Biting the Big Apple

By Jenny New York City, NY, USA
It was a Sunday in May when it happened, when I was told we were moving to America.
I was 11 years old and I burst into tears, I liked my life in Somerset (UK) as much as I’d begged my parents to take me to New York, I didn’t exactly want to move there.
For a week I didn’t speak a word to my parents and I now know looking back on it, that they seriously considered abandoning the plans. But honestly it was a phase and I’m very glad they didn’t decide to stay, because how else would I have known the true difference between a thong and a THONG and the best way to get to Madison Avenue if I’m standing on Central Park West?
Expat life in New York was most definitely not a walk through the park, despite no language barrier, there was most definitely a CULTURAL barrier and a new school curriculum.
We arrived at JFK on a Tuesday, 2 weeks before I started Middle School (7th Grade) and I was unprepared for what lay ahead in the classroom (despite all the American movies). I had no idea what the words to the American National Anthem were, I had only a brief idea what had happened in the American revolution and my ‘American’ left a lot to be desired. But I handled it (apparently having a British accent in useful in making friends; in a week I could pledge allegiance to the flag, I could remember (just) the combination to my locker, and I’d worked out the rules to Basketball (it’s basically netball).
Another thing, other than school to get used to was living in a major city (I’d previously lived in a small town in the country) I had to adjust to small living spaces (and I mean SMALL) and busy streets with loud people. 4 weeks after arrival I broke down in tears, my Mum had trusted me to walk the four blocks home from school and I’d gotten lost and ended up halfway down Lexington.
In the first 6 months there were a couple of times when I lost it (generally after a particularly cultural different experience), begging to go home, but slowly these got further and further apart until eventually the only tear shed was when I skyped my friends back home.
It was a difficult experience (even Maths was different) what i’d been good at back home (History, English and Geography) I was struggling with the American versions (seriously they’re different; the only thing i could count on was French when I could immerse myself in something that would never change.
I know my brother (7) at the time had it hard as well, and sometimes at night we’d crawl into my bed and just look at the City that we saw from the 45th Floor window.
We’ve been living here for nearly 3 years and I never regret getting on that plane and saying goodbye to the life I’ve always known, sure it was hard to start with (and still it) but it hasn’t gone without it’s positives.
I’ve had the American Summer Camp Experience, seen amazing places and made EXTRAORDINARY friends. I have a boyfriend and an amazing best friend (First friend I every made 3 years ago) and life is perfect.
Sure I don’t know if I’m going to college or Uni, if I’m going to take the subway or the tube to work and if I’m going to put on pants or trousers but that’s all the fun in being a third culture kid…

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