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 nights—at least early on—were 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.