Tag Archives: british

Sweet Nectar of Life

Oh, it took me some time.  And as someone who could take or leave hot drinks, I’ve probably had hundreds and hundreds of offers before I finally succumbed.  I couldn’t quite understand how a cup of tea could be the prescription that soothed all sorts of emotional and physical ailments.   I know Americans love their coffee, but the love that the Brits have for their tea doesn’t compare.  Coffee doesn’t FIX things.  Not like tea.

Balancing out or complementing things like a hearty meal, a good sob, a nasty cold, a chilly day, a stressful day, a relaxing day, the best day ever, a household fire, sitting by the fire, childbirth, and unimaginable grief.

But after 9 years, I think I’m finally starting to get it.

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They Did It Their Way

Today was a day off.  I sat at the table with The Duchess as we lazed over our breakfast.  We were meeting a friend in town later, but we had made our way through our morning rituals and had time to kill.  My mind went straight to BBC1.   I’d pop it on for a few minutes before we head out the door.

And then I remembered.  I felt a little wave of disappointment wash over me.   The Olympics really are over.

For years I’ve joked about how the Brits were dreading hosting the Olympics.  For years I listened to the typically cynical side of those around me say, “We’ll probably really embarrass ourselves.”   I’d laugh because, well, that was what I’d expect a British response to be.

That fated Friday over two weeks ago arrived.  The Native and I sat in the moments before The Opening Ceremony feeling excited and nervous about what was in store.  Would the world really watch and scratch their heads?  Would the representation of the British embarrass us?   As someone who grew up in America, there were a few small references during the event that were somewhat lost on me, but what was apparent was that even when the world was watching The British would not pretend they were something they were not.   The focus wouldn’t be pandering to the world in order to appease the stereotype of what it is to be a part of these isles.  Instead the focus would be on its real history and the things that make it great – its beauty,  its literary history, its contribution to the modern world,  its healthcare system, its causes, its people.

Whether the world understood or not, The Brits didn’t care because it was true. What they saw reminded them to be proud of being British.  Openly proud.

And something that I have rarely seen happen in my eight years took place.  The curtain of cynicism fell for those two weeks and they threw themselves, unashamedly, into the emotion and the spirit of the Olympics.  They wept tears of joy with the likes of Katherine Grainger and Sir Chris Hoy and tears of sorrow for Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter.  They would turn out in number to support the athletes from across the globe, often erupting in deafening shouts of support.  They dropped their responsibilities to make their way across the country  just to get a peek on what was taking place, just to be a part of something special.

Something happened to the British in those 16 days.  It was an optimism I’ve never seen here.  And like those gold medallists, who were high on emotion when the medal was placed around their neck, we cannot hold on to this celebratory feeling we have experienced, but we can be changed by it.  So many politicians, media outlets, and people are talking about how the Olympic legacy can continue.  It is easy to get lost in the whirlwind of an inspiring event, it is much more difficult to establish a legacy that affects a culture’s way of thinking.

As a foreigner who has grown to feel so much a part of this country, may I make a humble suggestion?

Let the pride you felt for and inspiration you felt in your country lead you to let go of your scepticism every now and then.   It is not about becoming another country. It’s about finding your own way to  live out the pride you have for your own.

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And with that said – I am proud that the British are so set on making the Paralympics just as successful.  They are expecting tickets to sell out for the first time ever for the Paralympics and you can understand why.  Check out this advert.  Talk about inspiring.

Chills.

10 Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Crazy

I came across this short article today at BBCAmerica on the 10 things that annoy Americans about British people.  It’s written by a Brit living in the land of the Yanks.  As an American expat living in the land of the Queen, I feel I’m now enough of a cultural insider to do my own list.

