My latest post at the Expat Focus web site is about repatriation, but more specifically, I'm talking to a couple of Americans who have returned to the US after a fair stretch in England.
I often wonder what it would be like for me to return to the UK after 26 years away. They say it's almost worse than emigrating because you come back to what you think you know - only to find you don't. For me it's
- not being able to read the TV guide. The one my mother gets is like War & Peace now that there are so many channel options. There are also Plus One options, which I have no idea about.
- not being able to turn the TV on. OK, here in the US it can be complicated so it's all about what you know. However, no matter whose house I'm in in England, I usually have to sit and wait for someone else to turn the telly on if I want to watch something. And it's always me who presses the wrong button, turning something off and causing my host to ask "What did you press?" in a not-quite benign tone.
- not understanding the celebrity gossip. I left the UK before many of today's stars were even born let alone famous. Hello magazine, once my guilty pleasure, might as well be written in Chinese now.
- being nervous about the London Underground. When I worked in London in the 80s, I commuted everyday on various forms of London transport. I knew which bits to avoid at various times of the day, how to jump off one tube and get another if it meant a quicker journey and so on. These days the tube map is completely different and there's an Oyster card to contend with. Fortunately, when I'm with the family, it's often cheaper for us all to jump in a cab than pay for five Tube fares.
- prices. Some things are so much cheaper than in the US it's great, and other things are bloody astronomical. I quite often find myself saying "How much?" in a semi-screechy voice. Petrol/gas, for instance. And it's measured in litres not gallons so I'm paying even more than I realize. (Just to make Brits jealous, the average price per gallon at the moment here is $2.50. That's about 1 pound 88 pence - per gallon. Unless I'm mistaken, converting gallons into litres, that's around 50p per litre.)
- expecting speedy service. I am usually very good about "slowing down", taking time over a meal and generally accepting slower service. However, I come over all American when the service is slow because it's bad. Last year the kids and I went into some Italian restaurant before going to the cinema, were shown to a table and then abandoned, it appeared. After about 15 minutes of nothing - no menus, no offer of drinks, nothing, I finally got up to find someone and yes, they had totally forgotten they'd shown us to a table and we didn't appear to have an assigned waiter. Sigh.
I'm sure there will be more this summer! Watch this space!