A British Expat’s Guide to Living in Indiana

Welcome to Indiana! (Photo: Creative Commons)

Welcome to Indiana! (Photo: Creative Commons)

One of the most common questions I get from Hoosiers (a term of uncertain etymology, referring to the people of Indiana) is Why on earth did you give up London for little old Indiana?

While the answer to this question should be reserved for another time, I must ask in turn why locals offer such a bleak view of the very place they themselves call home. After all, and admittedly it took me a couple of years to appreciate this, Indiana is actually a fine place for anyone — British or otherwise — to reside.

While it is true that much of the state is a long stretch of flat land and cornfields, with little else between Louisville and Indianapolis except for the odd (sometimes very odd) water tower denoting the latest town, the Hoosier State, like any other, is chock-full of notable quirks.

Chief among these is something I like to refer to as Hoosier-speak. Hoosier-speak, as the name suggests, is a brand of English (adopted from other states) that is used without a hint of pretentiousness by the locals.

As if learning to decipher American English wasn’t challenging enough, Brits such as myself must contend (and I use that term lovingly) with bizarre pronunciations such as warsh (instead of wash) and arn (instead of iron). It is also very common to hear someone ask Who all is going?, instead of merely asking Who is going?

Of course, this very same question is invariably asked around the time of a game. Because if there’s one thing Hoosiers love, it’s their football (and no, I’m not talking about the real kind). On what is known as game day, it can sometimes appear as if everyone in the state is dressed in the blue and white colors of the Indianapolis Colts. Everyone, that is, except for the British guy in the corner.

Thankfully for us expats, however, the state of Indiana — and specifically the state capital of Indianapolis — is actually quite Anglicized. In fact, as my namesake Brigid Brown points out over on Anglophenia, there are numerous British-style pubs and eateries in downtown Indy alone. These, of course, are one of several sources for watching football (yes, the real kind).

One of the finer aspects of life in Indiana, though, is the cost of living. Whereas one might pay in the neighborhood of £500 ($807) for a month’s rent in a low-cost area of Britain, it is not unusual to pay the same figure in dollars for an apartment in and around Indianapolis, the second most populous capital city in America.

Moreover, though Hoosiers may not always recognize this fact, the price of petrol (or gasoline) is phenomenally cheap; generally ranging anywhere from £1.87 to £2.50 ($3.00 to $4.00), compared with the recent British average of £6.22 ($9.85).

However, while costs may indeed be reasonable, there is one thing about the state that fully deserves the label of extreme: the weather. The bitterly cold winters, which often bring temperatures of -10°F (-23°C), are enough for Brits to miss the climate back home (you read that correctly). Meanwhile, temperatures throughout the summer frequently rise above 100°F (38°C) and are accompanied by a level of humidity not entirely fit for humans.

By utter coincidence, then, autumn and spring emerge the more enjoyable seasons on the Indiana calendar, with the former producing not only bearable 68°F (20°C) weather, but some of the most beautiful sights of autumn foliage this side of the Pond.

Finally, the best part about being a British expat in Indiana is that you are an expat. A British one. In Indiana. Hoosiers love a good British accent (and a bad one, come to that), so the chances of ever making an enemy are practically zero. Of course, you’ll have to endure a torrent of predictable questions: “Does everyone in England really drink tea?”, “Why do y’all have bad teeth?” and “How come none of you warsh your hair?”

But if you can roll with the punches and are the sort of person who doesn’t mind occasionally being center-stage, who can turn his or her nose to the weather, you might find that being a Brit in Indiana, unlike you hair (apparently), is actually pretty neat.

Are you British in America and live outside the typical destinations of New York or Los Angeles? Join @MindTheGap_BBCA on Twitter Wednesday, October 2 at 2 pm/et to stand up and be counted. Tweet your comments using the hashtag #MindTheChat.

See more:
British Expats: 10 Unexpected Consequences of Emigrating
10 Reasons to Be Cheerful About Living in the U.S.
10 American Places Every Brit Should Visit

  • awesomeowl

    I would just like to say that “y’all” and “warsh” are fairly rare occurrences in Indiana. Most of us have no southern accent at all.

    • Lost In The Pond

      That they are. But when they are spoken, they are still phenomenal parts of the vernacular.

      • Stuart

        I guess that depends how far south you are, down here South of Indy, Y’all is very common, even my kids use it now

    • calicolor1987

      Growing up a short distance north of Indianapolis, I’d have to say that certain areas outside of large cities do, in fact, have a wide range of Southern accents. I have a distinct memory of meeting someone from Noblesville, assuming they were definitely from South of the Mississippi at least, and finding out they grew up a mere 20 minutes from where I did.

