We’ve all heard of the ‘law of unintended consequences.’It says that anything you do might have both the result you were aiming at – and a totally unexpected result you had no idea might happen. And the bigger the action the more unintended consequences you can expect. You might term them ‘side effects’- they’re not always bad, sometimes they’re even a kind of blessing (sometimes…) but they all sideswipe you if you don’t see them coming. In the interests of being prepared, then, here are some unintended consequences of moving to America:
1: Forgetting the British word for things
If you moved to a country where they spoke a different language, this would be more understandable; in America they speak the same language differently, so expats get confused between the British and American English for things. Think of it like this: if you go into a shop (store) and ask for suspenders, pants and a vest, you’re going to get two very different results, depending on which side of the pond you make your request!
2: Becoming a joiner
Many people see joining groups – reading groups, hiking groups, crafting groups – as the act of someone who can’t organize a social life in a natural, organic way. Then you wash ashore in a totally new country where you don’t know a single person, and you pretty soon see the virtue in joining groups.
3: Distance gets smaller
The continental United States of America – ie, even ignoring Alaska and Hawaii – is only slightly smaller than the whole of Europe. As a result, Aberdeen doesn’t seem to be a very long way away from Newcastle when you return to the relatively tiny home islands.
4: Forgetting to feel homesick
Becoming American is a gradual process. You start out jarred by the alienness of everything – every interaction, signpost or blast of early-morning TV good cheer reminds you that you are in a new world. After a while, though, it becomes your world and your feelings of homesickness just drift down in the mix until they disappear for weeks on end.
5: Feeling homesick for America when you visit Britain
Being an expat is a strange existence. You can end up feeling homesick for two different places! In the USA, the sound of a British accent or a reminder of your home town can give you a lump in your throat, but in small, understated, demure Britain you can start to pine for the Land of the Free…
6: You might actually see more of your family
A transatlantic flight would seem on the face of it to be more daunting than a few hours on the train, or a jaunt down the motorway punctuated by a Little Chef. But the reality is that now you live in the USA, visiting you is a holiday and an adventure. Family members might actually show up more often, asking for you to act as a tour guide and expressing embarrassing surprise at things you got used to a long time ago.
7: You’ll miss British TV. Really
No nation on earth does TV like the Americans. We may have had wireless with pictures first, but TV? That’s as American as Betsy Roth. However, there’s a strain of British TV that you just can’t find replicated anywhere else on earth. Whether it’s slightly dowdy sitcoms or comedy shows that mix the anarchic and the oddly restrained, or the bizarre mix of civility and confrontation you find on shows like Newsnight, sometimes American TV just doesn’t cut it. Can’t imagine feeling homesick for Paxman? Just you wait…
8: You miss British food…
It’s such an expat cliche that everyone says they won’t do it. I’ll live without bitter beer, yeast extract, Cumberland sausages and brown sauce. Yes you will. But after a while you’ll start to pine for them…
9: …until you’re in Britain. Then you’ll miss American food
However you might try to separate yourself from mainstream America’s poisonous and obesity-causing food culture, you will find your tastes changing. In Britain, bacon is thick and chewy: in America, it’s as thin as razorblades and it shatters like glass; it’s like eating fried seaweed made of pork. A few days after you land you’ll start wishing you had a full American breakfast to look forward to.
10: Your kids will be American.
No, but really American. They’ll think your British table manners, attitudes and most especially accent are hilariously foreign. They’ll grow up not knowing what a pub is (unless you live in Boston), expecting everyone to drive, thinking a hundred miles isn’t that far, saying ‘aluminum,’the whole deal.