October in New York. Here we are again.
We have watched trees turn from pale orange to burnt copper to crimson red, to leafless skeletons, lush green and pale orange once more. We have felt the days get cooler, colder, freezing, Arctic, freezing, vaguely warm, hot, searing, pleasantly warm and cooler again. We have been amazed by the enthusiasm and energy put into what is a relatively minor event in the UK (Hallowe’en), loved the monumental yet somehow intimate tradition of Thanksgiving, enjoyed the frequent and often baffling national holidays that Americans observe (we’re still not sure what most of them are but who are we to question a day off work?), somehow managed to be out of the country for Independence Day and then went out to buy some pumpkins for our stoop with a little less amazement than we felt twelve months ago at the enthusiasm and energy put into Hallowe’en.
People say that time passes more quickly the older you get. While I think that is generally true, I think it is most true if all your days resemble one another. The most astonishing thing about our first year in New York is just how many new experiences you can fit into a few months. The second most astonishing thing is how quickly you can get used to that new environment and culture. We have made what I hope to be lifelong friends, we have orientated ourselves in our local area, we have been here long enough to see some places shut down and others open, and we feel like we belong here. We have been absorbed into our surroundings and they have been absorbed into us. I no longer wince at the term ‘playdate’, the narrow-aisled supermarkets do not seem strange to me and my fridge, the size of the average London studio flat, now appears to be sensibly proportioned. I can even give directions to tourists if you catch me on a good day.
We came here with preconceptions, as any foreigner would, but did not truly know what awaited us when we boarded that flight from Heathrow twelve months ago (apart from a heart-sinkingly long queue at US Customs, of course). Skyscrapers, shopping and cocktails, Broadway shows and walks in Central Park were the associations we had taken away from breaks and business trips here, but we knew that these would not be the mainstay of our daily life here. (More’s the pity. I like a Margarita. Followed by a Caipirinha and a Mojito. But too many don’t mix with Mummydom, so maybe it’s just as well.) The truth is, our life here isn’t that different from our life in London. Parks, playing, reading, eating out and working are still the main features of our life, but doing all that somewhere new can be invigorating. The elements that are different here, like language, brands, the education system and the health system prompt us to question things we have grown used to as being ‘just the way they are’ in the UK. They have made us shift our perspectives and examine our values. If this sounds deep, it’s because it is. Having done it myself I would now say that everyone who can do so should live outside their home country at some point in their lives. You will find new ways of doing things; some are better than the way you are used to, and those that aren’t give you a new appreciation for what you had back home.