Expat Living

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A New Day in AmericaThis has been an emotional election season for my fellow Americans. As an expat living in the UK, I have taken a keen interest in the election. Then again, the entire world has been watching, waiting, wondering who the United States of America will choose for its 45th president.

Besides the mud-slinging, there was unprecedented craziness and shocking tales of sexual assault and harassment. On one hand, we had a woman that no one is entirely sure they can trust. But she is clever, educated and experienced. On the other hand, we had a man-child. No one is really sure if he's actually clever and just pretending to be stupid. But he comes from money and runs a business. He also, apparently, enjoys grabbing p*ssies. *shudder*

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Oh the British, in the SummerGrowing up in Northern California, I was used to plenty of sunshine. But people are not so lucky in the UK. And when the weather gets hot, they go a little crazy. And by 'a bit crazy', I mean the lose their minds and go CRAY-ZEE. And Brits keep talking about the sun having its hat on, whatever that means.

I have previously written about some eccentricities of Brits as well offering some American-British translation, but I thought I'd focus a post on the heatwave (happening this week). If you are new to the UK, please be warned. And if you have been living in the UK for many years, as I have, you may even begin to start acting a bit heat-crazy yourself.

1. British people start stripping off. From very large men in too-small shorts walking down the road, to my kids refusing to wear clothes at home. You would think it was 40C, but it's only 27C.Oh the British Heatwave

2. All meals are eaten outside. In the garden, the BBQ becomes king. Or else you have a picnic on any patch of grass you can find.

Oh the British, HeatwaveOh the British, in the Summer

3. It's an excuse for drinking even more alcohol than usual, preferably outside. And Brits love drinking booze in tins.

Oh the British, in the Summer Oh the British, in the Summer

4. Gardens are turned into waterparks. Health and safety be damned.

Oh the British, in the Summer Oh the British, in the Summer

5. All meals consist of sausages and ice cream.Oh the British, HeatwaveOh the British, in the Summer

6. British people will drive hours to the nearest beach. Who cares if the sand is covered in pebbles and the ocean is too cold to swim in. They're going to the beach, dammit.

Oh the British, in the Summer

7. And then the rains come, and are often accompanied by thunder and lightning and even hail.

Oh the British, in the Summer

 

 

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Due to the enormous success of my post Oh The British, I felt compelled to write a follow-up post. And by enormous success, I mean that all of my six regular readers found the post semi-entertaining. So to you devoted readers, I dedicate this post.

One major advantage of moving to the UK from the USA is that you don't have to learn a new language. Or so you would think. Though English is spoken in both countries, British and American English can be quite different. So for anyone new to the UK or planning a visit, here is a helpful (but far from comprehensive) guide. This would also be helpful to a Brit visiting the USA.

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American and British English

American English: Hello! Hi!

British English: Hiya! Helloooo!

 

AE: Wassup? What's the haps?

BE: All right? How are you?

 

AE: When will it stop raining?

BE: What a lovely day, it has only rained for three hours.

 

AE: Where is a McDonald's?

BE: Look at all those Americans going to the MaccyDs (pronounced MackyDees).

 

AE: I'm amazed at all the sexy men hanging out in the Fish & Chips restaurant.

BE: I'm gobsmacked at all the fit blokes in the chippy.

 

AE: I'm going to bed now. I'm drunk after drinking those beers at the old bar.

BE: I'm off to Bedfordshire. I'm pissed after downing those pints at the pub.

 

AE: Goodbye. Peace out.

BE: Ta. Ta ta. Tara. Cheerio.

 

Here are some of my favourite British words/phrases:

Easy peasy Lemon squeezy = Easy
Ace = great
Chin wag = chat
Taking the piss = making fun of someone/something
Wonky = crooked or unbalanced (as in a wonky haircut)
Kip = nap
Well = very (used as an adverb). Ex: That bloke is well dodgy = That man is very sketchy (not to be trusted)
Wanker = someone who jacks himself off, and is therefore a bit of an a**hole.
To have a butchers = to have a look
Gutted = bummed or upset
Knackered/Cream Crackered = tired, but I think knackered is more adult
Mates = friends/homies

 

 

Here are some commonly used terms that are handy to know:

Loo/Toilet = restroom/bathroom
Brolly = Umbrella
Quid = £ (pound = currency)
Rubbish = garbage/trash
Fringe = bangs
Pants/knickers = underpants/underwear
Trousers = pants
Arse/Bum/Bottom = butt
Fanny = vagina
Lift = elevator
Pavement = sidewalk
Ta/Cheers = thank you

 

I hope this helps! Cheerio homies!

