Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What To Do 'Bout Those Expat Blues

It's only been something like 849 days since my last post. But it's not like anything significant like the 2012 Olympics, the Diamond Jubilee, a royal wedding and subsequent birth of an heir to the throne happened in the meantime that would have been interesting to blog about.

In the last few years, my accent has become a bit confused and the occasional "u" has been known to find its way into some words where once upon a time that would have been bizarre grammatical behaviour. I now "go on holiday", "ride the tube" and "go down the pub for a pint". And I got to say, it's pretty awesome. 

I absolutely love Britain. I will defend its cuisine to the end, I think I've nearly got the Brits figured out and the weather, well it still sucks. But my theory is that because the weather's so miserable, they've focused on making everything else, like signage, healthcare (to be continued) and transportation, brilliant...most of the time.

But even though I haven't lost my English infatuation, I still get the occasional hankering for some rootin' tootin' American fun. So I've had to come up with some tricks to get my yankee fix. 

For a while, baking filled some sort of nostalgic gap. I even thought, "Hey, I'll introduce some of my favourite goodies to the UK market - snickerdoodles, whoopie pies, thumbprint cookies - and make a killing", until I discovered that the Hummingbird Bakery beat me to the sweet, insulin resistant punch. 

Then I thought I'd become a devout American sports fan. But taking into account the five hour time difference and an unwillingness to commit to an overwhelming TV sports package, that just seemed impractical. So alas, I had little choice but to pay homage to the homeland itself and take a trip back to the land of the free. 

It'd been 18 months since my last visit and I quickly realised that I was seeing my motherland through union jack tinted glasses. Not surprisingly, the thing that culturally shocked me first was the sheer volume of stuff. There was so much of everything, most notably, peanut butter. 

In the UK, the slot allotted for a product on the shelf of a supermarket will typically be as wide as one, maybe two, of whatever the item is. But in the US, they cram in as many of each thing as they can, sometimes five items in breadth. But it's little wonder that they do when you look at the scale of everything else. If you didn't shove three dozen of each brand of cereal on the shelves, the vast aisles would look nearly empty and ridiculous. 

My surprise at what was once an unconscious assumption becoming a fascinating tourist attraction worthy of a photo in the middle of Food Lion under the gaze of a gentleman wearing a confederate flag as a hat, made me stop and think about how noticing things like this must mean that the line of binational patriotism has become a little blurrier. It made me question how I define home and if every place I go will feel at least a little foreign now. But then I went to Target and saw 25 checkout lines and only one open and thought, "No, I've just been blessed with a fabulous sense of irony."