A lot of us have spent time day dreaming about living in a far off place, and we all have a list of destinations that we would love to go to. Some of us have even either experienced this ourselves, or through a family member or friend moving away.
I have a friend Jo who moved to the United States in 2006, the day after our A Level results; I took this opportunity to ask her a few questions about her experiences and thoughts on living and adapting to the states (this also served as part of a much needed and long overdue catch up).
Why did you move to America?
I moved with my parents. I had the choice to either stay or to go with them. I just couldn’t pass up on an opportunity to go on an adventure. So I decided to go with them.
What where the major differences you found? What was the hardest adjustment?
There were a lot of differences. There was a lot of slang terms here that I didn’t understand at first. It was like being a child again relearning everything. (For more on this, check out our article on American/English word clashes!) You would go to the store and not know what brand was good to buy and what was not. The food acted differently in your stomach. I would get constant unsettled feeling. It took about a year for my metabolism to just.
The hardest adjustment was getting use to people asking the same question again and again. “Where are you from? Cool accent. What brought you here? And why Maine?” I was never one for being in the centre of attention. When it came to shopping you could never tell how much you spent until you reached the register. All prices are labelled without tax. Tax was then applied at the register. Each state has different taxes. Maine sale tax is 5% on what you buy in New Hampshire there is no sales tax. It depends on the state so it can get really confusing.
How were you treated by the locals?
The locals would see my family with interest and always wanted to know our story. It sometimes got us some special treatment like a free drink at a restaurant. When it came to my first job. I worked at a donut restaurant. Yes they found me as a novelty but I wasn’t allowed to do certain things. For example the drive through intercom. Reason being the Americans on the other side couldn’t understand a word I was saying. This was due to my accent mixed in with the use of my soft quiet polite English voice. To fit in American you have to talk louder and in their slang. That has taken some time and a lot of repeating myself.
Would you do anything differently?
No, I wouldn’t do anything differently. It was all part of the learning experience. I like living here.
Do people still treat you differently now?
No they are mostly really nice. In the 9 years since I’ve lived here I have learned the slang and now sadly speak more like them. I have an accent mixed with the British and American. So many don’t notice any more. The few that do want to know my story but that doesn’t happen much any more
Is there anything you miss?
Of course, I miss many things. I find I miss the countryside the most. I miss the variety and diversity of walks you can do in England. I miss being able to go outside without being concerned about being bitten alive by Mosquitos or ticks in the summer or freezing to death in the winter. I also miss friends and family that I haven’t seen in a long while. The worst is when one of them gets married or a death. I don’t have enough money to go, so I watch from a distance a whole ocean apart. That can be the hardest part. Missing out on some of life’s important events of those you love. (Writers note: This feeling runs both ways, a strange ‘happy sadness’ comes with important events like weddings)
Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of or preparing to move abroad?
Moving abroad is a very big step that will change you for life. I never realized that I would have a feeling of being between two worlds. I don’t fully feel like I fit fully in America but I’ve changed so much that I will never fit fully in England anymore. So if a person was thinking of moving abroad that is something they may have to consider. It’s very risky at first you don’t know if you are going like it and the question what if it fails. My advice is to do your research fully and have a backup plan in case it fails. Also to be true in your heart that is what you want to do because once you move there is no going back from that experience, the good and the bad.
Moving away, no matter how far or close the distance, affects everyone around you. In this case, I knew from the day I first started talking to Jo that she was moving with her family to the US after A Level results, so we had two years knowing this was going to happen. To be honest, it doesn’t matter if the move is sudden or planned for a long time, the change is great and still feels the same no matter what the circumstances are.