Brits in the USA

(39 Posts)
anonymosity Thu 21-Mar-13 23:09:30

Do you sometimes feel neither here, nor there? I find that I am often asked if I'm "visiting" as in a tourist, even though I have lived in this town for nearly 3 yrs now (ok its a big place for tourism, but still).

And I don't really get the other mums at school and I wonder if in some small way its that they think of me as itinerant and therefore not really worth getting to know properly.

But that aside, I am extremely happy here and think of it as home. I don't really miss the UK, just occasionally my friends and relatives - who I try to stay in touch with via email and skype as much as possible.

Anyway I just wondered if others felt a bit like this - like they've left one place but not been fully absorbed into another yet, if ever?

wentshopping Fri 22-Mar-13 05:11:47

Yes, I do.
For example, the fact that there is a whole section of growing up that "they" all did, but I didn't. So I don't really know the whole big deal around the big school dances, why someone would want to be a cheerleader, or wear a scratchy marching band suit. We actually went to the school counsellor and explained that we had no idea about the college application process that dd1 was about to embark on.
And college football. I don't get that either.
So, maybe they feel the same way about me - that I must be a bit different because of my previous life "overseas".

WallyBantersJunkBox Fri 22-Mar-13 09:18:39

I have US friends here (Switzerland) who are also a little intimated by UK people?

They've told me it starts from the accent, the expected etiquette, sharp wit and sarcasm.

It's not just based on me btw. grin

Wibblypiglikesbananas Fri 22-Mar-13 14:41:57

Hi! I haven't been in the US for so long - 9 months - but I do consider this to be where I live now. We're in DC so lots of international people coming and going constantly and depending on where we go to, we can be mistaken for tourists rather than locals, IYSWIM. I went to the bank the other day and the guy at the front desk heard my accent and wanted to know what had brought me here. I told him the fact I had an account and needed to pay in a cheque!
I have tried to make friends with both Americans and people from other countries, but if I'm honest, the majority of our friends are European. It may be that they're in the same situation as us, eg here for a few years, and so links are made pretty quickly, rather than having grown up here with family around the corner etc.
I often feel there's a whole part of American life I will just never understand. I too don't get the big deal around proms and soccer. I also find a lot of Americans (not all, obviously) to be so provincial, or something like that. There's often a view that America is best and nowhere else could possibly have a better system. One of my American friends was flabbergasted when I told her that the NHS was free. She could not understand not paying an insurance co-pay! How could you not wven be aware that a different way of doing things exists?! Similarly, my dentist was shocked when after an extortionate quote, even after health insurance contributions, I told him I'd fly to the UK and get the work done there as it would be more cost effective.
The crazy thing is, whilst I still miss the UK and I'm looking forward to our next trip back, I also know that when we move back, l'll pine for the good things about here. Can't win really!

SquinkieBunnies Fri 22-Mar-13 18:10:12

When someone asks "What brought you here" I think is asking how come you live in the US, not why are you in our Bank. I may well be wrong, but my answer would have been my Dh lived here and I joined him after getting married.
I found I made a few friends at the school, it helped that I volunteered in the class once a week, and from that would chat with other Mom volunteers. Some I have now been friends with for the full 13 years ds was at the school here.
I don't really get the US is the best ever and everyone everywhere wants to live here mentality, I usually just ignore it.
Your one friend was being very silly about Healthcare, how would you know about co pays, she had no idea about the NHS free at point of service either so she too was unaware of things being different in other countries.
I went back and forth about moving, I missed UK a lot over the years. I committed to stay till Ds2 finished high school and he did last year, now we are getting ready to move home, and I can't wait. Dd is 8 and looking forward to going to UK school.

anonymosity Fri 22-Mar-13 19:37:15

I think wibbly knew what the bank teller meant - and was being amusing in her response, actually.
THanks everyone for sharing. It seems there is a vast amount of difference to our experiences, albeit many of the things stemming from a similar place. smile

