Becoming British is not for the faint of heart. It requires a subtlety with words, humour, and nuance that I was not born possessing.
“Subtle as a brick” my friend and co-worker Ross would say of my direct and to-the-point nature.
After a few years in the UK, I came to believe that God sent me to England to torment British people.
I am direct, passionate, usually speak my mind (always), and cry at the drop of a hat. I possessed all the traits that could make anyone on the island profoundly uncomfortable. There is no such thing as emotional repression when it comes to my feelings towards anything. My fellow staff used to turn around at conferences with impish expressions on their faces when someone shared a personal story of coming to know Jesus or of someone else coming to faith. I would be a flood of tears within minutes.
I cry when I am happy, joyful, sad, confused, and angry.
After my first 7 months in my second assignment of Newcastle, a friend and future housemate decided I deserved a trip back to the States to see my family, because “I had worked hard” according to her. She got forty students to chip in £10 each with her so they could give me a check large enough to fly home that summer. I burst into tears and made every Brit in the pub feel incredibly awkward as a giant card with signatures was handed to me and a check. I had to hug everyone on the card of course, with my snotty, crying self. Way too much emotion for that pub.
Did God send me to England to tell people about Jesus or help people with their emotional repression? Mmm, it could be a coin toss.
When I moved to the UK I knew it would be different from the US. I think expecting that difference helped me last much longer than most Americans who are whacked in the face by culture shock as soon as they step off the plane and discover Britain is not as we expect. “Different” turned out to be a good expectation.
I eventually became British, literally. (Yes, I still say liT-trally) I have the red passport. It is one of my proudest possessions.
However, I am discovering that despite the fact that I always stood out as an American in Britain, now that I am an American in America, I am actually feeling and experiencing a bit more of being a Brit in America.
I am not sure when exactly it happened, but somehow along the way, I became British. Kind of. A little bit.
Reverse culture shock stories to follow.