Things I Have Learned Since I Moved Across the Atlantic

Earlier in the week I posted about the things that I wish I’d learned before I moved to the US (you can find that here) and the natural next step would be to post what I have learned since moving. Moving to another country can be pretty tough and whilst I have picked up a lot of useful knowledge like Kit Kats taste differently in the US and some useless things like $2 bills are an actual thing (yes chocolate is more important than money) a lot of what I have learned has been about myself. Here is a small selection of those things in no particular order…

1. I get nostalgic about the weirdest bloody things. It’s natural to be nostalgic about things that you no longer have in your life like sitting in a beer garden next to a river on one of the two sunny weekends per year that constitutes a British summer but a lot of the things that I am nostalgic about don’t make sense. I find myself missing awful British TV shows that I didn’t even watch when I lived in the UK and find myself trying to watch them on YouTube when I’m homesick. I get nostalgic about sitting on the couch on a Saturday and watching a commentator getting excited about the Sheffield Wednesday versus Nottingham Forest score (only in England would a team be called Wednesday) two teams that I care nothing about. I’m even nostalgic about moaning about the rain; it rains so much less here that it seems rather petty to moan about it.

2. I’m really bad at making friends. Partly this is because I am shy but it is also because I am the worst person at small talk in the world. I met someone who, on hearing my accent, told me they’d been to the UK. “Oh me too” I replied, because that is how awkward I am. It doesn’t help that I don’t watch TV and I don’t follow any of the local sports that people are passionate about which restricts my small talk abilities even further. I didn’t really realise how bad I was at all this until I moved to the US because when I lived in the UK I had enough friends to ensure that I could spend the evenings doing things other than Googling whether cats have regional accents. It turns out that, like birds, they may well do just in case you were interested.

My cat illustrating what I do in social situations.

3. I can now hear a British accent from the other side of a crowded room. Since I have moved to the US no matter how many people are talking at once I will immediately notice any British accent which is a little weird but it is a good way of meeting fellow Brits. I’m too much of an introvert to go up to them and actually begin a conversation but just knowing they are there is kind of comforting, in the same way that knowing you have a pack of rich tea biscuits in the cupboard is comforting even when you aren’t hungry.

How British I feel when I meet a fellow Brit…

4. Comparing everything is a terrible idea. Every country has good and bad points about living there and making comparisons about everything is only going to make me miserable. I like that you get taxed less in America but the fact that I recently got a $400 bill in the mail after some blood tests is not something I’m a fan of. Treating it as something that all balances out somehow is the best way. As the great travel writer Bill Bryson wrote “When you move from one country to another you have to accept that there are some things that are better and some things worse, and there is nothing you can do about it.” Now that I understand that life has become a lot easier to deal with.

5. I haven’t become any less British. This has surprised me but it turns out living in a country for 22 months isn’t enough to erase a lifetime of involuntary behaviour. I still apologise to people who stand on my feet on the train and I still say “cheers” when someone holds a door open for me even though that often gets me confused looks. I still wear one layer the moment the temperature gets above 10C (50F) even though everyone around me is still in coats and I still regard any day when it doesn’t rain as a nice day, even if it is incredibly grey (I still spell grey the British way too). You can take the Brit out of Britain but you can’t take Britain out of the Brit!

As always the best things about writing this blog are the comments and interaction I get from readers so please let me know what you think and whether you have had a similar experience of moving to another country. 🙂

31 thoughts on “Things I Have Learned Since I Moved Across the Atlantic

  1. I can totally relate to # 2 – I am not a smalltalk person, and I find it difficult to make friends in a new place. In consequence, I could definitely be that person in # 3 who hears someone with the same accent but will not approach them.
    While it’s quite some time ago that I lived in the UK – I was in my early 20s – I still remember that at that point in life most people that I met through work were getting married and had a circle of friends, so they didn’t need a new friend.
    I have friends here in Germany who live up north and try to persuade me to move there; as I am no longer in my 20s, I always tell them that it would be even more difficult for me to make friends now, because let’s face it – you start a new job and meet new people, but the ones that are your own age are more likely to go home to their families after work than go to the pub with the new person… It really isn’t easy.
    I have one question, albeit personal: what does your wife think of all that? Does she find it weird you’re not making friends, or is she worried about it? Are you part of her circle of friends?

    1. Yeah I agree, I feel like the older you get the harder it is to make new friends. It seemed to happen without any effort at university but if you move somewhere new later on it’s so much harder so I don’t blame you for resisting the idea of a move north!

