Sunday, 6 January 2013

Hello, I've missed you quite terribly

Walking to Departures at LGW
As my first post after returning from England, I was expecting this one to be a rather melancholy, doleful piece of writing, mourning the difficulty of leaving my home country behind with an unknown return date.

But I feel okay.

I missed England, and the people in it even more, and I was so very happy to be home. My real home, where I fit in without thinking about it; where my voice doesn't stand out; where the weather rarely stays the same for a full 24 hours and the sky has a million different shades of grey; where the news actually is news; where pubs are after-work gathering places; where soup is served without a sandwich; where the 'F'-word is more like punctuation than an expletive; where supermarkets don't make me cry (although I can still sing to cheese); where train drivers make comical announcements about their service's latest failure; where metric and imperial units of measure are used seemingly randomly and interchangeably - I could go on.

As I said above, the people are what, who, I missed the most. That's always been true, however much I loved seeing the familiar sights of London, the beloved greens of my Cotswold town, and my beautiful family home. It is hard to put into words what actually seeing my wonderful friends, being in the same place as them, hugging them, is to me having not been able to do it for so long. I think the brain almost allows you to forget a little of how good - nay, necessary - it is because otherwise you'd never be able to carry on. Don't even get me started on how much more this is true for family. Knowing I should see both my parents and Sam and Wren Stateside this year is a huge comfort when I start to ache for their proximity.

It was cold in London
What I didn't miss? Being there all the time. The million different shades of grey sky. The winter darkness creeping in at 4PM. Petrol prices. Fitting in. The lack of challenges. Grumpy shop and restaurant staff. Essex accents. I feel like, while I miss certain aspects of being in the UK, I want to be in NC.

Granted, we visited at a funny time of year: Christmas is already pretty busy for most people, not to mention emotional with a lot of family reunions and hectic with fun time off from work. So it's not exactly representative. Add to that the fact that England in the winter is often downright miserable (especially with this year's floods), and I think it's only fair to acknowledge that we didn't see its best side. A summer visit will probably be planned next time, and then I can hopefully have a more balanced view. But I'm not entirely sure how much it will change (except as a function of time - perhaps I will hanker to be there more permanently once I have been away longer? Or perhaps if we stayed longer, at a more "normal" time of year?).

The Internet also has a lot to answer for (or be thanked for). It's made it so very easy to keep in touch with the important goings-on in my family's and friends' lives. Between email, What'sApp, Facebook, Twitter, this blog, and the wonder of being able to make voice and video calls for free via Skype, to an extent it's almost like I've not been away. Although the aforementioned hugs of amazingness cannot be administered down an ethernet cable, and that does make a huge difference once you get one again, it does mean that there is a level of connectedness there that pre-internet expats did not have. I really don't know how they coped. At the same time though, it's possible that these options have facilitated my acceptance of the harder parts of being away, or at least masked them by providing me with some form of immediate communication.

Status update after getting back to NC
When all is said and done though, I am avoiding just saying how I feel because I don't want to sound like an ungrateful cow abandoning her country. Then again, anyone who knows me well will know that that's not the case, so here goes: I love it in Charlotte, and I want to live here. I really am becoming binational. I'm glad to be back in the Queen City. Happy. Joyful. At home.

This does not, will not - will never - mean that we're not coming back. It also doesn't mean that I miss England any less, or am any less English. In fact, no one commented that my accent had changed (it was exclaimed that it had not, in fact), and I was not all of a sudden surprised by how small the buildings and streets seemed - two common occurrences for returning expats from America, apparently.

We plan on living in England at some point in the future for some time, not just because it's my mother country but because Ben wants to very much, and I feel he deserves his own expat adventure too. As he's an English Literature/Shakespeare scholar as well as probably the most British American I've ever met, I think he'll do just fine, and it occurs to me that he might feel a little about Charlotte as I do about Gloucestershire.

I'm not suggesting that one has to leap an ocean to have a 'real' or more meaningful life experience, but for me, it's made all the difference. I wasn't running away from my (lovely) life in England, or any particular thing at all. I just chose change. I chose happiness. I chose love. I chose to be, rather than to seem to be, and I choose to be in Charlotte.

