Expat to Repat: Challenges and Wot Not

Four weeks in on the repatriation in the UK, folks.

How’s that working for us?

Happy Britain!

Happy Britain!

So…..in no particular order

  1. I think I am addicted to Radio 2. I love it and all its British charm and eclectic music offerings. I tried listening to it in the States on odd occasions, but it just seem misplaced during my time out there. I’m back in the Radio 2 groove along with every other bugger!.
  2. The 4 week bit of the repatriation curve is hard. Week 1 is like – ‘ooer, what’s going on here then?’ Week 2 is pretty much spent going ‘oh this is same but different and so much has changed but that’s still the same’; week 3 is mostly spent thinking ‘normality is setting in but I still feel like I’m a bit different and not fully settled……and what the hell is that car doing?! – Oh, Lordy, it’s me supposed to be driving on the left – yikes!’; and week 4 is like ‘oh boy, I miss stuff about Americaland a lot.’ What else is to come?
  3. Harry does not know what a pantomime is, and I almost replied it was the British government, but obviously I stopped imposing my own political views on him. 😉 He now is aware of what a pantomime is, but I am sure it will be fascinating watching him watch one.
  4. The drinks holders in British cars are tiny because they don’t want you to drink water or whatever in your car ever, cos it’s illegal or something. Fact: my USA water bottle does not fit in my British hole. Fancy that.
  5. Car parking spaces here are flipping tiny.
  6. Paying for parking everywhere is pain in the arse.
  7. It is now Autumn. and it is cold.
  8. Harry does not know what a Mars Bar is. British childhood confectionary treat, that’s what son!
  9. Rugby is where it’s at for the kiddos here. And Harry, being the expat-repat kid, turns up wearing a Pittsburg Steelers kit, cos that’s how he rocks.
  10. People in Tesco wear their pajamas on a Sunday. Much like Walmart, I gather;)
This is going to happen to me....


It can’t get anymore British can it?!

British School

This week has been an onslaught of very British things invading my senses. My reaction is more often than not thus: oooh I know that thing, but it feels kind of weird, and yet kind of normal too.

Like school for Harry. Obviously it’s been 30-odd years since I went to primary school so it’s naturally changed oodles, but my comparison is, of course, American schooling from the past three years. Honestly, not too sad to leave that behind. Sorry America, much as I love soooo much about you,  I just couldn’t connect with the American school system.

But let’s start with the British school uniform. Cute, yes. Stripping one’s identity? Slightly, but I totally love the rationale behind school uniforms in the UK. Anyhoo, there it is in all its glory. No tie yet though, thank the Lord. There’s a 4-6 week waiting list for that piece of fun.


According to Harry the best things about British school are, in order: ‘toffee sticky pudding’; the ‘boys’ toilets that hang on the wall’; and his lovely teacher, who I am sure gets a lot of attention from the fathers on parents’ evening 😉

British cricket

I am actually typing this whilst sitting in glorious British sunshine – the warmest day that I’ve experienced since I’ve been back. Yes, I know it’s still 80 degrees and humid in Maryland, and I miss the hocohomos and the pool etc, but my word this current climate is suitably pleasant to have a cup of tea in whilst in yer t-shirt and whilst not having to worry about bikini issues, if you know what I’m saying ladies.

So, with such a fabulous day today, of course it was the coldest day so far yesterday because we spent it outside at a cricket and beer festival with scarves and jackets and thermal ruddy socks on. That is so very, very British 🙂


Still capitalizing on that expat thing….

Yep, I’m still harping on about being an expat in the USA and that will happen for a while, I suspect. I’m not done yet with cultural comparisons.

So, here is a podcast I did last weekend with my old school chum who is right knowledgeable about languages and culture and stuff. It was super fun talking to him, and I natter on for ages, just to warn you!


I also got a chance to gas on BCC radio here in Gloucestershire last week. I promised the presenter it was only this time on the show that I would use the phrase ‘When I was in America’, cos it gets a tad annoying even to my ears!


Sad sad news

My sad new is this: my glorious American tan that I spent ages cultivating has now faded and I feel all white and puffy, since my abs have also disappeared thanks to excess UK fish and chips and cider. Thank gawd for dry September and St Tropez tanning gel!

British Charm In The UK: It’s A Thing!

My last post about being back in the UK, if I may be so bold to say so, read slightly glum.

So, I got to thinking – what did I love about being back in the UK, and what surprised me?

The thing that really made me go ‘Oh, I don’t think I ever clocked that before’ was how jolly friendly many of the British customer service folk were. Honestly, they weren’t all miserable and down in the dumps! They were super friendly and chatty. For me that was a certain thing that took me by surprise. Yes, really.

Happy Britain!

Happy Britain!

The reason this surprised me was that I am v v v v v used to the American way of customer service – all smiles and ‘How are you?’ (and in the USA they are not really wanting an answer. FYI, just ‘Good’ as a response will suffice, and on occasion ‘Good, how are you?’, but you don’t really care for an answer at this point cos they are smiling in their customer service smile way anyway and they’ll just say ‘Good’ whether things are good or not…).

