In person and in writing

I shall link to the other expat bloggers’ views from our meet-up on Saturday soon. But before I do, I have to stop and think a bit about something that was written this morning by my good friend Michelloui:

NFAH’s sometimes spiky writing about her experiences and observations in the UK might make you think of a cynical, intelligent, workaholic who loves music and jet setting and making friends with other expats. In the tangible world she is a warm, kind, intelligent woman with zero pretentions and a real interest in other people. She also has a genuine enjoyment of her life in Britain. She has a fun sense of humour with a great sense of irony….

It’s always a bit of a wake-up call to see what others say about you when you’ve met. And anyone who has followed this blog from the beginning (and I don’t think there are any commenters left from the early days) would know that there was once upon a time another person with whom I met, and with whom I ended up falling out over a comment about my personality. I was shocked by it at the time, and in retrospect I’m still a bit confused by the whole thing.

Blogs are a funny thing. In my case, I started the blog to write about my observations about living abroad. It was a huge step for me, coming from the midwest of the US, and I was honestly and genuinely surprised by what I found here. I love it here, and I have a wonderful job and a mostly wonderful existence (made even more wonderful by the friendships I have developed with other expat bloggers). I came into this experience with very few pre-conceived notions about what it would be like living abroad, and sometimes I have found it wonderful and sometimes I have found it frustrating. It comes perhaps as no surprise that the frustrations have seen more press in this blog than the positive things. I’m an officially single (divorced) person living alone abroad for work reasons, which (as far as I can tell) is a rather unusual circumstance amongst the greater expat blog community.

My blog posts have, at times, thus really emphasized my frustrations. My credit card woes. My irritation at two tap sinks. It’s been a vent for my irritation and frustration and general snarky-ness. I admit it. I have no problem with admitting it. But I’ve been very surprised to read the responses of others to my views, which have been in general very different from what I intended when I wrote any particular thing.

I hate to think that my blog persona is one of anger or unhappiness. Thus my sensitivity at any comments that even hint at the possibility. I’ll soon be celebrating 4 years in this fine country, and for that I am extremely grateful. I more or less love it here, or I would have moved back to the US when I had the chance (at 1.3 years, for the record). I absolutely hate the idea that people who meet me in person would think that I was negative overall, and not get that my musings were both out of frustration at times but also tongue-firmly-in-cheek at other times. Sure I find Britain to be lacking in certain things, but also I know that America is lacking in many things. I hope that I (as an expat) am open to all of these views and clearly I’m here for a reason.

Every time I’ve been so frustrated that I’ve thought about moving ‘home’ to the US it’s been easy to reason why that was a bad idea. I hope that the locals don’t feel too bad about my staying here and continuing to enjoy the work that I do here. Being an expat is a rough thing that I never considered as a young person, I moved here at 30. And it’s been one hell of a learning experience since I arrived. I’m looking forward to celebrating four years abroad in the fall and somewhat shocked that I’ve made nearly four years. I feel as though, in some ways, I’m clearly established here and I have no real recourse to move in the future.

Brits, I love your country. I’ve been frustrated moving abroad. I’ve found some things about your locals that are like the things I would criticize in my own country if they were there. But don’t read too much into my frustrations. On the whole, this blog is my vent and I’m a relatively happy and healthy person who has a great life on a day-to-day basis. And I really don’t know what I would do if someone made me leave Europe for the US.

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14 responses to “In person and in writing

  1. Thats interesting as I’m the opposite, I’m here in california and I dont think I could move back home. Once I got used to the terrible tea and people scaring me by trying to talk to me in the line for the supermarket I realized I quite like it here!

    I do love visiting the UK, but I get annoyed with high prices for certain things, hated all the rain, and that its really hard to get a glass of water, much harder to get a refill!

  2. enjoyed this post. keep blogging — always fun to read.

  3. I totally get that the blog is a place to vent, and that what we see of you here is only a part of who you are. I know enough from reading your blog to know that I really don’t know you. Nor do I ‘know’ any of the bloggers whose blogs I read on a regular basis.

  4. It just makes me want to meet you in real life. I feel I know you, but I’m guessing now that I don’t really.

  5. I feel exactly the same about living in ITALY.

  6. I always find it interesting/unnerving to see what people think of me as well! So I tried to be sensitive to the fact that others might feel the same when I wrote my post about the Expat Meet Up. I was thinking more along the lines of simply ‘how nice it is to get the bigger picture when we meet people in person.’

    Blogs are so much about what we choose to put out there, some of us just randomly spout stuff and others carefully select and censor our material. I’m not sure if either option gives a more complete picture of the person.

    Ive always found your posts funny stories I could relate to. I admit I expected to meet a woman with more general sarkiness–which is of course silly of me because I know our blogs don’t completely reflect who we are (see above!).

    I wouldn’t have minded sarkiness in person, but I love what I found instead: a fantastic sense of humour, warmth, a love of your life in the UK and a great natural curiosity. And a shared love of Tex Mex, but not of Velveeta 😉 Although I could learn to love it if someone made Velveeta nachos for me…

  7. As I’m a newbie blogger, I probably came to the expat meet-up with very few pre-conceptions. I thought you were lovely, intelligent, and interesting. I enjoyed hearing about your job and your life which is quite a bit different from my own, part of the charm, really. If you ever come to London, it would be great to catch up–I’d be happy to do something cultural or lunch. Whatever. Keep in touch.

  8. Plus, you can’t move home if Tom decides to extend here. Who would I harass?

  9. NFAH, some of us are meeting up in London in July. Would like for you to join us. Email me for details:
    smitten by britain at hotmail dot com

  10. This is really funny because I have met you in person and found you exactly as I expected — sassy, intelligent, and…in all the best ways possible…fun and SPIKEY! (Great description, Michelloui!) When I say spikey, I mean opinionated and fun and warm — like a great childhood friend who isn’t afraid to have an opinion, but says it with the biggest smile imaginable. You were exactly as I imagined, only with ridiculously-crazy life parallels/cross-overs with my former professional and personal life that I still find a little mind-boggling.

    Having said that, though — there is something about an anonymous blog that I really love. It allows you to have your opinions and be brazen and confident and express yourself freely. My blog was originally designed for family, and since everyone from former co-workers to fellow students to my dear little old granny read it — I feel I rarely have a chance to be critical on any topic. It is all light and fluffy. Three cheers for writing that is more than light and fluffy, NFAH!

  11. Pingback: Expat blogger meet-up round-up « Not From Around Here

  12. I occasionally read your blog, even though I’m not an expat. You don’t come off as angry or unhappy at all – honest about your frustrations, yes, but why on earth would I read someone who wasn’t?

  13. On the other hand, there is no good justification for those two-tap sinks. And it is necessary to travel with your own ice-maker 😉

  14. Fascinated to find a blog after my own heart but in reverse! 🙂
    Just made it past 4 years in Florida.
    I wonder if you found that it’s the little things that catch you off guard too?
    Not sure I understand the two-tap issue, but when you take an apartment here, do pray tell why by law they must provide a dishwasher but not a washing machine???

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