The Expat Experience

International families add a distinctive accent, far-flung flair to Cliffs Living


The Cliffs is a world unto itself, but people from all over the world call these communities home, too. Adding a delightful accent to their adoptive home, they tell all kinds of exotic stories: growing up on an English sheep farm, their globe-trotting careers, attending a royal wedding in the South Pacific. 


“I think the attraction for the expat is that people like the idea of living in the U.S.,” says Garry Welsh, who, with his wife, Christine, broke ground on their new home at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove in November and expect to move in soon.


“You’ve got your own oasis of amenities, beautiful environment, proximity to an airport, proximity to a cool town, nice climate,” he says of The Cliffs at Walnut Cove and nearby Asheville.


Garry grew up on England’s southeastern coast. Christine, also a Briton, was born and raised in Kuwait. They married while Garry was working in international banking, and in the early 1990s, they bought a home in Florida. They chose The Cliffs for yet another change. 


Garry recalls walking into a Norwich record store when he was 14 and hearing David Bowie’s song, “Changes.”


“That [line from the] song — ‘turn and face the strange’ — has been kind of what we’ve liked to do in our lives, we just create new adventures,” he says. “Now we continue to create the next new adventure for ourselves as a couple and as a family by moving to The Cliffs.” 


The onetime Ironman competitor and his wife enjoy the communities’ golf courses, he says, adding, “We work out every day. We live in the fresh air. We like being outside, so activities are important.”


It was the real estate options here that closed the deal, he says. Cliffs Builders helped them create the home they wanted, a 3,100-square-foot hideaway.


And it’s that Old World intimacy Fariba York mentions when she talks about the home she and her husband, Robert, bought last June — also at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. 

Fariba moved from Germany in 2012 to Boston, where she met Robert, who is from Poughkeepsie, New York, and working for a Canadian chemical company. 

Friends told them about The Cliffs—“That would be your dream area to live,” she recounts—so they checked out Walnut Cove, first online and then onsite.


“When I looked at these little houses at The Cliffs, the truss work, that completely reminded me of the coziness that you can find in Austria, that you can find in Germany, in Switzerland,” she says.


The setting likewise reminds her of native Würzburg in northern Bavaria: “It has this warmth to it, and that really attracted me, and I just immediately felt at home.”


Speaking of warmth, Ian and Marlene Kilpatrick moved to The Cliffs from the Cayman Islands, where they lived for 49 years after leaving England in 1968. Still, though, South Carolina’s Piedmont takes him back to the rolling Cotswolds in southwestern Britain.


In the 2000s, he opened an office in Charleston, among other global locations, including one in, of all places, Tonga, where he and his family were invited to a royal wedding.


These days, they enjoy the golf courses, fitness centers, tennis facilities — “all the amenities in a beautiful part of the world.”


While the Kilpatricks still own a home in the Caymans, Tony and Maureen Doye used The Cliffs as a “holiday home,” a getaway from his work at an IT company. In 2007, they purchased a homesite at The Cliffs at Mountain Park and built a home in 2011.


Then things went to the dogs.


“We were lucky here,” Tony says, “because when we started off, when we came here, while I was still working in New York, Maureen was talking every day with the dog-walkers.”

Maureen still walks their Great Dane, Bentley, each day around their neighborhood, where, it turns out, several other British families live.


Dual citizens, both enjoy the Old World camaraderie and signature British wit. The setting, too, is reminiscent of Cumbria in the far northern part of England, where Maureen’s “80-something” father still operates the family’s sheep farm. 


Tony says he misses the pubs and the Old World village atmosphere. 


Still, he says, “The fact you’ve got FaceTime and Zoom and things like that makes everything seem less far away. We’ve got a lot of family in England, and we’re looking forward to getting them over here again.”


Expat staff bring a world of expertise to The Cliffs’ experience 


You could say Gayle Starke danced her way to the U.S. She once toured the world with Spirit of the Dance, the sister troupe of the global Irish juggernaut, Riverdance. Then she performed for 5½ years in “The Lion King” at Disney World.” And now she’s at The Cliffs. 


“From the moment I set foot in The Cliffs, I was like, I love this place. You just feel welcome. You feel safe, and you’re definitely part of a family, you feel taken care of,” says Gayle, who was promoted to The Cliffs at Walnut Cove clubhouse manager in July 2021 and was previously  the member services director. 

The scenery here reminds her of her native Aberdeen, Scotland, which she more or less left in 2001 to join the globe-trotting dance company. Since 2016, she has worked for premier resorts in nearby Asheville, continuing to enjoy the seasons, the fall foliage and friends from far and wide. 


“I think that’s one of the reasons that I love it so much, and that I do feel so at home here, as well, because we do have this community of international members,” she says. 


Never mind that her workplace feels familiar, too: “My office is like an Old English Tudor.”

Adri Atkinson once worked in an Old World place, too — as in 400 years old, at a 5-star resort in Austria, where she once played with the president of the Czech Republic. 


Since last April, she has served as director of racquet sports at The Cliffs Mountain Region and, like the other expat staff members here, finds the scenery reminiscent of her home … and Austria … and Vermont, where the native South African has also worked in premier resorts.


“American people, and especially here in the South, are just so accommodating and so welcoming,” says Adri, whose husband, Daniel, was born in Texas and raised in Mississippi. 

“Having the privilege to get to know people from different cultures again is a luxury.”


Tom Prowse enjoys the luxury of not one but seven golf courses, where he started as the first assistant pro at The Cliffs at Glassy, then transitioned to Head Golf Professional at The Cliffs at Keowee Vineyards


The Australian native joined The Cliffs in 2016 after a two-year stint at Green Valley Country Club in Greenville. Like Adri, he’s married to an American — in fact, his wife, Maria, is a born Greenvillian.


“People go out of their way to make you feel comfortable,” he says, after years on the pro circuit that took him all over the world and having lived in the U.S. in the early 2010s. “I found everyone to be super-welcoming.”

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.


Related Stories