Sunday, August 10, 2008


A few weeks ago our car gave up the ghost. Sunny’s mom introduced us to a mechanic who was a friend of a friend of a relative of a friend, etc, etc.

Anyway, after he had fixed the car he came into the house so we could pay him and he could cool down in the air-conditioning (It was about 100 degrees outside).

The guy was interesting to say the least.

Apparently, he used to work as a photographer and had traveled all over the world, even living in central America for a year or so. He enquired about my accent and asked where I was from.

“England.” I said.

He looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

“You’re from England and you moved here? Out of choice?”

I thought he was joking. “Yeah.” I said. “Sunny’s obviously an American citizen, and I moved here to be with her.”

He looked at Sunny and said: “Sunny, I’m sure you’re a great person and all…but if I lived in England, there’s no way I’d move here, you should have moved to England instead.”

I think I can say I’m fairly well traveled. Obviously, I’ve ‘traveled’ to the USA, but I’ve also visited a lot of Europe as well. The thing is, today I can spot people who have done some traveling in their lives at twenty paces.

One of the attitudes I’ve just never been able to understand is the people who say things like “I was born here, I’ve lived my whole life here and I’m gonna die here!” I mean, you only get one ride on the roller-coaster we call life, so why would you want to spend your entire time on the planet never going more than a hundred miles from your own front door?

So the mechanic guy, I could tell he’d been to England (it turned out he’d spent a few months in London), but I could tell he’d never lived there.

You see, when you just visit somewhere, you never get a proper sense of what the place is like. For example, when I first visited the US, I returned to England thinking that America was quite possibly the best place on the entire planet. Like the mechanic guy, I’d see the odd American in England and think “Why are they living or even visiting here when they live in America? They must be batshit crazy!”

A visit just can’t give you a real sense of a place. When you’re on vacation, you’re visiting somewhere for fun. When I first visited the States I had zero worries, a whole new place to explore, and a wallet full of disposable income. You know how people talk about how awesome it would be to win the lottery? A vacation is a mini-version of that feeling. You don’t have to work, you can spend your money on whatever you like because you don’t go on vacation with your rent money. All you do is leisure activities and if you’re going to a tourist resort, that feeling is tripled.

So in other words, the people who ask me why I’d consider moving to America when I already lived in England, I can tell have traveled. Maybe they’ve never been to England, but they’ve visited other countries and have England on their ‘want to visit’ list. If they have been to England, I know they’ve gone to London, marveled at some of the architecture, soaked up the atmosphere of a busy pub, talked to some interesting people, stuffed their luggage with souvenirs…and got back on the plane talking about how awesome London is.

If they’d lived in London, they’d probably have a different attitude. If they lived there for a few years, they’d be talking more about the insane amount of money it costs to rent a tiny apartment, how gas costs over eleven dollars a gallon, etc, etc.

Long story short, it’s easy to love a place when you experience it without worrying about paying bills or taking part in the 9 to 5 rat-race.

I can always tell the people who are on the opposite side of the coin, the ones who have never traveled and have no intention of traveling by the first question they ask me after finding out where I’m from.

The people who have traveled or would like to ask me where I’m from and follow it up with how they’ve been to England and loved it, or ask me what England’s like.

The non-travelers always find out that I’m from England and ask “So what do you think of America?”

I’m never quite sure what to make of that question. To me, it’s like they assume that America is the absolute best place to live in the world and believe that the rest of the planet naturally wants to live here.

I’ll be complete honest here and say that after living in the States for almost five years, my answer to that question is “It’s pretty much like England, only hotter and with less rain.”

That’s the difference between living somewhere and visiting somewhere. My first visit to the States lasted six weeks and I left thinking it was the greatest place on Earth. After living here for five years, I put it on a par with England. Everything basically comes down to a trade off. Basically, you start out by appreciating a country for all the things it has that your home country doesn’t…after living there for a while, you start to take into account the things your new country doesn’t have that your old country did.

Basically, my thoughts after those six weeks were:

“Wow, the weather is awesome and everything is so cheap. Free drinks refills in restaurants! You don’t get that in England and the people are so friendly!”

After living here for five years:

“What? $850 for a throat swab? Health care is free in England, and what’s with all these billboards and TV ads? Can I not go for five minutes without someone trying to sell me something?”

Long story short, you notice the good stuff first…it takes a while for the downsides to sink in.


Kelly said...

Yeah, the healthcare thing is my biggest complaint so far. That and the inability to buy Roinsons Squash!

delmer said...

I was in England for about 10 days last year. I stayed with a friend. Her dad drove us around London. She drove, like a bat out of hell (and barely keeping up) elsewhere.

I was thousands of miles from work. Doing what I wanted. With people who had great accents and who ate with a knife in one hand and an inverted fork in the other (what the hell were they doing with their index fingers? I've forgotten).

I could drink outside without worrying about the police. When I asked a gal in a pub for a "beer to go" she asked if I wanted it opened (of course I did).

Anytime we got lost we were in a cute little village with thatched-roofed cottages.

The ATM spit out money in various sizes and colors.

The aisles in the supermarket were a mile wide.

No billboards.

I almost forgot. No bugs! And no screens in the houses.

It was all very relaxing.

(Of course, my British friend likes to vacation in Texas.)

Paulius said...

"The ATM spit out money in various sizes and colors."

Sigh...I miss British money. Even after nearly five years I still think American dollar bills look and feel like monopoly money.