Hot in the UK!
Coming to the the USA
A lot of Brits come and go in the USA, but makes them stay? Judy Ratner fell in love with an American and that was her passport to an all-new American lifestyle three decades ago.
This is Judy’s story….
I came to the US in 1981 in a rather familiar way. I met an American guy, Alan, in a wine bar in Cheltenham, where I was then living. We got married ten months later and moved to Maryland without me ever having set foot in the country before. We now live in Clarksville with our two dogs and a cat.
I work part time as a Business and Accounting Tutor at a local college and Alan has just retired.
I love living in an area with so much cultural diversity . In England, my friends tended to be just like me, whereas here I have good friends of different races, religions and ethnicities and my life is richer for it. I’m now an American citizen and I’m grateful for the opportunities this country has given me, especially the ability to go to university in my thirties. It was amazing to be in such a supportive environment and actually receive encouragement from professors. My school days in England were filled with teachers telling me what I couldn’t do. I now help and encourage students to pursue their own dreams.
What do you enjoy most about living in the USA?
Well, the weather, of course! It’s so nice to have reliably hot summers, colorful falls and winters which, although cold, tend to have more sunny days than your typical British winter.
I love the optimism and generosity of American people and their positive, upbeat attitude. It’s possible to reinvent yourself and start over at any age – go back to college, move to a different state or get plastic surgery. All are perfectly normal and acceptable!
The standard of living is generally higher than in Britain but Americans work very hard to achieve this. Forty-hour work weeks are standard and most companies give only two weeks paid vacation to new employees.
The level of service in shops, restaurants and hotels is more professional and customer-focused, although I have noticed things changing for the better in Britain in recent years.
This is corny but I love the way Americans are fiercely patriotic; they love their country and are not embarrassed to show it. We could do with a bit more of that in Britain.
What do you miss about the UK?
I miss the wonderful public transportation system. Not just inter-city trains but the network of local trains and buses which connect almost every town and village. I miss the British sense of humour, the pubs and the bus drivers calling me ‘love’. I miss Christmas in England – it’s just not the same here. But, most of all, I miss living in a lovely old town, with character, where I can walk to shops, restaurants, bank, post office and train station without getting in my car multiple times.
What differences do you still encounter?
People actually show up on time when you invite them over but, typically, Americans don’t drink as much as Brits (unless they’re under 25). They are more willing to say what they think/want without beating around the bush as Brits can do and, contrary to popular belief, I think American have better manners!
The best thing about being a Brit in the USA?
Although they waged a war to get rid of us, Americans still think a British accent automatically means you’re smart, sophisticated and cultured. Totally not true, but it does come in handy sometimes. I must brush up my British accent, which has, sadly, become rather mid-Atlantic after 30+ years.
What myths, stereotypes and preconceptions about the USA do you think do exist or are just a load of nonsense?!
A big misconception is that Americans are stupid. In truth, a far higher percentage of Americans attend university and I find them, on the whole, to be knowledgeable and well-informed on a wide range of subjects.
Some views of American are closer to the truth. Yes, they do have better teeth! They are more likely to have strong religious beliefs, think that owning a gun actually makes the country a safer place and are, perhaps, more concerned about the quantity, rather than the quality, of the food they eat. Amen, load your weapons and pass the fried chicken and donuts!
How has the USA changed in the past 30 years?
First of all, some things, unhappily, don’t change – namely, the type of food served at most barbecues and pot-luck gatherings (warning – pet peeve follows!). Thirty years ago the menu was generally – hot dogs, hamburgers, badly-cooked chicken, potato salad, pasta salad and baked beans, followed by carrot cake, cupcakes and brownies. Dreadful stuff and it’s still pretty much the same today. Over the same period, I’ve noticed that food tastes and preferences in Britain have changed dramatically and for the better.
As far as changes – locally, the area where we live has become much more built-up and traffic congestion is worse but, on the plus side, we don’t have to drive so far for shopping and other amenities.
Nationally, the country is more polarized, with the two political parties moving further apart and not willing to work together. People are also more divided in terms of race and religion. In spite of having a black president race relations have deteriorated – it’s the ‘elephant in the room’ that people don’t want to talk about and the religious right seems bent on taking the country backwards in terms of women’s rights. The education system is in worse shape and we’re still trying to implement some form of affordable and accessible health care program for all people.
One of the biggest changes, I think, is in the attitude of many (the majority of?) Brits towards the USA. In the early 80’s Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were close allies, the USA supported Britain in the Falkland Islands war and feelings towards the USA were generally favorable. Now, I feel this special relationship no longer exists and when I’m in England, I detect a rather anti-American vibe.
In spite of all the problems in the country – economic, social and political, I think most Americans are optimistic about the future and feel that things will get better. It’s that positive American attitude!