Being an American who has lived in Great Britain for the past 32 years, I am often asked the question, “Don’t you miss America?” The straight forward answer is “No.” However, there are things I do miss about my native country. I often joke about it but I do miss not being able to get Cap’n Crunch cereal and that is the first thing I buy whenever I go back to the States. Tastykake fruit pies is another one. But it’s not all about food, which is cheaper in the US, so are clothes. Whenever I am trying to park my car into a tight parking space, I do wish they did the diagonal and larger car park spaces like they do in America. The internet age has made it easier to watch American Football or ice hockey games without having to wait for a video of the game to be sent to me. For the most part, though, I don’t miss living in America.
One thing which many teachers who ask me that question are in agreement with is when I respond, that when I go into a UK classroom as a substitute (supply) teacher, the chances of me getting shot are virtually nil. I know the chances of it happening in the US are still slim, despite all the media hype, but I am much more likely to get shot in an American school as opposed to a British one.
This is the extreme, there are other reasons why I like living in the UK. For years, I have been afraid to sing the praises of Britain’s National Health Service. This was mainly down to my own Asperger’s fed paranoia that if I did, the more politically conservative British types would brand me a “health tourist” and those who fanatically believe everything they read in The Sun newspaper would happily jump on the bandwagon and say the same about me. These people would need to get their facts right. I can safely say that my National Insurance contributions over the past 30+ years are more than what the NHS has spent on my personal healthcare. I am NOT a health tourist and it’s ignorant to think of me as such. On the other hand, had it not been for the National Health Service, I believe that I could have been a two time widower or at the very least, paying astronomical health insurance premiums if not paying sky high doctor bills. The health service saved the lives of my wife and my ex-wife. In spite of what a few American rednecks have tried to tell me online, the NHS works!
Life in Great Britain hasn’t all been peaches and cream, I have had challenges. I honestly believe that in the first few years that I lived in the UK, there were times when I was genuinely discriminated against when going for jobs. It may sound stupid to many Brits, especially those who view race issues through rose coloured glasses, but I learned quickly that no one is going to cry racism for a white American. Not just jobs either, the reality of it all came down when, many years ago, I was accused of lying when I was off sick from work on July 4. I appealed to the Racial Equality Commission for help and was told that white Americans don’t come under the Racial Equality Act. Furthermore, I have heard many ‘jokes’ aimed at Americans where had the same joke been said about another nationality, the teller of the joke would have been branded a ‘racist.’ At times, I have found this very frustrating and I have also found the response, “Don’t let it get to you,” patronizing. With my Asperger’s/DAMP soaked mind, it does get to me and I sometimes wish it would be taken more seriously. And I take little comfort in people who try to console me by saying, “If you weren’t white, it would be racism.” While that’s probably true, it doesn’t help and the person who says it is being racist themselves. What I have done is to not let it spoil my fondness for my adopted country. I like it here.
One thing I was guilty of when I first came to Britain is stereotyping. Yes, I hate it when I am stereotyped with all Americans so now I know better. Originally, I came to the UK to attend university for one year. When I arrived, my politics were left of centre even in British politics. (In America, I was thought of as a Communist.) Also, I was very angry at America at the time, so I thought that my left wing anti-American views would make me the cool guy at the college because I thought that British students all shared my views. Many did but many didn’t not. Some looked with utter confusion when they saw me reading Socialist Worker. When asked why would an American be reading such a paper, there was mixed reactions to my response, “I’m just taking advantage of the fact I’m in a free country where I can read things like this.” So, contrary to what Americans might think, not all British students are loony left Marxists. Nowadays, while I’m still left of centre, I have issues with the far left which I will share in a future post.
What the main point I’m trying to get off my chest is that I love living in Britain. Not just for the NHS but many other reasons. Most are socially more tolerant than my country of birth. This is especially true in regards to my mental health issues although the US is improving on that, which is good. Nothing against the US, I still love the country I was born in but I am much more suited to life in the UK.
To buy He Was Weird, go to: https://www.amazon.co.uk/He-Was-Weird-Michael-Lefevre/dp/1909740942/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1537873672&sr=1-1&keywords=he+was+weird