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Place of birth: Neath, Wales
Occupation: Retired English teacher and supervisor at Aging and Community Services
Education: Degree in English from the University of Bristol, education diploma from the University of Sheffield
In Columbus since: 1979
Citizenship: Dual British/U.S.
Family: Husband, Andrew, a mechanical engineer at Cummins; two sons
Community involvement: Granny Connection, which raises funds and advocates for grandmothers in Africa who take care of children with AIDS
Hobbies: Reading; watching British TV, including Masterpiece Theater; and sports, including tennis, Pilates and Zumba
What was your first job?
At age 15, I worked on Saturdays at a local department store. I did it for only about six weeks. It just didn’t grab me.
What primary lessons did you learn from that job?
I worked the cash register, and it was in the days before the modern machines, so we had to do a lot of the calculations in our head. That’s a skill that’s lost today, and from that perspective, it was very good training.
When did you move to the U.S.?
The first time, my husband received an assignment in Detroit, through GM, in 1971, and we stayed there for a year.
What major differences did you notice when you moved to the U.S.?
We had lived in the country just north of London, and when we moved to Detroit it was a culture shock. We lived in an industrial complex in Detroit, close to my husband’s work, and one of the first things I noticed was how nobody walked anywhere. And the cars were huge. I also noticed that America had much more of a throwaway culture, and I was horrified by the waste of food. People thought nothing of throwing six pieces of leftover pie into the trash. On the flip side, we also noticed that people are very, very friendly and much easier to get to know than in England, where you sort of have to wait to be introduced — though that’s changed, too, since then.
How did you end up in Columbus?
After moving from Detroit back to England, we saw a huge amount of political and social unrest, especially clashes between the government and trade unions. We often had to deal with strikes, and a truck drivers strike caused shortages. It was a really difficult time, and England was starting to lose its industrial base, so we thought it would be a good idea to return to the U.S., where manufacturing was still going strong, and because we really enjoyed our time in Detroit.
Q: What were your first impressions of Columbus?
A: Cummins brought us over here for a week to get to know the city, and we liked it a lot and met lots of different people. Our children were 2 and 5, and we thought it would be a great place for a family. Everything in Columbus was a really nice surprise. It was clean, had sidewalks where we lived, and in our subdivision we had access to a swimming pool and tennis courts. Both my kids played tennis for Columbus North High School.
Q: How did you adjust to life in Columbus?
A: It was very easy, in part because there were several English families here in town. We’d lived in the U.S. before, and this time we made much more of an effort to meet Americans. It was more difficult for the kids initially, because they had a British accent, but they morphed very quickly. Overall it was a seamless transition.
Q: Tell me about your work in Columbus.
A: Initially, I did not have a work permit, which was fine, because I wanted to stay home with the kids. Later I found out that a lot of my teaching qualifications did not transfer very easily, and I would have had to go back to school to be allowed to teach. So initially I worked at Developmental Services Inc., teaching the adults there in the workshop. I then moved into an early learning program, now called First Steps, where we taught children ages 0 to 3. I moved with the program to Aging and Community Services, where I ended up supervising the program for 18 counties. I retired two years ago.
Q: How do you stay connected to your culture?
A: We go back to England twice a year, in part to visit my husband’s mother, who is 93. We see family there and usually go on trips. We’ve gone to Portugal a lot, where one of my sons lives. We’ve adopted lots of American culture, and I became a U.S. citizen about 20 years ago, but we do like to do some things as we’ve always done them. That includes Christmas dishes such as plum pudding and mince pies, and things like Christmas Crackers, which is a present wrapped in a long tube. Two people pull the wrappers at either end to reveal the present inside. When I go to England now, I feel very out of touch.
Q: How have the people of Columbus welcomed you?
A: They have always been friendly and inquisitive. In the early 1980s, it was still unusual to have international families living here, but today it’s so international that people don’t even ask anymore. My Zumba class has people from Japan, China, Sweden, Germany, South Korea, America, Britain and Canada. Americans on the whole feel very good about English people. I never encountered any hostility.
Q: Tell me about why you became a U.S. citizen?
A: We initially came to Columbus to stay for five years, but the kids and we were happy here, so we decided to stay. As England recognized dual citizenship, I decided to become a U.S. citizen, primarily because I wanted to vote.
Q: What advice do you have for internationals who are arriving in Columbus?
A: Brits are luckier than most, because we don’t have a language barrier, and that’s a big hurdle. If you don’t know the language, take classes, as there are plenty of resources, at McDowell and IUPUC, for example. And get involved in local organizations to get to know people. Some people like to stick to their own circle, and that’s partially because of language and cultural issues, but when we moved to Columbus, I felt strongly that we should put our best foot forward and see everything in a positive light. And I know there were English families who moved here and didn’t like it. So a positive attitude helps a lot, too.
Global Columbus is a twice-monthly Q&A with members of Columbus’ international workforce. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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