An American By Choice

USA and Austria

I am not a migrant. I am a first-generation love immigrant who followed her heart -and the man who was holding it captive. I came to America from a wealthy West-European country, a land that granted fantastic healthcare to everybody. I didn’t know what co-pay was, could get my teeth fixed, my eyes checked, and had a yearly physical from an early age.

I was a student at one of the best universities in Austria and didn’t pay a penny. Nobody, who is qualified to study does, yet not everybody is permitted, some, regardless of how much money their parents have, are just not college material.

A nation with mouthwatering dishes, but laws that required something healthy and affordable on every menu as well. A homeland where I was allowed to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, at the same age when I was declared mature enough to vote.

A country with very affordable healthcare, majestic mountains, and the most beautiful lakes. A land where news was not entertainment, but only meant to give facts and information to everybody. Cities and villages, where the stores closed Saturday at 2 pm and reopened Monday in the morning.

Salzburg, Austria!

Yet, I came here and by doing so I opened my heart to America and its people.

I was open-minded by nature, willing to learn not just a new language but also unknown customs and traditions, and I wanted to know more about the history of its people and the land. I fell in love with the land and the people in it.

Ten years later, when I spoke the language fairly well and had accepted some odd things like fast food, salad dressings in a bottle, and obesity, and when I had adjusted my life to missing bike trails, bigger portions, and flawed or non-existing transportation systems, I said: “I do.”

Taking on the citizenship of a country you were not born into is a lot like the commitment to marriage.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, until parted by death.

It’s a pledge meant to last a lifetime, a commitment to be taken seriously in all aspects of life no matter what. And so I became an American, as proud as I can be, but kept of course my own citizenship as well.

Unconditional love. I accepted the flaws, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no perfect relationship, it’s all about dedication and the willingness to work through tough times.

My new homeland. There was much I could not understand, and much I refused to accept. Yet, I made it work. Happiness is a choice, and so is selective blindness.

My husband, who was born and raised in the USA, is proud to be an American. He loves this country as much as he loves me, perhaps even more. On every national holiday he gets the flag out of the attic and displays it proudly on the flag pole we attached to the house right after we moved in. The flag can’t stay outside all year long, it gets stolen, even though we live in a nice neighborhood.

My husband and I feel each other, and talk without words, like many couples who have been married for a very long time. We are two individuals who could not be more different, but somehow over the years, we became one.

I could tell something inside him had shifted but could not pinpoint it -to be honest I didn’t even try. I was busy with my own feelings. My unconditional love for this country had been tested numerous times.

The first time, many years ago, was when my husband was held at gunpoint by a kid, who wanted his wallet. In a country with more guns than citizens, every crook can get a weapon easily and my husband had become the target one night when he opened the sliding glass door on the ground floor of a hotel. It terrified me, and my husband’s reaction to it frightened me even more. (He didn’t give the kid the wallet).

When the mass shootings started and young innocent children lost their lives, I cried like all Americans did, but when the tears dried and nothing changed, I could not go back to pretending to understand and accept.

Three years later, in 2015 when the election spectacle started, when disrespect and hatred were so openly displayed, the questions inside me got louder. Just like in a relationship with people, my willingness to overlook the flaws evaporated, instead I saw the weaknesses and shortcomings of this country clearer -and concentrated on them.

Am I happy where I am? Do I want to stay for the rest of my life?

I suppose these are the question one asks when you think about separation or even divorce from a spouse. The same questions came to my mind. Do I want to stay in the United States of America or do I want to separate?

My home is where my husband is but how much more of this can I take and how does he feel about it deep down?

Racism, alternative facts (?), sensationalism, religious fanatism, hatred, mass shootings, intolerance, bigotry and so much more. Sadly a very long list. Watching the storm at the Capitol was one of the worst moments in our lifetime. We sat in front of the TV and watched in disbelief. Frozen, fearful, stunned, disappointed, disgusted, we felt helpless. Is a country where half the people refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic election still a democracy? More questions. More fear, more tears, more disbelief.

The grass is not greener on the other side, it just looks that way. I know this as well. Not all is good in other countries either.

In just two and a half years, my husband will be eligible to retire and recently we started to talk about it. We always knew we would not stay in Ohio, we came here because he got a very good job offer. In two years, right at the same time my husband will retire, I will get a somewhat big check from a life insurance company. One of my previous European employers had insisted I signed up for it almost forty years ago. I am so glad they did that for me and all their other employees. A few years later my pension will kick in and I will be able to retire as well -if I want to.

