Well, the title is probably slightly misleading, but forgive me, I am a big fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about her pioneering family. House no 9 isn't that little, and the woods are not that big, but it IS very wooded around here and although we didn't arrive in a covered wagon, but an ageing Dodge, moving here does feel a bit like being a pioneer arriving in Indian country.
We've been in the house five days now, and have spent most of them out shopping for our new home in true American style. Shopping in the US is, I am realising, very different to shopping in London, where you might schlep into Oxford Street on the tube, dodge raindrops in your way in and out of shops, grab a quick sandwich from Pret and lug your heavy bags home again. Or you might drive, and spend hours finding a parking spot, pay a small fortune on the meter, and then realise it's about a mile's walk from the actual shop you wanted to go to. Or you might go to Ikea, but that would be a nightmare beyond contemplation.
Here, you roll up in your car, park in a simply immense, free, parking lot, enter a huge indoor mall, with every shop you could possibly want under the sun, a choice of about 50 restaurants (half of which seem to be Japanese - luckily the Littleboys have unexpectedly decided they love chicken teriyaki), and carry your bags a few yards back to the car. All of which makes it immensely tempting to buy, buy, buy. The Doctor has already treated himself to a huge new set of non-stick pans to cook with, while I have indulged in a shiny new laptop, at which I now sit. The Littleboys have ended up with some gimmicky, overpriced electronic Chinese toys we picked up in the mall, including a mouse that runs around squeaking - the kind of impulse purchase we never would have made at home. No wonder American consumers make the world go round.
I guess the major difference is that everyone expects to drive everywhere. The Doctor is taking the train to work at the moment, but when he went to the Long Island Railroad station to ask about a season ticket, the guy at the booth was astounded. Although people commute from here into Manhattan, they clearly don't commute to two stops down the line. "Why don't you just drive?" he asked. "It's so near...."
No-one can believe that we don't have two cars. (Actually we don't even have one, as we we have been forced to borrow, rather than buy, the Dodge, due to not yet having NY state driving licences. This heinously irritating saga probably merits another whole blog post so I won't bore you with it here...). And yet here we are incredibly near Main Street, with most of the amenities you could want within walking distance. We can actually see the local wine shop from the top of our bedroom window - a definite plus in my book. I know the US auto industry is in decline, but I can't see them becoming a non-car culture any time soon.
But another of my first impressions is that everyone is incredibly friendly. From the postman who just now knocked on my door to introduce himself; (although he corrected me when I called him the mailman; it's 'carrier', apparently, so as not to be sexist. Yes, like pigeons); to the neighbours who invited us for an impromptu bbq laast night; to the garage owner I had to phone about the Dodge (don't ask...); to our landlady, who had laid on everything to make our moving day easier, including food in the fridge, soap, towels and two bottles of local wine. Some cynical Brits say Americans are just being fake when they're so friendly, but I must say, people seem genuine. The only time I ever exchanged words with my London postman was when I had to chase hin down the street for misdelivering the post to the wrong door yet again - and all I would get was a sullen grunt.
Anyway, enough of my wittering. Fellow blogger Expat Mum has suggested that I pose a question every week to be answered by fellow Expat Brits/American bloggers. I have many, so will start with one that has already intrigued me.
Q. Do Americans have baths? No bathtub that I've been in seems to have been designed with a bath in mind. The one in this house has an amazing shower, but when you try to run the taps the shower simply pumps out as well, so stuck it is in the 'shower' position. Some of the motels we stayed in didn't even seem to have plugs you could put in for a bath. The Littleboys like their bath, but I'm wondering if I should be training them to have showers....