I moved to DC just under 2 years ago with my husband. As a ‘trailing spouse’, who had never even visited America (no, not even Disney World) before I agreed to live here for 18 months, I thought I’d start blogging about my experience.
In the months that followed our arrival this blog developed to cover my various interests, especially food and travel, as well as documenting my experience of settling in DC, dealing with culture shock, finding an apartment and making new friends.
While I don’t really like the terms ‘trailing spouse’ or ‘expat’, they are perhaps the most recognised descriptors of what I am and what I’ve been going through this past year or so. Some people refer to my position as the ‘trailing talent’, which I hope is more accurate!
I’m lucky in that I can at the moment develop my career by working from home as an ‘independent scholar’ (another term I have trouble with), and I have been able to take up research opportunities and attend conferences out here. I blog about all this in a separate blog: A Woman’s Thoughts About…
Whatever I think about the names for what I’m doing, I’ve certainly had what looks to be a fairly typical experience for expats. After a busy and exciting first few months sorting things out and getting to know DC, I succumbed to the situational depression known as ‘culture shock’. While this manifested in getting irrationally angry and shouting ‘I hate DC’ whenever a metro station was closed or I couldn’t get the right kinds of groceries, it wasn’t too bad – maybe it was even a little amusing – but after a while I realised I needed to sort it out.
And it did get sorted. I can’t really pinpoint the moment that I felt at home in DC, but it happened, and now I love it here. I get excited when I fly in to DCA now, just as I used to get excited about coming home to London.
Throughout this experience, the blogosphere has been a great resource and support providing everything from advice about what to do with your spice collection to lively debates about the negative connotations of the ‘expat’ term. You can find many of my favourite ‘expat’ sites listed in my ‘Expat and Travel’ links section. And you can find my posts about expat issues on my ‘Living/moving abroad’ page, and also via the categories: ‘Living/moving abroad’, ‘Life in America’ and (of course) ‘Culture shock’.
While grocery shopping and home cooking was a challenge when I first moved to DC, the experience of dining out in America has pretty much always been positive. I love American food. I love it so much that I’ve even started running so that I can keep eating. Burgers, crab cake, steak, pizza – and all the appetizers and sides – DC really does American pub/comfort food well. One thing that we’ve really taken to in DC is the brunch culture. I especially love the Mexican and Southern accents of some brunch staples – like the breakfast burrito or Cajun spiced shrimp and grits.
So while you will find posts about other aspects of life in DC – I’m British so I have written about the weather – there’s a lot more posts about the food…
Check out my ‘Food’ page and my ‘Life in America’ category if you want to read more about these aspects of my life here.
As we only had 18 months in the States, we realised we’d have to really pack in the trips if I was to get a true idea of America. My husband gets to travel with work so sees all the flyover states and cities, like Boisie (Idaho), Frankfort (Kentucky), or Pierre (South Dakota). You could call that the ‘real America’ but I think that’s something that everyone could spend their lives searching for. Much of my travel writing about the States is inspired by Bill Bryson’s writing, and he’s certainly someone who has searched for the essence of America, whether that lies in the perfect small town in Lost Continent or in America’s coming-of-age in One Summer: America, 1927. I don’t think I come close to finding an essence of the places I hurriedly visit, but I hope I capture a certain flavour at least. Partly because one of the ways I engage with a new place is through its food.
Other ways I’ve engaged with the various places we’ve travelled include learning about US history and getting into American music. History has been especially relevant for the East Coast areas we’ve visited, while music has been the defining aspect of our trips to Nashville (Music City) and Austin (Live Music Capital of the World).
We’re still exploring, so my collection of travel blogs on my ‘Travel’ page just keeps growing. I’ve now created a dedicated Road Trips page so that all my blog posts about our road trips – and hopefully soon some useful tips and advice – are now in one place and easy to read through. I’m also creating series to collect together our shorter trips, for example this one:
East Coast Adventures:
- East Coast Adventures (intro)
- East Coast Adventures: US history
- Boston in February
- Beating the heat in Maine
So – welcome to my blog!