In my first few years in America, I used to say: “I’m going home for my vacation” (actually I said holiday!), and by this I meant Scotland. But on my recent visit to the UK, I found myself saying several times: “I go home on January 31″, meaning Philadelphia. And now I really am home, and it feels like home.
Just as the ability to speak more than one language gives one the ability to compare and contrast the way different people look at different things, so living in a country different from one’s country of origin gives a perspective sometimes denied those who have lived only in their “home” country.
I was amused at some little differences I noted for the first time.
In the UK, police cars, ambulances and fire engines speed through busy streets with sirens going and at double the speed of their American equivalents. Maybe there is less fear of being sued in England if they hit someone!
Another difference is that in the UK I was amazed at how many coins I had to carry in my pocket. The smallest bank note is 5 pounds (I have no pound sign on this computer) the equivalent at the moment of $7.50, so my pocket was always heavy with coins to the values of two pounds, one pound, fifty pence, twenty pence, ten pence, five pence, two pence and one penny. Nearly pulled my trousers down!
And then the difference in patriotism. In the USA, the stars and stripes flags are to be seen everywhere. In the UK, hardly a flag is to be seen, and then sometimes it is not the Union Jack, the national flag, but in England the St George’s Cross (favoured by football hooligans and skinheads) or in Scotland the St Andrew’s Cross (favoured by Scottish Nationalists). And the Military have little or no influence anywhere; they are tolerated as a necessary evil (which, I suppose, is quite a Christian view) and not glorified (and cosseted) as in the USA.
However, I knew I had been Americanified (if that is a word) when I barely escaped being run down by one of those large red London buses because I looked to the right instead of the left when crossing the road. But I survived to tell the tale.
In a subsequent post, I’ll try to comment on the significant differences I observed between the Church of England and the American Episcopal Church.