It looks tempting and why not?

We have been making plans. Where will we be moving to?

Colorado, New Hampshire, Main, South Carolina? So many states were an option.

We are not asking for much. We want to buy or rent a small ranch house for us and our dog(s). Perhaps purchase a new car, possibly even an RV -depending on the gas prices. I would love to have mountains nearby, and a beach or a lake within reasonable driving distance. We discussed what we were looking for, and what we were secretly dreaming about.

We have the same wishes:
A place where we will be safe!
A place with a good life quality!
A place where there is peace!
A place where people are friendly!
A place where people get along!

My husband said it first, and it took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming, yet I should have.

“Why don’t we enjoy our golden years overseas?”

I didn’t say much. I wasn’t ready, had never even thought about it.

We both did a lot of soul-searching and questioning lately. We researched possibilities, watched Youtube movies and documentaries, listened to Supreme Court rulings, and mourned again when little children were shot. Most countries will welcome us with open arms. Our income qualifies us for a retirement visa pretty much everywhere, and my European passport is welcomed within the European Union.

Our minds are made up.

In 2024, we will move to Dublin, Ireland, and rent a flat or house first. My husband’s roots are Irish. He wants to explore the land of his forefathers and his excitement is contagious. From there we will travel to Portugal, Spain, some of the Spanish Islands, Austria, Italy, and Croatia to name just a few. After that, we will decide where we will settle down and enjoy our golden years -hopefully for a very long time.

We will be leaving the United States!

It will not be a divorce, but a separation, perhaps forever maybe only for a couple of months.

31 thoughts on “An American By Choice

  1. Fantastic! I found it and it’s great news, Bridget. It’s a brave choice for a born and bred American to move abroad, yet I know several Americans who are very happy here. Nowhere is perfect, but if you have the opportunity to find a better life, why not use it? Checking out his Irish roots will be a great start, and the Irish are generally friendly and outgoing. And after that, who knows, but it’s worth staying healthy for. Good luck, hon!

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  2. You and your hubby are already planning ahead to be able to enjoy what I call one of the benefits of aging. At first I thought you would be looking for places to enjoy retirement here in the US. I was just a little surprised by your immediate choice to try elsewhere. I probably should not have been surprised, though. I know other people, recently a couple I just briefly met in Oregon, who are doing something similar. These folks are starting out in Panama, but I think their reasons are mainly economic i.e. lower cost of living. Wherever you go, though, I hope you will continue to share your adventures and your views. I enjoy them and learn a lot from them, too.

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    • We always dreamed we would sit down and look at a map of the US to determine where we would spend our golden years. We never thought we would consider leaving this country, but what’s going on since 2015/16, the mass shootings, the hate, Trump, the lies, manipulated news. We just don’t want that anymore, luckily we have a choice and the ability to move out of the country, not everybody has.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been learning from reading a book called How Democracies Die, and just from my education and interest in international relations and happening, that everything everywhere is subject to change, for good or ill. I’m going to give our democracy some time to turn itself around but it’s always good to have a Plan B and to have the option to move.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what a big decision! I totally understand your reasons. If you both are on the same page, you will have a great time in Europe. Happy moving (with all the fun involved. It’s worth it)

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  4. So you are heading back to Europe? You are the third blogger who is relocating due to retirement. Away from the dramas.
    Another blogger does feel that civil war a bloodbath is the only outcome. I hope he is wrong. Europe has its problems and nowhere is perfect but it will be an adventure of discovery for you both. So exciting to think of. You will have much to do in the next year! I would dearly have loved to relocate to Scandinavia in retirement, but that was not a possibility for me. So my second choice was a sea change. I have not looked back since we moved 2 years ago. I will be eagerly following your story.

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    • Sadly, I happen to agree with the blogger who is afraid of a civil war. Too many angry people are armed to their teeth. It seems the two sides should have been seperated many years ago, after the first civil war. The disrespect (hate) toward each other runs deep and I don’t see what could change that. The democracy here is almost dead, depending on the next election in 2024, there is a pretty good chance this country will be an oligarchy, run by a group of dictators. America is a very young country, the wars they fought, beside the civil war, were fought on foreign soil. They are not very informed about the rest of the world. They don’t respect and fear war the way Europeans do. I hope I am wrong.

