When our daughter first heard we were considering moving from the US to England, she just couldn’t stop laughing. She thought it was a joke. Nevertheless, we are here and the things that are different are not necessarily what we anticipated…

The Property Market & The French

sent 3 April 2006

Greetings from England, where we finally have a bit of sun and warmer weather!    I have not written recently lately because we moved in January, which created complete chaos in the household. Now we are back on track and have traded in our stylish Victorian mansion for a more modest 1930’s style home that is much more suitable for our lifestyle.  The new house is short and wide, instead of tall and slim like the “old” one.  This means that all of us sleep on the same level and Samantha is no longer the princess in the tower with her own bathroom.  We are only blocks (or roads, as people say here) away from the “old” house, so we do not have to start all over again.  The road is a very friendly one (actually it is the people, not the road, but that is how we refer to things here in England).  One of the great features of the new house is a heated kitchen floor.  Instead of having a radiator, the heating is under the floor.  Samantha and I discovered this when we took possession of the house.  We must have looked a bit odd in our completely empty kitchen lying on the floor enjoying the warmth, much like our cat Oliver now does every day.   We had what one of my friends calls a very un-English introduction to our neighbours on our first sunny Saturday.  As Matt and I walked out of the house to take a stroll, a man came bounding across the street with his arm outstretched and a big smile on his face.  Then several other neighbours also came over to introduce themselves and tell us how nice it is in the summer here because all the children play out in the road and the adults stand around and chat.  I am looking forward to that.  In the meantime, our old house is on the market to be sold for a mere £1,095,000.  Yes that is over a million pounds.  I can now check “live in a million pound house” off of my list of things to do before I die.  Keep in mind that using recent exchange rates, I can say I lived in a 2 million dollar house.  Not bad, huh?   More recently, we hosted a French exchange student. Our student came for a week as part of a school-sponsored program, and Samantha will go to France in June to stay with her family.  It was a terrific experience.  Our student is an incredibly confident and friendly 12 year old girl.  She fit right in with our family, except she did not give in to teenage urges to grunt as a form of communication or to leave her bedroom a complete mess.  There were times that I was hoping we could trade one of our children in for her, but then I figured that she was probably on her best behaviour and had a messy room waiting for her in France.  Just before she arrived, I had concerns about how she would feel about arriving for her exchange in London and finding out she was staying with an American family.  Then I realized that many of the other people who were hosting students didn’t exactly fit the mould of “British family” either.  Our student’s best friend stayed in a household where the father is Anglo-Indian and the mother is Polish.  Another friend of Samantha’s hosted a student in a house where the father is British, but the mother is Brazilian.  I don’t know the ethnic backgrounds of the other hosting families, but I decided that St Margarets has a global community and that is probably part of the experience.  Besides in our house, we have 2 American parents and a British (sounding) daughter.  It turns out, I needn’t have worried anyway.  Although our student is French, her father was educated at Oxford.  Her friend speaks French with her mother at home, but English with her father because French but he doesn’t speak French very well.  He is English.  The world just seems to get smaller and smaller.   Daniel and Nicholas started golf lessons this past Saturday  Matt is thrilled to finally have family members who will join him on the links (for non-golfers, the links is another name for the golf course).  The lessons may have been a bit of a let down for Daniel, simply because he could not walk out on to a golf course and get a hole in one.  Golf is not a sport that comes easily.  I think it will take a great deal of work for the boys to have success, but they both seem interested enough to stick with it.  Besides, both Daniel and Nicholas received golf clubs for their birthdays and need to make good use of that investment.  Samantha and I plan to send the boys off to play golf and hit the spa or the shops every weekend.  I’m not sure how long our pocket books will last with this plan.   We are all doing well and enjoying the recent weather.  I hope you all are doing well also.  Write and tell us what is going on in the Maryland/DC area.  Somehow reading about Condoleeza Rice visiting nearby just isn’t enough.  I need to hear more about you all.  

These are emails from a recent ex-pat to St Margarets, Stephanie Grefsheim. They are presented as they were originally sent to her friends and family in Rockville, Maryland, USA (except for the occasional translation of some very American terms).