Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Things I have learned in two years


Exactly two years ago today, we were getting off a plane at JFK with two overexcited small boys, and about eight suitcases containing a lot of our worldly goods. As we piled into a yellow taxi and headed for Brooklyn, we were arriving in a new country with nowhere to live, not even knowing exactly where we would live, no schools or nurseries sorted for the children, no car, no furniture, no friends. When I look back on it now, I think I was remarkably calm.

It has definitely been a steep learning curve, and there have been lows as well as highs. But I have no regrets, and if you asked me to move to the States all over again I would.

So what have I learned in two years in the New York area? Well, hundreds of things, but I thought I would just jot down a few to mark the anniversary. Some of these are genuinely things I really had no clue about before we left the UK - just goes to show that however much you think you know American culture from TV, books and films, it is very different living here.

1. I know what the following initials stand for: the GOP, NPR, the DMV.

2. I have become familiar with the following foods: matzoh, sliders (we even cooked them on the BBQ at the weekend), s'mores, challah bread (now Littleboy 2's favourite lunch), Goldfish pretzels (Littleboy 1's favourite snack).

3. I have learned that bigger is always better. If you are asked to a party and hostess tells you just to bring yourselves, bring yourselves plus three large dishes of food. And one small present looks bad at a kid's birthday. Buy something in a huge box, plus, possibly, another gift as well.

4. When my neighbor told me two years ago she was going to be honored at a gala, I thought it was some kind of carnival and she would be travelling in a float. I really did. Now I know that a Gala is a fundraiser at which someone is honored with speeches, presentations and ads in a journal.

5. I have learned that America is a country of extremes. Extreme weather (just look at the devastating tornadoes this week); extreme politics; extreme views. None of your British reserve or moaning about the drizzle. Things are either fantastic, or devastating. Never just a bit 'meh'.

6. I am learning to embrace the 'soccer mom' culture of the American suburbs. I'm not actually turning into Sarah Palin, but I genuinely enjoy watching the boys playing football*, and caught myself turning up in the soccer mom uniform of baseball cap and denim shirt last week. *(Actually, truth be told Littleboy 1 plays football. Littleboy 2 mainly sits in the grass and plays with the dandelions. The Doctor confesses that this is what he, too, did during sports classes as a child).

7. I honestly thought that summer camp was when you went away and camped in the woods for six weeks. Now I know that this is 'sleepaway camp', and summer camp just means a form of (hopefully fun) childcare to ensure that you don't go crazy during a 3 month summer holiday. I have become a fully paid up fan of summer camp.

I could go on, but I'm running out of time and today my Dad arrives from England for a week. I'll be interested to get his take, not just on how the boys have changed since his last visit, but how I've changed too. Because it's been an educational experience for all of us.

19 comments:

mum in meltdown said...

This soo made me laugh as by brother married an American 16yrs ago and lives in Long Island, So now when we catch up on phone/skype everything sounds so big and over the top....I thought he was just posh but you have just put me straight!! :) made me giggle x

diney said...

I admire you for making the move in the first place, and how you have taken up the challenge of a whole new life. I love the way Americans are not 'meh' about anything they say or do, unlike the mealy mouthed Brits! Good on you for becoming a football Mom!

Mud in the City said...

Living away from home is a great experience for anyone, and it is amazing noticing the cultural differences and starting to mentally challenge the way you've always done things 'back home'.

I do find the 'bigger is better' mentality a bit tiring though!

Home Office Mum said...

I can't believe you've been there 2 years already!! Where does time go?

Expat mum said...

In the 21 years I've been here I can honestly say I've never donned a baseball cap. I don't dislike them, but I feel ridiculous wearing them for some reason!
Great post.

About Last Weekend said...

Great list and many things I had forgotten were even different. (have been here eight years, can't believe i just wrote that! )Completely agree about bigger is better, I always hunt around for a huge box to put gifts in. Also some of the time, I've found the goody bags they bring home are better than the gifts I sent them with. Have fully embraced daytime summer camp and not sure how my Brit friends get through without it.

Muddling Along said...

I can't believe its been two years - I've been reading your blog for longer than that!

Now you are going to share what those abbreviations are, aren't you?

Elsie Button said...

loved this post - really fascinating. You must all feel so proud that you arrived just two years, and look at you now!! x

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Happy 2 year anniversary in the US of States! Glad LI is becoming a second home of sorts for you. I had to look up GOP, I am so not a Republican! And have you ever listened to 'This American Life' on NPR? Ira Glass is good and we often download the podcasts here.

nappy valley girl said...

Mum in meltdown - no, it really is like that!

diney - thank you! I've just got to remember to keep using football, as my British friends deride me when I say soccer.

Mud - yes, and it's not necessarily true either - but people don't seem to see that so much here

HOM - I can't believe it either...

Expat Mum - I believe it was the first time I've ever done so. I didn't want to get burnt, but felt silly turning up to football in a straw sunhat...

About last weekend - I've often had that experience with goodybags....

Muddling Along - I will in the next post!

Elsie - it's surprising how quickly you adjust. Now I'm wondering how I will adjust back to the UK when we return!

Tanya - I haven't, but am going to now. We wake up to the NPR/WNYC news every morning, though. Nearest thing to Radio 4 I can find!

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Well, that was educational, thanks! I didn't know mch of that:o) It i sdefinitely owrthhaving these experiences, even if they are tough at times. they stretch you & challenge you which is always good thing I think!

Mwa said...

Congratulations on two years, and getting acclimatised! It would be great to read a follow-up after you get your dad's opinion.

Nota Bene said...

And we still miss you...

PantsWithNames said...

I'm married to THE DMV. Have no idea what the DMV you are talking about is!

I think summer camp is a fabulous idea that needs to become more recognised here as soon as possible.

Can't believe it has been 2 years. Seems like yesterday.

a modern mother said...

Like Home Office, I can't believe you've been there two years! Really? times flies...

Metropolitan Mum said...

WHAT? You left without organising where to live???

nappy valley girl said...

PLIT - I agree, and I definitely feel stretched (if not overstretched sometimes..)

Mwa - I'll have to try and persuade him to write a guest post...

NB - Ahh, thank you!!

Pants - it's the Department for Motor Vehicles. A charming place.

A modern mother - it certainly does....

Met Mum - yes, really. It was just too complicated to come out here beforehand and sort it out. It kind of worked out, although it was all a bit of a rush when we arrived...

Birthday Flowers said...

What an amazing thing to do! Leaving everything you know behind to start a new adventure! I really admire you, It is something I would love to do but doubt I will ever be as brave! Happy anniversary and I hope the next two years are just as happy for you and your family.

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Hey NVG, Long time no speak, just have a spare few mins to check up on a few of my old favourite blogs. Glad to see you are still blogging and happy Stateside. Does this mean you have only one year left in the U.S? Was it a three year contract? My friend who moved over to America five years ago shows no signs of returning to England and neither do my friends who have moved to Oz. Anyway, time to walk the dog, the sun is finally shining, so off to the park we go. I love all your photographs. It looks a lovely place to live xx