      I have made some friends but almost exclusively through work which makes sense as I’m around people most at work. I’m lucky to have some fantastic coworkers but it’d be nice to be out of my comfort zone and meet people. My wife is an introvert so she totally gets it, and I’ve become friends with a couple of her friends. I’ll try and work on it more this summer I guess.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, I’m glad there are people who get it. 🙂

  2. Regional cat accents? Must get my friend to record her California cat for me.
    I share your gratitude of days when it’s not raining (I’m in the PNW), I see the sunny pictures you post of the Northeast spring and sometimes it makes me jealous. Hahah!
    Am happy to read you are “staying British”, there is something to be said about a culture that actually deems manners and courtesy important. These are the things I think about when someone “drops” the door on me when entering a building, or pushes past me when I’m I’m trying to exit an elevator.
    I hope you will eventually discover like-minded individuals who are interested in many different things (personally, I’m an anti-sports fan and dread any conversation about “the game”– what game?? Did they score a point??)
    You might check out, probably at least one group on there for Brit ex-pats that want to get together:)

    1. Apparently cats can also adapt to their owners accents and speech patterns too which is really cool.

      If it makes you feel any better we have just had a week of solid rain! I feel like I’d probably be at home most of the PNW weather-wise. 🙂

      I’ve been to a couple of Meetup events and I definitely need to give them another go, I’ll make it a priority this summer. Thank you! 🙂

  3. I moved from the morth of England to Scotland in my teens and had the misfortune to be the only Sassenach in any group setting and would be expected -especially when alcohol was involved – to defend the actions of my countrymen at every historical and political event involving the two adversaries, Culloden, Bannockburn, Bothwell Bridge, I had never heard of any of them! Things got even worse when the SNP gained their first MP! When I was a student, I invited an American friend to experience a Scottish New Year – I know, what was I thinking! A great deal of whisky was consumed and one man cornered him to explain himself and his fellow mid-westerners in the Civil War (he was from Missouri) . He was later discovered wedged between his bed and the radiator having tried to make a discreet retreat and missing his intended place of respite completely.

    1. Oh gosh I can imagine that was difficult at times! Luckily people don’t really mention historical events too much to me here unless they are trying to mess with me! 🙂

  4. I’m just a traveller from the UK to the US on a longish trip, but I found myself getting all teary last month when I saw a bluebell in flower. I like how everyone thinks I have a wonderful accent here (which is not the case back home).

  5. Bea

    Much like we complain about the amout of snow (both too much and too little) we also complain about rain. More than 2 days of rain in a row and you can go on about how awful this rain is and how you wish it would stop. You may also complain about how hot, cold, dry, sunny, grey, etc. it is and fit right in. We like to complain about the weather here in New England, no matter what that weather may be.

  6. The nostalgia is so true. I find that when I leave Europe for the US, I need to buy anything Americana – most of which I never ate / used when I lived there for my first 35 years! But just something about it gives me a warm feeling inside. And same with the American accents! Or if I see someone with a Red Sox hat on – even better because that means they are from Boston too (not always the case as I’ve found out)!!!!

    1. Im glad I’m not the only one who has experienced this! I buy stuff here in British food stores that I never ate in the UK and I always look out for people wearing English football shirts. 🙂

      1. I didn’t even know there was a British foods store in Boston! It’s funny how we hunt these things down to get that comfort of home!

  7. Cutest cat picture!

    It was a bit of a jolt moving from the East Coast to the West Coast in the U.S. Not as bad as changing countries, but I get nostalgic for rain, for greenery, for particular restaurants, and especially for people who also believe that being on time means showing up five minutes early.

  8. Except for when I was two, I have never left the US. But….I love to watch British television crime series. And some of the comedies. My daughter thinks I am odd and I don’t have any friends who watch them. I suppose I like their tone. But sunny California is the place for me.

  9. I get the small talk bit Tom, I hate it too and like you I’m fairly crap at it! Possibly because I find as I get older that I really can’t be bothered to put the effort in!!!
    Some years ago I spent some time working in Toronto, Canada. I loved everything about it, but come springtime I was yearning for the green lush grass we enjoy in the UK, on account of our rain, instead of the brown frost burnt offering on the lawns in Ontario!

    1. A lot of people are bad at small talk and when two of us get together that’s when it really sucks! I miss the lush grass and vegetation of the UK a lot, it might be drier here but the greens are definitely not as vivid.

  10. I love your style of writing. It’s like carrying on a conversation with someone. I try to hear your accent as I read. I agree that it is harder to make friends as we get older. I don’t know the why of it, but this seems to have merit. Small talk comes easy for me as I enjoy a good chat. I get nostalgic, as well. Don’t know the why of this either – perhaps a way to appreciate the present. Nice post!

    1. Thank you, it’s so nice to get positive feedback like that! I’m jealous of your small talk abilities, I wish it was a skill that could be easily learned! 🙂

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