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I moved to the UK from the US, AMA

166 replies

Avalla33 · 27/07/2018 15:19

It's still early days, as I moved here about a year ago. I don't know if I have anything particularly interesting to say, but I'll try to answer any questions the best that I can.

OP posts:
sashh · 29/07/2018 11:09

Eggs. How long did it take you to find them on your first supermarket trip? Do you keep them in the fridge or on the counter?

UnGoogleable · 29/07/2018 12:15

On the subject of the vastness of the US compared to us here in England... I was gobsmacked to learn that if you had an acetate of the States and you laid it over Europe, it would cover all of Europe.

Yes, many people really don't appreciate the vastness of the US, and the stunning diversity or landscapes, wildlife and culture within it. I always point this out when sneering Brits laugh at the fact that so many Americans don't have a passport... why would they need one? Their country is massive, and beautiful - so someone from Maine could go on holiday to California, several hours flight away, and experience somewhere so completely different to where they life. Plus 'abroad' is really quite far away for most Americans - so it's perfectly reasonable that many Americans don't have a passport. How many sneering Brits have never used their passport anywhere other than France or Spain and therefore have never travelled any further than the average American?

MissConductUS · 29/07/2018 15:54

I live in an area called the Hudson Highlands. We're about 50 miles north of midtown Manhattan and lots of people take the train into the city everyday for work. I did it for years. This picture is from a public park a few miles away. It's an incredibly diverse area.

I moved to the UK from the US, AMA
CraftyGin · 29/07/2018 16:25

Do you try to re-create America here, eg by buying American foods?

sashh · 29/07/2018 18:44


I can understand the scenery and weather being different but what else? Language? Food(with a few local specialities) ? Religion? Customs?

claraschu · 29/07/2018 19:00

Language, food, religion and customs are some of the things-

Avalla33 · 29/07/2018 19:24

So many more great questions! And answers too, thanks for chiming in, guys!

@BakedBeans47 I am saddened by it, personally. I had committed to moving at the time and was literally packing up boxes in the US while watching the vote. I realized that the country I had been planning to move to would not be the same. That being said, I understand why some people would want to leave the EU, although I do not share their views.

Someone else answers the kettle thing but I did actually have an electric kettle in the US! No, they’re not as common. And I am amazed at the frequency with which hot drinks are consumed here.

@CurlyHairedAssassin it does seem small! I’m amazed at how much is packed into a small space, not just physically but culturally as well. The way accents can change so much in such a short distance. It’s strange to think of people crossing European borders like the way we might drive across states. And once again, how much cultures can vary in such a short distance. I love how quickly I can travel to a different country here!

I think my preconceived notions were kept largely at bay because I’ve had some experience traveling in the past and I know how much cultures can vary. Also since I dated and married an Englishman, we discovered things about each other (and each other’s countries) over time. I will say that in general, people are warmer than I had hoped for. Possibly not as enthusiastic or extroverted, but warmer than any stereotype.

@Annadale it doesn’t bother me as much because I know that our system is unusual and complex. It’s tough when people ask you a question and you are always answering “well it depends” because it really does. I do think it’s difficult to grasp the scale of America. How we are regional as well, how you can travel great distances without seeing a lot, what wilderness is like here. I never appreciated forests and solitude much until I moved to the UK.

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CaptainKirkssparetupee · 29/07/2018 19:47

Do you get many generalisations about America told to you by the all knowing British??

Avalla33 · 29/07/2018 19:48

@NotAnotherNoughtiesTune I’ve been exposed to British comedy my whole life, but I admit that I don’t always get it. I’ve made an effort to watch more tv here though because I think you can learn a lot by observing humor. And I do find some of it funny! It’s perhaps a bit dry or pessimistic for me at times?

There’s plenty of American humor I don’t like, as a lot of it seems really stupid and immature. But if I had to choose between the American version of The Office and the British version, for example, I prefer the American one.

@CaptainKirksSpareTupee no, because you all talk about it so much you must have plenty of warning not to eat it. I don’t even know anyone who eats a straight up plain chocolate Hershey’s bar. I’ve only ever used them on s’mores.

@FigmentofImagination and @EspressoPatronum (love the name), thanks! I’ve never had it here, but I expect there would be some differences. I hope to visit many of the cities here, so I’m sure I’ll get to one at some point. Maybe I’ll find that I don’t even like it anymore!

