Being a Desperate Housewife in Washington
By: Claire McGill - Also see author's expat blog listingThe Dream
Once upon a time there was a wife and mother who liked her life very much and knew she was very lucky, but all the time she wished for more adventure. She dreamed of new lands and wished to see new things.
She was troubled by these dreams and so one day she spoke to her husband, a wise and gentle man, who listened to her pleas. “I wish for us to set off for a new place all together, for us to share wonderful experiences, and for us to find out about others and ourselves.”
The wise and gentle husband agreed that they should seek new lands and adventures and made it so. Without delay the wife, her husband and their son bid goodbye to their friends and family. “Why do you wish to go so?” queried some of the friends and family? “Is all that you have here not good?”
“It is very good,” replied the wife,”but we have a wish to seek new pleasures and enrich our lives.”
The wife, husband and son travelled to their new land and they were delighted with what they found. Some days the wife was sad and missed her old life, but the new life in new lands offered a great many new opportunities for her, her husband and her son.
“I am glad we have come to the new lands and followed our dreams,” said the wife and mother. The husband and son were glad too, and all was well in the world.
It is like a fairytale in some ways, moving abroad. Thankfully I’ve yet to meet my wicked step-mother in whatever form or disguise she may take, and not even a massive hurricane could shake our current dream-like state.
I believe this: you can run from what you don’t like, you can hide, or you can go seek – and you shall find….
That’s what being an expat is about, for me. It’s about seeking adventure, opportunity and a new sense of self; about allowing yourself to be unsure, a little uncomfortable, and to be taken out of that well-trodden comfort zone and to enter the unknown.
What really scares me is the boring and mundane, and this journey so far certainly has been nothing of the sort, or if there is a glimmer it might be….well, I just take the adventure on another direction.
Life in the USA is, point blank, different from the UK, and I love that difference. And that’s what I was after – to smell, taste, hear and feel different. To feel alive at new things, to feel amused, to feel scared and shocked. America has offered all of these things to me. And it’s only been three months. We have another three years of exploration ahead of us.
During the buildup to our journey I tweeted about #comingtoamerica a few times with excitement and trepidation, but nothing really prepares you for what life is like. All the research, resource investigation, advice (there is a lot of advice!)….nothing actually sets you up for what the reality is.
I keep this thought with me on our adventures in the USA and with people we meet…..it’s something my father said to me: “differences can be funny, or just interesting, or even tiresome but difference certainly makes for good conversation” and that can only be a good thing – if it isn’t worth talking or blogging about, it’s not interesting!
Whatever your preconceptions of a place and its people are, take them with you, and then be prepared to have them thrown out the water, or wholly reinforced. It’s a pleasure either way – just don’t judge. You’re not there to judge, and I firmly believe people who travel and adopt, or simply admire or find of interest other people’s cultures, behaviours and lifestyles, will be rewarded.
Some people travel, and they have nothing to say about it. As an expat, I want to not just travel, but live a life that enriches me, my family and hopefully the people I meet.
So, am I really a desperate housewife? Well, my surroundings aren’t far off those depicted on the TV series, but I have a determination not to become anywhere near desperate. An American friend said to me this very day: “Can you adopt me? You do so much! You have done more in your three months here, seen more, got involved in more than I have done living here for 20 years.” And that pleases me; that’s the aim; we’re heading towards the goal.
You see, we have a three-year bucket list – a 'to do' list of stuff, places to see, eat in, drink at, sleep in etc. My response to my lovely American friend was that our intention is to treat this like a holiday. We’re here to absorb it all, feel it all, taste it all. And that’s our reward.
Sure, I have to put the washing on, cook, change the beds, sort school stuff, keep house etc (yes, they really did ask me to put ‘homemaker’ on my Visa application), but as well as that I am befriending Americans, talking their language (there is nothing shameful about asking for the ‘restroom’ instead of the ‘toilet’…), getting involved in the community and neighbourhood, working and paying taxes, and therefore having the right to take an interest in and have a view on their politics and their cultural habits.
Halloween, for instance. I wanted to abscond from it, hide, and turn the lights off because my experience of it was so drearily awful in the UK. Here, in the USA, I am now well and truly converted. It was a memorable, vibrant, fun experience and a family night out. And that bit really is the key difference to me.
