Tag Archives: expat

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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Take it From Me….

There are some lessons you’ve got to learn the hard way.

Or at least you’ve got to learn them the hard way when you’re in another culture where you just don’t know any better.

It was a warm June day.  I was at a conference.  There were hotdogs.

It was hardly a 5 course meal but a) I’m easy to please and b) I’m an American (upon reflection, perhaps those two things are synonymous.)

It was a British hotdog so it didn’t come with all of the trimmings.  And I say that with contempt and a visible sneer.  It was no cheese coney (I’m an Ohio girl) – there wasn’t even any ketchup in sight – but there were buns and lo! what’s that glimmering yelllow condiment I spot out of the corner of my eye?  Mustard!  That would certainly do.

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I slathered my hotdog with the yellow substance, drooling with anticipation at the processed meat feast that lay before me.

I found my table and lifted the hotdog to my mouth.  And my eyes started watering.

…….

I pulled the hotdog away trying to make sense of it.

But my stomach could no longer wait.  In a state of hunger-induced rage, I lifted my hotdog again.  As I did, my sinuses fully opened revealing Pandora’s Box.  In retrospect, that should have been a warning sign.

It was too late.  I had taken a bite.

My tastebuds reacted like an unsuspecting patient receiving a colonoscopy from a blind man…”What terrible crime have I committed against humanity to deserve this?!”

It was English Mustard and that, my friends, was the day my tastebuds all disintegrated.

Colman’s English Mustard never to be mistaken for American Mustard again.

Now That It’s Over – Happy Holidays!

We are back on UK soil.  It has been great to exchange work and the responsibilities of life for exploring New York, lazing around in my pajamas in my parent’s house, and eating my own weight in takeaways.   SONY DSC

Time away has been good for me.  It’s been good for us.  Parts of the trip stripped me of all of the energy I possessed, but parts restored my spirit and refreshed my soul in just the way I needed.  We’re honestly pretty sad to be back.   Sure, a little bit of it is post holiday blues (both  Christmas and vacation), but these funny and familiar feelings have reminded me, once again, about the challenges of living this weird expat life.   It’s a longing for a home that doesn’t exist anymore because time and living as a foreigner have changed you.    And yet, the questions still linger.  What if I returned and loved it?    What if it’s exactly where I’m meant to be?

It is never easy, but we are certainly glad to have family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic that make the decision so hard.

Hoping that you and yours have had a very merry Christmas and wishing you a great year ahead!

From our jetlagged family to yours.

From our jetlagged family to yours.

American Election Day 2012

It’s Election Day.  It’s odd to be an expat on Election Day.  You get the joy of missing all of the attack ads.  You get the relief of avoiding heated conversations with your family, friends and colleagues.  You get the opportunity to vote based on the issues you feel are most important to you, but you do it having experienced other cultures and their values.

You’re still invested.  You still want what you feel is the best outcome for your country, but it doesn’t really have the same impact on you.  Not really.  Sure, the next President will certainly make decisions that have a significant influence on the rest of the world, but if he decides to tighten up immigration control or to take forward universal healthcare, I’m not the guy who will be effected.

And that is why tonight I can say this: there are some key issues that I think we’ve overlooked in this election.  Respectfully, Governor and Mr President, I ask that you please take into consideration the following items:

  • Make it illegal for women ACROSS THE GLOBE to wear leggings as trousers.  Who will stop me having to face the horror of seeing a pair of threadbare leggings stretched over another bottom?!  Who?!
  • To increase productivity, recognize that there is a peak window in the working day and it IT IS NOT first thing in the morning or in the last hours of the day.   10am-3pm, people.  Imagine it.  We’ll be well-rested.  Our minds will be sharp.  I reckon it’d be as good as taking the drug in that film, Limitless, and instead of solely using 10% of our brains, we’d all be speaking 7 languages and saving the rain forests and having ninja babies…..(what?!).
  •  Quote Billy Madison or Wayne’s World.  I need to know that he is one of us and what better test than to see if he can finish this quote…”A gun rack?  A gun rack?…..”  Perhaps it can be worked into a gun control speech.
  • Give the UK a good talking to about their airport tax.  I pay as much in airport tax as I do for a plane ticket.  I swear David Cameron is trying to ensure that we never, ever leave.    Do I need to start looking out for black smoke?  And while we’re on taxes, Mr President – STOP TAXING AMERICANS WHO LIVE ABROAD!  Okay, I’m actually serious about that….and about the leggings thing.
  • Push the exportation of Cheetos, proper Sour Patch Kids, and steak sandwiches.  You try and live without those things, POTUS.   Sure the rest of the world is skinnier, but they are also sadder.

Tonight I’m not sitting in my home, nervous about what the outcome will be.   I will sleep soundly as polling stations begin to close and totals are tallied.   And tomorrow morning the deed will be done.   I will wake up and America will have chosen her President…. I just pray that he watches this video and won’t let me down.

