You’ve caught me in the middle of a big move. After living in England for the last ten years, we’re moving back to the United States. Although I’m still as American as, well, apple pie, I’ve now got a whole new outlook on things like, well, pie. (Hint: Don’t order it for dessert.)
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve changed in these years abroad. I’ve certainly learned to relax about spelling. It’s okay if you toss in an extra vowel or two here and there—the “neighbours” don’t care. And I’ve learned to chill over pronunciation: toMAYto sounds as foreign to my ears as “laBORatry” once did. I’ll have to remember to call my “garden” a “yard”, and look out for trucks, not “lorries”, on those roads you call “interstates.”
I’ll have to be mindful of the gaps—in my knowledge of American culture, which seems as alien to me now as the idea of speaking to a stranger on a train. The first time I ordered “hot tea” here I was given a confused look. “How hot do you want it?” I was asked, and that’s when I realized that all tea in England is served hot—and don’t bother asking for “sweet tea,” either, unless you’re prepared to defend your colonial fetish for improper tea with fisticuffs.
I’m like the Yankee in King Arthur’s court, a visitor from beyond these shores bringing news of a land where pie is a pudding and carparks are the size of a small city.
I’ve often felt there’s an invisible barrier between me and the locals, a barrier that goes beyond language and culture. It’s a disconcerting notion. I’m like the Yankee in King Arthur’s court, a visitor from beyond these shores bringing news of a land where pie is a pudding and carparks are the size of a small city.
Sometimes I think it would have been easier to time travel. At least Claire Randall in Outlander had her nursing skills to fall back on when the native Scots couldn’t understand her accent. I’ve learned to nod a lot, laugh when it seems appropriate, and a frown is never out of place, especially if you’re on the Tube.
The vastness of America seems daunting. England is a small country—you’ve a better than even chance of running into a celebrity while out shopping (I once saw Ricky Gervais at a china shop) and the longest car journey you can possibly take would be no more than a day’s drive in the American West.
And then there’s the fact that Americans drive on what is now—to me—the wrong side of the road.
But every journey has an end, and for me, my time in England is up. The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be on the other side of the pond, searching for toMAHtoes in the produce section and trying to remember where I parked my car.