Thursday, December 11, 2014

For the record

I am an expat. That is a person who lives abroad but retains their citizenship to the country I which they were born. I am a US citizen living in England.

I moved here with my family in my 30s. It was going to be a great adventure for 2 years. Seventeen years later it has been. We moved for the opportunity to experience a different culture and to give our children an experience of the larger world. After 2 years the jobs stayed here and you stay where the bread and butter is.

I would not want to give up my US citizenship but it is getting harder and harder to keep it as an expat. We pay taxes in the UK (much higher then we would in the US) but I still need to file US taxes every year. We never owe anything but I spend over $600 each year to an accountant to help us show the IRS that. My kids need to start filing now too. I am no longer represented in the US government but do vote (but my vote is never opened) unless as a tie break. It is challenging to be an expat. It costs me money in tax bureaucracy for two countries! I have no 'home'. When I visit the US things have changed and the home I remember no longer exists. Some US friends would consider us borderline traitors and here in the UK-I am always seen as the 'American'. I love the US and often miss it and the amazing 'can do' attitude of people who live there.  So why do I continue to live overseas?

We stay because we have have built a life here over 17 years. Some of my closest friends are Irish, French, anglo-Indian and English. But I am still an American and I would like to think that I preform a service as an expat. Expats are ambassadors for the US. We help bridge the cultural gap and promote a understanding of each others cultures promoting understanding and maybe finding a shared humanity despite cultural differences. I work as a nurse for the NHS so I interact with many people each day-most with preconceived notions about Americans. We get to know each other as people. Colleagues laugh at the odd phrases that I say and I laugh at theirs. We connect. I would like to think that promoting understanding between cultures has the power to create a more peaceful world. Staying within borders would be like locking ourselves in our houses and only watching Fox news. How could we possibly understand or get to know each other.

My children have had the opportunities I hoped. They are multicultural. We live across the street from a Hindu and Muslim family. We live on the same street as families who are English, Irish , South African, Kiwis and Australian. My kids have gone to school with students who are English, Cypriat, Korean, Polish, Chinese, French and Irish. That was worth staying for because now their home is the world.

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