Aug 25 2014
Almost exactly a year ago my family and I moved from Northern California to 20 miles west of the capital of the United Kingdom, London. It was the start of an adventure that’s exposed us to a new culture, cut us off from most of our friends and family and made massive changes to how we see the world. We’ve had to make huge adjustments in our expectations, our lifestyle and how we drive, but my wife and I both think it’s been worth it. The children seem to disagree, if you believe their loud and frequent complaints. But these seem to be fewer and fewer as time goes by.
The first few weeks we were living in an apartment a few miles from where we live now. It was a good landing spot while we waited for our shipment to arrive. But being a family of four in a two bedroom apartment was its own special level of hell when you’re used to having a little privacy from time to time. Thankfully our stuff arrived in fairly short order and we got to move into the house we’re living in now. Everyone has their own space, though my wife spends most of her time in the kitchen or her office, while the kids spend theirs on the computer in the reception room we designated their office and I spend mine in an office that was converted from half the garage. It’s a good house, about 100 yards from the station, with two trains an hour into London’s Waterloo station.
Learning to drive on the other side of the road wasn’t difficult and we’ve only made the mistake of driving on the right side of the road a few times each, thankfully in parking lots for the most part. Getting used to roundabouts was more of a learning experience and I know I got honked at more than a few times that first month. Now I’m fully adjusted and wondering why they’re being used so badly in the US, when they really do contribute to traffic flows when used properly. The biggest problem I’ve had adjusting has been the bathrooms here, with the light switch on the outside, separate hot and cold water taps and toilets that just don’t seem to work as well as I’d like. There’s also the shopping, but over the last year we’ve managed to decipher the English equivalent of American products, even if it doesn’t always look or feel exactly like we’re expecting. There are a few products we still can’t get, like proper stuffing and chocolate chips. But my occasional business travel to the US makes those limitations livable if we’re frugal in using our resources.
The children are the one’s who’ve had the hardest time adjusting though. School has been a step back for them, since the UK schools don’t seem to be equipped to deal with exceptional children and this has frustrated them greatly. They miss their friends, which is sometimes harder because they can get on Skype and talk to them whenever their sleep patterns allow. What they absolutely hate the most is when the wife and I say, “You’ll look back on this when you’re older and realize what a great opportunity it was.” Tomorrow’s appreciation is for tomorrow, while today’s whining and complaining is for today. What they don’t realize is that they’ve seen half a dozen countries in the last year, more than many Americans will ever see in their entire life. I hope they don’t hate us too much until the light of appreciation dawns upon them.
This is the end of the first year in England, with at least two more to go, barring the unexpected. We’re settled in as a family, I’m settling in more to the role I’ve chosen at work and at least the wife and I are glad we made the choice to leave the US and immigrate to England, at least temporary. We spent a week December exploring Munich, my wife spent her 50th birthday visiting museums around Amsterdam and we took a train into London on Saturday to explore Brick Market and Old Spitalfield Market. These are the kinds of experiences we came to Europe to have. And this week we have both friends and family visiting from the States. I hope I survive the experience.
We’ll always be outsiders in England. But life here almost feels … normal.