I knew I'd be in for some culture shock, moving from Bristol, one of the UK's larger cities, to Amherst, MA, a town in rural New England. I haven't driven much in the past five years. While I've watched British TV, I haven't watched much American TV or listened to the radio at all, so I'm sure there's some cultural phenomenons I know nothing about. And cultures, even one's own, do change over five years...
I've been keeping a running list of it all in my head.
Walmart and Target make me twitchy. They're so big, rows and rows of things, with so many options. I keep getting lost, probably exacerbated by the fact that I try to stay as briefly as possible. They make even the big Bristol Sainsbury's look quaint!
Cars are huge, including my own, but otherwise driving is fine, and left-hand turns no longer make me nervous. It took me forever to figure out how to park in a lot again, but the Chicagoan never left me--you should've seen the mean parallel parking job I did the other day!
Yesterday, I tried to exchange £50--no need for it to make its home in a drawer, that's a lot of money! First I tried a small, local bank. They told me they didn't do foreign currency exchanges. So I tried my bank, its big central branch, since I was driving right by. No. They suggested Bank of America. So I dutifully went to Bank of America. B of A would only exchange money if I had an account. TD Bank was across the street. They'd happily do it, but only for a $10 charge. Goodness! In the UK you could exchange money at almost any post office, let alone bank or currency exchange shop! But I guess there's a few more currencies floating around the area.
So I'm still in possession of £50, though the B of A teller suggested I find a friend with an account. Anyone have any better ideas?
There's some other, more expected things. The cheese isn't as good. Or, it is, I had some very nice smoked gouda the other day, but the Whole Foods brand cheddar is an orange, rubbery imitation compared to Sainsbury's store brand cheddar. The chocolate is quite nice, but I'm struggling to find my favorite brands. And I knew this would be a problem (and I know it's August!) but I miss my British hot chocolate!
Plus, I was quite nervous the first time I went grocery shopping--everything was so expensive! Then I realized I was thinking in pounds, not dollars.
It's hotter here. Much hotter, which made moving in difficult. It's cooled down a bit now, thanks to a series of storms which flashed through here. A resounding clap of thunder woke me in the middle of the night--and I had no idea where I was. It's been a long time since I lived some place with summer storms.
Actually, I still wake in the middle of the night, unsure where I am, even after three weeks. I think it's partly because our apartment is tucked back in the forest and so dark and quiet. But I'm also getting used to the position of the bed, the furniture, the room, the fact that it's all mine.
And did I mention being tucked back in the forest? And the big bugs? Thank goodness Americans believe in screens. And it's lovely, but I'm directly off a rural highway, so while there is a walking path on the edge of the road, it's not very comfortable, nor are there many places within walking distance to go. The other day I parked at one end of the strip mall and walked to get groceries at the other. I know, craziness. But I miss walking.
Thankfully there's lots of trails and state parks nearby, including one just down the road. I'm driving there this morning!
What else is on my list? I miss Bristol's recycling program, especially their compost pick-up. I miss the BBC, especially the lack of ads.
I have to say, though, I'm glad to get away from the British "reserve." People here are so chatty and friendly, everyone from sales clerks to bank tellers, to waiters... and it's not because I'm unique or because I have a "cute" accent. And unlike one of my European friends maintains, I don't think it's an act. I could barely get a word in edgewise at the post office! Most Americans genuinely seem to like talking with other people. It's a nice change.
As is being in the same country, even the same time zone as family and friends. I'm still a phone call or a plane ride away, but somehow I feel so much closer. And that's nice, too.
Now if only my British friends could be the same distance away...