So my american story began 4 years ago, during my year studying abroad in Boulder, Colorado. But I'm back with a vengeance, living and working in the snowy land of Wisconsin.
Having only spent 1 day in Madison previously it is with a little trepidation that I sign my job offer, get a 3 year VISA and move to "America's dairyland".
After a relatively stress free journey I land on a bitterly cold November afternoon. Immediately I face a decision that would decide whether I was fully ready to embrace America. A choice in rental car between the archetypal American vehicle - the SUV - bold, brash but ultimately the safest and most powerful way to get around. The alternative is a small hatchback, made in Germany, it has enough power and space for everyday life but with a quiet class.
I went for Vorsprung durch Technik
The SUV was so unappealing, that I'd forgotten the name of it as I open up the VW golf and drive off to the hotel that will be by home for the next…indefinite amount of time.
Immersion part 1
The first week I thought I'd try total immersion. Big unhealthy sandwiches, beer, and the most dreaded of american pastimes…american football.
The Wisconsin Badgers v Nebraska Cornhuskers was my first experience of college football. One of the issues with american football, is the sheer duration, due to my recent arrival I was watching the game on my own at a bar, which can get lonely and boring pretty quickly (particularly when you have little to no idea what is going on)
So I finished the game at the hotel room, the badgers won comprehensively, but what was more shocking was the media reaction. When turning on the news that evening the presenter didn't even flinch when reading the auto cue and had to say "in the 3rd quarter, Melvin Gordon went beast mode…". Such appalling use of the english language was horrifying to a Brit. Imagine turning on the 10 o'clock news to see Trevor Brooking announcing the football scores followed by "SAME OLD ARSENAL, ALWAYS CHEATING". Or maybe Huw Edwards would summarise the Cardiff victory over Swansea with "YOU JACK b******S, YOU JACK b******S".
But enough of that, there'll be plenty of American football bashing during the course of this blog, don't want to unload it all in chapter 1.
Immersion Part 2
My first venture to the bar scene of Madison started via Couchsurfing - a social network I used frequently when I lived in Brussels. I was told a group was going to an Asian-Fusion restaurant/karaoke bar, who could say no to that?
My rendition of Linkin Park - In the End had the room begging for an encore, but I am a firm believer of the view that one should "always leave the crowd wanting more". Drinks at the "Tipsy Cow" followed and I was staggered to find that american beer - at least in Wisconsin - is really good. Dare I say it, better than most of the english ales I've become accustomed to.
The first 4 weeks in Madison I was focused on the following to do list:
- Find a way to not be homeless
- Get car
- Get paid (Bank account required)
- Declare myself an alien (the legal kind)
Unsuprisingly, the bank account was the first to get sorted, followed by a quick read of the "U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens" - not making it up, that's a genuine 68 page tax document.
I managed to find a high rise apartment block to sublet for about 6 months, which will do until something better comes along. Living on the 7th floor is a bit scary for someone brought up in a tiny english village.
Well that's all for now folks, I'll start writing up my blog more regularly, so you can look forward to the next instalment in a couple of weeks time.
Until then, stay warm.