Published 2014-11-03 09:25:35
Claire McGill from the lovely Cotswolds, England and now living in Columbia, Maryland, USofA.
1. Why did you move abroad?
The decision to move to the USA wasn’t based on the fact that we thought the grass would be greener; we simply wanted to water, smell, walk on and nurture a different type of grass for a while. Our philosophy is that change is good, opportunities are meant to be taken, and a little bit of excitement, risk, and the unknown are tonics for the soul and for relationships.
Plus, I had a nagging fascination with things like Glee, Miami Vice, Fame, The Wire and Desperate Housewives and I kind of wanted to see if any of it is true. (Between you and me, some of it is).
2. How do you make a living?
I used the six months before we left the UK to assess my current job situation and made a decision to throw things up in the air (metaphorically). Having worked full time in marketing and PR, which I loved most of the time (especially the office banter), I wanted to use the time sitting in the lap of Uncle Sam (that sounds kind of weird, but again, metaphor implied), doing some of the things I had always wanted to do. So I trained in fitness, got my qualifications and came out ready to work. I’d already made some contacts (Gawd love the interweb) and started working within three weeks on disembarking that plane.
I have also used the time to write as a freelancer. It meant not writing corporate gobbledygook anymore, which was utterly liberating and things have really progressed from there, making connections all over the place. I feel like I have achieved a lot, especially making a start on three different types of books. Time is an issue, though!
I have also acted professionally on stage, work as an extra on some TV shows like House of Cards, Deadly Affairs and Veep, and undertake voluntary work as a nutritionist for various public sector places and for my American friend’s political campaign. Oh yes, and I spend a lot of time blogging!
For me, the ‘job’ is being an expat and having a whole host of experiences. That’s a rich and rewarding CV/resume in itself.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
Sometimes I feel my friends and family mostly find out what we’ve been doing through my blog. For instance, my mother found out I had a virus when I blogged about being very British and not wanting to go and bother the doctor.
But, we Skype. (Who invented Skype? It’s marvellous!). And we email. I don’t do it too often. To be honest, I didn’t do it that often at home. If you do it all the time, you run out of things to say, and then all you have to say when they asked what you’ve been doing is: ‘Oh, I er, Skyped you yesterday and sent you an email. Did you get it?’ ;)
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Washington, D.C.?
I love seeing things with new and childlike eyes. I was like this in New York: ‘Ooh, look at that Philly Cheese Steak Hot Dog thing on the pavement next to the hole in the ground with steam coming out! It’s so New York!’
And like this in California: ‘Oooh, look at the golden sands and people surfing and rollerblading and the lifeguards’ hut! It’s so California!’
Yes, I get very excited about seeing things. I even got excited about seeing my first mailbox and my first yellow school bus.
And I love learning about a new culture, and about our own culture in comparison. We Brits and Americans are very different, and only slightly similar. It’s the differences that confuse, bemuse and amuse me. I love that we are different in so, so many ways. It never fails to make me stop and think. I love learning about American history and its people, Gawd love ‘em!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Washington, D.C.?
Sometimes I’m like this: ‘Ugh, I just want to WALK down to the town and post a letter, and stop for a cup of tea and chat to Vera about the local am dram play.’
Here you have to drive everywhere and it does me friggin’ head in!!!
6. What do you miss most?
I miss my post being delivered through the letter box.
I miss my girlfriends.
I miss having my mum an hour away.
I miss my job.
I miss playing netball.
I miss making a joke and not having to explain it.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I could write an essay on this! In fact, I have! It’s being published in a book next year!
My top tips are just connect, don’t be shy, be open, don’t close your eyes, heart or mind to new experiences or opportunities. Don’t make excuses. Don’t judge.
Go out there, do something. Turn off the TV and do something more interesting instead (now, who said that on British TV in the 1980s?). Well, they were right. Do that.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Although it could be said British men behave like this on a Saturday when it’s football season, it’s the Sunday American football complete takeover that still baffles me. Because it’s not just the men down the pub or at home, it’s everyone. Here everyone supports the Ravens, and it appears that when there is a Ravens game on a Sunday afternoon, nobody, and this includes grannies, moms, brothers, kids etc etc, is available or capable of doing anything but watching the game and eating shed loads of crap food and wearing purple.
I am still dumbfounded by it.
And driving. What the hell is going on with driving out here? I wrote a short poem about it once.
Here it is:
Americans drive like they don’t give a hoot
But don’t get angry, otherwise they will shoot
British folks drive with a wave and smile
But inside they’re raging for the next half a mile.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That Americans are dumb. They aren’t. (Not all of them.)
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
I think food is more expensive, especially healthy food. I find it more difficult to eat healthier here. Portion size is humongous!
I wrote a poem about that too!
Hey USA, they say it’s not the size that counts
11. What advice would you give other expats?
But tell that to the chefs who give you massive amounts
In the UK we simply have three helpings of roast dinners
And sit smug at the table, thinking we are the winners.
Live your life like you are only here for three years and need to get it all in.
Don’t hanker after home and waste your energy that way – channel it positively into your new experience.
Make a proud name for the Brits by being fabulous, funny and friendly.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog
to document my travels and the build up to leaving for the USA about 6 months before we left. It charted my excitement, all the shenanigans with getting sorted and everything since.
My blog is my baby, and it has grown with me. It’s been part of the journey of being an expat, as well as sharing my expat life across the world.
I am really very proud of my blog indeed.
Claire's blog, Desperate English Housewife in Washington
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