(Side note: The exception to this is Tom in Walgreens, Clarksville, USA, who is the cheeriest, most sincere chap I have ever met, and who, if you go into Walgreens with your sunglasses on, shouts ‘ Welcome to Walgreens – oh my, it’s a celebrity!’ (Cue you to take off glasses.) And then ‘Oh no, it’s not, it’s you! Well, welcome to Walgreens anyway!’ Tom is a diamond 🙂

Anyhoo, yes, charming the Brits were! The lovely chap and his ma in the local corner shop, who called everyone ‘darling’ about 50 times in a sentence. ‘Oh, darling, the Maltesers are out of date, you know, darling, so help yourself, darling. And if you need any bread, darling, the delivery is tomorrow first thing, darling, and I always want to make sure you have a fresh loaf, you know, darling.’

And the lovely train conductor who asked where I was heading and had I had a good weekend. I was so surprised that I almost didn’t know what to reply. I had, of course, had a smashing weekend in Bristol.

And the lovely young waiters and waitresses who asked why I needed a take out bag – was their sitcky toffee pie not good? And me having to explain how it works in America with take out bags, and that they’re a good thing; my son just can’t finish it right now, and no, I don’t think we’ll take the clotted cream with us, but thanks for asking!

And the charming waiter in Bill’s in Cheltenham who was very happy to take pictures of me and my friends, and chat to my friend Rachel about her cats (many pussy jokes cackled about, of course).

Me and my gals have our picture taken by v v v friendly waiter (think he actually fancied Rachel ;) )

Me and my gals have our picture taken by v v v friendly waiter (think he actually fancied Rachel 😉 )

I wonder, thinking back, if this has always been the case in Britain, and perhaps I just didn’t acknowledge it before, or does it just feel genuine in comparison to the American way? Or is it a new thing and folks in the UK are realising the benefits of being cheery?

Anyway, whatever the reason, I like happy Brits. Let’s keep it that way 🙂

A return to London

As the months whizz by here in the USA and we’re on countdown to return to the UK, I become more curious about what it will feel like.

Small. I think it will feel small.

Old. I think I will notice the ‘oldness’ of England.

Strange. I think my life will feel strange as I try to settle back in.

I’ve asked a few people who’ve returned to the UK this year to share their impressions of spending time back there.

This is my American friend Jenny’s story about her visit to the UK, having been a student there a few years back (1980s).

Return to London

One of my fondest memories from college is the semester I spent studying in London.  I was on a humanities program through what was then called Beaver College (they’ve since changed their name for obvious reasons).  We studied literature, theater, history, art history, and architecture, but what we really studied was London.  We went to plays and art museums; we walked neighborhoods and chatted up locals in pubs; we travelled to Cornwall, Salisbury, Bristol and Bath, and we even spent a week in West Berlin.  We were housed in a gorgeous rooming house in Bloomsbury, and I imagined I was walking in Virginia Woolf’s very footsteps.

Poppies at the Tower

Poppies at the Tower

As college students we had no money – but we did have Underground passes – so a regular activity was riding the tube to random remote locations and getting out to explore; my friend Stacy and I often entertained (or annoyed) other passengers with improv games or songs.  I loved being in London – eating Weetabix every morning, drinking tea with warm milk from the college canteen, snacking on digestive biscuits and Cadbury’s, and, of course, fish and chips – although, to be honest, we generally could only afford the chips.

Needless to say, when my husband needed to go to London for work last month, I jumped at the chance to go with him.  I do agree with Thomas Wolf that “you can’t go home, again” but I’m here to tell you that you can go back to the city abroad where you studied in college – and it might just be even better!

Oxford St lights

Oxford St lights

London is a gorgeous city – teeming with tourists from all over the world.  I was there for Remembrance Day (we call it Veteran’s Day) and got to see the amazing installation of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London – more than 880,000 poppies, filling the moat and spilling out of the windows – one for every British life lost in the 1st World War. It was amazing!  The crowds were enormous and constant for the entire week, but everyone remained calm and patient as they waited their turn for a view and stopped to take photos.  I’ve never been in a crowd like that here.

The London Underground is still one of the most efficient subways I’ve ever been on, and while I didn’t just ride around for entertainment, I did enjoy my rides, and I also appreciated the beauty of some of the stations.  There’s been restoration work done on a number of them, and they’re just gorgeous.  When I was a student in London I desperately wanted to fit in and not appear to be a tourist.  I avoided anything that seemed touristy – but now I’m in my forties, and who cares?!  I downloaded Rick Steeves’ podcasts and walked all over the city gawking away and learning fun facts that only Steeves can make amusing.  I explored parts of the city I’d never really seen before – like the financial district, full of new and quirky high rises, the East End, now a hipster haven with loads of street markets selling lots of used vinyl and leather jackets as well as some of the best South Asian food I’ve ever had, and the South Bank now home to the beautifully rebuilt Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern and restaurants galore.  Speaking of restaurants, it’s great going back to London now that I can actually afford to go to restaurants and now that there are so many choices. Sad to say, I had no fish and chips, but I did have amazing Indian, Pakistani, Malaysian, Spanish, Italian, and more!  And, while the tea in London is still outstanding – of course, I was thrilled to discover that coffee has moved in as well – really good coffee.

It really was a bit like a mini-return to my semester abroad – I saw plays, visited art museums, walked neighborhoods, and chatted up locals, but this time with the eyes (and budget) of an adult.

Ah, London! Oh yes, when I read this, Jenny, I know I’ll be ready to return, even though I won’t be based in London. I have to remember, after living in the USA, travel is the way forward. #lovelondon