an ex-pat

An English friend used to joke that the US and the UK were two countries divided by a common language. I thought that was amusing, but not particularly adroit. Despite the fact that I can both spell and define “adroit,” I’m an idiot. He was right and I was wrong.

Shortly after moving here, I spent a totally unsuccessful day looking for red corduroy pants.  Since pants are knickers here, that’s not surprising. I wanted trousers :o)

The difference between a letter box (what the mail enters your house through) and a post box (what you mail it out in) is something I just find interesting.  After four years here, I still listen carefully and hear something new every day.

I love living here, and I love London. Nevertheless, I am still a New Yorker. I was born and raised for 20 years in New York City, after all. I don’t actually get homesick, much to my parents’ dismay, especially since “home” doesn’t really exist anymore. I do, however, get “specific-sick” sometimes.  I miss real beaches, for example, which causes us to go off an find one. I used to miss Starbucks, but thank God, they’ve opened one in walking distance of my house now. Mind you, I never go, but just knowing there is one there makes a huge difference.

I suspect part of the reason I found it so easy to move here is that I came very late to the concept of patriotism, and actually felt it first about England. Tony and I had gone to see an exhibit on WWII, and they had a map of Europe in 1942, with every country colour coded.  In a sea of red, Britain remained resolutely alone, resolutely blue. And I felt so proud of this island nation that persevered and held on and turned the tide again.

My American patriotism has never really arrived. Certainly, I have felt pride in my heritage all of my life: I am proud of my Southern roots, proud of the part my family has played in American history, proud to be a New Yorker. But the whole “America, America” thing has never really hit me.  (I happen to think our national identity is fragmented because of our size.)

And before you decide to lecture me about America meaning democracy, go look at that map of Europe first.

Things I Love About Living in England:

Selfridges. Forget Harrods, it’s a tourist trap – this is the place to shop.  The first floor is one massive cosmetics department, plus three restaurants with bars. Champagne + MAC = Nirvana.

It’s no big deal. My local market is 750 years old. My local pub was built in 1440. And nobody is trying to charge admission.

London Cabbies. They are far superior to NYC cabbies. They study for years to pass the Knowledge and be licensed to drive in London.  They are expensive and worth every penny. 

Things I Hate About Living in England:

Lack of a 24-hour economy. I have to get in my car and drive to buy cigarettes at 3 in the morning. Dude, I’m from New York City – there’s supposed to be a 24-hour Korean grocer across the street.

American Tourists. “Harry! Harry! Oh my Gawd, you have to look at this… it’s so old!” Yeah, that would be the whole England thing, wouldn’t it?

You just can’t buy it: Hershey bars, maple syrup, brownie mix, proper stuffing, chicken fried steak, grits, Banana Republic perfume.