When I was new to blogging and we were contemplating moving back to the UK, I wrote a guest post for the blog Bringing Up Brits (written by an ex-pat American woman living in England with her English husband and kids).
It is interesting to re-read this as I think I have now acclimated to life back in Britain and am glad to be here. My attitudes towards some things have changed (or changed back) but in other ways I miss the U.S. way of life
I both do and don’t miss the incessant shopping and materialism of U.S. culture. I don’t miss the fact that there was no curbside recycling in our city, or the fact that you had to drive everywhere because it was all so spread out. I don’t miss the summer heat but I do miss the sun, and the swimming pools, and our garden, and the snow.
I miss Starbucks. Even though I never really liked it. I miss all the places to eat out.
I miss the bike trails that I never used because it was always either too hot or snowing.
I miss our big back yard with the squirrels that our dog used to love to chase. I miss our vegetable patch. I could probably do without the new Walmart that has gone up behind our old house, but it beats the dodgy dive bar that used to occupy the spot.
I miss our American family, especially M and L’s cousins, two of whom they have not yet met. I miss my Grandma-in-law’s cooking and the unholy alliance of sweet and savoury dishes that clamoured for acceptance on one plate (sweet potatoes, candied red apples, frog eye salad and bread rolls with jam, alongside meat potatoes and regular salad). I was only just learning to find room for dessert when we moved away!
Things I don’t miss about the U.S. include the blind acceptance (by many) of the gun culture. I don’t think my nerves could tolerate M starting school in a country that seems to have learned nothing from the Sandy Hook tragedy. I don’t miss the uncertainty of budgeting in a country where unexpected medical bills can make a massive dent in your savings (if you are lucky enough to have insurance and/or savings). I don’t miss the political culture whereby a small faction of radicals can effectively hold Congress hostage. I don’t miss feeling like a hippy socialist for pointing out that ordinary people really don’t need guns and that the principle behind the NHS, whatever its current failings, is a really good thing because in a first-world country, medical care should be a right not a privilege.
But back here in Blighty I find that our dear politicians seem to be trying to mould the UK into a kind of U.S.-lite. Some of the crappy bits with none of the good stuff. Raise university tuition fees by an astronomical amount but don’t introduce a different or more fulfilling course structure? Okaaaay… And you do know that the U.S. is in the middle of a student loan crisis right now right because of the high cost of education and the low wages of graduates and because people aren’t paying their government-backed student loans back right? Ok… Good… Just checking.
And the housing. Dear god the housing. The astronomical amount of money Brits are willing to pay out for crappy little attached boxes with even crappier gardens amazes me. Planning constraints being what they are there is hardly any new housing built. People seem suspicious of open plan. My mother insisted that you need a kitchen door in a house… For the love of god WHY do you need a kitchen door, or a pathetic little galley kitchen for that matter? What’s wrong with the U.S-style kitchen/diner/living room combo?
British politics seems both more and less irritating and out-of-touch than U.S. politics. There are less overall nutters but also less scope for ordinary people to become involved and have a say (the government chooses when to call referendums and there are no voter initiatives on the ballot).
My husband and I are part of the “transatlantica” community now. Never completely satisfied wherever we are because we know that the grass is both greener and not greener on the other side of the big pond. But for now at least, being close to my family (of which there are an obscene amount within a rather small radius) has won out. We are living life sans my husband’s family, fancy swimming pools, our nice garden and all-hours shopping, but I am happier and calmer in the land of my birth, which can only be a good thing for the kids.