A group of four and five-year olds asked me today what I liked most about their country. I hadn’t really thought about this question before and to be put on the spot like that…..well, the answer came from my heart. “The way that everything is centered around the family.” Here, the kids are alright. They are catered for, thought of, part of the culture and part of your life. There ain’t no Gina Ford here, parent-types!
Interestingly, I have observed that sense of family and belonging also brings with it better manners, politeness and confidence in the young people. Children, at least the ones I have interacted with, behave differently and more positively (I had no qualms about opening the door for trick or treaters for Halloween – they were so polite and didn’t threaten me with eggs or grunt at me in a kind of thanks, like some of the monsters back in the UK). The key, as I said, is the sense of family that I a) wasn’t expecting and b) wasn’t expecting to appreciate so wholeheartedly.
And so, let’s start the next chapter of the fairytale with that in mind….
The wife and her husband and her son loved the new land of adventures. One day they journeyed to a part of the new land where there lived a giant lady who carried fire and where people travelled underground…..
About the author:Claire McGill is living in the USA with her husband and son. seeking adventure. Taking time out from her full-time job in the UK, Claire is determined to make the most of her new life and to fulfill her dreams in the Land of the Free....
Blog address: http://ukdesperatehousewifeusa.wordpress.com/ Twitter: @ukhousewifeusa
Contest Comments » There are 17 comments
Beautifully written, I can really relate to your experiences, mine have been very similar here in Canada. Thank you for reminding me to forget the mundane and concentrate on the enjoying the experience of being in a new country and what a great reminder of why we go through the emigration process in the first place.
Thank you all for such brilliant comments! Only a few days to go until the competition closes, so please encourage all your friends and neighbours and people you simply bump into to add a lovely comment to make me Happy of Maryland! Claire
Claire's piece of writing made me realise what a big decision this was for the family and how much everything the family does is totally embraced. Great, evocative and humorous writing.
What I love is that the fairytale dream is one that has come true and that they have made a reality. A lovely, clear piece of writing that captures the dichotomy of living in a new place and the tourist trap. If only everyone had Claire's sense of taking on a new idea and adventure....
I've really enjoyed reading Claire's blog - I find her comments very insightful and funny, you almost feel like you are in the good ol' US of A - which is the hallmark of a great writer. I look forward to reading more in the future.
Love the blog. Witty and great approach to your new life. Can't wait to read more.
One of the few blogs I come back to regularly. Claire's perspective is always unique and full of warmth and curiosity.
A lovely heartfelt fairy story reminded me of my feelings when i had a similar adventure. The friends i made have stayed my friends for 30 years and i'm making a wish that this will happen to this very talented author.
Great start to a new adventure,new culture,and new life. New beginning are never easy and take great courage, but can be really exciting, challenging and full of rewards.
Claire's writing is funny, insightful and a fresh take on the USA from what we are fed in the UK from the mainstream media. Sometimes tongue in cheek and sometimes challenging but always with fresh prose from a personal perspective.
Brilliant, simply brilliant. Well written, funny and insightful with a personal touch.
Laugh out loud funny, but also thoughtful and reflective, Claire's blog is wonderfully written and provides a real insight into an outsider's view of life in the US of A.
This is going to be compulsive reading - will the dream change? Will it provide the odd nightmare? Will it give many tranquil and uplifting times? This, like all good writing, leaves us wanting to know and also hoping it will take us with Claire on her voyage so we can experience the novelties with her. Great stuff Ian
I love the way Claire takes us along on her journey of discovery. Her humour and insight make me want to read more - keep on writing!!
Excellent work...Despite how much you love the UK, Claire has the ability to make you fell envious and jealous of her adventure, and this is all credit to the author !
I'm jealous..Your writing makes it clear what an adventure you are having and makes me realise everything that is wrong with my life...mundane is exactly the word! I also admire your courage - fear can easily take over and prevent people making changes. Fear is my middle name! Fascinating reading about your adventures! Be keen to hear the bad stuff as well as the good - stops me getting too jealous.. x
ha ha yes I agree Halloween is definitely one of the highpoints of living in USA!