Jamie Henson

Three months in SF - but there's always room for Bristol

November 26th, 2014

I’ve been here for about three months now - just long enough (I’d say) to claim that the transition has been made from this feeling like a short trip to this feeling like a full move. And with that, the realisation that I most likely won’t return to the UK for just under a year has made me miss it.

Bristol is a wonderful city with a strong pulse. I don’t miss the University per se, but the city itself, and the people I met during University who still live there, either at Uni or in the working life. I was ready to graduate and move away from academia, having done my part and received my grade. But I’ve found it increasingly hard moving from such an active musical lifestyle to having nothing. I keep up playing music as a hobby, yes, but there isn’t that community, that outlet to play it publicly, and enjoy it with others, friends, who are into the same thing as you. At least, I haven’t found it yet.

Things are different in America. It’s not better than the UK, and it’s not worse. It’s just different. It’s interesting noting cultural differences - there’s a different conversational style, a different sense of humour, different social expectations. British conversation staples such as the weather, laced with a touch of self-deprecation are lost on the Americans, whereas several American nuances of a more direct approach are lost on me. We share (or rather, they’ve inherited) a language, but conversation isn’t usually as fluid as with my British counterparts - naturally because I’ve been a part of one culture for 22 years, and the other for a mere three months. There’s a lot to pick up on.

Previously in my life the run up to Christmas has always followed a sort of loose routine, but here the traditions and even the environment (it’s still basically Summer, for a start) are rather set apart from what I’m used to. Ordinarily it’s a time to spend with family, whereas I’m not able to do that this year. In short, I’m a little out of my comfort zone.

But despite the difficulties, that’s okay. One should rattle things up in their early twenties. It’s Thanksgiving today, and despite never acknowledging it as a holiday before I’m getting into the feel of it.

It’s a joy to live in SF. I really like being involved and present in a place where the next big thing is just waiting to emerge, along with countless other ideas bubbling under the surface. Bristol is vibrant and creative too, but SF has much more cultural diversity (it’s a lot bigger). That said, SF also feels much more anonymous. More turbocharged. One of the main things I love about Bristol vs. cities like London is how naturally laid back it is. There’s a lot going on, but it’s all happening at a pace that never feels uncomfortable or overly urgent. It feels more harmonious than SF, which suffers from a bit of a gulf between groups of individuals within notably variant pay brackets, to put it one way. Maybe, for cultural differences outlined above, a Californian native would feel the same friction living in the UK.

People have said to me that SF feels like a small city, despite its breadth and size. I can agree with that, it feels a lot smaller now than the daunting metropolis it resembled when I first arrived - and I was still encountering new places in Bristol at the same rate four years on as when I arrived as a fresher.

I have a life in two places, and a whopping great stretch of water does its part to ensure that they don’t overlap. While I’m progressing headlong through one, having a great time doing it, I’m still holding onto the other. God Save The Queen.