When I first moved to the U.K., people often asked me how I liked it and what I missed about America. Within a couple of years, that question had changed to, "So, do you think you'll ever move back?" I've honestly never known how to answer this question since there are so many issues involved in such a decision, and I have finally [almost] wrapped my mind around the fact that England is home. And I've never really given any thought to moving back to my hometown, figuring that if we did repatriate it would be to somewhere like Asheville or Charlotte -- where there are far more career opportunities, not to mention cultural pursuits -- or even further afield to the Pacific Northwest, where I was born and where the culture revolves around two of The Other Half's favourite recreational pastimes: beer and bicycles.
But our recent trip back to North Carolina gave me pause for the first time, and it came in the form of this:
The house you see above is located in the historic district of my hometown. It has five bedrooms (six if you count the playroom) and four and a half bathrooms over three floors. There are also two screened-in porches, a deck, a sunroom, and a full basement. The interior is in perfect condition, having undergone extensive renovation within the past fifteen years, so it would require little to no work upon moving in. It is currently on the market for the equivalent of about £175,000 (based on today's exchange rate).
I'm not joking. And this is considered a relatively high-priced house; there are many more modest homes for half that price.
To put this into perspective for my fellow Yanks, the only thing you can find in our part of London for that price is a one-bedroom flat, and there aren't many of those on the market for less than £200,000 (about $336,000). Even outside of London, you do not get much more bang for your buck these days.
Of course, if the price of a home were the only factor to consider, the decision would be simple and we'd be on the plane tomorrow. But life is never that simple. Even though housing is much more affordable in southern America than it is in southern England, our monthly outgoings would probably be much higher. For one, there's the cost of health insurance and anything else medically-related (doctor visits, prescription medication, etc.). We would also have to have two cars in America, unless we lived and worked in a city centre with good public transport and shops within relatively close walking distance (and affordable cities like that are few and far between, I dare say). And, of course, there's the job situation, which I won't go into right now.
There are other things I would miss about living in the U.K. if we migrated back across the pond. For one, I like living in one of the world's greatest cities and all of the cultural opportunities that come with it. I also like being so close to Europe and having the possibility of taking a day trip to Paris or a summer holiday in the Mediterranean. (The fact that work, expenses, and said cost of living means I have only actually done either of those things once is beside the point.) Also, despite its flaws, I do believe the U.K. education system is better overall than in the U.S., but that also depends on where you live in both cases.
And those are just some of the practicalities; I haven't even touched on the emotional aspects of each "home." For the first time, I really feel torn between two continents.