      • calicolor1987

        Also, as an aside, many people have pointed out that I even have one, and I was never ever aware of it without their help. Indiana is arguably considered the South of the North, donchaknow?

        • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

          Definitely by us up in Chi-town. LOL

      • http://kylebumpus.com/ Kyle Bumpus

        Ha! As somebody actually from the south who’s heard more than his fair share of hoosier accents I can assure you, there is nothing remotely southern about those accents.

      • Karen Ellis

        I grew up in Noblesville for close to 20 years and have never heard anyone use “ya’ll”. I have lived in Florida, Boston, and NYC before returning to Indiana; and no one has ever said I have anything near a southern accent. Funny how we have such different perceptions about things such as dialects and vernacular.

    • http://marthafaye.blogspot.com/ Marti Abernathey

      Bollocks. Warsh and Warshington Street can be heard all over the state. I’m a Hoosier of almost 3 decades (I ran as fast as I could the other way) and am planning on immigrating to the UK. I now live in Wisconsin and get asked all the time if I’m originally from the south. My answer is, “south of here.” It’s not rare. In fact, someone put it in video form and gets the Hoosier dialect right on the money http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swqaM4TiX2I

  • aslanscompass

    I have relatives in Indiana, but if you want really extreme weather, come on up to Minnesota and/or Wisconsin. We had snow the first week of May this year.

    • Adrian Rinehart-Balfe

      As a British expat living in Wausau, Wisconsin, I can second that!

  • http://expatmum.blogspot.com/ Expat Mum

    I have (older) friends from Kansas who also say “wersh”.

  • Summer

    I’m glad our hospitality outweighs any negative aspects. Welcome to Indiana! : )

  • Kaley

    My dad also says “lish” for leash and “crick” for creek, but most of my friends don’t have any traces of such accents, or at least I don’t think so. (So who really knows?)

    • Angie Poole

      Crick is very common in Upstate NY. It drives me nuts. I honestly would never think twice about someone saying, “Who all is going?” It’s not uncommon where I am now (NY) and where I grew up (Los Angeles). My 7th grade science teacher told us to “warsh” our hands and that was CA.

  • Meg

    I admit it… I say ya’ll!!! I have lived in Indy all my life. Glad you like our state! I enjoyed London while I was there. Unfortunatly it gave me a taste for Devonshire Cream, crisps and other goodies that are hard to find over here! :-) If you every have to go back maybe we can start a native food exchange… LOL

  • oneguy

    Great article! Mr. Brown – If you want a little taste of home, there is a Renaissance Faire on the NE side of Indy (just off I-69) this Saturday and Sunday (10/5 – 10/6) that has a great Punch & Judy show. I can’t guarantee a good accent (actually, the accents are pretty dodgy), but Mr. Punch does have his swazzle!

    • Lost In The Pond

      Thanks, oneguy! Good to know. Perhaps I’ll pop on over this weekend.

  • John TheDoctor Smith

    not sure if you are a Doctor Who fan, but we do also have Who North America based in Indianapolis, the specialize in other British TV shows too, and carry Jelly Babies their website is http://www.whona.com

    And there is a Cricket Club in Indy too

    • Stuart

      And several rugby clubs

    • Lost In The Pond

      Actually, I’m a huge Whovian! I’ve been meaning to pay them a visit. I must get in touch. Thanks!

    • Cullen Bricker

      Who North America is one of my favorite places in Indianapolis.

  • Sean

    You think we’re crazy with Football (the wrong kind), just wait until basketball starts. We have high school gyms that can seat at least 10,000 people. And everybody goes nuts when Butler, IU, Notre Dame, and Purdue play.

    • Karen Ellis

      I think the football AND basketball enthusiasm is a bit crazy, and I live in Bloomington!

  • Shinwaka

    As an ex-Hoosier, I just wanted to say thanks for a great story.

    • Lost In The Pond

      Thank you very much, Shinwaka!

  • JD

    Welcome, fellow Hooiser! :)

    • Lost In The Pond

      Thanks, JD!

  • KJ

    “Second most populous capital city in America”? I think you’re thinking of the Midwest, not all of America. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_capitals_in_the_United_States

    I’m a child of a British expat, so there’s plenty of pride here. I can’t say “warsh” or “arn” are TOO prevalent (at least not around downtown/bigger college towns), but I will admit to saying “who all is going”…

    • Lost In The Pond

      On the contrary, KJ, Indy is second only to Phoenix as the most populous of capital cities in the United States.: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_most_populated_us_capital_cities

      • Lost In The Pond

        Perhaps I should refer to the municipal population. Admittedly, recent census reports place Austin, TX above Indy. Still, something to be proud of, I would say.

