Why I Left the USA


(This post, which is my most popular piece of writing, originally appeared on my old travel blog called wanderbliss.)

An argument can be made that the story of my family is an example of the modern American dream.  My parents, both immigrants from Asia, worked hard, bought a home, and had two children who would both go on to graduate from college.  After university, the two of us have been able to maintain relatively successful careers – I work in IT and my brother is an attorney. Admittedly we owe much of our success to the opportunities afforded to us by the United States of America.

Why then, did I decide to leave?
The answer is a fairly complex one, but without delving too deeply into the corners of my soul I’ll try to explain my reasoning.  One very obvious scapegoat is and was the economy.  I graduated from college in December of 2007, which was precisely when the recession began in America.  I was lucky enough to find a job immediately, and although my position was fairly secure, I certainly didn’t feel that way as I watched my friends getting laid off one by one.  When I left the country in 2010 it seemed that the worst of the bank collapses and layoffs were over but America was not yet in a state of recovery, and I don’t know if or when it ever will be.  One thing was clear though – I did not want to spend the majority of my 20s in the midst of a crumbling society.

Jump Roping in Georgia

As a kid who grew up under the secure umbrella of the tech boom and all the economic prosperity that followed, making it especially difficult to see the country nosedive the moment I entered adulthood.  It’s as though the rug had been taken out from under my generation.  We were given a blissful, carefree childhood, only to be charged with facing a very different world just moments after scooping up our caps and gowns from the floor.  All this, is of course, coupled with the fact that America has never been a more divided society than it is now.  Sadly, the months that followed the events of September 11, 2001 were the last time I remember living in a truly united states,  but that was nearly 10 years ago now.

Me with Local German Kids

The American flags have long since been removed from the front porches, and many people now gaze upon foreclosure signs in their place.  Over the last few years, the riff between Democrats and Republicans, pro-choice and pro-life, pro-gay marriage and anti-gay marriage has reached a fervor that the country has been divided into countless competing teams.  The constant barrage of protests, marches, and arguing have all been exacerbated by sensationalist media and it was becoming unbearable to watch.  Out of this sprouted an ever-present ora of hostility in the air, and it didn’t feel good at all.

I suppose if I had to put it simply, I left America because it is not the country that I remembered it to be.  I understand that societies, cultures and economies are bound to change over time, but I feel like I was getting short-changed by staying in the US.  This isn’t just because of the economy, but the shifts in society as well.  I began to feel the role of women creep backwards, and as someone who was raised to be anything but a housewife, this did not sit with me well. The value of education was diminishing and I saw my superiors at work leave only to get replaced by high school graduates who were incapable of basic reading and writing skills.

Desert Hiking in Nevada (2007)

My family, too, has changed over the last few years.  While I was in college my father moved back to his home country and managed to escape most of the pitfalls of the US economic collapse.  My mother passed away some time ago and my brother was doing just fine on his own.  This left me – someone who has always been a little on the restless (and reckless) side to ponder my future in a country that I no longer had ties to and no longer recognized.

Moving to England has been an eye-opening experience and has impacted me more than I thought it would.  It shares many of the pitfalls of the US, but mostly to a smaller degree.  The culture, though influenced heavily by America, is still distinct and filled with subtleties I may never learn.  But as I sit here under the gray Summer sky, on the eve of America’s independence day, I know I made the right decision to leave.  I am also secure in the fact that I may never reside in the United States again, knowing that it will never live up to the rose-tinted memories of my childhood.

Happy 4th of July America.  We had a good run. :)

16 Responses

  1. AngelJoy 3 November, 2014 / 2:31 am

    Amazing story. Inspiring. I am on the verge of fed-up living in America and so I am doing research of any part of the world that I can move too that is not influenced by America. Is there such a place left on Earth?

  2. gabrielletrenbath 5 December, 2014 / 8:30 am

    Interesting story :) I love your blog

  3. Lydia 11 January, 2015 / 6:10 am

    I’m so glad I’ve found this. This resonates with me so much. Especially now, there’s such a palpable rift between people in this country. I’m a nurse here in NYC. I’m soon taking my exam to get licensed to practice in the UK. Praying all goes well and I’ll be there early summer. A MASSIVE pay cut but hey, my happiness comes first. (Also something I think we have backwards in the states: money/work > private life/family). My boyfriend lives in Germany so we’ll be meeting in the middle. I think at this point my biggest concern is getting rid of all of my stuff here!

    • Cheylene T. 20 January, 2015 / 10:12 am

      Hi Lydia,
      Thanks for reading! Good luck with your exams – I know the UK is really in need of nurses right now. I completely agree with you when it comes to work/life balance. It’s not all about money!

  4. Scott 22 January, 2015 / 7:03 am

    I appreciate your perspective and unique ambition to reside in London. Moving to London is something that I’ve always wanted to do in the back of my head so hearing your story helps demystify some concerns. Thank you

    • Cheylene T. 23 January, 2015 / 9:54 am

      Thank you for your kind words Scott :)

  5. Kathlynne Atim 28 February, 2015 / 2:13 am

    Hello miss cheylene your story is so unique and intersting :)

  6. DT 9 April, 2015 / 6:52 am

    I have a similar experience to you. My parents migrated to the U.S. from India in the 1960’s. I was born in the U.S. and grew up and live in the south (Texas). My perspective of America (and the world) was greatly changed after 9/11.

