Sunday, March 22, 2009

Seven Questions--The British Edition

One of my greatest life experiences was spending a year in England. I came away with a taste for Yorkie bars, lifelong friendships and a whole bunch of priceless memories. But, what is life like for an English rose who finds herself permanently transplanted to US soil? The wonderful Christie introduced me to native Brit Emily. Here are her thoughts on the American life with a British accent.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself. Where were you born andraised? What brought you to the US? How long have you been here? Do you think you will stay?
I was born in Roehampton in south-west London. I lived there for my entire childhood and my family home was a stone's throw from the River Thames in Surbiton, Surrey. I have fond memories of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, walks by the river ending in Hampton Court Park, and Saturdays spent in London browsing for goodies in Camden Market.

I moved to Birmingham in the Midlands for College where I studied to be an Elementary School teacher working with the creative arts.

I met my husband, Darran, at College where he was a science major and we married in 1993. Darran finally finished school in 1998, with baby number 2 two months away, and he got his first job offer from Brown University. We boarded the plane with all our worldly possessions stuffed into five suitcases, three year old daughter Robyn, and a seven month along bump which would later be Fay and took flight for Boston. Ten years and four children later we are still here - Darran has changed jobs two more times - and we are now living in West Virginia. We have four girls (Robyn, Fay, Victoria and Alexandra) and one boy (James). West Virginia is a big change from New England, and an even bigger one from England but we love it and have no plans to cross the pond again.

2. What were your perceptions of America and Americans when you were growing up in England? Do you think they were accurate? Did you ever thinkyou would live here?
There was a US High School in Cobham, a few miles from my house and so there we quite a lot of American members in my church growing up. Most of these families were executives working in London and were living in quite elaborate homes so, naturally, my perception was that all Americans were well dressed, intelligent, and amazingly rich, and of course had perfect teeth. I used to think that I would attend BYU and marry an American but instead a married an Englishman and moved to the USA anyway.

3. After arriving in the States, what adjustments did you have to make? Did you experience culture shock? What were the biggest surprises?
The biggest adjustments were:

(1) Needing a car to get to the store even if it was close enough to walk since there were no sidewalks to walk on.
(2) Learning to speak American.
(3) Remembering not to drive on the left.
(4) Being able to afford to buy beef but not being able to afford to buy lamb.
(5) Trying to do anything in life without a Social Security Number, bank account and a US drivers license - talk about Catch 22.

The biggest surprises were:

(1) How cheap gas was and still is. It is at least $8 per gallon in England.
(2) How bad skunks smell - we don't have them in England.
(3) How hot the summers are and how cold and looooong winters are - a good excuse to buy a new wardrobe.

4. Is your husband American? Does it create any cultural differences inyour marriage? What changes have you made to accommodate one another?
No. He is English but he is from the North of England so that causes some cultures clashes all of their own.

5. How are you raising your children to stay connected to their British heritage? Do you have any special family traditions or celebrations?
We buy English food when we can. We were lucky in Boston to live five minutes from a British store and 25 minutes from an English Meat Pie shop. Those days are gone, but we can get England's traditional dish - Curry - from the local supermarket.

All of our children like to eat curry and trifle (although not together).
Our eldest went to visit grandparents in the summer last year and we are continuing this year.

6. What are the things you miss most about living in the UK? Are there any foods or other products that you have to import from home? (And wherecan WE find them, too?!)
A lot of them are in supermarkets now but we do shop at British and British Pantry . Some favorites for our family are Milky Bars, Curly Wurly, Ginger Beer, Jaffa Cakes and Custard Creams.

7. Finally, do you ever find yourself internally divided across the Atlantic? How do you stay in touch with friends and family back home without getting too homesick? How do you create new memories and friendships to enjoy this new part of your life? How do you take the bestof both countries and make them part of your life now?
In the last few years technology has really improved and makes a big difference. With Vonage we get free calls to England. Skype and Facebook help us keep in touch. It is not the same as being around the corner from family though. We are often torn by being so far away from grandparents but if we went to visit regularly we couldn't all fit in anybody's house.

The US has been great to our family and our children are American which would make it difficult to move back. We do try to anglicize things a little though and one way that we have taken the worst of both cultures is through watching Simon Cowell on the British TV show - X-Factor. The children love it! Thanks, Emily! (Mr. Cowell was unavailable for comment.)

Emily blogs at Cairnsliving. From the UK to's very multicultural!


Lauren in GA said...

That was amazing, Gabi. I have lurked on Emily's blog before and I find her totally fascinating.

When she commented about learning to, "speak American" I realized how I never really take that into consideration. It is such a different culture, I'm sure.

diane said...

Oooh lala London. I love that city. What I miss most are Malteasers and castles.

Thanks for the introduction to a cool British girl.

cami said...

Another neat interview, Gabi! Emily has a beautiful family.

Travelin'Oma said...

I love all the British words with different meanings from their American counterparts: jumpers, trainers, torches, boots, mugs, knickers, ice lolly, cotton wool, ring list might be totally out of style by now. I hope we Americans are treating you kindly and helping you learn to love the place.

calibosmom said...

I just adore Ms Emily! She is one classy English Rose! Thanks for doing this interview-its been great getting to know her and now I know even more! Keep up the fun interviews.

Christie said...

Yay! I am so happy you have found Emily. She is such an amazing person. What a great interview.

And Emily, that picture of you and Darran - you look like a supermodel or moviestar. Just gorgeous.

martha corinna said...

Mmmm...I love trifle. Great interview.

Emy5 said...

Thanks Christie for the compliment but you have to understand that picture was taken a very long time ago, and I look old and wrinkly now.

You are the beautiful one!

And Diane, I really wish I was cool. Thanks for at least thinking that!

And Travelin Oma, that was funny. I am very careful not to use the words fag or suspenders in public.

Lauren and Calibosmom. Love you guys. Thanks for making my day.

See how good my American is, saying "you guys!"

Cathy said...

As always a nice interview! It is so fun to get to know such a variety of people! All these differences that color our world so beautifully! Thanks for sharing!

Rochelleht said...

Oh, I think I have a bit of a girl-crush. Seriously.

TMI? It's the Jane Austen in me. I can't help.

Sally said...

Great interview. This was fun to read and totally interesting.

Ilene said...

And I think having my parents live in Chicago is far away.

I wish I didn't know what skunk smelled like either.

Great interview.

Jenibelle said...

I can just imagine that proper british accent in very laid back speakin' West Virginia!! What part of WV? We're going to Pipestem this summer!

I'll bet it's both sad and wonderful to be here in the US, thank goodness Emily seems to like us Yanks!

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