10 Things That Annoy Britons about Americans.

  1. Your Volume.  You are sitting on the Underground flicking through your photos from your day of tourism and guffawing at how that guard really didn’t move as you licked his cheek, when you notice that no one else is talking.  That’s not just an off day for your fellow travelers, it is how they travel.  The aim is to try to avoid unwanted human interaction wherever possible.  They are avoiding eye contact with you, not because they can’t hear you, but because they are plotting how to silence you without getting arrested.  Note: if you are an American who finds another American loud, the Brits will feel like said “loud American” is screaming their conversation across the Mississippi River….during a tornado.
  1. The World Series.  Britons everywhere are emphatically stating their “Yes’s” as they read this– but not if they are on public transport, because that’s not acceptable.  Even though the Brits don’t have a baseball team to speak of, they take real issue that Americans call it The World Series and yet the only other country represented is Canada – barely.  And don’t even get them started on football.
  1. Giving kids false hope.  If Britons know how to do anything well it is to aim for just below average – if you then excel then you get the  joy of being pleasantly surprised – but you must then take great measures not to be too pleased because then people will either a) interpret your joy as arrogance or b) ask you to do more.  Why must Americans look little Jimmy in the eye and tell him that he can be a doctor or the President, when he swears that swallowing a quarter will make him poop dollar bills?  Jimmy is clearly heading towards some kind of career in sewage; if he excels and instead becomes an unhygienic accountant then you can celebrate.
  1. Say you’re going to Europe when visiting the United Kingdom.  Do not EVER make this mistake.  If customs gets word that you’ve breathed the phrase “I’m going to Europe,” when you are, in fact, visiting London, they will usher you into that 4×7 box room and make you confess things that you didn’t even know you’d done.  Britons make quite a lot of effort to make it clear that they are not European in any way, shape or outfit.  Watch Eurovision and you’ll understand. Geographically correct – yes.  Socially acceptable – no.
  1. Pronounce/spell things wrong.  Say Leicestershire.  Do it.   No, say it out loud (but see #1 first).  Did it sound something like this?  Le-cest-er-shy-er?  Uuuuh!  Wrong.  That’s clearly pronounced Lester-shur.  And don’t make comments about their “funny English.”  Sure they throw in random “u’s” and completely forget to pronounce certain letters, but the key word there is ENGLISH and they’ll make sure you know about it.
  1. Wear white socks.  The Native and I play a game when we’re at the airport – Spot the American.  Without fail we always get it right and here’s why….It’s the white socks, fellas.  To Britons it screams geek and not in the cool, urban way.  If you’re going to wear white socks, at the very least, try to hide them – don’t put them on show by pulling them up to your mid-calf.
  1. Using irony incorrectly.  It’s not that you can’t be ironic, but let me explain.  Brodie sits down at his desk and starts moaning about how even though he left for work 30 minutes early today, he was still late and his colleague Brad says, “That’s so ironic.”  No.  No, it’s not Brad.  It’s a bad start to Brodie’s day, yes.  It’s unfortunate, yes.  It’s annoying, yes.  But it’s not as annoying as you misconstruing that event for irony.  If Brodie’s job is that he is the Talking Clock – you know, the man who, when you call that number, tells you exactly what time it is? – and he’s constantly late to work because he never knows what time it is, that is ironic.
  1. Use a buttload of energy.  You get weather that reaches 80° and 90°F and you don’t hang clothes outside, but tumble dry them instead.  They’ll complain about the environment, about resources, about wastefulness but in their hearts they’re just really bitter that you can do anything in 80°F weather and choose not to when here summer peaks at a balmy 61°F.
  1. Sharing your feelings too openly.  When Britons sit down next to a new American friend on a flight and the friend starts crying about their dead hamster, Brits don’t want to sympathize, they want to run.  Your frankness and honesty has made them feel uncomfortable.   How in the world have you gotten through any wars?  Hasn’t anyone taught you about repression?  You bottle it up in a special place in the darkest corner of your heart until the emotion one day kills you.  What’s not to understand?
  1. Making everything showbiz.  The prime example is at a wedding reception of any John and Jane Doe. When it is time for the entrance of the wedding party, a spotlight zooms around, music plays and a DJ announces each usher, bridesmaids, and best man.  Quite often these people will wear sunglasses or do some kind of dance when they enter the reception hall.  Royal weddings are the place for the pomp, so just sneak into your reception and sit down at the top table quietly like the plebian you are, okay?

