Settling Into Life in the UK: Part II of our International Move

city of Portsmouth at night with

This is Part II of Jenny’s international move. To read Part I, click here!

Well, I was right. That goodbye did suck!

If you read Part I of this series, you will know that I was preparing to say an emotional goodbye to the friends and life we had made in America. We were heading back across the water to begin settling into life in the UK again. There were a lot of tears as expected, but I’m sure I will be keeping in touch with the people that matter (thank you technology!). And now they have an excuse to make a trip to England, too.  

So, once the goodbyes are out of the way, what next? The hellos, of course! 

I was apprehensive about starting over again. It was exhausting finding my village when we moved to America and after living through a pandemic, I wasn’t sure I had the energy to put myself out there again. But, as I’m sure most of you who have moved during the last 18 months have found, life goes on. We still need to put ourselves out there if we want to begin settling in and making new friends.

A boy stands looking into a telescope on the side of the beach, which is pointing out to sea.
Searching for friendships

Thankfully, we weren’t starting from scratch because my husband already knows some people in the area. 

He has been in the Royal Navy for 20 years, and Portsmouth is a major Naval city. Some of those friends (and their partners) I know as well, so I haven’t felt that period of isolation that I did in America before I started meeting people and finding my friendship group. That has certainly helped us, and the kids feel a bit more settled.

We are also very lucky that the neighbourhood of military housing where we live seems to be a very social group and particularly friendly. We have already met or have made contact with a number of neighbours, and the kids have also been able to meet and play with local kids before they started at school. I can’t tell you how much this has helped with the normal settling in nerves!

I was also very grateful that my husband had a bit of leave to use before he started his new job. We managed to squeeze in a trip back home to Scotland. Hurray! It had been 20 months since we had seen our parents – to say we were happy to get back would be an understatement!  I do wish it hadn’t involved being in the car for 9-10hours each way, but you can’t win them all, I guess.

Large roadside sign says 'Welcome to Scotland'. There are large trees behind the sign.
Welcome home!

It was lovely to properly be “home,” although the meaning of that word is a bit blurred at the moment. 

I’ve definitely caught myself still referring to Pennsylvania as home. I would absolutely call Scotland home and occasionally, I even refer to Portsmouth as home. Where is home? Not an easy question for a military family to answer!

In Scotland, we managed to see all of our family and close friends. But it was also really nice to see familiar places, and I loved hearing Scottish accents again – I’ve missed that! We also indulged in some of the food and drinks we have missed since we’ve been away, including a decent cup of tea. Grace Selous Bull knows just how important that is to us Brits!

As lovely as it was being back in Scotland, it really didn’t help with us settling into life in Portsmouth.

When we got back, I found myself feeling sad and homesick. It was as if I had been reminded of all the things we have been missing while we were away, and then was forced to leave them all behind again. The feeling has eased a bit since then but hasn’t completely gone.

I didn’t have time to be down for long though because once we were back in Portsmouth, we had to start preparing for the kids to start at their new school.  As I write this, my eldest (7) has done her first few days and seems to be settling in well.  I think she is getting quite a lot of attention with her American accent and stories of the USA!  

My youngest (4) is about to start his Reception year – the equivalent of Pre-K – but he is a little more apprehensive. I think he would stay at home with me forever, given half a chance, but this mama needs some peace and quiet!

The Spinnaker Tower can be seen outlined against a clear, blue sky. the tower has a straight edge on the right with a curved edge on the left.
Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth.

We have enjoyed exploring the area though. Portsmouth is a beautiful coastal city, and my kids have already discovered a love for the ocean and playing at the beach.  That’s a relief because we live very close to the beach and can’t really avoid it!  

We are now a month in and, all in all, we are settling in better than I thought we would at this stage. 

That said, the real test will be when my husband starts having to go away for weeks at a time.  The kids have not had to deal with that for a few years; it will be interesting to see how they adjust. I’m expecting tantrums and tears but they might just surprise me.  Military kids are pretty awesome, after all!