Book Review: Postcards from Across the Pond, Michael Harling

I was looking forward to reviewing this book having made Michael Harling’s journey in reverse, traversing the pond from east to west. Like him, I’d assumed life couldn’t be so very different when the two nations spoke the same language and came from common stock. How clueless we both were.

Harling comes from a place several miles beyond small town America and became an ‘accidental expat’ when he met and married a Brit (a man of taste obviously), moving his settled and ordered life to Sussex, England. His observations on the oddities and absurdities of his new life were originally documented in his blog, a method guaranteed to save his sanity in his early days of cultural adjustment.

Harling will inevitably be compared to Bill Bryson but they are two different people with diverse experiences. I am a huge fan of Bryson so had great expectations of Harling and wasn’t disappointed.

I found his detailing the differences in the minutia of daily life riveting – bath taps, storage heaters, television and daily shopping; things we can all connect with. I also understood that feeling of familiar things being slightly off-balance and skewed, never allowing you to feel entirely settled or at ease.

He relates with gusto his inevitable brushes with bureaucracy and left me feeling every country is bad as the next when it comes to form-filling and paperwork; from getting a social security/ national insurance number to opening a bank account in the US with a non-American spouse. If you fit the guidelines all is well – be different in any way and chaos ensues.

Harling has a unique skill to make wry and humorous observations without causing offence to anyone. His curiosity and sense of the absurd shine through the writing as he comes to understand why Brits do things they way they do.

His growing affection and understanding of his adopted country are obvious in the conversational and engaging style of his writing. This is a great read you can pick up and put down which will leave you feeling upbeat and positive.

The spirit of Harling can best be described by something he wrote himself, ‘being amazed by your life is a great way to live’. I’ll second that.

Postcards from Across The Pond: Dispatches From An Accidental Expat Michael Harling  

Paperback:188 pages

Publisher:Lean Marketing Press (26 Nov 2008)




About wordgeyser

Our anglo/american family used to live in four countries (USA, Canada, UK and the Netherlands) on two continents, separated by distance, time zones, circumstance and cultures. It has been a scary, enriching, challenging place to be. The only things guaranteed to get us through were a sense of humour and the amazing people met along the way. . . This year everything changed with a move for us from the Netherlands, – and a move along with us for our son and his wife from the UK – to Houston, Texas, the same city as our daughter. With our youngest in Vancouver, Canada, we are now all living on the same continent. How this happened, and more importantly why, will be the subject of this ongoing blog...
This entry was posted in Expat Related Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: Postcards from Across the Pond, Michael Harling

  1. Pingback: Interview with Michael Harling, author of the ‘Postcards From Across the Pond’ series | wordgeyser

  2. Jane says:

    Love the quote…

Please feel free to leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s