I've always had an insatiable travel bug. In part, it can be blamed on the fact that a third of my life since has probably been spent on a 747. But as I've gotten older, I realized my wanderlust isn't simply a side effect of too much premature traveling as a kid: It is also a result of never feeling like I fit in at home, in America.
I first came to the decision that I didn't want to live in the United States as a teenager. I predominantly grew up in Forked River, NJ, a middle of nowhere, seaside town inhabited primarily by white, middle-class conservatives.
As a Latina, I was certainly in the minority. And though I didn't necessarily look it, I certainly felt it. Utterances of the dreaded "S" word were never far behind, and you can bet there was always someone around the corner of a high school hallway waiting to poke fun at my curvier figure, or at my mother's accent.
That feeling of not fitting in — and of never really encountering the open-mindedness and acceptance I sought — persevered whether I lived in New York, Miami, or a small Jersey town.
For me, making the decision to move to England last spring was sort of a no-brainer. My partner was here. My opportunities for grad school were here. Every time I'd visited or lived in Europe for study abroad, I had been met with friendship and kindness. I could relate to people on an intrinsic level I'd never experienced at home; bonding over all the things I never quite meshed with with anyone in the states.
I knew, through to my core, that it was the right choice. And almost a year later, I don't regret my decision.
Of course, there are inevitable consequences of moving your life across the Atlantic. Your relationships with the people you've left behind suffer. There are growing pains that come with living somewhere new. And sometimes, no matter how much you'd like not to, you find yourself missing things from home.
So if you're thinking of making the move abroad to Europe, here are a few things you can expect:
OLD FRIENDS FROM HOME WILL FEEL NEGLECTED AND REJECTED
AND YOUR PARENTS WILL STILL GUILT TRIP YOU FOR ABANDONING THEM
SOMETIMES, SPEAKING THE SAME LANGUAGE won't MEAN you SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE
WEIRDLY ENOUGH, PEOPLE WILL COMPLIMENT YOU ON YOUR AMERICAN ACCENT
YOU'LL PROBABLY BE ASKED IF YOU'VE MET CELEBRITIES
AND WHETHER EVERYONE IS AS STUPID in America AS they SAY
WHICH Offends you at first
Until YOU REAlize THAT EVEN EUROPEANS KNOW NEW MEXICO IS A STATE, not A COUNTRY
All the sudden, you'll notice by comparrison JUST HOW religious america is...
...while THE SO-CALLED RELIGIOUS COUNTRIES actually TOTALLY AREN'T
WHEN IT COMES TO EATING OUT, ASKING FOR THE DINNER PORTION OR THE LARGE SODA MEANS NOTHING
PEOPLE WILL MOCK YOUR TASTE FOR MAPLE SYRUP SAUSAGES
And if YOU'RE A FAN OF BUTTERED POPCORN AT THE CINEMA, YOU'RE USUALLY OUT OF LUCK
It's all caramel, or something.
DATING SOMEONE FROM A DIFFERENT CULTURE WILL ALWAYS YIELD INEVITABLE DIFFERENCES
BUT LUCKILY, PEOPLE ARE likely to be FAR MORE OPEN TO talking ABOUT SEX
debating RELIGION AND POLITICS at the dinner table ISN'T FEARED LIKE THE PLAGUE
though MOST PEOPLE will be REFRESHINGLY UNINTERESTED (OR INTERESTED WITHIN REASON) IN THE LIFE OF RIHANNA
WHEN YOU MENTION HOW MUCH YOU LOVE AMELIE, YOU WON'T BE MET WITH DUMBFOUNDED STARES
GOING CLUBBING/DANCING OFTEN MEANS PREPARING FOR A MIX OF ELECTRIC, DUB, GLAMROC,K AND HIP HOP
AND ON NIGHTS/ DAYS OUT, YOU'LL NOTICE THAT PDA IS TOTALLY A-OK
Sometimes to TMI levels.
YOU'LL NEVER quite BE ABLE TO SHAKE SOME OF YOUR AMERICAN RESERVATION
WHICH WILL INEVITABLY LEAD TO BEING CALLED PRUDISH AT SOME POINT OR ANOTHER
WHICH HOPEFULLY YOU'RE NOT
(You're About to do a lot more drugs.)
still, WHEN ALL'S SAID AND DONE, YOU'LL PROBABLY MISS AMERICANS' BLIND OPTIMISM
Most other places (I've found) are far more grounded, realistic, and even cynical.
And though what matters most is the home you make...
...You'll never forget where you're from
Even though you kind of really don't like it.