So, after twenty seven years in the USA, I will be returning to live in the UK this summer. Gulp. Instead of an expat I'll be a repat, otherwise known as a fish out of water. They say repatriation is harder than moving away in the first place and I'm not about to argue with that. Returning to the US after decades in the UK, author Bill Bryson chronicled his confusion superbly in the 1999 book I'm a Stranger Here Myself. On returning to the States, he found that
Coming back to your native land after an absence of many years is a surprisingly unsettling business, a little like waking up from a long coma.
It won't be entirely new to me as I've been travelling back to Blighty at least once a year and keeping up to date(ish). In 2006 my book Rules, Britannia; An Insider's Guide to the United Kingdom came out, but 10 years down the line, there are lots of new things I'm going to have to master. Having an English accent surprisingly adds to the stress in certain situations. Inspecting coins and notes before you hand them over in a shop is all very well when you have a foreign accent, but you look a bit slow when you're supposed to be a native. To quote the maestro (Bryson) once again,
Time, you discover, has wrought changes that leave you feeling mildly foolish and out of touch.This is especially true when you try to buy something with a 50p that has been out of circulation for some years!
When I left England, there was no Internet, cell phones were the size of micro-waves and couldn't be used for anything other than verbal communication, and self-check-outs, mercifully, had yet to be invented. All this new technology brought about new vocabulary and it wasn't always the same on each side of the Pond. "Dongle" isn't as widely used in the US and I must admit, it'll be a while before I can say it without giggling. American wireless phones are typically called "cell phones" rather than mobile phones, although that difference won't throw a conversation too far off course. And it's not limited to technology; I recently used the word "sectional" in conversation with an English friend and she hadn't a clue what I meant. When I left England, sectionals, otherwise known as corner sofas, weren't really a trend so I never knew the British English word for one.
Back in the day, we had one bin for all the rubbish. Few people were composting and virtually no one was recycling; local councils certainly weren't getting involved. It's going to be interesting to see how many fines I can rack up before I get it right, although the Brexit situation might ease the problem. Apparently some local councils currently have five or more bin requirements in an attempt to comply with the European Union Waste Framework Directive. Who knows what the post-Brexit bin situation will be?
And I can't even think about British television. While I salivate over all the good drama and documentaries I'll have at my fingertips, I'll admit I'm slightly apprehensive about accessing them. Again, when I left, there were five channels. Wiki tells me that there are now over four hundred and eighty! When someone says she's going to Plus 1 something, I never really know what that means and I have no idea who most of the celebs are. Thank goodness for staples like Corrie and Phil Schofield.