Peaches and Coconuts

I’m changing the name of my blog. In a few days becomes Rediverted was born from the initial blog I wrote in the UK, DIVERTED. Alas, I was short-sighted and did not register the name then. Rediverted seemed fitting after our return to the U.S., but let’s face it. There is no such word as rediverted, and that bugs me. If you use the rediverted URL, you will be directed to the new URL once it’s up and running.

Behold! The prequel:

My partner, Gabriella, and I moved to London, England in 1999. We landed the day John F. Kennedy Jr. died in an airplane accident. We heard the news in the taxi ride from Heathrow airport to our temporary flat in Chelsea. As we squeezed into the lift on the way to our new home, the doorman said, “That Kennedy went missing, didn’t he? I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’s not as if he’s a royal.” Gabriella, we’re not in Kansas anymore. Well, Chicago anyway. I’ve never been to Kansas.

Before we relocated, our thoughtful sponsor Viacom had us participate in a 2 day workshop entitled, “Cultural Awareness”. Our guide down the road of cultural awareness was an ex-pat who had followed her husband all over the world with BP (British Petroleum). Linda did her best to prepare us for life in Jolly Ol’, but mostly we had to experience it all first hand to really understand the differences between our two cultures.

That being said, we did take away a gem from that workshop that followed us to Blighty and to dinner parties ever since. Linda explained to us that Americans are like peaches, and the British are like coconuts. An American will be standing in line at a grocery store and strike up a conversation with the stranger behind him. By the time the groceries are bagged, the stranger has been invited to the family barbecue later that day. Soft, we are-easy to penetrate. I can relate to that description. However, at the core of every American sits a hard, impenetrable pit. We share our true selves only with a select few if at all. Do not be fooled by our supremely friendly veneers.

The British, however, are literally tough nuts to crack. You may know a person for years before discovering what her spouse does for a living. Americans may see the Brits as cold and guarded, but once you get through that tough, outer shell, there’s no going back. You may get to know more about that Brit than you know about your own sister. Are these descriptions accurate? Much as I love to make sweeping generalisations about people, I have certainly discovered plenty of exceptions. Still, it makes for great dinner conversation. Even better, it provides a solid foundation for a blog filled with more fun generalisations.

We broads were abroad for seven years during which time we travelled as often as we could, got married, had our first child, fell pregnant with our second child and became loyal subjects of the Queen. To be fair, my son and I became dual citizens, but Gabriella holds only the Italian passport. We even started adding that “u” in words like “colour” and “flavour.” When in Rome…

In 2006, Viacom offered to move us back to the U.S. We tried to hold out until Bush was impeached, but it was not to be. Our cultural awareness mentor had warned us of The Change. Before you relocate, you are a round peg that fits nicely in your round hole. You move abroad, and you try to fit in a square hole. By the time you return to your native land, you’re a hexagon, and you don’t fit in either hole. I dismissed her words at the time. I’ve found a way to fit into a lot of holes in my day. Now that we’re back, I realise she was spot on. It’s taking me a long time to feel at home here, but maybe it always will. Maybe I’m a hexagon trying to fit in a round hole. Maybe I’m more coconut than peach. Or maybe it’s impossible for me to feel at home driving a mini-van in the suburbs of New Jersey. Maybe I didn’t have to move to the UK to feel out of place as a stay-at-home mum in suburbia. Even more disturbing is imagining that someday, this will feel like home. We’ll see.

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