Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Steeped in Britain and de-Britification


On Tuesday I applied for my first proper American job. Eek! Putting my resume together was a strange experience, because it showed me just how steeped in British culture I am. Looking at job descriptions and requirements I felt really foreign, even though for the first time in 12 years I'm actually job-hunting in my hometown. I am steeped in real good.

Moving to Birmingham four years ago I felt a similar sense of foreign-ness. It was hard to get my head around British culture, let alone Brummie culture, let alone this whole job finding business. None of my experience seemed to count, no one had even heard of my small  California college, my GPA didn't translate, I wasn't like other British candidates. I felt like I had to work extra hard to prove myself.

But after time I somehow assimilated. I accumulated more experience as a British employee, with British credentials that British employers would appreciate.  I even learned to make rounds of tea. Over time, I was Britified. Even my accent changed into some mid-Atlantic merger.

But now, after all that effort weaseling my way into the British employment club, I have to push my way into a new club: American employment. And that's a whole other ball game. For that I must de-Britify. Nothing personal, it just comes with moving.

I've already changed my spelling back to American English and I'm calling my CV a resume. On that resume I went to great lengths to explain where I worked and what I did in ways that translate back home.

Also, I'm in the middle of resuscitating  any outward expressions of self-belief and confidence that may, with hope, still exist. I'm doing the opposite of toning myself down and I'm not sure what that's called. In Japanese they'd say I'm “level up-ing”.

I like what Meagan from The Lady Who Lunches blog says about England, how it makes you into a quieter, gentler version of yourself. I want to keep that, but rekindle my American ferocity in order to get me some work.

As I unsteep and attempt to Ameri-fy, I hope to retain some of my British flavor, because I do like the person I developed into over there. I guess it's the challenge of any expat re-entering into her home country: attempting to juggle the best of both.

Have you ever re-entered your home country after a long time away? Any hints helpful. :)

{Photo: flypeterfly }


Jenny said...

where is the job? and sorry it all seems so foreign...i bet i'd feel the same way if i went back to work now...my brain has been "mom"ified, not too dissimilar to mummified ;)

Alison said...

Ag! What a crazy season. I find myself in a parallel universe: Africa has a way of, might I say, 'inflating'the self. "You took that class in undergrad once, right? Can you teach the course, starting next week?" You feel like you're capable of anything. Until you look at American job posts. And you feel wholeheartedly underqualified for the rest of the world. =)

Perhaps we'll reunite in Seattle in 6 months, and have a good re-settling of egos. Over tea.

Good luck with the applications!!

Jill said...

Coming back can be overwhelming and especially in our over the top country. Grocery stores suddenly seem like concurring a new world, Target feels like the most convenient thing in the planet, and driving is just plain weird. One thing that really helped me was to keep a few simple things the same. For the first year I drank alot of PG tea (you can find it at cub of course:) ), I talked alot about my experiences, and I even tried to settle myself down. I felt like that was one of the major differences was that I knew that I could relax even with ridiculous expectations at work and school, but england taught me how to be at home. Slowly, you'll come around to a different kind of expectation, and it will get easier. But I think its really good to recognize where assimilating can be frustrating, and just plain annoying. You just learn to love specific parts of each culture and bring them together in your lifestyle, regardless of your geography.

TheLadyWhoLunches said...

Oh, the joys and horrors of coming back home. I lived in Paris for a year a few years ago, and coming back home was unlike any culture shock I had experienced entering France. I fell into a depression because I felt like nothing I had learned was translating (as you said) to Americans, and further more, they just thought I was being pretentious when I was really just trying to assimilate back into their world. They didn't understand how an American could feel foreign in her own country. To make matters worse, no one really cared about the adventures I had been on.
That said, I learned more about myself coming back then I ever have before. And, it allowed me to create my own America.
You'll probably have to adjust what you thought America was to what America actually is. Jill's points are right on!

Thanks for the shout out! I'm sure in a few months you'll be back to yourself - whichever self that is!

ululani said...

oh how i know the feeling of coming home after being away for so long...as one who just came back in November to the states after a year-plus abroad I was strangely surprised on how easy it was to adjust...then some mornings I'll wake up and wish there was a tube station nearby (I know, really Ulu? A tube station? but seriously I miss walking to the stations and not having to look/pay for parking somewhere...) I miss the feeling of London, with all its busy-ness, crowds of well dressed people rustling back and forth to their own destinations.

And then I'm reminded about the awful things about London, like the shady neighborhood where people asked me if I had drugs and loud students in Camden who like to have screaming matches outside throughout the night.

I had to call yesterday to get a foreign background check from the London police department and the guy was SO rude to me on the phone, and had the nerve to tell me he was going to hang up when I asked him to repeat something because the line was bad. I will NOT miss that kind of attitude at all.

Living abroad really taught me about the wonderful things there are living in America. In fact, there are moments when I absolutely LOVE America. Like when you enter a store and the retail workers smile and ask you how your day is going and if they can help you. Or walking to the Starbucks and runners or people walking their dogs say "Good morning," with a friend smile or even send a casual nod at you. Little things I love like the efficiency of the post and how people are politely friendly. I was totally jaywalking yesterday and a lady in an SUV slowed down and affably waved me across the street. In London they would have sped up and tried to run me over. In any case, these are the things I LOVE about the states.

All this to say that there are good and bad things about living anywhere, though I think there is something magical and wonderful about home, s place where you fit so naturally you don't even have to think about it. Even so, I'm still one of those people who absolutely love living abroad, but all in all, I guess what I mean to say is that I am always happy to come home.

alisha said...

Thanks for all the tips ladies! I love living abroad too but I agree, absence can very easily make the heart grow fonder. :)

Nadine said...

Congrats on applying for the job!

Although I don't live out of the country, I sometimes feel like I do. And when I go to CA for trips, I feel out of place, but after a week, I start to settle back into the CA routine. Hopefully it's an easy transition for you!!

rachael said...

Congrats on the job application Alisha! I'm sure Seattle will love your beautiful American-British-Japanese-Kiwi blend...

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