About Us

Contact Us







An American In Falmouth
Jillian Z. Bendig

My first thoughts upon arriving in the U.K.? Damn, I am tired; I would kill
for a shower and some real food (about the only thing one can think after nearly 24 hours of driving, flying, and waiting in airports). My first
thoughts upon arriving in Falmouth, which was to be my home for the next eight months? What the hell are these pasties and why are they absolutely everywhere? From the preparation of leaving my home in the U.S. to the moment I stepped foot on British territory, I knew that the following months of my life would be an adjustment. After all, I had left behind a familiar life and place to step into the role of New Girl--The American.

I always considered myself to be a fairly un-American girl. I find baseball
incredibly boring; I hate country music and all of its "I love my truck and
my nation" mentality; just the thought of eating at McDonald’s makes me ill;
and I’m always dreaming of all the foreign places I’d rather live than my
quaint hometown in Pennsylvania. I never understood why I’ve always been so
unpatriotic. Perhaps it was triggered by my die-hard Republican father’s
endless rants. Or the traumatic incidents I endured each time I went to the
nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. (including being flashed by a drugged-out
homeless man at a very young age and having my belongings become
mysteriously missing during a visit in the Capitol building). Or maybe it is
because only in America a total idiot could buy and connive his way to
becoming President. Maybe I’m just a sucker for the foreign and exotic, and
since I’ve lived there all my life, there is nothing foreign or exotic about
my all-American hometown of Erie, Pennsylvania. These are all merely
crack-pot theories—the real reasons I still can’t pin down.

Most of my American friends saw me as the "worldly" one—adventurous, always
on the move…And I didn’t consider going to Canada for the weekend
international travelling. If I were to have made a list of all the defining
characteristics of my identity, as of three weeks ago, "American" would have
fallen pretty low on the list—somewhere between "Former Elementary School
Spelling Champion" and "Collector of Pez Dispensers." My nationality was
something I took for granted and often forgot about. It only became relevant
as I angrily paid my federal taxes or saw one of those TV pleas to "save the
children" and realised how lucky I am to have been born in a stable,
peaceful, and bountiful place.

Since I’ve moved, albeit temporarily, to Falmouth, I’m surely known to
more than a few people as "the American Girl" (which I suppose is better
than "That Dumb Blonde"). To be defined as being "different" (by culture,
not behaviour—that difference I’ve always been associated with) is something
that I was not completely prepared for when I decided to move thousands of
miles away from home.

This shouldn’t imply that my adjustment has been in any way a negative
experience. Quite the contrary. I already feel completely at home here. The
people I’ve met (and the pubs I’ve visited) have been extremely pleasant and
accepting. I even understand most of the surprisingly abundant differences
in language and culture—like saying "loo" or "toilet" instead of "bathroom";
wearing "trousers and jumpers" instead of "pants and sweaters"; saying
"cheers" to mean almost anything; and making tea breaks a top priority.
On the downside, not one day has passed since I’ve arrived that I haven’t
been completely soaked from these absolutely crazy, random rain storms, or
been embarrassed of my accent, or been nearly killed by an oblivious
motorist, or longed for more than four television channels or a bagel shop.
In time, I’m sure that I’ll get used to people driving on the other side of
the road. And learn to expect virtual hurricanes followed by clear, blue
skies five minutes later. I’ll soon not miss all my favourite American TV
shows that haven’t made it over the Atlantic yet. I may even learn to put
the letter "u" into words like "color" and "favorite" before spell check
tells me to. And who knows, before I leave this country in seven months, I
may have even finished an entire pint of Guinness.

For now, those are just dreams. I have to face the facts—I am an American,
and there is nothing I can do to change that. But no matter how others now
see me—or how I define myself—I’m changing, growing, learning, and adapting
more everyday. There are, and always will be, aspects of who we are that we
cannot change, but in the end, all that really matters is what we do with
and in the life we’re given. That said, I think that maybe I’ll head to the
pub and work on that Guinness thing. Hey, we all have to start small…

< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article