Lost Summers and False Hope

It’s October.  Oh Lord, help me.  Let me just say that again so it sinks down deep into your diaphragm and resonates through your chesticles.  OC-TO-BER. And even after 8 years of living here, I have to learn and re-learn a lesson that October seems to usher into the front of my forgetful mind.  You are a fool to hope for summer in England.  A fool.  A naive, idealistic, mis-informed fool.  This year I was waiting for October.  We had such a rainy summer and I was clinging tightly to the hope that this year could be like last.  Because last year at this time we had a late surge of summer.  I was still on maternity leave and The Duchess and I would laze around the house until lunchtime.  We would pack up a picnic and meet The Native in the park and sit in the sunshine.  Those couple of weeks early in October made the prior months tolerable….kind of.

But this year?  I give you the 5-day forecast:

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There is so much rain AccuWeather has had to come up with new and exciting ways of explaining it so that it looks like there is actual variety in British weather.

It is October and all signs point to that slow descent into the winter months.  I normally love autumn and its thick jumpers, hot drinks, and seasonal traditions.  I don’t love autumn when I have been doing 2 of those 3 things over the summer.  I can feel the winter darkness of 5pm taking over my soul and the bronze-skinned woman who once made an annual appearance is shrivelling and dying somewhere deep inside of me.

I need sun.  I need it.  Oh my word, do I need it.

So I’ve come up with working list of the things I’m going to trial if I can’t be guaranteed exposure to those golden rays for the next 5-6 months (read: EVER AGAIN) –

  • Play Bob Marley’s album “Legend” on loop for the next 6 months
  • Use coconut scented sun cream as my facial moisturizer.
  • Wear my bikini under my thermals
  • Take off my thermals, put on my sleep mask, crank up the thermostat to 90F, and “lay out” in my lounge.  (Friends, who shall remain anonymous, have attempted this before).
  • Sit with my toes in the sand of The Duchess’s Sand and Water play table.
  • Bathtub wave pool, which involves joining The Duchess for her evening bath when she’s flailing around the tub like an overexcited sea otter.
  • Hibernate Forever or…..
  • Die.   Can you trial dying?

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    Repeat after me: I am not wearing a sleep mask in my lounge in a bikini, I am on a Hawaiian beach. I AM on a Hawaiian beach.

5 Things That Make Me Miss America

Missing America often happens like a fast-approaching thunderstorm.  I will be living a very normal day – I’ll even be enjoying it – when I feel the climate change.  The atmosphere will carry familiar scents of home in the air.  The ominous clouds, with their scenes of home, will fill my eyes as they quickly roll in, they open up, and the rain will come.  It will soak me through with its heaviness, weighing me down with calls back home.  And then I hear it, the voice that suddenly begins to thunder within my heart, “Take the leap.  Move back.  It’s where you belong.”  I cave and stay out in the thunderstorm, feeding the call and lamenting all that isn’t mine.  That usually involves spending  a number of futile hours looking at property websites in America…..and the inevitable conclusion is that I get really angry about house prices in the UK.

It happened recently and I’ve stopped to wonder what these scents, these triggers are that lead me from a contented family life, to a frustrated expat wife in a matter of seconds.  They may not be what you expect.

1. Closets –  My parents have no less than 8 closets in their house.  EIGHT WHOLE CLOSETS.  Their master bedroom closet is bigger than rooms I’ve lived in while in England and, hand on heart, it isn’t even that big.  I appreciate the history of Medieval cottages or the beauty of a carefully crafted Edwardian house, but lie four men of about 6ft tall down side-by-side, measure it out, erect some walls, and call that space a closet, life and your clutter will suddenly feel lighter.  Promise.

2. The weather – A few days ago, my Mom told me that it’s 90+F/32+C back in Ohio and I pined for that kind of hot, but it’s not just the heat of the summer that makes me miss home.  I miss the distinction of seasons.   My life back in America was marked by the weather and traditions of seasons.  When 89% of the year is lived under England’s mono-cloud, June could just as easily be October and it often leaves me wondering whether I should be stripping down for summer or cozying up to a fire.

3. Warmness – Sometimes I wonder if warmer weather is directly correlated to warmer natives.  I don’t expect (or want) every stranger to stop and engage me in a random chit-chat, but come on give me a little smile…..a head nod?…..EYE CONTACT?!……some kind of slight movement to acknowledge that I actually exist and am not living in a parallel universe?  What is most concerning is that I find myself slipping into the Brits evasive ways.  Americans, arrange an intervention before it’s too late.

4. Laundry – Life is better when you don’t have to hang your damp laundry in your kitchen.  See weather.

5. A good burger – I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t live in a metropolis, my options are too limited, but please don’t pass me that unseasoned hunk of meat on a bap and call it a burger.  I have so many things to teach you, grasshopper.

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?