Finding America

Me and Tarah

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This month, it’ll be ten whole years since I bid farewell to Britain and set off for a new life here in the US. The last seven of those have been spent living in the suburbs of Atlanta. It’s been an eye-opening experience in many respects.

If you ever happen to bring up the topic of American suburbia while chatting with a Brit, it will most likely conjure up images of white picket fences, giant cars, and American flags fluttering in the breeze. An embodiment of the great “American dream” if you will.

We’ve all watched shows like Desperate Housewives, Suburgatory, or Modern Family, so we pretty much know what life in the American suburbs is like, don’t we? We know about the familial dysfunction, teen angst, and keeping up with the Joneses.

However, there are some lesser-known challenges to living in the burbs. Ones you might not know about unless you’ve experienced life here for yourself.  It’s not all manicured lawns and lemonade stands.

Don’t get me wrong. Life in the suburbs has been very good to me. We have more space than a Londoner could ever dream of. It’s a fantastic place to raise children. Our neighbours are delightful (never in my previous life did my neighbours ever pop by with homemade pies or hampers to welcome us to the area!).

But the truth is that there are some hidden dangers lurking in these parts. And when I say dangers, they might possibly be closer to petty irritations. But still, here’s what you need to look out for…

1. The Creepy Crawly Intruder
Since relocating to suburban Atlanta, I’ve been faced with many an unwanted house-guest of the six- or eight-legged variety. Or even worse–the slithery, no-legged variety.

The first time I ever saw a scorpion in real life, was not at the arachnid exhibit of a zoo, but in the basement of my own home. We’ve not yet spotted a snake inside the house, but they’ve come alarmingly close (the garage). There are the giant angry-looking red wasps. And of course the fat, hairy-legged spiders, which, I’m quite certain, do not even exist in Britain.

They’re all terrifying, and have no business being inside our homes, and yet it’s seemingly impossible to keep them out.

While I can’t speak for the country at large, in the South at least, it’s no joke. I lived in Florida for a few years before moving to Georgia, where it was even worse (palmetto bugs!).

It’s no wonder that the pest control services do such good business around here.

2. The School Run Mom
Let me preface this by pointing out that I am a school run mom myself, and will daresay become a complete nuisance to other drivers before long (that is, if I’m not already). It’s almost an inevitability.

The school run mom is of course very easily identifiable. She can usually be found behind the wheel of a minivan (I’m not there yet) emblazoned with bumper stickers relating to various schools and extra-curricular clubs.

You’ll quite often spot the silhouette of flailing kid arms through the rear window. This might be as a result of a) dancing; b) snacks being passed around; c) someone being told off; or d) all of the above. There are many distractions for the school run mom.

In any case, there’s a very real danger that if you get stuck behind her car on your way to the shops or work, it could make you either very late or simply very annoyed.

3. The Sidewalk to Nowhere
If you’re ever in the mood to take a stroll around your suburban neighbourhood, you should be aware that a nice consistent pavement is not guaranteed.

In my own experience, sidewalks in suburban America often provide no real, practical purpose. They can stop abruptly, leaving the pedestrian with no choice but to traipse through grass or mud. Sometimes you’re simply deposited onto the road.

I wonder if they were designed primarily to keep the dog walkers happy. And perhaps one day the growing trend towards walkable urbanism will reach us. But for now, getting anywhere by foot in the suburbs is not always easy.

I honestly never expected that pavements would be something I’d miss about Britain!

4. The Rabid Critter
Rabies was eradicated from Britain in the early 20th century. But it’s still going strong here in the US, and there’s no escaping it in the burbs.

Let me tell you a fun story to illustrate the point.

One day, towards the end of last year, a neighbour of mine posted a message in our community Facebook group. He wanted to offer an explanation for gun shots that could be heard ringing out across the neighbourhood that morning. There had apparently been some animal trouble.

It turns out that he’d been enjoying a nice early morning jog when a coyote appeared from nowhere and took a bite out of his leg.

He managed to wrestle the coyote to the ground, where he held it for 20 minutes or so until animal control showed up and dealt with the poor thing. To add insult to injury, my neighbour was rewarded with a trip to the local hospital for the requisite rabies shots.

Growing up in a place where an overly-aggressive pigeon or disgruntled hedgehog is about as bad as it gets, this new situation is absolutely petrifying to me.

Although at least now I have a good excuse to skip the morning jog.

5. The Impossibly Young Driver
To be fair to the youngsters, there are undoubtedly many who are responsible drivers and are very careful behind the wheel. And to be honest, they’re generally not doing any harm to anyone. 

But I still just can’t get over it when I see a child cruising along in - what I can only assume to be their parents’ large, luxury SUV. It just seems plain wrong to me.

In Britain, we of course have to wait until 17 to hold a licence. I was that age when I passed my driving test and then used to tootle about town in my Mum’s little Austin Metro. However, I didn’t own my own car until I was close to 30 and living in the US.

Ahh, the American suburbs… despite my grumbling, I do enjoy living here. Thanks for having me!

Polly Flynn is a British Expat living in Atlanta. She has two gorgeous little girls and a wonderful husband who convinced her that America really is the place to be. You’ll typically find her chaotically juggling work and motherhood, dreaming about her next holiday and drinking tea by the bucketload.  She blogs about parenting, fashion and being a transplant at A Lively Mind. Come and say hello on Instagram or Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. America isn't what its all cracked up to be. After visiting the UK, I would gladly change places. Its so charming over there and not "plastic" at all. I personally think the US is not what it use to be and we are far to obsessed with McMansions, giant SUV's, trampolines and swimming pools in the backyards, and vacations to Disney World... shallow, very shallow.


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