Life in England One Year In: The State of the Union
Given that I've
It's been a strange ol' year, for many reasons. Some of it is just part and parcel of any move. Some of it has to do with the strange set of circumstances that being an expat sets you up with. Some of it is very likely unique to living in the UK. Either way, here we are, a year later, and, in the tradition beloved of US Presidents, I present here a
We're not living in Bristol, where we originally thought we'd live. In fact, we're living about an hour's worth of a commute away in Bath, which, as it turns out, is somewhere everyone in the world has been or wants to go. (Note: While MsC understood that Bath was a lovely city and a big draw to anyone with a love for Jane Austen, she completely admits not realizing just how immensely popular it was with the rest of the universe -what with the Royal Crescent and the Roman Baths and so on - until it turned out that just about everyone she knew had already been there and declared it one of their favorite cities in England. And don't get me started on the Austen fans. They were
We're starting to belong (a little bit.) We'd moved quite a few times in the US before we headed overseas as a family, and the one thing that MsCaroline always kept in the back of her mind was this: You have to live somewhere for about a year before you start to feel like it is home. This has proved to be the case in the UK as well. We returned to the UK from our Christmas holidays, and were gratefully surprised to realize that we had, in fact, put down some tiny beginnings of roots. We picked up the dog from our lovely sitters (a young couple who, in my opinion, represent everything that is good about the often-disparaged Millennials) with a nice chat about our holidays and plans for the coming year. A few hours later, we ran into friends in the grocery store (we know enough people to actually run into some of them at the grocery!) (and, yes, we were those people, the ones who stand there nattering and blocking access to the grapes with their trolleys,) found a number of Christmas cards popped through our letterbox in our absence, and (the ultimate) got quizzed on our visit to the States by the clerk at our corner store, who knew we were leaving and wanted a summary. It was, in short, Coming Home.
We still miss Korea: Yes, we love England, but we miss Korea. We miss our friends and our jobs. We miss the expat community there. We miss the energy, the bustle, and the excitement that is living in a megalopolis like Seoul. We miss cozy winter evenings at our local Korean BBQ, the neon lights of Hongdae, the strangely peaceful hikes through Namsan Park (despite being smack in the middle of a city of millions,) the crazy traffic, the incredible food, the privilege of living in a culture of honesty, honor, and constant striving for excellence. We miss it all.
We're empty nesters now (at least for the moment): #1 was duly graduated (summa cum laude, if I may brag for just a moment) from his university course in December and has begun his career as a financial analyst with a respected institution. #2 began his university studies in August and handled his first semester with aplomb. He will be back with us in England for the summer
I'm working again. Teaching part time (one course) at a local University My students are lovely, my colleagues (who hail from all over the world) are equally so, and my work environment (as most universities are) is diverse and stimulating. As an expat wife, I am fortunate to be a teacher, one of the very few really portable international professions.
I don't have an English accent - or anything even close: What I do have, however, are phrases, words, and sayings. And inflections. Nothing major, nothing deliberate, just a slow wearing-away of previous words and habits and an introduction of new ones. Most of the time I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb with my non-regional North American accent (note: common introductory line by English people, who are too polite to ask you outright if you're a foreigner: You sound like you're a long way from home) so it absolutely never occurred to me that I might in any way be absorbing aspects of British English until we were checking into our hotel in the US and the desk clerk told me to "Have a good night, now" and I responded automatically, "Thanks, and you" and went on my way. "That was a totally British 'and you'" MrL observed on our way up in the elevator. I looked at him blankly for a minute, and then realized what he was referring to. And, well, yes, he had a point, I realized. In the US, we'd say, "Thanks, you too." At least, I think we would. (When someone points these things out, you quickly discover that both start sounding odd if you try to compare them.) And I'm not alone here; I notice that MrL asks questions differently now - instead of asking questions with rising inflection, US-style, he asks them with a drop at the end, British-style. And our vocabulary is slowly, inexorably, adjusting. We put the dog's jumper(sweater), buy courgettes(zucchini) and rocket(arugula) at the grocery, ask for a half (pint of cider) at our local (neighborhood pub) and check our diaries (personal calendars) to find out whether we're free to attend a colleague's leaving do (going-away party.) I suppose it's inevitable since we're surrounded by it all day, every day. I know there are likely many more words that have weaseled their way into my vocabulary, but since they've weaseled their way into MrL's as well, we don't notice it as much - and our British friends certainly don't, since I'm sure it's our Americanisms that would get their attention, not our 'normal' usage. The next time you run into one of us, let us know what you think.
I've met a number of my favorite bloggers: Having been an avid reader of many UK blogs for years now, I suppose it's not such a surprise that I'd start meeting their authors once I moved to the UK, but it has been a real thrill for me to meet four of them in the past year. I still have a few on my list that I'd love to cross paths with (Yes, I'm looking at you, Nappy Valley Girl, and you, too, Stacy,) but I'm off to an excellent start! I met up with Emma of Bavarian Sojourn when we were in Munich for Oktoberfest, and followed that up by meeting the hilarious Potty Mummy of The Potty Diaries, and the lovely Elizabeth of Welsh Hills Again. Most recently, I met up with Trish, whose award-winning travel blog Mum's Gone To... has provided me with tons of ideas and inspiration - even more so now that we're living right on Europe's doorstep!
Blogging has fallen by the wayside in the past year and I really miss it. I'm not a New Year's Resolution type of person - I hate jumping on any sort of bandwagon and January 1st always feels like one to me - but I have started 2016 off by thinking about things I would like to do this year - travel more, spend more time with friends, worry less, and - most of all - get back to blogging more regularly. Not so much because I feel I'm such a spectacular blogger, but because I have missed it. Even more to the point, I have missed having the sort of record that blogging provides and which I have so enjoyed looking back over as we reminisce about our years in Korea. Somewhere along the way, I lost my blogging mojo, and I'd like to get it back. What this will look like, I have no idea, but I am hopeful and optimistic - a good way to begin any undertaking.
Here's to 2016.