Thursday, April 09, 2015

British Expat: Why My Love of England Grew Stronger After Moving to the US

We've all heard the old adage "you never miss it until it's gone." While the geographic existence of England is certainly not in any doubt, I have not visited my homeland in almost 7 years. I last saw it via the window of an Air Canada flight bound toward North America—the continent on which I now reside. That day, I caught a final glimpse of England as the neighboring houses around Heathrow Airport grew smaller and smaller.

In the intervening years, the odds of gaining access to some of the more obscure English customs, products, and services I once took for granted have grown equally small. Back in the day—during the first 27 years of my life—I never imagined there would come a time when my local supermarket would be devoid of Twirls, Twiglets, and sausage rolls or when words such as "mate," "loo," and "knackered" would sound foreign to those who heard them.


Eventually, after some time working and living in the U.S., I came to not just miss England, but—like many of the Anglophiles I've met since—yearn for it. 

Before long, I suddenly counted Union Jack tea towels among my possessions, and found myself scouring Netflix for the latest offering of Call the Midwife—a show I would not otherwise have idolized before my transplant across the Pond. I frequented "authentic" British pubs in the heart of Indianapolis and routinely added pickled onions and mint sauce to my shopping trolley (cart in the US). I even developed a new-found appreciation for the Royal Family, for whom I had once felt nothing but utter indifference.

The truth is, I was becoming an Anglophile. And living in America was making me this way.

Now don't get me wrong—the only crime America had committed during this mental renaissance of mine was the following: it wasn't England. This, by international law, is probably not the most serious felony, though it is one that caused me to have the odd (sometimes very odd) sleepless night. 

A lot of those nightsat least early onwere spent thinking about the friends and family I'd left behind. But as the years went on and as I began to accept that these people were absent from my day-to-day life, a strange thing began to happen: I suddenly realized there were various aspects of English life that had escaped my memory. For instance, it hit me one day that I'd not heard the word love used as an affectionate noun (as in, that will be four pounds and fifty-seven pence, love) in the longest time.

From approximately that moment on, I decided it was time to get to grips once more—even from the relative distance of the United States—with my inner-Brit and to rediscover all of those elements that had seemingly passed me by.

Actually, this was one of the governing reasons behind the launch of this blog, which—through research, conversation, and feedback—has brought me considerably closer to those elements in recent years. Moreover, my contributions to Anglotopia and BBC America have put me in contact with people whose love of, and enthusiasm for, Britain has helped fuel those same things in me. Indeed, these have been bolstered further still by the daily interactions I continue to have with Brits and Anglophiles alike on my Facebook page.

More than any of this, though, it was probably the cultural differences between England and the U.S. that truly sparked a love for my own country. While, I appreciate these differences and routinely defend America on a lot of points, there exists in me a sense of pride over where I've come from. So often this pride takes the form of a proclamation, in which I lay out, in no uncertain terms, that x, y, and z is done differently back home (particularly "z").

I think most expats are this way. You come to defend your homeland in a manner that you can't recall having ever done before. You take on an unofficial ambassadorial role—constantly singing the praises of a country that, while nonetheless flawed, represents the one place that never escapes you during the course of your life: home.

After all, you never miss it until it's gone.

This article was written by Laurence Brown. Laurence is a British expat living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has written extensively for BBC America and Anglotopia. As Editor-in-chief of Lost in the Pond, he loves nothing more than to share these articles with anglophiles, expats, and other interested parties on social media. Follow Lost in the Pond on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

12 comments:

Ljiljana Oliver said...

America is for Americans and Europe is for Europeans.

Mark said...

I'm not sure I understand what that means, Ljiljana?

magz said...

I couldnt have put it any better myself. :)

Memarge said...

Lawrence, I totally understand the yearning. My mother was from the UK and I was in my late 30s before I could visit her family with her. I'd grown up my entire childhood yearning for the lands of my ancestors and I loved it but I should have gone as a teen.

Elizabeth West said...

I first visited England at 18, and I fell in love. It was nearly 30 years before I was able to go back (last autumn) and now I'm less than two weeks out from another visit. I wish I could live there--I'm English by ancestry, not birth, but there's something about it. I just don't feel weird when I go there, but I sure do when I come back. Maybe someday....*sigh*

Anonymous said...

Lawrence, I left the UK with my American husband when I was 22 years old. I spent the next 35 years going back and forth across the Atlantic to go home, I cried my eyes out every time I left, finding it got harder as my parents grew older. Finally 2 years ago after raising my sons in the U.S ( they have the advantage of dual nationality) we moved back home. Is it perfect? No, but as much as I miss my American friends and family, it would be very hard now to give up fish and chips, pubs on a Saturday night, a chat with the local baker etc. Americans love all things British, which was nice, we are still a novelty to them, but back in the UK I don't have to explain myself when I say, " keep your knickers on" or I need to "spend a penny"! I would not have missed the experiences I had living in the U.S, it broadened my horizons and gave me wonderful career opportunities that I may not have had if I had stayed in the U.K. I'm glad I am back home, but I will be back to visit the U.S when I can!!

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David Jackson said...

I can see how someone will move from USA to uk. You can miss it but moving there with the weather and the small houses with one toilet and bath. No dish washer and daily ironing. Hmmm I'm from uk. I miss family but not the good life and good job and positive attitude I get in USA

Anonymous said...

Disagree, I immigrated to Arizona from the UK and I have no interest in British things. I think it's important to assimilate if you immigrate to a new country, if you're not prepared to do that and are constantly yearning for the things from your homeland, what's the point in moving in the first place? The fact that you buy things with the Union Jack on them instead of the Stars and Stripes speaks volumes, it doesn't sound like you really want to be here.

Laurence Brown said...

Dear Anonymous,

It's not quite as simple as that: http://www.lostinthepond.com/2013/08/what-i-love-about-living-in-usa-by.html

Fr said...

I have lived in the bay area for 5 years. I have also become Anglophile since being here. I am trying to convince my US husband to move to Yorkshire with me but he is reluctant and I may have to return alone. I can't settle here as I am too much of a socialist. I have never settled into work environments as people do not understand me well enough. I feel lonely in a land of robots. People are really kind and friendly here but the political system and healthcare is absolutely terrible. I miss British beer, countryside, quaint architecture, wicked sense of humour, telly, family and friends, equal opportunities, seasons, fish and chips, paid time off..I wish British people would be as welcoming as Americans but no nation is perfect.

Anonymous said...

As an American living in Brighton, I have to say, I've had the exact same realization in reverse.

I miss country music culture, American holidays (especially the July 4th brand of fireworks, bonfires, and cookouts), and overall American customs that are as a part of me as my DNA.

That doesn't make me love England any less. It's like a parent with two children. You love them both equally and for different reasons at the same time.

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