An Expat Returns: Life in the U.S.

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The sunrise over Houston, Texas.

After 8 years of living abroad, I’ve finally made the move home. For Dom, he is still technically an expat, as he’s English. But, for the both of us, moving back to the U.S. means going back to a fast-paced lifestyle. Because as an expat, you are exempt from certain responsibilities. At home, you speak the same language, share the same culture, and naturally, people expect more of you.

For the past 8 years, I’ve led a pretty simple life. No car or  house, so no payments or insurance to hassle with. I’ve always made sure I have adequate travel health insurance, and you should too if you are an expat. Seriously. Get it.

Certain things like taxes were of no concern.

I never bothered with the mail, because if it wasn’t an electric or internet bill ,  I threw it away.  Our mail was usually in Chinese anyways, and I knew if it was important they would send it again in English.

Since being back in the U.S. it’s been non-stop people taking our money. We happened to come back during tax season, and this was my first year as being self-employed, and damn the U.S. self-employed tax is insane. So we came home to that, and then things like buying a car, insurance, phone (why is it SO cheap for cell phone service abroad, but the U.S. is about 10 times the price? I will never understand. Also, the phone coverage is a million times better abroad, but for like $10US a month.), taxes, deposits, oh yeah, and that thing called the green card for Dom. That was not cheap.

So why are we here? Why are we staying?

Good question.

Sometimes I need to remind myself of that. I might as well put it in writing, so I can refer to it next time I feel tempted to buy a ticket to Bali  and leave.

Why We Moved Back to the U.S.

  1. Career- Seeing as Dom does not want to teach English forever, and I haven’t been teaching English for quite some time, we decided we needed to move home to set up our careers in our trade. I’m a women’s holistic health practitioner, and although I was seeing clients online while living abroad, my goal is to have a thriving practice in the community I live in. Seeing as I don’t speak Chinese, setting up shop in Taiwan wasn’t an option.
  2. Family- Even though they can drive me nuts, they are my family and I love them. And they live in the U.S. and that is not going to change.
  3. Friends- We’ve been away from them for too long!
  4. Access to health foods- I know this is a silly reason, but I’m such a particular eater. And I love having Thrive Market, HEB, and Whole Foods in the area. It’s a dream come true and I’ve been baking and cooking up a storm since being home.
  5. Clean air- the air quality wasn’t that great in many of the places we lived in abroad. We needed to make a change.
  6. Green Card- Getting a green card for Dom is important, so we figure why not get it now. If we decide to live abroad again, he will now be able to visit the U.S. whenever he pleases.
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Hanging out in New Braunfels, where we go on the weekends.

Let’s Talk Reverse Culture Shock:

So there you go. Living in the U.S. is definitely not perfect. And right now, it’s a really messed up time for the U.S. I’m still on a news ban, as I can’t bear to see #45’s face. It’s seriously surreal, and sometimes I do feel like I live in “Idiocracy”.

But presidents come and go, and I’m able to keep to myself and not think about it too much. Thankfully because I’m the “right” color and have the “right” sexual preference, it doesn’t affect me too much. However, I am the “lesser” gender, so I am still affected when it comes to certain policies.

After living abroad for some time, I feel like the U.S. is not really my home. The U.S. has changed significantly. It’s weird, but I feel like an outsider. It’s really taking some time to feel at ease and get used to the country.

Have people always been this racist? Why is health insurance so ridiculously expensive? Has everyone always been this fat and sick? I really don’t think so. As a nation we are devolving.

But there are still some good people here. And I’m meeting more of them each day.

So who knows. I can’t say how long Dom and I will live here. I do see many possibilities for our future here. But one that still includes travel.

I think the most important mantra to remember while living here is

“Don’t buy into it.”

And we’re aiming to do just that. Keep our minimalist lifestyle whilst living in a very materialistic nation.

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Jenna and Dom


  1. It’s really interesting to hear about someone who’s gone back. I’ve been away for five years now and plan to go back eventually but I’m nervous. I’m British, so I’m from another country which currently seems to be devolving. Good luck with your re-adapting.

    • Thank you! We were very nervous as well. It’s a lot of work at first, but once you get all the logistics out of the way it’s not so scary 😉 But we do miss a lot about our life in Taiwan, however, life there wasn’t perfect either. I really think there is no perfect place. Well, maybe Bali…

  2. Also considering a return home after several years abroad… Sounds like I’d have very similar reactions! I also miss Whole Foods and I also can’t wrap my mind around cell phone service in the US – what the heck?! I’d probably go with prepaid just on principle! Best of luck with your return!

  3. Jolyn Young says:

    Love your last comment about maintaining your minimalist lifestyle in a materialistic country. We’re doing the same thing at a ranch in Arizona and LOVE it! So much better for the kids. Great story, thanks for sharing.

  4. A Foreigner Everywhere... A Local Anywhere says:

    Nice perspective! I can’t imagine going back to my country and this post raised some interesting points 🙂

  5. Hi, I enjoyed reading your post. I’ve done the reverse, moved back to England after 4&1/2 years in Texas. I never expected to be going back to the same house I left. It feels like everything looks the same but is somehow different. When you’ve emotionally ‘left’ somewhere it feels for a while that you don’t belong anymore. I’ve been back nearly a year now and I’m finally feeling more settled. Good luck

    • Hi Sadie,

      Thanks for sharing your journey. I know just how you feel. I hope begin to feel more settled after a year just like you. Gives me hope!

      • Unfortunately I came back for the wrong reasons (my husband left me for another woman) but regardless of that I met up with some other friends I knew from the US who had also returned and we all felt the same. It’s a challenge you don’t expect but my advice would be not to try and fit into a past life, look with fresh eyes and enjoy new things. I’ve purposely joined meet up groups to meet new people not connected with my past and it definitely helps!

  6. Very true, it’s strange feeling like you have to readjust to a place you were born in and grew up in! But you have a great positive outlook and I’m sure that will do you well – best of luck to you both Jenna and Dom!

  7. I often wonder about going back and giving up the expat life, but no matter how much I miss family and mates, London life, better job prospects, Sevilla has given me so much and I’m more than settled now. I say now, but I think depending on how my children’s education is, I might reconsider. Can you imagine going away again? Good luck back in the US.

    • I think we would reconsider if it was someplace close to Texas. Perhaps someplace in Latin America. Then we would have the best of both worlds as we’d enjoy the expat lifestyle, yet be a short plan ride away from home to see family. Much like your situation in Sevilla, as it is close to London! And thank you! 🙂

  8. I love this and I needed to hear it so much. After being an expat for 3.5 years, I will soon be moving back to the U.S. as well. I am terrified of the reverse culture shock and all the things you mentioned above. It’s comforting to know that there are others out there who understand what I’m going through. Xoxo

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