Wibblypiglikesbananas Sat 23-Mar-13 00:04:49

Obviously not amusing enough! Didn't help that the same guy had asked me the same question the last time I'd been in, haha!
It's a strange old place - and one thing I forgot to mention was how generous I have found the Americans we have become friends with. We held a birthday party for our DD when we had been here for two months and invited mums from the playgroup we had joined. I really didn't expect many people to turn up but loads did and had made a big effort with presents and cards and some even brought home cooked food along too. We were really touched.
SB - the healthcare thing struck me as the woman in question is very well educated, runs various businesses and I'd just have expected her to have some notion, however vague, that things could be different elsewhere. I didn't necessarily expect her to know the ins and outs of the NHS. She was literally rendered speechless when I told her I'd had DD 'for free' in the UK so to speak - incredulous that that could be a possibility. We went on to have a pretty interesting discussion actually, where she told me about a relative in her late nineties having a hip replacement. Now, you wouldn't get that on the NHS!
Have a lovely weekend y'all!

SquinkieBunnies Sat 23-Mar-13 03:06:56

UK style jokes don't work at all here, I found that our the hard way, I used to get blank stares and awkward silence when I'd say something that really was funny if you were a Brit.
I will be glad to get back where people can have a laugh and a joke.
I still pine for proper sausages, pork pies and bacon. Not sure why it's all pork products I miss. hmm

probably depends massively on where you live...I'm in LA which is so transient (and full of Brits) I never get the "are you visiting" question. In my area (Santa MOnica) I don't relate to the other American parents in the park, so my mum friends who have babies DD's age are a mainly British group, but outside of this group all my friends are American who all moved here from all over the States.

It is weird when I realise they're talking about somehting which is ingrained in the the American psychology (like sports, proms, graduating every grade in school) but find it interesting and ask questions, they then ask me questions about British life in turn. Granted my children are preschool age so I haven't had to deal with school parents but I definately get more Americans loving my accent, asking all sorts of questions about the UK than I do feelings of standoffishness.

But then this city is a massive conglomerate of people, I'm yet to meet anyone actually from here, or anyone who intends to stay here for the rest of their lives

anonymosity Sat 23-Mar-13 16:34:53

I am in LA too! AmericasTorturedBrow. And there are days when all I hear is UK accents. But I still get this, sometimes....

Oh yes of course you are!

Dunno - I've been here a year now and don't think it's ever been assumed I don't live here.

Santa monica mums are weird though and the huge difference in parenting in the playground has made me think twice about sending DS to an SM school

anonymosity Sat 23-Mar-13 23:07:46

AmericasTorturedBrow - that's exactly where we are, Santa Monica. If you want to message any questions about SM schools to me, my two kids are currently in them and we've also used local preschools. The schools themselves, are largely (but not always) better than the playground parents, to be fair.

We should do a meet! Will def message you about school's - DS is currently at preschool, due to start K sept 2014

I was out for dinner last night and was asked if I was visiting. I said no, we've been here 13 years. He sounded surprised I still had my accent (I do somewhat, probably still quite strong to US ears).

howdoo Sun 24-Mar-13 19:05:20

I think this is the fate of the long term expat isn't it, you end up not really fitting into either place?

We went to dinner last night and I felt like I did when we first moved here - ie that people were talking a different language. It was all about the NCAA and I really know nothing about basketball, but there was lots of "Do you remember that time when Kentucky lost in the first round" (hilarious apparently) and "Well obviously I went to Duke so I want NCU to lose" (I'm making that up as I can't actually remember the real teams!). DH congratulated me today on being so convincing in covering up my lack of knowledge/interest!

I find Americans talk about themselves a lot, and will interrupt you to do so - there seems to be little to no asking about other people. OTOH I have discovered that they are quite happy if you interrupt back and talk about yourself, in fact it's almost expected. Also people are friendly and seem to take other people at face value which I like.

I also have two really lovely American friends who are just as good as any of my old British friends!

anonymosity Tue 26-Mar-13 02:49:28

Yes, the sports talk completely goes over my head. In fact my BIL was visiting recently and tried to banter about the "Tigers" or the "falcons" or something and I had to say, really, I have NO idea what you're going on about, sorry.

The interrupting thing is interesting. I find it very much a West coast thing - and instead of saying "oh excuse me a moment I must have a word with so-and-so" you might just get sight of someone's back instead.

I think it seems rude for a Brit, but only because its an omission of manners which simply aren't done here, but which are ingrained in us.

I am more used to that than I used to be.