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Avalla33 · 29/07/2018 20:15

@Sevenofdown I agree with Captainkirkssparetupee that religion is the major factor. Religious (Christian) values still shape many things, including the abortion debate. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it also goes back to our Puritanical roots as the US has different attitudes to sex and nudity. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it is shaming women for having sex as well.

@sashh I still forget sometimes and my husband finds me in the refrigerated aisle, looking slightly perplexed. I’m getting better though! We generally keep them unrefrigerated on the counter but I decided to refrigerate them in this heat. I’m confused though, the carton itself says to refrigerate them? Where am I meant to keep them?!

@UnGoogleable yes, the differences in California alone are staggering. Certainly in attitudes, not just the landscape.

@CraftyGin we do keep certain things around the house and my relatives occasionally send packages. I try to keep it to a minimum though as I don’t want to keep one foot over there. My parents were immigrants and really threw themselves into the culture while still retaining parts of themselves. I think one of the benefits to experiencing different cultures is that you can take the best of both worlds. Even for material goods, maybe I can’t find exactly what I’m used to. But maybe I will find something even better!

Before I moved here, I talked to someone who had immigrated to London long ago. He told me to try not to compare everything as it could hold me back and leave me unhappy. Obviously sometimes I still compare things, but I’ve tried to remember his advice and I think I’ve been happier for it.

OP posts:
MissConductUS · 29/07/2018 20:16

If you want fine American chocolate try Ghiradelli's:

I use their baking chips all the time and the regular chocolate sweets are divine. They're based in San Francisco.

HaroldsSocalledBluetits · 29/07/2018 20:17

Hi OP. I'll start by saying that I've never been to the USA but what strikes me often is that - perhaps because of history/shared language - British people often compare it to the UK and criticise it according to our own experience when actually it's a foreign country, with a completely different history, geography and culture and that's why things are different, not because you're "doing British wrong". Do you find that?

CaptainKirkssparetupee · 29/07/2018 20:18

no, because you all talk about it so much you must have plenty of warning not to eat it. I don’t even know anyone who eats a straight up plain chocolate Hershey’s bar
😂 What a brilliant answer!

Avalla33 · 29/07/2018 20:44

Yes to Ghiradelli’s!

@Sevendown I got so worked up about abortion and religion that I forgot to answer your other questions! Yes, drinking seems heavier here. It’s difficult because I do occasionally drink, but not anywhere near the level that people seem to here. I joked to my husband that everything in the grocery store came in smaller amounts except the beer. You can easily see your priorities!

I didn’t realize there was such a difference with abandoned babies, but it could be because of a lack of social services and a safety net. Mothers may sometimes feel that they simply do not have the capabilities or resources to take care of their child.

@Roussette sorry I missed you as well! I think the example you cite is extreme, but I do feel that Americans in general are less environmentally conscious. I want to make it clear that plenty of people are. But I don’t think there are the same cultural values in that way. We don’t encourage (or scold) people to take care of the environment so much. Americans can hold a very self-centered view and one of the things I like about living here is that people seem a little more educated about what’s beyond their borders. The world feels bigger from here, and protecting it feels like a higher priority.

I’ll answer @Captainkirkssparetupee and @HaroldsSocalledBluetits (you guys are killing me with these usernames) together. I was nervous about moving because in my experiences online, I saw a lot of negativity directed towards American by British people, often seemingly unprovoked. It was as if there was some underlying resentment or general disdain and it made me feel bad. Americans make bad jokes about British people (blah blah teeth) but for the most part, we LIKE the UK and are both fond and intrigued by the people who reside here. What I had come across seemed more mean-spirited and a distinct lack of respect towards Americans.

Yes, a good portion of it is about us doing things wrong, when really it’s simply different. As a people, we’ve diverged and really, the way you spell and pronounce things don’t make sense to us half the time either.

People do also generalize a lot and it can be difficult because no, I don’t own hundreds of gun and drape myself in an American flag every night while eating Hershey’s bars.

There are two things that help me to deal with it. One is to remember that it’s a totally normal thing to do. How many times has an American referenced a “British” accent and you’ve wanted to tell them that there is not a single accent? How many jokes have been made about tea and teeth and so much else? Ignorance goes both ways, and I try to just let people know how things have been in my experience, or my opinion. How will anyone know if they don’t have that interaction with someone from another culture? How much do we rely on media to tell us about other cultures? It’s one of he reasons I thought I’d do this AMA, and I’m so pleased that other Americans have joined in. I encourage them to continue to do so. We aren’t the same and I can’t represent the wide variety of people, both wonderful and horrible.