So hey there, Queen City. It's good to be home (part 2). Here's to 2013 in America!

Sunrise on Fairview


  1. Nice post. Your description of Britain was almost poetic! Most of it was familiar to me, but why do supermarkets make you cry?

    1. Thanks, Paul! If you click on the hyperlink about singing to cheese, that post explains it. US supermarkets have, once, brought me to tears. Although I was so overjoyed to be in an English one during this trip, and know where the cold meats were in relation to the spirits that I did shed a little tear... ;)

    2. Large supermarkets bring me to tears, as well. (Not all the time, of course, but occasionally.) I don't know that it is for entirely different reasons, either. I find myself overwhelmed by them and frustrated with how much I will never know about American food -and I've lived here all of my life.

      I've become extremely and increasingly skeptical of what goes into our food since I was diagnosed and there are several aisles that are completely worthless to me because they contain so much of my allergen.

      Thank goodness for Trader Joe's and their small, but selective, variety of food and other grocery store items!

    3. Yeah, we use Trader Joe's when we can. Just a pity it's on the other side of town for us.

  2. Just so you know, you make Charlotte home for others, as well.

    1. Well, I was just going to reply about the allergens and to say that I am frustrated on behalf of people like your lovely self who not only struggle with ethical and chemical queries/issues over food for sale, but also with allergy problems. But then I saw your other comment and welled up a bit, so I'm reduced to just saying thank you. Thank you, thank you.

  3. My wife and I are in the same position as you, in that we plan to go and live in the UK at some point. This is my adventure, the UK will be hers.

    There are times when I feel settled to some degree and Americans are friendly and welcoming, but there is so much that I might never quite understand, at least on an emotional level. American attitudes to guns, sex scandals, politics, race, humour, etc. can all feel very alien, if you've not been brought up in the same culture.

    1. Yes, we don't have any definite plans, and as you can see, I am very happy here indefinitely. But I don't want to deprive Ben of an adventure like this, and I also miss seeing my family so much I can't express it. I used to see my parents at least once a week, and we're very close the four/six of us. That's what I want (back) most of all.

      As for feeling settled and the bigger differences, I totally agree. I can feel really quite at home, both in micro and macro terms, and then something like firearms law or racism or sexism throw me for a total loop and I realise just how different I am on a fundamental level, just because of my cultural experiences growing up in the UK.

      I think "not wrong, just different" is generally a great attitude to have when living abroad, plus I don't want to arrogantly charge into a country that has granted me legal residency proclaiming that their attitudes to X are all wrong, but there are some things that just genuinely baffle or seem totally backwards to me. Plus there are some fundamental, moral quibbles I have with issues like gender, race, and sexuality that seem much worse here than at home. It sounds like you feel the same way.

  4. Hey, found you through my blog, where you found my post on Cowfish.

    Just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading this post. I sometimes feel like when you've lived in two different countries, you really start to notice the pluses and minuses of both. Eventually neither place feels like home. I felt like you captured that feeling so well in your post (even if you didn't mean to). I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

    1. Emily, thanks so much for taking the time to read! It's lovely to hear from you. I was trying to basically say that both countries do have their advantages and disadvantages, and so there's no one 'better' place.

      I think both countries become home in different ways - your new country takes some getting used to, but it also changes the way you see your home country, both for the good and the bad. I think you're right that neither place quite feels like home any more, but it's also like you have two places you're pretty much comfortable in.

      Thank you for the compliment too! I'm glad I expressed myself (reasonably!) clearly. :)

  5. I know just how you feel, in fact prepare yourself for the day when you go 'home' and end up really homesick for your new happened to me last time there! I am headed back in September this year and although excited, I now view here as my real home after almost 8 years!

    1. Yes, it kind of happened on this trip, but if we move back, I can think of a hundred things I would miss about Charlotte. :) As I said, I don't want to deny Ben either the adventure nor the opportunity to live in a foreign country that he already loves, but I really am starting to find my feet here.

      Thank you for the comment!


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