I’ve had the pleasure to interview Claire, a fellow blogger from the UK, about her experience in the U.S., after moving to Maryland with her husband and son a little over a year ago. She’s enjoying her new American life to the fullest and shares a little bit about it with us.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from the South of England – beautiful Bath. I went back recently to see it, and appreciated it a thousand times more than I had done when I lived there. I loved it then, but I adored its rich culture, vibrancy and history a whole load more when I saw it with fresh eyes. I miss that kind of city in the UK.
How long have you been living in the U.S. and what do you do?
I’ve been in the USA for just over a year. It’s felt like a holiday in some respects, although I do work pretty much full time – teaching fitness, running a nutrition programme and writing. The first year everything seems new and different, funny and frustrating, interesting and curious. Now I am more settled, I’ve ingratiated myself into the American lifestyle – that’s what I’m interested in and that is what feeds my writing; we do live differently, we speak differently, we have different influences and we engage differently. It’s fascinating.
Why did you decide to move to America and how did you pick your destination?
We moved to the States because we had the opportunity, and I’m not really one to turn down an opportunity if it comes my way. As a family – husband and son are here too – we are now experiencing a whole new way of life and adventure together. Howard County, Maryland, is very family-orientated and that means we can enjoy life here, or travel from this location to see other areas of the U.S. very easily – and I have an urge to see so much more. It’s a big ole country, so I doubt we will see all of it, but we will do our damndest to!
How did you get your visa?
I got my work visa pretty easily – I encourage everyone to talk to the British Embassy to get the ball rolling. And seek employment – the two together can set that in motion to secure your visa. Persistence is the key!
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
I didn’t find too much too difficult. It’s more about knowing what to bring with you, and what to leave behind. And I did a lot of research about the area, schools, facilities and culture. Nothing totally prepares you for upping sticks, but the more you find out beforehand, the less of a shock it all is! It can be quite tiresome getting through all the paperwork, but you get there in the end and things do begin to fall into place.
What do you enjoy most about living in America?
I love finding out about people – meeting them, talking to them, discovering our differences and similarities, confusing them with words like ‘gutted’ and phrases like ‘fill your boots’ – it amuses me greatly that our British colloquialisms are not widely known in the U.S.
And I love seeing the various areas of America. It is such a large country, and it fascinates me how the state laws differ so dramatically. The cultures are so varied, the landscape, the scenery….New York is so incredibly cultural and full of life, and then a little historic town in Virginia can be so quaint and entrenched in Civil War history. I do still see some it as a movie set – long may I continue to ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over things I see!
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
I miss netball! It’s a game we girls played at school and which I played with a slight addiction in the UK before I came out. Luckily I have found a team in DC and I’m even playing in the U.S. netball championships in Atlanta in November! It’s slowly making its way into the U.S sports psyche!
I do miss ‘towns’ and ‘villages’ and ‘popping out’. Where I live you have to drive. Fact. You can’t really ‘pop’ anywhere without getting in your car, which can be frustrating at times, and a pain for visitors. But when I do find a town that I like – Ellicott City (not a ‘city’ as we know it in the UK) is one of my favourites – it’s quirky and historic and has a lot of soul. I like that.
Have you found a good source to buy British food in America?
I don’t have a need for any British food here! If a visitor from the UK comes out, I do put in an order for real chocolate – Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, but that’s it! You can buy pretty much anything here, and one of the things I enjoy is trying out the foods – even though it can lead to an expanding waistband…
What are the biggest differences between everyday life in England and America?
We’ve made our lives different here, simply by trying to do everything we can, all the time. If there is an event going on, we’ll be there! If there is something happening, or a place to visit, we head there. In the UK we were active, but much less inclined to seek out events or purposefully go somewhere. That’s because everything here is a new experience. Our weekends are packed, and our weeks are very busy. But like I said, it’s all an opportunity not to be missed and I see it as a very positive thing, if a little exhausting at times!
In your own expat blog you share your everyday impressions of your life in America. Tell us a little bit about it and how you picked the name.
My blog started as a kind of memoir/postcard of my initial visit here to suss out the area. I saw everything with new and interested eyes, and wanted to write about it. So the blog happened. The area I live in is a little reminiscent of the area in the show Desperate Housewives, and I lived a little in fear that I would become one of them, so the name UKDesperateHousewifeUSA evolved. I have created a kind of persona with the name now, and local people read my blog too. Thankfully they are amused by my observations – I never want to offend, but it is very tongue in cheek and it gives them three things – an insight into my British perspective, a good slice of British humour, and a chance to see the place they live, work and play through new eyes.
I love writing it, and keep my notebook and camera always handy – pictures and descriptions of even the smallest things that confuse, amuse or bemuse me in America make it to the blog. Recently I’ve talked about the plethora of pumpkins, gun control, Girl Scout cookies, driving rules (or lack of them!) and how we view the political arena as it happens in the U.S.
I’ve not become a Desperate Housewife, thankfully, but I was hoping to find some sort of covert ‘fight club’ in these wealthy suburbs to blog about….I may find one yet!
What were the most shocking or surprising experiences you’ve had since you’re here?
The polarization of wealth and poverty. You can be in affluent Howard County with parks and trees, and whopping great houses, education for all, great restaurants and employment and then 20 minutes up the road, there are the Baltimore projects……poverty and crime at its worst. I’m planning a ride-along with the police to this area shortly…..I am prepared to be shocked.
What American stereotypes turned out to be true and false?
That Americans are dumb. This bugs me, because I’ve certainly met a variety of Americans out here, and met some that did not fulfill the stereotypes that are placed upon them. I’ve been lucky to hook up with Americans who are philanthropic, generous, articulate, intelligent, positive and kind. I think sometimes there is a British arrogance when it comes to Americans…
My son integrates with American kids at school, and whilst there are some real cultural and linguistic differences, we remind him that one way is not right and one way is not wrong – we are just different, and different is good.
Please share your best advice for Living, Working and Traveling in the US. Anything in particular for other Brits?
Come with an open mind, don’t judge, continue to be fascinated and enjoy the lifestyle.
If you are offered a ticket to a baseball game, take it.
If you have a few spare hours, take that drive to the beach or the mountains.
If you see there is a Rodeo on, go to it.
Carpe diem….that’s my advice.
It’s a great place – just go with it and experience it, and you will have a ball!