Monday, 16 July 2012

Not a walk in the park

I've been asked a few times about what has the most surprising thing about moving to the USA.

Believe it or not, it's the culture shock.

I think there's an assumption that US and UK culture is very similar, especially between people of similar races/heritages. Mark has an anglo-saxon heritage; his ancestors were English/Scottish and Irish. But quite often we find that we are just not speaking the same language. It can be shocking and confusing for both of us, and little things crop up all the time when we least expect them.

One time during our stint as a transatlantic couple I had to sign off Skype because I had to go and make tea. Two hours later Mark was annoyed that I hadn't returned, thinking that making tea should only take five minutes. I was referring to "tea" the evening meal, not "tea" the hot drink, and it took at long while for me to convince him that the word is interchangeable!

So despite the number of times I have been to the US, and the cumulative amount of time I have spent here, it has been incredibly hard to adjust. One of the hardest things is not knowing how "settled in" I should be by now, and it's even harder to accept that there are no rules on this. Not having my SSC or driving permit has meant that I've been entirely dependent on my husband in many ways, and at first I allowed that to knock my confidence.

Immigration, and especially family immigration, is not just about bureaucracy and paperwork. Visajourney has been useful for me, once again, to realize that the whole cultural process takes a long time, and longer than you'd imagine.  I read one thread, where a stranger summed it up bluntly but accurately:
They give up everything to be here. Their jobs, family, the land they know and understand, their life style, I mean really it's darn near everything. Then they get here and what do they find? They don't know how to get around, they don't know where they are, they can't work, when they can they're starting off below where they were before. Their comfort foods are all gone. Their friends are too far away. Everyone is a stranger, even you as their spouse suddenly is different because now you're living together and they see all sides of you. They are totally dependent on one person, and yes, it's easy for them resent that.
So this has been the most surprising thing so far. I know it seems daft that I'm surprised that emigration/immigration isn't easy. But I'm getting there; I've a routine now which involves going to the gym three times a week, and spending time cooking with Mark, and constantly applying for work and volunteer opportunities.

The great, great news is that I now have my Green Card, my new Social card and my driving permit! If you've never seen a Green Card before, check it out, it's very cool. I've got teeny tiny pictures of all the US Presidents and all the state flags crammed onto a plastic green (yes!) card, along with all my personal info.

It hasn't all been apple pie and walks in the park since I got here… although that's certainly been a part of it.

Mark's apple pie. It was delicious.


  1. Hurrah, glad you finally have your driving permit! Now you must go buy one of these:

  2. this was so interesting to read! Thanks for sharing. Sounds like everything is going your way at the moment... So enjoy those apple pies and walks! ;) xo

  3. Thanks for being my 300th follower. So glad it's you. (See what I did there?) I've been here for 22 years and written a book and tons of articles on the cultural differences. You'll be even gladder to know that after all this time I'm still finding new stuff every day. Feel free to reach out on my blog with any questions you have and I'd love to have you guest post if you'd like to.
    Stay strong!