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Where in the world: Dallas, USA

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Ever wondered what it would be like to relocate to Dallas? Belinda Southgate, head of marketing at Explore Learning tells Emily Sexton-Brown about her international career move...

Why did you move to Dallas?

I’d worked for Explore Learning for nearly eight years in the UK, first as a centre manager and then as marketing manager. I saw it grow from a small start-up business with only eight centres, through to a thriving and well-respected business with nearly 100 locations. Launching internationally was something that our CEO, Bill Mills, had talked about from day one, but with our new investors, Graphite Capital, on board, this suddenly became a reality. It all happened so quickly, and as soon as I heard that we were going to launch in the US and that they wanted somebody to head up the marketing and sales function, I knew I had to go for it! We decided to rebrand it to Explore Horizons for the American audience and three months later I was beginning my market research in Dallas, Texas!

How long have you lived there for?

Almost two years.

Did you always envision yourself moving abroad?

I always liked the idea of it, but I didn’t like the idea of doing it at the expense of my career, so this opportunity was perfect for me as I get to experience a new part of the world without taking time out from my work.

What were the main cultural differences did you find?

I hate to make generalisations but on the whole, Texans are a lot more outwardly enthusiastic and overtly passionate in their communication style especially when they meet new people, compared with the British. However, at Explore Learning, we are all known for our enthusiasm when working with the children so having worked in this environment for many years, we were easily able to match their high levels of energy and enthusiasm.

Do you think this move has enhanced your career, if so, how so?

Yes, definitely. I now have experience of marketing a product in both the UK and the US. I have learnt how to build a brand from scratch in an entirely new country.

How did you feel about moving abroad?

I was very excited, but of course sad to leave my family and best friends behind. I know that my family miss me a lot, but I plan to fly home once a year and I have already had several people visit me in Dallas. The time difference makes it difficult, because you can’t just pick up the phone and call at anytime, but technology like Facetime, Skype and Facebook make it a lot easier to keep in touch.

How does the cost of living compare with the UK?

Home rental and purchase is a lot cheaper in Texas than in England. For the price I was paying for a room in a five person shared house in London, I have an entire apartment with a gym and a pool in Dallas. A big downside is the lack of a NHS which means that you have to pay for medical insurance, regardless of whether you need any medical care or not. Also being considered a ‘credit ghost’ for the first year means that you aren’t offered very good interest rates for things like cars etc. to start with.

What do you do in your spare time?

Brunch is a BIG thing here, so I tend to try out new places most weekends. I’m also enjoying spending my weekends visiting other cities across the US, in my quest to visit every state!

What advice would you give others moving to Dallas?

When you first move, try not to spend every weekend on skype to family and friends at the expense of meeting new friends. I did this at first and it made me very homesick and also meant that I missed out on the opportunity to meet new people.

Any regrets?

Not a single one.

I miss … 

My family and close friends and not being able to pick up the phone to them at any time, due to the inconvenient time difference.  I also miss roast dinners, fish and chips, the letter ‘U’  and normal sized portions of food that aren’t covered in cheese! 

I don’t miss …

Spending a fortune to rent a five person shared house in London. In Dallas, I have an apartment to myself with a pool and gym for less!

What is the best... ?

Restaurant? There are so, so many restaurants in Dallas as eating out is one of the main past times. If I had to choose, there’s a great place in the design district called Meddlesome Moth and my favourite healthy salad place is Salata, a must for anyone who is able to exercise will power!

Tourist attraction?  It’s a 10 hour drive, but Big Bend national park in Texas is incredible.

Activity? Pool parties are a weekly event throughout the summer, as it is extremely hot.

Place to meet other ex-patriates? There are a surprising amount of ex-patriates in Dallas. I’ve actually met quite a lot of fellow Brits by just being out and about and them hearing me talk!

Shopping? There are shops everywhere; several brilliant high-end malls in Dallas, as well as some great outlets where you can grab a bargain! My absolute favourite new shop is J. Crew which I’d describe as a cross between Gap and French Connection!

Emily  Sexton-Brown

By Emily Sexton-Brown

Emily is the commissioning editor at Changeboard

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