Upon my graduation from Clovenhoof College I secured a position with British Petroleum and expected to be posted to its headquarters in London. In anticipation, I was scouting for a nearby flat to rent. But it was not to be and for the most trivial of reasons.
The head of personnel at BP was a family friend of Chancellor Cheapsborough at Clovenhoof College and while checking references he was told by the Chancellor that I was suspected of being the cad who defiled his 15 year old daughter. Having daughters of his own he decided that the best place for me was in the colonies. BP had an established presence in Canada but not yet in the United States. I was to spearhead the establishment of a new office in Houston, a major center of the American oil industry and I was to leave immediately. BP had taken care of all the necessary paperwork and I already had a passport.
I did not have many possessions that I couldn’t leave at Bentknee Manor with my family, so my luggage was minimal. I had no idea what to expect in Houston. I had a vision of a vast prairie covered with oil wells and cowboys riding horses down the main street while firing guns at people for no reason at all. I arrived at Houston Intercontinental Airport in August and my indelible first memory is stepping out of the airport and being hit in the face with what felt like a heavy, hot, steaming towel. For heaven’s sake, it was 8:00 pm and the temperature was still 32°C with humidity of nearly 100%. As the seasons changed, I found that the heavy woolens that I carefully packed and had served me so well in England were for the most part useless. Winter in Houston is on January 22 between 2:00 am and 4:00 am.
Then there was the language barrier. Some of the difficulties are chronicled in “University of Texas Announces Remedial Language Class for Non-Texans,” September 10, 2014. As I reported then, persons with an English accent are more accepted than some others. I struggled initially but I found that many local people were more than willing to explain Texas idioms, if asked politely. I even learned how to pronounce jalapeño and the difference between y’all and all y’all.
Frankly, I would likely have bungled everything without the help of the British Consulate. The good people there were eager to get a major British company up and running in Houston and they provided invaluable advice and assistance. I found a flat to rent and office space in a building with room to expand if necessary.
The restaurant scene in Houston is quite international and it was easy to find quality Indian, Chinese, Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and many other nationalities. This led to a steady expansion of my girth. With time I even came to appreciate Tex-Mex. One great revelation was the abundance of flavorful beef, something in which the UK is sadly deficient. A few establishments in Houston purported to be British-style pubs and I found one that was genuine enough to attract other British expatriates. This became my second home.
As time passed and BP made acquisitions, more senior managers were brought in and I happily went back to the technical side of the business. Decades passed and I was Vice-president of Engineering (U. S.) when I retired and moved to Southern California. I was offered a very lucrative consulting contract and my long-standing desire to escape Houston’s climate was finally fulfilled.