At first, I thought it would not be much different from the US, that it would not be too difficult to adjust. It has only been six months, so some may forgive us for not having completely settled. But we are finding some aspects very frustrating.
The language has not been a major obstacle, obviously; but at certain moments it does present a problem. There are all the colloquialisms, the jargon, pejoratives, etc., that I have never heard of. Sometimes it is the phrasing that confuses me. Another thing I have found is that the way a Briton answers questions is very different. In the US, you present a problem and even before you can frame a question, the other person delves into an answer that is all encompassing, even if the information may be superfluous. Here, the person will wait until you have asked your question and then attempt to answer it. If you have difficulty framing your question or if you think your question is implicit in your presentation of a problem, your listener may choose to look blankly at you. I don’t know if the person is purposely being obtuse or just does not want to appear foolish by answering a question that was not asked.
Driving is probably the worst issue. After driving in the US for 25 years, I will have to relearn practically everything. My husband already got his license, but it’s easier for him since he is from here (though he only started driving when he was in the US). It’s not just the traffic laws, it’s the road and driving on the other side. We thought when we moved here that we would be living near school and work. It has not turned out that way and we are driving more now than we did in the States.
Cost of living is higher in the UK and I cringe every time we get a bill or go shopping. I also had to get used to the metric system (for some things). Buying gas (petrol) by the litre rather than the gallon – and the British gallon is larger than the US gallon. I still haven’t refreshed my memory for converting Celsius and Fahrenheit.
When we imagined coming to the UK, we had a totally different perception of what it would be like. Reality never measures up to fantasy. England is no longer quaint little villages, pubs, and cosy cottages. The British culture has changed so much with the rise in immigration. In the US, we had the Mexicans. Here it is much more diverse, but Indians, Pakistanis and Eastern Europeans are probably the largest migrant groups. Sometimes I feel as if I’m not in England at all, but stuck in the middle of Southern Asia. And I find it funny that in Britain, people referred to as Asians are Indians or Pakistanis; whereas, Orientals are those from the Orient. In the US, they are all called Asians now because at some point in the last 10-15 years, it was non-PC to call them Oriental.
The children have settled into school, but it was difficult because of two reasons. One, they were previously home-schooled, so now they have to adjust to going to school. The other, of course, is that they are in a new country. There were moments they had problems understanding their friends or teachers. They have not picked up on the accent in their speech, but they sure do very good imitations of their friends’ accents. Sometimes they like to pretend they are English and they will sing with British accents.
There have been minor obstacles that have caused major issues for us, but overall, life is not much different from the US. Because of the worldwide recession, we are facing much of the same problems we would have had, had we stayed in the US – with the exception that we might have had a steady income. As it is, we are struggling to find a job. This, of course, has tainted our view and turned our dream into something of a nightmare.
America to Britain does not sound like much of a difference, but America to the Orient must be a major cultural shock. Our LadyExpat friend from Canada, now living in Korea, has a visually awesome website, which seems to suggest she is having a wonderful time: