take advantage of our family walks every weekend. In the US a lot of the land is private, and here you can just walk outside and explore the English countryside. I definitely recommend walking along the Avon Canal and seeing all the houseboats. Of course in Bath I would recommend the Roman Baths, the Jane Austen Museum, and the Bath Abbey.

What do you enjoy most about living here?
I know that England is a little isolated from the rest of Europe. However I really love the diverse of cultures and rich histories that are accessible here as well as a short trip to continental Europe. There are budget airlines that can easily get you to different European destinations as well as many great day trips just shy from our home in Bath. I also have to say I really love the food. To clarify its not only the English foods like 'fish and chips' and cadbury chocolate that I enjoy about England. Getting meat straight from the butcher, organic veg and milk from local farms is a luxury that we enjoy compared to relying solely on grocery stores.

How does the cost of living compare to home?
Compared to the US there are things that are more expensive. Taxes are much higher, the cost of petrol (gas for the car), and basic cost of living is higher. Except for food. I have to say that since we got here I have been overwhelmed by how much cheaper food is here. Especially when I know that its organic or coming straight from a local farmer. To me the food outweighs any negatives or complaints I could find about living here.

A family photo with my mum and sister at our new home in Bath this past Christmas
A family photo with my mum and sister at our new home in Bath this past Christmas
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
It is expensive. I would say the taxes are quite high . But to fair thats not enough to send me packing and headed else where. There are just so many pros. I do miss the large american size dryers and having an outlet in the bathroom (it is against the law here with the high voltage). But its not something that really dampers my experience.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
My advice would be to not to have a car when you first get here. We chose to forgo the expense of a car and still rely on public transport. We do a lot of walking and when needed take buses, trains, and taxis. The public transportation system in Europe is something I definitely missed when I was living in the USA.

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
The hardest times for us has been the periods of transition. For example after my husband had finished his masters degree and was looking for a job. It is something that could happen in the home country, but that impacts the expat experience especially if you have no nearby family for support.

My husband and I on an excursion to Paris for our 9th anniversary last year.
My husband and I on an excursion to Paris for our 9th anniversary last year.
When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Being that I am half an expat and half a TCK nomad I have already experienced the struggles of 'returning home'. Definitely returning to the USA at seventeen was a challenge my family and I had not foreseen to be so much of a struggle. I later learned about what Third Culture Kid (TCK) is and now I am raising my own boys who are TCKs. Knowing about the struggle that will happen I will at least be more informed and helpful with the transitions knowing that it can be rough especially at first.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Just Do it. I was met with a lot of speculation before my husband and I moved our family across the pond. Even family members had doubt or thought it was risky. If it is something you want to do in your heart, then I would not waste a day not making it a reality. Life is so short and every movement should be realized. I have been aware of the military and missionary communities overseas but had not realized how huge the global expat community was until we got here. There is more than enough resources and information to help you go where you want to go.
  2. Definitely make sure you know all the ins and outs of visa requirements. We learned the hard way that just because you read something in one place, it may not necessarily be true or still relevant. Making the wrong decision or being unaware of the truth can end up being quite costly. Also be informed about any work related documents you will need to work in another country. For example I was licensed as a cosmetologist in Hawaii which allows me to have any job related to hair, skin, or nails. In England there is not a straight forward transfer of that qualification. A beauty therapist in England can do full body massages, where in the USA you would need different schooling and a different license to be a massage therapist.
  3. If you are moving with children I would suggest reading all you can about moving children overseas or to different cultures. Keeping an open line of communication and helping them explore their new home before and after you move. Also reading up on Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and stay informed.
  4. Find a way to connect personally to the town or city you live in when you get there. Be it going to church on Sunday or joining a sports team. Finding a way to connect and socialize with people I feel is not only important but helpful to understanding the culture.
  5. Always take a moment to enjoy the little things and photograph them. I have lived and moved so many times. It is very easy to live somewhere and forget about the things that just now seem normal. We spent three years living on the island of Oahu and now I keep wondering why I did not take photos of certain aspects. Document your memories and your journeys to look bak on in years to come.

A diagram I made about my personal experience as a TCK
A diagram I made about my personal experience as a TCK
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
It started as a blog to share photos of my first son being born back in 2005 and has since evolved to a Expat &TCK blog documenting our life in England and travels abroad. I work as a photographer so it contains a lot of photos. Starting in 2013 I decided to blog every day and so I blog under daily themes for each week. It is called Compass Rose because of my highly nomadic life and that my middle name is Rose.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Easiest way is to contact me via my blog or for questions over twitter: @the_bonnierose

Bonnie blogs at http://www.bonnieroseblog.co.uk which we recommend a quick visit if you haven't been already. The Compass Rose has an ExpatsBlog.com listing here so add a review if you like! If you appreciated this interview with Bonnie, please also drop her a quick comment below.

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Comments » There is 1 comment

Maria S wrote 11 years ago:

So happy for you and your family Bonnie!! So brave you are for what you've done! I'd love to move to Europe too but am too chicken to take the plunge like you lol.

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