I’m back in England after having lived abroad in the US for thirteen years, thirteen very special years I may add. And just like the time I first landed in America, I’m struck by the cultural differences between the two countries, although this time in reverse.
When I first got to San Francisco I revelled in the newness, the sunshine, the optimism and can do-attitude, the fact that you could go jogging without being laughed at, and perhaps most of all , their friendliness towards a newcomer. At the same time I missed the Brits’ dour wit and their unique talent for self deprecation. Self depreaction I found, is a distinctly English trait, which I think springs from the desire not to appear to be trying too hard. This is not something that American companies understand, which meant that I had to change my spots when it came to the working world.
Thirteen years later and I find myself back in England. The country doesn’t appear to have changed much but I find I have. In comparison to the Brits, I feel more like an American. I’m more assertive than I used to be, more vocal and more likely to introduce myself to strangers. In return I’m getting a taste of what it’s like for Americans to come to England for the first time – compared to Americans the Brits are noticeably reserved, they do not actively seek new friendships, and they are not as curious about new people. I have already had two awkward phone calls inviting people here in Cornwall to dinner. I was expecting to put a date in our calendar, but instead got a “gosh we’re busy we’ll get back to you", the British version of a polite brush off.
So where do I stand in terms of national identity? Which side of the pond do I ally myself with? I’m halfway between England and America, at home in both places, and proud of both sides. Which means, for the moment, that my spirit is hovering somewhere over the Atlantic.
– Posted by Rachel
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