The Itch

There’s this irritating tingle – this subtle contemplative rash that, every now and then, starts to tickle the corners of my mind.  The Itch.  I know that it’s coming because I’ll find that my day-to-day contentment is lessening.  Conversations with The Native will begin with, “I’m afraid…” and “What if we never….”  I’ll begin to spend hours online searching for a job, a home, a life that isn’t my own.  Searching and searching but never really finding what I’m looking for because I don’t know if it actually even exists.

Sometimes, like a mosquito bite at the back of your knee, I’ll shuffle and try to adapt to avoid scratching it – to avoid making it worse.  And while that particular bite may go away in time, a fresh bite will always come and The Itch will reappear.

I used to think that I’d get The Itch because after I left America, I spent a lot of time travelling during those first two years in the UK.  I thought maybe I was longing to get back on the road, to see more of the world, to experience different languages and architecture and to try horrible and wonderful, but all undiscovered, food again.  But being the homebody I am, now I’m not so sure.

Perhaps the most recurring symptom is that question of whether I’ll ever really feel home again and I’m searching.  I can’t sit with my husband and reminisce about our similar childhood.  We watched different TV shows, we had different hobbies, we belonged to different cultures.  I don’t fully belong here.  Nor can I run into the arms of the America of my past and pretend that she will be the welcome and safe friend that my rose-tinted glasses want her to be.  I have changed.  I no longer pledge my allegiance to one culture.  I’m searching, but I don’t think it’s out there.

I expect you don’t have to be an expatriate to get The Itch though.  Experience change; The Itch will eventually come.

The complicated part is sifting through my own longing to belong to find what the truth is.  Is it simply that I’m  holding on too tightly to the past?    I don’t think it’s right or possible to let go of it fully, but neither do you want to drag it behind you like a lifeless body that weighs you down and prevents you from moving forward.   Is it time to settle down properly and dig my heels firmly into the soil so that strong, deep roots begin to grow here? — because I don’t think I’ve allowed myself to let them grow too deeply just yet.

But maybe it’s that it actually is time to start looking at that new house, new career, new city, or even that new country.  Maybe to avoid stagnating, to avoid months, even years of frustration I need to pluck my heels from the soil and seek out the opportunities that might be waiting.

The Itch is a complicated illness.  It could be caused by a loss of perspective, thankfulness, and love for the life we have built in this country town.  It could just as easily be life’s call to move us on to experience more of what is on offer.

How do you tell the difference?

For me, I have to go back time and time again to what my main symptoms are.  Am I frustrated?  Am I sad?  Am I overwhelmed?  Am I bored?  Am I lonely?  If I answer yes to any of these questions (and sometimes all of these questions) then it’s quite likely that a move, a change in job, a change in lifestyle won’t actually cure The Itch.  I’m not saying that they can’t be symptoms that I need a greater change, but quite often the reason behind running towards change is that I’m just running.    It might mask the symptoms for a while, but give it a month, give it a year, The Itch will be back.

I am living in this place at the moment.  I am itching all over.  I just need to take some time and figure out what the right prescription is.

Ta-may-toe, Ta-mah-toe: Excitement

Brit-speak: dead chuffed; chuffed to bits

Ameri-speak: pumped

Americanos, imagine you are walking down the street with your British friend as they talk about a job they’ve just been offered.  You are mentally dipping in and out of the conversation as they explain how they’ll get to patrol those crime-ridden shopping malls of suburbia on a Segue in their new role as a security guard, when you hear them say, “And I’m dead chuffed.”  You pause.  You check their complexion. You ask, “Are you alright?”  to which they reply, “Yes, I’m chuffed to bits.”  They are looking a little peaky, actually.  Maybe you should find the nearest bathroom so they can chuff in the toilet.  Or if you can’t locate a bathroom quickly, perhaps you can offer them that Wal-Mart bag that carried your lunch.  Don’t worry.  I know chuffed sounds like something college students do after a pub crawl, but your redcoat companion isn’t about to spew, they are just really excited.