CheerfulYank Tue 26-Mar-13 03:14:20

This is all so interesting...I've never been out of America so I'm curious to see how we're perceived. smile

anonymosity Tue 26-Mar-13 03:34:46

Hope nothing has offended you in the above, CheerfulYank. I'm actually quite proud to be an almost American (3 yrs and counting).

CheerfulYank Tue 26-Mar-13 15:00:09

I'm pretty hard to offend. grin I'm MidWestern (from Minnesota) and by and large we're a pretty, well, cheerful group.

AntsMarching Tue 26-Mar-13 15:09:59

I'm an American living in the UK and I could have written your post in reverse smile

I've been here long enough that I get told I have an accent when I go back to the US, even though no one here would ever mistake me for anything other than American.

I don't get the school system here, can't understand the sports, still not completely au fait with the politics. I just always feel like I'm a beat behind everyone else.

I also don't feel like I 'belong' in the US anymore, I've been gone too long, too much has changed and moved on. It's not that I want to go back, but if I did I think I'd feel like an outsider.

Me too. smile In fact, I could have written AntsMarching's post, except for the very last line (I definitely want to go back -- maybe once I'm done having babies and DSD is finished with secondary, though).

WRT "America is the best", I would say that we're taught this from a very early age. We're taught that our ancestors fought/worked hard to make the country what it is today. When I was in primary school, we sang patriotic songs after the Pledge of Allegiance. Our mistakes are presented as just that: mistakes that we know better than to repeat anymore - tra la la, we've all moved on. The way the country is set up (large population, large land mass, large economy), there is very little incentive to deal with the rest of the world - I have to coach my family, seven years after moving to the UK, in how to dial my phone number. They don't get it. To them, a phone number is always 1-234-567-8910.

On the flip side, I sometimes think the only reason people here know "God Save the Queen" or "Flower of Scotland" is due to the football. ;) And I like to remind my football-mad husband that real sports have seasons (I have reached saturation point with 11 months of soccer...).

mathanxiety Tue 26-Mar-13 15:54:03

I recognise many of the sentiments here. To mix metaphors, you go from feeling like a fish out of water to feeling neither fish nor fowl after a bit.

I made a big effort to learn the sports and succeeded pretty well in baseball and football but basketball has completely eluded me -- I don't know how as all the DCs played in school and I went to most of their games. I think it's the sheer volume of jargon associated with basketball that presented such an impenetrable barrier for me. I can't even remember the word 'dribbling' a lot of the time. The DCs laugh about it, and about my loyalty to tea and various other things Irish.

DD1 was a very effective calling card for me throughout her school life and even before as she has red hair and that was always a reliable icebreaker. One lovely thing about the US is the warm reception red hair gets. Two of the DDs have red hair and it has always been a positive to the extent that the other two DDs have been jealous. DS not so much.

CheerfulYank Tue 26-Mar-13 16:59:02

Yes, we do love us some red hair! smile

AntsMarching Tue 26-Mar-13 18:56:11

Probably I'd want to go back if DH weren't Welsh. I can't imagine putting him through what I went through when I moved here. I found it so hard and having now adjusted (mostly), I just couldn't do it to him.

Aye, the thought's crossed my mind too. My Scottish husband's keen for an adventure, though, and wants to move. We were actually talking about it tonight - pros and cons we can think of, contingencies we could set up (like renting out our house and renting a property for a few years to see how we'd do). He's still eager to go and was the one reassuring me tonight. We have at least 10 years to make any decisions anyway; nothing would happen until DSD finishes high school. Best we can do is aim the rudder that way and see if the wind blows. smile

stopgap Tue 26-Mar-13 22:21:12

I feel completely at home here. I've lived in NYC for ten years, have lots of American friends, and have grown to love the general upbeat cheeriness of the native folk. Occasionally I have to bite my tongue, as I'm a straight-talking northerner and instinctively lead with two hefty feet.

By contrast, I always felt a bit like the odd one out in England. I'm into healthy eating and working out, and would much rather run in Central Park than go down the pub for a swift one.

OT but my mum's a redhead and I'm gutted neither of my DC are!

