Las moved from Northern Ireland to Houston, Texas, together with her husband Col. They’ve been living in the U.S. for 6 years and just recently added a beautiful little American to their family. I got to ask Las a few questions about life in Texas through the eyes of an Irish. Enjoy!
Why did you decide to move to America and what do you do?
My boyfriend’s (now husband) company offered him a transfer back to Houston. He’d lived here before. I had just graduated from college and had always wanted to live in the USA – this was the perfect opportunity.
How did you get your visa? Tell us a little bit about this process.
The company’s lawyers took care of the visa process from start to finish, so, fortunately for me, I had very little “hands on” experience with the process. I have heard, though, that if you go it alone it can be quite difficult, expensive and exhausting – I’m lucky it was all done for me!
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
I think the red tape and governmental side of the move. Because we weren’t married, I originally came on a tourist visa and had no health coverage – which is pretty scary. I also didn’t drive for a long time either, so I felt quite trapped. The more you stare at four walls, the more you find wrong with them!
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I miss having real seasons. Houston has pretty much two seasons: hot and hotter. I enjoy having cool weather, cold winters and being able to spend time outside during summertime.
I also miss the food! For such a large and diverse country, the US has a narrow selection on many things, potato chips for example. Nearly everything is too sweet (especially things like bread – which shouldn’t be sweet to begin with!) and I miss delivery services, groceries, various takeaway foods (other than just Chinese and pizza), for a country that revolves around convenience (drive thru alcohol stands and dry cleaners!) there are some areas where home just wins out. Plus, the chocolate is better at home!
Have you had a culture shock yet? Please share some examples.
I think my previous trips to the USA helped to prepare me for most of the shocks that the US could have had in store for me. That said, it wasn’t an easy transition for me at all. I was unhappy for the first six months of our relocation here.
Most things are similar between the two countries, but just not quite the same. The suffocating heat, not being able to walk to the shop for a pint of milk, not being surrounded by anyone you know, being in a strange place, with strange currency, strange rules and even basic things like healthcare works differently.
No matter how similar the countries seem, even the smallest differences can seem overwhelming. Which milk is semi-skimmed when you’re looking at a fridge full of 0%, 1%, 2% and whole milk? Believe it or not, it’s often the little things that push you over the edge. Have you come to enjoy your current location?
Most certainly, we have fallen in love with it here – it’s home. My husband has lived in Houston for almost twelve years, i’ve just started my sixth and we have our very own little American, our four month old son.
We had our wedding here (our families and friends came over for it), we do a lot of state to state travelling to take in as much of this amazing country as we can cram in to our short time here and we have made some amazing friendships, both expat and American that we will treasure forever!
What are the biggest differences between every day life in Ireland and America?
It’s grey and wet at home most of the year, we get a small snow fall in winter, and a two-week heat wave in summer. We don’t have hurricanes, tornados, ten minute showers that can flood the city bringing life to a standstill or more days over 100F during the summer, than not!
…or lack thereof. At home, if we don’t drive, there are a number of alternatives, we have busses, trains and any number of taxi cab companies.
Here in Houston, especially in the ‘burbs, you need to drive. There’s limited public transport in downtown, a short metro-rail, a bus route and cab companies, but, with such a large city to cover, public transport system just isn’t there.
Have you found a good source (in-store or online) to buy Irish food in America?
HEB, Kroger, Randall’s and Fiesta all have good international sections. Fiesta, in particular, even has frozen bacon, sausages and you don’t need to remortgage your home to be able to afford their good selection of foods.
Occasionally, if we want something specific (a selection box or Easter egg, for example) we will go to World Market, or the local “niche” store ‘The British Isles’, where we will pay over the odds for what we want.
Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to Ireland from the USA.
It’s essentially Christmas without the over the top commercialism. It’s our favourite holiday of the year and to give thanks for the blessings in our lives, is something we should do more often. I love feeding large groups of people, people coming together and enjoying each other’s company and just the warm fuzzy feeling I get at Thanksgiving. We have agreed that wherever in the world, we will definitely celebrate Thanksgiving forevermore!
As someone who knits, crochets, makes cards, scrapbooks and bakes, this place is a dream – and we have no where like it at home. We are sorely lacking in craft stores (and coupons) across the pond.
I love me some TexMex! Chuy’s does the best frozen margaritas and the best jalapeño ranch dipping sauce around. It’s something I’d definitely miss if we were to move home!
Turning right on red
Maybe it’s just my impatience, but to me, turning right on red makes a lot of sense. Ok, so at home it would be left on red, but the principle is the same.
And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from Ireland.
“Proper” sausages and bacon. We use the “back bacon” part of the pig, Americans use what we refer to as “streaky bacon”, which is full of fat and not much meat, plus, our sausages are also way better!
“Proper” chips. What Americans call French fries, we call chips. But ours are much, much better especially when slathered with curry sauce – another food that the US should adopt!
2. Chip and pin
At home, we don’t sign for our credit/debit card payments anymore, we have a 4-digit pin number we type in instead. We also don’t use checks much, and many places have even gone a step further and moved to contact-less technology, where you just tap your wallet on the till and it’s paid for instantly.
It may be a myth, but roundabouts make more sense!
What are the most important steps you would advise every new expat to take right after immigration?
1. Learn to drive/get your Texas license.
Don’t wait or delay. Without public transport and with seriously high temps, you can easily stay isolated from the world if you are a travelling spouse, like me. Life can get awfully lonely, and relying on someone for a lift to an event or to get groceries etc. can be frustrating and limiting.
The day I got behind the wheel for the first time in Houston, was very liberating. Having independence and the ability to get out for a while, is important in a new place.
2. Find a local expat group!!
Luckily for me, my husbands company has a spouses association. This is a huge open door to meeting people, getting out and about, and exploring my new home.
Houston has another major expat group, International connections of Houston, which is a very large group of expats who get together regularly for various activities around the city.\
The app “meetup” has any number of groups in the area, large, small, expat groups, travel groups, parent groups, it’s a great resource for meeting people in your area, with common interests.
Don’t hesitate, get out and about, meet people, explore and enjoy every minute of your new surroundings!
Please tell us about the day you got your first US driver’s license.
It was a difficult day, I drove over a hundred miles! Every time I got to the DMV they requested more information, and I kept having to go home to get more paperwork, new paperwork, request paperwork from my hubby’s company. It was very stressful.
Much more stressful than the test itself, which is a lot less intensive than our test at home – though, surprisingly, I was still nervous! When the examiner told me I had passed, I almost cried with relief and pride and threatened to kiss him!
You’re blogging at LasAndColGoTexan.com. Why did you start a blog and what are your plans with it?
Before we moved to Houston, my father in law told me to keep in touch, to tell them everything we got up to out here. So, I started a blog.
Over the past five years, it’s grown in to a travel blog (local, national and international), a hobby blog (crafting, baking and cooking) and a parenting blog (infertility, pregnancy and parenthood).
I plan to keep doing what I’m doing, enjoying this wonderful country and all she has to offer, and sharing my stories with our friends, families and readers all over the world…until our next move, and then, I guess I’ll start all over again!