Otherwise called, “Is this America? Or just San Francisco? I don’t know anymore.”
It’s now been just over a month since Stag and I made the leap to start a new life in America. Can you believe it? (I definitely did not break out into singing Hootie’s “Time” after I wrote that, certainly not). And, admittedly, after years of living away from my home country, I’ve become something of an international hybrid expat. There were things I missed, sure (read my blog post: 5 Things I Miss About Life in America). But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad nervous about what life in America would be like again.
Well, what I’ve learned is: there is some negative, but wonderfully, there is a lot of positive. There are things that have changed, or things that have remained the same and I just totally blanked on. Here are five things I’ve observed since moving back to the US, for your country-confused reading pleasure.
Positive: I Forgot How Friendly People Are
There have been many a’time I’ve regaled my Tale of Woe to listeners, about how it took me roughly two years of living in London before I felt like I really knew what I was doing. And honestly, it took me a hell of a lot longer than that to feel like I had a social circle.
Since moving back to America, on the other hand. Well, we’ve been here for just over a week, and I already have had more social engagements than a typical London week. And these are not people I knew before moving here. No, no — these are quite literally complete strangers Stag and I have met in various places. Like through a friend-of-a-friend, at a work event, or even in a grocery store. Literally, just out of friendliness and the goodness of their own hearts, asked to exchange numbers with us and arranged meet ups. Because yes, it is just that simple.
Snaps from the market in the Ferry Building. Everything beautiful, but so expensive.
Negative: Everything is So Much More Expensive Than it Ever Was Before
Do you remember the glorious, glorious days before Brexit happened, and our wonderful British Pounds were worth a helluvalot? Oh boy, do I remember. It meant that, whenever I embarked on a trip home, I could buy everything because that everything was so cheap.
So, when Stag and I decided to make this big move to the US, I was consoling myself that, well, San Francisco isn’t cheap, but at least Shopbop was there. And HomeGoods. And cheaper West Elm. No more simply changing currency signs to pounds. I could pay in dollars! I was rich again!
What I hadn’t realised is that, well, currency conversions on items are still based off of the Glory Days when it was $2 to £1. Meaning: those TopShop boots I could get for £39 in the UK… including tax? They have suddenly $80 in the US (plus tax), roughly $90. THAT’s £68. I REPEAT. £68. COMPARED WITH £39. DEAR GOD SEND HELP. Don’t even get me started on furniture (Ikea, I’m looking at you!).
It’s not just products that are insane: services are even worse. Hiring a cleaner for our flat (4x what it cost in London), getting my usual beauty services (2.5x what it cost in London), paying rent (2x what we paid in London) and buying groceries (2x the prices in the UK). Some of that I was prepared for; some of it, I was not. And, of course, a lot of the more frivolous stuff is going to have to go — goodbye, eyebrow threading and bikini waxing. I accept my fate as a Hairy Beast. You’ll find me in my cave.
I don’t mean to harp on this. But, for anyone thinking of moving from the UK to the USA, these are some of the realities you will face. It’s tough, and it’s a change.
Positive: The Sweet, Sweet Taste of Mexican Food
Controversial statement of the day: London’s Mexican food offering is pretty abysmal. Which I only realised how bad it was having my first taste of Tacolicious in San Francisco. “Ohhhhhh,” I think I mumbled to Stag in between taco number 4 and 5. “THIS is what Mexican food should taste like. I forgot!”
Even in the grocery stores: you forget how good premade (but fresh) store-bought salsa can be. Again, it’s something I didn’t realise until Stag and I came home with a pot of Trader Joe’s fresh salsa. “Ohmygod,” Stag let out in a hush, mouth full of tortillas. “I could eat a meal just of Trader Joe’s salsa and chips and die happy.”
Me too, babes. Me too.
I should caveat and say: as a whole, I prefer the food in London (and the UK) compared with the US. My lovely friend (and fellow American expat in London), Jaime, actually wrote a whole post about this defending the quality food you find in London.
However, Mexican food — sorry, Brits. Leave it to North America.
Negative: So. Much. Athleticwear
Perhaps less of a negative, more of a keen observation. But seriously, women of San Francisco: WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS IN ATHLETICWEAR? Is this just a Californian thing, or an American thing? Has this crazy phenomenon swept the country? Is this just the grown-up form of us wearing Uggs and leggings in college? IS EVERYONE WORKING OUT ALL THE TIME? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
From Tuesday-night cinema to Friday night drinks to Sunday afternoon brunch; there is no escape from it. Always in the same Lulu Lemon gear that’s never seen a sweatdrop (do people actually work-out in such expensive stuff? Do they not get horrible sweat-stains? Just me then…). Perfectly coiffed ponytails, makeup in place. Ready for a night out. In athleticwear.
All I want to know is: when did it get fashionably acceptable to dress like Mel C in public? #BabySpice4Evz
Postive: OMG SUN
If you can believe it, I hadn’t given any thought to how more sun would affect my life moving to a really sunny place. In actuality, I was so wrapped up in Moving Stress, I didn’t even think about the fact that, uh, California is indeed sunnier than London.
And when they say sunshine — particularly in the winter — affects your mood, oh boy, they weren’t kidding.
“Did you know, it’s REALLY sunny here,” I said to my friend excitedly on day 3 Post California Move. “Like, really sunny. I don’t think it’s rained once.”
I couldn’t see her, but I could only imagine her eyes were rolling in LOLz. “Eire… it’s California. They have a drought. It’s the Golden State. Of course it’s sunny.”
Only then did it really dawn on me that this was a huge perk of moving here — and how de-motivated I was by grey skies in London. I always suspected I suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder, for those lucky morning people who aren’t solar powered). But now I know. Sun is glorious to have almost every day, and it really does ignite a certain Carpe Diem that would otherwise lay dormant.