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Lost in translation

04 March 2016

Sarah Meyrick reads an entertaining account of two nations separated by a common language

SOMEONE I once knew went to live in the United States when her husband’s job took the household to the Midwest for several years. There she encountered the cultural confusion commonly experienced by members of two nations divided by a common language. The phrase “Not wrong, but different,” became something of a family mantra.

Finding Myself in Britain: Our search for faith, home and true identity (Authentic Media, £9.99 (£9); 978-1-78078-140-2) tells a similar story. Its author, Amy Boucher Pye, comes from the US, and used to live in the suburbs of Washington, DC. She married an ordinand (“NicTheVic”) and found herself unexpectedly transplanted to Britain.

In her book, she takes the reader through the year, beginning in September and continuing through to the summer. Along the way, she makes observations about our quaint British customs and the mistakes that she, as an American, has made as she has tried to adjust to life Over Here. She reflects on the layers of hidden assumptions we all make — and interweaves her observations with glimpses into her family life and her own spiritual journey over the years since marriage and motherhood.

The book includes footnotes, offering American/English translations. A casserole, it emerges, is not necessarily a stew over the Pond. As for erasers, don’t make the mistake of referring to them as “rubbers for your birthday party” if you happen to be in a supermarket queue in the US. . . There are also recipes for celebrating Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July.

Finding Myself in Britain is described as “Michele Guinness meets Bill Bryson”. Certainly. it is full of perceptive comments about the habits we fall into and the assumptions we make. Her tone is warm and self-deprecating, and she goes to great lengths to avoid criticising her new compatriots. It is fair to say that not all her observations will strike a chord: her experiences are clearly quite personal. But this is a helpful reminder of what it is like to be a stranger in a foreign land, and an effortless read that will, no doubt, bring entertainment and comfort to many who have ever lived as expats.

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