on living abroad | utah, usa

2014, April, Culture, Family and Friends, Food, Travel

“so you look at your life, and the two countries that hold it, and realize that you are now two distinct people. as much as your countries represent and fulfil different parts of you and what you enjoy about life, as much as you have formed unbreakable bonds with people you love in both places, as much as you feel truly at home in either one, so you are divided in two. for the rest of your life …or at least it feels this way, you will spend your time in one longing for the other, and waiting until you can get back for at least a few weeks and dive back into the person you were back there. it takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new, and it can’t die simply because you’ve moved over a few time zones. the people that took you into their country and became your new family, they aren’t going to mean any less to you when you’re far away.”
this is a brazilian portuguese to english translation. find the original post here

there is so much to this quote. so much. and i don’t need to add anything to it. it explains everything.

i’ve been home for about 6 weeks and i am still adjusting. {i’ve also had this post saved as a draft for almost 3 months}. in a job interview i had recently, i used the term ‘mall’ {instead of shopping centre}, and one of the interviewers immediately mentioned that i still used ‘americanisms’, then laughed at me. i got slightly confused on which side of the road i was supposed to be on when driving last week. i don’t remember which country uses the word checking account vs. current account. i’m grateful tax isn’t added on once i get to the till/cashier. i’m also glad that i don’t really have to tip anymore. it’s bloomin’ humid in england, but my skin is oh so grateful. is it favourite or favorite? color or colour? center or centre?

some things on this list are specifically tailored to me, a brit living in america, but some i believe apply to any person moving to a foreign country, the good and the not-so-good!

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1. oh hey you speak english? we’re the same! oh wait, wait what? no, no we’re not.
perhaps it’s common belief, or maybe i was naïve in thinking that because americans spoke english and generally have a lot of similarities that we would be the same.  but we are oh so different. and those differences change from state to state which can be even more confounding. i got stared on numerous occasions for simply asking a question or making a comment using british terminology {again in my naivety thinking everyone everywhere understood britishisms, alas not the case}. “are you in the queue?” | “is it easier to get there on the motorway?”.

be ready for it. enjoy it.

 “we don’t do/celebrate/eat that in england” … it goes on.

i think one of the hardest adjustments was while i was in school and at work. writing assignments, giving presentations or sending artwork descriptions to the company’s design team was hilarious. there were a fair few ‘spelling mistakes’ i can tell you that!

2. what’s the dress code?
this might just be me. and maybe i overdress for everything but i remember for the first few  months whenever my roommate and i were going out whether it was for dinner, a movie or a wedding reception, i would ask her what the dress code was. is this british? but i soon got over it and just dressed for myself. it stopped mattering after a while. and i was ok with that.

3. you’re going to feel lonely
i was really lucky. even though i was moving to somewhere i had only ever visited once {for a week at that}, i was lucky to have a number of people i already knew to help me with the transition. i salute anyone who goes somewhere unknown on their own. i tip my hat off to you. there were some incredibly lonely moments. there were times when i didn’t have anyone to lean on. let me be honest here. if you can’t already tell i am someone who loves my close friends and family. and as much as i love to travel and explore the world, i love to have family close. sometimes i felt so out of place. opening a bank account, buying a car, finding an apartment, passing my driver’s test – i’m so grateful to all those who helped me. my situation was always different because i was a foreigner. but there are good people in this world. incredibly good people, whose kindness often left me gobsmacked. what am i saying here? expect loneliness. but it’s not a constant state. it comes and goes. and when it’s gone relish in it.

4. fooooooood glorious food
and there’s a lot of it in america in general. but like everything else it takes some getting used to. portion sizes, free re-fills, there’s sugar in everything {or at least it felt like it}…embrace it. enjoy it. let curiosity get the best of you. mexican, brazilian, american, food from the islands {hawaii, samoa etc.}. try it all. you’re not going to get it at home {or it might be similar but won’t be the same}. love it.

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5. you’re going to get homesick
i thought this would get easier after the first few weeks, but it didn’t. not that it got harder either. but it came in chunks. in moments. when i would be driving somewhere, on my own, i would secretly just want to be home. just for a moment. to hug my mum, to laugh with my friends, to feel a sense of homeness that you can’t get anywhere else. but let it be. it passes. it always does. because things happen, days are glorious, new friends make you laugh like no other. strangers will be kind.  things won’t be the same as they are at home. they’re not supposed to be. and its ok. it really is. live in the moment.

6. enjoy the american way of life!
one thing i was a little worried about was losing my identity. quite especially my accent. i therefore made a conscious effort to keep it {often sounding a little downton abbey-ish}. i think it was because i felt that as soon as that happened i would lose myself. weird as it sounds, i felt i needed to hold on to everything that was british about me. and that’s normal right? {at least that’s what i told myself}. however i also told myself that i needed to embrace and experience every holiday/tradition i could; from superbowl sunday to memorial day weekend, july 4th, pioneer day {specific to utah}, president’s day weekend, state fairs and all the fried goodness that comes with it, thanksgiving and black friday. all of it. and i am thoroughly glad i did.

7. “it takes so much to carve out a new life for yourself somewhere new…”
i can’t express enough how much truth this statement holds. that might be the reason why after 6 weeks of being home, i still feel completely worn out and exhausted. i can only manage to apply for a job every couple of days and i spend most of my time watching netflix. the emotional, physical and financial effort it takes to move from one country to another is impossible to imagine. i also salute anyone doing it with a family, having to sort out a lot more than just oneself.

the meaning of carving {found here}:
a.  to divide into pieces by cutting; slice: carved a roast.
b.  to divide by parceling out: carve up an estate.
c.  to cut into a desired shape; fashion by cutting: carve the wood into a figure.
d.  to make or form by or as if by cutting: carve initials in the bark; carved out an empire.
e.  to decorate by cutting and shaping carefully

carving anything takes work. the reality of it is that it’s not going to be easy. it get’s easier. yes, once you’ve found your groove, your way of doing things, it gets a lot easier.

and now i’m home i have to start carving all over again. i’m not sure i was entirely prepared for that. perhaps again in my naivety i thought it would be just as it was. so i’m taking my time. taking each day as it comes.

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my two {and a bit} years in utah are now permanently etched onto every corner of my being. i do not for a moment, regret my decision to live there. i grew. i learnt how to love, how to be confident, how to forgive, how to receive kindness and generosity that only living abroad can teach you.

“no one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

i am divided in two for the rest of my life. but that division is ravishing, stunning and winsome to me.



3 thoughts on “on living abroad | utah, usa

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