What It’s Like To Be An American Expat Waking Up To THAT News

Erin Donnelly is a staff writer for Refinery29 based in London. The views expressed here are her own and were originally published on our UK site.

As you no doubt observed from the stream of selfies on social media yesterday, American voters are typically given “I voted” stickers after casting their ballot. Not me. As an expat who has been living in London for eight years under an Irish passport courtesy of my grandfather, the process was more anticlimactic. I printed out my ballot in a Brick Lane internet cafe and came home with a receipt from the Royal Mail so I could track the little guy’s progress. At this point, I don’t think it’s worth bothering.

The plan was to pull an all-nighter, but sleep got the better of me. I went to bed at 10, still wearing my navy blue “I Feel Like Hillz” T-shirt. When the alarm went off just after midnight, I noted that results still hadn’t come in. I fell back asleep, and awoke at 2:40 to a text from a friend in Dubai: “Not looking good.” I scanned the news and felt like I’d been whacked in the stomach with a cast-iron skillet, but tried to take my mind off the possibility of a Trump presidency. There was still plenty of time for Hillary to get her 270 electoral votes.

My body must have known. I tossed and turned, but resisted the urge to go online. I didn’t need to bother. Daylight hadn’t even broke before the texts came pouring in from friends in the U.K.

“Erin… I’m so sorry.”

“WT actual F?!”

“I can’t believe it.”

And this from my brother and his wife: “Chances we can sleep on your couch for approximately four years?”

They might as well. As I warned my mother weeks ago, there was no chance of me ever moving back to the United States under a Trump presidency. I’d toyed with the idea of heading back to Austin, Texas in a year or so. Now it’s four years at a minimum.

I want to hug Hillary Clinton. I want to curl up in a ball and wake up on a different day. I want to scream “fuck you” at every person who voted for Trump, including the pro-lifers who want his victory to take us back 40 years. I want to let immigrants, women, people of colour, the LGBT community, and everyone else abused and maligned by this man and his supporters know that there are still people out there who support them. This vote doesn’t reflect my views at all, and I’ll do my damnedest to prove that.

I had only been living in London for a month when President Obama was inaugurated for the first time. I went to watch it on a big-screen at some mixer for expats, though much of the crowd was British. I was struck by the tears I saw being wiped away by people who had mocked Americans for years. People stood for the National Anthem. Later, I heard two British girls chatting in the toilets about how emotional the ceremony had been.

“I wish I were American,” one wistfully noted to the other. I nearly fell off the toilet seat.

Today, there’s nothing but outrage and disbelief. Progress has been condemned. We Americans have been sentenced to four years of bigotry and bullshit.

So I guess I’ll stick around for a while. It’s like the final scene in Notting Hill. British journalists ask Julia Roberts’ character how long she’ll be in England. She’s leaving right away, she says. Then she sees Hugh Grant in the crowd, and prods the journalist to ask the question again.

“Anna, how long are you intending to stay here in Britain?”


That’s me, only Hugh Grant is the chicken nugget that is Donald Trump. Mind if I make myself comfortable?

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