Becoming British

I'm starting to fear that I'm becoming British. Or maybe more correctly, English (but the alliteration is better with British). 'British' isn't really a national identity in the same way as 'American' is – people here tend to identify with being English or Scottish, Irish or Welsh. Although, technically, I am British – I hold a UK passport and am a nationalized citizen.

Before you ask, yes, I also still hold my US passport – why would I want to give up the privilege of paying US taxes? And culturally I still see myself as first and foremost American, no matter how much I love my adopted country.

Still, some days I think that I am adjusting to life here a little too well. There were two scary things that happened to me last week, for example.

The first had to do with our broken refrigerator. As much as I thought getting it fixed would be easy (as I wrote in Easier Than You Think?), it has proven incredibly difficult. We had a part replaced and it broke again in exactly the same way. Now let me clarify. This is our additional refrigerator/freezer. Our flat came with a fridge – one that sits underneath the counter, disguised in the panelling, like you might do with a garbage can in the U.S. This fridge is the same size as the one that most U.S. college students had in their dorm. The flat did not come with a freezer.

We had a small freezer from our old flat that we bought with us because that flat did not come with a freezer either. So I told the Hub that I needed a regular fridge/freezer, like most sane people should have, with both components in one place. We bought one that is probably half the size of your regular American size fridge (when I go home to my parents' house at Christmas I stand in the kitchen and stare at the fridge for extended periods of time because I can't quite believe how large it actually is).

So now that our second fridge is broken we have been surviving on a dorm-sized fridge and a dorm-sized freezer. For three months. I balance ice trays on bags of peas and fret over how the four cupcakes I froze from the wedding won't make it to our first anniversary because the Hub keeps piling the frozen hash browns on top. I sometimes sit on the floor to think about what to make for dinner because it's the only way I can get a really good view of what's in either appliance.

But yet, I thought the other day: Maybe we don't actually need that second fridge. Perhaps it's wasteful and excessive. We're only two people after all.

This was my first warning sign.

The second has to do with friendliness. Americans are notoriously friendly, even overly so. They are everyone's best friends, and straight away. The English are more reserved. Although polite, they won't invite you over to their house the minute you arrive into town. It could take slightly longer – like even a few years. Americans think this means they are cold. English people think Americans can be fake.

But it's more complicated than that. In my limited experience (of nine years here), it's not that English people don't want to invite you along to their barbecue this weekend, it's just that they think you might find it awkward, you won't know anyone else there, after all. You might feel embarrassed, and there's nothing worse for an English person than embarrassment. One of my first friends here described it to me like this: An Englishman (or woman) just tries to get from birth to death with as little embarrassment as possible.

Americans, on the other hand, don't even know the meaning of the word. And they are shamelessly optimistic about their ability to do everything and be everywhere. They may be your best friend right away, and they mean it, they really do -- but they are just not realistic about their time and their capacity to love everyone. I do believe the English find this a tad annoying.

So my second sign that I was becoming a little further from American and more toward English was when a very friendly Irish person moved into a desk near mine at work.

A few times she said she was going to get food or coffee and asked me if I wanted anything. And you know what my first reaction was? Total suspicion.

Alas, this is all troubling. But being an ex-pat, you never quite fit in anywhere again and I suppose my life will be forever filled with surprising happenings and conflicting feelings. And as Bill Bryson says about having lived in two countries the reality is that some things are better and some things are worse.

P.S. The fridge got fixed yesterday and I'm really relieved.

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