Sunday, December 11, 2011

Repatriation - An American's Story


This week, we welcome our friend, brand new author, blogger and repatriated American, Meagan Adele Lopez as a guest blogger. Meagan is an American who returned to the States last year after living in the United Kingdom. Everyone tells you repatriation isn't as easy as you'd imagine; here's Meagan's story.


I’ve been back in the United States for a year and three months now, and I’m about 4 months away from the length of time that I lived in the UK. I can’t believe I’ve been back that long. Toni asked me to write a guest blog over a year ago, and I’m finally getting to it after the job searching, the book publishing, and the apartment hunting. But I’m back, and more settled than ever.

I have to say, the difference between my first year in the UK and the first year back in America is that time has flown since I’ve been back. My first year in the UK felt like a LONG, LONG year. My boyfriend and I had most of the same issues that we have here - looking for a job, etc., but I remember thinking in England - man, time really idles by. Here, not so much.

Do you experience time pass by at a slower pace while living abroad? Or is that just me?

I put it down to awareness. In another country, every moment is a learning experience, and everyday there is the possibility that something new and exciting will happen. You hear a new word; you turn the corner and discover a previously unknown bakery; or you meet a stranger who wants to talk to you simply because you “have an accent.” Every moment is cherished and different. When you’re in your own country, you are the same as everyone else - getting by, trying to make ends meet, or furiously rushing to succeed, be with family members, and somehow, still, to sleep at least 6 hours a night.

In an ideal world, one would feel alive and in the moment no matter where they lived, and time would, well, take its time. But, unfortunately, you get into a routine and time doesn’t necessarily fly when you’re having fun. No, in my opinion, time flies when you’re comfortable, and follow a schedule.

Toni wanted me to write about how it was to return to America after living abroad for nearly two years. Have I felt reverse culture shock? Do I miss England? Am I a changed woman?

To be honest, I was ready to come home. Unlike when I lived in Paris in 2004, came back to the United States, and fell into a deep, dark depression from missing France, coming back from England last year was fairly easy. In Paris, everything was different from America. In Paris, I was the eccentric, sought-after butterfly that no one could catch, but everyone wanted. In Paris, I spoke another language, met new friends, was completely on my own without knowing anyone, and truly immersed myself in the culture.

In England, it almost wasn’t different enough - yes there were the colloquialisms, the quaint, old towns, the history, and the millions of other differences that are just slightly confusing to the American who thinks the English and the American is cut from the same cloth.

However, it was just similar enough that I felt slightly off-kilter and disoriented, but not unfamiliar enough to deeply change me. I certainly wasn’t sought after, but mostly made fun of (as the English do in the most loving way possible), and I went there while in a relationship so I already had a built-in network of people.

I enjoy all the eccentricities that make England what it is, and always look forward to going back. Nevertheless, and perhaps part of it is because I am slightly older than when I was in Paris, there was nothing about England that rocked my core, or shook my foundation enough to warrant a reverse culture shock.

Perhaps I’m too much of an idealistic, American to fully embrace the witty, realistic and ironic view of the English. Perhaps I am now too set in my ways. I still have a slight mid-Atlantic accent, and say “a bit” and I can’t be “arsed” (well, now I say “arsed” since Toni corrected me a few weeks back. I always thought they were saying “asked” but just in their funny accent!), and I know I will move back one day. But, I have to thank England for making me realize how much I actually love America. I never thought I would say that - honestly.

I was embarrassed to be American before, but maybe I finally realized that there’s another country out there just as deliciously flawed as the one I come from, but whose people don’t apologize for it.

So yeah, I suppose that’s what I learned while living abroad. England gave me a backbone, a realization that they may make fun of us, and we may always be the rugged, bastardized children of their defeat, but we are the far superior country when it comes down to it. (Ha! Just kidding…but no, not really…OK yes, I’m kidding.)

Here’s to making time slow down whilst in America!

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Meagan was an expat in England for nearly two years. Since her return to the US, she has finished her first novel, “Three Questions”.(Toni has just read it and highly recommends it.)  Lopez is also in the midst of running a nerve-wracking Kickstarter campaign to help sell the novel into a screenplay. She would love your contributions! You will get some great rewards, and be a part of a very cool project. 

6 comments:

  1. I so agree about the passage of time in England. The days did seem to pass much slower than in the states and I think you've put your finger on why. Very insightful and so true about a heightened sense of awareness since everything is so new and different. Definitely forces you to live in the present (but also pine for home, which also makes time go slower!) Mind you, my experience of expatriating twenty years ago was quite different from your experience two years ago. England is w-a-a-y more Americanized now than in the late 80's.

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  2. Yes, I do wish it would move slower wherever I was! Thanks Melissa - I can't wait to go back though next week!

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  3. "I was embarrassed to be American before, but maybe I finally realized that there’s another country out there just as deliciously flawed as the one I come from, but whose people don’t apologize for it."


    Do Americans apologise for for being American? One of differences I really enjoy about Americans is how much they seem to love being American. Britons are all, "Oh, don't mind us, we're a bit crap at this sort of thing." Americans are unashamedly pro-America, faults and all.

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  4. Mr Potarto: Agreed.

    Mike--no apologies

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  5. I come across Americans who apologize all the time - either for not being as geographically aware as other people (they think) or for not sounding as smart as Brits (again, they think). However, they don't apologize for simply being American.

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  6. Yes, I think I was an anomaly. I never wanted to be American, and felt we were a boisterous, egotistical nation that were unaware other countries existed. I apologized because I didn't want to be associated with that. Now, I realize, we're pretty awesome :) - I think it's like a teenager realizing their parents aren't so uncool after all. I had to grow up.

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