Apologies for too long a gap between posts. I took my wife and mother-in-law to the UK for a vacation. I had hoped to keep active on the blog, but challenges with Internet access and constant travel (we traveled the UK for 15 days, often staying with friends or in several hundred year old inns, where Internet access was challenging, to say the least!) kept me off the blog. Anyway, I’m back the the US now, and have quite a bit of new fodder I’m going to draw upon in the next few weeks based upon my reflections as a Brit now living in the US and returning after a long hiatus.
I left London, England with my wife and 2 year old daughter in 1978 to take up residence in Boston, Mass on a 12-month tour of duty. At the time I was an executive with a British software company. About 6 months into the stay, we upped the ante, and extended the tour to 2 years – we were thoroughly enjoying the US and it seemed like 12 months was not going to be sufficient. Towards the end of the 2 years, we faced up to the fact that America had become our new home, and we sold our UK house, began a path to US citizenship, and began to settle down in our new home.
This week we are back in London for a vacation. I get back to the UK (my place of birth and home for 31 years) every year or so on business, my wife much less frequently, and her mother even less so, so this was an important time to catch up on relatives and friends. So here we are, playing tourists, and making the inevitable comparisons. Here are some initial impressions.
- We knew London would feel expensive – but we are still shocked. IT’S REALLY EXPENSIVE!!! The Marriott Grosvenor Square wants to charge me 20 British Pounds (about $37 US) for 24 hours of Internet! I actually took the option for a 1 hour session (nearly $10, about the same as a Marriott in the US charges for a whole day!)
- London is looking great – very clean, and the air seems clear. Many Americans have asked me over the years about the London fogs. This is a myth established by all those Sherlock Holmes movies. As a child, I do remember horrendous London fogs, but an early clean air campaign in the 1950’s took care of that, and today the air seems much cleaner than most major US cities – certainly when compared to Atlanta, GA where we now live. (Note: The photo above is a stock picture thanks to Google Images.)
- It’s hard to find a Londoner in London. It’s all tourists and, if you’ll excuse the term, foreigners. Even the legendary London cab drivers no longer live in London – they live in the countryside and drive in for a day’s work. (We have not taken many cabs – the London transport system is effective, though not nearly so as it was 30 years ago – way too much traffic for the buses and the “tube” is undergoing extensive renovations, so many lines are out of action, and delays seem rife.)
- The food is much better than it was – very much better. All countries develop a certain mythology over time (e.g., London fogs!) and that is usually based on reality – at least a one-time reality. England is not know for great food – that’s the myth and was the reality. Of course, you could find great food, but you’d have to look hard. And the service used to be very poor – Brits don’t do well serving others. Well, that has changed. Excellent food abounds, as does good (but not great) service.
Well, the above was actually written after our first 3 days, spent in London’s West End. Since then we’ve traveled much of the country, and have more to say on the pros and cons of the UK versus the US, as seen through the eyes of a dual nationality (British and US) ex-pat.