 

Seychelles Mama
 
Photo credit: phasinphoto, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Since I began blogging six months ago, my UK readership has been double that of my American readership. But in the last month my American readership has greatly increased. I'm not sure why. But it IS exciting. So I thought I would write a post geared towards my American readers (*waves excitedly*) to give some insight into British people. As for my British readers, sit back and enjoy the generalisations and sterotypes. Let me know if there are any with which you strongly agree or disagree. 

Obviously British people love tea, scones, chocolate and biscuits. But what else do you know about them?

1. British people love pork sausages. I mean, they LOVE them. For breakfast, lunch, dinner, BBQs. My kids prefer chipolatas, which are just thinner sausages. My Husband and kids eat a ridiculous amount of sausages per week. And if I forget to buy them one week, I get HELL. 

 

2. British people enjoy drinking in pubs (bars from the olden days). They go after work or on the weekends. Sometimes they go during their lunch breaks. At my first job in London, almost 12 years ago, my colleagues would go to the pub from 1pm-2pm every Friday afternoon. What?! I still don't get that, and I LOVE drinking. 3. British people love gin. And beer. And gin some more. When I lived in California, I always had tequila or vodka in my drinks shelf. Nowadays, it's gin. And Pimm's (a liquor you mix with lemonade and assorted pieces of fruit and cucumber). By the way, British lemonade is like Sprite and not what an American would consider to be lemonade. To clarify, Pimm's is so delicious and I don't know why we don't have it in The States. I could drink vats of it. On warm summer days, I will happily stand on a street corner outside a pub, inhaling bus fumes, drinking pitchers and pitchers of Pimms.

 

4. British people lose their minds on sunny days. There is so much cloud and rain, so when the sun comes out British people go crazy. People are wearing t-shirts and flipflops trying to absorb as much Vitamin D as possible. And when they go to pubs, everyone stands outside the pub soaking in the sun. It doesn't matter if it's a bit cold, you see everyone eating ice cream cones and all the paddlings pools are inflated. 

 

5. British people always seem to be standing in a queue (that's a line). They love waiting in line. You should see them on the street, waiting for a bus. It's crazy. I sometimes cut lines/queues, to my British Husband's horror. heehee

6. British people like the rain. They pretend they don't. But they're always going on about how the grass needs it. And they're obsessed with discussing the weather. And even if it's raining or hailing, Husband will drag me and the kids out to the zoo or some outdoor activity. I don't like to leave the house when it rains. My daughter is lucky that I still take her to school and pick up her when it is raining.

 

7. British people use funny words. They say 'ta' for thank you, 'cheerio' for goodbye, they call the bathroom the 'loo' and they call your butt 'bum'. And they say 'cheers' constantly. I reckon it's because it reminds them of drinking gin.

8. British people are polite. This is related to number five. They act nicely and courteously. Even when they're annoyed with you. Some people say that the British are cold but they just aren't immediately friendly. They're actually pretty nice. Not all of them obviously. Some British people are wankers (that's the American equivalent to a tool). But try finding me a country that doesn't have some wankers. 

9. British people like to curse. Sometimes in anger, sometimes for fun. Friends will call each other 'wanker', or tell each other to 'F**k off'. Husband's friends call each other the C word. You know what I'm talking about. I'm American and we don't say that word.

10. British people have dry, sarcastic humour. I like this. I'm sarcastic. British people get me. They don't at first, because they don't expect an American to be sarcastic. But then they get me.

Please note for the purposes of this blog post, people and characteristics have been oversimplified for the sake of your amusement.

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I am not a 100% sure what British people think of as comfort foods. Baked beans on toast? Pies? Sausages and mash? As an American, I think of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, and specifically as a Californian, I think of burritos. Oh, and we really love breakfast/brunch. I'm talking French toast, waffles, buttermilk pancakes, and so forth. 

When I moved to London in 2002, American fare was hard to come by. And when you did find something, it just wasn't as good as what you would expect in the U.S. I remember taking my then boyfriend-now Husband to meet my parents  in 2003. My parents stocked the fridge with my favourite treats. It was going home in so many ways.

Nowadays American foods are in great supply in London. I am not sure what it is like in the rest of the UK. Many supermarkets even have an American (or world) foods section. I often keep some Kraft Macaroni & Cheese in the kitchen cupboard. I don't know why, or how, but something about this chalky cheese pasta in a box makes me feel happy.

I made some for lunch today but my son refused to even try it. He's 22-months old, surely anything brightly orange should appeal. My five-year old daughter won't touch the stuff either. What a shame. Maybe it's an acquired taste like Salt & Vinegar crisps. Now that's disgusting.

