We are going to run a series of emails from local resident and American ex-Pat, Stephanie Grefsheim, sent to her family and friends back in the USA… we hope you enjoy them.

When our daughter first heard we were considering moving from the US to England, she just couldn’t stop laughing. She thought it was a joke. Nevertheless, we are here and the things that are different are not necessarily what we anticipated…

Driving on the wrong/other side of the road

sent 7 October 2004

You never know the true freedom of driving to the grocery store in a car until you move to another country and spend two months having to plan your family menu based on what you can carry home in a backpack, while riding a bicycle. Today was a liberating day for me. I took my first trip by car to the local TESCO. I bought all sorts of food, including all the kitchen staples one would assume you could not live without.

Moving to England has been more of an adventure than I would have anticipated. However, the Grefsheims (formerly of Rockville, Maryland) are now residents of the UK in a charming village setting in St Margarets in Twickenham in the Borough of Richmond-Upon-Thames. What a mouthful. Matt keeps saying, “We live in Georgetown,” because we can walk to small shops and restaurants that are literally just around the corner. Samantha is enjoying Cutter’s, which reminds me of Bruce’s Variety Store in Bethesda, but on a much smaller scale. Nicholas is enjoying the freedom and responsibility of being sent to the corner market no less than three times in one night to get eggs twice and milk once. Daniel likes that Twickenham is known for rugby. He plays what he calls rugby in the back yard with Nico. They basically grab each other by the knees or ankles and throw each other to the ground in the name of sport. I’m not sure I’m going to approve of rugby.

The house in Blackheath we initially planned to live in did not work out. The landlord and real estate agents were being extremely difficult. I think it all worked out. St Margarets is a very family friendly place. There are zillions of kids on our block, including many young boys Daniel’s age and an 11-year old girl directly next door. Daniel is going to Orleans Infant School. He didn’t like the “Infant” part of the name very much until I told him that he will be in the oldest group there. He is a Year 2 student. His teacher, Miss Berryman, is extremely warm and is working hard to help Daniel adjust to English school. Initially Daniel seemed to have an easy transition, but he is now showing signs of difficulty. He doesn’t really want to go to school in the morning and would prefer to stay home with me. I am honored by his love and adoration, but have continued to walk him the one block to school every day.

Nico and Sammie are going to the Orleans Park School. Samantha is a Year 7 and Nico is a Year 9. As can be expected, Samantha already has a lively group of friends. They all seem to have very English names like Rose, Emma, and Lily. Orleans Park is a beacon school, which is much like a Montgomery County magnet school. It is called a “mathematics and computing college.” The British senior school system includes some terrific classes such as Design and Technology, which has captured the imaginations of both Samantha and Nico. It is a terrific class where they do a little bit of hands on building, some engineering, and some design. Sports are also a huge part of school life. They have both PE and Games. PE focuses on individual skills, while Games is more team sports.

Matt’s job is going well. He will be going on his second day trip to Paris next week. He said that when he came back from Paris last week and saw cars in England on the left-hand side of the road, it looked right to him. Easy for him to say, he didn’t drive to the grocery store today. But, I feel a great sense of accomplishment for having been to the grocery store and back without causing any accidents or denting our car. It’s amazing what we come to appreciate.

That is a basic update of English life for now. I hope everyone in the US is doing great. Middle school life should be settling down for all the new JWMS students. Halloween paraphernalia should be taking up major space in Target by now, with Christmas decorations hidden in the back waiting to be displayed. I miss so many things about the US, but am enjoying the same number of things about England.


These are emails from a recent ex-pat to St Margarets, Stephanie Grefsheim. They are presented as they were originally sent to her friends and family in Rockville, Maryland, USA (except for the occasional translation of some very American terms).