The second thing that has helped is that in person, people are far kinder and more polite. I’ve only encountered one person rudely trashing Americans with absolutely no provocation. Her face when she realized I am American was priceless!

Overall, people are curious but kind, opinionated but also flexible. And I am learning a lot by living here!

OP posts:
Avalla33 · 29/07/2018 20:47

Apologies for the walls of text and accompanying misspellings! Tapping away on my phone furiously trying to do my best!

OP posts:
CaptainKirkssparetupee · 29/07/2018 20:49

This thread is so nice, thank you for answering my questions.

Roussette · 29/07/2018 20:56

Thanks for answering!

Annabelle4 · 29/07/2018 20:57

Massive generalisation again I'm sure, but I follow a lot of American 'moms' and a lot of British 'mums' on Instagram.
I've noticed that over here, we have normalised and post far more about drinking wine, gin, etc and making jokes about it.
I don't see that on the American accounts. I've never been to the states, nor do I know any American women in real life, so I wondered if the wine culture among women & mothers there isn't as socially acceptable (or at least to boast about it on social media)?
Their accounts seem to be more about inspirational quotes, fitness, baking cookies, religious quotes (at least the ones I follow).

Are we seen as having a problem with alcohol?

How do food portions compare? I always imagine enormous portions when I think of eating in the US.

Do you still spell words in American English? Grin

UnGoogleable · 29/07/2018 21:39

I've travelled a lot to the states, and I do find the food portions enormous - BUT, it also seems to be the norm to request a doggie bag to take your food home with you. So it's almost like you're not actually expected to eat all the food in one meal, but you're encouraged to take it home to eat another day.

Is that right? If so, I think it's great - as a traveller, I loved it because I saved money by reheating last night's dinner for lunch each day!

CraftyGin · 29/07/2018 21:47

We are a British-American family living in the U.K. for the last 14 years.

On our trips back to the US, it seems we are converging on waste disposal - they (in Ohio) now have three trash cans. However, they use an obscene number of bags in the grocery store (double bagging for a quart of milk). When we were there a few weeks ago, cycle lanes had popped up. They also had lots of hybrid buses.

HaroldsSocalledBluetits · 29/07/2018 21:56

Thanks for your thought provoking reply, Avalla33. I agree it goes both ways to an extent. I suppose a big part of it is that there is a certain amount of cross cultural currency - for example most British people will have seen more films/read more books from the USA than from, say, France by a magnitude of hundreds and also we get a lot of news reports about you so perhaps we feel more comfortable commenting because we feel more attuned or something. But really there is so much that's different that we find difficult to understand - especially things like your climate which is extreme compared to ours and also your vast expanses. For example a lot of your horror film stories wouldn't work here because we don't have roads that go into huge tracts of mountain country that no one's been to in decades! Stuff like that.

HaroldsSocalledBluetits · 29/07/2018 21:58

Actually on that point - do you have roads that go into huge areas of mountain country that no one's been to in decades?

BakedBeans47 · 29/07/2018 23:47

This thread is so nice, thank you for answering my questions.

Agreed! I’ve enjoyed this and you seem so nice OP x

CraftyYankee · 30/07/2018 00:15

Another American chiming in far as the drinking culture in the US among moms, there is some but it is very conflicted. Probably again to do with that straight-laced Puritan heritage! So there are definitely memes about moms drinking and "It's wine o'clock" or "It's 5pm somewhere" but it is delivered in a tongue in cheek Little-Johnny-is-usually-an-angel-but-today-I-can't-deal joking way.

Among middle class suburban moms I have heard anecdotal stories of people being bored and depressed and drinking as a result but no hard evidence on the reality of that.

As far as alcoholism, the vast majority of people in the US drive and drunk driving is a serious problem, not sure if there is any correlation there.

I'd like to thank OP for her thoughtful responses in this thread! Nice to have an American representative I don't have to apologize for! Grin

CraftyYankee · 30/07/2018 00:19

Harold yes, yes we do. Making a complete generalization, those tend to be the same areas with people who do have hundreds of guns. Vast swathes of the West come to mind - Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, etc. Places you really don't want to run out of gas because it's three hours to the next gas station.

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