 

Seychelles Mama

I sometimes dip into 'I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here' on ITV. I don't tend to really get into UK reality shows featuring D-list celebrities because I usually don't know who the celebrities are. I will watch, however, if there is a well-known American. But I do enjoy watching the trials on 'I'm a Celebrity'. I find it interesting to see who is looking for a challenge and who is just hoping to revive their career.
 
Last night, some of the cast were bitching about Alfonso Ribeiro, the 'loud American'. Some of the other members of the cast seem loud (and obnoxious), but the American is the one labelled as loud in a bad way.
 
 
Why is it so easy to label Americans as loud? Is this our most renowned stereotype? But is it true? It is one of the labels I worry about receiving from non-Americans. Why should I care? Would a British person care if they were perpetually described as 'cold' or 'awkward''? Or are Brits celebrated for their stereotypes? British people are known for their sarcasm, politeness and self-deprecation. Those aren't negative qualities.
 
Is there an inherent conflict between the British and Americans? Are we frenemies? Do Americans (living in the USA) make fun of British? Now that I think of it, many people in the USA think that British people have teeth like Austin Powers. But most Americans don't have passports so won't have been to the UK to judge for themselves. Maybe I'm annoyed that some minor British celebrities were casting aspersions on my entire nationality. They should be well-traveled. They should know better.
 
Or are the British still mad at Americans for gaining our independence? All I know is that some British people are loud and obnoxious. And some Americans are quiet and genteel. 

When I first moved to London in 2002, I was quite self-conscious about being one of 'those Americans'. You know the ones. They talk really loud in restaurants so everyone knows the status of their relationship or their day's activities. They wear trainers (that's sneakers or tennis shoes to my American brethren) to walk around London, as if they might join in a marathon at any moment. They are dressed very sensibly and never have an umbrella, but don't need one as they are wearing a waterproof poncho.
 
One of the things I tried to tone down was my usage of American phrases. Nowadays, my sentences aren't littered with 'like' or 'awesome' like they once were. But every once in a while, I bust out with 'dude' or pronounce 'whatever' in a valley girl accent. I'm not fussed anymore. I think it's what happens when you have kids. You lose a lot of self-consciousness and are more happy with who you are. At least I am. Are you happy with who you are?

My 5-year old came home yesterday singing a song of Guy Fawkes and fireworks. Sometimes she teaches me. I had a vague idea that Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament but I did not know why or when it happened. I just knew that once a year we celebrated Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night with fireworks (I say once a year, but it seems to go on from mid October through til the first week of November).
 
As an American, I feel like there are still many things I do not know about Britain and its history. On the other hand, Husband seems to know everything about the U.S.A. and could probably name more presidents than I could. Is this an indictment of the American educational system? Or maybe Americans are not that fussed about the rest of the world? Or maybe American history is so important that everyone should learn it? Okay, that last question was tongue-in-cheek. But maybe Americans do think they matter more than other countries. What do you think? 
 
Perhaps Husband is a clever clogs. Do any of you Brits know much about American history? What about your own history? If I stopped some random British folks on the street, what would they know about Guy Fawkes?

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How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

A few days ago, I posted about my want of getting a pumpkin from an actual pumpkin patch. After extensive internet research, I found the closest thing to a pumpkin patch within a 30-45 minute drive of Southwest London. Yesterday afternoon we went to Crockford Bridge Farm near Weybridge in Surrey.

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

Not surprisingly, I heard several American accents at Crockford. I obviously wasn't the only American looking for a piece of home. I couldn't even find a pumpkin in central London 11 years ago and now there's a pumpkin patch not too far away. Amazing. Crockford even had a few shelves in their farm shop dedicated to American groceries.

Dubz enjoyed running around crazily, Moozles enjoyed the playground. I searched for the 'right' pumpkin. To my husband's annoyance, I can never just buy something. I have to make sure it is the 'best one'. But in the end, I did manage to find the best pumpkin. I think this may be an American thing as my British girlfriends seem a lot more relaxed about their purchases. Can anyone confirm or deny? 

Anyway, we had a fab day. And we will be turning our visit to Crockford Bridge Farm into an annual Halloween tradition. Do you have any Halloween traditions?

How Do You Like Them Pumpkins How Do You Like Them Pumpkins

Even though I have lived in the UK for over 11 years, I still sometimes forget British words. Yesterday at Chessington, I told my husband that the bottle of water cost two dollars. Then I called chips 'fries'. Half the time, I pronounce tomato in the American way. I have had to recently explain to my daughter that I pronounce some things differently because I'm from America but that she should pronounce things like daddy or her friends. I don't want her to be ridiculed for saying things in a 'weird' way, but she wants to do everything like me. I don't think I'll ever say everything the British way and I don't want to. I like my Americanisms. So rather than going for a little lie down on the sofa to watch some telly, I think I'll go veg out on the couch and watch some TV. Peace Out!