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Living Like a Local in Manchester, England

SmarterTravel

Andrea Jaeckel is originally from New Jersey, but after completing her PhD in clinical psychology she joined her husband in Munich, Germany, where they lived for more than a year. Though she loved Germany, she couldn’t practice psychology there without redoing her training, so she and her husband moved to England and have been living in the Manchester area for 2.5 years. She now works in a hospital doing assessment and therapy with older adults who have had strokes or brain injuries.

Q: What’s one thing most tourists don’t know about where you live?

A: There isn’t one English accent. There are actually many, and they’re usually first broken down into northern and southern. Southern accents are what Americans typically think of as the English accent — it’s the one where they don’t use Rs at the end of words, and use long vowels. If you are interested in hearing a very different accent from the north, I’d recommend looking for an example of the scouse accent of Liverpool online. When my husband and I first moved here, we could barely understand people there! Aside from accents, British and American English are very different, from sentence structure and spellings to idioms and abbreviations. Two and a half years later, I’m still getting the hang of it.

Q: What’s the worst culture shock you experienced as you settled into your new home?

A: Where I live in the U.K., there are the fewest Americans around of anywhere I’ve lived. At the hospital where I work, people are constantly shocked that I’m from the US. They usually guess that I’m Canadian, citing my “softer” accent as the reason why. That can make it pretty lonely here. Also, obviously, driving on the left side of the road and sitting on the right side of the car. I’m learning to drive manual now because a manual license lets you drive both manual and automatic, whereas an automatic license only lets you drive automatic cars. It’s a lot to think about and remember for someone who has been driving for almost two decades on the other side!

Q: Do you find that living in a foreign country makes you a better traveler when you visit other places? If so, how?

A: Yes, absolutely. Firstly, it’s just much easier to travel. When I lived in Germany, we could be in several other countries in a couple of hours! Over here, I can be in Ireland in an hour, and mainland Europe in a few — not bad. Living abroad makes me much more conscious of some of the shortcomings of America, and makes me appreciate what other countries have to offer so much more. Also, now that I’ve lived in 2 countries outside of the U.S., I’ve been exposed to many new ways to do things. I’m more adventurous and can speak more languages.

Q: Which tourist attraction in the U.K. is most overrated, and where should travelers go instead?

A: That’s a hard one; I haven’t really been disappointed by any of the tourist sites I’ve been to. To be fair, though, most Americans just really go to London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bath (at least that’s what I did when I came here to visit as a child). I would recommend also visiting Edinburgh, York and my absolute favorite, Chester. Founded in the first century, Chester is one of the only cities that still has a completely intact Roman wall ringing the old town. There are adorable Tudor buildings, a gorgeous cathedral, and fun and unique places to shop. Also, there’s a fantastic zoo there, and the city borders Wales. Check it out!

Q: No one should visit the U.K. without tasting __________.

A: Fish and chips and mushy peas (I really love the mushy peas). Do not eat the trifle … waste of calories!

Q: What’s the toughest thing about being an expat? The most rewarding?

A: The toughest thing is being so far away from my friends and family, especially on major American holidays. I have a very good college friend who also lives over here, and we’ve celebrated some holidays together, but mostly I try to get home. I’ve had to miss births of friends’ babies. I also miss the spontaneity of calling people the minute I think of it. We’re five hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast and eight hours ahead of the West Coast. I’m constantly doing math!

The most rewarding thing, though, is seeing how my education and training stand up abroad, and how I can make a meaningful contribution to the lives of people in other countries. My husband and I are making a life for ourselves here, and we’re thriving, which I’m really proud of. I love how outdoorsy people are in Europe, and we’ve been taking advantage of hiking a lot. We hiked in the Alps in Germany, and now we hike in the Lake District and Peak District here in the U.K.

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