The conundrum

I always say ‘I’d never wish it on my worst enemy’ – ‘it’ being an expat – or being me! After living in Atlanta for 18 years, and being a US citizen for almost half that time, I probably feel more alien in the UK than I do here. However, I’ll always be a foreigner here, not completely feeling at home or in sync with the culture.

It’s hard to relate to many cultural references and they remain a red flag to the fact I didn’t grow up here. I didn’t know the who the Olsen twins were before they made it in fashion, as I’d never watched Full House. I still don’t understand the rules of American Football. I don’t have an allegiance with a college football team as I didn’t study here until my MBA. These trite, silly things make me feel like I stick out like a sore thumb at times. At parties I’ve struggled with conversation (yes me!) when friends have been talking about football or sororities, while people glaze over at my own cultural references, phrases and colloquialisms. I still don’t really understand the SATs as opposed to A’ levels. I struggle to comprehend why so few of my friends have passports. I don’t have a best friend here, someone who knows me as well as my husband, someone I can confide in, someone who won’t judge me, someone who laughs at my sarcasm, someone who understands my motivations and the events that have shaped me. Yet there’s no guarantee that all my old friends will suddenly slot back into my life. They may have changed and moved on – I’ve lost touch with several over 18 years. I miss the BBC, Marks and Spencers and walking around town instead of a mall. I miss the Sunday newspapers, Hollands pies and wine gums. All these little pieces of my puzzle that still make me thoroughly British while living in America. A round peg in a square hole. But what about all the things I’ll miss about here? Our favorite restaurants, Mexican food with free nachos and salsa, free diet coke refills, a house with over an acre of land, a walk-in closet, cheap gas, Americana music, sunshine and beaches, pool life in the summer and drives to the Gulf in an F-150.  So there you have it – the constant conundrum.

The longer we stay here the deeper our roots making it harder and harder to pick up and return to the UK, which becomes an increasingly foreign place to us. We own a business and a house. We have savings and retirement funds here. We have two children who were born here.

The children increasingly make this decision so, so hard. They are familiar with the UK having traveled there often, and they have grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles, and friends there. One of Poppy’s dear cheer friends actually moved back there recently, when her Mum finished her sabbatical here with CNN. However, Poppy and Hugh are thoroughly American. They have been taught here, their friends are here, and everything they do is within the context of being an American. The one thing they do have though, that many of their friends don’t have, is ‘weird’ foreign parents! Parents who have instilled in them a sense of adventure. My children are fortunate enough to consider vacationing (yup my vocabulary has changed too!) in Europe normal, and they understand that having two passports is a privilege that provides them with a life of choices.

My greatest fear is that my children will resent me for taking them to the UK, or that I will thoroughly fuck them up for the rest of their lives by transplanting them to the UK. My Husband tells me not to worry – kids are resilient. As long as they feel safe and loved they will be fine. Easier said than done.

Hugh has surprised me most in our conversations about moving to the UK (I try to avoid saying ‘back to the UK’ as I am well aware it doesn’t apply to them). He’s an old soul and is excited about the prospect of being close to Nanna, Grandad and Grandpa. He wants to be ‘close to fields and not big buildings’ – his words. He loves roast dinners with roast potatoes and gravy. He sees going to a new school and wearing a uniform as an adventure. I worry his Southern accent is so strong he’ll be laughed at. He’ll have to learn to spell all over again. What if they don’t teach math, or maths even, the same way?

Poppy is older and more fearful of change. She has strong bonds with friends here at school and at cheer. I try to reassure her that we would never do anything foolish (!), and that the four of us together will always have fun. I tell her that families move all the time from city to city and that there is no guarantee her friends will still be in Atlanta next year. That technology will keep them connected wherever they are, and to be excited about making new friends instead of worrying about leaving existing friends. I can tell she wants to be excited, and she likes the reassurance our chats provide, but she doesn’t like to keep talking about it – it makes her emotional, which in turn makes me feel like we should firmly stay here. There are a couple of things that give me strength to keep moving towards relocating – we’ve found a cheer team for her and she is excited about being the ‘cool, American cheerleader’, and most importantly she loves to travel – her first question was ‘how many hours is it to Istanbul?’. That 3 hour flight instead of 12 hour flight may make all the difference to her appreciation of the UK and it’s proximity to Europe.

Am I selfish for wanting to take us all back? As a parent shouldn’t I be selfless and do what is best for the family? But then surely history, castles, green fields, culture and family is better for us all than guns, school shootings and strip malls?

 

18 thoughts on “The conundrum

  1. Karen

    Change is good and it sounds like the time for it. As a Canadian snowbird who winters in the south, I understand how foreign many of the things you mention are. Embrace this new time in your lives and the adjustment it will mean for your family and you. Looking forward to updates as you move forward with your journey.