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  5. I love my country, but I cannot bring myself to say out loud, or even believe that we are the “greatest.” I think we have a lot to be proud of, and a lot that should make us cringe. America has many flaws because it is a huge country made up of flawed human beings. I think it’s a wonderful thing to enlarge your opportunities and to consider a new way of life with unique offerings. Good for you. I think in some ways Americans suffer from not being great world travelers, not speaking more than one language (generally) and somehow not seeing ourselves as part of a larger global family. I’m excited for you!

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    • As so often, you are spot on. If you have no comparison, even sour milk sounds great. The American news concentrates on this country only. Local news are not existing in other countries.
      Our most watched morning news show is the Today show, an entertainment talk show with lots of weather but hardly any news. They smaller the horizon the smaller the view. When I say I am from Austria people ask me if I miss the kangaroos (I am not joking.)
      There are many beautiful countries on this earth. Which one is the greatest? I suspect it’s the one you love the most. Not speaking a second language is part of it. How do you know you are treated as tourist if you don’t understand what is going on? And is it really traveling when you jump of a cruise ship and visit six cities and four days?

      If you have time, listen to this speech. While it was written for a very good TV show, it sums it up. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIpKfw17-yY

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      • Thank you for the speech, Bridget, and I will listen to it! I’m just laughing so hard at the “kangaroo” comment. It’s incredibly sad, but I know it is true. I really shake my head at American arrogance. It embarrasses me, quite honestly. And if I say much about my thoughts, I risk being labeled unpatriotic. We are so binary in our thinking, and I’d say we have a lot to learn, but I don’t think we’re learning much. 😦

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  6. How did you decide on Ireland? Last night I was watching International Househunters and there was a couple moving to Nice, France. It looked so lovely I wondered if it was somewhere that I’d like to retire. My husband has family in Norway, and we loved it there….hmmmm….. I’m excited for you!

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    • My husband has Irish roots. I am a former translator and interpreter, I can settle pretty much everywhere and can communicate. We always wanted to explore Ireland and there wouldn’t be a language barrier. We actually ‘just’ would have to learn a dialect. 🙂
      Thank you for being excited for us.

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  7. Congrats on settling on the plan after retiring! And I have to say, lucky you! My homeland doesn’t allow having 2 passports in different countries, so becoming an American is more like solid commitment😳

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  8. I think your choice will be an awesome adventure. And it will be interesting to read your travels (you’re still married to blogging, right?) and see how it all plays out. My hope is our country will somehow get beyond all this. But honestly, I don’t know.

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    • Oh, how wonderful I was online when you posted your comment.

      I will continue to blog until it gets boring or I lose interest, which has happened before. It n ever lasts long, there is just too much to write about.

      I am getting excited and we have enough time to plan it well, considering we stay healthy enough and we are working on that.

      The main reason why my husband wants to leave is safety and the hatred. We are avoiding the news, we have certain subjects we don’t discuss with ceretain friends, because we know the humor they once had it gone. The storm of The Capitol was a big awaking. I have seen this happening in other countries before. Civil wars start slowly, are in the making for years. I don’t want to be at a place where I don’t feel safe, or the news gets manipulated.

      I think traveling will be fun and it’s going to be interesting to see how my husband will adjust. He is sometimes very set in his ways and it didn’t get better with age.

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  9. Thanks for sharing, Bridget. Your husband is not the only American who no longer recognizes the land of his birth. As an immigrant from the developing world which has traditionally looked to America as the world leader in all things good, I have watched with a broken heart as my adopted homeland has lost its way.

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    • Many feel that way. Friends of ours, who have lived and worked here for 30 years, both forensic scientists, are going back to Canada, another friend, also very well educated in a high position job is going back to Sweden. What’s even more alarming is the amount of well educated students who are not coming to the U.S. to study but go to different countries. Sadly, none of this is ever mentioned in the news.
      America has lost its credibility and is since 2016 considered a flawed democracy on the democracy index, another fact you don’t hear anything about.

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    • My husband is excited and I am getting there myself. I traveled for work quite a bit but he hardly could join me, so traveling together will be lots of fun. We had tough times and ‘had to’ move where we found a place to live and work dictated where we were moving to. So, being able to choose will be nice.

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