Change has never been an unfamiliar thing for me. In fact, 18 years and eight life-altering moves later, change is something I welcome into my life.
As a little bit of a background, my mother works for General Electric (GE) as a Human Resources manager. In the past we have gladly followed her across the country. It was no surprise when she came home and told us that she was wanted for a job in Cheltenham, England; we jumped on the chance to live overseas.
Following my high school graduation we packed up and left our house in Loveland, Ohio. My sister and dad were getting ready to start a new life, once again, this time “across the pond”. On the other hand, I was only staying for the summer before attending Penn State in the fall.
I’d like to think that with every move I learn something new and this move is no exception. Despite the fact that I have only been here for about a month, I have already noticed so many differences between America and the United Kingdom. Prior to immersing myself into this place I was under the impression that because we spoke the same language we would be the same; I was greatly mistaken. I have not only learned how difficult it is to assimilate to a culture completely different from my own — and that while this move is an amazing experience for me and my family — I am so blessed to be an American.
Before we left Loveland, I pictured this move like it was just another family vacation; like every day would be activity filled and all my Instagram followers would be jealous of my amazing summer. The truth is, after my mom and dad go to work, it is just my sister and I left to explore this fabulous new city we are in; we have covered just about every inch of it and slowly we are settling into our routines. However, even as we go about our daily lives the way we would at home, the world around us moves differently. Everyday I sit at the same table in the same bookstore cafe dressed the same as everyone else, but when I walk in, it feels as if I’m back in the high school cafeteria looking for a place to sit.
Living in Cheltenham is like living in the Hamptons of New York. Everyone there went to an expensive prep school and buys expensive clothes and drinks fancy coffee with their circle of friends they’ve known all their lives. A friend of mine that grew up in London and is now living here says that because she’s black she feels that people stare at her more here, where it is less common and for the first time in my life I knew exactly what she meant.
I never realized how proud I was of my beautiful country until I, so badly, wanted to celebrate the Fourth of July and here it was just a normal day. Whereas Americans wear their patriotism loud and proud, the Brits do not. They also don’t like when people look them directly in the eye or raise their voice. In America it is considered friendly to compliment strangers… I told a girl I liked her skirt and she looked completely shocked I was even speaking to her.
However, not all Brits are this reserved; in fact, one of the biggest things I learned upon interacting with them is that they are not all the same. Due to the fact that they were different from me, I wanted to put them all in one large category, but just like Americans, how they interact with you mostly depends on where they are from. Cheltenham feels more like a social circle that I am slowly trying to find a way into; it feels almost as if they don’t know how to talk to me rather than they don’t want to. On the other hand, people from Wales more willing to talk to anyone, and unlike the most Brits, they hug as a greeting. Generally speaking they are far more reserved than Americans, but each new one I interact with, I learn something new and I can’t wait to meet more.
As different and weird as it feels, this place is becoming our home. No, they don’t have any good Mexican food, but I think when I go to college (or “uni” as they call it here), I know my family will do well. The main reason we came here still stands; it is an amazing opportunity to see Europe. Already I have seen and experienced so many things. My goals and aspirations to travel have grown so much because of this move. I have also learned the importance of family and I am amazed at how much closer we have grown since this move.
I once had a teacher who, after telling her about how often I’ve moved, she asked where I called home. At the time I told her I didn’t know and she responded that it was sad I didn’t call any particular place home. But what I know now is that home is where you make a life for yourself and you have people that love and accept you no matter what. Overall, this move has taught me that I will always be an American (and proud of it), but if you surround yourself with people that love and care about you, then you have found home.