I just finished the utterly fantastic book, “Postcards from Across the Pond” (link is to the blog of the same name) by Michael Harling.
I have read a number of books on the US/UK expat experience as well as on the Brits/England in general, but this one takes the cake–it is hands down the best overall summary of what an American living here would notice and find amusing. And I say amusing, because it’s Harling’s light-hearted tone and wry observations done in the context of admiration, unlike, say, Sarah Lyall’s frequently condescending tone. The book is laugh-out-loud funny in places, the writing is crisp and the stories are brilliant. Of course, I now realize that I could never turn my blog into a book, as many of the same things seem to amuse and confound me and Michael, perhaps providing a reminder that there are some generalities to the expat experience, especially for an American in the UK.
After two and a half years here, I feel as though my overall attitude is similar to Harling’s, in that I am mostly amused at the crazy things I notice and that surprise me; in the early days I was admittedly frequently angry and disgusted because life was proving remarkably difficult (e.g. the whole bank account/credit card fiasco). Yes at times I am critical of the locals, especially on topics about which I care deeply (access to quality education regardless of parental income) but most of the time I too am wryly amused. Reading Harling’s book brought back a memory from last week that I neglected to blog about, which was wandering aimlessly around Manchester in the dark because there are frequently no stand alone street signs in UK cities, and you have to hopefully look for the names of streets to be on placards on the side of buildings, which are not always there on each corner. I had a map and still ended up making two wrong turns, which is quite unusual for me, normally pretty good at navigation (and having won orienteering medals in girl scouts!) but the streets being unlabeled and not at right angles definitely did me in. I know I keep getting off topic here so I’ll conclude this ramble with one more bit of praise for the book; almost every single anecdote made me feel like nodding, yep, I agree, been there, done that, wondered that, rolled my eyes at that, so for any new American expats in the UK or those considering taking the plunge, this book is mandatory reading.