Saturday, August 2, 2014

From the other side of the pond

Posted By on Sat, Aug 2, 2014 at 10:00 AM

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Full disclosure: I am English. Please don’t hold this against me. I live in America now — and have for almost a decade and a half — and I love this country, but I love my native land, too. I hope to offer an "outsider's" perspective on the America that you may be taking for granted, with my status as a Brit simply affording me the ability to look at things differently.

So let’s start with a question I get asked on a weekly basis: "Why did you move to America?"

Why indeed? There certainly is much to love about America, but much to miss about England, too. What caused me to pick up sticks, move 5,000 miles from the land of my birth, and put down roots? Though I probably can’t identify one single thing, an incident earlier this year with a friend brought in to sharp focus why living in America is sometimes just, well, better.

This friend from England came to visit my family and me. After 10 days of enjoying the finest snowy slopes and frosty beers that Colorado had to offer, I dropped him at the airport for his Heathrow-bound flight. Once in London, his plan was to pick up a coach and head to see his parents in Oxford. He emailed me later to share that as he was loading his luggage on to the coach, he was informed that his snowboard would incur an additional £2.00 charge (about $3.30). The snowboard was going into the same under-coach storage hold with his and everyone else’s suitcases. It fit. It wasn’t causing anyone or anything displacement of any sort.

I found myself asking, "Would this have happened in America?" Perhaps. But in a land so dedicated to giving it to you "your way," with BOGO deals and the like being offered at every turn, and with substitutions not only expected, but in many instances actively encouraged, it’d certainly be less likely to happen.

Admittedly, this is one relatively trivial reflection as to how in England you’re actually incentivized to not do anything for yourself. Let’s consider more significant examples. Want to own your own home? England asks, "Why would you want to do that?" The housing market is so inflated now, so inaccessible and exclusive, that renting is not only financially preferable, it’s just about the ONLY avenue open to most people, particularly prospective first-time homeowners.

Want to own a car? True, second-hand cars can be picked up fairly inexpensively in the U.K., but wait till you come to insure them. A $1,000 vehicle will, with concessions to age and driving record, end up costing you many more times its value in yearly insurance costs. And, as for your other kidney, it’s going to need to be sold to put gas in that car — at nearly $10 a gallon. 

It may seem like I’m beating up on old Mother England here, but I’m really not. I’m simply underlining the difference in psyche, and cultural attitude, between my former home and present one. America encourages you to try, to strive for something more, something better. It's an unquenchable desire, it's alive, and it's doing pretty well in America.

Unfortunately, for all its natural splendor, historical significance and endearing societal quirks, England does not share a similarly positive mindset.

To be clear, when I say "America" I’m not talking about the American government. Rather a collective consciousness that most of us regular folks seem to understand, embrace and attempt to realize. I suppose some might typically characterize this as "The American Dream." Call it what you will; I love it, to the extent that I’d cite it as one of the primary reasons that I live here, which is how I could respond when I’m asked on a weekly basis. But typically I don’t; usually, I just say, "The money’s better."

Mark Turner is formerly of Oxford, England, but has lived in America for the past 15 years, the majority of that time in Colorado. Mark enjoys playing soccer, hiking and biking when the weather's good, and when the weather's rotten, writing blog entries that he hopes will amuse and entertain. Mark can be followed on Twitter @melchett.

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