What, This Old House?

Finally, I have evidence of my increasingly English communication style. Before Christmas I sent out an email to friends and family overseas wishing them happy holidays and trying to give a brief summary of what we have been up to recently. And I described our new house as “a big and drafty Victorian house.” And although I used the American spelling (as opposed to the British draughty) my sentiments proved entirely British.

My American aunt, responding to my email said, “Your description of your home sounds like you don’t like it much…”Ah. Well that would be because I couldn’t possibly admit that I was happy with it, or proud. That would be bragging!

When the Hub and I purchased our first property over four years ago – a flat in Earlsfield, sandwiched between the more well-known London areas of Wimbledon and Clapham (remember Squeeze’s “Up the Junction”?) – he referred to us moving to the “ghetto” and constantly talked down our pending purchase with whomever we were discussing it. And it incensed me. I would always ask him later what was wrong. He should have been incredibly grateful that we were buying such a nice flat and stop acting like there was something wrong with it.

But now I get it, and apparently I’m on the bandwagon. Just for the record: I love our new house. Including its drafty old nature and even the friendly slug that visits our kitchen at 3 a.m. (Sorry, Dad, haven’t yet brought myself to drown him in beer! Also, we probably should stop calling him Sammy or it will never get any easier.)

I just want to be humble and not act like there’s any reason I deserve this nice house other than the fact that I am incredibly lucky – and I think that’s what’s behind the English tendency to talk down achievements and windfalls in life.

In other cross-cultural communication topics: I noticed a clear distinction in the Christmas cards this year. My American friends and family tend to send newsy letters and photos of their kids. These are great as being so far away I love to hear about what’s going on and see how their children are growing up. But the English way is nice too: typically a beautiful card with a short note inside, a simple wish that we are well and that they are thinking of us.

And they look so pretty scattered around the house.

Of course no way is better, just different. And I hope that those who communicate with me these days in person, over the phone or via Christmas card recognize that I am trying my best. Even though after my American upbringing, and nearly 12 years here, I’m increasingly confused.

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