I dunno, I've found the REALLY LOUD AND OVERZEALOUS adverts quite irritating and the politics so confusing but that's my ignorance. A lot of people I suppose I have found weirdly standoffish or their parenting styles just so different (as in they refuse to discipline their ratbags) and I've got into trouble for not toeing the line when it comes to bitching about Mexican nannies and not praising DHs apparently infallible company enough.

But I've made a handful of very close friends very quickly, which has helped me to settle

My mum and dad and me were/are redheads and neither of mine are sad Maybe we'll have red head gcs

kickassangel Wed 27-Mar-13 00:18:23

I found it really hard until I got a job. We moved when dd was in Kindergarten, and I found that a lot if the mums had made their friends before then. Also, we live in a small town and we were definitely the ethnic minori, worthy of much comment. No meter how well intentioned, it makes someone uncomfortable if you always notice their accent, rather than talking to them about everyday things. I teach in a fairly mixed school in a nearby city and feel far more at home there, and so does dd.

Small town America can be very harming, but it is quite small town.

mathanxiety Wed 27-Mar-13 00:23:05

I don't know where my redheads came from. Wasn't the mailman I promise.

No matter how well intentioned, it makes someone uncomfortable if you always notice their accent, rather than talking to them about everyday things.

Amen to that. It gets very wearing to have people constantly less interested in what you say than the way you say it.

anonymosity Wed 27-Mar-13 00:50:58

Yes, agreed.
when we lived in the US when I was a teen I used a US accent. My DD does the same, its like she's bi-lingual (in accents).

kickassangel Wed 27-Mar-13 03:08:33

Yes, dd is noticeably more American at school. Luckily one if her friends is Swedish and very quick to be proud about it, this has gelped her be more OK about being British

Bue Wed 27-Mar-13 17:55:39

No meter how well intentioned, it makes someone uncomfortable if you always notice their accent, rather than talking to them about everyday things.

This, a thousand times over! I'm actually Canadian in the UK (just finding the insights in this thread interesting!) but since we moved from London to a much smaller, less diverse town three years ago, I get asked nearly every week by someone where I am from. God, it is BORING. As a result I almost never ask anyone where they come from in casual conversation. People probably think I am really rude and uninterested grin

anonymosity Thu 28-Mar-13 00:16:45

They are probably grateful you don't ask. I don't like being asked that, no matter where I am. I think its an odd and not very interesting question, "where are you from?" as if you hark from only one place, or one country only. How do you answer that you've lived in many countries during your lifetime, without sounding like a bit of a wanker, I wonder?
I feel very influenced by growing upon the US east coast but also from living in different places in Germany as well as the UK. I have ancestors from Ireland which I've visited only a few times, but have a huge connection to....etc etc. Maybe I should just say all that!

mathanxiety Thu 28-Mar-13 00:59:29

I answered with 'I'm originally from Ireland' as I thought that tended to leave the door open to questions about other places I might have been.

I don't care if I sound like a wanker -- as long as nobody asks if I'm Australian and follows my disclaimer with 'Are you sure?' [this happened twice] we'll get along fine.

Ok actually now we're talking about it, I've realized I do get this a lot. In fact now avidly avoid a friend of a friend as she just repeats back everything I say in a terrible British accent, it's annoying and actually quite intimidating (almost feels like she's teasing and undermining me?)

I also get so pissed off by the constant guesses that I'm Australian, ALWAYS followed by "are you sure? I'm normally really accurate with accents"....oh no wait, yes you're right, I'm not from the UK at all, I'm from a country literally on the other side o the world hmm

TheCatInTheHairnet Thu 28-Mar-13 02:00:12

I think it depends where you live. I don't get any comments other than people saying they like my accent. In our current town, all of our friends are American whereas in our last town, we had a high rate of expat friends. I didn't move all this way to hang out with Brits moaning about what's wrong the US.

I do think it takes more effort to make US friends but it's worth it.

MercedesKing Thu 28-Mar-13 02:03:08

Definitely yes, I have had! When I am an international student even it is not that far from my hometown, I have the feeling that you "left one place but not been fully absorbed into another yet", it might be not that happy in a not that familiar place without any familiar clues in life... perhaps that might because that your root are not here... anyway, we can conquer it by reducing the sense of strangeness.

When my kids have left home (assuming we are still here) I am going to loose my accent overnight. I only keep it so they can hear it.

Oh yeah, many people are convinced I'm Australian too.

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