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What I Wish I’d Known

We are saving for a mortgage.  We are saving hard.  But I still struggle to predict when we’ll finally be in a position to buy our very first family home.  And that is disheartening.  No matter how long I live here, I will always be a foreigner and that has given me an aching desire to dig my heels in and create our home – our actual bricks and mortar home.  I long for it.  I cry about it sometimes.  And then I create crazy plans.  I have toyed with the idea of going on Deal or No Deal.  I would possibly be the first ever contestant to go out on the first offer.  £6000?  I’ll take it, Mr Banker!

The thing is – when I moved to the UK over eight years ago, I never expected to stay.

My life was in two suitcases.  I made no other plans.  I was always going to come back.

During those first two years, I was surrounded by mostly American colleagues who were in the same boat that I was.  We survived by withdrawing large lump sums from our American checking accounts, by paying bills with postal orders or with cash and by never registering with a doctor.   Looking back, I now know that we definitely did things the long way round, but what did we know?   We were only temporary travelers on this expat journey – why do the research when we found our own ways to make it work?

When I did decide to stay (for love – aaaw!), not only did I have nil when it came to furnishings, but I had no driving licence, no doctor and no British bank account.  In my lounge was a sofa, a table and a TV.  My satellite didn’t work, so I watched DVDs of Grey’s Anatomy for about 3 months straight.   I wish I was joking.

I am so grateful that The Native, in his seemingly infinite patience, held my hand through most of the first few years when my American bubble had popped and I truly had to assimilate.

The one regret I do have is that when coming down to the Southwest to work, my employer’s provided my accommodation, rent-free.  We could have bought a home then – maybe even rented it out while we lived in our little cottage – but swimming out into the deep blue sea of international homeownership, with all of those terrifying unknowns circling below my kicking feet, felt too uncomfortable.

I couldn’t have predicted the recession.  I couldn’t predict how hard things would become for first-time buyers in the UK after it hit, but I do wish that five years ago I would had someone to talk to who wasn’t just trying to sell me something for profit.  I wish I could have asked someone who could lay out my options clearly so I could make an informed decision about whether we were going to dive in or not.

And so we wait.  We wait until that day when we’re able to join the ranks of those who have torn their hair out as sellers dangle on “the chain,” mortgage brokers drag their feet, and removal men wrap your life in cellophane.  And we look forward to it.

Which Offshore is a business which provides free, unbiased information to help expats make informed financial decisions. 

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