    Financially, the U.S. has been wonderful for myself and my family. I grew up, and currently live, in an affluent area and (God’s grace) have a high paying profession. Money is not an issue for me, but I feel like life here is superficial and very materialistic. I do like the finer things in life, but do so for myself, not for what others think. I’m also quite sick of the “Walmart culture” of procuring material things at low cost just because its cheap and I can afford to do so. I don’t care for the concept of the 64 oz. cups of coke available at the gas station or refilling my drinks more than I can drink just because. Those cheap Walmart products and cheap coke come at some cost, whether it is detriment of my health or conscious (slave labor). I recently read that McDonalds in England uses free range chickens and non-steroid foods – I am quite sure that is not the case of Mcdonald’s in the U.S.

    I do not feel inspired or interested by much around me. Perhaps I would in NYC, but I find it too dirty there and unpolished. In my 2 visits the London, I was very impressed by the architecture, diversity,global influence, history, tradition and proximity to other significant world cities that London has. It might be childish, but I even love the concept of royalty, of princes and princesses and a queen and future king. I love the centuries old traditions and concept of craftsmen that have continued the legacy of their forefathers. Here, I believe this is largely lost as many artists/craftsmen need to struggle to provide their families with healthcare or quality higher education – things that I know that in the U.K. no one worries about. I also love the seemingly endless discovery of something new and different around each neighborhood of London, side street, gulley, etc. Finding different bars, boutique’s etc. all in non-cookie cutter fashion.

    I love the sense of fashion, proper form fitting clothes and proper accessorizing. With close proximity to continental Europe (esp. Milan, France), I find attainable (not super high end designer) fashion in London to be superior to that in the U.S. Even the GAP in London had better clothes than the GAP in the U.S. Love Oxford and Bond Street.

    Now that I am a father of young children, I am not sure the America today is the country I would want to raise my own children. I see that in London, teens and children still walk around more, they are more mobile. In the U.S., at least where I live, people will drive to a grocery store 2 minutes away, and these days, I would not feel comfortable in this country allowing my child to walk alone. I also do not want them living in a bubble of unfounded pride and materialism.

    The only things holding me back from moving is family, possibly the poor weather I hear about, and to what extent my comforts may need to be forsaken if I move to London. I’d like to get your thoughts. Would you have moved if you had two young children (under 5), and high paying employment was not a concern? As this is anonymous, lets say someone made $300kUSD year, do you think they can still live well in London?

    • Cheylene T. 9 April, 2015 / 8:52 am

      Hi DT,

      Thank you for sharing your story. It’s reassuring to know there are others out there with similar experiences who feel the same way about the US. As far as your situation is concerned – living is not a problem on that kind of salary, whether or not you and your family will be able to live well will depend on where in London you decide to live and where your children go to school.

      I am not a parent, but I have heard that the public schools in many parts of London are not good. There are excellent private schools, but from what I understand they can cost anywhere from 5K or 10k GBP to 30K GBP per year. If you want to live in a nice part of Central London (e.g. Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair), it should also be noted that 3 bedroom properties are extremely expensive. On top of that, as a US citizen you will be liable for UK and US taxes.

      With all that in mind, if I were you I would look into settling down in a place like Chiswick, Putney, Richmond, Wimbledon, or Hampstead. They are all beautiful leafy suburbs that are popular with families. A 300k salary should go pretty far there and you’re still about 20-30 minutes from the centre of London.

  7. Bill K. 20 July, 2015 / 9:52 am

    I finally typed in the right “search statement” and found your Excellent page, Cheylene!
    I left the USA for good a little over 3 years ago, after living my whole life there. It was the Best Decision I ever made. I now live in a relatively safe country, happily married and we have a 14 month year old son. The Exchange Rate makes it affordable, too.
    While I left the country for love, I hadn’t been happy there for a long time, for the same reasons you mentioned. The taxes, cost-of-living, taxes, crime, taxes, endless government corruption, taxes, lack of jobs, taxes, loss of basic freedoms — did I mention the Taxes? To me the “American Dream” is gone, and it will never be back.
    The company I worked for closed its doors in 2011. I’m older, with an education and lots of experience, but I couldn’t find another job. Like you said, everyone wanted a 21 year old, and I was “too old”. I was asked at one interview: “Aren’t you a little old to be applying for this (Executive Assistant) job?” I responded: “You can’t get 26 years experience by the time you’re 21.”
    Good luck to you, Cheylene. It sounds like you made the right decision too! We wish you a happy a life as we have.

    • Cheylene T. 20 July, 2015 / 10:08 am

      Thank you for your kind words Bill! There are so many pathways in life aside from the ‘American Dream’ and it looks like you’re a great example of that :)

  8. Danielle R. 23 September, 2015 / 3:09 am

    Thank you for sharing your story!! Loved it. As of right now I am currently trying to make the move from the U.S to London. I do love the city of London and my girlfriend lives there which makes it even better.. I’ve been doing research and such and looking for jobs, I’m just wondering what was your first step on getting a visa/ what type of work did you do in your first years there? Thanks!

    • Cheylene T. 23 September, 2015 / 8:06 am

      Thanks for reading Danielle! I moved to London on a Tier 1 Visa (General), which has unfortunately been phased out. Most people from the US move to the UK on a Tier 2 Visa this days, which requires work sponsorship. These sorts of jobs are usually within the tech, finance, art, and academic sectors. You’ll find more info about all the different visas the UK offers here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-visas-and-immigration

      I hope that helps!

  9. Daisy 18 November, 2015 / 5:53 pm

    Hey girl, I just came across your blog. Very inspiring. How I do find jobs in America? America is been a dream country but I do need get a sponsor for that innit?
    I live in London too. Which part of London are you in?

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