What happens when an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a 200-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds? It’s all in Jennifer Richardson’s travel memoir entitled “Americashire: A Field Guide to Marriage,” which received the 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Award for travel writing.
Richardson spent three years living in the Cotswalds, before moving back to the U.S. She and her husband currently live in Santa Monica, Calif. I caught up with her recently and talked about the expat life, taco salads and the joy of a good pub. Here’s what she had to say:
Q: What brought you to the U.K.?
A: My British husband and I had been living in Los Angeles, and he had a yen to move back to his homeland for a stint. I was reluctant but told him if he found a job that would move us, then I would go. I didn’t actually expect my condition to be fulfilled so fast, but within three months, we were in London. Of course, once we got there, I loved it.
Q: What prompted your move back to the States?
A: My grass-is-always-greener husband wanted to get back to America after six years of being away. In parallel, an opportunity came up through my job to move to Boston, so we took it. We loved Boston (our neighborhood, Beacon Hill, was about as British as you can get in the U.S.), but have now made our way back to Santa Monica. My aspiration is that we eventually spend part of the year here in California and part in our cottage in the Cotswolds.
Q: What do you miss most about British life?
A: The pub, by which I really mean a place where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger without getting a funny look.
Q: What do you love most about American life?
A: It’s easier to find a salad that isn’t iceberg lettuce with a pale quarter of tomato and, if you’re lucky, a slice of cucumber. I don’t think Cobb salads or Chinese chicken salads even exist in England. Taco salad would blow their minds. Which reminds me about two other great American institutions: Taco Bell and Target. When we lived in England, those were our first stops on any visit back to the states.
Q: Tell me about “Americashire.”
A: It’s a travel memoir, and here’s the pitch: When an American woman and her British husband decide to buy a two-hundred-year-old cottage in the heart of the Cotswolds, they’re hoping for an escape from their London lives. Instead, their decision about whether or not to have a child plays out against a backdrop of village fêtes, rural rambles, and a cast of eccentrics clad in corduroy and tweed.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: The three years I spent living in the Cotswolds. As a former urbanite/suburbanite, I was utterly charmed, and occasionally mystified, by rural English life. I felt compelled to write it all down, which I initially did in a blog, An American in the Cotswolds. This is where the raw material came from for the travelogue part of the book. In real life there was also this decision about whether or not to have kids going on at the same time, and I thought the moment was right for that story. Something about it felt and still feels zeitgeist-y: child-free celebs from Oprah to Ellen are in the spotlight, and the subject even made a segment of CBS Sunday Morning this past Mother’s Day.
Q: What advice would you give to Anglo-American couples that are trying to make it work?
A: If you’re the American in the couple, learn to make fun of yourself, a.k.a. “take the piss out of yourself” in Brit-speak. That’s the true mark of character for the British, so it will make things easier not just at home, but at any pub in the U.K. If you’re the Brit in the couple, just try iced tea. It’s not the devil’s drink, I promise (despite what my husband says).