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Get down with the lingo, befriend some locals and read a paper: these are just some of the tricks that will help ease your U.S. assimilation.
1. Learn how baseball and “football” work
Being able to hold your own in conversations about the sports Americans hold dear will make you feel like less of an interloper. But avoid saying stuff like “Football is just rugby for wimps”, which will have the opposite effect.
2. Use the American words for things
Calling aubergines “eggplants” and rocket “arugula” will make your interactions with shop assistants smoother, plus you might actually find it fun. I do, however, draw the line at “poop”. Presumably, whoever pioneered this linguistic horror was trying to make good old British “poo” sound cuter by turning it into a palindrome.
3. Make friends with Americans
When you settle abroad, the comforting, safe option is to surround yourself with other expats – and there’s no harm in this. But it will serve you better long term to let a few locals into your inner circle. At least Americans won’t bugger off back to Blighty once their contract is up, leaving you friendless and sobbing.
4. Watch and listen to the news
As painful as it may be, because U.S. news shows are either witheringly dull or patronizing and partisan, paying attention to domestic current affairs will make you feel more grounded and attuned to your adopted nation.
5. Read American newspapers and magazines
If you can afford it, go the old fashioned route and have one delivered to your house everyday, or at weekends. The ritual will help you acclimatize and you’ll learn something, even if you only read the cartoons.
6. Add some local dishes to your repertoire
Whipping up a jambalaya or a pumpkin pie (with canned pumpkin, naturally) from a U.S. recipe (i.e. one that uses cups instead of weight) will make you feel like a real American.
7. Meet your neighbors
Expat integration is as much about feeling like you belong in a new neighborhood as a new country. So join local groups and get to know the folks next door. You could even go full on American and hand-deliver a casserole every time someone new moves onto your block. Of course, in some edgy urban areas this might arouse more suspicion than thanks.
8. Celebrate American holidays
Pack a picnic for the Fourth of July, cut a face in a pumpkin for Halloween and pre-order a turkey (however much you prefer other tastier meats) for Thanksgiving. Hell, even pledge to not wear white after Labor Day. That’s what proper Americans do, right?
9. Let your natural accent wane
If you’re really serious about assimilating, practice softening your hard vocal edges and let your British “t”s morph into Yankee “d”s. This will mean no more having to repeat yourself 15 times every time you ask for water (“wadder) or butter (“budder”) in a restaurant.
10. Find things to love about your adopted homeland
There will be days when homesickness bites and you won’t be able to hide your (temporary) hatred of everything American. And in a land that’s cherished by its people unconditionally, you risk standing out like Mr. Spock at convention for people with small ears. When these feelings hit, make a list of everything you admire about your new territory: from moon pies to 24 hour shopping.
How’s your transition into American life going?
See more posts by Ruth Margolis
Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.