    Reply
  2. Selina

    Hey there hon..this must be such a tough decision for you and I can’t advise you either way. The only thing that strikes me is that they will find this period of uncertainty more difficult than having to get used to whatever decision you make. Once you have decided on whatever change (or not), it becomes more tangible for them-they can look at areas, houses, clubs, clothes etc, so maybe try to set a deadline by which you will decide, so that this part isn’t so protracted? Just a thought…good luck! 😘

    Reply
  3. Mary

    I can relate in a lot of ways. I am an American who grew up age 3 to 17 in Canada. Left a wonderful high school a great group of friends and my first love to move back to the U.S when my dad transfered jobs. I survived then thrived with new friends and a new love who became my husband! We in turn moved our three boys all over the world as my husband was in the Air Force for 26 years. It was hard at times but we had so many wonderful adventures and made so many great friends. We all agree the chance to experience what most people only dream of has been priceless. I know as a mom we can’t help but worry, but like your husband says kids are resilient. The more they can experience and the more people they meet will make them that more accepting and well rounded. Good luck what ever you decide.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Thank you Mary and thanks for sharing your story. I am hoping that as parents we will keep them so busy with exploring and new adventures that they will embrace their new home xx

      Reply
  4. Julie

    Go for it!
    With parents like you and your husband, your kids will be happy, feel safe and have lots of fun.
    You are not being selfish, you clearly want what’s best for your children, it’s obvious how much they are loved and how you wish to protect them whilst encouraging them to have their own adventures.
    Good Luck, I wish you well whatever your decision.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      What a lovely comment thanks Julie! We are totally going for it! We never do things the easy way here 😉

      Reply
  5. Carol-Anne Powell (@CAPowell1)

    Such a challenging thing to have to deal with…..but as a Canadian, I’d never live in the USA with the way things have gone in the last few years. Love my American brothers & sisters, but I’d never live in the US.
    Sometimes we have to do hard things when we know they’re best for the children, even if they don’t understand it right away.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      My list of pros and cons had very little in the pro list for staying unfortunately — rather sad after 18 years here! We’re all starting to feel at ease with our decision though – thanks for your lovely comment xx

      Reply
  6. Marie

    I do not envy you having to make this decision. As I have spent a sizeable chunk of my life for more than 40 years in the US (my parents live there for around half the year), I can totally relate to the advantages of an American life and have myself researched the possibility of moving stateside on more than one occasion. To be brutally honest, I would have emigrated years ago, were it not for two things – guns and (lack of) healthcare. I now can add a third (Trump!) but the positives of an American life are very tempting still. One of my best friends went to LA 24 years ago to work for a year and see how he got on – he’s still there. Divorced and with two teenage children, he has entertained notions of returning to the UK a few times (mainly after he had back surgery and was almost bankrupted by paying for it) – he even came back once and started a job, but realised quite quickly that his rose-tinted memories of life in the UK were millions of miles away from the reality. I can totally empathise with you weighing up the pros and cons – it’s really not easy at all – and wish you the best of luck, whatever you decide. xx

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Thanks for commenting Marie. It’s truly the most gut wrenching decision I’ve had to make but something tells me it’s right as everyone is on board with it so we’re going with it! xxx

      Reply
  7. Oonagh

    Good luck with your decision. I also left UK to move to Dublin in 2000. I’d been coming over to Dublin my whole life and was totally unprepared for a totally different culture to the UK. But after 18 years Im settled here and can totally relate to UK now being the strange country. SO much has changed there.
    I wish you luck in your move. You have family to welcome you and that will help a lot. The rest you will figure out.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      You know you’re absolutely right – we will figure it out just as we have with everything else in our lives ❤

      Reply
  8. Diane

    Such a difficult one to know what the right answer is. What I would say living in Manchester it is such a more vibrant city than the one I grew up in. The U.K is fabulous and hopefully your kids will be happy wherever. Are you selling the business as well? Good luck with your decision and we should meet up if you come back. Shops in the U.K. Are fab too 😂.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Yes I’d love to see you! And no that’s the beauty of technology we can work from anywhere!

      Reply
  9. Expat Kate

    We moved back to the UK from the US ten years ago. No regrets, especially when I hear about high school shootings! It wasn’t always easy, and be prepared for some real homesickness. I miss cheap restaurants, the pool in summer, NYC, Target, my lovely American friends. But I have gained being close to family, Boots (the shop), M and S food, Europe on our doorstep, decent bread, milk delivered to the door in glass bottles, Radio 4, being able to enjoy the summer weather because it isn’t too hot and humid, walking everywhere. It will be a real adventure for you all. I wish you the very best!

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Ooooh just hearing all that sounds lovely. I really miss long summer evenings listening to the birds! I think it will be easier than I think and more challenging than I think all at the same time xxx

      Reply
  10. Caroline

    I loved reading your thoughts and feelings about this. I lived in the US with my husband for nearly 6 years – 23 yrs old to 29, then moved back to the UK a year and a half ago. My situation is not quite the same as yours having lived there a lot longer and with kids but I do relate to that feeling of never quite belonging and being able to relate to the culture, humour, having that close connection with a friend. Its tough knowing that you can earn more money and have a bigger house but I feel just generally happier here with family, old friends and the music, TV, humour, accents, old building… Everything.
    It seems like you, your husband and children have a great relationship and I’m sure your children will love being with family and who enjoy the adventure of it.

    Reply
    1. Poppy's Style Post author

      Thanks Caroline! It’s probably the most stress I’ve ever experienced but I’m trying to take that energy and turn it into excitement of the unknown – strangely harder when you’re 20 years older and responsible for others too! ❤

      Reply

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