  • no one special

    We are called “Hoosiers” because “Indianionian” (Indy-anny-oh-knee-an) is too hard for the residents of our neighbor states to pronounce. :)

  • Stefanie ‘Rector’ Day

    This is great! I live in Indiana also but live in the North West part where Purdue University is. We’re not a bad bunch but the weather can be wacky!

    • Lost In The Pond

      I agree whole-heartedly with the entirety of your last sentence, Stefanie. Glad you liked the article.

  • Tim

    Please come to Bloomington! It’s a really interesting place to visit! Especially during the Fall. It’s the 3rd most beautiful university campus during the Spring and Fall! (Yes, winter blows.)

    • Lost In The Pond

      Been there many times, Tim. My brother-in-law is a music student at IU.

  • Colleen

    Yes, the humidity messes with your hair.

  • Hope Hughes

    Glad you are happy with your living arrangement in America. My heart is largely in love with the UK/England, has been since the age of 6 years old. So began my afternoon cuppa tea after school each day. Surprisingly my parents allowed me the pleasure even though they consumed coffee. My father started calling me a limey, apologies for the slang. Seems he thought you to be British to drink tea.

    Happily I discovered the many interesting people of the UK through books, television comedies/quiz shows, and happily meeting a few. I still primarily watch British programming via a site online. No one does a better copper, comedy or talk show than the Brits.

  • Donna Cooke

    Welcome to Indiana and glad to have you here! Yep, the weather can be toxic (we love air conditioning), but it’s a beautiful place, especially here in southern Indiana with its hills. And we do have a “big” city, Evansville. And by the way, a large number of us are anglophiles. Whovians abound; we love the Doctor!

  • Cullen Bricker

    This article really amused me. I’ve lived in Indiana most of my life and I’ve recently wondered if I would be happier living in England.

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  • Sarah

    I’m also a Brit living in Indiana. I live in ‘Da Region’ and enjoy my life here. I’m from Leicestershire and also know a couple of other Brits in the area. My favourite question from an Indiana resident was…”Did you have to learn English before you moved to the US?”.

    • Tim

      haha, I’m from Blackpool and once got told my french accent is wonderful whilst having my hair cut..not too impressed :)

  • LorriM

    this is great! I’m a born and bred Indiana gal, who is also Irish-Italian … I can definitely say, unless I venture to Wal-Mart, I seldom hear people speak with the weird, lazy speech/vocabulary dialect on a daily basis… it does seem to be more prominent in the more isolated, smaller towns vs. larger cities, but it’s not region contingent … north, south, mid-state …. you definitely hear it throughout several locations. My parents were adament about us never having “lazy” speech.
    If you ever travel up I69 … you must visit the BEST British restaurant around … Paynes, at the Fairmount/Gas City exit, located behind Cracker Barrel. These Brit owners take pride in their authentic cuisine, and it’s amazing! If you ever make it to the Muncie area, would be happy to provide you a tour of the famous Garfield the Cat studio! :)

  • Tim

    I am from Blackpool, England and now live in South Bend, Indiana. Just wanted to say i enjoyed the article, and I too enjoy living here. Coming from a town where looking someone in the eye means you want to fight, to now having people be courteous is great. Never had any trouble here and long may it last.

  • Guest

    I’m from Missouri and words like “warsh”, “arn” and the like are mostly a
    Midwestern thing. I wouldn’t consider it southern. Mostly because the
    few times I’ve been in the South, and this was mostly Texas, it’s like a
    completely different country. Every section of the states is almost
    like its own country. In Missouri we say soda, hop one state over to
    Illinois and its “pop”.

    The weird thing for me is in 2005 I went
    to London for a school trip and I felt right at home in England. I was
    only there for a week but it took me no time to adapt to English
    customs. When I watch shows like DW or Sherlock it makes me miss
    England. Almost to the point I get depressed. The ironic thing is my
    family is very German. I make an awful German. I don’t like beer, or
    sauerkraut, any German food really. However, I do have this
    inherent ability to pronounce unknown German names correctly the first
    time.

  • Guest

    I’m from Missouri and words like “warsh”, “arn” and the like are mostly a
    Midwestern thing. I wouldn’t consider it southern. Mostly because the
    few times I’ve been in the South, and this was mostly Texas, it’s like a
    completely different country. Every section of the states is almost
    like its own country. In Missouri we say soda, hop one state over to
    Illinois and its “pop”.

    The weird thing for me is in 2005 I went
    to London for a school trip and I felt right at home in England. I was
    only there for a week but it took me no time to adapt to English
    customs. When I watch shows like DW or Sherlock it makes me miss
    England. Almost to the point I get depressed. The ironic thing is my
    family is very German. I make an awful German. I don’t like beer, or
    sauerkraut, any German food really. The only thing is I have the
    inherent ability to pronounce unknown German names correctly the first
    time.

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