Equally Brits, you and your American friend may be driving down the highway on your way to a professional sporting event.  Your friend, while professing their undying devotion to their favourite football team (that’s throwy ball to you) gets a bit worked up and shouts, “I’m so pumped.”  Perhaps, you feel you may need to roll down the windows, you know, let the air circulate.  You know your friend struggles with lactose intolerance and he did have that large cheese pizza before you set off.  You don’t want him to feel too embarassed when the smell starts to permeate every stitched crevice of the leather interior.  My dear British friend, you need not worry about flatulence.  Like the thrill you feel when the thermometer actually reaches 18+, your friend is simply overjoyed.

And I, readers, am excited, too.  Because of you I’m a Fresh Voice finalist in the BritMums Brilliance in Blogging Awards.  Thanks.  I am one dead pumped chuffed blogger.

Luck of the Irish

This morning I was killing some time before our 11am church service and I started chatting with a lady to whom I’ve probably spoken with 8, maybe 10 times. I mean, it’s not at all like we’ve had hour long heart-to-hearts it’s always just been relatively brief social exchanges.

The Standard Comment Lady: Oh, she’s gotten so big hasn’t she? (Thankfully, speaking about The Duchess, not moi.)

Moi: Yeah, she’s pretty big for 10 months. She’s pretty tall.

The Kind, but Misguided Lady: (as The Duchess holds my hands and does some crazy high-step, arch-backed walk) And she’s walking and not even a year.  So clever.

Moi: Well, I mean, she can’t walk on her own, but yeah, she can hold onto things and get around pretty well.

The Mistaken Lady: So, do you think she’ll have an English accent or an Irish accent?

(Pause)

Moi: Um, well, I’m American, so I’d be pretty shocked if it was Irish.

The Totally Mortified Lady: Oh.  Oh my.  I thought.  I always thought you were Irish.

She literally put her face in her hands and looked as though she wanted to die, and I guess understandably, because we’d chatted enough for her to properly hear me.  I tried to lift the awkwardness by saying it happens all of the time.  Then, I tipped my hat, ate my Lucky Charms, and Riverdanced to the nearest exit.

I mean, maybe I do sound like this:

Easter issues

Um….I think I may have gone a little overboard.

I blame it on a guilty conscience from St. Nick’s.  I took that guilt that only a Mommy can feel – that feeling of wishing I’d done more- and I hot glued the crap out of it until it was buried under a pile of scalding adhesive.

I present with you with The Duchess’s Easter basket.  

Voilà!  C’est magnifique, non?

To see where I got the inspiration and to be really impressed, hop over to Mabel's Log. http://bit.ly/Ho1ewD

And look at the hand-decorated eggs.  I won’t blame you if you gaze at them for hours in wonderment.  Clearly, American egg dying kits stifled my creativity when I was growing up.  I feel that my egg-decorating gift has finally come to fruition.

Don’t panic.  I don’t expect you to do an Easter basket for your child (unless you’re American – what are you doing with your life?!). I know it’s not really a British thing to do.  I hear you saying it. Chocolate eggs are better, anyway.  You’re right.  And actually, we all know that The Duchess will be able to do absolutely nothing with those  faultless masterpieces that I call Easter eggs.  These are my issues – my glorious, perfectly-painted, egg related issues.

The Native has already said that every year he is going to up the ante and set me a challenge.  Next year he has commissioned me to create a giraffe.

Mission accepted, brutha.  Mission eeeeegg-cepted.

Happy Easter, everyone!