Thursday, December 5, 2013

Expat Diaries: There's a New Expat in Town


On moving to another country
by Jon

Every now and again Betsy asks me to write something for her blog and, depending on if I'm comfortable with it I'm happy to post something (although weirdly enough the last thing I wasn't happy writing about was canal boats, to give a tantalising glimpse into a part of my background that will forever remain hidden). Anyway, this time round Betsy asked me to write about the prospect of moving to a new country and what that means to me, particularly given the fact I've just spent an amazing week with her checking up on the former colonies.

To be honest, right now, writing this on the flight back to Heathrow, I feel less intimidated or nervous about the prospect than you might think - generally I just feel mildly frustrated that I can't get on with getting over there now. That's partly because I've lived abroad before, but more importantly I started living away from home when I was about 13 and started boarding at high school - homesickness was pretty much over and beaten out of me after those five years.

People talk about culture shock as well, and I can't exactly predict how that one's going to go down. Weirdly enough, though, I'd kind of be happy if there was an element of that shock, because it would mean that globalisation hadn't yet sunk its all-encompassing talons into every field of modern life.  In DC I found I could get, in a pretty regular supermarket, chocolate digestives, Coleman's mustard and Heinz Baked Beans (also Spotted Dick in a can, which is weird and not a thing, America). It's the same thing here in London - if I want to, I can go to Chipotle, Shake Shack and, soon, Dunkin' Donuts (maybe not at the same time though). When I was 18 I spent six months in Vietnam, so perhaps the cultural divide going to the States doesn't quite sound so intimidating.

My point is, though, that I'd kind of be happy to wake up, really want something super-British and be royally pissed off that I couldn't get it. It would mean I'd have to adapt to something new, and experience something I wouldn't be able to otherwise. So long live the fact that you still can't get hold of PG Tips tea or decent cheese (ooooh, controversial) in America, and the fact that the UK doesn't get proper BBQ food or the concept of customer service. If that day ever came I think it would be a sad one for anyone curious about the wider world and what might be out there, so personally I cannot wait to wake up one morning and be hacked off not to be able to get or do something (although that doesn't apply to getting a job. I'd quite like to get one of those) - I'll just have to go outside and venture outside my comfort zone. Who knows, it might even be fun!


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20 comments:

  1. I touched on this in my post last week re:Starbucks coming to Stavanger. As Jon put it, it sort of royally pissed me off. Globalization is a double edged sword. Of course there are things that I'm incredibly thankful are accessible to me as I habitually move around the world but at the same time, it takes away from the experience of expatriation.

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  2. Globalisation is okay, but for the most part it annoys me. A lot of British/European companies had just made the jump over to Australia (Topshop, Zara, French Connection) and it completely destroys the excitement of doing some shopping when I'm home on holidays. There are still some great Aussie fashion brands around but I wonder how long they can last while there are so many 'exciting and foreign' store moving in.
    It was a huge culture shock moving from Australia to England for me, strangely. I once broke down crying because I couldn't find cream in Waitrose, of all things. But it's all part of the fun!

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  3. Jess Gerrow / The Stroke BlogDecember 5, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    This is The Best. (Capitals intentional.) Jon should start a blog. Seriously.



    If you want the shock and frustration of not being able to get American/Canadian things in Europe, move to Malta :)

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  4. Jon's voice-through-writing cracks me up! "which is weird and not a thing, America"- I think he and I will get along juuuuust fine someday when we all hang out on the regular!
    Also, sad news, you can get PG Tips tea in the US. I've seen it in a couple of shops and it's on Amazon for not-outrageous. But I do understand where he's coming from- there's a different and fantastic sort of pride in figuring your way around missing something or not being able to go about things in a familiar manner. Panera still needs to expand to Europe, though, particularly the UK. And Mellow Mushroom. And the US needs Wagamamas and Wok-to-Walk.


    And now I'm dying to hear about the canal boats, Jon. Dying.

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  5. I'm pretty sure Spotted Dick in a can is just sold in the US because people buy it as White Elephant gifts.



    Also, I'm fairly convinced Betsy is hiding her craziest DC friends from Jon so that he's not terrified about moving here. Mwahahaha.

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  6. so true! I think we focus so much on assimilating and becoming comfortable that we can forget the magic of being uncomfortable, you know?

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  7. oh yeah - I definitely try to only shop in "native" stores when I go somewhere new! why buy something in £ you can get in $, you know? (although from my experience Zara is different in ever country!)

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  8. haha okay that will be next on our list :)

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  9. he got so upset at the British shelf in Giant - not because it didn't have PG Tips but because it had spotted dick in a can! I definitely have seen PG Tips elsewhere in the States but strangely our two local supermarkets don't carry it...

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  10. hey, you're the one who is ooooooh so busy and can't meet up! humph :P

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  11. PG Tips is the only tea I drink. You can get it at Harris Teeter or World Market no problemo. And there is almost always some sort of 10% off coupon floating around WM so you get a bajillion tea bags for a few bucks.

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  12. Nice to hear from your other half, Betsy! For real, the thing that I miss most is good quality cheese. Luckily, there are lots of cheesemongers close by (there are four cheesemongers within walking distance! that's how much the local supermarket cheese sucks!).

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  13. It may be due to the fact that I live in small remote town in Sweden but I find even with the current rate of globalization that living in a new country will always be at least a bit shocking. Even if you are so lucky as to have a place that you can visit that is a branch of your native country it will still have that new countries twists and peculiarities as to still make it slightly new and exciting.

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  14. Fun perspective Jon! It's interesting to hear that you would actually prefer a bit of culture shock, and that's not really something I've thought about before. My favorite part--"so personally I cannot wait to wake up one morning and be hacked off not
    to be able to get or do something (although that doesn't apply to
    getting a job. I'd quite like to get one of those)".


    I've lived in multiple towns across the United States, and I go through culture shock every time we move because I get so attached to multiple restaurants and die a little each time I can't satisfy that craving. Even though I LOVE finding my new places. What can I say, I'm a creature of habit. :)

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  15. This made me laugh out loud. I get the sense that you are a very witty, well-read power couple... And much more palatable than Kanye and Kim :)

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  16. Love the perspective! One of the things I've learned after moving about a bazillion times is that the first thing you have to do is accept that the place you've moved to isn't the place you've moved from. It's the only way to NOT get frustrated that they don't have this or that service, product, etc. And then you learn to appreciate the good things about it.


    For example...I live in Hawaii. We're a state, but we don't have a huge percentage of the stores and goods we have on the mainland. No Trader Joe's, no World Market, no Crate & Barrel, no IKEA, no half a dozen other things, and only two wineries that I've found so far. And we're expensive as hell. But we've got beaches and t-shirt weather year round and nice happy people and great breweries, so life is good.

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  17. this made me laugh, I always love to hear from the men behind the bloggers :) hopefully he can find something in America to give him a little culture shock once he moves!

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  18. I love when the partners of bloggers write a post of their perspective...
    I totally get what you say about UK vs. US customer service, it's SUCH a difference!

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  19. Digestives. He he he.


    Anyway! I'm glad you had Jon guest post on your blog. A very interesting read and perfect for our expat series! I'm sure your excited for him to move to DC. :)

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  20. I seriously cannot stop laughing about the "former colonies" thing. Hilarious. Also glad you cleared up that "spotted dick" thing because really... what is that even?



    I loved being able to read this from Jon's perspective and even tried to read it in his voice! But alas, I can't remember what it sounds like :(

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