American in England
Purim is about living one day in someone else’s skin, isn’t that what a costume is?
Living in another country reminds me of Purim, you feel like you are living someone else’s life.
Until you see that actually it’s you life, with a new twist.
Arriving in England for the first time, was an event I will never forget.
As an American I came prepared for every eventuality, as I was going to Seminary in Manchester.
This would be all about me becoming self sufficient, as an only girl in a family of 2 it was seen as a honour.
I came with 3 large suitcases ( there wasn’t weight limits in those days) and lots of fancy clothing.
It was winter, so I wore my new reversible duffle coat and a matching hat.
This is when I learned that in England things are different.
My coat was in 2 colours, purple, and light grey the hat was red to match both sides. Being American I was wearing the purple side out all pleased with myself, feeling like the bees knees.
As I walked out of security there was a friend waiting to greet me.
The first thing she said was “Hi! Hope you had a good journey, You will need to take off your hat, you can’t wear that here”
I was a bit upset but thought when in Rome……
She soon let me know that I should use the reverse side of the coat.
Looking back at this one event around 40 years ago, I see that this is when my initiation into the mindset of The English culture began.
Americans have a bit of a reputation in England, which I find hard to understand, we are called brash and loud, but I do perceive why it may seem to be true. Americans are taught from a young age how to express themselves, how to articulate, and mostly they are taught that America is great! This perpetuates the feeling that they can achieve anything they put their heads too.
Is this a bad thing?
I don’t think it is, but a bit of taming doesn’t hurt.
A few years after I finished Seminary, my Parents were offered a job in England, and my experience of sem helped them decide to take it. I was already married and waiting for the birth of my 2nd child, so I followed soon after.
I actually saw everything in a new light, I remember going into a store (Green Grocers) for fruit and vegetables, the man behind the counter said, “Hi love,” (I froze, no one says hi love in America) “how can I help you?”
So I asked for 2 eggplants, he looked at me strangely, “pardon?” I said “eggplant.” He laughed and said, “we have no plants that grow eggs in England. I said, “it’s purple,” now he really gave me a weird look.
“Explain what you are looking for,” so I slowly told him and he finally understood that I wanted Aubergines.
The next item was Cucumber, he took a long green thing that looked like squash I was very confused, as the days went on I slowly learned that English cucumbers are long, squash is courgette, and love is a word that’s used by most shop owners to all their clients.
I also realised that there are many differences that separate Americans and English, but these same differences that divide us are what we both need to grow.
Americans need the reserve of the English and some English need the vitality of the Americans
Now let’s see it from a English point of view.