What’s it going to feel like…?
Many of us Brits out here venture back for a visit after a time, and things do look and feel different, and sometimes it’s like you’ve never been away – you just slot back in and life is normal for 10 days/2 weeks, and then you get back to the USA and mull it all over.
I asked my friend, Sarah, who is a British expat in Columbia, MD, and who has been here for almost a year now, what she made of her pre-Christmas visit back to the South West of England.
This is Sarah’s tale of Seeing England With Different Eyes….
It was with mixed feelings that I returned home to the UK a couple of months ago for a brief visit, after living for nine months in the US. I was returning on my own, primarily to see my mum, who is reluctant to fly now she is older. Life in Maryland had taken on a rhythm of its own and settled into ‘normaI’. On my return home, I knew that I wouldn’t have my children and husband around me as a buffer to any emotions I might feel. Yet, I was excited to be going back to all that was familiar. But how strange would it feel? The answer: despite noticing differences and similarities, it felt overwhelmingly normal!
Catching up with friends and family was amazing. The gift of technology and social media has made the world a much smaller place and we know what is going on in each others’ lives, so whilst we were sitting and chatting, it was like I had never been away. It was a relief to talk with people face to face that you have a history with, not explain word choices, mannerisms or be in fear of making some politically incorrect faux pas!
My visits into the school where I used to work made me appreciate how wonderful the British education system is. Working in US schools has been a real eye opener for me. It was lovely seeing the whole school out to play at one time, teachers having time to bond together in the staffroom at break and lunchtime, the creativity of the curriculum, being utilised in the classroom as soon as you walked through the door. However, I caught elements of stress in the air – new initiatives for marking and assessment and a new curriculum. I was relieved to have temporarily left that behind.
There were many things that I had forgotten that were different. Trying to buy some Costa coffees at a service station on my way back home from the airport, much to my friend’s amusement, I was temporarily flummoxed about to use my debit card in the machine. There was no place to swipe it! Whilst shopping, I felt awkward walking around town with a take away coffee, when in the US it is so natural to see people with a coffee cup in their hand, EVERYWHERE!
There were many things I realise I love about being in the UK. Driving low to the ground, with a manual gear box – bliss! Shopping along a beautiful high street, looking at British fashion, going to my favourite bars and restaurants, instinctively knowing my way around, being able to jump onto a bus! I was lucky enough to be home for Remembrance Sunday and at my local church service I felt so proud to be British and extremely patriotic, to the point that I was brought to tears. The display of poppies at The Tower of London was amazing and everyone was talking about it. That’s the kind of thing, as a nation, we do so well.
What didn’t I enjoy? I hated having to take a waterproof or umbrella everywhere with me and the general sogginess of the countryside, which you don’t really get for a prolonged period in Maryland. (It rained a lot when I was home!)
Another emotion that I wasn’t expecting to feel was that of one of detachment from my house that we are renting out in the UK. We had spent many years doing it up and I’d loved living there. We are lucky enough to have wonderful neighbours back there, who welcomed me with such excitement on my return , that it made me realise that it’s the people who count, not the bricks and mortar. I’m now excited about what we can next do to our house on our return, with our supportive neighbours around us.
When the time arrived to return to Maryland, I felt incredibly sad to leave mum on her own, but knew home was where my immediate family and dog were and that was at present in the US. What I had learned from my trip, was that it is possible to feel ‘normal’ in two different places that you can call home, no matter how different those places are and have wonderful friends and family in both.
Thanks Sarah! I do look forward to my visit back 🙂