American Ex-Pat in London
I've lived here now about six weeks, and people from all over the place are constantly asking me how I like it. I was raised in NY, so the culture shock I've experienced so far is, at first glance, minimal.
That can be misleading for me on the occasions when culture shock hits me hard.
I've put together a list of Pros and cons that is specific to an American ex-pat experience. It's by no means complete. Reading this? Care to add some of your own?
Pro - London is a charming and seductive city. Much of it is very beautiful to look at. Its long, proud history can be fascinating. It is culturally rich with an influx of foreigners. I've found that most Londoners seem receptive to making new friends.
Con - London is a huge city. It's easy to get lost. It can be very overwhelming to turn up in an area you don't know. GPS is geared towards driving. I don't know many fresh ex-pats with cars. And I've noticed that even people who've lived here for years still need their A-Z a lot of the time.
When you're new, other foreigners can sometimes make you feel more unwelcome than anyone else does.
Pro - The tube is quick and covers most areas you'd want to go.
Con - When the tube gets mucked up, the above no longer applies. The tube map is a nice piece of fiction when you're trying to gauge the layout of the city. And the tubes quit at night.
Buses cover more ground, run nights, and the maps are fairly accurate. But they are slow, and if you don't know your route or your stop, they can seem very complicated.
Pro - Stunningly fantastic food is available everywhere.
Con - Staggeringly expensive prices are, as well.
Pro - Smart clothing can be purchased, too.
Con - See "con" for food.
Pro - Tipping is optional.
Con - Good service may be a thing of the past as a result.
Pro - There are many great areas to live in, and many comfortable houses / flats all over the city.
Con - How many flatmates do you wish to have in order to have any expendable income at all?
Pro - Everybody speaks English.
Con - Just try and keep up with the rules of Standard English if you've been raised speaking and writing American English. It takes some concentration! Now throw in some vernacular you've never heard before, in accents that may very well confuse you.
Oh, and you're American? Everybody hates your accent. They won't hear the difference between Boston and Charleston, either. You might as well walk into the pub draped in a confederate flag and chompin' on tobacco.
Pro - It's easy enough to get out of London, and travel anywhere in Europe on a limited budget.
Con - If you stay in the UK, you may spend much more than if you leave the country altogether. And public transit outside of London is nowhere near up to par.
Pro - There are many creative ways to get and keep a visa.
Con - Immigration might make you feel like that visa is completely worthless.
Pro - There are plenty of other Americans around.
Con - There are plenty of other Americans around.
Pro - People seem to be more literate overall in Britain than they are in the states.
Con - The operative word here is "seem."
It's usually just that Standard English hard at work, even when they're discussing important events on last night's sitcom.
Pro - There's a lot to do at night - bands, theatre, etc.
Con - Pubs close early compared to anywhere in the states.
Pro - Underground culture is alive and well. The laws are better suited to it than they are in the states as well.
Con - Underground cultures have problems of their own. That's a whole other article.
Pro - When you're anywhere new, there's a lot to see and a lot to learn.
Con - There are a lot of cracks to clip through. You have to step over them carefully, or at least choose the ones you don't mind.
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