“I like your trainers,” said one of my new husband’s fellow theological college (US: seminary) students.
“My trainers?” I asked, not knowing what he was talking about.
He pointed down to my feet, and I realized he must be talking about my tennis shoes. “Oh, thank you!” I said. “I didn’t realize you all had so many different words for things here.”
I was in my first days in Cambridge, having moved to England from Washington, DC, and I was feeling very much a foreigner in a strange land. I delighted in my new marriage and in my quaint surroundings, but I felt so very different. I’d hold off, when in the town centre, from speaking, lest I’d be marked as an out-of-place American. I had knew that adapting to a new culture might be challenging when I married Nicholas, but I hadn’t reckoned that I would feel so rocked in myself.
My journey of finally losing a self-conscious walking alongside myself, as C.S. Lewis put it in Perelandra, took more years than I care to admit as I embraced life in the UK. Living in London helps a lot, as this fantastic city is so multicultural that I rarely feel like I stand out as a foreigner. But I had to look more deeply, too, and ask God to help me to be myself, not editing my actions or responses unnecessarily in the quest merely to fit in (but of course modifying where appropriate).
I’ve learned that it’s more than okay to be different, not least when I meet people from many different countries and hear their stories of life, love, and God.
How are you different?
I share many more stories and observations in my book Finding Myself in Britain, which to my delight won two awards. Find out more here.