By Chris Reid
One year. It sounds like a long time, but it feels so much less. Just over a year ago, during the buzz of the Olympics, I packed my bags to move from traditional Oxford to the metropolis that is New York. Being invited to write for this blog has allowed me to reflect on my time here, thus far, and how OUP and life in general differs across the proverbial pond.
The truth is that OUP on both sides of the Atlantic has a huge number of similarities, both are full of hard working people passionate about publishing, both are adapting rapidly to the changes and opportunities that 21st century publishing present, and, thanks to our global nature, there are even a lot of familiar faces. Working in both the medical books and journals teams, I’ve been able to appreciate how the day to day practice of publishing differs on both sides of the pond across two business areas. Language, of course, is the most obvious, and perhaps most clichéd difference. I have long got used to my spellcheck “correcting” my emails, removing u’s and adding z’s, but there are little nuances which still catch me out. The most striking difference is within the subject area and how much medicine differs, especially in my area, psychiatry. It’s been hugely rewarding to learn about the US healthcare system, the place of psychiatry within it, and to continue to work with incredibly intelligent and inspiring authors and editors. There are of course those differences which while unremarkable and frankly tedious cause endless moments of confusion. These are mainly based around I.T. and how identical programs are of course not identical, but have subtle yet crucial differences…
On the face of it, comparing Oxford to New York should be like chalk and cheese, but there are more similarities than you’d first believe. Both cities have young, ambitious populations, both full of hyper-smart go getters, and both architectural miracles. Granted the dreaming spires of Oxford differ to the glass canyons of New York, but here and there similarities are spotted, with the neo-classical pillars of Grand Central Station oddly reminiscent of the Ashmolean. The big difference is the pace of life. Oxford is frenetic in its own way, with cyclists threatening at every turn, but New York is a city on fast forward. The difference can take some getting used to, but like so much in life, its best just to jump in and enjoy the ride.
Life outside work in the two cities does differ dramatically. For someone who spent too much time on a river in Oxford rowing and coaching rowing, the lack of a rowable river has forced a change, and the steep learning curve of learning American sport(s). Softball seemed like the perfect sport to try, with the promise of relaxed games in the evening sun and a few beers in bars after; and indeed it has been the case, although it is far from what I pompously thought of as advanced rounders. For a seemingly simple game, it has a lot more depth than I thought, and is all the more enjoyable for it. Of course, many challenges remain, using a mitt to catch remains unnatural but at least the taunts about cricket are getting fewer…
Overall, the transition between the two offices has been much less daunting than could be expected. As in Oxford, the New York office is not just marked out by hard working intelligent colleagues, but by a warmth and friendliness that I can’t believe exists elsewhere. Despite the accent (which receives less comment than hoped…), I have been accepted and even jokes about 1776 go down relatively well. It has been a huge opportunity to learn about life in a different country and long may the adventure continue. If you are ever presented with the opportunity to move offices to another country, I cannot recommend highly enough that you should seize it, and run with it.
Chris Reid has been an editor at OUP for over seven years. He has worked in both the medical books and journals divisions, in both the US and UK offices and has a wide range of experience across books, journals, and digital publishing. Chris holds a BA (Hons) in Archaeology and Anthropology from the University of Durham.