With my significant other (who I’ve dubbed my “life partner”) back in the States for a brief visit to the motherland, I was faced with the realisation that I have not graced America with my presence in 15 months. Surely this extended tour outside the confines of the land of the free and the home of the brave could not possibly have changed me? At first I didn’t think so, but on second thought . . . I may need to re-examine things.
As far as I can tell, I still speak with the painful cadence indicative of America’s West coast. I have, however, incorporated a few Anglo-centric words and phrases into my vocabulary. Examples include “whilst”, “prawn” (though I still much prefer shrimp), “toilet” (as opposed to bathroom), and “loads of” (instead of a lot). So, aside from adopting a few words to make my life a little easier here across the pond, I can safely say that my regionalised America accent is fully in tact.
First and foremost – I HAVE NO CAR. This means that I have not stepped foot into the driver’s seat of a vehicle for over a year. If I can hark back to my days in America, I’m pretty sure that would be considered blasphemous. Life in the US without a car is not a life worth living, unless you happen to be in one of the few places where there is decent public transport infrastructure.
With these sorts of parking skills, it’s probably best that I don’t own a car anymore.
So, my lifestyle has changed significantly. The glorious days of late night runs for 99 cent cheeseburgers are long over. Instead, I’ve been forced to replace them with careful grocery store planning and I spend many, many more minutes carrying bags of groceries than in the past. Breezy weekends in my car running errands have transformed into a god-like mastery of public transportation systems, map reading and jaywalking. Suffice to say that my arteries better thank me for this because it’s been a huge adjustment for me to make.
In America, my weekend routines resembled a pagan ritual to consumerism, starting out with drive-through Starbucks (tall hot caramel macchiato!), then onwards to Target (for no particular reason), mixed in with a dash of whatever store was sporting the biggest “Sale” sign in the strip mall. In London I enjoy a mocha from the cafe across the street from my flat. After the requisite grocery shopping the life partner and I usually set out to explore the city. Often times we visit museums, or take a ferry along the River Thames. We’ve also ventured out on several day trips to places like Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Castle. I hesitate to say that it’s a more cultured existence (we do hit up the giant Westfield mall every now and again), but it’s certainly more varied. The dullness of life in the ‘burbs has been replaced by splashes of excitement and for that I am very thankful.
Rowing on a day out in Oxford, England
Alright, well I’d be lying to say that I was a true red-blooded patriot 15 months ago. In reality, I was pretty sick of living in the US and that’s part of the reason why I moved. That being said, I think I’ve been away long enough to dawn the proverbial rose-tinted glasses when thinking about those United States. There’s something about the phrases “amber waves of grain” and “purple mountains majesty” that makes me smile a little on the inside. I miss the open roads, the cheap food and the smell of Home Depot.
Sunset and the Open Road: America the Beautiful
In a positive revelation, I seem to have let go of the bitterness and resentment I felt for the country I called home for so many years. Moving out of the States and gaining exposure to a new sort of lifestyle has allowed me to view things more objectively. Yes, there are and were many things flawed in the US and its society, but these issues aren’t necessarily isolated. In fact, Europe faces some of the same issues to varying degrees. That being said I am still not a patriotic spokesperson for America and if you asked me who I’ll be cheering for in the Olympics this year, it’s Germany and Thailand all the way.
Would I Consider Moving Back?
In a nutshell, no. Maybe it’s my aforementioned lack of patriotism, or the fact that I’ve spent the better part of 10 years outside the US, but I have no real desire to go back. I wasn’t born in America and neither were my parents, so other than the language and familiarity with the culture there is nothing tying me to it. Plus, I am very much determined to live in both continental Europe and Australia in the future and the US doesn’t ever seem to make it into my plans.
The saying “never say never” is around for a reason and I guess I can’t rule moving back to the States out completely. If I’m lucky I have another 50+ years to go and it’s impossible to predict with a high degree or certainty where I will or won’t go within that timespan.
I’m car-less, use the word prawn and when I write I sometimes replace a “z” with an “s”. These aren’t exactly monumental shifts in one’s persona, but when taking into account the speed and rate in which all of these seemingly tiny changes have been occurring, I suppose I’ve changed a good deal. Maybe it took leaving America or maybe it was just a simple case of growing up, but I feel much more like a citizen of the world rather than to any one nation. America is, of course, famously insular when it comes to the education of its children. We don’t grow up learning how to see the world through anyone else’s eyes.
So in addition to walking a little more, visiting a museum or two and speaking slightly differently, I think I’ve begun to see the world without the filter of American lenses. While it’s not exactly like gaining a new sense, it’s still a very powerful experience.