Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Brit in the Golden State: an Interview with CalifLorna

Our guest this week is Lorna Harris, a Brit living in Orange County, California.  You can read her rambling about life in So Cal, adventures in travel and what she misses about the UK in her blog, Califlorna.
You can also follow her tweets on Twitter.

We know you lived in the UK before moving (back) to the States; how long did it take you to settle in to life in Orange County?

Although we were happy here as soon as we moved, I would say it's taken a good year to 18 months to really feel established. The boys have made genuine friends now, sleepovers and play dates are becoming more commonplace rather than just a token invitation because they're the new kid in town.  School doesn't feel so alien any more; in fact I think the boys would probably think it strange not to start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'm googling less things, which I think is a good sign! When I first lived here it was without children. I was working over here and although there were still lots of differences, with children, I'm constantly coming up against things I don't know about such as baseball cleats.  We were told we needed them and I didn't have a clue what they were.

Anything you miss about British life?

I miss my friends most of all. I stay in touch with them as much as I can via email, Facebook and text but it's not the same as meeting up at the pub for a drink.

I feel I should say that I miss the BBC and newspapers but with everything being online now I'm able to read British news everyday and don't feel isolated.  That said, I do wish BBC America would improve.  I'm sure there are huge politics and budget issues behind their programming but it could be so much better.  It also seems that there is a vast audience here in the States for BBC America, it could just be an excellent service.

What do you like most about the States?

I love the sense that you can achieve anything - try anything. I'm not sure if that is particularly a Californian thing or not but we seem to be surrounded by people who have wanted to create or participate in something and just do it.  California seems to be full of over achievers!

Anything you dislike?

There must be something; I'm struggling to think at the moment.  I think, for me, as an expat, my biggest struggle is my accent.  I have been welcomed with open arms, no one makes me feel that I shouldn't be living here, but at times I just want to buy something in a store quickly without an inquisition.  It drives me mad that I need to complete an entire questionnaire before I can get a glass of water.  The answers are usually: British, I live here, I'm married to an American, yes I love it here, no I'm not homesick, no I don't know the Queen.

What do you think the USA could learn from the UK?

I wish they would learn how to do television news.  The local news is dire beyond words and the world news isn't that much better.  It's either too sensationalist or very US focused.  Watching CNN report on Gordon Brown leaving office and Cameron taking over was painful beyond words.  The presenter was really struggling to provide a running commentary on the events and let's face it, he'd had a few days to prepare!

And what could the UK learn from the States?

One of the things I'm most impressed by is an American's love for their country.  Once you've celebrated the 4th of July amongst Americans or watched them say the Pledge of Allegiance, you can see how proud they are to be American.  I admire that.

And the obvious one - service.  On a trip back to the UK recently, I was staggered at how bad the service was. Americans get a bad rap for being insincere but everyone I've come across who have visited the States acknowledge that it's not insincere, it's excellent service.  When you hear 'Have a great day!' they mean it, they really do want the rest of your day to be good.

Where do you think you will end your days and why?

Ooh, that's a really good question. I sound like some terrible retiring expat but I really love the weather in California and it would be really hard to leave that. However, I'd chosen the schools in the UK for the boys all the way up to 18, thought we were really settled and decided to throw that all up in the air and make the move to the US. So who knows? Hawaii? Australia? I'm now far more interested in living abroad and experiencing new environments.

Describe Americans in one sentence.

Compassionate, proud, tactile and giving.

What would you like to see on Pond Parleys?

E-mail your suggestion to:
MHMail55-MT AT

or just pop it into the comment box.


  1. Having lived in the very same area, I can agree with pretty much everything said ...

  2. I had to chuckle at the "questionnaire" just to get a glass of water. It's the same here in reverse. Sometimes I'd just like to get on with things and not have to give my life story.

  3. Water? Wah-dah? Oh yes, remember those cartoony things last year about said topic? Am smiling just recalling your version.

    LCM x

  4. I have to ask for water in an American accent now or else no-one understands me.

    Totally agree re the News. We DVR the BBC World News America every night and sometimes watch it before we go to bed - most network news is really appalling and Fox News is just a joke.....

  5. I agree about the news, both national and local. Stories are delivered almost like soundbites or teasers. This is one situation where you shouldn't be leaving the customer wanting more.

  6. so so true Lorna, I did laugh about the whole accent thing...took me back, you will never get over that one! I used to try out an american accent just so as I would get out quick without interrogation! and yes I definately think us Brits could learn a thing or two about the service of the Americans, although slowly, slowly shops over here are coming around or should I say trying to get a grip on service they provide...having said that a British shop assistant saying 'have a nice day' really doesn't seem to work- shame! I hope you continue to enjoy life out there..... I sure miss the quality of life we had in Atlanta..and boy do I miss the weather!

  7. The pledge of allegiance every morning? Weird. But then I can't get used to my son having to pray daily in his Catholic school either.

  8. Agree that I would cringe if a British shop assistant said "Have a nice day". It's bad enough going into the Disney store where they greet you at the door.

  9. I remember when a Disney Store opened in the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield and the first time I was round there they had someone on the door greeting people. It was positively off-putting. I'm sure it made people less likely to go in and browse.

  10. An excellent interview Lorna, you've articulated your transition very well. I agree that the news programs are in dire shape.


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